The Federalist Papers has posted a PDF copy of an Elementary Catechism on the Constitution from 1828 written by Arthur J. Stansbury. I’m publishing it on Mondays in a series of posts. Because the date of publication was 1828, some content has been changed by later Constitutional amendments. There are no sections in the book, so I’m dividing it into any natural breaks of topics and the posts will vary in length. Any emphases within the text are Stansbury’s.
There’s a clear gap between the way things are, and the way things are supposed to be.
XIII. Finance and Commerce
Q. What other power has Congress?
A. “To borrow money on the credit of the United States?”
Q. What do you mean by that expression, “on the credit of the United States?”
A. It means that the people of the United States are bound to pay whatever money Congress borrows for their use. [Such money is called a Loan; and whoever lends it to the Government, receives a printed paper, acknowledging that such a sum has been lent, and promising to pay a smaller sum yearly, as Interest for the use of it. Such printed certificates are called Stock; they may be bought and sold the same as any other article, — and whoever holds them when the interest becomes due, may demand, and must receive, it. If the printed paper promises to pay six dollars a year for every hundred dollars borrowed, it is called “United States six per cent Stock ;” if it promises to pay four dollars a year for every hundred, then it is called “United States four per cent Stock.”]
Q. What other power does Congress possess?
A. It may make rules according to which the Commerce of the citizens of the United States with other nations (that is the exchange of our goods for theirs, or for money, by means of vessels or other conveyances) shall be carried on; also the commerce of one of the states with another, and that of the different states, or of the United States, with the Indian tribes. [Some persons believe that the power to regulate Commerce among the several states includes the power to make Roads and Canals from one state to another ; others deny this.]
Q. What is the next power given to Congress by the Constitution?
A. You recollect what was before said about naturalization, which means the admitting of a foreigner (that is, a native of some other country) to become a citizen of the United States: — Congress has power to make one uniform rule according to which this shall be done throughout the country. It may also make uniform Laws for the whole Union on the subject of Bankruptcy.
Q. What is bankruptcy?
A. When a man has not money or goods enough to pay his debts, he is a Bankrupt; and the being in that situation is Bankruptcy. The object of Laws on this subject is to compel such a man to give up all he has got to the people he owes, and to fix the terms on which he may be set free from the debts he cannot pay.
Q. What else may Congress do?
A. It may coin money; that is it may mark or stamp certain pieces of metal in a way which shall make them pass, in buying and selling, at a set value. It may also fix what shall be the value of coin that has been marked or stamped in any other country, when it is used in the United States. It may likewise declare one uniform size for the weights and measures used throughout our country.
Q. May any persons who please coin money?
A. No, none but those employed to do so by Congress; (they work at a place called the mint.)
Q. If any other person shall coin money in his own name, or shall stamp it so as to resemble that coined at the mint, or that which, though coined in other countries, is allowed to pass as money in the United States, (called “Current coin,”) may he be punished?
A. Yes; it is a crime, called counterfeiting, and may be punished in any manner Congress shall appoint.
Q. Suppose they counterfeit not the money of the United States, but the stock issued by Government?
A. They are punished the same as if they had counterfeited money.
Q. What other power belongs to Congress?
A. They may “establish Post Offices and Post Roads.”
Q. What is a Post Office?
A. A place where Letters carried from one part of the country to another, at the expense of the United States, are received and delivered.
Q. And what is a Post Road?
A. A road on which the bag containing these letters (called the mail,) is carried.
Q. What is meant by establishing these?
A. Making a law which directs where the Post Offices shall be, and by what roads the mail shall be carried. Some persons say that it includes a power to erect buildings for post offices, and to make roads where they are wanted; others deny this.
Q. Has Congress any farther powers?
A. It may grant what are termed Patent Rights and Copy Rights.
Q. What does this mean?
A. When a person has found out some new and useful contrivance, Congress may give him an exclusive right to make and sell what he has contrived, for a certain number of years; during that time nobody else may make or sell that article without leave from the man who contrived it, and if they do they are liable to be punished. This is called a Patent Right. Whoever writes a book may also have the exclusive right to print and sell it for a certain time; this is called a Copy Right.
Elementary Catechism on the Constitution posts:
Elementary Catechism on the Constitution (Preface)
I. The Necessity of Government and Its Forms
II. The American Revolution
III. The Occasion and Purpose of the Constitution
IV. State and National Laws
V. The House of Representatives
VI. The Senate
VIII. Impeachment of the President & The Rule of Law
IX. Meetings of Congress
X. Members of Congress
XI. The Making of Federal Laws
XII. Taxes, Duties, Imposts, and Excises
Book image from The Federalist Papers. Other reading formats of the Elementary Catechism on the Constitution can be found here.