Madison’s view is, of course, the strictly constructed “States’ Rights” view of the Constitution, and it held wide favor from the time of the Jefferson and the Revolution until the Civil War. Despite not being federally funded, transportation networks in the United States grew rapidly spurred by steam technology and private industry. Alexis de Tocqueville was sufficiently impressed by this on his visit to America to note that private industry effectively fulfilled this function, and many other functions which Europeans typically looked to their governments to perform. Throughout this period Presidents with strict construction or Democratic Party views vetoed attempts at federal transportation funding, while presidents with nationalist or Whig views such as John Quincy Adams were blocked by Democratic Congresses. Despite becoming a major part of the “American System” put forth by Henry Clay and adopted as Party policy by the Whigs, internal improvements remained a blocked issue right up to the Secession Crisis). After secession, rail funding (and shortly thereafter railroad regulation) became federal powers to the long term detriment of the Rail Industry
In America today very few question the power of the federal government to construct or regulate just about anything just about anywhere they want even to the point of dictating legislation to the States by withholding federal funds if a certain law is not passed. Internal improvements are clearly a policy that was fully adopted in the long run despite being strongly opposed for almost a century. For better or worse, America today is not the federal republic conceived by the framers of the Constitution with the States as a check upon federal power. Clearly, our lives are better in many ways due to the sophisticated systems of transportation funded by the federal government. But it may also be true that opportunities for those who would like to start transportation businesses are less than they would be without federal funds, programs, and regulations.
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