Henry Clay, June 3, 1841:---
There is no concealment, no mystery intended. I will tell the honorable Senator, [Mr. Calhoun] at once, and with all frankness, what I go for, and what I believe my friends who act with me mean to go for ? and that is a Bank of the United States. That is the object in view.
Abraham Lincoln, March 1, 1843:---
"a national bank is highly necessary and proper to the establishment and maintenance of a sound currency, and for the cheap and safe collection, keeping, and disbursing of the public revenue."
Daniel Webster, March 12, 1838:---
as the steed will, sometimes, throw himself against its enclosures, break away from its confinement, and, feeling now free, betake himself to the moors and barrens
they beseech the poor to make war upon the rich
they complain of oppression, speculation, and the pernicious influence of accumulated wealth
they cry out loudly against all banks and corporations
they carry on a mad hostility against all established institutions
they would move heaven and earth against privilege and monopoly
they rend the air with the shouting of agrarian doctrines
History of the Bank war
Tuesday, January 16, 1838,Appendix to the Congressional Globe, text of Senator Benton's speech
Senator Wright reported A Bill imposing additional duties as depositories, in certain cases, on public officers ...
debate opens on January 30th 1838. ---war is better than Sub-Treasury, says Henry Clay; on June 21, 1838, he will say pestilence, femine, war are preferable to Sub-Treasury
Congressional Globe , March 14, 1838---
Mr. Buchanan said he had a very sincere desire to bring the debate on the Sub-Treasury bill to a close, and however reluctant he might feel to throw any obstacle in the way of the measure then under discussion, he should move to lay the bill on the table or pass it over informally. Mr. Buchanan said, if he could do nothing else in the business, he should hereafter move, when the hour came for the special order to be discussed, to move to lay all other business on the table.
Mr. Lyon hoped it would be passed over informally, which was accordingly done.
The Independent Treasury Bill was then taken up; when,
Mr. Robbins rose, and addressed the Senate until half past two against the bill, and was followed by Mr. Benton, who occupied the floor until five o'clock, when he gave way for a motion to adjourn.
Speech of Senator Thomas Hart Benton,
in the Senate, Wednesday, March 14, 1838.
Mr. President, I have answered some of the attacks on the Republican party which have been brought forward in this debate. They are such attacks as we have been accustomed to see for many years, and which have given to this chamber more the appearance of an electioneering hastings than a hall of legislation. We opened the debate on the merits of the bill; Opposition gentlemen have converted it into a canvass for the Presidency, and a contest for power. We have been obliged to follow them in this unparliamentary course, so far at least as to repel some of their attacks. Having done this, I take up the bill, and shall limit myself to a brief examination of its principles, and to a defence of some of the points on which it is assailed; and shall conclude with some observations upon the conduct of parties, and the political prospect ahead.
The bill contains two principles, and but two.
These are the principles; all the rest is detail. Against these two principles a strong division of this House rises up; among them a few of our own political friends; but the mass and body of the division are the friends of the Bank of the United States. The justice of this opposition, and especially in the quarter from which it chiefly comes, can well be judged of by recollecting that both these principles have been in full force against all the State banks for nearly forty years out of the forty-eight that our Government has been in existence. They were so enforced during the whole time that the two Banks of the United States have existed. I have not got the by-laws of the first National Bank, but I have the charters of both, and the by-laws of the second. By these charters, the two Banks of the United States were entitled to the custody of the public moneys, to the exclusion of the local banks; and, by their by-laws, the notes of these local banks were excluded from payments to and from the Federal Treasury. I have a copy of these laws, as passed by the second Bank of the United States, and merely adopted from the code of the first one, in which this exclusion is enacted; and which runs in these words:
The Offices of Discount and Deposit shall receive in payment of the revenue of the United States, the Notes of such State Banks as redeem their engagements with Specie, and provided they are the Notes of Banks located in the city, or place, where the Office receiving them is established. And also the Notes of such other Banks as a special deposit on behalf of the Government, as the Secretary of the Treasury may require.Article xxv.
The Offices of Discount and Deposit shall at least once every week, settle with the State Banks for their Notes, received in payment of the revenue, or for the engagements of individuals to the Bank, so as to prevent the balances due to the Office from swelling to an inconvenient amount.
This by-law was enacted in the year 1817, and was rigorously enforced until the removal of the deposites in October, 1833; it was therefore seventeen years in force under the second bank; and having been twenty years in force under the first bank, it results that this exclusion of State bank notes from the Federal Treasury has actually been in force nearly forty years out of the forty-eight which our Government has existed.
The slight exception in the non-receivability of these notes was an exception to the prejudice of the local institutions; the exception was limited to the few banks located in the same town which contained the branch bank, and was an injury to these banks; for it caused their notes to be taken out of circulation, and to be presented to them in masses for immediate payment. Thus the great mass of the banks were peremptorily excluded from all receivability of their notes; and as for the few which were nominally excepted, the exception was an injury to them, and to my knowledge was complained of as such.
Now, what was the conduct of the local banks under this forty years' exclusion from the use and custody of the public moneys under the provisions of National Bank charters, and this forty years' exclusion of their notes from Federal receipts and expenditures under the enactments of National Bank by-laws ? What was their conduct under these long and double exclusions ? Sir, it was the conduct of contentment, of satisfaction, of entire acquiescence ! They made no complaint; they asked for no change. On the contrary, they endeavored to perpetuate it, and have always celebrated the period of their exclusion as the finest era of our currency, and the safest state of the Federal revenues. This they did in 1832, when our tables groaned under memorials from local banks to recharter the Bank of the United States; this they did again in 1833, when they prayed for the restoration of the deposites to the Bank of the United States, and actually refused to receive them; and this they do now in praying for another National Bank.
A celebrated French satirist has made us acquainted with a most worthy country gentleman, who had talked prose all his life without knowing it; so of these local banks. They have been ruined for forty years without knowing it. During the whole period of the existence of the two National Banks they were in a state of total exclusion --absolute divorce-- from all connection with the Federal Treasury. With this divorce, thus effected by corporation by-laws, they were contented and happy, nay, wished it to be eternal! but the moment the same divorce is proposed to be effected by an act of Congress, the banks are in arms against it, and declare themselves ruined if it is done. This is a noble instance of consistency --of submission to a Bank of the United States, and of resistance to the Government of the United States.
The same of politicians --of all that class of politicians who advocate a National Bank. They go for the divorce of the by-laws, and against the divorce by a law of Congress. They support a Bank of the United States in excluding the local banks from all connection with the Government, and they support the local banks in resisting the Government of the United States in proposing the very same disconnection. They are now altogether for the local banks, and no praise too high for them; three years ago they were against them, and no abuse too low for them. When these banks resisted the panic, and did well, these politicians denounced them; now that they have stopped payment, and injured the country, and deprived the Government of its revenues, these same politicians exalt them to the skies. This is inconsistency --inconsistency in the means, not in the object.
The object is to re-establish the National Bank; and the means are, to have another loss of Government revenues, and thereupon, another argument to restore their idolized institution. This they declare! for they tell us, with the defiance of over-confidence, that they take these local banks as a half-way house --as a house half-way to the Bank of the United States--where they will lodge and refresh a night, and then gallop into the Chestnut street palace, as a breakfast the next morning. And so it will be. Trust them again! and the State banks will fail again, as they did during the war, as they did in 1819, as they did in 1837, and as they are now doing in 1838. They will fail again; the Federal Government will lose its revenues again; and then the cry will be redoubled for a National Bank.
Mr. President, I have opinions upon this subject --opinions not of recent adoption, or hasty formation. Their origin dates far back --a full quarter of a century; and they have been receiving confirmation ever since. I was in the public service during the late war --witnessed the failure of the State banks, and saw the calamities of a Government, and of a people, destitute of specie. The first Bank of the United States had expelled specie --it had done what Mr. Madison said it would do, in that masterly speech of 1791, which never has been and never can be, answered. In that speech he placed at the head of the list of the disadvantages of such a bank, these prophetic words: "First: Banishing the precious metals, by substituting another of medium to perform their office." At the expiration of its charter, in 1811, it had completely effected this work. It had banished the precious metals.
There was but ten millions of specie left in the country ! Two great errors were then committed: first, in not replenishing the country with specie, and especially with gold; secondly, in falling back upon the paper of local banks for a national currency. In this condition, destitute of specie, and relying upon the notes of local banks, we went into the war. The result was inevitable --the explosion of our whole monetary system-- the bankruptcy of tho Treasury-- the ruinous use of depreciated paper -- a resort to Treasury notes, on which the creditor often lost 33 per cent. --loans on oppressive terms -- and the Government forced to make common cause with broken banks for the mutual support of each others credit. All this I saw. I saw the calamities, the humiliation, and the sufferings of the country; and I heard the loud and insolent triumphs of the Federal party --that part of it which opposed the war-- exulting over an empty Treasury, an impaired public credit, a depreciated paper currency, and the national degradation for want of solid money. I saw all this; and my head, and my heart, both told me that the country ought never to be subjected to such a fate again.
This was my war experience; and now for the experience of peace. After three years of war, peace came, and with it, came revival of business, and a multitude of local banks, and, at their head, that immense charlatan of the monetary system --a National Bank! Off went the whole together; specie payments resumed; confidence restored; the credit system in all its glory, and every branch of business distended to the bursting point.
To judge of every thing by a single instance, it is sufficient to name the public lands, of which the amount of 28 millions of dollars was sold in a single year! and nearly all on credit, payable in safe and solid specie paying bank notes. In two years the whole of these banks, the charlatan among the rest, were swamped. Then we had a repetition of the scenes of seven years before. No specie; no notes equivalent to specie; no credit; no revenues; no price for property ! Tender laws--property laws--replevin laws--stay laws, the order of the day ! An entire stagnation of business followed, not fictitious, but real; and such was the fall in the price of all produce, all property, and the wages of all labor, owing to the failure of the banks, and the absence of specie, that all debtors were placed in the jaws of ruin, and most of them entirely ruined. There was no Treasury order then; no removal of deposites; no veto; no Jackson administration to ruin the country; yet the distress and suffering was actually then, what it is falsely said to be, and wickedly attempted to be made, at present. There is no comparison between the state of things then and now.
At this epoch, this second explosion of the paper system, I came into the Senate of the United States. I came here in the autumn of 1820. I travelled from the Mississippi to the Potomac amidst the crash of failing banks, the wrecks of a paper currency, and the lamentations of a suffering nation. I arrived here to see a Government without a dollar, and borrowing money to pay its daily expenses, which, the year before, boasted a revenue of forty-seven millions, and tormented itself with schemes to get rid of surpluses ! I commenced my Senatorial career under these circumstances --circumstances to make me meditate, and to make me feel. Happily, my associations were with the fathers of the Republic --with Macon and Randolph, whose intimacy I enjoyed, and whose friendship I possessed.
My reading was that of the early history of the Government --the Revolution, the Confederation, the formation of the Constitution of 89, and the workings of the machinery of the Federal Government under the administrations of the earlier Presidents --Washington, Adams and Jefferson. The result of this association, and of this reading, was a thorough conviction,
1. That the Federal Constitution was formed by hard-money men, ans was intended to be a hard money Government;
2. That it had been converted into a paper money Government, contrary to the genius and intention of the Constitution;
3. That this departure from the Constitution was the cause of the moneyed calamities during war, and again at that time;
4. That the remedy for these calamities was to return to the plain meaning of the Constitution, as expressed in the revenue act of 1789, and to confine the receipts and expenditures of the Federal Government to gold and silver coin only.
These were my convictions, and as soon as circumstances were auspicious for action, I commenced a series of measures, all tending to carry back the fiscal action of the Government to the intention of the Constitution; fully believing that if the Federal Government would require gold and silver for its own Treasury, it would cause enough to be brought into the country, and to remain in the country, to supply the whole body of the people with hard money for all their common and ordinary dealings and transactions.
It was not until General Jackson's administration, that I was able to take any strong and direct measures towards the accomplishment of the great object which presented itself to my view. The sagacious Mr. Macon often said to me that it was in vain to attempt any reform, unless the Administration is with you. The election of General Jackson gave such an administration. From that time there was a President, not only to favor, but to take the lead in the great business of restoring the constitutional currency, and my part became subordinate and easy. I had only to explain and defend the great measures which his sagacity and patriotism conceived and recommended.
It is not necessary to dwell on these measures, much less to enter now into any defence of them. A brief enumeration will suffice.
1. No more National Banks. They had been found to be the great exporters of specie; and their chartered right to pay the Federal revenues in their own notes, was in itself a clear breach of the Constitution, and banished gold and silver from the Treasury, and, by diminishing the demand for it, expelled it from the country.
2. To restore the gold currency, by correcting the erroneous standard of gold.
3. The repeal of the act of 1819, rendering uncurrent, with a few exceptions, the gold and silver coins of all foreign countries.
4. The multiplication of the mints, both for the purpose of coining money in different parts of the Union, and for becoming places of deposite and safe-keeping of the public moneys.
5. The suppression of all local bank notes under twenty dollars. Having no direct power over the banks of the States, the only mode of accomplishing this object was by the revenue regulations of the Federal Government, and by operating on public opinion in the different States. My own limit was one hundred dollars, but I did not attempt to establish it because I knew that I could not succeed. My conviction is now clear that there ought to be no bank note under one hundred dollars.
Such were our measures for restoring the currency of the Constitution to the coffers of the Federal Treasury, and supplying the country with gold and silver for all the common and ordinary transactions and dealings. The success, notwithstanding a powerful combined political and moneyed opposition, was astonishingly great. The re-charter of a National Bank sunk under the veto, sustained by public opinion. The act for the correction of the gold standard hit the point of correction with such perfect accuracy, that the two coins, gold and silver, issuing from our Mint, have precisely the same value in the money market. Under the auspicious operation of that act, our gold coin has risen, in little more than three years, from nothing to fifteen millions, and will probably rise to twenty-five millions before the termination of Mr. Van Buren's present term. The act for repealing the act of 1819, and for restoring foreign coins to circulation, has sent Mexican dollars into every part of the Union, and has enabled other foreign coins, both gold and silver, to make some progress in penetrating our country. Silver has increased three fold since 1832, and silver and gold together, four fold. Our specie was twenty millions then; it is eighty now, with the prospect of exceeding a hundred millions before the present term of Mr. Van Buren is out.
Our currency in existence is more abundant and more solid than it ever was before; but the specie part of it is suppressed by the power and policy of the Bank of the United States, combined with the politicians and that part of the banks which follow its lead. Acts of Congress had passed to operate upon small notes, and to exclude those under twenty dollars from revenue payments altogether, and to exclude all others which were not convertible into gold and silver "upon the spot," at the will of the holder, and without loss or delay to him. Public opinion had been awakened on the subject of small notes; and the Republicans every where were moving towards the suppression of all under twenty dollars. Such was the progress, and such the success, of our measures in May last, when eight hundred banks stopped payment at once, shut down close upon all the specie in their vaults, denying a ninepence, a picayune, a five cent piece, even to the Government whose thirty millions of deposites they held, or to the community who held a hundred and twenty millions of their notes !
In the midst of profound peace, general prosperity, under a Government without taxes and without a public debt, with four times as much specie as was in it five years before, came this crash of the banks. It came like a clap of thunder in a cloudless sky. In one moment, as it were, a Government, with thirty millions of revenue on hand, was left without a shilling: in one moment, a nation of fifteen millions of souls was deprived of ninepences for the market or the post office. As if to proclaim their design to banish all specie from the land, a simultaneous and universal deluge of small notes and shin-plasters was poured upon the people; and the significant cry was set up, that specie payments could never be restored until a National Bank was established. This cry explained the main cause of the general stoppage, and the sole cause of the shin-plaster and small note issue.
All this took place, in May, 1837. It was a repetition, without the excuse of war, of the bank explosions of the war in 1814; it was the second explosion of the banks since the war, and in profound peace. It was expected to astound, terrify, subdue, distress, and coerce the country into a submission to the re-establishment of the National Bank! a result that would have been inevitable had it not been for the eighty millions of gold and silver which Jackson's administration brought into the country, and which has so well kept up the value of bank notes that those which are in good credit are now no more than one or two per cent. below par. This third explosion in twenty-five years --this second explosion in time of peace-- this loss of national revenues, as if by enchantment --this disappearance of specie, as if touched by a magic wand-- roused and electrified the continent. The public mind came at a bound to the conviction that the Federal Government ought to be disconnected from the banks, and from their paper currency. The conviction was general, almost unanimous, among the Republicans; a few only among them were for trying the local banks and their paper once more, as if three failures in twenty-five years were not sufficient; as if another failure was not inevitable, and as if another failure must not end in the restoration of a National Bank, with the restoration of the political party, with all their principles and measures, who go with that bank.
The Federal party, of course, with some honorable exceptions, oppose the disconnection. They oppose whatever the Republicans propose, no matter what. They were opposed to the junction of the Government with the State banks three years ago, when those banks were doing well; they are for compelling the Government to stick to them now that they have done ill. This is the state of parties: the Republicans almost universally for the divorce of Bank and State; the Federalists, almost universally, for the conjunction of Bank and State. In this division and subdivision, I find myself with the mass of my own party, and with the Administration itself. I find them now where I was many years ago. I believe them to be right, and shall stand by them, and abide their fate. If they sink in this contest with the banks and the Federalists, I shall go down with them.
I stand upon the two principles of the bill-- 1. The United States to use the money of the Constitution in the receipts and disbursements of the Federal Treasury; 2. The United States to receive their own money, to keep their own money, and pay out their own money. I stand upon these two principles; I cannot surrender them, though I could consent to take them one at a time. The details of the bill are open to compromise. There I am ready to give and to take --to surrender and concede-- to do every thing, consistent with the preservation of the principles, to conciliate the support, or to purchase the forbearance of friends. In some particulars I would prefer a change of details; I would prefer additional branch mints in place of the Receivers General --mints that would answer the double purpose of keeping the money of the Government, and coining money for the people.
The principles of the bill I hold to be founded in the clearest reasons of propriety, and constitutionality, and sustained by the fullest voice of trial and experience. Every Government should be, at all times, the master of its own property, --money and every thing else. A Government should not be put to the delays and contingencies of asking for its own, much less of sueing for it, and above all, of having to sue where State laws may interpose to delay, or to defeat the recovery. The revenue of a Government is its daily support, --it is like the daily support of a family,-- it cannot be stopped, or withheld, without affecting the existence of the Government itself. Every Government upon earth, our own excepted, puts its money where it can go and take it. All other Governments put their money where they can command it, where they can seize it, if necessary, and punish a delinquent holder. We do the same with all our property, except money. Our ships and forts, our military and naval stores, our public lands, and public edifices, are all in our own custody. We do not have to beg, or bring suits at law, to recover their possession. We keep them, subject to our own order, because the existence, and the operations, of Government, which holds civil society together, and prevents mankind from relapsing into anarchy and violence, will not admit of interruptions and delays. If this is true of property, how much more true is it of money --that daily pabulum, without which Government cannot exist a day ? This fundamental axiom, true of every Government, is pre-eminently so of ours. Our Government is complex --State and Federal-- and each should have their own Independent Treasury.
The present Constitution grew out of the Independent Treasury question. Other causes helped on to the formation of the Constitution; but a revenue of its own --a revenue independent of the States, and of course independent of corporations-- was the exciting and controlling cause which led to its adoption. The whole history of the confederation, from the close of the Revolution to the year 1789, proves this. Yet where is the Independent Treasury, where is the Federal Treasury, if corporations are to hold our money, may refuse to pay it when they please, and shall be backed by their State Legislatures when they refuse to pay ? To commit our money to the custody of such corporations, is to forego the end for which the Federal Government was formed; to commit it to such corporations again, after the experience which we have had, and during the experience which we now have, is to repeat a folly for which we have been three times punished, and to exhibit a fatuity which announces a doom to destruction. Upon the clearest principles of reason, of constitutional obligation, and of experience, the Federal Government is bound to take into its own hands the keeping of its own money. This is one principle of the bill; the other is the use of hard money in the receipts and disbursements of the Federal Government. This principle is the ally of the other. They go together, and can hardly live separately.
To receive the promissory notes of the banks, is to receive nothing but their promises to pay money. If they break that promise, the only resource is to take what they choose to give; that is to say, more broken promises to pay money, or to sue them; and, if suit is brought, State laws may interpose to protect the bank, and to compel the Government to take its pay in more broken promises to pay. Far better to take the promissory notes of the citizens. They would not refuse payment, as the banks have done; and if they did, the State Legislatures would not interpose to shield them.
The Federal Government ought to use the money of the Federal Constitution. Its duty to the Constitution requires it to do so; its duty to the country equally requires it. By using that money, two great advantages would always result: 1. The Government would always have in its coffers real money; 2. The country would always possess an abundant supply of the precious metals. Certainly, the Federal Government owes great duties to itself and to the country, in relation to the currency. It should not abdicate those duties, nor delegate them. It should not expel specie from the country by abandoning the use of it. The experience of forty years shows that a cessation of demand for specie, on the part of the Federal Government, banishes gold and silver from the country. This was the result both under the first and second banks of the United States. On the other hand, the experience of five years shows that a demand for specie by the Federal Government attracts it to the country; that we have increased our supply from twenty to eighty millions in five years, under that demand; and that a continuation of the demand will continue the increase until the country is adequately and fully supplied. This is the way to regulate the currency. A hundred and twenty or thirty millions in gold and silver will regulate the banks and the exchanges; and that amount can be attained, and ought to be attained, in six or seven years, by a continuation of General Jackson's policy.
An adequate supply of specie for the country, is one of the highest duties of the Federal Government. By the Constitution, it is made the conservator of specie; by abdicating its duties, it had banished from the land that which it was bound to preserve. The States delivered to this Government, in 1789, an adequate currency of gold and silver. The first revenue law ever passed by Congress, enacted that the revenue should be paid "in gold and silver coin only." There was than no complaint of scarcity. General Hamilton's order for evading that law, did not turn upon the ground of scarcity of the precious metals, but on the plea of convenience in handling bank paper, and upon the policy of increasing the quantity of bank circulation. There was no complaint of the inadequacy of specie until the first Bank of the United States had banished it from the country, as Mr. Madison and others predicted that it would do.
Large mercantile payments always have been, and for ever will be, made in bits of paper, representing masses of property. He is a ninny, or believes others to be ninnies, who talks about merchants spending their time in counting piles of dollars, one by one. If masses of specie are to be paid, it is done in bulk, in kegs, or bags, or by weighing, or by a transfer of credit on the books of a bank. Bills of exchange, receipts, or certificates, representing masses of cotton, tobacco, rice, grain, flour, beef, pork, lead, cattle, &c. make the great payments. So far as large mercantile operations are concerned, specie is but an inferior part of the means of payments. With the body of the community, it is different. Specie is, or should be, the main part of their payments, and with every Government, it should be the sole instrument of payments.
As to banks, it is in vain for them to expect to live upon confidence. Those that attempt it will share the fate of the Irishman's mare, which her master undertook to make live upon a straw a day. One-third in specie, for all its liabilities in circulation and deposites, is the rule of the Bank of England. With less than that proportion the bank holds herself to be unsafe; with that proportion in hand, she expects to make up the other two-thirds, if ran upon, out of the debts due her, her credit to borrow, and Government aid in exchequer bills. Scarcely a bank in the United States undertakes to come up to the Bank of England standard of safety. The Legislature of Louisiana is the only one that I have seen attempting to establish that standard.
There is a concerted attempt at this time in the United States to decry specie; to ridicule it, to villify it, to suppress it, and to banish it. Gold, especially, is the object of the villification of this party --that gold which stands first named in the Constitution of the United States, and which, from the earliest records of the human race, has been the chosen money of the world. I do not envy that party their assiduous labors in the defamation of the precious metals. I do not fear the success of their exertions. I do not fear even that they will ever succeed in making themselves turn their backs upon the smallest piece of gold or silver which is offered for their acceptance.
The necessity of an adequate supply of the precious metals is known and felt by the whole human race. It is the only money which it is safe for the body of the people to handle. It is the main basis for the operations of a bank; and it is the only standard or measure of values. One of the highest functions of money is to measure values. That is a function which paper cannot perform. The measure of values must itself possess intrinsic value, and must itself be free from sudden or material variations of value. It must have a uniform, and a universal value. As well might you attempt to make a measure of lengths out of that which has no length, a measure of weights out of that which has no weight, a measure of quantities out of that which has no capacity to hold any quantity, as to endeavor to make a measure of values out of that which has no intrinsic value. The precious metals alone can constitute a measure of values; paper money can measure the value of nothing, not even of itself; its own value is eternally measured by its relation --by its convertibility-- into specie. Its want of intrinsic value, its liability to be made in any quantity, or to be diminished in any quantity, and its liability to total destruction, entirely disqualifies it for the high function of a measure of values.
The Constitution of the United States has vested Congress with authority to prescribe a uniform standard of weights and measures for the whole Union. Congress has not exercised that power; but the common feeling of the people has supplied the defect of Federal legislation. In all parts of the Union, they use the same weights and measures. A pound is a pound, a bushel is a bushel, a yard is a yard, from one end of the country to the other.
The Constitution has also vested Congress with authority to regulate the value --not of currency, for there is no such word in the Constitution, nor any word which can be made to include paper currency-- but to regulate the value of the coin of our own mint, and also of foreign coin. This power for forty-five years, that is to say, from 1789 to 1834, was so erroneously exercised as to under-value gold six and two-thirds per cent. The consequence was the total exclusion of gold from our circulation. In 1834 this error was corrected; and the consequence is, that gold is in the full process of restoration to its constitutional place in our currency.
With respect to foreign coins, instead of making them current, as the Constitution intended, they were nearly all excluded from circulation by the act of 1819. This false legislation was also corrected in 1834; and foreign coins now enter largely into our circulation. The year 1834 --the second year of General Jackson's second Presidential term-- will be an era, a proud and glorious era, in the history of our constitutional currency. It will be the era of the reformation of the metallic currency.
The year 1836, the last year of General Jackson's second term, will be another glorious epoch in our financial history. It was in that year that the promissory notes of a corporation ceased to be a lawful tender to the United States in discharge of all taxes, debts, and duties due to her. The year 1836 is the epoch of this deliverance of the Federal Treasury from the dominion of a corporation; but the year 1832 divides the honor with it; for in that year was the blow struck --the heroic veto applied-- which effected the deliverance.
Three noble acts have been performed; but a fourth remains to be achieved to consummate the duties of the Federal Government in relation to the currency. The error of Mr. Madison's administration, at the expiration of the existence of the first Bank of the United States, must not be repeated. The notes of the local banks must not be made a national currency ! That error ruined the currency in 1814 and in 1819, and the repetition of it again ruined it in 1837. Three times, in twenty-five years, has that error deprived the Treasury of its revenues, the country of a measure of values, and rendered nugatory the uniformity of weights and measures, in which the whole Union had agreed. The effect upon the community has been the same as if every seller had possessed the privilege, and had exercised it, of altering his weights and measures at his pleasure; lengthening or shortening his yard stick; enlarging or reducing his bushel; diminishing or increasing his pound weight with every sale, and precisely as it suited his own interests in every instance. This is an enormous and a crying evil, the parent of unnumbered impositions upon the whole community, and especially upon the weaker part. In paying double for the necessaries of life, the effect has been precisely the same as if the purchaser had received but half a pound, half a yard, and half a bushel, when he paid for a full pound, a full yard, and a full bushel.
But, sir, I drop this disquisition. The pursuit of it would carry me too far, at the present moment, into the workings of the paper system. I drop it with remarking, that the arbitrary debasement of the current coin, formerly practised by some European Kings, and latterly by some Turkish Sultans, was innocent and harmless, compared to the mischief done in our own country by the loss of a measure of values, and the consequent, or equivalent, destruction of all the measures of quantities. The thoughtless and inconsiderate man, invested with no legislative character, may say, that paper money is lighter than gold and silver; that paper will buy any thing that gold and silver will buy; that he does not care what his money is made of, provided it will pay his debts. The unreflecting man may talk in this way; but the statesman must look at money in its exalted character of a measure of values; and if that measure is lost or destroyed by his management, he commits a great error, and inflicts a great injury upon the entire community.
We have lost that measure. The Federal Government has occasioned its loss. The use of paper at the Federal Treasury has banished coin --has set an example which has been followed by all the States, and by every individual-- until paper has banished coin, and made itself a forced tender in every payment. Paper money is now the actual currency of the land. It is the medium of all payments; and, being no measure of values, there is no stability of prices. Every thing fluctuates. Trade is subjected to the hazards of gambling. The remedy for this evil --the means for the re-establishment of the measure of values-- is for the Federal Government to use the true measure itself. In supplying itself with the true measure, it will cause the whole country to be supplied. No nation can saturate itself with gold and silver more easily than the United States. The hundred millions of exportable products, annually sent abroad --to say nothing of domestic mines, and the supplies brought in by emigrants-- will bring back an annual supply of 12 or 15 millions. We have but to invite its presence, by creating a demand for it, and 8 or 10 millions of this amount will annually remain with us until the national supply is full and complete.---[And this, of course, is the inherent flaw in the theory that gold/silver is money by nature, that gold/silver is the only real money; what happens to the people from whom this specie migrates to the United States ? should they be left without means of exchange? or should they go an incessant war for gold/silver?
Mr. Benton would examine same of the objections to the proposed bill. The able speeches which had been delivered by the numerous friends of the measure abridged his labor in this respect; and he should confine himself to brief notices af a few of the principal points.
At the head of these objections stands the imposing assumption that the passage of the bill will inflict a severe wound upon the State banks, and entirely disable them to resume specie payments. This assertion is made by the whole body of the speakers on the opposite side; but they deal in assertion only. No explanation is given to justify it, and to show how it is that an array of eight hundred banks is to be thus mysteriously and powerfully affected. The amendment of the Senator from Virginia [Mr. Rives] only proposes to distribute the deposites among twenty-five banks, so that seven hundred and seventy-five would remain unprovided for; and, consequently, subject to ruin under that plan. But there is a readier answer to this objection. The bill only proposes to remit these banks to the condition they were in under the dominion of the Bank of the United States. They were then in a complete state of divorce from the Federal Government; having no share of the public deposites, or any share in the privilege of paying the Federal revenue with their notes. They were contented with that condition, and affirm that they flourished under it; and such of them as wish for the establishment of a National Bank, are still in favor of that condition, and of being divorced from the Government. The only difference is that they will submit to a divorce imposed by the by-laws of a Federal Bank, but will resist it coming from Congress. This answer is enough to explode the objection. It not only puts an end to it, but makes it ridiculous. No further answer is necessary to be given; but a further answer is at hand, and will be given. It comes from an authoritative source. The report of the committee of the banks of New York; on the resumption of specie payments, made on the 6th of February last, and approved in a general meeting of the banks of the city, holds this language:
"In contemplation of the resumption of specie payments by the hanks of the city of New York, on or before the tenth of May next, and under the uncertain contingency of a simultaneous or early resumption by the banks of some of the other great commercial cities, it is incumbent on those of New York to adopt all the measures within the limits of their resources, which may enable them not only to resume, but also to maintain specie payments.
"The fall in the rate of foreign exchanges, now considerably below par in our city paper, renders it absolutely certain, that no exportations of specie can take place, and more than probable that a considerable influx may be expected. This fact, now indisputable, must have an effect on public opinion, and ought to remove the apprehensions of those who may have believed out efforts for an early resumption premature. Secure, as all the banks in the United States are, against foreign demands, we are justified in expecting their co-operation. If this is obtained, we do not perceive any obstacle to an early, easy, and safe resumption of specie payments.
"A continued suspension, on the part of some of the other great commercial cities, can alone render the resumption on our part difficult, and may prevent a free application of the legitimate resources of New York. Yet, such is the favorable relative state of the balances between, at least, but little need be apprehended from the effect of natural causes. Of deliberate acts of hostility, as there could be no motive for such, there should be no apprehension on our part. We trust that, supported by the community of this city, and by the State, the banks will be able to surmount all obstacles, and on or before the tenth of May to resume and maintain specie payments."
From this authentic report, it is seen that the banks of the city of New York have determined to resume specie payments on or before the 10th day of May next; that they ask nothing but the co-operation, or forbearance, of other banks, and are afraid of nothing but the deliberate hostility of some non-resuming bans in other cities, that is to say, Mr. Biddle's bank in Philadelphia. This is the language of the banks in New York. They ask nothing, and they fear nothing, from the Federal Government. They fear nothing from the Sub-Treasury bill. They declare their only danger to be in the conduct of the non-resuming banks of some neighboring cities.
Now, which is entitled to most credit in this contradiction of opinion, the New York banks, or the politicians on this floor ? Certainly it is a case in which the opinion of the banks must prevail. They know their own condition; they know the condition of others; they have the work of resumption to perform, and they say they can perform it. If they can, all other banks must be able to do it likewise, or must have imposed falsehoods upon the country when they stopped payment last May; for all then declared that they did not stop from their own weakness, but from the example of New York; and that they would be ready to resume whenever her banks did. This was the language of all, and of none more publicly and positively than that of Mr. Biddle's bank. The banks, then, upon their own showing, are all able to resume, and it is not for politicians, who cannot be admitted to know the condition of the banks as well as the banks do themselves, and who have their own political objects to accomplish by prolonging the suspension --it is not for them to discover excuses for the future failure of the banks in the acts of a Government, the whole of whose acts are, in their eyes, full of folly and ruin.
Even if these politicians stood before the country as sound judges, their judgment could not come in competition with the opinion of the banks. But they do not so stand. They do not stand as sound judges, but as frail and fallible partisans, whose habitual vaticination of ruin from every act of the Government --whose thousand and one mistakes heretofore committed--whose burning desire to get into power by destroying the credit of those in power-- must reduce them to the condition of permanent prophets of woe, predicting destruction, as a matter of course, from every thing which their adversaries do.
The establishment of a Treasury bank is the next great objection to the bill. It is declared to be a Treasury bank; and then a frightful picture of the evils of such a bank is drawn by each speaker, and held up to terrify the people. I thank them for this objection; it kills off four others which this party have made against this Administration, and on each of which they have insisted with all the vehemence with which they now urge this one. It kills off
the whole charge of intending to establish a National Bank in New York;
the whole charge of intending to impose the safety fund system upon the whole Union;
the whole charge of intending to govern the country by a corrupt league of pet banks; and
the whole charge of intending to impose an exclusively metallic currency upon the country.
The establishment of a Treasury bank is inconsistent with these four charges, and, being the last charge, it kills off the others. In this, it does us good service. It shows what stuff the gentlemen's charges are made of. It kills off four of their most serious charges at a blow; and now we will kill it off, and so finish five together. This can be done with two words; in the first place, there is not one feature of a Treasury bank in the bill; in the second place, I pledge myself to vote to eradicate it, if gentlemen can show me a single feature.
Sensible that there is nothing in the bill to justify the objection, gentlemen fly off to suppositions, and charge a future design to erect a Treasury bank upon the foundation of an Independent Treasury, and to furnish the Government with boundless supplies of money, by the issue of exchequer bills in the shape of Treasury notes. To these imaginations of the gentlemen, I can only oppose positive denials, and wait for time to perform its office upon this accusation as it has done upon all that they have made for eight or nine years past. For one, I shall never vote for such a bank, nor for another issue of Treasury notes.
A third objection is to the insecurity of the public moneys in the hands of the Government agents. Gentlemen suppose that the moneys will be much safer in the keeping of the banks, than in the custody of the officers appointed by the Government to keep them. This is an objection which both reason and experience rejects. Reason teaches us that a number of men acting together, will do that which each one of them, individually, would scorn to do. Thus, a board of bank directors would do an act which each member of the board, in his own individual case, would spurn to do. Take the case of the thirty millions of public deposites in the hands of the banks in May last. They were in the custody of boards of directors; and, as boards, the directors acted in refusing the restitution of these deposites to the Treasurer of the United States, and to the disbursing officers in whose names they stood. But suppose these thirty millions had been deposited with the members of the same boards in their individual capacities, their personal honor, to say nothing of their bonds and securities, bound for the restitution -- they would have restored the amount to the last dollar, and felt the deepest humiliation at the slightest delinquency. Such would have been their conduct. An individual is a safer depositary than a board; and far better would it be to confide the public deposites to any one single director of a bank, than to the whole together as a corporation. A corporation has no soul and no conscience: an individual director has both; and these, with his bonds and securities, would be the highest pledge for his fidelity. This is what reason teaches us.
Now for experience. We have Treasurers of the United States, and but one Treasurer at a time. These Treasurers have passed through their hands, counting from the foundation of the Government, about eight hundred millions of dollars. Has any part of these eight hundred millions been lost in their hands ? No: not one cent ! Again: we have Treasurers of the Mint, one at a time. These Treasurers have had the actual keeping, counting, and paying out, of seventy-three millions of dollars in gold and in silver. Has one piece of it been lost in their hands ? No: not one! Under the bill before us, the mints are to be made depositories of the public moneys. Experience shows them to be safe places; their peculiar occupation makes them proper places; and I wish we had three or four more of them, and then all the public moneys might be deposited in them.
But gentlemen, in support of their objection, made an assertion, and started an inquiry which has ended in the total overthrow of their position. They ventured upon a question of fact --a question of figures and records-- a question to be answered by documentary evidence. It was as to the comparative amount of past losses; whether the Government had lost most by using banks, or by trusting to their own fiscal agents; and in this inquiry gentlemen were bold in their affirmation that the comparison was to the disadvantage of the Government agents, and entirely in favor of the banks. How unfortunate for their argument this attempt to do honor to the banks ! It has led to official inquiries at the Treasury Department, and here is the answer. It is a communication from the Secretary of the Treasury, dated February 28th, of the present year:
"In answer to the first inquiry, 'as to the amount of balances against all banks which have been used as public depositories that is not secured, or will probably be lost, adding thereto the estimated loss that has accrued by taking on public account depreciated bank notes,' I would observe, that it is computed those balances so lost will be about $1,000.000, and the loss by taking such notes about $5,000,000; making, in the aggregate, $6,500,000. This is without the addition of any interest, as are the subsequent statements. If interest was cast on the above sums, the aggregate would exceed $13,000,000.
"The data on which this computation rests are, that the nominal balances against banks that have been public depositories, and in default, are now, though excluding what stands to the credit of disbursing officers, about $7,000,000. Of this sum near $1,076,000 stands against old bank depositories, and the residue against recent ones. The loss to the Treasury by taking depreciated notes in 1814, '15, '16, and '17, is estimated at quite $5,500,000; and there is now on hand of such notes, then received and never paid away or collected, about $80,000 more, as is more fully detailed in a report to the Senate from this Department, made the 1st instant. These constitute an aggregate of $12,580,000."
To these losses from local banks is to be added the sum of $233,422, for the principal and interest of dividend due from the Bank of the United States, and withheld on a pretexted claim for damages on the protested bill of exchange on the French Government. The answer to the second branch of the inquiry stands thus:
"In answer to the second inquiry, as to 'the amount of balances against all kinds of collecting officers which has not been secured and will probably be lost,' I have, after careful examination, computed that it will not exceed from $900,000 to $1,200,000. From the long period covered by these balances, connected with their great number, it must be obvious that the amount which has been wholly lost cannot, in many cases, be ascertained with accuracy.
"But the data for this estimate areas follows: The nominal amount of such balances is about $2,500,000. Schedules of most of them late as October, 1837, with certain explanations, may be seen in a report to the House of Representatives, made by this Department on the 15th January last; and another, with more detailed explanations, is now preparing, in conformity to a resolution of the Senate, passed the 15th instant. From the whole amount, there should first be deducted a sum for what has been ascertained to be probably secured or paid. This ranges from $1,000,000 to $1,500,000.
"Of the nominal balances, a further sum, equal to near $300,000, has never been put in suit; and, in most cases, this is believed to have arisen from a knowledge that nothing would appear to be due when the vouchers were all offered, and the allowances made which were considered legal."
Thus stands the comparison between the banks and the collectors and disbursing agents; and the difference is more than five to one in favor of the collectors and these agents. In both instances, the comparison goes back to the foundation of the Government, and it is to be observed that the losses among the collectors almost entirely accrued under the old system, before the four years' law took effect --that law which brings the accounts of every moneyed agent to a close every fourth year. This law, with other regulations at the Departments, have nearly put an end to losses by collectors. In the War Department, in the disbursement of one hundred millions in the last fifteen years, there has not been the loss of a dollar. The other Departments have also been greatly improved. If the comparison had been confined to the last fifteen years, since the new law and the new regulations have been in force, it would have resulted still more to the discredit of the banks and to the honor of the Government agents.
But it is not by the losses appearing on the Treasury books that this great question is to be answered. Those books only show the direct losses to the Government from the use of bank paper and banks as depositories; the indirect losses to the Government, and the losses to its creditors and to the whole community --from the use of depreciated paper, must also be taken into the account; and then the mischiefs from the use of these banks and their paper money appear in their enormous, incalculable, and appalling amount.
Gentlemen of the Opposition have recurred with great commendation to the report of a committee to the House of Representatives, of which Mr. McDuffie was chairman, some seven or eight years ago, to show the evils of a Treasury bank --that phantom of which there is no existence any where but in their own imaginations. They produce his report with every commendation; of course they cannot object to its authority; and here is a paragraph taken from it which should begin to open their eyes, or the eyes of the country, to the magnitude of the losses from Government reliance on local banks and their paper money.
"The Government borrowed, during the short period of the war, eighty millions of dollars, at an average discount fifteen per cent. giving certificates of stock, amounting to eighty millions of dollars, in exchange for sixty-eight millions of dollars in such bank paper as could be obtained. Upon the very face of the transaction, therefore, there was a loss of twelve millions of dollars, which would, in all probability, have been saved, if the Treasury had been aided by such an institution as the Bank of the United 8tates. But the sum of sixty eight millions of dollars received by the Government was in a depreciated currency, not more than half as valuable as that in which the stock given in exchange for it, has been, and will be, redeemed. Here then is another loss of thirty-four millions, resulting incontestably and exclusively, from the depreciation of the currency, and making, with the sum lost by the discount, forty-six millions of dollars."
Mr. McDuffie says, and says truly, in his report that this loss of forty-six millions was only one item in the catalogue of losses --that the loss to the community, and to the Government creditors, from using depreciated paper was beyond calculation. His remedy for these losses was a National Bank; mine is an adequate supply of gold and silver, and especially of gold; and if it is asked how much gold will be sufficient, I answer, that so far as the currency of a National Bank is concerned, twenty odd millions would be enough; for that is the maximum amount of currency that she ever furnished. A supply then of twenty odd millions of gold would meet all objections arising from the withdrawal of her currency, and that amount will be in the country before the present term of Mr. Van Buren's Administration expires, and double that amount in seven or eight years.
The loss to Government creditors was incredible from the use of depreciated paper during the late war. Even the Treasury notes were depreciated, in some parts, as low as 33 per cent. The loss to creditors from the use of bank notes, since May last, has also been great. The public moneys in the hands of the deposite banks were then 30 millions; the Government has been paying it out ever since, to the great profit of the banks, to the immense discredit of the Government itself, and to the heavy loss of many of its creditors.
But the money test cannot complete the comparison between the two classes of agents. Other considerations of great weight, and some of still graver character, belong to the subject. First, in point of amenability. The Government officers are amenable to the Government, subject to its laws and its orders; liable to summary proceedings for default, and to be pursued by execution wherever they go, and responsible in person and in property, themselves and all their securities, for all that is owing by them. Not so with the banks. They are the creations of the State Governments, subject to State laws, and having great influence over the enactment of State laws which concern themselves. The States may protect them, and have protected them, against the Federal demands. They have passed acts to prevent the recovery of damages which the charters had fixed; and to prevent execution against the banks themselves, unless the creditor would consent to receive his debt in current bank notes. This is what has been done; it is what is now done; and here is the evidence of it.
Mr. Benton then exhibited a document, obtained from the Department of State, containing the acts passed by the legislatures of different States since the suspension of specie payments in May last. They were passed in States where there were deposite banks, then holding about thirty millions of public money, standing in the name of the Treasurer of the United States, or in the names of disbursing officers. These acts, in some instances, reduced the damages which depositors and holders of notes were entitled to recover; and, in some instances, denied execution against the bank, unless the creditor would endorse upon it that current notes should be receivable.
Mr. Benton said he had seen no instance in which these acts made any exception in favor of the United States; and he read the titles of several of the acts, and the names of the States in which they were passed, and referred to the Senators from those States to say whether there were any exception. No Senator answering in the affirmative, Mr. Benton resumed, and said that here was an insurmountable objection to the future employment of State banks as public depositories, or to the reception of their notes in the payment of the Federal revenue. The States had interposed between the Federal Government and the holders of its moneys. They might interpose again and for ever. By so doing, they injured the United States, and laid a ground for complaint and collision with the State Governments. Every consideration of harmony and mutual independence should forbid the possibility of such occurrences for the future.
Again: The deposite banks, whether a National Bank or catalogue of State banks, were the friends of high taxes and low appropriations. They went for surpluses, for the accommodation of themselves and a few of their friends. They went for taxing the nation to the uttermost, and stinting appropriations to the minimum, that enormous surpluses should remain in their hands for loans to themselves and friends. Mr. Benton had a table in his hand, obtained from the Treasury Department, and showing the annual amount of balances in the Treasury from the foundation of the Government to the present time, and which he would read. It was valuable for two purposes: 1. To show how little need the Government has for large balances; 2. How large these balances became when the banks were powerful and the Government connected with them. In The first years of the Government, the banks were few in number, and comparatively weak; and then the surpluses stood thus:
Year. ............ Balance.
1789 ............. $28,239
1790 ............. 570,023
1791 ............. 973,905
1792 ............. 783,444
1793 ............. 753,661
1794 ............ 1,151,924
1795 ............. 516,442
1796 ............. 888,895
1797 ............ 1,021,899
1798 ............. 617,451
1799 ............ 2,161,867
1800 ............ 2,623,811
Thus, during this period of twelve years, when the National Bank had but ten millions of capital, and State banks were few and weak, the average surplus for twelve years did not amount to one million of dollars. Now for a different picture. Behold the years 1815-'16-'17.
Year. ........ Balance.
1815 ....... 13,106,592
1816 ....... 22,033,519
1817 ....... 14,989,465
These three years covered the brief season of bank omnipotence after the conclusion of the late war. The second National Bank, with its thirty-five millions of capital, was then just created; State Legislatures littered local institutions by the forty at a time. Bank influence was predominant every where; and no where more powerful than in Congress. Its irresistible influence here was well described at that time by the intrepid and sagacious Mr. Randolph. This is what he said:
"Every man you meet in this House or out of it, with some rare exceptions, which only serve to prove the rule, was either a stockholder, president, cashier, clerk, or doorkeeper, runner, engraver, paper-maker, or mechanic in some other way to a bank.
We are tied hand and foot and bound to conciliate this great mammoth,"
Such was the power of the banks at that time; and the consequence was, an average surplus of near seventeen millions per annum. To be sure it only lasted three years; and the reason was, that the bank, only ruled the country for three years. It was a short ride, and a merry one; and, now for a plunge. Let us see the next four or five years.
Year. .............. Balance.
1818 ...... 1,478,526
1819 ...... 2,079,9992
1820 ...... 1,198,461
1821 ...... 1,681,592
1822 ...... 4,237,427
Here the average is reduced to about two millions per annum; and why ? Because the banks had lost their dominion over the country and the Government, and had neither the means nor the influence to inflate the Treasury. It was the season of their first catastrophe in time of peace; and every thing went down in proportion to their own great fall. It was the season of a general collapse. Let us pass on to the next ascension, to the next perihelion of this ballooning of the banks. About the year 1833, when the National Bank had lost the prospect of a re-charter, but expanded its business, and when local banks were increased in unprecedented numbers, and as many as ninety of them became the depositories of the public moneys, their power and influence again became immense. The result, on the Federal Treasury was:
Year .............. Balance
1833 ......... 11,702,905
1834 .......... 8,892,858
1835 ......... 26,749,803
1836 ......... 46,708,436
1837 ......... 35,759,630
Here is another season of five years of great power in the banks, and of close connection with them by the Federal Government. The result is, an average balance, that is to say, an annual surplus, of about twenty-seven millions of dollars ! What a comment upon the connection between Bank and State ! A connection which exhibits the Federal Treasury as a mere appendage to a rising, flying, plunging and falling balloon. We who have been here for some years have seen the inside working of this connection, and have seen the votes which created these enormous surpluses; votes to promote all taxation --to prevent all reduction of taxes-- and to prevent all possible appropriations, even for the defence of the country, and for the completion of the fortifications; and we have seen these votes regularly coming from the friends of the banks.
To complete the picture, it is sufficient to say that the banks had their second catastrophe, in time of peace, in May last; and that now the balance in the Treasury is low enough !
Mr. Benton said, he had for years pointed out the Bank of the United States, while the depository of the public moneys, as the ally of taxes, and the enemy of appropriations; he had made the same remark upon the local deposite banks almost as soon as they were in operation; and he had now given the evidence to show the justice of the application of this character to them both. It was a most fatal objection to all connection with those banks; an objection from which the Government agents would be wholly free. With the mints and individual officers, to keep the public moneys, there would be no interest here to create surpluses for the benefit of banks and their favorites.
A third answer to this objection is, that it goes to the form of our Government, and impeaches the capacity of the people to administer their own Government. The objection is, that the agents selected by the Government, and responsible to it, cannot be trusted to keep the public moneys; and, therefore, the custody of the money must be confided to bank directors, who are not appointed by the Government, nor responsible to the people. This is the objection; and, upon its face, it impeaches the capacity of the people to administer their own Government, and to take care of their own property. This is an inevitable inference; and, perhaps, another inference will also result; namely, that if banks are necessary to the Federal Government, she will have the same power to create as to adopt these institutions.
A fourth objection made to the Independent Treasury is, that it will hoard specie --that it will cause the Government to become an immense miser, hoarding in the deep recesses of vaults, and confining with bolts, bars, and safes, a vast accumulation of gold and silver. Sir, the table of balances which I have read explodes this objection. It shows that the Government has no balances of any consequence, except when it is connected with banks. When free from that connection, or when the banks are too weak to exert an influence over the public counsels, the surplus on hand is next to nothing; a million per annum in the earlier stages of the Government, and two millions per annum in later times. The table shows how little need there is for any surplus; for it is notorious that the Government machine worked far better when it was a touch-and-go business with the Treasury, than it ever did with its ten, twenty, thirty, and forty millions of surplusses. There will be no surplus to be hoarded if the Government can succeed in breaking its connection with the banks. Economy can then be practiced, as well as professed. It can then be practised by those who are really in favor of it.
Mr. Benton said, that at the extra session he had given it as his opinion that the payment of the Federal revenues in gold and silver would not occasion more than four or five millions of dollars to be taken out of circulation; in other words, that four or five millions would accomplish the annual payment of the whole revenue. A further study of the subject, and a view of the table of balances which he had just presented, induced him to believe that two or three millions would be sufficient. One million was found to be sufficient in the first twelve years of the Government, and two millions in the five years from 1818 to 1822, inclusive. The same amount would have been equally sufficient at all other times. He was against surpluses; he was against any financial calculation for leaving any amount whatever in the Treasury; he was opposed to any scheme of finance which had for its basis any reserve of money in the Federal Treasury. This was an old subject with him. He had made his acquaintance with it twelve years. ago. He had then tried his young hand, for the first time, on a financial subject, and on resolutions submitted by himself to repeal so much of the Sinking Fund act of 1817 as directed a reserve of two millions per annum to be kept in the Treasury. He had then shown it to be an unnecessary precaution; that it was far better to cut down taxes to the estimated expenditure, and invest the Government with a contingent authority to borrow the two millions in the event of a need for it to meet appropriations before Congress would assemble. This was his opinion twelve years ago; it was his opinion now. He was opposed to any plan for leaving a surplus dollar in the Treasury; he was opposed to the issue of Treasury notes to supply deficiencies; he was for the contingent authority to borrow, if necessary, a small sum to meet appropriations, and then paying it of out of the first surplus. In this way, and by increasing and diminishing the amount for the flexible objects of expenditure, such as fortifications, ships, harbors, light-houses, &c. the small, occasional, and alternate deficiencies and excesses in the revenue could be easily, safely, and economically met and provided for.
Not specie enough in the world to supply the demand which this bill would create, and not time enough in the year to count it, if there was enough, is another of the objections to this bill. This is relied upon by many speakers, and grave calculations are gone into to show that the three hundred and sixty-five days in the year would be too short a time to suffice for the counting in and counting out the Government revenues, if paid in gold and silver.
Sir, there is a species of argument which the logicians call the argumentum ad ignorantiam --argument to ignorance; but this argument goes beyond that, for it is an argument to the lowest degree of ignorance. If any answer was due to it --the counting part of it-- it might be found in the act of 1789, when the revenues were directed to be paid in gold and silver coin only; and also, in a speech delivered on the floor of the House some years ago, when the collection of the revenues in hard money was so strenuously urged by a gentleman, now so entirely opposed to it [Daniel Webster]. But no answer is due to it. Every body knows better. Neither individuals, or nations, ever lost time in counting masses of specie. Ordinary sums are counted without loss of time, and masses are transferred by weight, or in kegs or bags.
Mr. Webster's speech on the Bank of the United States Charter Bill,
February 28th, 1816.
The House again resolved itself into a committee of the whole, Mr. Nelson, of Virginia, in the Chair, on the bill the motion to reduce the capital, being still under consideration.
No nation had a better currency, he said, than the United States. There was no nation which had guarded its currency with more care; for the framers of the constitution, and those who enacted the early statutes on this subject, were hard-money men; they had felt, and therefore duly appreciated the evils of a paper medium; they, therefore, sedulously guarded the currency of the United States from debasement. The legal currency of the United States was gold and silver coin; this was a subject in regard to which Congress had run into no folly.* * * * * * *
In consequence of the immense paper issues having banished specie from circulation, the Government had been obliged, in direct violation of existing statutes, to receive the amount of their taxes in something which was not recognized by law as the money of the country, and which was, in fact, greatly depreciated, &c. This was the evil.* * * * * * *
As to the evil of the present state of things, Mr. Webster admitted it in its fullest extent. If he was not mistaken, there were some millions in the Treasury, of paper, which were nearly worthless and were now wholly useless to the Government, by which an actual loss of considerable amount must certainly be sustained by the treasury. This was an evil which, he said, ought to be met at once; because it would grow greater by indulgence. In the end, the taxes must be paid in the legal money of the country; and the sooner that was brought about the better. * * * * * If Congress were to pass forty statutes on the subject, he said, they would not make the law more conclusive than it now was, that nothing should be received in payment of duties to the Government but specie; and yet, no regard was paid to the imperative injunctions of the law in this respect. The whole strength of the Government, he was of opinion, ought to be put forth to compel the payment of the duties and taxes to the Government in the legal currency of the country.---[when it came voting, Mr. Webster voted against the charter of the 2nd Bank of the United States.]
With respect to the other part of the objection --the impossibility of getting an adequate supply-- it is an objection refuted by the experience of all nations, and particularly by our own experience. At the close of the Revolution we had nothing but depreciated paper; in six or seven years afterwards we had an adequate supply of gold and silver. So of France: In 1800 she had nothing but assignats, depreciated as low as our old continental bills. In seven years afterwards she had a specie currency of five hundred and fifty millions of dollars. So of England: In 1819 she had nothing but depreciated paper; Parliament passed an act for the resumption of specie payments, and allowed four years for the banks to supply themselves. In two years the Bank of England reported an acquisition of twenty millions sterling in gold --one bundled millions of dollars-- and that she was ready to resume. The same bank now, at this moment, has made an acquisition of six millions sterling --thirty millions of dollars-- in the brief space of nine months. In May last, her supply was three and a half millions sterling; in January, it was nine and a half. But to come to our own country. Our custom-house returns show that specie flows in upon us annually in large masses, and either remains with us, or goes off again, precisely as it suits our own policy to retain it or not. Our correct returns of imports and exports of specie go back to the year 1821, and this is the result:
Imports. ............... Exports
1821 - - $8,064,890 ..... $10,478,059
1822 - - 3,360,846 ..... 10,810,189
1823 - - 5,897,896 ...... 6,372,897
1824 - - 8,379,835 ...... 9,014,553
1825 - - 6,150,765 ...... 8,797,955
1826 - - 6,880,960 ...... 9,704,553
1827 - - $,152,130 ...... 8,014,880
1828 - - 6,482,741 ...... 8,242,476
1829 - - 7,400,612 ...... 4,924,020
1830 - - 8,155,964 ...... 2,178,773
1831 - - - 7,305,945 ...... 9,014,931
1832 - - - 5,907,554 ...... 5,656,340
This includes a period of twelve years. Tne imports for that period amount to the large sum of $83,356,000. The average import was about seven millions of dollars per annum. If the specie policy of General Jackson had then been in force, a large proportion of this import would have remained in the country; but the paper money policy was then in the ascendant. The Bank of the United States was then omnipotent; and her policy was to export specie, for the double purpose of making a profit on the export, and creating a vacuum at home, to be filled by her own notes; and, above all, to deprive the country of specie, and reduce the local banks to the use of her notes for their capital; so that when she wished to upset the Government, to rule the elections, or to convulse the moneyed world, she would have nothing to do but to order a curtailment of two or three millions a month, and charge it upon any act, no matter what, of the Federal Government. This was the policy which then prevailed, and accordingly, large as the import of specie was in these twelve years, the export was still larger: it was $84,280,000. Thus, instead of retaining any part of what came in for the use of the country, there was actually sent out about a million more than came in.
The next period of five years shows the effect of the specie policy. The imports and exports for this period stand thus:
Imports. .............. Exports.
1833 - - $7,070,368 .... $2,614,951
1834 - - 17,911,662 ..... 1,676,258
1835 - - 13,131,447 ..... 5,748,174
1836 - - 12,166,372 ..... 4,435,815
1837 - - 10,954,432 ..... 7,714,990
Behold the difference! Our imports for five years amounting to sixty-two millions; our exports almost nothing. The average import for the whole five years, including 1837, amounting to about twelve millions and a half of dollars; and our exports, except for the extraordinary year of 1837, only averaging a little over three millions. This is the state of our own experience. It show, that, without any demand for specie, it flows in upon us at the rate of seven millions per annum, but flows out again; that with a demand for it, it flows in at the rate of twelve and a half millions per annum, and nearly all remains with us. This is the effect of a demand for specie for the Federal Treasury. Let that demand continue. Let the Government continue to collect, and above all, to pay out, specie, and in a few years the national supply will be complete. The country will posses as much as it can use, be it a hundred, a hundred and twenty, or a hundred and fifty millions. The supply will find its own level, and the excess will flow off.
These, sir, are the main objections to the bill. They are the principal ones which have been urged. They will not bear examination. Every argument resulting from them is an argument in favor of the bill, instead of being against it. And what is the alternative proposed by those who object to this bill ? By the Federal gentlemen the alternative is openly proclaimed to be a National Bank; that is to say, Mr. Biddle's bank; for they mean no other. By a few of the Republicans, a resort to the State banks is the alternative. The Federal gentlemen agree to take this latter alternative for the present --as so much gained towards their National Bank-- as a half-way house to that institution. This is candid in those gentlemen. It is candid, if it is not wise. They will go with a few of our friends to the half-way house, knowing that Mr. Biddle can blow up that house any night that he pleases, and that the Chestnut street palace must then become the refuge of the terrified inmates of the demolished stopping place.
Mr. Benton would not dilate upon the dangers of this alternative. To learn danger --ta take warning-- from an enemy, is a maxim of great antiquity, and one which has its full application on this occasion. If neither the conduct of the Opposition, their language, their speeches on this floor, can warn gentlemen, it would seem to be almost in vain to appeal to past experience, to witness the present, or to contemplate the future. The State bank deposite system, with the use of their paper money, has failed us in time of war and in time of peace. It has twice failed in time of peace. It is now in a state of failure. The late deposite banks now owe the Government six and a half millions of dollars, which an empty Treasury in vain calls for. To rely upon them again, is to walk into the pit in broad day with the eyes wide open.
Our banking system, always on fallacious principles --always unsolid and delusive-- is now becoming worse than ever. It becomes worse daily, and in many instances, is made so on purpose, that another catastrophe may be produced, and then charged upon the Administration. Issuance of small notes, even down to a dollar; issuance of post notes; connection with party politics, and with that party whose connection has been fatal to all its associates; subjection to the policy of the Bank of the United States, on the part of a gteat many banks; such is the downward course of our banking system at present. Timely and prudent reformation might save it; but all reformation is resisted and baffled. To make all worse, seems to be the policy of those who have most power over the subject. Under these circumstances, what fatuity in the Government of the United States to connect its Treasury again with these institutions, big with inherent dangers, and beset by a tremendous foe !
I have gone over some of the objections to the plan for an Independent Treasury. I have spoken to some parts of the bill before the Senate; but the merits of that bill are no part of the real question. The contest is for power. Political power is the object of the Opposition --abuse of the bill, the means of attaining it-- and a panic the grand desideratum. Panics are the aliment of the Federal party --terror their engine for governing the people. The mythological god Pan is the divinity of their worship. To him they look for help --to that grotesque and hideous deity, half man and half goat, whose bare apparition in ancient times would put whole armies to flight. This is the tutelary divinity of the Federal party, and always has been. Panics were their resource from the foundation of the Government; and, forty years ago, the French Revolution was what the Republican administrations now are, the great magazine of horrors from which they supplied themselves with "gorgons' heads and chimeras dire," to alarm and terrify the nation.
Mr. Jefferson, in his memoirs, has described that period, emphatically called the Reign of Terror. He has given many pages to the description of it; but declares that no person, who did not witness it, can form any idea of the terrorism with which the Federal party then surrounded itself, and the rudeness and violence with which they browbeat and insulted the Republicans. Some extracts from his description of that period may bring up useful recollections at this time, when the violence of the revived Federal party so far transcends all that was witnessed forty years ago. He says:
"The horrors of the French revolution, then raging, aided them mainly, and using that as a raw-head-and-bloody-bones, they were enabled by their strategems of X.Y.Z., their tales of tub-plots, ocean massacres, bloody buoys, &c. to spread alarm into all but the firmest breasts. These transactions, now recollected as dreams of the night, were then sad realities; and nothing rescued us from their liberricide effect but the unyielding opposition of those firm spirits who sternly maintained their posts in defiance of terror. * * * * * The usurpations and violations of the Constitution at that period, and their majorities in both Houses of Congress, were so great, so decided, and so daring, that after combating their aggressions, inch by inch, without being able in the least to check their career, the Republican leaders thought it would be best for them to give up their useless efforts there, go home, get into their respective Legislatures, embody whatever resistence they could be formed into, and if ineffectual, to perish there as in the last ditch. All, therefore, retired, leaving Mr. Gallatin alone in the House of representatives, and myself in the Senate, where I then presided as Vice President. Remaining at our posts, and bidding defiance to the browbeatings and insults by which they endeavored to drive us off also, we kept the mass of Republican phalanx together, until the Legislatures could be brought up to the charge; and nothing on earth was more certain, than if myself particularly, placed by my office of Vice President at the head of the Republicans, had given way and withdrawn from my post, the Republicans throughout the Union would have given up in despair, and the cause would have been lost for ever. By holding on, we obtained time for the State Legislatures to come up with their weight; and those of Virginia and Kentucky particularly, but more especially the former, by their celebrated resolutions, saved the Constitution at its last gasp. No person who was not a witness of the scenes of that gloomy period, can form an idea of the afflicting persecutions and personal indignities we had to brook. They saved our country however. The spirits of the people were so much subdued and reduced to despair, that they could have sunk into apathy and monarchy, as the only form of Government which could maintain itself."
Such, Mr. President, was the terrorism with which the Federal party surrounded itself forty years ago; such its mode of action then; and such its manner of acting on the public mind now. The Presidential election of 1796 was carried by terror, extracted from the French Revolution; the election of 1800 came within three votes of being carried by the same means. The second election of Mr. Jefferson prostrated Federalism --sent it into a state of hibernation far north, and with it the mythological deity of its worship, and the whole machinery of terror and alarm. The appearance of General Jackson, at the head of the list of Presidential candidates, in the winter of 1824-25, and the events of the election of President at that time by the House of Representatives, revived the two primitive political parties --the Republican and the Federal-- and with the latter, its distinctive passion for terror, alarm, and panic. From that day to the present, a succession of alarms has agitated the public mind. Raw-heads-and-bloody-bones have stalked in solemn procession over the public stage. First, it was the military chieftain, who was to put an end to the Republic at once, with the sword. Then Congress was to be turned out of doors, neck and heels. Then the liberty of speech was to be put down --to be suppressed by main force: afterwards it was to be choked down by corruption. Then came a fright about pocketing bills. General Jackson did not return the land bill, which was sent to him too late to be returned; and, thereupon, all bills were to be pocketed, and all Federal legislation destroyed. After that, we had the Maysville Road bill veto alarm; and such was the effect of this fright for some months, that many good people believed that there was going to be a general destruction of all roads, and that all travelling would be reduced to scrambling through the woods, camping out at night, and swimming creeks and rivers like otters. Quick upon the heels of this fright, came the National Bank bill veto alarm. Then there was no mistake. Destruction had arrived. National woe had arrived. The price of all produce and property was to sink to nothing; every man's estate was to perish on his hands; black desolation was to sit upon the land. From the contemplation of this ruin, the nation was suddenly roused up to the apparition of the French war. For three months, this spectre of a French war kept its place on the public stage, to the extreme irritation of the nervous system of aged ladies, and with vast expenditure of ink and paper to the peace societies. The arrival of the gold indemnities put an end to the fantasies of this poor spectre. These brief and various little panics were preludes to the great one --the deposite-removal panic of 1833-34. This was a panic indeed, not only great in itself, but the prolific parent of a progeny of subaltern alarms. Orators here, and bank screws elsewhere, worked up the nation to a paroxysm of consternation. Great was the terror excited, and great the mischief inflicted. For six months, this chamber was the laboratory of alarm; the distress flag flying, the tocsin beating, and the alarm guns firing; all the while the Bank of the United States turning the screws on her debtors, to the sound of our music, and, with each scream of its suffering victims, exultingly demanding if the distress had not arrived ?
The revolution without bloodshed --the expulsion of this body from its chamber by a military force--and the Protest, which was to wipe out the Constitution-- were among the prominent scenes of that magnificent panic. The revolution was, in itself, a curiosity. It began in the middle, carried itself on without bloodshed, and ended without a Catastrophe. That it has ended, I myself do know. I know it of my own knowledge, and can tell you how. You remember, sir, we were then informed that, in revolutions, there were no Sabbaths. Now, I have seen Sabbaths since that time myself. I have seen the people at church, worshiping, and keeping the Sabbath. This is conclusive; it is proof incontestible that the revolution has ended. Bloodless, we know it to have been. Without a catastrophe, we know it was. There was no list of killed and wounded; but there were some crippled and lamed --a certain catalogue of Presidential candidates, architects of panic, were gravelled on that occasion. They became what the "safe and solid specie-paying" bank notes are in the Treasury --an unavailable fund! They ended with finding themselves hors du combat; not horses of combat, as a worthy friend of mine is accustomed to read that French phrase, but stabled animals, withdrawn from the turf, tied up to the rack, solitary and alone, to digest their provender at their leisure.
The Senate expulsion panic, though severe at the time, is hardly to be regretted, on account of the noble spirit which it caused to be developed in this body. When the first tidings arrived of General Jackson's design to expel the Senate by force of arms, then was seen what stuff our hearts were made of. Incontinently patriotic indignation rose to the highest pitch, and courageous resolutions exhibited themselves in daring forms. Some proposed to go forth, and bravely meet the advancing danger. Others preferred to arm the doorkeeper, the messengers, and the boys with sticks and staves, and to plant them behind the jambs of the doors. Others, like ancient Romans, deemed it more senatorial to abide the event; in a sitting posture, not in curule, but in their leather back chairs. While still in this fearful condition, the portentous Protest arrived, to heighten the exciting scene, to multiply its perils, and to superadd alarm for the safety of our beloved Constitution to the personal consternation we endured on account or our own necks and limbs.
How the Senate became relieved from this double peril is matter of history, which the tongue of eloquence has already immortalized on this floor, and which the pen of truth will faithfully transmit to a remote generation. Virginia came to the rescue ! Hanover county did the business ! We all remember that day when an orator of this body, rising in his place, announced to us the glorious results of the precinct elections at Long Tom, Slow and Hungry, Negro Foot, and Hell Town; and concluded with a declaration that he had heard the last knock of the hammer on the last nail in the coffin of Jacksonism. At this annunciation our spirits rose. The Senate breathed freer and deeper. We all began to feel like Brutuses, ready to brandish high our gleaming steel, and call on liberty, and bid the fathers of their country hail! for, lo, the tyrant down, and we again all free.
But, alas! the mutability of human events! quickly we found ourselves in the condition of the poor fisherman in the Arabian Nights, who had corked up the terrific genie in a bottle, from which the giant spectre had emerged to fill all space with the expansion of his boundless form, to overshadow the whole earth with his endless height, and to menace the luckless fisherman with instant annihilation. So of the Senate, and its coffined Jacksonism. We had it in the coffin; we nailed it up; we were sure of it. We considered Jackson done for ever; yet he reappeared on the political stage with more power than ever, and with such effect upon the vision, that those who affirmed to us on this floor that they saw him coffined, now declare that he is still President of these United States, ruling the country with a rod of iron, and menacing all existing institutions with instant ruin.
Subordinate to these great alarms, Mr. President, were three small ones, which filled up the year 1834. There was the gold bill alarm, which was to debase the currency, and deprive the country of silver; the Safety Fund system alarm, in which the Albany regency were to extend corruption and intrigue to the uttermost boundaries of the Union; and the pet bank alarm, in which the country was to be ruined precisely to the same extent, by a conjunction with the banks, that it now is by a separation from them.
After so much agitation there was repose for a little while. We rested nearly two years, until the year 1836. In that year, the Treasury order appeared, and the occasion was deemed a favorable one for the revivification of panic and distress. A signal gun was fired from the Chestnut street palace, in the form of a letter from the president of the Bank of the United States to an ex-President of the United States. A response to that signal echoed from Kentucky, in the shape of a barbecue speech. Congress met; the proper resolution was introduced; panic speeches were let off. A brave effort was made, but to no purpose. The country refused to take fright, and that experiment upon the public nerves died out.
The expunging panic then took its turn. It was a hard struggle for an alarm, but no progress could be made at it. The people could not see the destruction of the Constitution, in the purification of the Senate journal. They could not see the destruction of the journal in the erasure of an iniquitous sentence from it. Far from being frightened at the act, they ordered it to be done; and the branded page will stand for ever as the evidence of a factious outrage on one side, and a monument of national reparation on the other.
The Treasury order and the expunging panics both failed. They were abortive experiments upon the nervous system of the people. Nothing disheartened, however, we find the Opposition gentlemen now bravely engaged at the fabrication of another. The Sub-Treasury bill panic is now the order of the day; and the total destruction of all banks --the total destruction of all credit-- the sudden erection of a Treasury bank upon the ruins of all others --the exclusive imposition of Treasury bank paper money currency upon the people, and, at the same time, the exclusive imposition also of a hard money currency upon them; these are the rawheads-and-bloody-bones which are now paraded before the eyes of the people. A certain speech delivered on this floor, the title page of which will claim a prominent place in the next emission of coffin handbills, is the congeries of these new horrors --collected, compounded, and conglomerated into one huge and frightful mass. With the delivery of that speech went forth the authoritative mandate for the new panic; but in vain. The people are tired of being scared. They refuse to take fright any more. Calm as a summer's morning, they read with indifference the programme for the alarm, and view with contempt the marshalling of the procession of the hobgoblins, phantoms, and spectres which are put in requisition for the ensuing elections. The country is quiet.
But, behold the symptoms of panic in another quarter ! The panic makers themselves are beginning to take fright ! The tenth day of May approaches; and with it the elevation of that RESUMPTION FLAG which will cheer the hopes of all Republicans, and impress with terror the fainting hearts of the broken bank and shin-plaster party.
Thus we have gone on ever since the appearance of General Jackson on the political stage, and the coincident revival of the old political parties of 1798. Terror is the chosen agent of action upon the public mind now, as it was then; but with this great difference, that the phantoms then brought forward to frighten the people into measures, were solely directed to the nervous system, and never combined with any attack upon the business operations of the country. People were then to be frightened out of their votes, but not deprived of work and labor, or ruined in their trade and occupation. Now the assault is double --it is both upon the nerves of the man, and upon his bread. The famous Queen Elizabeth, in stopping the income of the refractory Earl of Essex, said, an ungovernable beast must be deprived of his provender. So of the present opposition tactics in our own country. Stop his bread --make him feel-- turn him out to graze; this is the language of the day. An immense moneyed institution, able to create the distress which it foretells, has brought this Queen Elizabeth ingredient into the composition of modern Federal panics; and now every successive attempt at alarm is accompanied by an attack on the business of the country co-extensive with the power, and the ramifications of the power, of the Bank of the United States. Laborers dismissed --work stopped--factories closed--wages reduced--bread and fuel monopolized, and the price augmented--bank accommodations withheld from small dealers and hard workers, and profusely granted to capitalists, shavers, and speculators--specie payments suspended--exchanges deranged--actual distress created by every act of oppression and aggravated by every act of exaggeration--distress meetings--distress orations--distress committees--and the whole charged by its own authors on the Republican Administrations; such is the infusion of demoniac ingredients which bank vengeance has superadded to Federal panics, and by which the elections are to be governed, and the people scourged into submission to Federal and Bank domination.
It is now about six years since these attacks have been going on. They commenced with the famous veto session of 1832 --the marble palace in Chestnut street, Philadelphia, being the source from which they emanate. The nearer to that source, the more the country is affected and injured; the farther off, the less. Thus, the South and West are less injured than the Northeast; and, in some particulars, the South and West are gaining under the effect of these attacks on business, while the States and cities North of the Potomac are losing. It is time for reflecting men to consider the consequences of this unnatural warfare upon the business of the country. It is time for them to ask themselves what its effects must be on the population, the manufactures, and the commerce of the Northeast, and on the banks themselves, which either become the criminal agents, or the unfortunate victims of this diabolical policy. History informs us that the revocation of the edict of Nantes deprived France, in three years, of three hundred thousand souls, who carried to foreign States the arts and manufactures of their own native country. History, also informs us that the tyranny of the Flemish manufacturing corporations transferred the woollen manufacture from Flanders to England. Already an effect similar to that of the revocation of the edict of Nantes on France, and of the tyranny of the Flemish corporations on Flanders, is beginning to be visible in the effects of this war upon the business of the country in the Northeast. Great is the number of respectable and useful artisans and laborers --great the number of enterprising young men-- numerous the heads of families, with their sons and daughters, and promising train of young children, which have already bid adieu to the troubled scenes of the Northeast, and sought repose and independence in the rich and tranquil regions of the far West. Never was the emigration to the West so great. The roads, rivers and canals --all the western communications-- are filled with moving masses, pressing into the great Valley of the Mississippi. "Westward the star of empire holds its course."
A continuation of the causes of this emigration must augment the emigration itself; and in a few years the effects must be felt on the population and manufactories of the Northeast. To the banks themselves, whether the agents or the victims of this unnatural warfare, a continuance of such conduct must be fatal. Political associations for any purpose, and with any party, must be dangerous to banking institutions; but an association with that party whose connection has been fatal to two National Banks, and to every thing else that it ever touched, and an association to govern elections by breaking up the business of the country --such an association, must be fatal indeed, not merely to the culpable banks engaged in the work, but to many innocent ones which avoid their policy. To the great importing cities, and especially to New York, a continuance of this course; with a repetition of bank suspensions, derangement of exchanges, and interruption of credit, must be highly deleterious. The early loss of the Southern and Western trade may be the penalty of such conduct. Habit, and adventitious circumstances, now carry the Southern and Western merchants to the Northeast to purchase goods; and to purchase them at all the disadvantages of a second hand sale, loaded with the costs, charges, profits and losses of an intermediate sale. Direct purchases in Europe are as easy for the South and West as this second hand operation, and far cheaper. They have the capital --the real capital-- in their hundred millions of annual exportable productions. They sell at hard money prices in Europe, and purchase at paper money prices in the United States: The paper system, always hard upon the exporting States, becomes ruinous to them in its derangements. The South and West have only to begin direct importations, and the natural channels will vindicate their own rights forever afterwards. Venice, Genoa, Alexandria, Cairo, once entrepots of Asiatic and European commerce, had as well look for a restoration of that commerce after the Cape of Good Hope had been doubled, as that New York, Philadelphia, or Baltimore, shall look for a continuation of Southern and Western trade, when once the Liverpool and Havre markets shall be in direct communication with New Orleans and Charleston.
Mr. President, I have said but little --comparatively little-- on the merits of the bill before you, because I know, as I have already said, that the merit or demerit of the bill, is not the question before us. It was the question which we presented; it is not the question which gentlemen of the Opposition have discussed. They bring forward another question --one of party, of political power, of restoration of themselves to power. They fly to all the topics of party warfare; they arm themselves from the magazine of party politics; and the Presidential election of 1840 is the object in view. The struggle is for the recovery of a lost charter, and restoration to lost power. The party which got into power, without the consent of the people, in 1825, and which has since been evicted from power by the voice of the people --that party now nerves itself for the dying contest of 1840. At its side is its well beloved cousin and ally, the de-nationalized National Bank, collecting all its energies for the recovery of a charter which a hero President, and a patriot people, refused to renew in 1832. This double recovery is the object; and the question which really presents itself, is this: ought the evicted Federal party, and the vetoed Federal Bank, be restored to the possession of the political and the pecuniary power of these United States ? This is the question, and I hold the negative of it; for, of all Governments under the sun, restorations are admitted to be the most abominable and insufferable ! They are the worst Governments ever known. Vengeance and persecution are their ruling passions, and indemnification for lost time their main occupation. It has been so in all ages and in all countries, and will be so for ever. Ancients and moderns --in Asia, Africa, Europe, and America-- the same passions govern the restored party, modified only by the different degrees of civilization which prevail. With the Romans, it was proscription and exile --the aquæ et ignis interdictio. In Asia and Africa, the restored chief gluts his savage vengeance in acts of brute violence upon his helpless enemies. In Europe, more courtly methods accomplish the degradation, and, if need be, the destruction of the defeated party. In England, the restoration of the Stuarts was the signal for infesting the country with delators, informers, and spies; for fabricating meal-tub and rye-house plots; for sending the Sidneys and the Russels to judicial slaughter; for filling the prisons with patriots, the Parliament with bills of attainder, and the King's palace with bullies and assassins. In France, the restoration of the old Bourbons brought with it executions, exiles, persecutions, infringement of chartered liberties, and war upon every liberal idea.
Here, in our own America, we have constitutional guarantees for the protection of personal rights; but of what avail against the passions and the power of party, let the fate of President Jackson --adjudged unheard by his enemies on this floor-- convicted of an impeachable offence without the form of a trial -- let his fate tell ! Yes, sir, restorations, of all Governments, are the most odious and intolerable. No country has been able, in modern times, to endure one of them. The English chased off the Stuarts; the French chased away the old Bourbons.
What sort of Government should we have, in the United States, under the restored dominion of the Federal party, so violent in Mr. Jefferson's time, and so much more furious now ? What sort of a National Bank would that institution make which is now boiling over with vengeance against every Republican who has not "crooked the pliant hinges of the knee" to its divinity ? Imagination shudders at the though of seeing the political and the pecuniary power of this Union fall into the hands of such a party, and such a bank.
Is their restoration probable ? I think not. Temporary, and partial success, the delusive fruit of terror and deception, may gild their banners for a while. They may carry some counties, some cities, some States. They may continue to exult in the issue of some local elections, as they have done heretofore. But to succeed in the main object --to carry the Presidential chair in 1940-- that I hold to be impossible. I go upon my knowledge of the American people. I know them to be for their country, and believe that they can never elevate to power the party which builds its elevation upon the calamities, the humiliations, and the misfortunes of their country. They can never elevate to power the party which in every contest, foreign and domestic, is found on the wrong side of the question --on the side of the British, the French, the Indians, the Mexicans, the non-resuming banks, and the shin-plasters. Such a party cannot succeed; and I announce to them their fate in advance-- a Jackson defeat for the month of November, one thousand eight hundred and forty.