Justice Joseph Story and the Rise of the Supreme Court

By Gerald T. Dunne | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVIII
A Question at Forty-two

THE CUMBERLAND ROAD

There were other indications that the nationalist sentiments of the Old Dominion drew on more altruistic motives. Madison's restrained refusal to join the attack on the Supreme Court was paralleled by the action of another old Virginian in acknowledging the tribunal's authority. This came from President James Monroe, and it began with unpromising accents of strict construction when, on May 4, 1822, he vetoed a bill to construct the long-proposed Cumberland Road. However, the 27,000-word veto message was far more a statement of political philosophy and a mirror of the national mood than it was a disapproval of a legislative proposal.1 Tracing American political institutions from the foundation of the colonies through the Revolution and the Articles of Confederation, Monroe delivered his own constitutional exegesis with two obvious targets in view. One was the strictconstructionists in Kentucky and Virginia; the other was Marshall's soaring vision of national powers in McCulloch v. Maryland. Characteristically, the President, who had kept the confidence of North and South, pointed to a middle ground. On his general premise, he insisted that the Constitution was the creation of neither the people nor the states but, rather, the people in the

____________________
1
Veto message of May 4, 1822, in Richardson, II, 144.

-217-

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