Bank of the United States.
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
That the charter of the Bank of the United States ought not to be renewed.
Mr. Benton commenced his speech in support of the application for the leave he was about to ask, with a justification of himself for bringing forward the question of renewal at this time, when the charter had still five years to run; and bottomed his vindication chiefly on the right he possessed, and the necessity he was under to answer certain reports of one of the committees of the Senate, made in opposition to certain resolutions relative to the bank, which he had submitted to the Senate at former sessions, and which reports he had not had an opportunity of answering. He said it had been his fortune, or chance, some three years ago, to submit a resolution in relation to the undrawn balances of public money in the hands of the bank, and to accompany it with some poor remarks of unfavorable implication to the future existence of that institution.
My resolution [said Mr. Benton] was referred to the Committee on Finance, who made a report decidedly adverse to all my views, and eminently favorable to the bank, both as a present and future institution. This report came in on the 13th of May, just fourteen days before the conclusion of a six months' session, when all was hurry and precipitation to terminate the business on hand, and when there was not the least chance to engage the attention of the Senate in the consideration of any new subject. The report was, therefore, laid upon the table unanswered, but was printed by order of the Senate, and that in extra numbers, and widely diffused over the country by means of the newspaper press. At the commencement of the next session, it being irregular to call for the consideration of the past report, I was under the necessity to begin anew, and accordingly submitted my resolution a second time, and that quite early in the session; say on the first day of January. It was my wish and request that this resolution might be discussed in the Senate, but the sentiment of the majority was different, and a second reference of it was made to the Finance Committee.
A second report of the same purport with the first was a matter of course; but what did not seem to me to be a matter of course was this; that this second report should not come in until the 20th day of February, just fourteen days again before the end of the session, for it was then the short session, and the Senate as much pinched as before for time to finish the business on hand. No answer could be made to it, but the report was printed, with the former report appended to it; and thus, united like the Siamese twins, and with the apparent, but not real sanction of the Senate, they went forth together to make the tour of the Union in the columns of the newspaper press. Thus, I was a second time out of court; a second time non-suited for want of a replication, when there was no time to file one. I had intended to begin de novo, and for the third time, at the opening of the ensuing session; but, happily, was anticipated and prevented by the annual message of the new President, [General Jackson] which brought this question of renewing the bank charter directly before Congress. A reference of this part of the message was made, of course, to the Finance Committee: the committee, of course, again reported, and with increased ardor, in favor of the bank.
Unhappily this third report, which was an amplification and reiteration of the two former, did not come in until the session was four months advanced, and when the time of the Senate had become engrossed, and its attention absorbed, by the numerous and important subjects which had accumulated upon the calendar. Printing in extra numbers, general circulation through the newspaper press, and no answer, was the catastrophe of this third reference to the Finance Committee. Thus was I non-suited for the third time.
The fourth session has now come round; the same subject is again before the same committee on the reference of the part of the President's second annual message which relates to the bank; and, doubtless, a fourth report of the same import with the three preceding ones, may be expected. But when? is the question. And, as I cannot answer that question, and the session is now two-thirds advanced, and as I have no disposition to be cut off for the fourth time, I have thought proper to create an occasion to deliver my own sentiments, by asking leave to introduce a joint resolution, adverse to the tenor of all the reports, and to give my reasons against them, while supporting my application for the leave demanded; a course of proceeding which is just to myself, and unjust to no one, since all are at liberty to answer me. These are my personal reasons for this step, and a part of my answer to the objection that I have begun too soon.
The conduct of the bank, and its friends, constitutes the second branch of my justification. It is certainly not too soon for them; judging by their conduct, to engage in the question of renewing the bank charter. In and out of Congress, they all seem to be of one accord on this point. Three reports of committees in the Senate, and one from a committee of the House of Representatives, have been made in favor of the renewal; and all these reports, instead of being laid away for future use instead of being stuck in pigeon holes, and labelled for future attention, as things coming forth prematurely, and not wanted for present service have, on the contrary, been universally received by the bank and its friends, in one great tempest of applause; greeted with every species of acclamation; reprinted in most of the papers, and every effort made to give the widest diffusion, and the highest effect, to the arguments they contain. In addition to this, and at the present session, within a few days past, three thousand copies of the exposition of the affairs of the Bank have been printed by order of the two Houses, a thing never before done, and now intended to blazon the merits of the bank.
[Mr. Smith, of Maryland, here expressed some dissent to this statement; but Mr. Benton affirmed its correctness in substance, if not to the letter, and continued.]
This does not look as if the bank advocates thought it was too soon to discuss the question of renewing the charter; and, upon this exhibition of their sentiments, I shall rest the assertion and the proof, that they do not think so.
The third branch of my justification rests upon a sense of public duty; upon a sense of what is just and advantageous to the people in general, and to the debtors and stockholders of the bank in particular. The renewal of the charter is a question which concerns the people at large; and if they are to have any hand in the decision of this question if they are even to know what is done before it is done, it is high time that they and their representatives in Congress should understand each others mind upon it. The charter has but five years to run; and if renewed at all, will probably be at some short period, say two or three years, before the time is out, and at any time sooner that a chance can be seen to gallop the renewal through Congress. The people, therefore, have no time to lose, if they mean to have any hand in the decision of this great question. To the bank itself, it must be advantageous, at least, if not desirable, to know its fate at once, that it may avoid (if there is to be no renewal) the trouble and expense of multiplying branches upon the eve of dissolution, and the risk and inconvenience of extending loans beyond the term of its existence. To the debtors upon mortgages, and indefinite accommodations, it must be also advantageous, if not desirable, to be notified in advance of the end of their indulgences: so that, to every interest, public and private, political and pecuniary, general and particular, full discussion, and seasonable decision, is just and proper.
I hold myself justified, Mr. President, upon the reasons given, for proceeding in my present application, but, as example is sometimes more authoritative than reason, I will take the liberty to produce one, which is as high in point of authority as it is appropriate in point of application, and which happens to fit the case before the Senate as completely as if it had been made for it. I speak of what has lately been done in the Parliament of Great Britain. It so happens, that the charter of the Bank of England is to expire, upon its own limitation, nearly about the same time with the charter of the Bank of the United States, namely, in the year 1833; and as far back as 1824, no less than nine years before its expiration, the question of its renewal was debated, and that with great freedom, in the British House of Commons. I will read some extracts from that debate, as the fairest way of presenting the example to the Senate, and the most effectual mode of securing to myself the advantage of the sentiments expressed by British statesman.
Sir Henry Parnell. The House should no longer delay to turn its attention to the expediency of renewing the charter of the Bank of England. Heretofore, it had been the regular custom to renew the charter several years before the existing charter had expired. The last renewal was made when the existing charter had eleven years to run : the present charter had nine years only to continue, and he felt very anxious to prevent the making of any agreement between the government and the bank for a renewal, without a full examination of the policy of again conferring upon the Bank of England any exclusive privilege. The practice had been for government to make a secret arrangement with the bank; to submit it immediately to the proprietors of the bank for their approbation, and to call upon the House the next day to confirm it, without affording any opportunity of fair deliberation. So much information had been obtained upon the banking trade, and upon the nature of currency in the last fifteen years, that it was particularly necessary to enter upon a full investigation of the policy of renewing the bank charter before any negotiation should be entered upon between the government and the bank; and he trusted the government would not commence any such negotiation until the sense of Parliament had been taken on this important subject.
Mr. Hume said it was of very great importance that his majestys ministers should take immediate steps to free themselves from the trammels in which they had long been held by the bank. As the interest of money was now nearly on a level with what it was when the bank lent a large sum to government, he hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not listen to any application for a renewal of the bank charter, but would pay off every shilling that had been borrowed from the bank. * * * * * Let the country gentlemen recollect that the bank was now acting as pawn-broker on a large scale, and lending money on estates, a system entirely contrary to the original intention of that institution. * * * * * * He hoped, before the expiration of the charter, that a regular inquiry would be made into the whole subject.
Mr. Edward Ellice. It (the Bank of England) is a great monopolizing body, enjoying privileges which belonged to no other corporation, and no other class of his majestys subjects. * * * * * * * He hoped that the exclusive charter would never again be granted; and that the conduct of the bank during the last ten or twelve years would make government very cautious how they entertained any such propositions. The right honorable Chancellor of the Exchequer [Mr. Robinson] had protested against the idea of straining any point to the prejudice of the bank; he thought, however, that the bank had very little to complain of, when their stock, after all their past profits, was at 238.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer deprecated the discussion, as leading to no practical result.
Mr. Alexander Baring objected to it as premature and unnecessary.
Sir William Pulteney (in another debate). The prejudices in favor of the present bank have proceeded from the long habit of considering it as a sort of pillar which nothing can shake. * * * * * * * The bank has been supported, and is still supported, by the fear and terror which, by means of its monopoly, it has had the power to inspire. It is well known, that there is hardly an extensive trader, a manufacturer, or a banker, either in London, or at a distance from it, to whom the bank could not do a serious injury, and could often bring on even insolvency.* * * * * I consider the power given by the monopoly to be of the nature of all other despotic power, which corrupts the despot as much as it corrupts the slave. * * * * * * It is in the nature of man, that a monopoly must necessarily be ill-conducted.* * * * * * Whatever language the [private] bankers may feel themselves obliged to hold, yet no one can believe that they have any satisfaction in being, and continuing, under a dominion which has proved so grievous and so disastrous.* * * * * I can never believe that the merchants and bankers of this country will prove unwilling to emancipate themselves, if they can do it without risking the resentment of the bank. No man in France was heard to complain, openly, of the Bastille while it existed. The merchants and bankers of this country have the blood of Englishmen, and will be happy to relieve themselves from a situation of perpetual terror, if they could do it consistently with a due regard to their own interest.
Here is authority added to reasonthe force of a great example added to the weight of unanswerable reasons, in favor of early discussion; so that, I trust, I have effectually put aside that old and convenient objection to the time, that most flexible and accommodating objection, which applies to all seasons, and all subjects, and is just as available for cutting off a late debate, because it is too late, as it is for stifling an early one, because it is too early.
But, it is said that the debate will injure the stockholders; that it depreciates the value of their property, and that it is wrong to sport with the vested rights of individuals. This complaint, supposing it to come from the stockholders themselves, is both absurd and ungrateful. It is absurd, because the stockholders, at least so many of them as are not foreigners, must have known when they accepted a charter of limited duration, that the approach of its expiration would renew the debate upon the propriety of its existence; that every citizen had a right, and every public man was under an obligation, to declare his sentiments freely that there was nothing in the charter, numerous as its peculiar privileges were, to exempt the bank from that freedom of speech and writing, which extends to all our public affairs and that the charter was not to be renewed here, as the Bank of England charter had formerly been renewed, by a private arrangement among its friends, suddenly produced in Congress, and galloped through without the knowledge of the country. The American part of the stockholders (for I would not reply to the complaints of the foreigners) must have known all this; and known it when they accepted the charter. They accepted it, subject to this known consequence; and, therefore, the complaint about injuring their property is absurd. That it is ungrateful, must be apparent to all who will reflect upon the great privileges which these stockholders will have enjoyed for twenty years, and the large profits they have already derived from their charter. They have been dividing seven per cent. per annum, unless when prevented by their own mismanagement; and have laid up a real estate of three millions of dollars for future division; and the money which has done these handsome things, instead of being diminished or impaired in the process, is still worth largely upwards of one hundred cents to the dollar : say, one hundred and twenty-five cents. For the peculiar privileges which enabled them to make these profits, the stockholders ought to be grateful : but, like all persons who have been highly favored with undue benefits, they mistake a privilege for a righta favor for a dutyand resent, as an attack upon their property, a refusal to prolong their undue advantages. There is no ground for these complaints, but for thanks and benedictions rather, for permitting the bank to live out its numbered days ! That institution has forfeited its charter. It may be shut up at any hour. It lives from day to day by the indulgence of those whom it daily attacks; and, if any one is ignorant of this fact, let him look at the case of the Bank of the United States against Owens and others, decided in the Supreme Court, and reported in the 2d Peters.
[Here Mr. Benton read a part of this case, showing that it was a case of usury at the rate of forty-six per cent. and that Mr. Sergeant, counsel for the bank, resisted the decision of the Supreme Court, upon the ground that it would expose the charter of the bank to forfeiture; and that the decision was, nevertheless, given upon that ground; so that the bank, being convicted of taking usury, in violation of its charter, was liable to be deprived of its charter, at any time that a scire facias should issue against it.]
Mr. B. resumed. Before I proceed to the consideration of the resolution, I wish to be indulged in adverting to a rule or principle of parliamentary practice, which it is only necessary to read now in order to avoid the possibility of any necessity for recurring to it hereafter. It is the rule which forbids any member to be presentwhich, in fact, requires him to withdrawduring the discussion of any question in which his private interest may be concerned; and authorizes the expurgation from the Journal of any vote which may have been given under the predicament of an interested motive. I demand that the Secretary of the Senate may read the rule to which I allude.
[The Secretary read the following rule:]
Where the private interests of a member are concerned in a bill or question, he is to withdraw. And where such an interest has appeared, his voice has been disallowed, even after a division. In a case so contrary, not only to the laws of decency, but to the fundamental principles of the social compact, which denies to any man to be a judge in his own cause, it is for the honor of the House that this rule, of immemorial observance, should be strictly adhered to.
First : Mr. President, I object to the renewal of the charter of the Bank of the United States, because I look upon the bank as an institution too great and powerful to be tolerated in a government of free and equal laws. Its power is that of the purse; a power more potent than that of the sword; and this power it possesses to a degree and extent that will enable this bank to draw to itself too much of the political power of this Union; and too much of the individual property of the citizens of these States. The money power of the bank is both direct and indirect.
[The Vice-President [John Calhoun, Vice-President of the United States, presiding over the Senate] here intimated to Mr. Benton that he was out of order, and had not a right to go into the merits of the bank upon the motion which he had made. Mr. Benton begged pardon of the Vice-President, and respectfully insisted that he was in order, and had a right to proceed. He said he was proceeding upon the parliamentary rule of asking leave to bring in a joint resolution, and, in doing which, he had a right to state his reasons, which reasons constituted his speech; that the motion was debatable, and the whole Senate might answer him. The Vice-President then directed Mr. Benton to proceed.]
Mr. Benton resumed. The direct power of the bank is now prodigious, and in the event of the renewal of the charter, must speedily become boundless and uncontrollable. The bank is now authorized to own effects, lands inclusive, to the amount of fifty-five millions of dollars, and to issue notes to the amount of thirty-five millions more. This makes ninety millions; and, in addition to this vast sum, there is an opening for an unlimited increase : for there is a dispensation in the charter to issue as many more notes as Congress, by law, may permit. This opens the door to boundless emissions; for what can be more unbounded than the will and pleasure of successive Congresses ? The indirect power of the bank cannot be stated in figures; but it can be shown to be immense. In the first place, it has the keeping of the public moneys, now amounting to twenty-six millions per annum (the Post Office Department included), and the gratuitous use of the undrawn balances, large enough to constitute, in themselves, the capital of a great State bank. In the next place, its promissory notes are receivable, by law, in purchase of all property owned by the United States, and in payment of all debts due them; and this may increase its power to the amount of the annual revenue, by creating a demand for its notes to that amount. In the third place, it wears the name of the United States, and has the federal government for a partner; and this name, and this partnership, identifies the credit of the bank with the credit of the Union. In the fourth place, it is armed with authority to disparage and discredit the notes of other banks, by excluding them from all payments to the United States; and this, added to all its other powers, direct and indirect, makes this institution the uncontrollable monarch of the moneyed system of the Union.
To whom is all this power granted ? To a company of private individuals, many of them foreigners, and the mass of them residing in a remote and narrow corner of the Union, unconnected by any sympathy with the fertile regions of the Great Valley, in which the natural power of this Unionthe power of numberswill be found to reside long before the renewed term of a second charter would expire. By whom is all this power to be exercised ? By a directory of seven (it may be), governed by a majority, of four (it may be); and none of these elected by the people, or responsible to them. Where is it to be exercised ? At a single city, distant a thousand miles from some of the States, receiving the produce of none of them (except one); no interest in the welfare of any of them (except one); no commerce with the people; with branches in every State; and every branch subject to the secret and absolute orders of the supreme central head : thus constituting a system of centralism, hostile to the federative principle of our Union, encroaching upon the wealth and power of the States, and organized upon a principle to give the highest effect to the greatest power. This mass of power, thus concentrated, thus ramified, and thus directed, must necessarily become, under a prolonged existence, the absolute monopolist of American money, the sole manufacturer of paper currency, and the sole authority (for authority it will be) to which the federal government, the State governments, the great cities, corporate bodies, merchants, traders, and every private citizen, must, of necessity apply, for every loan which their exigencies may demand. The rich ruleth the poor, and the borrower is the servant of the lender. Such are the words of Holy Writ; and if the authority of the Bible admitted of corroboration, the history of the world is at hand to give it. But I will not cite the history of the world, but one eminent example only, and that of a nature so high and commanding, as to include all others; and so near and recent, as to be directly applicable to our own situation. I speak of what happened in Great Britain, in the year 1795, when the Bank of England, by a brief and unceremonious letter to Mr. Pitt, such as miser would write to a prodigal in a pinch, gave the proof of what a great moneyed power could do, and would do, to promote its own interest, in a crisis of national alarm and difficulty. I will read the letter. It is exceedingly short; for after the compliments are omitted, there are but three lines of it. It is, in fact, about as long as a sentence of execution, leaving out the prayer of the judge. It runs thus :
It is the wish of the Court of Directors that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would settle his arrangements of finances for the present year, in such manner as not to depend upon any farther assistance from them, beyond what is already agreed for.
Such were the words of this memorable note, sufficiently explicit and intelligible; but to appreciate it fully, we must know what was the condition of Great Britain at that time ? Remember it was the year 1795, and the beginning of that year, than which a more portentous one never opened upon the British empire. The war with the French republic had been raging for two years; Spain had just declared war against Great Britain; Ireland was bursting into rebellion; the fleet in the Nore was in open mutiny; and a cry for the reform of abuses, and the reduction of taxes, resounded through the land. It was a season of alarm and consternation, and of imminent actual danger to Great Britain; and this was the moment which the Bank selected to notify the minister that no more loans were to be expected ! What was the effect of this notification ? It was to paralyze the government, and to subdue the minister to the purposes of the bank. From that day forth Mr. Pitt became the minister of the bank; and, before two years were out, he had succeeded in bringing all the departments of government, King, Lords, and Commons, and the Privy Council, to his own slavish condition. He stopped the specie payments of the bank, and made its notes the lawful currency of the land. In 1797 he obtained an order in council for this purpose; in the same year an act of parliament to confirm the order for a month, and afterwards a series of acts to continue it for twenty years. This was the reign of the bank. For twenty years it was a dominant power in England; and, during that disastrous period, the public debt was increased about £400,000,000 sterling, equal nearly to two thousand millions of dollars, and that by paper loans from a bank which, according to its own declarations, had not a shilling to lend at the commencement of the period !
I omit the rest. I say nothing of the general subjugation of the country banks, the rise in the price of food, the decline in wage, the increase of crimes and taxes, the multiplication of lords and beggars, and the frightful demoralization of society. I omit all this. I only seize the prominent figure in the picture, that of a government arrested in the midst of war and danger by the veto of a moneyed corporation; and only permitted to go on upon condition of assuming the odium of stopping specie payments, and sustaining the promissory notes of an insolvent bank, as the lawful currency of the land. This single feature suffices to fix the character of the times; for when the government becomes the servant of the lender, the people themselves become its slaves. Cannot the Bank of the United States, if re-chartered, act in the same way ? It certainly can, and just as certainly will, when time and opportunity shall serve, and interest may prompt. It is to no purpose that gentlemen may come forward, and vaunt the character of the United States Bank, and proclaim it too just and merciful to oppress the state. I must be permitted to repudiate both the pledge and the praise. The security is insufficient, and the encomium belongs to Constantinople. There were enough such in the British Parliament the year before, nay, the day before the bank stopped; yet their pledges and praises neither prevented the stoppage, nor made good the damage that ensued. There were gentlemen in our Congress to pledge themselves in 1810 for the then expiring bank of which the one now existing is a second and deteriorated edition; and if their securityship had been accepted, and the old bank re-chartered, we should have seen this government greeted with a note, about August, 1814 about the time the British were burning this capitol of the same tenor with the one received by the younger Pitt in the year 1795; for, it is incontestable, that that bank was owned by men who would have glorified in arresting the government, and the war itself, for want of money. Happily, the wisdom and patriotism of Jefferson, under the providence of God, prevented that infamy and ruin, by preventing the renewal of the old bank charter.
Secondly. I object to the continuance of this bank, because its tendencies are dangerous and pernicious to the government and the people.
What are the tendencies of a great moneyed power, connected with the government, and controlling its fiscal operations ? Are they not dangerous to every interest, public and privatepolitical as well as pecuniary ? I say they are; and briefly enumerate the heads of each mischief.
1. Such a bank tends to subjugate the government, as I have already shown in the history of what happened to the British minister it the year 1795.
2. It tends to collusions between the government and the bank in the terms of the loans, as has been fully experienced in England in those frauds upon the people, and insults upon the understanding, called three per cent. loans, in which the government, for about £50 borrowed, became liable to pay £100.
3. It tends to create public debt, by facilitating public loans, and substituting unlimited supplies of paper, for limited supplies of coin. The British debt is born of the Bank of England. That bank was chartered in 1694, and was nothing more nor less in the beginning, than an act of Parliament for the incorporation of a company of subscribers to a government loan. The loan was £1,200,000; the interest £80,000; and the expenses of management £4,000. And this is the birth and origin, the germ and nucleus of that debt, which is now £900,000,000 (the unfunded items included), which bears an interest of £30,000,000, and costs £260,000 for annual management.
4. It tends to beget and prolong unnecessary wars, by furnishing the means of carrying them on without recurrence to the people. England is the ready example for this calamity. Her wars for the restoration of the Capet Bourbons were kept up by loans and subsidies created out of bank paper. The people of England had no interest in these wars, which cost them about £600,000,000 of debt in twenty-five years, in addition to the supplies raised within the year. The kings she put back upon the French throne were not able to sit on it. Twice she put them on; twice they tumbled off in the mud; and all that now remains of so much sacrifice of life and money is, the debt, which is eternal, the taxes, which are intolerable, the pensions and titles of some warriors, and the keeping of the Capet Bourbons, who are returned upon their hands.
6. It tends to make and to break fortunes, by the flux and reflux of paper. Profuse issues, and sudden contractions, perform this operation, which can be repeated, like planetary and pestilential visitations, in every cycle of so many years; at every periodical return, transferring millions from the actual possessors of property to the Neptunes who preside over the flux and reflux of paper. The last operation of this kind performed by the Bank of England, about five years ago, was described by Mr. Alexander Baring, in the House of Commons, in terms which are entitled to the knowledge and remembrance of American citizens. I will read his description, which is brief, but impressive. After describing the profuse issues of 1823-24, he painted the reaction in the following terms :
They, therefore, all at once, gave a sudden jerk to the horse on whose neck they had before suffered the reins to hang loose. They contracted their issues to a considerable extent. The change was at once felt throughout the country. A few days before that, no one knew what to do with his money; now, no one knew where to get it. * * * * The London bankers found it necessary to follow the same course towards their country correspondents, and these again towards their customers, and each individual towards his debtor. The consequence was obvious in the late panic. Every one, desirous to obtain what was due to him, ran to his banker, or to any other on whom he had a claim; and even those who had no immediate use for their money, took it back, and let it lie unemployed in their pockets, thinking it unsafe in others hands. The effect of this alarm was, that houses which were weak went immediately. Then went second rate houses; and, lastly, houses which were solvent went, because their securities were unavailable. The daily calls to which each individual was subject put it out of his power to assist his neighbor. Men were known to seek for assistance, and that, too, without finding it, who, on examination of their affairs, were proved to be worth 200,000 pounds,men, too, who held themselves so secure, that, if asked six months before whether they could contemplate such an event, they would have said it would be impossible, unless the sky should fall, or some other event equally improbable should occur.
This is what was done in England five years ago, it is what may be done here in every five years to come, if the bank charter is renewed. Sole dispenser of money, it cannot omit the oldest and most obvious means of amassing wealth by the flux and reflux of paper. The game will be in its own hands, and the only answer to be given is that to which I have alluded : The Sultan is too just and merciful to abuse his power.
Thirdly. I object to the renewal of the charter, on account of the exclusive privileges, and anti-republican monopoly, which it gives to the stockholders. It gives, and that by an act of Congress, to a company of individuals, the exclusive legal privileges :
1. To carry on the trade of banking upon the revenue and credit, and in the name, of the United States of America.
2. To pay the revenues of the Union in their own promissory notes.
3. To hold the moneys of the United States in deposit, without making compensation for the undrawn balances.
4. To discredit and disparage the notes of other banks, by excluding them from the collection of the federal revenue.
5. To hold real estate, receive rents, and retain a body of tenantry.
6. To steal in pawns, merchandise, and bills of exchange.
7. To establish branches in the States without their consent.
8. To be exempt from liability on the failure of the bank.
9. To have the United States for a partner.
10. To have foreigners for partners.
11. To be exempt from the regular administration of justice for the violations of their charter.
12. To have all these exclusive privileges secured to them as a monopoly, in a pledge of the public faith not to grant the like privileges to any other company.
These are the privileges, and this the monopoly of the bank. Now, let us examine them, and ascertain their effect and bearing. Let us contemplate the magnitude of the power which they create; and ascertain the compatibility of this power with the safety of this republican government, and the rights and interests of its free and equal constituents.
1. The name, the credit, and the revenues of the United States are given up to the use of this company, and constitute in themselves an immense capital to bank upon. The name of the United States, like that of the King, is a tower of strength; and this strong tower is now an outwork to defend the citadel of a moneyed corporation. The credit of the Union is incalculable; and, of this credit, as going with the name, and being in partnership with the United States, the same corporation now has possession. The revenues of the Union are twenty-six millions of dollars, including the post-office; and all this is so much capital in the hands of the bank, because the revenue is received by it, and is payable in its promissory notes.
2. To pay the revenues of the United States in their own notes, until Congress, by law, shall otherwise direct. This is a part of the charter, incredible and extraordinary as it may appear. The promissory notes of the bank are to be received in payment of every thing the United States may have to sellin discharge of every debt due to her, until Congress, by law, shall otherwise direct; so that, if this bank, like its prototype in England, should stop payment, its promissory notes would still be receivable at every custom-house, land-office, post-office, and by every collector of public moneys, throughout the Union, until Congress shall meet, pass a repealing law, and promulgate the repeal. Other banks depend upon their credit for the receivability of their notes; but this favored institution has law on its side, and a chartered right to compel the reception of its paper by the federal government. The immediate consequence of this extraordinary privilege is, that the United States becomes virtually bound to stand security for the bank, as much so as if she had signed a bond to that effect; and must stand forward to sustain the institution in all emergencies, in order to save her civil revenue. This is what has already happened, some ten years ago, in the early progress of the bank, and when the immense aid given it by the federal government enabled it to survive the crisis of its own overwhelming mismanagement.
3. To hold moneys of the United States in deposit, without making compensation for the use of the undrawn balances.This is a right which I deny; but, as the bank claims it, and, what is more material, enjoys it; and as the people of the United States have suffered to a vast extent in consequence of this claim and enjoyment, I shall not hesitate to set it down to the account of the bank. Let us then examine the value of this privilege, and its effect upon the interest of the community; and, in the first place, let us have a full and accurate view of the amount of these undrawn balances, from the establishment of the bank to the present day. Here it is ! Look ! Read !
See, Mr. President, what masses of money and always on hand. The paper is covered all over with millions : and yet, for all these vast sums, no interest is allowed; no compensation is made to the United States. The Bank of England, for the undrawn balances of the public money, has made an equitable compensation to the British government; namely, a permanent loan of half a million sterling, and a temporary loan of three millions for twenty years, without interest. Yet, when I moved for a like compensation to the Untied States, the proposition was utterly rejected by the Finance Committee, and treated as an attempt to violate the charter of the bank. At the same time it is incontestable, that the United States have been borrowing these undrawn balances from the bank, and paying an interest upon their own money. I think we can identify one of these loans. Let us try.
In May, 1824, Congress authorized a loan of five millions of dollars to pay the awards under the treaty with Spain, commonly called the Florida treaty. The Bank of the United States took that loan, and paid the money for the United States in January and March, 1825. In looking over the statement of undrawn balances, it will be seen that they amounted to near four mullions at the end of the first, and six millions at the end of the second quarter of that year. The inference is irresistible, and I leave every Senator to make it; only adding, that we have paid $1,469,375 in interest upon that loan, either to the bank or its transferrees. This is a strong case; but I have a stronger one.
It is known to every body, that the United States subscribed seven millions to the capital stock of the bank, for which she gave her stock note, bearing an interest of five per cent. per annum. I have a statement from the Register of the Treasury, from which it appears that, up to the 30th day of June last, the United States had paid four millions seven hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars in interest upon that note; when it is proved by the statement of balances exhibited, that the United States, for the whole period in which that interest was accruing, had the half, or the whole, and once the double, of these seven millions in the hands of the bank. This is a stronger case than that of the five million loan, but it is not the strongest.
The strongest case is this: in the year 1817, when the bank went into operation, the United States owed, among other debts, a sum of about fourteen millions and three-quarters, bearing an interest of three per cent. In the same year, the commissioners of the sinking fund were authorized by an act of Congress to purchase that stock at sixty-five per cent., which was then its market price. Under this authority, the amount of about one million and a half was purchased; the remainder, amounting to about thirteen millions and a quarter, has continued unpurchased to this day; and, after costing the United States about six millions in interest since 1817, the stock has risen about four millions in value; that is to say, from sixty-five to nearly ninety-five. Now, here is a clear loss of ten millions of dollars to the United States. In 1817 she could have paid off thirteen millions and a quarter of debt, with eight millions and a half of dollars: now, after paying six millions of interest, it would require twelve millions and a half to pay off the same debt. By referring to the statement of undrawn balances, it will be seen that the United States had, during the whole year 1817, an average sum of above ten millions of dollars in the hands of the bank, being a million and a half more than enough to have bought in the whole of the three per cent. stock. The question, therefore, naturally comes up, why was it not applied to the redemption of these thirteen millions and a quarter, according to the authority contained in the act of Congress of that year ? Certainly the bank needed the money; for it was just getting into operation, and was as hard run to escape bankruptcy about that time, as any bank that ever was saved from the brink of destruction. This is the largest injury which we have sustained, on account of accommodating the bank with the gratuitous use of these vast deposits.
But, to show myself impartial, I will now state the smallest case of injury that has come within my knowledge: it is the case of the bonus of fifteen hundred thousand dollars which the bank was to pay to the United States, in three equal instalments, for the purchase of its charter. Nominally, this bonus has been paid, but out of what moneys ? Certainly out of our own; for the statement shows our money was there, and further, shows that it is still there; for, on the 30th day of June last which is the latest return, there was still $2,550,664 in the hands of the bank, which is above $750,000 more than the amount of the bonus.
One word more upon the subject of these balances. It is now two years since I made an effort to repeal the 4th section of the Sinking Fund act of 1817; a section which was intended to limit the amount of surplus money which might be kept in the treasury, to two millions of dollars; but, by the power of construction, was made to authorize the keeping of two millions in addition to the surplus. I wished to repeal this section, which had thus been construed into the reverse of its intention, and to revive the first section of the Sinking Fund act of 1790, which directed the whole of the surplus on hand to be applied, at the end of each year, to the payment of the public debt. My argument was this: that there was no necessity to keep any surplus; that the revenue, coming in as fast as it went out, was like a perennial fountain, which you might drain to the last drop, and not exhaust; for the place of the last drop would be supplied the instant it was out. And I supported this reasoning by a reference to the annual treasury reports, which always exhibit a surplus of four or five millions; and which were equally in the treasury the whole year round, as on the last day of every year. This was the argument, which in fact availed nothing; but now I have mathematical proof of the truth of my position.
Look at this statement of balances; look for the year 1819 and you will find but three hundred thousand dollars on hand for that year; look still lower for 1821, and you will find this balance but one hundred and eighty two thousand dollars. And what was the consequence ? Did the Government stop ? Did the wheels of the State chariot cease to turn round in those years for want of treasury oil ? Not at all. Every thing went on as well as before; the operations of the treasury were as perfect and regular in those two years of insignificant balances, as in 1817 and 1818, when five and ten millions were on hand. This is proof; this is demonstration; it is the indubitable evidence of the senses which concludes argument, and dispels uncertainty; and, as my proposal for the repeal of the 4th Section of the Sinking Fund act of 1817 was enacted into a law at the last session of Congress, upon the recommendation of the Secretary of the Treasury, a vigilant and exemplary officer, I trust that the repeal will be acted upon, and that the bank platter will be wiped as clean of federal money in 1831, as it was in 1821. Such clean-taking from that dish will allow two or three millions more to go to the reduction of the public debt; and there can be no danger in taking the last dollar, as reason and experience both prove.
But, to quiet every apprehension on this point, to silence the last suggestion of a possibility of any temporary deficit, I recur to a provision contained in two different clauses in the bank charter, copied from an amendment in the charter of the Bank of England, and expressly made, at the instance of the ministry, to meet the contingency of a temporary deficiency in the annual revenue. The English provision is this: that the government may borrow of the bank half a million sterling, at any time, without a special act of parliament to authorize it. The provision in our charter is the same, with the single substitution of dollars for pounds. It is, in words and intention, a standing authority to borrow that limited sum, for the obvious purpose of preventing a constant keeping of a sum of money in hand as a reserve, to meet contingencies which hardly ever occur. This contingent authority to effect a small loan has often been used in Englandin the United States, never; possibly, because there has been no occasion for it; probably, because the clause was copied mechanically from the English charter, and without the perception of its practical bearing. Be this as it may, it is certainly a wise and prudent provision, such as all governments should, at all times, be clothed with.
If any senator thinks that I have exaggerated the injury suffered by the United States, on account of the uncompensated masses of public money in the hands of the bank, I am now going to convince him that he is wrong. I am going to prove to him that I have understated the case; that I have purposely kept back a large part of it; and that justice requires a further development. The fact is, that there are two different deposits of public money in the bank; one in the name of the Treasurer of the United States, the other in the name of disbursing officers. The annual average of the former has been about three and a half millions of dollars, and of this I have said not a word. But the essential character of both deposits is the same; they are both the property of the United States; both permanent; both available as so much capital to the bank; and both uncompensated. Here is the statement of the monthly amount of these secondary deposites, as I find them on the bank returns; and to it I appeal for the verification of what I allege:
I have not ascertained the average of these deposits since 1817, but presume it may equal the amount of that bonus of one million five hundred thousand dollars for which we sold the charter, and which the Finance Committee of the Senate compliments the bank for paying in three, instead of seventeen, annual instalments; and shows how much interest they lost by doing so. Certainly, this was a disadvantage to the bank. It would have been better for it to have dribbled out to us one hundred thousand dollars, instead of five hundred thousand dollars of our own money, at a time. But there are three considerations which should prevent her from complaining: first, that it was the bargain to pay in three years; secondly, that we furnished the money; thirdly, that we kept up we the the amount in in her hand. Finally, these monthly returns show that the overdrawings, for permitting which the bank has been so much lauded, were overdrawings in name, not in fact; the amount of the money being only transferred to another deposite, and the itself remaining in the hands of the bank.
Mr. President, it does seem to me that there is something ominous to the bank in this contest for compensation on the undrawn balances. It is the very way in which the struggle began in the British Parliament which has ended in the overthrow of the Bank of England. It is the way in which the struggle is beginning here. My resolutions of two and three years ago are the causes of the speech which you now hear; and, as I have reason to believe, some others more worthy of your hearing, which will come at the proper time. The question of compensation for balances is now mixing itself up here, as in England, with the question of renewing the charter; and the two, acting together, will fall with combined weight upon the public mind, and certainly eventuate here as they did there.
4. To discredit and disparage the notes of all other banks, by excluding them from the collection of the federal revenue. This results from the collectionno, not the collection, but the receipt of the revenue having been communicated to the bank, and along with it the virtual execution of the joint resolution of 1816, to regulate the collection of the federal revenue. The execution of that resolution was intended to be vested in the Secretary of the Treasurya disinterested arbiter between rival banks; but, it may be considered as virtually devolved upon the Bank of the United States, and powerfully increases the capacity of that institution to destroy, or subjugate, all other banks. The notes of the State banks excluded from revenue payments, are discredited and disparaged, and fall into the hands of brokers at all places where they are not issued and payable. They cease to insulate at all the points to which the exclusion extends. I am informed that the notes of the banks south of the Potomac and Ohio, even those of the lower Mississippi, are generally refused at the United States' Branch Bank in St. Louis, and, in consequence, are expelled from circulation in Missouri and Illinois, and the neighboring districts.
This exclusion of the Southern notes, from the northwest quarter of the Union, is injurious to both parties, as our travellers and emigrants chiefly come from the South, and the whole of our trade goes there to find a cash market. The exclusion, as I am told, (for I have not looked into the matter myself,) is general, and extends to the banks in Virginia, the two Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. If this be the fact, the joint resolution of 1816 is violated: for, under the terms of that resolution, there are several banks in each of the States mentioned whose notes are receivable in the collection of federal revenue; that is to say, specie paying banks whose notes are payable, and paid, in specie, on demand. Yet, in consequence of exclusion from the United States' Branch Bank, they are excluded from all the land offices, eleven in number, which deposite in that branch; and, being excluded from the land offices, they cease to be current money among the people.
If a traveler, or emigrant, brings these notes to the country, or receives them in remittance; if a trader accepts them in exchange for produce, they are "shaved" out of their hands, and sent out of the country. This is a pecuniary injury done to the Northwest; it may be be more it may be a political injury also; for it contributes to break the communication between the two quarters of the Union, and encourages the idea that nothing good can come from the South not even money !
This power to disparage the notes of all other banks, is a power to injure them; and, added to all the other privileges of the Bank of the United States, is a power to destroy them ! If any one doubts this assertion, let him read the answers of the president of the bank to the questions put to him by the chairman of the Finance Committee. These answers are appended to the committees report of the last session in favor of the bank, and expressly declare the capacity of the federal bank to destroy the State banks. The worthy chairman [Mr. Smith, of Md.] puts this question; Has the bank at any time oppressed any of the State banks. The president [Mr. Biddle], answers, as the whole world would answer to a question of oppression, that it never had; and this response was as much as the interrogatory required. But it did not content the president of the bank; he chose to go further, and to do honor to the institution over which he presided, by showing that it was as just and generous as it was rich and powerful. He, therefore, adds the following words, for which, as a seeker after evidence, to show the alarming and dangerous character of the bank, I return him my unfeigned thanks : There are very few banks which might not have been destroyed by an exertion of the power of the bank.
This is enough ! proof enough ! not for me alone, but for all who are unwilling to see a moneyed domination set up a moneyed oligarchy established in this land, and the entire Union subjected to its sovereign will. The power to destroy all other banks is admitted and declared; the inclination to do so is known to all rational beings to reside with the power ! Policy may restrain the destroying faculties for the present; but they exist; and will come forth when interest prompts and policy permits. They have been exercised; and the general prostration of the Southern and Western banks attest the fact. They will be exercised (the charter being renewed), and the remaining State banks will be swept with the besom of destruction. Not that all will have their signs knocked down, and their doors closed up. Far worse than that to many of them. Subjugation, in preference to destruction, will be the fate of many. Every planet must have its satellites; every tyranny must have its instruments; every knight is followed by his squire; even the king of beasts, the royal quadruped, whose roar subdues the forest, must have a small, subservient animal to spring his prey. Just so of this imperial bank, when installed anew in its formidable and lasting power. The State banks, spared by the sword, will be passed under the sword, will be passed under the yoke. They will become subordinate parts in the great machine. Their place in the scale of subordination will be one degree below the rank of the legitimate branches; their business, to perform the work which it would be too disreputable for the legitimate branches to perform. This will be the fate of the State banks which are allowed to keep up their signs, and to set open their doors; and thus the entire moneyed power of the Union would fall into the hands of one single institution, whose inexorable and invisible mandates emanating from a centre, would pervade the Union, giving or withholding money according to its own sovereign will and absolute pleasure.
To a favored State, to an individual, or a class of individuals, favored by the central power, the golden stream of Pactolus would flow direct. To all such the munificent mandates of the High Directory would come, as the fabled god made his terrestrial visit of love and desire, enveloped in a shower of gold. But to others to those not favored and to those hated the mandates of this same directory would be as the planetary plague which hangs its poison in the sick air; death to them ! death to all who minister to their wants ! What a state of things ! What a condition for a confederacy of States ! What grounds for alarm and terrible apprehension, when in a confederacy of such vast extent, so many independent States, so many rival commercial cities, so much sectional jealousy, such violent political parties, such fierce contests for power, there should be but one moneyed tribunal, before which all the rival and contending elements must appear ! but one single dispenser of money, to which every citizen, every trader, every merchant, every manufacturer, every planter, every corporation, every city every State, and the federal government itself must apply, in every emergency, for the most indispensable loan ! and this, in the face of the fact, that, in every contest for human rights, the great moneyed institutions of the world have uniformly been found on the side of kings and nobles, against the lives and liberties of the people.
5. To hold real estate, receive rents, and retain a body of tenantry. This privilege is hostile to the nature of our republican government and inconsistent with the nature and design of a banking institution. Republics want freeholders, not landlords and tenants; and, except the corporators in this bank, and in the British East India Company, there is not an incorporated body of landlords in any country upon the face of the earth whose laws emanate from a legislative body. Banks are instituted to promote trade and industry, and to aid the government and its citizens with loans of money. The whole argument in favor of bankingevery argument in favor of this bank rests upon that idea. No one, when this charter was granted, presumed to speak in favor of incorporating a society of landlords especially foreign landlords, to buy lands, build houses, rent tenements, and retain tenantry. Loans of money was the object in view, and the purchase of real estate in incompatible with that object. Instead of remaining bankers, the corporators may turn land speculators: instead of having money to lend, they may turn you out tenants to vote. To an application for a loan, they may answer, and answer truly, that they have no money on hand; and the reason may be, that they have laid it out in land. This seems to be the case at present.
A committee of the legislature of Pennsylvania has just applied for a loan; the president of the bank, nothing loth to make a loan to that great State, for twenty years longer than the charter has to exist, expresses his regret that he can not lend but a limited and inadequate sum. The funds of the institution, he says, will not permit it to advance more than eight millions of dollars. And why ? because it has invested three millions in real estate ! To this power to hold real estate, is superadded the means to acquire it. The bank is now the greatest moneyed power in the Union; in the event of the renewal of its charter, it will soon be the sole one. Sole dispenser of money, it will soon be the chief owner of property. To unlimited means of acquisition, would be united perpetuity of tenure; for a corporation never dies, and is free from the operation of the laws which govern the descent and distribution of real estate in the hands of individuals. The limitations in the charter are vain and illusory. They insult the understanding, and mock the credulity of foolish believers.
The bank is first limited to such acquisitions of real estate as are necessary to its own accommodation; then comes a proviso to undo the limitation, so far as it concerns purchases upon its own mortgages and executions ! This is the limitation upon the capacity of such an institution to acquire real estate. As if it had any thing to do but to make loans upon mortgages, and push executions upon judgments ! Having all the money, it would be the sole lender; mortgages being the road to loans, all borrowers must travel that road. When birds enough are in the net, the fowler draws his string, and the treads are wrung off. So when mortgages enough are taken, the loans are called in; discounts cease; curtailments are made; failures to pay ensue; writs issue; judgments and executions follow; all the mortgaged premises are for sale at once; and the attorney of the bank appears at the elbow of the marshal, sole bidder and sole purchaser.
What is the legal effect of this vast capacity to acquire; and this legal power to retain, real estate ? Is it not the creation of a new species of mortmain ? And of a kind more odious and dangerous than that mortmain of the church which it baffled the English Parliament so many ages to abolish. The mortmain of the church was a power in an ecclesiastical corporation to hold real estate, independent of the laws of distribution and descent: the mortmain of the bank is a power in a lay corporation to do the same thing. The evil of the two tenures is identical; the difference between the two corporations is no more than the difference between parsons and money-changers; the capacity to do mischief incomparably the greatest on the part of the lay corporators. The church could only operate upon the few who were thinking of the other world; the bank, upon all who are immersed in the business or the pleasures of this. The means of the church were nothing but prayers; the means of the bank is money ! The church received what it could beg from dying sinners; the bank may extort what it pleases from the whole living generation of the just and unjust. Such is the parallel between the mortmain of the two corporations. They both end in monopoly of estates and perpetuity of succession; and the bank is the greatest monopolizer of the two.
Monopolies and perpetual succession are the bane of republics. Our ancestors took care to provide against them, by abolishing entails and primogeniture. Even the plebes of the church, lean and few as they were in most of the States, fell under the republican principle of limited tenures. All the States abolished the anti-republican tenures; but Congress re-establishes them, and in a manner more dangerous and offensive than before the Revolution. They are now given, not generally, but to few; not to natives only, but to foreigners also; for foreigners are large owners of this bank. And thus, the principles of the Revolution sink before the privileges of an incorporated company. The laws of the States fall before the mandates of a central directory in Philadelphia. Foreigners become the landlords of free-born Americans; and the young and flourishing towns of the United States are verging to the fate of the family boroughs which belong to the great aristocracy of England.
Let no one say the bank will not avail itself of its capacity to amass real estate. The fact is, it has already done so. I know towns, yea, cities and could name them, if it might not seem invidious from this elevated theatre to make a public reference to their misfortunes, in which this bank already appears as a dominant and engrossing proprietor. I have been in places where the answers to inquiries for the owners of the most valuable tenements, would remind you of the answers given by the Egyptians to similar questions from the French officers, on their march to Cairo. You recollect, no doubt, sir, the dialogue to which I allude : Who owns that palace ? The Mameluke; Who this country house ? The Mameluke; These gardens ? The Mameluke; That field covered with rice ? The Mameluke.And thus have I been answered, in the towns and cities referred to, with the single exception of the name of Bank of the United States substituted for that of the military scourge of Egypt. If this is done under the first charter, what may not be expected under the second ? If this is done while the bank is on its best behavior, what may she not do when freed from all restraint and delivered up to the boundless cupidity and remorseless exactions of a moneyed corporation ?
6. To deal in pawns, merchandise, and bits of exchange. I hope the Senate will not require me to read dry passages from the charter to prove what I say. I know I speak a thing nearly incredible when I allege that this bank, addition to all its other attributes, is an incorporated company of pawnbrokers ! The allegation staggers belief, but a reference to the charter will dispel incredulity. The charter, in the first part, forbids a traffic in merchandise; in the after part, permits it. For truly this instrument seems to have been framed upon the principles of contraries; one principle making limitations, and the other following after with provisos to undo them. Thus is it with lands, as I have just shown; thus is it with merchandise, as I now show. The bank is forbidden to deal in merchandise-proviso, unless in the case of goods pledged for money lent; and not redeemed to the day; and, proviso, again, unless for goods which shall be the proceeds of its lands. With the help of these two provisos, it is clear that the limitation is undone; it is clear that the bank is at liberty to act the pawnbroker and merchant, to any extent that it pleases. It may say to all the merchants who want loans, Pledge your stores, gentlemen ! They must do it, or do worse; and, if any accident prevents redemption on the day, the pawn is forfeited, and the bank takes possession. On the other hand, it may lay out its rents for goods; it may sell its real estate, now worth three millions of dollars, for goods. Thus the bank is an incorporated company of pawnbrokers and merchants, as well as an incorporation of landlords and land-speculators; and this derogatory privilege, like the others, is copied from the old Bank of England charter of 1694.
Bills of exchange are also subjected to the traffic of this bank. It is a traffic unconnected with the trade of banking, dangerous for a great bank to hold, and now operating most injuriously in the South and West. It is the process which drains these quarters of the Union of their gold and silver, and stifles the growth of a fair commerce in the products of the country. The merchants, to make remittances, buy bills of exchange from the branch banks, instead of buying produce from the farmers. The bills are paid for in gold and silver; and, eventually, the gold and silver are sent to the mother bank, or to the branches in the Eastern cities, either to meet these bills, or to replenish their coffers, and to furnish vast loans to favorite States or individuals. The bills sell cheap, say a fraction of one per cent.; they are, therefore, a good remittance to the merchant. To the bank the operation is doubly good; for even the half of one per cent. on bills of exchange is a great profit to the institution which monopolizes that business, while the collection and delivery to the branches of all the hard money in the country is a still more considerable advantage. Under this system, the best of the Western banksI do not speak of those which had no foundations, and sunk under the weight of neighborhood opinion, but those which deserved favor and confidencesunk ten years ago. Under this system, the entire West is now undergoing a silent, general, and invisible drain of its hard money; and, if not quickly arrested, these States will soon be, so far as the precious metals are concerned, no more than the empty skin of an immolated victim.
7. To establish branches in the different States without their consent, and in defiance of their resistance. No one can deny the degrading and injurious tendency of this privilege. It derogates from the sovereignty of a State; tramples upon her laws; injures her revenue and commerce; lays open her government to the attacks of centralism; impairs the property of her citizens; and fastens a vampire on her bosom to suck out her gold and silver.
1) It derogates from her sovereignty, because the central institution may impose its intrusive branches upon the State without her consent, and in defiance of her resistance. This has already been done. The State of Alabama, but four yearn ago, by a resolve of her legislature, remonstrated against the intrusion of a branch upon her. She protested against the favor. Was the will of the State respected ? On the contrary, was not a branch instantaneously forced upon her, as if, by the suddenness of the action, to make a striking and conspicuous display of the omnipotence of the bank, and the nullity of the State ?
2) It tramples upon her laws; because, according to the decision of the Supreme Court, the bank and all its branches are wholly independent of State legislation; and it tramples on them again, because it authorizes foreigners to hold lands and tenements in every State, contrary to the laws of many of them; and because it admits of the mortmain tenure, which is condemned by all the republican States in the Union.
3) It injures her revenue, because the bank stock, under the decision of the Supreme Court, is not liable to taxation. And thus, foreigners, and non-resident Americans, who monopolize the money of the State, who hold its best lands and town lots, who meddle in its elections, and suck out its gold and silver, and perform no military duty, are exempted from paying taxes, in proportion to their wealth, for the support of the State whose laws they trample upon, and whose benefits they usurp.
4) It subjects the State to the dangerous manœuvres and intrigues of centralism, by means of the tenants, debtors, bank officers, and bank money, which the central directory retain in the State, and may embody and direct against it in its elections, and in its legislative and judicial proceedings.
5) It tends to impair the property of the citizens, and, in some instances, that of the States, by destroying the State banks in which they have invested their money.
6) It is injurious to the commerce of the States (I speak of the Western States), by substituting a trade in bills of exchange, for a trade in the products of the country.
7) It fastens a vampire on the bosom of the State, to suck away its gold and silver, and to co-operate with the course of trade, of federal legislation, and of exchange, in draining the South and West of all their hard money. The Southern States, with their thirty millions of annual exports in cotton, rice, and tobacco, and the Western States, with their twelve millions of provisions and tobacco exported from New Orleans, and five millions consumed in the South, and on the lower Mississippi,that is to say, with three fifths of the marketable productions of the Union, are not able to sustain thirty specie paying banks; while the minority of the States north of the Potomac, without any of the great staples for export, have above four hundred of such Banks. These States, without rice, without cotton, without tobacco, without sugar, and with less flour and provisions, to export, are saturated with gold and silver; while the Southern and Western States, with all the real sources of wealth, are in a state of the utmost destitution.
For this calamitous reversal of the natural order of things, the Bank of the United States stands forth pre-eminently culpable. Yes, it is pre-eminently culpable ! and a statement in the National Intelligencer of this morning (a paper which would overstate no fact to the prejudice of the bank), cites and proclaims the fact which proves this culpability. It dwells, and exults, on the quantity of gold and silver in the vaults of the United States Bank. It declares that institution to be overburdened with gold and silver; and well may it be so overburdened, since it has lifted the load entirely from the South and West. It calls these metals a drug in the hands of the bank; that is to say, an article for which no purchaser can be found. Let this drug, like the treasures of the dethroned Dey of Algiers, be released from the dominion of its keeper; let a part go back to the South and West, and the bank will no longer complain of repletion, nor they of depletion.
8. Exemption of the stockholders from individual liability on the failure of the bank. This privilege derogates from the common law, is contrary to the principle of partnerships, and injurious to the rights of the community. It is a peculiar privilege granted by law to these corporators, and exempting them from liability, except in their corporate capacity, and to the amount of the assets of the corporation. Unhappily these assets are never assez, that is to say, enough, when occasion comes for recurring to them. When a bank fails, its assets are always less than its debts; so that responsibility fails the instant that liability accrues. Let no one say that the bank of the United States is too great to fail. One greater than it, and its prototype, has failed, and that in our own day, and for twenty years at a time : the Bank of England failed in 1797, and the Bank of the United States was on the point of failing in 1819. The same cause, namely, stockjobbing and overtrading, carried both to the brink of destruction; the same means saved both, namely, the name, the credit, and the helping hand of the governments which protected them. Yes, the Bank of the United States may fail; and its stockholders live in splendor upon the princely estates acquired with its notes, while the industrious classes, who hold these notes, will be unable to receive a shilling for them. This is unjust. It is a vice in the charter. The true principle in banking requires each stockholder to be liable to the amount of his shares; and subjects him to the summary action of every holder on the failure of the institution, till he has paid up the amount of his subscription. This is the true principle. It has prevailed in Scotland for the last century, and no such thing as a broken bank has been known there in all that time.
9. To have the United States for a partner. Sir, there is one consequence, one result of all partnerships between a government and individuals, which should of itself, and in a mere mercantile point of view, condemn this association on the part of the federal government. It is the principle which puts the strong partner forward to bear the burden whenever the concern is in danger. The weaker members flock to the strong partner at the approach of the storm, and the necessity of venturing more to save what he has already staked, leaves him no alternative. He becomes the Atlas of the firm, and bears all upon his own shoulders. This is the principle : what is the fact ? Why, that the United States has already been compelled to sustain the federal bank; to prop it with her revenues and its credit in the trials and crisis of its early administration. I pass over other instances of the damage suffered by the United States on account of this partnership; the immense standing deposits for which we receive no compensation; the loan of five millions of our own money, for which we have paid a million and a half in interest; the five per cent. stock note, on which we have paid our partners four million seven hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars in interest; the loss of ten millions on the three per cent, stock, and the ridiculous catastrophe of the miserable bonus, which has been paid to us with a fraction of our own money : I pass over all this, and come to the point of a direct loss, as a partner, in the dividends upon the stock itself. Upon this naked point of profit and loss, to be decided by a rule in arithmetic, we have sustained a direct and heavy loss. The stock held by the United States, as every body knows, was subscribed, not paid. It was a stock note, deposited for seven millions of dollars, bearing an interest of five per cent. The inducement to this subscription was the seductive conception that, by paying five per cent. on its note, the United States would clear four or five per cent. in getting a dividend of eight or ten. This was the inducement; now for the realization of this fine conception. Let us see it. Here it is; an official return from the Register of the Treasury of interest paid, and of dividends received. The account stands thus :
Interest paid by the United States, ........$4,725,000
Dividends received by the United States, 4,629,428
Loss to the United States, ...........................$95,574
Disadvantageous as this partnership must be to the United States in a moneyed point of view, there is a far more grave and serious aspect under which to view it. It is the political aspect, resulting from the union between the bank and the government. This union has been tried in England, and has been found there to be just as disastrous a conjunction as the union between church and state. It is the conjunction of the lender and the borrower, and Holy Writ has told us which of these categories will be master of the other. But suppose they agree to drop rivalry, and unite their resources. Suppose they combine, and make a push for political power : how great is the mischief which they may not accomplish ! But, on this head, I wish to use the language of one of the brightest patriots of Great Britain; one who has shown himself, in these modern days, to be the worthy successor of those old iron barons whose patriotism commanded the unpurchasable eulogium of the elder Pitt. I speak of Sir William Pulteney, and his speech against the Bank of England, in 1797.
The Speech : Extract. I have said enough to show that government has been rendered dependent on the bank and more particularly so in the time of war; and though the bank has not yet fallen into the hands of ambitious men, yet it is evident that it might, in such hands, assume a power sufficient to control and overawe, not only the ministers, but king, lords, and commons. * * * * * As the bank has thus become dangerous to government, it might, on the other hand, by uniting with an ambitious minister, become the means of establishing a fourth estate, sufficient to involve this nation in irretrievable slavery, and ought, therefore, to be dreaded as much as a certain East India bill was justly dreaded, at a period not very remote. I will not say that the present minister (the younger Pitt), by endeavoring, at this crisis, to take the Bank of England under his protection, can have any view to make use, hereafter, of that engine to perpetuate his own power, and to enable him to domineer over our constitution : if that could be supposed, it would only show that men can entertain a very different train of ideas, when endeavoring to overset a rival, from what occurs to them when intending to support and fix themselves. My object is to secure the country against all risk either from the bank as opposed to government, or as the engine of ambitious men.
And this is my object also. I wish to secure the Union from all chance of harm from this bank. I wish to provide against its friendship, as well as its enmityagainst all danger from its hug, as well as from its blow. I wish to provide against all risk, and every hazard; for, if this risk and hazard were too great to be encountered by King, Lords, and Commons, in Great Britain, they must certainly be too great to be encountered by the people of the United States, who are but commons alone.
10. To have foreigners for partners. This, Mr. President, will be a strange story to be told in the West. The downright and upright people of that unsophisticated region believe that words mean what they signify, and that the Bank of the United States is the Bank of the United States. How great then must be their astonishment to learn that this belief is a false conception, and that this bank (its whole name to the contrary notwithstanding) is just as much the bank of foreigners as it is of the federal government. Here I would like to have the proofa list of the names and nations, to establish this almost incredible fact. But I have no access except to public documents, and from one of these I learn as much as will answer the present pinch. It is the report of the Committee of Ways and Means, in the House of Representatives, for the last session of Congress. That report admits that foreigners own seven millions of the stock of this bank; and every body knows that the federal government owns seven millions also.
Thus it is proved that foreigners are as deeply interested in this bank as the United States itself. In the event of a renewal of the charter they will be much more deeply interested than at present; for a prospect of a rise in the stock to two hundred and fifty, and the unsettled state of things in Europe, will induce them to make great investments. It is to no purpose to say that the foreign stockholders cannot be voters or directors. The answer to that suggestion is this : the foreigners have the money; they pay down the cash, and want no accommodations; they are lenders, not borrowers; and in a great moneyed institution, such stockholders trust have the greatest influence.
The name of this bank is a deception upon the public. It is not the bank of the federal government, as its name would import, nor of the States which compose this Union; but chiefly of private individuals, foreigners as well as natives, denizens, and naturalized subjects. They own twenty-eight millions of the stock, the federal government but seven millions, and these seven are precisely balanced by the stock of the aliens. The federal government and the aliens are equal, owning one fifth each, and there would be as much truth in calling it the English Bank as the Bank of the United States.
Now mark a few of the privileges which this charter gives to these foreigners. To be landholders, in defiance of the State laws, which forbid aliens to hold land; to be landlords by incorporation, and to hold American citizens for tenants; to hold lands in mortmain; to be pawnbrokers and merchants by incorporation; to pay the revenue of the United States in their own notes; in short, to do every thing which I have endeavored to point out in the long and hideous list of exclusive privileges granted to this bank.
If I have shown it to be dangerous for the United States to be in partnership with its own citizens, how much stronger is not the argument against a partnership with foreigners ? What a prospect for loans when at war with a foreign power, and the subjects of that power large owners of the bank here, from which alone, or from banks liable to be destroyed by it, we can obtain money to carry on the war ! What a state of things, if, in the division of political parties, one of these parties and the foreigners, coalescing, should have the exclusive control of all the money in the Union, and, in addition to the money, should have bodies of debtors, tenants, and bank officers stationed in all the States, with a supreme and irresponsible system of centralism to direct the whole ! Dangers from such contingencies are too great and obvious to be insisted upon. They strike the common sense of all mankind, and were powerful considerations with the old whig republicans for the non-renewal of the charter of 1791.
Mr. Jefferson and the whig republicans staked their political existence on the non-renewal of that charter. They succeeded; and, by succeeding, prevented the country from being laid at the mercy of British and ultra-federalists for funds to carry on the last war. It is said the United States lost forty millions by using depreciated currency during the last war. That, probably, is a mistake of one half. But be it so ! For what are forty millions compared to the loss of the war itselfcompared to the ruin and infamy of having the government arrested for want of moneystopped and paralyzed by the reception of such a note as the younger Pitt received from the Bank of England in 1795 ?
11. Exemption from due course of law for violations of its charter.This is a privilege which affects the administration of justice, and stands without example in the annals of republican legislation. In the case of all other delinquents, whether persons or corporations, the laws take their course against those who offend them. It is the right of every citizen to set the laws in motion against every offender; and it is the constitution of the law, when set in motion to work through, like a machine, regardless of powers and principalities, and cutting down the guilty which may stand in its way. Not so in the case of this bank. In its behalf, there are barriers erected between the citizen and his oppressor, between the wrong and the remedy, between the law and the offender. Instead of a right to sue out a scire facias or a quo warranto, the injured citizen, with an humble petition in his hand, must repair to the President of the United States, or to Congress, and crave their leave to do so. If leave is denied (and peculiar friend in the President, or a majority of such friends in Congress, the convenient pretext being always at hand that the general welfare requires the bank to be sustained), he can proceed no further. The machinery of the law cannot be set in motion, and the great offender laughs from behind his barrier at the impotent resentment of its helpless victim.
Thus the bank, for the plainest violations of its charter, and the greatest oppressions of the citizen, may escape the pursuit of justice. Thus the administration of justice is subject to be strangled in its birth for the shelter and protection of this bank. But this is not all. Another and most alarming mischief results from the same extraordinary privilege. It gives the bank a direct interest in the presidential and congressional elections: it gives it need for friends in Congress and in the presidential chair. Its fate, its very existence, may often depend upon the friendship of the President and Congress; and, in such cases, it is not in human nature to avoid using the immense means in the hands of the bank to influence the elections of these officers. Take the existing factthe case to which I alluded at the commencement of this speech. There is a case made out, ripe with judicial evidence, and big with the fate of the bank. It is a case of usury at the rate of forty-six per cent., in violation of the charter, which only admits an interest of six. The facts were admitted, in the court below, by the banks demurrer; the law was decided, in the court above, by the supreme judges. The admission concludes the facts; the decision concludes the law. The forfeiture of the charter is established; the forfeiture is incurred; the application of the forfeiture alone is wanting to put an end to the institution. An impartial President or Congress might let the laws take their course; those of a different temper might interpose their veto. What a crisis for the bank ! It beholds the sword of Damocles suspended over its head ! What an interest in keeping those away who might suffer the hair to be cut !
12. To have all these unjust privileges secured to the corporators as a monopoly, by a pledge of the public faith to charter no other bank.This is the most hideous feature in the whole mass of deformity. If these banks are beneficial institutions, why not several ? one, at least, and each independent of the other, to each great section of the union ? If malignant, why create one ? The restriction constitutes the monopoly, renders more invidious what was sufficiently hateful in itself. It is, indeed, a double monopoly, legislative as well as banking; for the Congress of 1816 monopolized the power to grant these monopolies. It has tied up the hands of its successors; and if this can be done on one subject, and for twenty years, why not upon, all subjects, and for all time ? Here is the form of words which operate this double engrossment of our rights : No other bank shall be established by any future law of Congress, during the continuance of the corporation hereby enacted which the faith of Congress is hereby pledged; with a proviso for the District of Columbia. And that no incident might be wanting to complete the title of this charter, to utter reprobation of whig republicans, this compound monopoly, and the very form of words in which it is conceived, is copied from the charter of the Bank of England !not the charter of William and Mary, as granted in 1694 (for the Bill of Rights was then fresh in the memories of Englishmen), but the charter as amended, and that for money, in the memorable reign of Queen Anne, when a tory queen, a tory ministry, and a tory parliament, and the apostle of toryism, in the person of Dr. Sacheverell, with his sermons of divine right, passive obedience, and non-resistance, were riding and ruling over the prostrate liberties of England ! This is the precious period, and these the noble authors, from which the idea was borrowed, and the very form of words copied, which now figure in the charter of the Bank of the United States, constituting that double monopoly, which restricts at once the powers of Congress and the rights of the citizens.
These, Mr. President, are the chief of the exclusive privileges which constitute the monopoly of the Bank of the United States. I have spoken of them, not as they deserved, but as my abilities have permitted. I have shown you that they are not only evil in themselves, but copied from an evil example. I now wish to show you that the government from which we have made this copy has condemned the original; and, after showing this fact, I think I shall be able to appeal, with sensible effect, to all liberal minds, to follow the enlightened example of Great Britain, in getting rid of a dangerous and invidious institution, after having followed her pernicious example in assuming it. For this purpose, I will have recourse to proof, and will read from British state papers of 1826. I will read extracts from the correspondence between Earl Liverpool, first Lord of the Treasury, and Mr. Robinson, Chancellor of the Exchequer, on the one side, and the Governor and Deputy Governor of the Bank of England on the other; the subject being the renewal, or rather non-renewal, of the charter of the Bank of England.
Communications from the First Lord of the Treasury and Chancellor of the Exchequer to the Governor and Deputy Governor of the Bank of England.Extracts.
The failures which have occurred in England, unaccompanied as they have been by the same occurrences in Scotland, tend to prove that there must have been an unsolid and delusive system of banking in one part of Great Britain, and a solid and substantial one in the other.* * * * * In Scotland, there are not more than thirty banks (three chartered), and these banks have stood firm amidst all the convulsions of the money market in England, and amidst all the distresses to which the manufacturing and agricultural interests in Scotland, as well as in England, have occasionally been subject. Banks of this description must necessarily be conducted upon the generally understood and approved principles of banking. * * * * The Bank of England may, perhaps, propose, as they did upon a former occasion, the extension of the term of their exclusive privilege, as to the metropolis and its neighborhood, beyond the year 1833, as the price of this concession [immediate surrender of exclusive privileges]. It would be very much to be regretted that they should require any such condition. * * * * It is obvious, from what passed before, that Parliament will never agree to it. * * * * Such privileges are out of fashion; and what expectation can the bank, under present circumstances, entertain that theirs will be renewed ?Jan. 13.
Answer of the Court of Directors.Extract.
Under the uncertainty in which the Court of Directors find themselves with respect to the death of the bank, and the effect which they may have on the interests of the bank, this court cannot feel themselves justified in recommending to the proprietors to give up the privilege which they now enjoy, sanctioned and confirmed as it is by the solemn acts of the legislature.Jan. 20.
Second communication from the Ministers.Extract.
The First Lord of the Treasury and Chancellor of the Exchequer have considered the answer of the bank of the 20th instant. They cannot but regret that the Court of Directors should have declined to recommend to the Court of Proprietors the consideration of the paper delivered by the First Lord of the Treasury and the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the Governor and Deputy Governor on the 13th instant. The statement contained in that paper appears to the First Lord of the Treasury and the Chancellor of the Exchequer so full and explicit on all the points to which it related, that they have nothing further to add, although they would have been, and still are, ready to answer, as far as possible, any specific questions which might be put, for the purpose of removing the uncertainty in which the court of directors state themselves to be with respect to the details of the plan suggested in that paper.Jan. 23.
Second answer of the Bank.Extract.
The Committee of Treasury [bank] having taken into consideration the paper received from the First Lord of the Treasury and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, dated January 23rd, and finding that His Majestys ministers persevere in their desire to propose to restrict immediately the exclusive privilege of the bank, as to the number of partners engaged in banking to a certain distance from the metropolis, and also continue to be of opinion that Parliament would not consent to renew the privilege at the expiration of the period of their present charter; finding, also, that the proposal by the bank of establishing branch banks is deemed by His Majestys ministers inadequate to the wants of the country, are of opinion that it would be desirable for this corporation to propose, as a basis, the act of 6th of George the Fourth, which states, the conditions on which the Bank of Ireland relinquished its exclusive privileges; this corporation waiving the question of a prolongation of time, although the committee [of the bank] cannot agree in the opinion of the First Lord of the Treasury and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that they are not making a considerable sacrifice, adverting especially to the Bank of Ireland remaining in possession of that privilege five years longer than the Bank of England.January 25.
Here, Mr. President, is the end of all the exclusive privileges and odious monopoly of the Bank of England. That ancient and powerful institution, so long the haughty tyrant of the moneyed worldso long the subsidizer of kings and ministersso long the fruitful mother of national debt and useless warsso long the prolific manufactory of nabobs and paupersso long the dread dictator of its own terms to parliamentnow droops the conquered wing, lowers its proud crest, and quails under the blows of its late despised assailants. It first puts on a courageous air, and takes a stand upon privileges sanctioned by time, and confirmed by solemn acts. Seeing that the ministers could have no more to say to men who would talk of privileges in the nineteenth century, and being reminded that parliament was inexorable, the bully suddenly degenerates into the craven, and, from showing fight, calls for quarter. The directors condescend to beg for the smallest remnant of their former power, for five years only; for the city of London even; and offer to send branches into all quarters. Denied at every point, the subdued tyrant acquiesces in his fate; announces his submission to the spirit and intelligence of the age; and quietly sinks down into the humble, but safe and useful condition of a Scottish provincial bank.
And here it is profitable to pause; to look back, and see by what means this ancient and powerful institutionthis Babylon of the banking worldwas so suddenly and so totally prostrated. Who did it ? And with what weapons ? Sir, it was done by that power which is now regulating the affairs of the civilized world. It was done by the power of public opinion, invoked by the working members of the British parliament. It was done by Sir Henry Parnell, who led the attack upon the Wellington ministry, on the night of the 15th of November; by Sir William Pulteney, Mr. Grenfell, Mr. Hume, Mr. Edward Ellice, and others, the working members of the House of Commons, such as had, a few years before, overthrown the gigantic oppressions of the salt tax. These are the men who have overthrown the Bank of England. They began the attack in 1824, under the discouraging cry of too soon, too soon for the charter had then nine years to run ! and ended with showing that they had began just soon enough. They began with the ministers in their front, on the side of the bank, and ended with having them on their own side, and making them co-operators in the attack, and the instruments and inflicters of the fatal and final blow.
But let us do justice to these ministers. Though wrong in the beginning, they were right in the end; though monarchists, they behaved like republicans. They were not Polignacs. They yielded to the intelligence of the age; they yielded to the spirit which proscribes monopolies and privileges, and in their correspondence with the bank directors, spoke truth and reason and asserted liberal principles, with a point and power which quickly put an end to dangerous and obsolete pretensions. They told the bank the mortifying truths, that its system was unsolid and delusive that its privileges and monopoly were out of fashion that they could not be prolonged for five years even nor suffered to exist in London alone; and, what was still more cutting, that the banks of Scotland, which had no monopoly, no privilege, no connection with the government, which paid interest on deposits, and whose stockholders were responsible to the amount of their shareswere the solid and substantial banks, which alone the public interest could hereafter recognize.
They did their business, when they undertook it, like true men; and, in the single phrase, out of fashion, achieved the most powerful combination of solid argument and contemptuous sarcasm, that ever was compressed into three words. It is a phrase of electrical power over the senses and passions. It throws back the mind to the reigns of the Tudors and Stuartsthe termagant Elizabeth and the pedagogue Jamesand rouses within us all the shame and rage we have been accustomed to feel at the view of the scandalous sales of privileges and monopolies which were the disgrace and oppression of these wretched times. Out of fashion ! Yes; even in England, the land of their early birth, and late protection. And shall they remain in fashion here ?
Shall republicanism continue to wear, in America, the antique costume which the doughty champions of antiquated fashion have been compelled to doff in England ? Shall English lords and ladies continue to find, in the Bank of the United States, the unjust and odious privileges which they can no longer find in the Bank of England ? Shall the copy survive here, after the original has been destroyed there ? Shall the young whelp triumph in America, after the old lion has been throttled and strangled in England ? No ! never ! The thing is impossible ! The Bank of the United States dies, as the Bank of England dies, in all its odious points, upon the limitation of its charter; and the only circumstance of regret is, that the generous deliverance is to take effect two years earlier in the British monarchy than in the American republic.
One word, Mr. President, upon an incidental topic. It is shown that the stock of the Bank of the United States has fallen five per cent. in consequence of the opinions disclosed in the President's messages; and, thereupon, a complaint is preferred against the President for depreciating the property of innocent and unoffending people. I made a remark upon this complaint in the beginning of my speech, and now have a word more to bestow upon it. I wish to contrast this conduct of the American stock holders with that of the Bank of England stockholders, in a similar, and to them, much more disastrous, case. The Bank of England stockholders also, have had a decline in the price of stock; not of five dollars, but of thirty-five pounds, in the share. Bank of England stock, inn consequence of Earl Liverpool's communication, and of the debates in Parliament, has fallen from 238 to 203; equal to a loss of $165 in every share. This is something more than $5. Yet I have never heard that Earl Liverpool, or any member of Parliament, has been called to account for producing this depreciation. It would seem that the liberty of speech, and the rights of discussion, in Great Britain, extended to the affairs of the Bank of England; and that ministers and legislators were safe in handling it like any other subject.
Fourthly. I object, Mr. President, to the renewal of the bank charter, because this bank is an institution too costly and expensive for the American people to keep up.
Let no one cavil at this head of objection, under the belief that the Bank of the United States supports itself, like the hibernal bear, by sucking its own paws; or that it derives its revenues, as a spider spins its web, from the recesses of its own abdomen. Such a belief would be essentially erroneous, and highly unbecoming the intelligence of the nineteenth century. The fact is, that the bank lives upon the people ! that all its expenses are made out of the people; all its profits derived from, and all its losses re-imbursed by, them. This is the naked truth; by consequence every shilling held, or issued, by the bank, over and above the capital stock, is a tax upon the people; and as such I shall look into the amount of the levy, and prove it to be too great for the people to bear any longer.
In the first place, we have the direct expenses of the bank, the actual cost of its annual administration. These expenses are returned at $372,000 for the year 1830; and, assuming that sum for an average, the total cost of the administration for twenty years will be about seven and a half millions of dollars. The enormity of this sum must strike every mind; but, to judge it accurately, let us compare it to the expenses of some known establishment. Let us take the civil list of the Federal Government in the first term of President Washington's administration. Resorting to this standard, I find the expenditure of this branch of the Government to be: for 1792, $381,000; for '93, $558,000; for '94, $441,000; for '95, $361,000; presenting an annual average of $385,000; which is but a trifle over the bank expenditure for 1830.
Now, what were the heads of expenditure included in the civil list at the period referred to ? They were the salaries of the President and Vice President; the salaries of all the Secretaries, their clerks and messengers, and the purchase of the paraphernalia of all their offices; compensation to both Houses of Congress, and the discharge of every attendant expense; salaries to all the federal judges, their marshals and district attorneys, and the cost of their court rooms; the expense of missions abroad, and of territorial governments at home. These were the items of the civil list; comprehending the whole expenditure of the administration for all objects, except the army; there being at that time no navy.
The administration of the bank, therefore, actually involves an expenditure, rivalling that of the Federal Government in 1792, '93, '94 and '95; omitting the single item of the army, which was then on a war establishment.
The next item of bank tax, is that of the profits, in the shape of annual dividends. These profits are now seven per cent; but have been less; and at one time, owing to an explosion produced by stock jobbing, were nothing. Assuming six per cent. for the average of twenty years, and the aggregate will be $42,000,000. In the third place, the contingent fund, reserved to cover losses, is near 5,000,000 dollars.
Fourthly, the real estate, including banking houses, is above 4,000,000 dollars.
Fifthly, bonus, reimbursed to the bank, is 1,500,000 dollars.
Sixthly, the interest on the public deposites, which the bank was receiving from the United States or individuals, while the United States were paying interest on the same amount to the bank or to others, was six millions of dollars on the standing deposite of about five millions.
The aggregate is sixty-six millions of dollars; to say nothing of the profit on the stock itself, which is now twenty-six per cent., equal to $9,000,000 addition to the original capital. The annual average of this aggregate levy of sixty six millions, is above three millions and a quarter of dollars; being very nearly as much as the whole expenditure of the Federal Government in the second year of Mr. Jefferson's administration, which was but 3,737,000 dollars, the army included, and the navy also, which had then sprung into existence. Will Senators reflect upon the largeness of this levy, and consider how much it adds to the multiplied burdens of our complicated system of taxation ? I say complicated: for, under our duplicate form of government, every citizen is many times taxed, and by various authorities. First, his State tax, then his county tax, then his corporation tax, (if he live in a city,) then his federal tax, and, since 1816, his bank tax. The amount of each is considerable, of the whole, is excessive; of the bank tax, in addition to the others, intolerable.
The direct tax of 1798, which contributed so much to the overthrow of the men then at the head of affairs, was an inconsiderable burden compared to this bank levy. Not so much as one million was ever paid in any one year under the direct tax; while the annual levy of the bank tax is three millions and a quarter. The one is as truly a tax as the other, and as certainly paid by the people; and, as the reduction of taxes is now the policy of the country, I present this contribution to the federal bank, as the fit and eminent item to head and grace the list of abolition. I say, to head and grace the list ! For it is a tax not only great in itself, and levied to support a most dangerous and invidious institution, but doubly and peculiarly oppressive upon the people, because no part of it is ever refunded to them in the shape of beneficent expenditure. In the case of every other tax, in all the contributions levied for the purposes of Government, there is some alleviation of the burden some restitution of the abducted treasure some return to the people some reinfusion of strength into their ranks in the customary reimbursement of the revenue. The Government usually pays it back, or a portion of it, for salaries, services, and supplies. But, in the case of the bank tax, there is nothing of this reimbursement. The bank refunds nothing; but all the money it makes out of the people is gone from them forever. It, goes into a corner of the Union, and remains there: it goes into private hands, and becomes individual property. The stockholders divide it among themselves. Twice, in every year, they make the division of these modern spolia opima these dearest spoils not of the enemy's general killed in battle, but of American citizens fleeced at home.
This is a grievous aggravation of the amount of the tax. It is the aggravation which renders taxation insupportable. It is "absenteeism" in a new and legalized form. It is the whole mischief of that system of absenteeism, which drains off the wealth of Ireland to fertilize England, France, and Italy, leaving Ireland itself the most distressed and exhausted country in Europe, instead of remaining, as God created it, one of the richest and most flourishing.
Eternal drawing out, and no bringing back, is a process which no people, or country, can endure. It is a process which would exhaust the resources of nature herself. The earth would be deprived of its moisture, and changed into a desert, if the exhalations of the day did not return in dews at night. The vast ocean itself, with all its deep and boundless waters, would be sucked up and dried away, if the vapors drawn up by the sun did not form into clouds, and descend in rain and snow. So will any people be exhausted of their wealth, no matter how great that wealth may be, whose miserable destiny shall subject them to a system of taxation which is forever levying, and never refunding: a system whose cry is that of the horse leech, more! more! more! whose voice is that of the grave, give! give! give! whose attribute is that of the grave also, never to render back! and, such precisely is the system of taxation to which the people of these States are now subjected by the federal bank.
Of the three great divisions, Mr. President, into which this question divides itself, I have touched but one. I have left untouched the constitutional difficulty, and the former mismanagement of the bank. I have handled the question as if the constitutional authority for the bank was express, and as if its whole administration had been free from reproach. I have looked to the nature of the institution alone; and, finding in its very nature insurmountable objections to its existence, I have come to the conclusion that the public good requires the institution to cease. I believe it to be an institution of too much power; of tendencies too dangerous; of privileges too odious; of expense too enormous, to be safely tolerated under any Government of free and equal laws. My mind is made up that the present charter ought to be allowed to expire on its own limitation; and, that no other, or subsequent one, should ever after be granted. This is my opinion; I may add, my belief: for I have the consolation to believe that the event will not deceive my hopes.
I am willing to see the charter expire, without providing any substitute for the present bank. I am willing to see the currency of the Federal Government left to the hard money mentioned and intended in the constitution; I am willing to have a hard money Government, as that of France has been since the time of assignats and mandats. Every species of paper might be left to the State authorities, unrecognized by the Federal Government, and only touched by it for its own convenience when equivalent to gold and silver. Such a currency filled France with the precious metals, when England, with her overgrown bank, was a prey to all the evils of unconvertible paper. It furnished money enough for the imperial Government when the population of the empire was three times more numerous, and the expenses of Government twelve times greater, than the population and expenses of the United States; and, when France possessed no mines of gold or silver, and was destitute of the exports which command the specie of other countries.
The United States possess gold mines, now yielding half a million per annum, with every prospect of equalling those of Peru. But this is not the best dependence. We have what is superior to mines, namely, the exports which command the money of the world; that is to say, the food which sustains life, and the raw materials which sustain manufactures. Gold and silver is the best currency for a republic; it suits the men of middle property and the working people best; and if I was going to establish a working man's party, it should be on the basis of hard money; a hard money party against a paper party.
I would prefer to see the charter expire without any substitute; but I am willing to vote for the substitute recommended by the President, stripped as it is of all power to make loans and discounts. Divested of that power, it loses the essential feature, and had as well lose the name, of a bank. It becomes an office in the treasury, limited to the issue of a species of exchequer bills, differing from the English bills of that name in the vital particular of a prompt and universal convertibility into coin. Such bills would be in fact, as well as in name, the promissory notes of the United States of America. They would be payable at every land office, custom-house, and post office, and by every collector of public moneys, in the Union. Payable every where, they would be at par every where. Equal to gold and silver on the spot, they would be superior to it for travelling and remittances. This is not opinion, but history. Our own country, this Federal Government, has proved it; and that on a scale sufficiently large to test its operation, and recent enough to be remembered by every citizen.
I allude to the Mississippi scrip, issued from the Treasury some fifteen years ago. This scrip was no way equal to the proposed exchequer bills: for its reception was limited to a single branch of the revenue, namely, lands, and to a small part of them; and the quantity of scrip, five millions of dollars, was excessive, compared to the fund for its redemption; yet, as soon as the land offices of Alabama and Mississippi opened, the scrip was at par, and currently exchanged for gold and silver, dollar for dollar.
Such, and better, would be the proposed bills. To the amount of the revenues, they would be founded on silver. This amount, after the payment of the public debt, (post office included,) may be about fifteen millions of dollars. They would supply the place of the United States' notes as they retired; and, issuing from the Treasury only in payments, or exchange for hard money, all room for favoritism, or undue influence, would be completely cut off. If the Federal Government is to recognise any paper, let it be this. Let it be its own.
I have said that the charter of the Bank of the United States cannot be renewed. And in saying this, I wish to be considered, not as a heedless denunciator, supplying the place of argument by empty menace, but as a Senator, considering well what he says, after having attentively surveyed his subject. I repeat, then, that the charter cannot be renewed ! And, in coming to the conclusion of this peremptory opinion, I acknowledge no necessity to look beyond the walls of this Capitol bright as may be the consolation which rises on the vision from the other end of the avenue ! I confine my view to the halls of Congress, and joyfully exclaim, it is no longer the year 1816 ! Fifteen years have gone by; times have changed; and former arguments have lost their application. We were then fresh from war, loaded with debt, and with all the embarrassments which follow in the train of war. We are now settled down in peace and tranquillity, with all the blessings attendant upon quiet and repose. There is no longer a single consideration urged in favor of chartering the bank in 1816, which can have the least weight or application, in favor of rechartering it now. This is my assertion! a bold one it may be; but no less true than bold.
Let us see ! What were the arguments of 1816 ?
Why, first, "to pay the public creditors." I answer this is no longer any thing: for before 1836, that function will cease: there will be no more creditors to pay.
2. "To transfer the public moneys." That will be nothing: for after the payment of the public debt, we shall have no moneys to transfer. The twelve millions of dollars which are now transferred annually to the Northeast, to pay the public creditors, will then remain in the pockets of the people, and the reduced expenditures of the Government will be made where the money is collected. The army and the navy, after the extinction of the debt, will be the chief objects of expenditure; and they will require the money, either on the frontiers, convenient to the land office, or on the seaboard, convenient to the custom-houses. Thus will transfers of revenue become unnecessary.
3. "To make loans to the Federal Government." That is nothing: for the Federal Government will want no loans in time of peace, not even out of its own deposites; and the prospect of war is rather too distant at present to make new loans on that account.
4. "To pay the pensioners." That is something now, I admit, when the pensioners are still fifteen thousand, and the payments exceed a million per annum. But what will it be after 1836 ? When the hand of death, and the scythe of time, shall have committed five years more of ravages in their senile ranks. The mass of these heroical monuments are the men of the Revolution. They are far advanced upon that allegorical bridge so beautifully described in the vision of Mirza. They have passed the seventy arches which are sound and entire, and are now treading upon the broken ones, where the bridge is full of holes, and the clouds and darkness setting in. At every step some one stumbles and falls through, and is lost in the ocean beneath. In a few steps more the last will be gone. Surely it cannot be necessary to keep up for twenty years, the vast establishment of the federal bank to pay the brief stipends of these fleeting shadows. Their country can do it can pay the pensions as well as give them and do it for the little time that remains, with no other regret than that the grateful task is to cease so soon.
5. "To regulate the currency." I answer, the joint resolution of 1816 will do that, and will effect the regulation without destroying on one hand, and without raising up a new power, above regulation, on the other. Besides, there is some mistake in this phrase currency. The word in the constitution is coin. It is the value of coin which Congress is to regulate; and to include bank notes under that term, is to assume a power, not of construction for no construction can be wild and boundless enough to construe coin, that is to say, metallic money, melted, cast, and stamped, into paper notes printed and written but it is to assume a power of life and death over the constitution; a power to dethrone and murder one of its true and lawful words, and to set up a bastard pretender in its place. I invoke the spirit of America upon the daring attempt !
6. "To equalize exchanges, and sell bills of exchange for the half of one per cent." This is a broker's argument; very fit and proper to determine a question of brokerage; but very insufficient to determine a question of great national policy, of State rights, of constitutional difficulty, of grievous taxation, and of public and private subjugation to the beck and nod of a great moneyed oligarchy.
7. "A bonus of a million and a half of dollars." This, Mr. President, is Esau's view of the subject; a very seductive view to an improvident young man, who is willing to give up the remainder of his life to chains and poverty, provided he can be so laced for the present with a momentary and insignificant gratification. But what is it to the United States ? to the United States of 1836! without a shilling of debt, and mainly occupied with the reduction of taxes ! Still this bonus is the only consideration that can now be offered, and surely it is the last one that ought to be accepted. We do not want the money; and, if we did, the recourse to a bonus would be the most execrable form in which we could raise it. What is a bonus ? Why, in monarchies, it is a price paid to the King for the privilege of extorting money out of his subjects; with us, it is a price paid to ourselves for the privilege of extorting money out of ourselves. The more of it the worse; for it all has to be paid back to the extortioners, with a great interest upon it. It is related by the English historian, Clarendon, who cannot be suspected of overstating any fact to the prejudice of the Stuart Kings, that for £1,500 advanced to Charles the First in bonuses, not less than £200,000 were extorted from his subjects: being at the rate of £1.33 taken from the subject for £1 advanced to the King. What the Bank of the United States will have made out of the people of the United States, in twenty years, in return for its bonus of $1,500,000, (which, I must repeat, has been advanced to us out of our own money,) has been shown to be about sixty-six millions of dollars. What it would make in the next twenty years, when secure possession of the renewed charter should free the institution from every restraint, and leave it at full liberty to pursue the money, goods, and lands of the people in every direction, cannot be ascertained.
Enough can be ascertained, however, to show that it must be infinitely beyond what it has been. There are some data upon which some partial and imperfect calculations can be made, and let us essay them. In the first place, the rise of the stock, which cannot be less than that of the Bank of England, in its flourishing days, (probably more, as all Europe is now seeking investments here,) may reach 250 per cent., or 150 above par. This, upon a capital of 35 millions, would give a profit of $42,500,000; a very pretty sum to be cleared by operation of law! to be added to the fortunes of some individuals, aliens as well as citizens, by the mere passage of an act of Congress ! In the next place, the regular dividends, assuming them to equal those of the Bank of England in its meridian, would be ten per cent. per annum. This would give $3,500,000 for the annual dividend; and $70,000,000 for the aggregate of twenty years. In the third place, the direct expenses of the institution, now less than $400,000 per annum, would, under the new and magnificent expansion which the operations of the bank would take, probably exceed half a million per annum; say $10,000,000 for the whole term. Putting these three items together, which is as far as data in hand will enable us to calculate, and we have $122,500,000 of profits made out of the people, equal to a tax of $6,000,000 per annum.
How much more may follow is wholly unascertainable, and would depend upon the moderation, the justice, the clemency, the mercy and forbearance of the supreme central directory, who, sitting on their tripods, and shaking their tridents over the moneyed ocean, are able to raise, and repress, the golden waves at pleasure; who, being chief purchasers of real estate, may take in towns and cities, and the whole country round, at one fell swoop; who, being sole lenders of money, may take usury, not only at 46, but at 460 per cent.; who, being masters of all other banks, and of the Federal Government itself, may compel these tributary establishments to ransom their servile existences with the heavy, and repeated, exactions of Algerine cupidity.
The gains of such an institution defy calculation. There is no example on earth to which to compare it. The Bank of England, in its proudest days, would afford but an inadequate and imperfect exemplar; for the power of that bank was counterpoised, and its exactions limited, by the wealth of the landed aristocracy, and the princely revenues of great merchants and private bankers. But with us, there would be no counterpoise, no limit, no boundary, to the extent of exactions. All would depend upon the will of the supreme central directory. The nearest approach to the value of this terrific stack, which my reading has suggested, would be found in the history of the famous South Sea Company of the last century, whose shares rose in leaps from 100 to 500, and from 500 to 1,000 per cent.; but, with this immeasurable and lamentable difference that that was a bubble! this, a reality !
And who would be the owners of this imperial stock ? Widows and orphans, think you? as ostentatiously set forth in the report of last session ? No, sir! a few great capitalists; aliens, denizens, naturalized subjects, and some native citizens, already the richest of the land, and who would avail themselves of their intelligences, and their means, to buy out the small stockholders on the eve of the renewal. These would be the owners.
And where would all this power and money centre? in the great cities to the northeast, which have been for forty years, and that by force of federal legislation, the lion's den of Southern and Western money that den into which all the tracks point inwards; from which the returning track of a solitary dollar has never yet been seen. And, this is the institution for which a renewed existence is sought for which the votes of the people's representatives are claimed !
But, no ! Impossible ! It cannot be ! The bank is done. The arguments of 1816 will no longer apply. Times have changed; and the policy of the Republic changes with the times. The war made the bank; peace will unmake it. The baleful planet of fire, and blood, and every human woe, did bring that pestilence upon us; the benignant star of peace shall chase it away.
Having concluded, Mr. Webster demanded the yeas and nays on the question to grant leave for the introduction of the resolution; and the vote being taken, was decided, without further debate, as follows:
YEAS. Messrs. Barnard, Benton, Bibb, Brown, Dickerson, Dudley, Forsyth, Grundy, Hayne, Iredell, King, McKinley, Poindexter, Sanford, Smith of S.C., Tazewell, Troup, Tyler, White, Woodbury 20.
Nays. Messrs. Barton, Bell, Burnet, Chase, Clayton, Root, Frelinghuysen, Holmes, Hendricks, Johnston, Knight, Livingston, Marks, Noble, Robbins, Robinson, Ruggles, Seymour, Silsbee, Smith of Md., Sprague, Webster, Willey 23
So the Senate refused leave for the introduction of the resolution.