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"Clearly Vicious as a Matter of Policy": The Fight Against Federal-Aid


We shall discover that the rivalships of the parts would make them checks upon each other and would frustrate all the tempting advantages which nature has kindly placed within our reach.
Alexander Hamilton
The Federalist Papers No. 11

The United States Constitution is a product of its time. That it has proven flexible enough to meet the needs of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, and now the 21st, is a political miracle. And yet it reflects to a great extent the failures of the government that had emerged from the Revolution united more in name than spirit.

The Articles of Confederation

The Articles of Confederation, approved by Congress in 1777, had created a weak national government and left much of the power with the States. Congress could not raise taxes, settle disputes among the States, resolve issues of law, establish an army for common defense, or amend the Articles. Bitter commercial and territorial disputes among the States were pulling the union apart in the absence of a unifying purpose.

The original 13 States were divided by their differences more than they were united by their common concerns. Small States feared the big States, which sought dominance within the union. The commercial north and the agricultural south had strongly different interests. Neighboring States disputed rights to shared rivers. Each State, remembering the tyranny they had fought against in the Revolution, was hesitant to yield any of its sovereignty to the Nation. The term "United States" was used as a plural ("the United States are"), rather than singular, noun.

The Articles of Confederation could not balance the interests of the small, but diverse, new Nation. The possibility that the union would be replaced by several smaller confederacies was a real fear. In The Federalist Papers, the series of essays written to build support for State ratification of the Constitution, Alexander Hamilton said that only someone who is "far gone in Utopian speculations" could think that such an alternative would not result in violent contests among the confederacies:

To look for a continuation of harmony between a number of independent, unconnected sovereignties situated in the same neighborhood would be to disregard the uniform course of human events, and to set at defiance the accumulated experiences of ages.2

Citizen farmer George Washington, who had done so much to establish the union, expressed the common fear of the day in a letter to James Madison of Virginia's House of Delegates: "We are fast verging to anarchy and confusion."3

"To establish Post Offices and post Roads"

One defect of the Articles of Confederation was the inability to regulate interstate commerce. The event that led, unexpectedly, to the Constitutional Convention was a longstanding dispute between Maryland and Virginia regarding navigation rights on the Potomac River. Following a 3-day conference at Washington's Mount Vernon home, commissioners from the two States settled their differences. This agreement led to a meeting in Annapolis, Maryland, on September 11, 1786, with other States to discuss commercial regulation. The meeting proved fruitless, partly because the New England States had not sent delegates.

Participants, therefore, called on Congress to convene a meeting of all the States to improve the Articles of Confederation. With the failures of the Articles of Confederation in mind, participants in the Constitutional Convention of 1787 in Philadelphia wanted to create a document that would correct the defects of their present government while creating what Thomas Jefferson would later call a "union of sentiment."4

Once the gathering began on May 25, 1787, participants quickly abandoned the idea of improving the old document and began work on a new one. As the participants debated the contents of a new unifying document, they sorted out the powers that would belong to the central government through its Congress, and those that would belong to the States.

After debating the issues, the members appointed a Committee of Detail on July 26 to prepare a draft constitution based on resolutions adopted to that point. The draft, reported to the convention on August 6, assigned the right "to establish post-offices" to the Congress. At the suggestion of Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts, the words "and post-roads" were added to the clause on August 16 by a vote of six States to five.

On September 14, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania proposed to amend the clause by adding "to provide for cutting canals where deemed necessary." James Madison suggested a further amendment "to grant charters of incorporation where the interest of the United States might require, and the legislative provisions of individual States may be incompetent." He said his primary objective was to "secure an easy communication between the States, which the free intercourse now to be opened seemed to call for." He added, "The political obstacle being removed, a removal of the natural ones as far as possible ought to follow." Roger Sherman of Connecticut objected because the expense would be incurred by all the States through their central government, but a canal would benefit only the place where the canal would be cut. The convention approved neither Franklin's nor Madison's amendment.5

Therefore, when the convention adjourned on September 17, Section 8 of Article 1 of the proposed Constitution of the United States of America granted Congress the power "to regulate Commerce... among the several States, and... establish Post Offices and post Roads." Congress also would have the power to "regulate Commerce for foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes" and to "provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States."

The Constitution was submitted to the States for ratification. When the ninth State, New Hampshire, ratified the Constitution, it went into effect. However, fearing that the central government would assume powers not clearly assigned by the Constitution to the States, opponents and some State legislatures demanded protection of civil rights to prevent a return of the tyrannies they had suffered during the colonial period. The result was the Bill of Rights, proposed on September 25, 1789, by the First Congress of the United States.

Ratification by the States was completed on December 15, 1791, and the Bill of Rights became the first 10 amendments to the Constitution. Amendment 10 addressed the specific concern of the States that the central government would twist the new Constitution to adopt powers it did not have:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

The debate that began in the Constitutional Convention in the 18th century over the separation of powers between the central government and the States has continued into the 21st century. Few areas of governance have escaped the struggle for balance, including the authority of the central government over internal improvements, such as the construction of roads.

The National Road

The issue was central as Congress decided how to provide a portage road between the Potomac River at Cumberland, Maryland, and the Ohio River at Wheeling, Virginia (now West Virginia). The road would help settlers reach the public lands for sale in the new State of Ohio (admitted to the Union in 1803), but would also allow for the trade that would bind the territories to the States across the mountain barrier that separated them.

The debate in Congress reflected the rivalries of the day, with the States in New England and elsewhere that would not benefit directly or that feared the rivalry of western trade directed to the mid-Atlantic States raising questions about the constitutional authority of the government to build roads. Moreover, opponents wondered how the central government could build a road on land that was under the jurisdiction of the States of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia?

The final bill incorporated a compromise that was acceptable to enough Members of Congress for passage. It required the President "to pursue such measures as he deems proper in obtaining the consent of the States through which the road may pass; and, having obtained their consent, he is further authorized to take measures in having the road promptly made through the whole distance." The road would be financed with revenue from the sale of public lands in Ohio, which would exempt public land from State taxation for 5 years. President Thomas Jefferson believed a constitutional amendment was desirable and necessary to give government the authority to build roads and canals. However, this "compact" allowed him to approve the legislation on March 29, 1806.

Maryland and Virginia quickly approved legislation consenting to the Federal project, but requiring the Federal Government to acquire lands and materials in the same way as the States would have acquired them if they were building the road. Pennsylvania delayed action until late 1807 because of a dispute over location in that State, but its consent followed the Maryland and Virginia pattern. Construction began in May 1811 and was completed in 1818.

Through later legislation, this first national highway, known as the Cumberland Road or the National Road, would be extended west as statehood was granted to Indiana (admitted to the Union in 1816) and Illinois (1818). It finally reached Vandalia, then the capital of Illinois, always with the consent of the States through which it passed. Plans to extend the road across the Mississippi River were abandoned after construction was delayed by a dispute over whether to cross the river at Alton, Illinois, or St. Louis, Missouri. Before the two States, which had to consent to the construction, could resolve their dispute, Congress abandoned support for the road because railroads had supplanted roads as the primary means of surface transportation. The last appropriation for the National Road was in 1838.

The first national highway again raised constitutional issues in 1822 when Congress considered how to provide for maintenance of the original portion of the road. Rather than appropriate additional funds, Congress passed legislation calling for the collection of tolls from road users to finance reconstruction and maintenance. However, President James Monroe vetoed the bill on May 4, 1822. Because he supported internal improvements, President Monroe vetoed the bill "with deep regret... under a conviction that Congress do not possess the power under the Constitution to pass such a law." The power to establish turnpikes and enforce toll collection, he wrote, "implies a power to adopt and execute a complete system of internal improvement." Granting such a right implied a "complete right of jurisdiction and sovereignty for all the purposes of internal improvement," not merely for toll collection:

I am of opinion that Congress do not possess this power; that the States individually can not grant it, for although they may assent to the appropriation of money within their limits for such purposes, they can grant no power of jurisdiction or sovereignty by special compacts with the United States.

If the power did exist, it would have been granted specifically by the Constitution or been incidental to some other power specifically granted:

It has never been contended that the power was specifically granted. It is claimed only as being incidental to some one or more of the powers which are specifically granted. The following are the powers from which it is said to be derived:

First, from the right to establish post-offices and post-roads; second, from the right to declare war; third, to regulate commerce; fourth, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare; fifth, from the power to make all laws necessary and proper for carrying into execution all the powers vested by the Constitution in the Government of the United States or in any department or officer thereof; sixth and lastly, from the power to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory and other property of the United States.

According to my judgment it can not be derived from either of those powers, nor from all of them united, and in consequence it does not exist.6

As explained in America's Highways 1776-1976:

It was one thing to make appropriations for public improvements, but an entirely different thing to assume jurisdiction and sovereignty over the land whereon those improvements were made. This has been the Federal position on highway grants to States down to the present day.7

In the absence of support for a constitutional amendment, Congress adopted a different approach for maintenance of the National Road. Beginning in the early 1830's, legislation was enacted turning the National Road over to the States to operate as a turnpike. Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Ohio agreed to accept ownership only after the central government reconstructed their deteriorating older segments. The turnover was completed by 1835. The western portion of the road, still under construction in the 1830s, would be turned over to Indiana in 1848 and Illinois in 1856.

Establishing a Principle

With the chartering of a second National Bank in 1816, supporters of internal improvements saw a new means of financing them. In return for the charter, the United States would receive $1.5 million and annual dividends on the stock it held in the bank. A special committee headed by Representative John C. Calhoun of South Carolina proposed to set aside this "bonus" for the construction of roads and canals in each State, with State consent. He told Congress:

Many of the improvements contemplated are on too great a scale for the resources of the States or individuals; and many of such nature that the rival jealousy of the States, if left alone, might prevent.

Let us then bind the Republic together with a perfect system of roads and canals. Let us conquer space. It is thus the most distant parts of the Republic will be brought within a few days travel of the centre...

He didn't claim to possess refined arguments on constitutionality, although he thought the "general welfare" clause was sufficient. He could cite many examples, including the National Road, that had been approved that were precedents for his plan.

Despite strong objections on constitutional and other grounds, the Bonus Bill passed the Congress and was forwarded to President James Madison, who was nearing the end of his term in office. Madison supported internal improvements, but was convinced that an amendment to the Constitution was needed to allow Federal involvement in them. As recently as December 3, 1916, he had said in his annual message to the Congress:

And I particularly invite again their attention to the expediency of exercising their existing powers, and, where necessary, of resorting to the prescribed mode of enlarging them, in order to effectuate a comprehensive system of roads and canals, such as will have the effect of drawing more closely together every part of our country.

On March 3, 1817, his last day in office, President Madison vetoed the Bonus Bill because he did not think it fell within the enumerated powers of the Constitution. Jeremiah Simeon Young, in his 1902 study of the political and constitutional issues association with the National Road, summarized Madison's concerns:

He did not think it was included among the enumerated powers; nor did it fall by any just interpretation within the power "to make laws necessary and proper for carrying into execution the enumerated powers;" and it would have a tendency to subjugate the Constitution and laws of the states to the laws of the United States. He denied the power of the United States to appropriate money for or to construct such improvements; nor could either of these be done even with the consent of the states. The only way a state could give its consent was by means of an amendment to the Constitution granting power over internal improvements. He therefore, strongly urged such an amendment, as he was favorable to a national system of internal improvements.

In this way, President Madison, who had been a dominant figure in the Constitutional Convention, rejected the concept of "compacts" that had justified construction of the National Road and use of the general welfare clause that was behind the Bonus Bill. Although Madison had approved other measures that raised constitutional issues, Young pointed out that with the President leaving office the day of the veto, "He had no more political ambitions to satisfy; hence he was true to his original Republican doctrines."

With the Congress also ending on March 3, the House quickly attempted to override the veto, but could not muster the two-thirds vote necessary to do so.8

The difference between national and local authority was at the heart of a third veto, this one by President Andrew Jackson on May 27, 1830. He had recommended using surplus Federal revenue for internal improvements, but believed an amendment to the Constitution was needed. On May 15, 1839, Congress completed work on a bill authorizing the Secretary of the Treasury to subscribe to 1,500 shares in the Washington, Paris, and Lexington Turnpike Road Company, which was to build an "artificial road" linking those towns in Kentucky. President Jackson vetoed the bill, saying the proposed turnpike was a purely local venture, confined to one State and not connected to "any established system of improvements." He added:

What is properly national in its character or otherwise is an inquiry which is often extremely difficult of solution... If it be the wish of the people that the construction of roads and canals should be conducted by the Federal Government, it is not only highly expedient, but indispensably necessary, that a previous amendment to the Constitution, delegating the necessary power and defining and restricting its exercise with the reference to the sovereignty of the States, should be made...9

America's Highways 1776-1976 explained the impact of the veto:

The Maysville Turnpike veto not only put an end to all thought of national aid to local road improvements, but it also forestalled any efforts that might be made to provide Federal aid to such genuinely national promotions as the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Over 20 years would pass before Congress would provide any significant subsidy for railroads.10

Even without Federal subscription funds, the company completed the turnpike in November 1830. In 1838, the Maysville turnpike was again at the heart of a dispute that turned on the relationship between the Federal and State governments. Historian Albert C. Rose summarized the case:

Attention was focused upon the road again, in 1838, when a United States mail contractor claimed the right to travel free of tolls. Chief Justice Robertson of the Court of Appeals held that President Jackson's refusal to aid construction of the road made it mandatory for the Federal Government's agents to pay the same fees as the general public.11

As roads were replaced by railroads for long distance surface transportation, they faded as a subject of constitutional debate until the popularity of the bicycle spurred the Good Roads Movement in the 1880s. The new movement put pressure on the Federal Government to get involved again in road improvement.

The result was creation of the Department of Agriculture's U.S. Office of Road Inquiry (ORI) in 1893. With a budget of $10,000 (reduced to $8,000 a year at times during the economic downturn that began in 1893), its statutory role was an inquiry on systems of road management and the best methods of roadmaking, as well as the dissemination of its findings. Secretary of Agriculture J. Sterling Morton was an ardent foe of Federal "paternalism" that he believed infringed on State responsibilities as well as a proponent of economy in the Department's operations. These views were reflected in a letter from Secretary Morton to General Roy Stone, the Special Agent and Engineer for Road Inquiry, on October 3, 1893, the day the ORI began operation. After summarizing the statute that appropriated $10,000 for the inquiry, the Secretary said:

There are certain restrictions I wish specifically to bring to your attention. It must be borne in mind, that the actual expense in the construction of these highways, is to be borne by the localities and States in which they lie. Moreover, it is not the province of this Department to seek to control or influence said action, except in so far as advice and wise suggestions shall contribute towards it. This Department is to form no part of any plan, scheme or organization, or to be a party to it in any way, which has for its object the concerted effort to secure and furnish labor to unemployed persons, or to convicts. These are matters to be carried on by States, localities, or charities. The Department is to furnish information, not to direct and formulate any system of organization, however efficient or desirable it may be. Any such effort on its part, would soon make it subject to hostile criticism.12

Although Presidential opinions in the 19th century varied regarding the Federal role in road construction, the Supreme Court concluded that the Congress has the authority to fund road projects under its power to regulate commerce for the general welfare. Neither of the key cases involved highway construction. An 1893 case involved locks and dams constructed by a private company on the Monongahela River under the authority of the State of Pennsylvania. A suit growing out of the Federal Government's attempt to condemn and appropriate the locks and dams gave the Supreme Court an opportunity to address the subject. In the decision on Monongahela Navigation Company v. United States, Justice David Brewer concluded:

... the power of Congress to regulate commerce carries with it power over all the means and instrumentalities by which commerce is carried on... We are so much accustomed to see artificial highways, such as common roads, turnpike roads and railroads, constructed under the authority of the States, and the improvement of natural highways [waterways] carried on by the general government, that at the first it might seem that there was some inherent difference in the power of the national government over them. But the grant of power is the same.13

A 1907 Supreme Court decision in Wilson v. Shaw, a case involving U.S. authority to pay for constructing the Panama Canal, effectively ended the legal debate - as opposed to the political debate - over the Federal Government's authority. Based on Supreme Court precedents, Justice Brewer wrote that, "These authorities recognize the power of Congress to construct interstate highways" under the constitutional right to regulate interstate commerce.14

With the growing popularity of the automobile, most politicians considered the question of constitutionality settled. The issue was considered by the Joint Committee on Federal Aid in the Construction of Post Roads, which Congress established to consider the Federal role in road improvement. After a brief discussion of the constitutional basis of the National Road, the Joint Committee's January 1915 report dismissed the constitutional issue in three paragraphs:

The constitutionality of the appropriations [for the National Road] was supported chiefly upon some one or all of the following express Federal powers: To establish post roads, to regulate commerce, to declare war, to provide for the common defense, to promote the general welfare.

Among those of legal training a technical discussion of the constitutionality of national highway appropriations would no doubt be interesting, but we believe the time has long since passed when controversy over this question could be deemed appropriate. Even a cursory review of the ever-expanding activities of this Government, covering the purchase of Louisiana and Alaska, the improvement of harbors and interior rivers, appropriations for educational work, construction of reclamation projects, purchase of private lands for the formation of public forest reserves for protection of watersheds, demonstrates that a discussion of the constitutional question is purely academic.

Federal aid to good roads will accomplish several of the objects indicated by the framers of the Constitution - establish post roads, regulate commerce, provide for the common defense, and promote the general welfare. Above all, it will promote the general welfare.15

The Case for Federal-Aid

The constitutional issue did not die with the Joint Committee's report. It would be raised in 1916 when Congress debated the bill that would create the Federal-aid highway program.

While the House worked on a different concept, Senator John H. Bankhead (D-Al.), Chairman of the Committee on Post Offices and Post Roads, introduced a bill drafted mainly by the Executive committee of the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO). It provided for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to make Federal-aid funds available to the States, which would select and build "rural post road" projects. The term was defined as "any public road over which the United States mails now are or may hereafter be transported" (except in any place having a population of 200,000 or more). Projects were to be "substantial in nature" and the Federal share of the total estimated cost "shall not exceed fifty per centum." However, payments were not to exceed $10,000 per mile, exclusive of the cost of bridges exceeding 20 feet of clear span.

Senator John D. Works (R-Ca.), arguing in support of Federal construction during the Senate debate on April 21, 1916, claimed that the Federal Government "has no right to enter into any contract with a State to improve the rural roads as a governmental act." He considered the Federal-aid concept "clearly vicious as a matter of policy and to my mind... clearly against the spirit if not the letter of the Constitution." The States, he said, should build their own roads, while the Federal Government's interest was in national highways:

If the road is one over which the Government has jurisdiction and has the right to construct, that obligation rests upon the Government and not upon the States... The reason for it all is not that it is necessary in the interest of the Government as a government, but because the States are not able to carry on these improvements within their own borders; and therefore the Government of the United States is expected to go into the States and do for them what they are not able to do for themselves.

Senator Works discussed statements and court rulings in the 19th century, including President Monroe's veto message of May 4, 1822. The Senate report on the Federal-aid bill also had discussed the veto:

When President Monroe vetoed the Federal road act in 1822, he did not base his veto upon the ground that Congress had no right to make appropriations to aid in road improvement, but upon the establishment of the road as a turnpike upon which tollgates were erected and tolls collected and in which the enforcement of the tolls by penalties was involved. President Monroe stated that this imposing of duties upon persons passing over a given road involves the right to take the land from the proprietor and to pass laws for the protection of the road from injuries. He held that if it existed as to one road it existed as to any other road, and that it formed a complete right to jurisdiction and sovereignty for all the purposes of internal improvement and not merely the right of Congress to make appropriations. It is therefore unfair to use Monroe's veto to support a contention that Congress has not the right under the Constitution to appropriate money in aid of road improvement.16

Senator Works disagreed with this interpretation of the Monroe veto, which he considered "the most important that has been delivered." He pointed out that President Monroe had covered "every conceivable ground upon which it is claimed that legislation of this kind may rest [and] refutes every one of them from beginning to end, and reaches the conclusion that no such legislation is competent on the part of the Government." He analyzed the Monroe veto in detail and arranged for it to be reprinted in the Congressional Record.

As he concluded his remarks, he wanted to make one point clear:

I regard this bill as one of the worst and most vicious "pork-barrel" pieces of proposed legislation that has ever come before this body. I do not say that, Mr. President, because I am opposed to the improvement of the roads. By no means. I am a great believer in the expenditure of money by the States and by the National Government, where it has a right to act in the matter, in the construction and improvement of highways.

Although the Senator realized he was in the minority, he could not resist an opportunity a few weeks later to remind his colleagues of his views. In May, when Senator Thomas J. Walsh (D-Mt.) introduced an amendment authorizing funds for Federal construction of roads within or partly within National Forests, Senator Works endorsed the idea. "It would," he said, "bring one legitimate provision into this bill, because it does provide for work to be done that is national in its character... [and] is the only provision that I have yet noticed in this bill that, in my judgment, is legitimate and proper."

In the House, Congressman Thomas B. Dunn (R-NY.), a member of the Committee on Roads since its creation in July 1913, was one of the leading opponents of the bill. Speaking on January 24, 1916, he said he was "an advocate of the general proposition connected with the question of good roads" and had "some slight knowledge of their construction." He had been associated with good-roads legislation in New York, he said, but he was troubled by this bill because there was, "to my mind, a very great difference between Federal aid for roads and Federal construction of roads." He pointed out that the $25 million authorized by the bill would be a "gift distribution" to the States, after which "control of the same is lost to the Federal authorities." He might have supported "an initial system of Federal trunk-line roads," but "it does not appear to me that it is an opportune time to enact the measure now reported." He explained his concern about the timing:

[The] subject of good roads is not a vital question at the present time nor is it one that has to be solved immediately. This Chamber is supposed to be the financial office as well as the legal office of this Government. We are expected to be careful of our own expenditures and to be rather more than careful about voting away the money of other people.

If instead of a minus Treasury we had a plus Treasury, if we had large revenues that provided for a surplus that could be fairly divided, if we were not confronted with complications throughout the world that may call for large appropriations to be made by this Congress, to be expended for what might be called involuntary expenditures, it possibly might be a proper time to consider this measure; but in view of the fact that we have little or no surplus, that we are already considering increasing our present internal taxation, I believe this entire subject should be deferred until matters of much graver importance are definitely settled. Believing as I do that this is not a good business measure to present at this time I can not, under the circumstances, justify myself in supporting the same.17

Despite such concerns, Congress approved the Federal Aid Road Act of 1916, which President Woodrow Wilson (D, 1913-1921) signed on July 11.

The legislation appropriated $75 million for the new Federal-aid highway program, with $5 million for Fiscal Year (FY) 1917; $10 million for FY 1918; $15 million for FY 1919; $20 million for FY 1920; and $25 million for FY 1921. An additional $10 million, in increments of $1 million through FY 1926, was appropriated for use under the supervision of the Secretary of Agriculture for the "survey, construction, and maintenance of roads and trails within or only partly within National Forests and needed for the use and development of resources upon which communities within and adjacent to the National Forests are dependent."

The new law included measures to address constitutional concerns. The limitation of funds to "rural post roads" specifically alluded to the phrase "post Roads" from Section 8 of Article 1 of the Constitution. Just as the bills authorizing funds for the National Road had called for State consent, the Federal-aid bill called for consent in Section 1:

... no money apportioned under this act to any State shall be expended therein until its legislature shall have assented to the provisions of this act, except that, until the final adjournment of the first regular session of the legislature, held after the passage of this act, the assent of the governor of the State shall be sufficient.

Moreover, consistent with President Monroe's 1822 veto, Section 1 provided that "all roads constructed under the provisions of this act shall be free from tolls of all kinds."

Section 7 called for State maintenance of the projects funded with Federal-aid:

To maintain the roads constructed under the provisions of this act shall be the duty of the States, or their civil subdivisions, according to the laws of the several States. If at any time the Secretary of Agriculture shall find that any road in any State constructed under the provisions of this act is not being properly maintained he shall give notice of such fact to the highway department of such State; and if within four months from the receipt of said notice said road has not been put in a proper condition of maintenance, then the Secretary of Agriculture shall thereafter refuse to approve any project for road construction in said State, or the civil subdivision thereof, as the fact may be, whose duty is to maintain said road, until it has been put in a condition of proper maintenance.

Section 2 of the Act defined "properly maintained" as "the making of needed repairs and the preservation of a reasonably smooth surface considering the type of the road, but shall not be held to include extraordinary repairs, nor reconstruction."

A month after enactment, on August 11, 1916, President Wilson wrote to Chairman A. F. Lever (D-SC.) of the Committee on Agriculture to extol the record of agricultural provisions adopted by the Administration and the Congress during the President's first term. Item 10 was the Federal Aid Road Act. The President said:

Of no less importance for agriculture and for national development is the Federal Aid road act. This measure will conduce to the establishment of more effective highway machinery in each State, strongly influence the development of good road building along right lines, stimulate larger production and better marketing, promote a fuller and more attractive rural life, add greatly to the convenience and economic welfare of all the people, and strengthen the national foundations. The act embodies sound principles of road legislation and will safeguard the expenditure of funds arising under the act not only, but will also result in the more efficient use of the large additional sums made available by States and localities.18
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  1. Hamilton, Alexander, The Federalist Papers, No. 11, New American Library, 1961, p. 87.
  2. The Federalist Papers No. 6, p. 54.
  3. McGinty, Brian, "A Troubled League," American History Illustrated, Summer 1987, p. 23.
  4. Jefferson, Thomas, Message to the 9th Congress, 1806. Jefferson stated that roads and canals would knit the union together, facilitate defense, furnish avenues of trade, break down prejudices, and consolidate a "union of sentiment." In addition, with such "great objects" as public education, roads, rivers, and canals, "new channels of communication will be opened between the states; the lines of separation will disappear, their interests will be identified, and their union cemented by new and indissoluble ties."
  5. Farrar, Edgar Howard, The Post-Road Power in the Federal Constitution and Its Availability for Creating a System of Federal Transportation Corporations, self published, September 9, 1907, Pages 31-32. Young, Jeremiah Simeon, A Political and Constitutional Study of the Cumberland Road (A dissertation submitted to the faculty of the Graduate School of Arts and Literature of the University of Chicago in candidacy for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy), Chicago 1902, Page 37.
  6. Commager, Henry Steele, Editor, "125. Monroe's Veto of Cumberland Road Bill," Documents of American History, Third Edition, 1947, p. 233.
  7. America's Highways 1776-1976: A History of the Federal-Aid Program, Federal Highway Administration, 1976, p. 21.
  8. Young, p. 50-54. America's Highways 1776-1976, p. 19.
  9. Documents of American History, "138. Jackson's Veto of Maysville Road Bill," p. 253.
  10. America's Highways 1776-1976, p. 23.
  11. Rose, Albert C., Historic American Roads: From Frontier Trails to Superhighways, Crown Publishers, Inc., 1976, p. 40. America's Highways 1776-1976 also summarized the case, p. 23.
  12. Stone, Roy, Report of Special Agent and Engineer for Road Inquiry, undated, Annual Report of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Fiscal Year 1894, p. 585-586. A biography of General Stone, including an account of his years as Special Agent of the ORI, is available at https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/infrastructure/stone.cfm
  13. 204 U.S. 35 (March 27, 1893).
  14. 204 U.S. 35, 1896 (January 7, 1907).
  15. Federal Aid to Good Roads, Report of the Joint Committee on Federal Aid in the Construction of Post Roads, House Document No, 1510, 63d Congress, 3d Session, January 21, 1915, p. 14.
  16. Federal Aid in the Construction of Rural Post Roads, Committee on Post Offices and Post Roads, Report No. 250, 64th Congress, 1st Session, March 10, 1916, p. 10.
  17. Congressional Record, p. 1470.
  18. Documents of American History, "411. Agricultural Legislation in the First Wilson Administration," p. 294. (Also Congressional Records, 64th Congress, 1st Session, App., p. 1762-3). For a more detailed account of creation of the Federal-aid highway program, see Weingroff, Richard F., "For the Common Good: The 85th Anniversary of a Historic Partnership," Public Roads, March/April 2001, available at https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/publicroads/01marapr/commongood.cfm
Updated: 06/27/2017
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