Thomas Hart Benton
---[A history of the Independent Treasury]

Thursday, September 14, 1837.
---[as it was first introduced]

A BILL imposing additional duties as depositories, in certain cases, on public officers.


Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the Treasurer of the United States, the treasurers of the Mint and its branches, all collectors of the customs, and surveyors acting in that capacity, all receivers of public money, and post-masters, be, and they are hereby, required to keep safely, without loaning or using, all the public money collected by them, or otherwise at any time placed in their possession, till the same is ordered by the proper department to be transferred or paid out;  in which cases, the transfers and payments shall be faithfully made by them as directed, and all other duties performed as fiscal agents, which may be imposed by this or formter acts of Congress, or by any regulation of the Treasury Department made in conformity thereto.

Sec. 2.  And be it further enacted, That all marshals, district attorneys and others having public money to pay over, and all patentees wishing to make payment to the United States, may make the same to the Treasurer in this city, or to the Mint and its branches, when near or convenient;  and, when not, may deposite the same with such collector, receiver, or other depository, as may be more conveniently situated, and may be selected for that purpose by the Secretary of the Treasury.

Sec. 3.  And be it further enacted, That whenever the public money in the possession of any depository, by collection, transfer, or payment, shall be inconveniently situated for public use, or shall accumulate so as to exceed the amount of the existing bond of any such officer, any part of it or the excess (as the case may be) shall either be drawn out for payments, or be transferred elsewhere to some other depository;  or the Secretary of the Treasury shall require such additional security as may be considered proper and safe;  and in the mean time, bonds, new and suitable in their terms, shall in all cases, at as early a day as possible after the passage of this act, be required of all depositories, in such sums and form as may be deemed reasonable and secure by the Solicitor of the Treasury, for the performance of all the duties required under the same or any previous laws.

Sec. 4.  And be it further enacted, That the said officers, respectively may be allowed any necessary additional expenses for clerks, fire-proof chests, or vaults, or other necessary expenses of safe-keeping, transferring, and disbursing said moneys;  all such expenses, of every character, to be first expressly authorized by the Secretary of the Treasury, whose directions upon all the above subjects, by way of regulation and otherwise, are to be strictly followed by all the said officers.

Sec. 5.  And be it further enacted, That the Secretary of the Treasury shall be, and he is hereby, authorized to cause examinations to be made of the books, accounts, and money on hand, of the several officers charged by this act with the safe-keeping, transfer, and disbursement of the public moneys;  and for that purpose to appoint special agents, as occasion may require, with such reasonable compensation as he may allow, to be fixed and declared at the time of each appointment;  which said examinations, in all cases where the sum on hand usually exceeds three-fourths of the amount of the officer's bond, shall not be made less frequently than once in each year, and as much more frequently, in those and all other cases, as the Secretary, in his discretion, shall direct.  The agents selected to make these examinations shall be instructed to examine as well the books, accounts, and returns of the officer, as the money on hand, and the manner of its being kept, to the end that uniformity and accuracy in the accounts, as well as safety to the public moneys, may be secured thereby.

Sec. 6.  And be it further enacted, That, in addition to the examinations provided for in the last preceding section, as a further guard over the public moneys, it shall be the duty of each naval officer and surveyor, as a check upon the collector of the customs of their respective districts;  of each register of a land office, as a check upon the receiver of his land office;  and of the director and superintendent of each mint and branch mint, as a check upon the treasurers, respectively, of the said mints, at the close of each quarter of the year, and as much more frequently as they shall be directed to do so by the Secretary of the Treasury, to examine the books, accounts, returns, and money on hand, of the collectors, receivers, and treasurers, and to make a full, accurate, and faithful return to the Treasury Department of their condition.

Sec. 7.  And be it further enacted, That the Secretary of the Treasury shall, with as much expedition as the convenience of the public business and the safety of the public funds will permit, withdraw the balances remaining with the late and present depositories of the public moneys, and confine the safe-keeping, transfer, and disbursement of those moneys to the depositories established by this act.

Sec. 8.  And be it further enacted, That, for the payment of the expenses authorized by this act, a sufficient sum be, and the same is hereby, appropriated, to be paid out of any money in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated.

Sec. 9.  And be it further enacted, That all officers charged by this act with the safe-keeping, transfer, and disbursement of the public money, are hereby required to keep an accurate entry of each sum received, and of the kind of money in which it is received, and of each payment or transfer, and of the kind of currency in which they are made;  and that if any one of the said officers shall convert to his own use, in any way whatsoever, or shall use by way of investment in any kind of property or merchandise, or shall loan with or without interest, any portion of the public moneys entrusted to him for safe-keeping, disbursement, transfer, or for any other purpose, every such act shall be deemed and adjudged to be an embezzlement of so much of the said moneys as shall be thus taken, converted, invested, used, or loaned, which is hereby declared to be a high misdemeanor;  and any officer or person convicted thereof before any court of the United States of competent jurisdiction, shall be sentenced to imprisonment for a term of not less than two, nor more than five, years, and to a fine equal to the amount of the money embezzled.


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Independent Treasury Bill

Debate in the Senate.
Thursday, January 16, 1840.

Mr. Benton moved to strike out from the 19th and 20th sections of the bill the clauses which permitted the reception and disbursement of Federal paper;  and read the sections to show how they now stood, and what would be the effect of the proposed amendment, if made.  The sections were in these words:

Sec. 19.  And be it further enacted, That from and after the thirtieth day of June, which will be in the year 1840, the resolution of Congress of the 30th day of April, in the year 1816, so far as it authorises the receipt in payment of duties, taxes, sales of public lands, debts, and sums of money, accruing or becoming payable to the United States, to be collected and paid in the notes of specie paying banks, shall be so modified as that one-fourth part of all such duties, taxes, sales of public lands, debts, and sums of money accruing or becoming due to the United States, shall be collected in the legal currency of the United States;  and from and after the 30th day of June, which will be in the year 1841, one other fourth part of all such duties, taxes, sales of public lands, debts, and sums of money, shall be so collected;  and that from and after the 30th day of June, which will be in the year 1842, one other fourth part of all such duties, taxes, sales of public lands, debts, and sums of money, shall be so collected;  and that from and after the 30th day of June, which will be in the year 1843, the remaining fourth part of the said duties, taxes, sales of public lands, debts, and sums of money, shall be also collected in the legal currency of the United States;  and from and after the last mentioned day, all sums accruing, or becoming payable to the United States, for duties, taxes, sales of public lands, or other debts, and also all sums due for postages or otherwise, to the General Post Office Department, shall be paid in gold and silver only, (or in such notes, bills, or paper, issued under the authority of the United States, as may be directed to be received by law in payment of the public dues.)

Sec. 20.  And be it further enacted, That, from and after the 30th day of June which will be in the year 1843, every officer or agent engaged in making disbursements on account of the United States, or of the General Post Office, shall make all payments in gold and silver coin only, (or in such notes, bills, or paper, issued under the authority of the United States, as may be directed to be received by law;) and any receiving or disbursing officer, or agent, who shall neglect, evade, or violate, the provisions of this and the last preceding section of this act, shall, by the Secretary of the Treasury, be immediately reported to the President of the United States, with the facts of such neglect, evasion, or violation, and also to Congress, if in session, and, if not in session, at the commencement of its session next after the violation takes place.

Mr. Benton said that these two sections constituted the specie feature of the bill;  but as they now stood they were very far from being what the act of 1789 was, and to which act he wished to carry back the fiscal action of the Federal Government.  That act, made as it was by the framers of the Constitution, and immediately after they had framed it, declared that the revenue should be collected "in gold and silver coin only;"  and these two sections, after repeating the same enactment to take effect on the 30th day of June, 1843, went on to add an exception in favor of Federal paper money, which ran in these words: "or in such notes, bills, or paper, issued under the authority of the United States as may be directed to be received by law."  The act of '89 contained no such exception as this;  and it was very clear that, leaving this clause in the two sections, and the whole currency of the Federal Government might became paper — its own paper — and not a shilling of hard money be received or paid out by the Federal Government.

I know very well that the Finance Committee, which reported this bill, does not mean to defend this clause.  The two sections which contain it, were copied from the bill as it passed at the extra session of 1837;  and were part of the amendment then offered by a Senator not of the committee, and adopted by the Senate.  At that time an issue of Treasury notes, receivable in payment of public dues, was a part of the policy of the Government;  and an exception in their favor seemed to be necessary.  But that necessity no longer exists.  The last of the Treasury notes now out would be redeemable on and before the 30th day of June next;  and trusting that no more of these notes will ever be issued in time of peace, I am for closing the door upon them with the expiration of the present issue, and cutting them off from Federal payments and receipts as soon as the specie clause takes full effect.  This will not be until June, 1843;  that is to say, until three years after they cease by the law of their creation to be receivable in payment of public dues.  As the interest will cease upon them in June next, it is probable that none of these notes will be outstanding three years after that period.  If they are, they can be paid in gold and silver at the Treasury;  and it would be too much, for a contingency so improbable, and for an object so inconsiderable, to mar a main feature of the bill, by making any provision for their reception.

But the clause, as it now stands, goes entirely beyond the receivability of present outstanding Treasury notes: it is not limited to the present issue of these notes, or even to Treasury notes themselves;  but extends to the general and permanent reception and disbursement of the "notes, bills, or paper"' issued by the authority of the United States, and directed to be received by law in payment of public dues.  This is opening the door, not merely to present Treasury notes, or even future ones, but to every species of Federal paper money what-so-ever;  and consequently is, in my opinion, opening the door to an unconstitutional and most dangerous practice, totally at war with the idea of a hard money Government.

I am opposed to Federal paper money just as much as I am to bank notes, either local or national.  So far as mischief is concerned, I consider Federal paper money the most dangerous which our country could see;  for I consider the mischiefs of paper money to be in proportion to the power and irresponsibility of the issuer.  The greater that power, and the more irresponsible, so much wider will be the sphere of its paper circulation, and so much the more helpless its holders, in the event of the catastrophes to which all paper money is subject.  This was the case with the paper money of the Continental Congress.  Their issues at first were moderate, and their bills were equal to gold and silver;  but, having no superior to check them, they went on with their issues, until they amounted to two hundred millions of dollars, and the whole fell dead upon the community.  The men who did that were as honest, as patriotic, and as wise as their posterity can ever be.  They were among the best and greatest which the history of the human race has revealed to our view.  They deserve the applause and the gratitude of the latest generations;  yet, in the irresponsible issue of paper money, and its dreadful effects, they have left us an admonition never to adventure upon it, if we had the power.

But we have not the power.  The illustrious sages and patriots who, in their dire necessity, and in the throes and convulsions of our national birth, had recourse to the expedient of paper money to save the life itself of the country, took care to interdict their posterity from the same dangerous resort.  They gave them a Constitution for their guidance;  and in that Constitution they adopted gold and silver as the only legal currency of the land, and utterly prohibited the legal tender of any thing else.  This is what they did to save us from the misfortunes into which they fell;  and regardless we must be, both of constitutional obligations, and of the warning voice of history, if we do not profit by their care to save us.

The two sections which I have read are intended to restore the fiscal action of our Government to the standard of the Constitution;  and, as far as bank paper is concerned, they do so;  but this exception in favor of the "notes, bills, and paper," issued under the authority of the United States, is a sad and ruinous qualification of "the specie clause."  It repeals that clause in toto!  It subjects the Government to become, not a hard money Government, but a mere paper machine, doing all its business in paper, and making our sub-treasuries mere warehouses of paper.  It recognises the habitual use of Treasury notes;  that most easy and seductive mode of going into debt, and that entering wedge to the paper system, and stepping stone to a depreciated currency !  I detest these Treasury notes;  in time of peace, I abhor, detest and eschew them.  In time of war only are they fit to be thought of;  and if the Federal Government can do its duty in relation to the currency, there will be no occasion for them even in time of war.

Our hard money currency has risen, in eight years, from twenty millions to ninety millions;  and may be increased in a few years more to such an amount as to enable the expenses of the most extensive war to be defrayed exclusively in gold and silver coin.  The Great Emperor raised the currency of France from all paper to all specie, in six years.  In 1799, when placed at the head of affairs as First Consul, he found the currency a mass of ruin — nothing but assignats and mandats depreciated a thousand per cent;  yet in six years thereafter, when called to celebrate the immortal days of Austerlitz, Jena and Friedland, when the gigantic wars, the internal ameliorations, the national defences, and the almost fabulous magnificence of the imperial court, had carried the annual Government expenses to eight hundred million of francs — one hundred and sixty millions of dollars — the whole was paid in gold and silver ! and the same precious metals constituted the exclusive common currency of the forty millions of souls which constituted the population of the empire.  This is what one man did in six years;  and can we not, in three or four years more, increase our specie from ninety millions to as much as will defray all the expenses of our Government in any war in which it can be involved, and furnish the common currency of our population besides ?  Surely we can;  and nothing but the errors of vicious legislation can prevent us from doing so;  and thus save a recourse, even in time of war, to the perilous resort of Treasury notes.

Sir, these sentiments which I now express in relation to Treasury notes, are not new conceptions with me.  They are old principles, deep seated in my bosom, and often declared on this floor.  Often have I declared them;  and, not to fatigue the Senate with multiplied quotations, I will limit myself to the citation of some part of what I said three years ago, at the called session, and when the Government found itself reduced, in consequence of the deposite of its money with the States, to the deplorable necessity of proposing an issue of these notes.  I then said:

"I will now say a few words on the policy of issuing Treasury notes in time of peace, or even in time of war, until the ordinary resources of loans and taxes had been tried and exhausted.  I am no friend to the issue of Treasury notes of any kind.  As loans, they are a disguised mode of borrowing, and easy to slide into a currency: as a currency, it is the most seductive, the most dangerous, and the most liable to abuse of all the descriptions of paper money.  'The stamping of paper (by Government) is an operation so much easier than the laying of taxes, or of borrowing money, that a Government, in the habit of paper emissions, would rarely fail, in any emergency, to indulge itself too far in the employment of that resource, to avoid as much as possible, one less auspicious to present popularity.'  So said General Hamilton;  and Jefferson, Madison, Macon, Randolph, and all the fathers of the republican church, concurred with him.  These sagacious statesmen were shy of this facile and seductive resource, "so liable, to abuse, and so certain of being abused."  They held it inadmissible to recur to it in time of peace, and that it could only be thought of amidst the exigencies and perils of war, and that after exhausting the direct and responsible alternatives of loans and taxes.  Bred in the school of these great men, I came here at this session to oppose, at all risks, an issue of Treasury notes.  I preferred a direct loan, and that for many and cogent reasons."

This was my language in relation to Treasury notes three years ago;  it is my language now.  No earthly consideration could now induce me to vote for an issue of these notes, even a single issue, confined to a special occasion, and limited to a particular amount.  How then could I vote for these sections, with this clause in them, which goes to recognise as an habitual practice, the issue of "notes, bills, or paper" by the Federal Government, and to make this indefinite paper the ordinary medium of payment in the receipts and disbursements of the Federal Government.

Limited to the reception of the Treasury notes, actually now out, and it might pass without strenuous objection;  but there is no necessity for such limit even, for the reasons I have before given.  Limited to these, and the clause might stand without exciting a strenuous objection;  but unlimited and indefinite as it now is, and going to recognise and invite an issue of all sorts of paper by the Federal Government, the clause becomes unconstitutional and indefensible, and directly at war with our hard money professions.  But it will not stand.  The committee which reported the bill, and retained this clause, because it was adopted by the Senate in 1837;  this Committee will not defend it;  and I believe I know enough of the mind of the Senate to say that it will be rejected by an almost unanimous vote.*

          [It was so rejected: the vote being 33 against, 6 for the clause.]

I believe it will be almost unanimously rejected, and the two sections thus brought to a precise conformity with the great act of 1789 — that act which required the revenues to be paid in gold and silver coin only.  Yes, sir, in these coins only! or, as I might say it in the old English idiom, one-ly;  for our only is a contraction of the old English one-ly;  which is more expressive than the contraction, and plainly imports integrity and individuality — the one thing by itself.  The clause will be struck out;  the act of 1789 will be re-established;  that act which General Hamilton repealed and reversed by construction, and to prevent any future Hamilton from doing which a penal sanction is now added to the section.  The twentieth section of the bill, after providing for this restoration of the act of '89, goes on to guard it from future violation in these words: "And any receiving or disbursing officer, or agent, who shall neglect, evade, or violate, the provisions of this and the last preceding section of this act, shall, by the Secretary of the Treasury, be immediately reported to the President of the United States, with the facts of such neglect, evasion, or violation, and also to Congress, if in session, and, if not in session, at the commencement of its session next after the violation takes place."  This is the penal sanction to prevent the future violation of the great act of 1789, restored to its original force by this Independent Treasury bill.  The violator of the act is to be reported to the President, who, as sworn to see the laws faithfully executed, will well know what disposition to make of the offender.  If the President should fail in his duty, the two Houses of Congress will have the information which will bring the case before themselves.

Mr. President, this is a great point in the great measure before us;  it is one out of the two great points which the Independent Treasury system presents.  That system presents but two points, namely, first, the exclusive use of gold an and silver coin by the Federal Government;  secondly, the exclusive keeping of its own money by its own officers.  These two points constitute the system;  all the rest is detail;  and this system effects the total divorce between Bank and State;  and not only between Bank and State, but between the State on one side, and the whole paper system on the other.

I am now employed upon one of these points — the first one of the two.  The motion which I have made, and the speech which I am making, go to the first point;  and in the success — the probable success which awaits it — I see the consummation of a long and cherished object, at which I have faithfully labored for ten years — labored as long as the siege of Troy lasted.  In the very first speech which I delivered against the recharter of the Bank of the United States — a speech delivered in the session of 1830-31 — I took the ground of a hard money currency for the Federal Government, and its total disconnection from the paper system.  I had seen the evils of a resort to local bank paper by the Federal Government.  I had seen the error —the great and grievous error— of those who terminated the first Bank of the United States, and left the Union without any national currency, either paper or metallic.  I had seen the evils of that error in the deplorable state of our finances and currency during the war of 1812-15;  and, in laboring to terminate the existence of the second Bank, which was born of the error committed in relation to the first one: in laboring to terminate this second Bank, I aimed at avoiding the error of my precursors of 1811, and to provide a national currency of gold and silver in place of the national currency of bank notes.  I was determined to avoid the error of 1811 — to eschew the use of local bank paper — and, in escaping from the arms of the great monster, to take good care not to fall into the claws of the little ones.

This was disclosed in my first speech against the Bank, delivered on the 2d of February, 1831;  and here is an extract from it, which establishes what I say:

"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 expense 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.

Thus, Mr. President, near ten years ago, I disclosed my sentiments on this subject.  I then proposed the restoration of the gold and silver currency of the Constitution to the Federal Government, and the total disconnection of the Government from the paper system.  This plan I have kept in view from that day to this;  and have faithfully labored to accomplish it.  Three years ago, believing that the time had arrived for executing the plan which I had so long meditated, I brought into the Senate a bill entitled "to re-establish the currency of the Constitution for the Federal Government," the enactments of which were consonant to its title.  It proposed the gradual disuse of paper, and the progressive return to the hard money standard;  and was both in its mode of operating, and in the time it would require to attain its object, the exact substance of the two sections before you — the exact substance of what they will be when the amendment is made, which I have just had the honor to propose.  That bill was in these words:

"A bill to re-establish the currency of the Constitution for the Federal Government.

"Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That bank notes and paper currency of every description shall cease to be received, or offered in payment, on account of the United States, or of the Post Office, or in fees in the courts of the United States, as follows:  Of less denomination than twenty dollars, none shall be so received after the third day of March, eighteen hundred and thirty-eight;  of less denomination than one hundred dollars, none after the third day of March, eighteen hundred and thirty-nine;  of less denomination than five hundred dollars, none after the third day of March, eighteen hundred and forty;  of less denomination than one thousand dollars, none after the third day of March, eighteen hundred and forty-one;  and none of any denomination from and after the third day of March, eighteen hundred and forty-two.

"Sec. 2.  And be it further enacted, That any person holding an appointment under the laws of the United States, and any bank employed to keep public moneys, which person or bank shall neglect, evade, violate, contravene, or in any way elude, or attempt to elude, the provisions of this act, shall be guilty of an offence against the laws;  and the person so offending, shall be liable to be dismissed from the service;  and the bank so offending shall, on satisfactory information, be discontinued as a depository of public moneys."

This was my bill;  and now, Mr. President, behold the workings of time, and the results of experience.  When that bill was brought into the Senate, it stood here, so far as my knowledge and information extends, without a solitary supporter except its author !  Solitary and alone he stood at its back: in a minority of one he ran the chance to be left in any vote which should be taken upon it.  Then it was that I had an opportunity — one out of many which a friendly intercourse of near twenty years has afforded me — to test the goodness of the heart, and the kindness of the feelings, of the Senator from Pennsylvania who sits over the way, [Mr. Buchanan]  That Senator saw the predicament of my bill: he saw it would get no support.  He had seen me solitary and alone on many occasions;  and rightly judged that a public man might be disparaged in the public estimation, who appeared habitually without supporters in a public body.  He came round to me from the seat where he now sits, to the place where I now stand;  and, after a suitable introduction, to prepare my feelings for the catastrophe, he proposed to me to ask leave to withdraw my bill, or to have it laid upon the table, as the means of extricating myself from the solitary exhibition which awaited me.  Now, it so happened that I had not the least objection, so far as I was personally concerned, in standing alone in support of that bill.  I had fully committed myself for it by bringing it in;  I looked ahead and saw the day that I might be proud of it: but, deference for the the kind feelings of my friend, and to show him that his intimations were taken in the sense in which they were intended, I agreed to have it quietly dropped, by being laid upon the table: and another friend, [Mr. Wright, of New York] with the concurrence of the author, moved to lay it upon the table.  It is a gentle motion — some thing equivalent to backing out — and is rarely opposed;  but on that occasion it was opposed, and some little effort was made to hold the bill up for a vote;  but the Senate permitted it to go down upon the table.  It went down without noise.  No yeas and nays were called upon it;  and thus I lost the honor, in 1836, of voting alone for a measure which, in 1840, will command the unanimous vote of my party.

The day has come which I foresaw.  Time, and its events, have accomplished what my endeavors could not effect;  and two suspensions of the banks in three years have brought the Democratic party to the point I was at many years ago.  The bill which I proposed in 1836, and the nineteenth and twentieth sections of the Independent Treasury bill (when amended as they will be) are identical.  They propose the same end, approach it in the same gradual way, arrive at it at the same time, and guard it with the same sanctions.  They are both to re-establish the currency of the Constitution for the Federal Government;  and this re-establishment of that currency is one out of the two principles which constitute the Independent Treasury system.

My motion now is to strike out certain words from the specie feature of this bill, and thereby to make it conformable to the words, spirit, and meaning of our Constitution, and to the great act of 1789.  My motion is, in effect, to restore that act, and to restore it completely, by excluding Federal paper money as well as bank paper money from the receipts and disbursements of the General Government.

Sir, this is a great point in the case, and I mean to make it clear.  My assertion is, that the act of 1789 — the first act for the collection of Federal revenue — made gold and silver only receivable in payment of the public dues — that General Hamilton, then Secretary of the Treasury, nullified and reversed that act by construction — and that the specie clause in this bill is intended to restore the act of 1789, and to prevent and future Hamilton from construing it away.  This is my assertion;  and the proof is forthcoming to sustain it.  At page 27, vol. 2, of the laws of the United States, (Daune's edition,) being the 30th section of the first revenue law ever passed by Congress, is found these words:  "The duties and fees to be collected by virtue of this act SHALL BE RECEIVED IN GOLD AND SILVER COIN ONLY."  This is the act — these the words of the fundamental act, for the collection of the Federal revenue.  The bare reading of them establishes the fact that the first Congress which ever sat under the Constitution, and composed, in great part, of the men who actually framed that instrument, the bare reading establishes the fact that this first Congress enacted an exclusive specie currency for the Federal Government.

This point being established, the next inquiry is, how came the Government to slide off immediately into a paper money currency, and to remain ever since involved and enibralled in the miseries and losses of the paper system ?  The answer to this question is, that the then Secretary of the Treasury, General Hamilton, took upon himself to nullify the act by construction, and to construe the words "gold and silver coin only," to signify bank notes;  and upon this construction, ordered these notes to be received, and thereby involved the United States in the banking and paper system, which has continued to the present day, and from which it is the object of the present bill to extricate us.

Upon this point Gen. Hamilton shall have the benefit of his own words;  and I will read to the Senate the report which he made to Congress on his construction of this act, and which contains his argument in vindication of his conduct.  He says:

"This section (the 30th of the act of 1789) provides for the receipt of the duties in gold and silver coin only.  The Secretary has considered this provision as having for object, the exclusion of payments in the paper emissions of the particular States, and the securing the immediate or ultimate collection of the duties in specie, as intended to prohibit to individuals the right of paying in any thing except gold and silver coin;  but not to hinder the Treasury from making such arrangements as its exigences, the speedy command of the public resources, and the convenience of the community, might dictate;  these arrangements being compatible with the eventual receipt of the duties in specie.  For instance, the Secretary did not imagine that the provision ought to be so understood as to prevent, if necessary, an anticipation of the duties by Treasury drafts receivable at the several custom-houses.  And, if it ought not to be understood in this sense, it appeared to him that the principle of a different construction would extend to the permitting the receipt of the notes of public banks, issued on a specie fund. * * * * * *

"Such were the reflections of the Secretary with regard to the authority to permit bank notes to be taken in payment of the duties.  The expediency of doing it appeared to him to be still less questionable.  The extension of their circulation by the measure is calculated to increase both the ability and the inclination of the banks to aid the Government.  It also accelerates the command of the product of the revenues for the public service, and it facilitates the payment of the duties," &c.

This was the reasoning of General Hamilton, that eminent and bold man, who was the great founder of the Federal sect.  To nullify express words by construction — to judge a constitutional question by its expediency — to sacrifice gold and silver to paper — marry the Government and the banks together — and to make the former dependent upon the aid of the latter;  this was his conduct and his policy;  and this has been the conduct and policy of the sect which he founded for the fifty years which it has existed.

This was the reasoning of General Hamilton;  this his argument, to show that gold and silver coin only signified bank notes !  Certainly nothing more fallacious —not to say audacious— ever fell from the lips of man.  It was an insult to the understanding, and a contempt for the spirit of those to whom it was addressed.  But it was addressed to a Congress of Federal members;  to a Congress in which the Democracy had no weight, and the majority of which immediately proceeded to chain the whole Federal Government to the British paper system, by chartering a National Bank with British stockholders, funding the soldiers' certificates, assuming State debts, and creating a stockjobbing interest to feed and fatten upon the credit and revenues of the Union — to rule its politics, and to consider the administration of the Government as wholly subordinate to their own schemes of wealth and aggrandisement.  This was the Congress to which General Hamilton made his report, and which received it with the submission and acquiescence which might be expected from such a body.  They shut their eyes upon the mockery which was made of the law, and they submitted to the insult to which the excuse implied to themselves.

This was fifty years ago;  and now, at last, after half a century's suffering from the effects of that violation of law, and after the glorious revival of Democracy under the administration of General Jackson, a Congress sits to do the work which ought to have been done by the Congress which received General Hamilton's report.  That Congress ought to have rebuked his conduct, re-enacted its hard money clause, and guarded it with penal sanctions from future violations.  This is what they ought to have done.  It is what they did not do;  and it is what we are now doing for them.  The Independent Treasury, with its specie clause, is to do this;  and the contest upon this bill — the division of parties for and against it — is the contest, and the division, of the Hamiltonian Federalists and the Jeffersonian Democrats of fifty years ago.

Believing this point to be now sufficiently established, and that this enactment will be looked up on in its true light, as a mere restoration of the fiscal action of the Government to its primitive and constitutional course, I proceed to the more general observations, connected with the second feature, and the general policy of the bill.  The second feature of the bill is, that the Federal Government shall be the keeper, and the exclusive keeper, of its own money.  The heavy losses in the revenue, twice in three years, from employing banks to keep our money, have opened the eyes of almost all to the folly and impolicy of employing such keepers.  The impolicy of it is given up by almost all: the Federal party only wish for a National Bank to be employed as the keeper.  The Democracy refuse the custody of the public money to all banks: they go back to the Constitution, which required it to be kept in the Federal Treasury, and not to be drawn out of that Treasury, except by a Treasury warrant founded upon a law of Congress.  The Constitution is express, that, no money shall be drawn from the Treasury but in consequence of appropriations made by law.  This is the Constitution;  and its mandate is clear that the United States shall have a Treasury, which Treasury shall contain all our money, and from which no money shall be taken except on a Treasurer's warrant, founded on a law of Congress.  All this is clear;  and conformable to it was the first action of the Federal Government.  There was no National Bank when the Constitution was made, nor for some years after;  there were but three local banks then in the whole Union;  the public moneys, in the first years of Washington's administration, remained chiefly in the hands of the receiving officers, whence it was drawn out upon the Treasurer's warrant.  The revenues were in the custody of the Government officers, subject to the warrants of the Treasurer.  This continued until General Hamilton got his banking system into operation;  and then the public money went into banks, to be kept by bank officers, subject to be drawn out of the bank like the private money of the institution, and to be used at the discretion of these bank officers, not only without a law of Congress, but without its knowledge or consent.

This is what General Hamilton established, and permitted to be done;  and now the intention of the Independent Treasury bill is to go back to the Constitution — to define and establish the Federal Treasury — to have the public moneys put into it — and to keep them there, untouched by any hand, until a Treasurer's warrant, founded up on a law of Congress, goes to demand them.  This is the second, and the remaining feature of the Treasury bill.  It is merely to reform the action of the Government, and to restore it to the constitutional intention.  It is a reformation, and not an innovation.  It is giving a practical operation to the words of the Constitution.  It is the correction of General Hamilton's second great perversion of the Constitution;  and as such divides now, as it did fifty years ago, the two great political parties of the country.

The reasons for establishing an Independent Treasury are now too apparent to require argument here.  Two suspensions of the banks in three years, shows that they cannot be relied upon by the Federal Government.  Besides, our whole banking system is a dependency of the British system;  its centre is in London;  its masters are there;  and, in addition to its own inherent dangers, great enough, in all conscience, it is also subject to the misfortunes, and to the orders, of the mother system in England.  It must shut up, and blow up, as ordered, or suffered there;  and thus the Federal Government, in keeping its money in our banks, is virtually keeping it in London, subject to the orders of Englishmen, and to the wants, or policy, misfortunes, or crimes, of their own paper system.  Surely it is time to break such a dependence.

Mr. President, it is now twenty years that I have meditated, and ten years that I have been acting, on the subject matter of this bill.  I came into this body at a time, and in a state of the country, calculated to make those think, and seriously think, who were elevated to the high function of national legislation.  I was elected to this body in the year 1820, when the hollow and delusive paper system was undergoing one of its habitual and disastrous convulsions;  and when my progress to this place —my journey from the Mississippi to the Potomac— was one long ride amidst the crashings and explosions of banks, and the cries and lamentations of a deceived and plundered people.  The National Bank was then in the third year of its age;  and, so far from affording a remedy for the evils, it was itself the mother of the evils, and notoriously bankrupt, except for the credit and revenues of the United States, which were lent and extended to save it.  I saw with my own eyes that a National Bank was no remedy for the evils of the banking system — that it was itself the greatest and most potential author of all these evils.  I saw a vast ruin overspreading the land, and I had my opinion of its cause, and of its remedy;  but I was a new Senator, and a young man — novus homo, as the Romans would say of one who had appeared for the first time in the public affairs — and I was here a long time before I could act on this subject, or on any one of general and national importance.

The election of General Jackson was the signal gun for the commencement of operations.  With that great man in front to lead me on — with his great power behind to back me in the contest — I commenced at once the system of measures which I had so long meditated and carefully planned.  It was, indeed, a SYSTEM, and a large one, and of many parts, but all tending to one object, and to one end.  I commenced with a map of the whole work before me — with a financial chart spread out — on which was placed every object to be attempted, and every consequence to be deduced.  Finance and commerce were placed together, according to their natural and indissoluble connection;  and each were considered in relation to the other.
The extinction of the national debt;
the termination of the National Bank;
the revival of the gold currency;
the increase of the silver currency;
the suppression of small bank paper;
the re-establishment of the currency of the Constitution for the Federal Government;
the total divorce of the Federal Government from the paper system;
no surplus revenue;
and the principle of reciprocity in foreign commerce: these were the objects laid down upon my map;  and which, together, constituted the system at which I was to labor.

I proceeded upon a plan, consisting of many parts, but coherent in all its parts.  All that I did in relation to financial, commercial, and currency questions, was subordinate to this plan, and tending to the result which I had proposed to myself.  I was always moving upon my plan, howsoever detached and even insignificant the motion might seem to be;  for I am not a man to act by fits and starts, sporting crude or vagabond conceptions, without regard to utility, and without consulting the auspices of propriety and effect.

Here, indeed, was a great work carved out — a large work to be performed — a great deal to be pulled down and cleared away, before any new erections could be commenced.  The Bank of the United States was the centre and the citadel of the existing order of things.  It was to be got rid of before any thing else could be attempted.  It was the corner stone and the pillar of the paper system;  and besides its general capacity to sustain that system, it was in possession of the two precise faculties which were incompatible with the existence of an Independent Treasury.  It enjoyed the chartered privileges of paying the public dues in its own notes, and of keeping the public moneys in its own vaults.  Now, the Independent Treasury system required the Federal dues to be paid in the constitutional currency, and the Federal moneys to be kept by Federal officers.  It is evident, then, that the Bank privileges must be got rid of before we could begin to build up an Independent Treasury.  All this I saw from the beginning, and therefore labored to get rid of one before I began with the other.

All these objects were began;  some have been pursued to success;  some are on the point of being accomplished;  and some even yet but inceptively presented to the public mind.  Of the latter, were my anti-surplus revenue resolutions of 1828, and my commercial reciprocity resolutions of 1831.  These two latter may justify a moment's elucidation at this time, so far as to show what they were;  as the time is at hand when action will be attempted upon them again.

1.  My anti-surplus revenue resolutions.  They were brought in at several different times, and were intended to effect the repeal of the law which authorised a surplus of two millions beyond the appropriations to be permanently retained in the Treasury, to meet the contingencies of a deficient revenue.  The proposition was to abolish this law;  and, in lieu of keeping surplus money on hand to meet contingencies which might rarely occur, to invest the Government with contingent authority to borrow two millions or less, if, in the recess of Congress, there should be a deficiency in the Treasury to meet the demands of existing appropriations.  The subject is as important now as it was then, and must command the attention of Congress sooner or later.  The Secretary of the Treasury has repeatedly asked for legislation on the subject of these contingent deficiencies, and we cannot get over this session without considering his request.

2.  The commercial reciprocity, and anti-public debt resolution, are too elaborate, inferential, and argumentative to be paraphrased;  and I will, therefore, give them in their own words.  They stand thus on our journals:

In the Senate of the United States,
February 26, 1831.

Mr. Benton submitted the following resolutions;  which were read and ordered to be printed, and laid on the table:

Resolved, That the power conferred on Congress by the States to lay and collect duties, and to regulate commerce, are distinct and incontrovertible powers, aiming at different objects, and requiring different forms of legislative action;  the levying power being confined to imports, and chiefly intended to raise revenue;  the regulating power being directed to exports, and solely intended to procure favorable terms in foreign ports for the admission of the ships and products of the States.

2.  That the power to lay and collect duties on imports was solicited by the founders of the present Federal Government, and granted by the States, for the express purpose of paying the public debt, and with the solemn and reiterated assurance that the duties levied for that purpose should cease the moment the debt was paid;  which assurance was given in answer to objections from the States, and to quiet the apprehension expressed by some of them, that the grant of power to Congress to raise revenue from the commerce of the States, without limitation of time or quantity, and without accountability to them for its expenditure, might render Congress independent of the States, and endanger their liberties and prosperity.

3.  That the public debt will (probably) be paid off in the year 1834, and the amount of about twelve millions of dollars of revenue will then be subject to abolition, and ought to be abolished, according to the agreement of the parties at the establishment of the present Federal Government, and in conformity to the present actual condition and interest of the States.

4.  That an abolition of twelve millions of duties will be a relief to the people from about sixteen millions of taxes, (estimating the retail merchant's advance upon the duties at one third;)  and that the said abolition may be made without diminishing the protection due to any essential branch or pursuit of domestic industry, and with manifest advantage to most of them.

5.  That, for the purpose of enabling Congress to determine with entire safety to every interest, and with full satisfaction to the public mind, what branches and pursuits of domestic industry may be entitled to protection, and ought to be guarded from the injurious effects of foreign competition, a joint committee of the Senate and House of Representatives ought to be appointed, to take the examinations of practical men (producers, consumers, and importers,) in all doubtful cases, and to report their evidence to the two Houses of Congress.

6.  That the said committee ought to be appointed at the commencement of the next stated session.

7.  That the power to regulate foreign commerce was granted to Congress by the States for the express and sole purpose of enabling Congress to obtain and secure favorable markets abroad for the exports of the States, and favorable terms for the admission of their ships, and to effect these objects by establishing an equitable system of commercial reciprocity, discrimination, and retaliation, which should measure back to every foreign nation the same degree of favor or disfavor which itself measured out to the commerce and navigation of the United States.

8.  That the power to regulate foreign commerce, although one of the first of the enumerated powers in the Constitution, and the inducing cause to its adoption, has never yet been exercised by Congress.

9.  That the approaching extinction of the public debt, and consequent obligation to abolish, and advantage in abolishing, about twelve millions of annual revenue, will enable the United States to receive a large portion of her foreign commerce, say the one-half thereof, free of duty;  and that the fair principles of a just reciprocity, the dictates of obvious policy, justice to the States, and the constitutional duty of the Federal Government, already too long deferred, will require this Government to demand equivalents from all nations which may wish to be admitted to a participation in the enjoyment of this great amount of free and unrestricted trade.

10.  That the free importation of the following articles (among others) may be admitted into the United States without compromising the prosperity of any branch or pursuit of domestic industry, and with manifest advantage to most of them;  namely, linens, silks, wines, coffee, cocoa, worsted stuff goods, several descriptions of woollens, several qualities of fine cottons, several kinds of spirits, &c. &c.

11.  That the free importation of the said articles ought to be offered to all nations which shall grant equivalent advantages to the commerce and navigation of the United States, and will receive the products of their industry;  namely, fish, furs, lumber, naval stores, beef, bacon, pork, grain, flour, rice, cotton, tobacco, live stock, manufactures of cotton, leather, wood, and silk, butter and cheese, soap and candles, hats, glass, and gunpowder, lead, shot, and sugar, spirits made of grain and molasses &c. &c. or some adequate proportion thereof, either free of duty, or upon payment of moderate and reasonable duties, to be agreed upon in treaties, and to continue for a term of years, and to no other nations whatever.

12.  That there is nothing in existing treaty stipulations with foreign powers to prevent the regulation of our commerce upon the foregoing principles.

13.  That all commercial nations will find it to their advantage to regulate their commerce with the United States on these principles, as, in doing so, they will substitute a fair and liberal trade for a trade of vexations, oppressions, restrictions, and smuggling;  will obtain provisions for subsistence, and materials for manufactures, on cheaper terms and more abundantly;  will promote their own exports;  will increase their revenue, by increasing consumption and diminishing smuggling;  and, in refusing to do so, will draw great injury upon themselves in the loss which will ensue of several great branches of their trade with the United States.

14.  That the agriculture, manufactures, commerce, and navigation of the United States would be greatly benefited by regulating foreign trade on the foregoing principles: first, by getting rid of oppressive duties upon the staple productions of the United States in foreign markets;  secondly, by lowering at home the price of many articles of comfort or necessity, imported from abroad.

15.  That the safest and most satisfactory mode of regulating foreign commerce on these principles would be by combining the action of the legislative and treaty making powers, Congress fixing, by law or joint resolution, the articles on which duties may be abolished, and the Executive negotiating with foreign nations for the grant of equivalents.

16.  That to be in readiness to carry this system of regulating foreign commerce into effect at the extinction of the public debt, it will be necessary for Congress to designate the articles for abolition of duty at the next stated session.

I do not stop to make any remark upon these resolutions;  the time is at hand when it will be proper to renew them, and to discuss them;  and the important report from the Secretary of State, (Mr. Forsyth,) called for by the Senate, at its last session, on my motion, and now in the hands of the printer, will furnish us with the means of discussing them to advantage.  For the present, I will only remark, that if the principle of these resolutions had been adopted, instead of enacting that Procustes-bed act, commonly called the compromise act, whereby high duties were to be cut down, and low ones stretched up, and many abolished in toto, without equivalents;  and all without "rhyme or reason," or the slightest regard to any constitutional principle or national interest — I say, if the principle of these resolutions had been adopted, in lieu of such anomalous legislation, we should not now have to lament an importation of fifty millions of free goods, without equivalents, and from countries which load our exports with taxes, and fetter them with restrictions.

I return from this digression, and proceed with the subjects immediately connected with the bill before the Senate.  My financial map presented a large work;  and it required time, and patience, and much labor to conquer success.  To prepare the public mind for such changes — for so much pulling down, as well as building up — was the first step in the herculean undertaking;  and, to do this, many speeches were to be digested and delivered;  and speeches of a different kind from those which the rhetoricians teach us to pronounce.

We live in an age of intelligence and activity, and when the public mind is powerfully directed to objects of utility.  In speaking to such a people, I concluded that, of the six parts of the regular oration, four parts might be thrown away: that I could dispense with all except the facts, and the application of the facts, cemented and enforced by reason.  Upon this plan I spoke.  My speeches were stripped of ornament, stinted of phrases, and crowded with material.  They were brimfull of facts and reasons;  and this was a compliment to the intelligence of the age in which I lived.  The compliment was not misapplied: the intelligence of the age was not overrated.  The event has proved that it was not.  At the end of some years the public debt was paid — the National Bank was laid in the tomb — the gold currency was revived — the silver currency was vastly augmented — a return to the constitutional currency for the Federal Government became a measure of the Democracy — the separation of the Government from the paper system became equally their measure: and political parties, returning to the debate and controversy of original principles, exhibited themselves on the respective grounds of Federalism and Democracy which they stood upon in the early days of Hamilton and Jefferson.

Besides preparing the public mind for great changes, the means and machinery of the changes were also to be prepared;  and this led to an almost infinite number of propositions offered at different times, in detached parts, by instalments as it were;  but all tending to the same end, and to the same ultimate object, of re-establishing the hard money Government of the Constitution.  It would be tedious, and in fact, impossible to detail all these propositions at this time;  but a few of them, selected from the mass, and in different years, will show the steadiness of the pursuit, and the earliness of my action on the subject.  I have already shown that as far back as the 2d of February, 1831, my first speech against the Bank of the United States, I raised the hard money standard for the Federal Government, and denounced its total separation from the paper system.  Following up the plan therein indicated, I brought forward in the winter of 1833-34, namely, on the 2d day of January, 1834, specific propositions to correct the gold standard — to legalize the circulation of foreign silver — and to repulse from the Federal Treasury all bank paper of less denomination than twenty dollars.  In a speech against the Bank of the United States which I then delivered, I gave the notice for these resolutions, and pledged myself to bring them in, and follow them up to a decided issue.  I will here read an extract from that speech which will verify what I have the honor to say.  This is the extract:

"The reform of the gold currency, Mr. Benton said, was a part of his original plan in opposing the renewal of the United States Bank charter.  It was still the darling object of his heart — the splendid vision of his midnight dreams, and mid-day thoughts;  and, with the leave of the Senate, he would read, as a part of his present speech, and in illustration of his sentiments on the currency, a set of resolutions which he had long since drawn up, and only awaited the proper occasion of victory over the United States, to lay before the Senate, and claim their action upon them.  He would read them, without offering them at this time for consideration:


Reform of the gold currency.

"Resolved, That it is the true intent and meaning of the Constitution of the United States that the Federal currency of the United States shall consist only of gold and silver coin;  and that there is nothing in the present state and condition of the country, to justify any supposed plea of necessity for departing from that plain intent of the Constitution, by issuing, or permitting any corporation to issue, any species of Federal paper currency whatever.

"Resolved, That the quantity of gold derivable from foreign commerce, and from the Carolinas, Virginia, Georgia, and Alabama, and the quantity of silver derivable from foreign commerce, are amply sufficient to supply the people of the United States with hard money, if not expelled from the country by unwise and erroneous laws, made by Congress.

"Resolved, That the value now set upon gold and silver coin, both foreign and domestic, by the laws of the United States, is erroneous, and prejudicial to the country, and has (with the aid of a Federal Bank) occasioned the total expulsion of gold coins and the partial expulsion of silver dollars from circulation;  and that it is the bounden duty of Congress to restore these coins to circulation, by restoring them to their true value, refusing to recharter the Bank of the United States, and discountenancing and rejecting from receivability in payment of Federal dues, all bank paper of less denomination than twenty dollars.

"Resolved, That it is the true intent and express meaning of the Constitution, that foreign gold and silver coins shall circulate in the United States as freely as domestic coins;  and that to comply with such intent of the Constitution, it is expedient that foreign gold and silver coins, (of the principal commercial nations) and of approved fineness, recent coinage, not clipped or fraudulently reduced in weight, should be authorized by law to pass current in the United States, by count, and not by weight like the coins issued from our own mint.

"Having read these resolutions, Mr. B. pledged himself to the American people, in the face of the Senate, to attempt the reform of the gold currency, if some more competent hand did not anticipate him, the moment Congress was disembarrassed of the great contest for power and supremacy between the people of the United States and the Bank of the United States, which was now raging so furiously in both Houses of Congress."

It was in the month of January, 1834, that these resolutions were read in the Senate;  in the month of March following, they were offered;  and have since been followed up by the measures which were necessary to give them effect, and to lead to the accomplishment of the great object on which we are now engaged.

The mint was branched, both to increase the coinage and to serve at New Orleans and Philadelphia as depositories of the public money;  the gold standard was corrected;  foreign silver was admitted to a legalized circulation;  small notes under twenty dollars were cut off from the receipts and expenditures of the Federal Treasury;  the Treasury Order was issued, and remained in force two years.  All these measures, with ten years of discussion — the increase of our specie from twenty to ninety millions — two explosions of the paper system in three years — the inability of the Bank of the United States any longer to sustain the Opposition, and to deceive and distress the country;  all these events have prepared the public mind for the adoption of the Independent Treasury system;  and made it, as I believe it to be, the most popular political measure of the times in which we live.

The bill re-establishes an exclusive metallic currency for the Federal Government;  it does no such thing for the State Government or the people.  It establishes no exclusive metallic currency for them;  and all the harangues to that effect — all the affected alarms about the fall of prices — the decline in the value of produce and property — the reduction of wages — the ruin of labor, and so on, are nothing but a new edition of the old panic speeches;  and a fresh crop of the woeful vaticinations of the United States Bank prophets years ago.  The Independent Treasury bill will have no direct action upon the currency of the State Governments and the people;  it will only act upon it indirectly, and incidentally, and that to improve it by infusing a larger portion of gold and silver into it.

The effect of this great measure upon the Government and the country, cannot be otherwise than beneficial.  It will give the Federal Treasury a hard money currency;  and in that will save it from the loss and degradation of using depreciated paper.  It will give it the keeping of its own money;  and in that will save it from the loss of its revenues as often as the banks chance to blow up, or choose to shut up, either in consequence of their own misconduct, or in obedience to orders, or an impulsion from London.  In supplying the Federal Treasury with hard money, it also supplies the people with it;  for the Government does not eat the money it receives, or export it;  but pays it out in return for services or purchases;  and the whole goes back to the people as fast as it comes from them;  and will not require as much in a year as the Bank of the United States ships to England in a few months.  It will keep up the specie standard in the country;  it will keep up a supply of specie;  it will enable the community to obtain the gold and silver which is indispensable to their safety and prosperity.

The Independent Treasury will not require as much specie to be collected from the people in a year, as the Bank of the United States ships to England in a few months;  with this great difference, that, what the Government collects, is immediately returned to the people;  what the bank ships is lost to the country forever !  Not less than scores of millions have thus been shipped by this Bank, counting all it has sent away, both in its original and in its metamorphosed state.  Mr. Clayton's committee in 1832, showed it had extracted from the States, chiefly of the South and West, up to that time, forty-two millions of dollars, and shipped nearly the whole.  No committee has since been permitted to examine the "Great red Harlot," and to discover the subsequent amount of her exactions and exportations;  but the custom-house books, and the boastings of her parasites, show them to be immense;  and they probably exceed, since 1832, the operations of any given number of years before that time.

The Legislature of South Carolina, at their last session, made a report upon this point, as it concerned that State alone, founded upon the testimony of the late president of the United States Branch Bank in Charleston.  The result was startling, and showed the abduction of specie from that State, by this institution, to have been enormous and ruinous.  Certain it is, the Bank of the United States has abducted from the States, and exported to England, to be lost to this country forever, not less than sixty or seventy millions of dollars, while the Independent Treasury system cannot take out of circulation more than four or five millions at a time;  and every shilling of it to be returned to the people, from whom it came, through the daily expenditures of the Government.  And yet it is this Bank and its orators, and paragraphists, who affect alarm, and are actually trying to hatch another little panic, on the ground that the Independent Treasury will deprive the country of its specie !  Oh, truth! where is thy signet ?  Oh, shame! where is thy blush ?

If any one asks when it was that I began to labor for the establishment of the Independent Treasury, I answer, that I began this labor on the day in which I began my labors to terminate the existence of the Bank of the United States.  That Bank was in the possession —in the chartered possession— of the two precise privileges which would constitute the new system;  the privilege of paying the public dues in her own notes, and the privilege of keeping the public moneys.  Now it is evident there could be no Independent Treasury until these bank privileges were abolished;  and to abolish them the Bank itself must be brought to a close.  So long as there was a National Bank, that bank would have the keeping of the public moneys in its own vaults, and the payment of the public dues in its own paper.  It was necessary, therefore, to get rid of that institution before we could begin to erect the Independent Treasury.  Demolition was to precede erection;  and for seven long years I labored at the preliminary work.  Those who defended the Bank during that time, fought seven years against the Independent Treasury system;  those who attacked the Bank fought for the system.  They were antagonist systems, and one must be got rid of before the other could be adopted.  True the transit was not direct from one to the other.  There was a half-way house between them! as indispensable to be stopped at, and tarried in a while, in going from a National Bank, as in returning to one.  This half-way house, as every one understands, was the State bank deposite system.

We stopped in it three years —from 1834 to 1837— when it blew up, and we escaped.  Congress aided to blow it up by the State deposits act of 1837, which called for thirty-six millions of dollars, which we knew this half-way establishment had lent out, and could not return, in the prescribed time, without ruin to itself or its debtors.  It blew up, and we left it;  and the Democratic party then took the decisive ground of going the whole distance, and erecting the Independent Treasury;  basing it upon the two pillars of KEEPING its own money, and USING nothing but HARD MONEY.

This system had been presented before, but at periods of time not propitious to its adoption.  A member of the House of Representatives from Virginia, [Gen. Gordon,] presented it in that body in 1834.  It was opposed by the Democratic party, and if I had been in that body, I should have opposed it with them;  for, although right in itself, it was wrong timed, and would have caused a reaction in favor of the Bank of the United States.  In that light it was seen by both political parties, and each acted accordingly.  The public mind was not ripe for the step;  the half-way house was still the lodging place;  and it would not do to pass it or quit it, until its insufficiency was ascertained.  Two years after, and before this half-way establishment had failed, I made two experiments in the Senate to see if we could gradually get out of it.  Both these experiments failed —signally failed— and left me without hope until that catastrophe should arrive, which I foresaw, and stated to be at hand.  The first of these attempts was made on the 6th day of January, 1836, and took the form of a proposed instruction to raise a select committee on banks and currency in the District of Columbia;  and, among other things, to inquire:

"Into the necessity, if any, for banks of circulation in the District of Columbia, in contradistinction to banks of discount and deposite;  also, to inquire how far banks of any kind are wanted for the uses of the Federal Government in this District;  and wherefore the Treasurer of the United States may not act as KEEPER and PAYER of the public moneys within the District of Columbia, and drawer of checks or drafts in favor of those who chose to receive their money elsewhere."

This was a gentle attempt at the experiment of an Independent Treasury here, at the seat of Government, where we have a Treasurer and a Treasury building, and officers enough to keep and pay out our money.  It was a gentle attempt to sound the Senate upon the subject;  but it did not get as far as to sound them.  As it was read, its fate was determined;  and when it was finished being read, it was laid upon the table upon the motion of an Opposition Senator, without debate, without yeas and nays, and without a division.

The next attempt was six months later, to wit, on the 13th of June, of the same year;  and took the shape of an amendment to the famous Deposite act;  so as to allow public moneys to be transferred from the deposite banks to the mints, for the two fold purpose of supplying metal for coining, and for safekeeping.  On this occasion the Senate was sounded: its sense in relation to the commencement of the Independent Treasury system was ascertained;  and as the circumstance is an era in the history of that system, I will read what our journals present in relation to it.  I read from page 430, of the session 1835-36:

"On motion by Mr. Benton to amend the reported amendment by inserting, at the end of the twelfth section, the following proviso:  'Provided, That it may be lawful for the President of the United states to direct transfers of public money to be made from time to time to the Mint and branch mints of the United States, either for supplying metal for coining or for safe keeping.'

"A division was called for by Mr. Benton;  and being taken on the first division thereof, ending with the word 'coining,' it was determined in the affirmative — yeas 22, nays 17.
The YEAS were:  Messrs. Benton, Black, Brown, Buchanan, Cuthbert, Ewing of Illinois, Grundy, Hendricks, King of Alabama, King of Georgia, Knight, Morris, Niles, Page, Rives, Robinson, Ruggles, Shepley, Tallmadge, Walker, White, and Wright.
The NAYS were:  Messrs. Calhoun, Clay, Crittenden, Ewing of Ohio, Goldsborough, Kent, Leigh, Mangum, Moore, Naudain, Nicholas, Porter, Prentiss, Preston, Robbins, Swift, and Webster.

On the question to agree to the residue of the purposed amendment, viz: 'or for safe keeping,' it was determined in the negative — yeas 13, nays 28.  On motion by Mr. Grundy, the yeas and nays being demanded by one-fifth of the Senators present, those who voted in the affirmative are, Messrs. Benton, Brown, Ewing of Illinois, Grundy, McKean, Morris, Nicholas, Niles, Page, Robinson, Ruggles, Walker, White.  Those who in the negative are: Messrs. Black, Buchanan, Calhoun, Clay, Crittenden, Cuthbert, Davis, Ewing of Ohio, Goldsborongh, Hendricks, King of Alabama, King of Georgia, Knight, Leigh, Mangum, Moore, Naudain, Porter, Prentiss, Preston, Rives, Robbins, Shepley, Swift, Tallmadge, Tomlinson, Webster, and Wright."

Thus ended the second attempt to begin the great work of establishing an Independent Treasury for the Federal Government.  It ended discouragingly enough.  No more than 13 Senators voted for including the mints in the list of the public depositories: but I was not discouraged, and looked ahead for the forthcoming of an argument which would convince the nation.  That I was not discouraged, and did not mean to give up the ship, I happen to have some higher evidence to prove than my own assertion could now be: I happen to possess a letter, dated in September of the same year, and addressed to Mr. Wm. M. Gouge, of this city, so well known for his meritorious writings on banks and banking.  It was written in September, 1836, and was in answer to a detailed plan for a Sub-Treasury system, which he addressed to me where I then was, namely, among the Virginia Springs.  I kept no copy of my letter, but have lately obtained one from him;  which, with his answer to my request for the copy, I will read, both in justice to him, as one of the early and steadfast friends of the separation of Bank and State — justice to General Jackson, as one of the early approvers of the plan — and in justice to myself, as not despairing under defeat — as being fully impressed with the impending dangers of the paper system, determined to compromise nothing, relying upon the people, and fully anticipating future success — actually anticipating the very measure, even to its form, which we now have before us.  His letter to me, sending the copy of my own, is this:

Washington, January 9, 1840.

Dear Sir: Enclosed is a copy of your letter to me from Warm Springs.

It may not be amiss to mention, that on the 4th of March, 1836, (the day on which the charter of the United States Bank expired,) I addressed a short letter to General Jackson, signifying my intention, if it should be acceptable to him, to address him at length on the subject of entirely separating banking and fiscal concerns.  Having received a favorable verbal reply, through a mutual friend, I set about the task, but, through press business, could not complete it till August of that year.  The address filled nine foolscap sheets, and the substance of it was published immediately after the Bank suspension in 1837, in pamphlet form, under the title of "An Inquiry," &c.  My letter to you, which filled three foolscap sheets, was an abridgment of my letter to Gen. Jackson.

Very respectfully, yours,
Wm. M. Gouge.

Hon. T.H. Benton, United States Senate.

And this was my letter to him:

Warm Springs, Vir. Sept. 22, 1836.

Dear Sir:  Your esteemed favor of the 2d inst overtook me at this place, and I am very sensible to the importance of all you say.  The people are with us;  the politicians, even of our own party, are mostly against us.  I shall, however, have no compromises;  and work on with those who will work with me.  I am fully impressed with the impending dangers of the paper system, and wish to see the Federal Government wholly disconnected from the local banks.  The disuse of their paper, and the disuse of their vaults, are both desirable to me;  and I had looked upon the mints and branch mints, with a few additional ones, as places of deposite for the public moneys.  A modification of your plan of sub-treasuries, so as to connect them with the mints, seems to be feasible;  and I shall be glad to talk with you on the subject at Washington, and, in the meantime, to hear from you as often as convenient.  I go to Lexington in this State.

Yours truly,
Thomas H. Benton.

Wm. M. Gouge, esq. Washington City.

Mr. President, these are tedious details, and both minute and individual in their bearing;  but now that the end has crowned the work — now that the Independent Treasury system has become the leading policy with the Democratic party, and is supported by an immense majority of the American people — at such a time there is something more than selfish gratification — there is justice and utility in looking back to its humble commencement — its slow and doubtful progress — and to review the labors of those who were its friends when it had so few.

The catastrophe of 1837, was preparing;  and I saw it as distinctly before it happened as afterwards.  In the winter of 1836-7, I pointed out this catastrophe to the then President-elect —the now President— of the United States.  I invited him into the Finance Committee room of the Senate in the winter '36-37 — four months before the banks exploded — and made known to him my opinion of the coming danger.  I spoke to him in his high character of President-elect, and to warn him of the tempest which was to salute his nascent Administration.  I should not mention this, if it was not that the President himself well remembers it, and often mentions it.  I had no more doubt then of the coming explosion, than I had after the nine hundred banks of the Union had actually shut up.  My opinion was not guess work;  but a conclusion of reason and judgment, formed from a view of facts, and as demonstrable as a proposition in Euclid.  I judged from these facts:
1.  That the Bank of the United States, the mother of the paper system, was rotten and wicked, and would fall, and would draw down the rest with her.
2.  That the whole paper system was distended to the bursting point.
3.  That the smaller class of our deposite banks were ready for bankruptcy, many of them having from twenty to thirty, and even forty dollars of liabilities for one dollar in specie.
4.  That the deposite act, requiring thirty-six millions to be deposited with the States in nine months — from the first of January to the first of October — in addition to furnishing nearly as much more for the expenses of the Government — that this act must compel the large deposite banks to choose between crushing their debtors, or closing their doors.  These were the facts I went upon;  and while the three first were sufficient for the event, the fourth insured it.  Of this I was so certain at the time of the passing of the act, that, denouncing it as a consequence, I also demanded if it was an object of that act ?  This is what I said — one passage, among a thousand similar:

"Now what is the object of all this ?  Is it the object to take all the money for the purpose of distribution, and leave none for the defence of the country ?  Is it the object to break all the deposite banks ?  Is it the object to distress the country, by making the deposite banks call in all their loans in six months ?  Is it their object to ruin the currency, by enabling the Whig States to draw their distributive shares in specie, and compelling the banks to stop payment, and then calling for the Bank of the United States as the only remedy for the evil ?  Whether all this is the OBJECT, it will be the effect;  and to do all this, it is necessary to reach back three years to find money in the Treasury which is not there, and thus make a larger sum for distribution than the deposite banks can pay."

This is what I said — a little of what I said — on the 13th day of April, 1836, while the deposite act — that child of many fathers, was still in the chrysalis state — still struggling amidst the confused embraces of its contending progenitors — each of whom saw, or thought he saw, the honors of the Republic awaiting the brows of the fortunate man who should impress his name and his features on the babe.  I, on the contrary, saw nothing in it but woe and shame — mischief to the country, and humiliation to its authors.

The catastrophe came;  the bank explosion of 1837 came;  the month of May, 1837, saw it arrive: and, at one stride, the Democratic party stepped up to the place where I had been standing "solitary and alone" for seven long years.  The catastrophe came;  the President, in a noble message which approved him the worthy successor of Jackson, and the worthy choice of the American people;  this calm, sagacious, firm, patriotic President hung out the banner for the divorce of Bank and State — for a return to the Constitution, and the act of '89, in the establishment of an Independent Treasury for the exclusive keeping of the people's money, which money was to be the exclusive gold and silver currency of our wise and venerated Constitution.  The President did his part;  the people backed him;  but their Representatives faltered;  and a second explosion of the paper system had to add itself to the argument before the minds of the doubting could be convinced, and the spirits of the wavering confirmed.  The second suspension came, and the argument was conclusive.

This also was an event foreseen, and foretold by me.  The Senate will bear with me if I go into some personal details.  I am no ex post facto prophet;  I am no ambiguous oracle.  I neither prophecy after the fact, nor ambiguously before it.  I speak beforehand;  speak plainly, and to the point, and write it down;  and here is what I wrote down, beyond the Mississippi, at different periods, and in different letters to my constituents, during the twelve months which preceded the second suspension, that of October, 1839.

To the Democratic citizens of St. Louis, under date of the 25th of October, 1838 — twelve months before the event — I wrote:

"Since the veto session of 1832, the political part of the banks and their confederates have convulsed the country with alternate expansions and contractions of the paper currency, to make the people cry out for a National Bank;  and they are now preparing for another convulsion of the same kind.  New banks are created, paper money is forced into circulation, small notes are multiplied, a vast quantity of bills of exchange is accumulating upon New Orleans and New York;  and while this preparation for another catastrophe is going on, we hear it unanimously repeated by all the initiated of the party, that the resumption of specie payments was premature and unsafe — that it cannot last — and that there can be no lasting and permanent resumption until a National Bank is established.  This is what is going on, and this is what is said by those who have had the power, heretofore, to make good their predictions, and have charged all the mischief they create upon some act, no matter what, of the Administration.  But the next suspension may not be so easy a job as the last.  The process of resumption has developed a division among the banks.  We have seen a resumption and non-resumption flag;  in the next attempt to close vaults we shall see a suspension and non-suspension flag.  The business banks will resist the suspension;  the political ones will force it if they can;  and in this division the community and the laws will find an auxiliary in the non-suspending banks which may enable them to prostrate the machinations of the architects of mischief.

"The bank suspension (which was a contrived piece of business, and one of the objects of the distribution law) was fully counted upon to restore the Federal party and its tutelary deity, the Bank of the United States, to full power;  but it was made at the wrong time.  It was a master stroke, but wrong timed, it should have been made in the fourth, instead of first, year of Mr. Van Buren's administration.  It was premature.  Its authors did their best to make it last until the next Presidential election;  but the Democracy of the New York banks forced the resumption;  and now there is no alternative but to make a suspension for the elections of 1840.  It is a bad chance, but it is the only chance.  They are dead without it;  and accordingly all the preparations are now in full progress for that catastrophe.  The preliminary steps are already taken.  An expansion of the paper currency has commenced, to be followed at the proper time by a sudden contraction, and the consequent stoppage of the banks, and the general derangement of the business of the country."

To the Democratic citizens of Calloway county, one hundred and fifty miles beyond the Mississippi, and under date of the 10th of November, 1838 — eleven months before the event — I wrote:

"The United States Bank notes received are themselves remitted to the East as Eastern funds;  and thus the State loses both the specie which it had, and the notes which it received for them.  In fact the notes are sent out to capture specie, and to return with it.  This is the case with the Eastern notes which are imported;  not so with the Western and with the miserable post notes! these are retained for domestic consumption, and sent into the country, and perseveringly pushed into the hands of the farmers;  and in a little time, if these operations are allowed to go on, there will be nothing but this trash in their hands.  The State will then be ready for the new suspension, the new panic, and the new distress;  which will be charged, of course, to any thing that Mr. Van Buren may do, or say, or no matter what, about that time."

To the Democratic citizens of the Ozark Mountain, two hundred and fifty miles beyond the Mississippi, and under dare of the 1st day of June, 1839 — four months before the event — I wrote:

"The present paper system of the United States cannot stand, even if there was no pecuniary or political object in blowing it up every three or four years.  A thousand banks issuing small notes and post notes, and doing business upon each other's paper, could not stand, even if all hands were in favor of saving them;  but this is not the case.  Many are in favor of periodical explosions of the banks, both for pecuniary and political objects;  and especially to cause a resuscitation of the National Bank;  and these will accelerate the event, which would come of itself in a few years;  and thus periodically afflict the country with a broken bank currency."

"I look upon the establishment of the Independent Treasury system as an event which sooner or later must take place;  but it may be that another 'suspension' must be added to the argument before it can be carried."

To the Democratic citizens of Howard county, near two hundred miles beyond the Mississippi, and under date of July 5, 1839 — three months before the event — I wrote:

"Certain I am that there is a clear line of distinction between the different classes of banks of the United States — a line that was drawn at the time of the resumption, and which separated the commercial and business institutions, which were in favor of resuming and doing the best they could, from the political and gambling banks, which were against resumption, and in favor of perpetuating the evils of an irredeemable currency.  I traced the line in March, 1838, two months before it was developed to public view.  It exists now, and the latter class of banks are as intent upon another suspension now, as they were against resumption.  Unhappily, they are able to make the mischief which they predict and wish, and the vast gambling operations in which they are concerned, in cotton and stocks, may accelerate the event which is so essential to their designs.  I look upon the banks which are engaged in the great cotton and other speculations as no more worthy of credit that the gambler whose whole fortune is nightly staked at the faro table."

This is what I wrote — a part of what I wrote — to put my constituents on their guard against the second suspension;  and guarded they were: for, when the blow came, they were prepared for it, and nailed the specie flag to the mast, and repelled the British-Bank-born imp, SUSPENSION, from all their borders.

This would seem to be prophecy enough in relation to this second suspension;  but the citation would be incomplete if I did not add one more instance, though not of a written character.  It so happened that, in the month of April last, just before I left this place for the Great West, I met the President on horseback near the lower bridge in Georgetown;  it was soon after the day of the exit of an old, and the entrance of a new President, through the portals of a certain marble banking house in the city of the loving brothers — Philos adelphos — and when that shifting of characters naturally led to a certain topic.  I then said to the President, what he has done me the honor to remind me of since, that the second suspension would take place before we met again;  but that it would not be a total eclipse —only about half on the southern limb of the sun.

Yes, it has come !  The second suspension is upon us, but in diminished terror and mischief;  to the former, as the whelp to the lion — as Hyperion to the Satyr.  The fatal Bank, of foreign owner ship and foreign impulsion, was the chief agent in contriving them both, and proudly lorded it over the first ruin it had inflicted;  but now, no longer proudly eminent, or standing like a tower, it

"Peeps through the horizontal misty air,
Shorn of its beams;  and, from behind the moon,
In dim eclipse, disastrous twilight sheds
On half the STATES."

It has come ! and with it the demand of an immense majority of the American people for the instant and total divorce of Bank and State, and the permanent establishment of a National Treasury, to be the exclusive keeping place of the exclusive money of the people.  And here I will close this chapter of predictions past and fulfilled, with making one more, whose event is yet in the womb of time;  and that is this: That, if the Independent Treasury is not now adopted, it will be established after the next general election with perfect ease, and in a stronger and better form.

---[Sad, sad misapprehension.  The Independent Treasury was established in this session (26th Congress, 1st Session);  but during the following election campaign (of 1840) a Whig majority was elected in the House and the Senate, and on August 13, 1841, the Sub-Treasury Act was repealed;  and only President Tyler's veto prevented the setting up of a 3rd Bank of the United States.  You misread the situation and under-estimated the Whigs.]

Mr. President, I approach the termination of a long and toilsome work.  The financial map which I spread before me ten years ago, sees the last of its objects on the point of consummation.  I have a right to the pleasures of retrospect — to the joys of an honest exultation — at the successful conclusion of so much labor.  For seven long years, under the lead of the hero President, and backed by a few friends, I battled on this floor against a combined political and moneyed power, which was able, during all that time, to counterpoise the weight of the Government and the people;  and, to crown its audacity, by dragging the MAN of the AGE to the bar of the Senate, and branding him with a sentence, which the JUSTICE OF THE PEOPLE has REVERSED, and ordered to be EXPUNGED from our records.  This once powerful combination is now dissolved and broken;  the political part limps over the field;  the moneyed part lies in the dust — a mass of ruin, of infamy, and of crime.  No more the object of hope or fear to any, its enemies prepare for it the tomb and the winding sheet;  faithful history prepares for it an immortality of odium and abhorrence;  and its friends, they — like the table familiars of Timon —

____________"From its ruined fortunes,
Slink all away."

Mr. President, a faint attempt is made here to resuscitate the ghosts of the panics which have acted so formidable a part in our politics for many years past.  It is sent forth that this bill is to impose an exclusive hard money currency upon the people and upon the States;  that it is to cut down the price of all labor, produce, and property, to a specie standard;  that all debtors are to be ruined, and all laborers beggared.  This, sir, is what is vent forth;  but it is a mere experiment on the public credulity — a mere assault upon the nerves of the timid.  The bill will have none of these effects, but the contrary.  It only applies to the receipts and expenditures of the Federal Treasury;  and its only influence upon the general currency will be to improve it, by infusing a larger portion of gold and silver into it.  The country need not be alarmed.  After triumphing over so many great panics, it may look with contempt on this starveling affair which begins so faintly in this chamber, and which the moneyed power is no longer in a condition to patronize.  Without the patronage of that power, a panic is impossible.  It takes money to make one;  the want of money, the application of money, and the extraction of money.  Politicians, with their alarm speeches, can do nothing in such a case without a mammoth bank, and its iron screws.  This they have not now;  and I predict a total failure in the present attempt to alarm and terrify the country.  Far from having an exclusive metallic currency, the danger is that we shall have an exclusive paper currency.  Twice in two years it has been exclusively paper, once over the whole Union, now over the half of it;  and the friends and authors of this exclusive paper, and depreciated paper, affect an alarm for too much specie !  They accuse others of meditating this specie currency, while they themselves, twice in three years, have actually imposed an exclusive, universal, and broken down paper currency upon the people, and now have it upon half the Union.  No, sir.  It is not danger of specie, but danger of paper, that we have to dread.  That is the evil which has afflicted us for thirty years.  It is the evil which now afflicts us, and which will continue to do so until the Federal Government returns to the specie medium in all its own transactions;  and, in supplying its own wants, occasions the wants of the country to be supplied at the same time.

What is the Independent Treasury ? and why is it called independent ?  Certainly because it is to relieve the Federal Government from dependence on a fragile bank currency, and to relieve it from dependence on fragile banks to keep its money.  It is now dependent on both;  and experience proves that it is leaning on a broken reed.  It is to make this great Government — the world's last hope for republican liberty — to make it independent of petty corporations, themselves the helpless dependents of others.  Sir, what is the banking system of the United States but the tail, the fungus, the excrescence of the British paper system, to be cut off and sacrificed every time that the mother system in England requires it to be immolated for her preservation ?  What is it but this ?  Look at it in all its parts — in the aggregate as well as the segregate — and see what it is — how weak in itself and how dependent upon others.  The banks of the South and West, built upon the sandy foundation of borrowed paper, are dependent upon those of the Northeast;  those of the Northeast are dependent upon the paper fabric of England:  and this frail work of lawn and gossamer is itself dependent upon the generosity of Holland and France.  The whole banking system of the United States has its centre in London! its masters are there !  All the business of our country is linked to a chain whose fast end is in London.  And shall the Government of the United States remain dependent upon a system whose masters are in London ?  Shall it remain linked to a chain whose fast end is there ?  The enemies of the Independent Treasury say it shall;  its friends say it shall not;  and this is the question now to be tried.  If the bill passes, this Government becomes independent of the paper system whose masters are in London: if it fails, we remain subject to them;  and, just so often as their wants require it, or their policy dictates it, this Government is to be deprived of its revenues, reduced to the use of broken bank paper;  and its citizens denied shillings for the post office, or the market, while shiploads of gold and silver are dispatched to our masters in England.

Mr. President, I have been accustomed for a long time —for years past— to hear our paper system orators attack and deride hard money, and stigmatize as barbarians the nations which use it.  To listen to them, and a hard money currency is the very badge and evidence of barbarism.  Asiatics, Africans, and savage Indians, are their exemplifications of such nations;  and to the level of these would they reduce all the people who prefer gold to paper.  This is a fine compliment to the hard money men who framed our Constitution, and believed they had conferred the greatest blessing upon us in giving us a hard money Government.  It is a fine compliment to our English ancestors, who had no paper currency until the forepart of the last century.  It is a fine compliment to those Greeks and Romans to whom we are accustomed to look for all that is great and beautiful in the human race, and who never had a conception of paper money.  It is a fine compliment to France, which now has a specie currency of five hundred and fifty millions of dollars, and no bank note less than five hundred francs.  It is a fine compliment to all these people and nations.

But, letting that pass, I should be glad to stop a moment with these paper orators in the little kingdom, formerly republic, of Holland that ancient Batavi, where Julius Cæsar found the bravest of the Gauls, and ask them what they think of the barbarism of the country which has produced such statesmen as the De Witts, the Barneveldts, and some of the princes of Orange;  which has produced such generals as Tromp, de Ruyter, Prince Maurice, and Winter ?  Such admirals as Van Tromp, who sailed up the Thames with a broom at his masthead, significant of his having swept the channel and the ocean ?  Such physicians as Boerhaave — such theologians as Gomar and Arminius — such scholars and civilians as Erasmus, Grotus, Lewenhoeck, Heinsius, Gronovious, and Swammerdam, such painters as Rembrandt ?  I would like to know what these orators think of the barbarism of the country, which has produced such men as these;  and which, besides, was the birthplace of the agriculture, the commerce, and the manufactures which now enrich and adorn England, France and so many other countries ?  What they think of the country which gave to Europe and the world, the telescope, the microscope, the pendulum, and the thermometer ? that country which, before the American Revolution, was the assylum and the refuge of the persecuted in religion, in politics and in literature ? that country in which Bayle composed his great work, and where Peter the Great worked at the ship-carpenter's trade ? that country which was the home of printing, the resort of scholars, the seat of renowned universities, the mother and the patroness of the fine and the useful arts;  and which, for a long time, was regarded as the Eye of Europe, as Athens had been called the Eye of Greece ?  According to the reasoning of these orators, and their test of barbarism, this Holland must have been a savage place;  for she had no bank notes all this while, nothing but hard money and the commercial bill of exchange.  According to them, the very badge and evidence of barbarism was upon her.  Her rank, in the scale of civilization, was that of Africa, Asia, and our Indian tribes !

Sir, there is nothing more humiliating in the whole circle of political economy than the speech of a paper system orator in praise of paper money and bank credits, and in abuse of hard money and ready pay.  All his notions are drawn from England — drawn from her since she became a paper money country.  This modern England is the object of his study, the example of his imitation, the idolatrous subject of his worship.  All his notions of finance and currency must be drawn from that source, where the banks have been in a state of suspension exactly the one-half of the last fifty years;  while France and Holland, whose currencies have remained unshaken amidst wars, invasions, rebellions, and changes of dynasty, and which are the SAVIORS of England from her own false system, are overlooked and despised.  Yet France and Holland present the two highest models for the study of currency which the history of the world affords.  At this very moment we see the Bank of England and the Bank of the United States going to France and Holland to seek relief from impending destruction;  yet we study and copy the examples of these mendicant seekers after relief, while those who save and relieve them are overlooked and despised !

In consequence, we have the basest currency in the world — one which makes the South and the West the slave of the Northeast, while the Northeast itself is the slave of England, while England herself is a victim to her own vicious system, and only saved from periodical destruction by the generosity of Holland and France.

France has tried both paper and gold, and the study of six years of her history — the study of it from 1799 to 1806 — from the exclusive depreciated paper currency of the Republic to the exclusive specie currency of the Empire — will teach all nations the easy way to reform a ruined currency, and to recover the solid one, which is the only sure basis of public and private — of national and individual, prosperity.  When Bonaparte became First Consul, in 1799, the currency of France was far worse than that of Michigan or Mississippi at this moment.  Neither the Government, nor the people, had specie;  nothing but assignats and mandats, wholly inconvertible and ruinously depreciated, yet, in six years, that great man had chased away paper, and brought in above five hundred millions of gold and silver;  enough to revive industry, to sustain prices, to reward labor, to defray the expenses of wars and of the Imperial Court;  to make roads, canals and docks, and to build a navy;  enough, in a word, for the habitual currency of the forty millions of souls who constituted the population of the Empire.

Holland is another subject for the study of the American statesman.  A small territory of eleven thousand square miles, lying below the level of the sea — drawing fifty feet water as Hudibras rhymes it — and walled in to keep the sea out;  a soil of clay, sand, and loam;  a disadvantageous climate;  without a mine, a fossil, a stone, a mineral, or a forest tree: this little country, so small in itself, and so little favored by nature, besides the pre-eminence which it attained in agriculture, manufactures, and commerce;  in military and naval warfare;  in learning and in science;  in the useful and in the fine arts;  besides all this, this little country constituted itself the SPECIE WARE HOUSE OF EUROPE AND AMERICA! lending gold to all nations;  to emperors, kings, and princes;  to cities, states, and corporations;  to this city even, which, with its six millions of chartered bank capital, was unable to pay back either principal or interest;  and must have been sold upon thirty days' notice at public auction, if the United States had not assumed the debt.

This is Holland:  a country which has no paper money banks, but which has merchants who are able to save the Bank of England, and the Bank of the United States, from breaking like glass;  merchants who are able to lend gold by the million at four per centum per annum, while we give two per cent. a month for depreciated paper;  who are able to purchase every dry goods store in such a State as Missouri, (St. Louis included,) pay down for them in gold, then set fire to them and burn them up, and never know that they had lost any thing except by the change of figures at the foot of the balance sheet.  This is Holland, and her merchants, who never saw a bank note;  and yet we have dry good merchants in Missouri, whose store a real strong man could run a stick through, and hang over his shoulder, and walk off with;  and who undertake to persuade people that they can do no business at all — can credit nobody, and must sue every body — unless they have a branch of the United States Bank to accommodate them with paper credits.

Yes, sir; this is Holland, the specie magazine of Europe and America;  the meadow and the garden of Europe;  the happy home of a rich, moral, and tranquil population of 200 to the square mile;  and which has made itself what it is, not by building paper credit banks, and borrowing money on the resources of posterity, but by INDUSTRY, ECONOMY, HARD MONEY, and SHORT CREDIT.

Holland is the country for our statesmen to study;  but if she is too distant, let them cross over to the island of Cuba, and there see a population of less than one million and near one half of them slaves, carrying on an immense commerce, building a commercial city second only to New York in the New World, paying twenty-one millions of dollars annually in direct and indirect contributions to the Government;  paying high for wages, produce, and property;  and doing the whole upon gold alone and the commercial bill of exchange !  I say, and repeat, upon gold alone, and this bill of exchange;  for a bank note of any kind, and a piece of silver, except of twenty-five cents and under, for change, is not to be seen upon the island.

To our Southern States — to the whole cotton, rice, tobacco, and sugar growing region — now so grievously afflicted with the curses of the paper system;  to all this region I would say, study the financial history of Holland, France, and Cuba.  Follow their example! emulate their solid currency.  Imitate them! and in a few years you will not only be lifted from the misery, degradation, demoralization and ruin of a depreciated currency, but you will have a superabundance of real money;  gold enough for all your own uses, and to lend to all America besides.  You will become the specie warehouse of the commercial world;  to which all nations will resort to borrow gold, and which will return to you the instant they have borrowed it.  Your hundred millions of exportable productions, and augmenting every year, will quickly produce the magic change, if, emerging from the Serbonian bog of paper money in which you are now sunk, you plant yourselves on the solid rock of gold and silver.  To the other States I would say, do the like;  and the like results, to a less extent, will be your reward and your blessing.  At least imitate France, and eschew all paper below one hundred dollars.  But this is their own affair.  As things now stand, it belongs to them to afflict or to bless themselves.  To the Federal Government it belongs, as the preservation of the sacred fire belonged to the Roman vestals — to this Government it belongs to preserve the sacred currency of the Constitution.  To this Government it belongs to do this;  and to a long series of measures pursued for this purpose, for the last ten years, the establishment of the Independent Treasury now comes in as the crowning act to seal and consummate the whole.





The Independent Treasury Act
of July 4th, 1840.


An Act to provide for the collection, safe keeping, transfer, and disbursement of the public revenue.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That there shall be prepared and provided, within the new Treasury building now erecting at the seat of Government, suitable and convenient rooms for the use of the Treasurer of the United States, his assistants and clerks: and sufficient and secure fireproof vaults and safes for the keeping of the public moneys in the possession and under the immediate control of the said Treasurer;  which said rooms, vaults, and safes, are hereby constituted and declared to be, the Treasury of the United States.  And the said Treasurer of the United States shall keep all the public moneys which shall come to his hands in the Treasury of the United States, as hereby constituted, until the same are drawn therefrom according to law.

Sec. 2.  And be it further enacted, That the Mint of the United States, in the city of Philadelphia, in the State of Pennsylvania, and the Branch Mint, in the city of New Orleans, in the State of Louisiana, and the vaults and safes thereof, respectively, shall be places of deposite and safe keeping of the public moneys at those points respectively;  and the Treasurer of the said Mint and Branch Mint respectively, for the time being, shall have the custody and care of all public moneys deposited within the same, and shall perform all the duties required to be performed by them, in reference to the receipt, safekeeping, transfer and disbursements of all such moneys, according to the provisions hereinafter contained.

Sec. 3.  And be it further enacted, That there shall be prepared and provided, within the custom-houses now erecting in the city of New York, in the State of New York, and in the city of Boston, in the State of Massachusetts, suitable and convenient rooms for the use of the receivers-general of public moneys, hereinafter directed to be appointed, at those places, respectively;  and sufficient and secure fireproof vaults and safes for the keeping of the public moneys collected and deposited with them, respectively;  and the receivers-general of public money, from time to time, appointed at those points, shall have the custody and care of the said rooms, vaults, and safes, respectively, and of all the public moneys deposited within the same;  and shall perform all the duties required to be performed by them, in reference to the receipt, safekeeping, transfer, and disbursement of all such moneys, according to the provisions of this act.

Sec. 4.  And be it further enacted, That there shall be erected, prepared, and provided, at the expense of the United States, at the city of Charleston, in the State of South Carolina, and at the city of St. Louis, in the State of Missouri, offices, with suitable and convenient rooms for the use of the receivers-general of public money hereinafter directed to be appointed at the places above named;  and sufficient and secure fireproof vaults and safes for the keeping of the public money collected and deposited at those points respectively;  and the said receivers-general, from time to time appointed at those places, shall have the custody and care of the said offices, vaults, and safes, so to be erected, prepared, and provided, and of all the public moneys deposited within the same;  and shall perform all the duties required to be performed by them, in reference to the receipt, safekeeping, transfer, and disbursement of all such moneys, according to the provisions hereinafter contained.

Sec. 5.  And be it further enacted, That the President shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, appoint four officers, to be denominated "receivers-general of public money," which said officers shall hold their respective offices for the term of four years, unless sooner removed therefrom;  one of which shall be located at the city of New York, in the State of New York;  one other of which shall be located at the city of Boston, in the State of Massachusetts;  one other of which shall be located at the city of Charleston, in the State of South Carolina;  and the remaining one of which shall be located at the city of St. Louis, in the State of Missouri;  and all of which said officers shall give bonds to the United States, with sureties according to the provisions hereinafter contained, for the faithful discharge of the duties of their respective offices.

Sec. 6.  And be it further enacted, That the Treasurer of the United States, the treasurer of the Mint of the United States, the treasurers, and those acting as such, of the various Branch Mints, all collectors of the customs, all surveyors of the customs acting also as collectors, all receivers general of public moneys, all receivers of public money at the several land offices, and all post-masters, except as is hereinafter particularly provided, be, and they are hereby, required to keep safely, without loaning or using, all the public money collected by them, or otherwise at any time placed in their possession and custody, till the same is ordered by the proper department or officer of the Government to be transferred or paid out;  and when such orders for transfer or payment are received, faithfully and promptly to make the same as directed, and to do and perform all other duties as fiscal agents of the Government, which may be imposed by this or any other acts of Congress, or by any regulation of the Treasury Department, made in conformity to law;  and also to do and perform all acts and duties required by law, or by direction of any of the Executive Departments of the Government, as agents for paying pensions, or for making any other disbursements which either of the heads of those departments may be required by law to make, and which are of a character to be made by the depositaries hereby constituted, consistently with the other official duties imposed upon them.

Sec. 7.  And be it further enacted, That the Treasurer of the United States, the Treasurer of the Mint of the United States, the Treasurer of the Branch Mint at New Orleans, and the receivers-general of public money hereinbefore directed to be appointed, shall, respectively, give bonds to the United states, in such form, and for such amounts, as shall be directed by the Secretary of the Treasury, by and with the advice and consent of the President, with sureties to the satisfaction of the Solicitor of the Treasury;  and shall, from time to time, renew, strengthen, and increase their official bonds, as the Secretary of the Treasury, with the consent of the President, may direct;  any law in reference to any of the official bonds of any of the said officers to the contrary notwithstanding.

Sec. 8.  And be it further enacted, That it shall be the duty of the Secretary of the Treasury, at as early a day as possible after the passage of this act, to require from the several depositaries hereby constituted, and whose official bonds are not hereinbefore provided for, to execute bonds new and suitable in their terms to meet the new and increased duties imposed upon them respectively by this act, and with surities, and in such sums as shall seem reasonable and safe to the Solicitor of the Treasury, and from time to time to require such bonds to be renewed and increased in amount and strengthened by new sureties, to meet any increasing responsibility which may grow out of accumulations of money in the hands of the depositary, or out of any other duty or responsibility arising under this or any other law of Congress.

Sec. 9.  And be it further enacted, That all collectors and receivers of public money, of every character and description, within the District of Columbia, shall, as frequently as they may be directed by the Secretary of the Treasury, or the Postmaster General, so to do, pay over to the Treasurer of the United States at the Treasury thereof, all public moneys collected by them, or in their hands;  that all such collectors and receivers of public moneys within the cities of Philadelphia and New Orleans, shall, upon the same direction, pay over to the Treasurers of the Mints in their respective cities, at the said mints, all public moneys collected by them, or in their hands;  and that all such collectors and receivers of public moneys within the cities of New York, Boston, Charleston, and St. Louis, shall, upon the same direction, pay over to the receivers-general of public money in their respective cities, at their offices respectively, all the public moneys collected by them, or in their hands, to be safely kept by the said respective depositaries, until otherwise disposed of according to law;  and it shall be the duty of the said Secretary and Postmaster general to direct such payments, by the said collectors and receivers, at all the said places, at least as often as once in each week, and as much more frequently, in all cases, as they, in their discretion, may think proper.

Sec. 10.  And be it further enacted, That it shall be lawful for the Secretary of the Treasury to transfer the moneys in the hands of any depositary hereby constituted, to the Treasury of the United States;  to the Mints at Philadelphia;  to the Branch Mint at New Orleans;  or to the offices of either of the receivers-general of public moneys, by this act directed to be appointed;  to be there safely kept, according to the provisions of this act;  and also to transfer moneys in the hands of any one depositary constituted by this act to any other depositary constituted by the same, at his discretion, and as the safety of the public moneys, and the convenience of the public service shall seem to him to require;  which authority to transfer the moneys belonging to the Post Office Department is also hereby conferred upon the Postmaster General, so far as its exercise by him may be consistent with the provisions of existing laws;  and every depositary constituted by this act shall keep his account of the money paid to, or deposited with, him, belonging to the Post Office Department, separate and distinct from the account kept by him of other public moneys so paid or deposited.  And for the purpose of payments on the public account, it shall be lawful for the Treasurer of the United States to draw upon any of the said depositaries, as he may think most conducive to the public interests, or to the convenience of the public creditors, or both.

Sec. 11.  And be it further enacted, That the moneys in the hands, care, and custody, of any of the depositaries continued by this act, shall be considered and held as deposited to the credit of the Treasurer of the United States, and shall be, at all times, subject to this draft, whether made for transfer or disbursement, in the same manner as though the said moneys were actually in the Treasury of the United States;  and each depositary shall make returns to the Treasury and Post Office Department of all moneys received and paid by him, at such times, and in such form, as shell be directed by the Secretary of the Treasury or the Postmaster general.

Sec. 12.  And be it further enacted, That the Secretary of the Treasury shall be, and he is hereby, authorized to cause examinations to be made of the books, accounts, and money on hand, of the several depositaries constituted by this act;  and for that purpose to appoint special agents, as occasion may require, with such compensation as he may think reasonable, to be fixed and declared at the time of each appointment.  The agents selected to make these examinations shall be instructed to examine as well the books, accounts, and returns of the officer, as the money on hand, and the manner of its being kept, to the end that uniformity and accuracy in the accounts, as well as safety to the public moneys may be secured thereby.

Sec. 13.  And be it further enacted, That in addition to the examinations provided for in the last preceding section, and as a further guard over the public moneys, it shall be the duty of each naval officer and surveyor, as a check upon the receiver-general of public moneys, or collector of the customs, of their respective districts;  of each register of a land office, as a check upon the receiver of his land office;  and of the director and superintendent of each Mint and Branch Mint when separate offices, as a check upon the Treasurers, respectively, of the said Mints, or the persons acting as such, at the close of each quarter of the year, and as much more frequently as they shall be directed by the Secretary of the Treasury to do so, to examine the books, accounts, returns, and money on hand, of the receivers-general of public money, collectors, receivers of land offices, treasurers, and persons acting as such, and to make a full, accurate, and faithful return to the Treasury Department of their condition.

Sec. 14.  And be it further enacted, That the said officers respectively, whose duty it is made by this act to receive, keep, and disburse the public moneys, as the fiscal agents of the Government, may be allowed any necessary additional expenses for clerks, fireproof chests, or vaults, or other necessary expenses of safekeeping, transferring, and disbursing said moneys:  all such expenses of every character to be first expressly authorized by the Secretary of the Treasury, whose directions upon all the above subjects, by way of regulation and otherwise, so far as authorized by law, are to be strictly followed by all the said officers:  Provided, That the whole number of clerks to be appointed by virtue of this section of this act, shall not exceed ten, and that the aggregate compensations of the whole number shall not exceed $8,000, nor shall the compensation of any one clerk, so appointed, exceed $800 per annum.

Sec. 15.  And be it further enacted, That the Secretary of the Treasury shall, and the safety of the public funds will permit, withdraw the balances remaining with the present depositaries of the public moneys, and confine the safekeeping, transfer, and disbursement of those moneys to the depositaries established by this act.

Sec. 16.  And be it further enacted, That all marshals, district attorneys, and others, having public money to pay to the United States, and all patentees, wishing to make payment for patents to be issued, may pay all such moneys to the Treasurer of the United States, at the Treasury, to the Treasurer of either of the Mints, in Philadelphia or New Orleans, to either of the receivers-general of public money, or to such other depositary constituted by this act as shall be designated by the Secretary of the Treasury, in other parts of the United States, to receive such payments, and give receipts or certificates of deposite therefor.

Sec. 17.  And be it further enacted, That all officers charged by this act with the safekeeping, transfer, and disbursement of the public moneys, other than those connected with the Post Office Department, are hereby required to keep an accurate entry of each sum received, and of the kind of money in which it is received, and of each payment or transfer, and of the kind of currency in which it is made;  and that if any one of the said officers, or of those connected with the Post Office Department, shall convert to his own use, in any way whatever, or shall use by way of investment in any kind of property or merchandise, or shall loan, with or without interest, any portion of the public moneys intrusted to him for safekeeping, disbursement, transfer, or for any other purpose, every such act shall be deemed and adjudged to be an embezzlement of so much of the said moneys as shall be thus taken, converted, invested, used, or loaned, which is hereby declared to be a felony, and any officer or agent of the United States, and all persons advising or participating in such act, being convicted thereof before any court of the United States of competent jurisdiction, shall be sentenced to imprisonment for a term of not less than six months nor more than five years, and to a fine equal to the amount of the money embezzled.

Sec. 18.  And be it further enacted, That until rooms, offices, vaults, and safes, directed by the first four sections of this act to be constructed and prepared for the use of the Treasurer of the United States, the Treasurers of the Mints at Philadelphia and New Orleans, and the receivers-general of public money at New York, Boston, Charleston, and St. Louis, can be constructed and prepared for use, it shall be the duty of the Secretary of the Treasury to procure suitable rooms for offices for those officers at their respective locations, and to contract for such use of vaults and safes as may be required for the safekeeping of the public moneys in the charge and custody of those officers respectively, the expense to be paid by the United States.

Sec. 19.  And be it further enacted, That from and after the 30th day of June, which will be in the year 1840, the resolution of Congress of the 30th day of April, in the year 1816, so far as it authorizes the receipt in payment of duties, taxes, sales of public lands, debts, and sums of money, accruing or becopming payable to the United States, to be collected and paid in the notes of specie-paying banks, shall be so modified as that one fourth part of all such duties, taxes, sales of public lands, debts, and sums of money accruing or becoming due to the United States, shall be collected in the legal currency of the United States;  and from and after the 30th day of June, which will be in the year 1841, one other fourth part of all such duties, taxes, sales of public lands, debts, and sums of money, shall be so collected;  and that from and after the 30th day of June, which will be in the year 1842, one other fourth part of all such duties, taxes, sales of public lands, debts and sums of money, shall be so collected;  and that from and after the 30th day of June, which will be in the year 1843, the remaining fourth part of all such duties, taxes, sales of public lands, debts and sums of money, shall be also collected in the legal currency of the United States;  and from and after the last-mentioned day, all sums accruing, or becoming payable to the United States, for duties, taxes, sales of public lands, or other debts, and also all sums due for postages, or otherwise, to the General Post Office department, shall be paid in gold and silver only .

Sec. 20.  And be it further enacted, That from and after the 30th day of June, which will be in the year 1843, every officer or agent engaged in making disbursements on account of the United States, or of the General Post Office, shall make all payments in gold and silver coin only;  and any receiving or disbursing officer, or agent, who shall neglect, evade, or violate, the provisions of this and the last preceding section of this act, shall, by the Secretary of the Treasury, be immediately reported to the President of the United States, with the facts of such neglect, evasion, or violation, and also to Congress, if in session, and, if not in session, at the commencement of its session next after the violation takes place.

Sec. 21.  And be it further enacted, That no exchange of funds shall be made by any disbursing officers, or agents, of the Government, of any grade or denomination whatsoever, or connected with any branch of the public service, other than an exchange for gold and silver;  and every such disbursing officer, when the means for this disbursements are furnished to him in currency legally receivable under the provisions of this act, shall make is payments in the currency so furnished, or when those means are furnished to him in drafts, shall cause those drafts to be presented at their place of payment and properly paid according to the law, and shall make his payments in the currency so received for the drafts furnished, unless, in either case, he can exchange the means in his hands for gold and silver at par, and so as to facilitate his payments, or otherwise accommodate the public service and promote the circulation of a metallic currency:  And it shall be, and is hereby made, the duty of the head of the proper department immediately to suspend from duty any disbursing officer who shall violate the provisions of this section, and forthwith to report the name of the officer, or agent, to the President, with the fact of the violation and all the circumstances accompanying the same and within the knowledge of the said Secretary, to the end that such officer, or agent, may be promptly removed from office, or restored to his trust and the performance of his duties, as to the President may seem just and proper.

Sec. 22.  And be it further enacted, That it shall not be lawful for the Secretary of the Treasury to make or continue in force, any general order, which shall create any difference between the different branches of revenue, as to the funds or medium of payment, in which debts or dues accruing to the United States may be paid.

Sec. 23.  And be it further enacted, That it shall be the duty of the Secretary of the Treasury to issue and publish regulations to enforce the speedy presentation of all Government drafts for payment at the place where payable, and to prescribe the time, according to the different distances of the depositaries from the seat of Government, within which all drafts upon them, respectively, shall be presented for payment;  and, in default of such presentation, to direct any other mode and place of payment which he may deem proper;  but in all those regulations and directions, it shall be the duty of the Secretary of the Treasury to guard, as far as may be, against those drafts being used or thrown into circulation, as a paper currency, or medium of exchange.

Sec. 24. And be it further enacted, That the receivers-general of public moneys directed by this act to be appointed, shall receive, respectively, the following salaries, per annum, to be paid quarter-yearly, at the Treasury of the United States, to wit:  the receiver-general of public money at New York shall be paid a salary of $4,000 per annum;  the receiver-general of public money at Boston shall be paid a salary of $2,500 per annum;  the receiver-general of public money at Charleston shall be paid a salary of $2,500 per annum;  and the receiver-general of public money at St. Louis shall be paid a salary of $2,500 per annum;  the treasurer of the Mint at Philadelphia shall, in addition to his present salary, receive $500, annually, for the performance of the duties imposed by this act;  the treasurer of the branch Mint at New Orleans shall also receive $1,000, annually, for the additional duties created by this act;  and these salaries, respectively, shall be in full for the services of the respective officers, nor shall either of them be permitted to charge, or receive, any commission, pay, or perquisite, for any official service, of any character or description whatsoever;  and the making of any such charge, or the receipt of any such compensation, is hereby declared to be a misdemeanor, for which the officer convicted thereof, before any court of the United States of competent jurisdiction, shall be subject to punishment by fine, or imprisonment, or both, at the discretion of the court before which the offence shall be tried.

Sec. 25.  And be it further enacted, That the Treasurer of the United States be, and he is hereby, authorized to receive at the Treasury, and at such other point as he may designate, payments in advance for public lands, the payments so made in all cases, to be evidenced by the receipt of the said Treasurer of the United States;  which receipts so given shall be receivable for public lands, at any public or private sale of lands, in the same manner as the currency authorized by law to be received in payment for public lands:  Provided, however, That the receipts given by the Treasurer of the United States, pursuant to the authority conferred in this section, shall not be negotiable or transferable, by delivery, or assignment, or in any other manner whatsoever, but shall, in all cases, be presented in payment for lands by or for the person to whom the receipt was given, as shown upon its face.

Sec. 26.  And be it further enacted, That for the purchase of sites, and for the construction of the offices of the receivers-general of public money, by this act directed to be erected at Charleston, South Carolina, and at St. Louis, Missouri, there shall be, and hereby is, appropriated to be paid out of any money in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated, the sum of ten thousand dollars, to be expended under the direction of the Secretary of the Treasury, who is hereby required to adopt plans for the said offices, and the vaults and safes connected therewith, and to cause the same to be constructed and prepared for use with as little delay as shall be consistent with the public interests, and the convenient location and security of the buildings to be erected:  Provided, however, That if the Secretary of the Treasury shall find upon inquiry and examination, that suitable rooms for the use of the receiver-general at Charleston can be obtained in the custom-house now owned by the United States at that place, and that secure vaults and safes can be constructed in that building for the safekeeping of the public money, then he shall cause each rooms to be prepared and fitted up, and such vaults and safes to be constructed in the custom-house at Charleston, and no independent office shall be there erected.

Sec. 27.  And be it further enacted, That, for the payment of the expenses authorized by this act, other than those herein before provided for, a sufficient sum of money be, and the same is hereby, appropriated, to be paid out of any money in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated.

Sec. 28.  And be it further enacted, That all acts or parts of acts which come in conflict with the provisions of this act be, and the same is hereby, repealed.


Robert Mercer Taliaferro Hunter,
Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Richard Mentor Johnson,
Vice President of the United States, and President of the Senate.

Approved, July 4, 1840,
Martin Van Buren.


The Independent Treasury Act
of August 6th, 1846.


An Act to provide for the better Organization of the Treasury, and for the Collection, Safe-Keeping, Transfer, and Disbursement of the public Revenue.

Whereas, by the fourth section of the act entitled "An Act to establish the Treasury Department," approved September 2, 1789, it was provided that it should be the duty of the treasurer to receive and keep the moneys of the United States, and to disburse the same upon warrants drawn by the Secretary of the Treasury, countersigned by the comptroller, and recorded by the register, and not otherwise:  and whereas it is found necessary to make further provisions to enable the treasurer the better carry into effect the intent of the said section in relation to the receiving and disbursing the moneys of the United States:  Therefore--

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the rooms prepared and provided in the new treasury building at the seat of government for the use of the treasurer of the United States, his assistants, and clerks, and occupied by them, and also the fire-proof vaults and safes erected in said rooms for the keeping of the public moneys in possession and under the immediate control of said treasurer, and such other apartments as are provided for in this act as places of deposit of the public money, are hereby constituted and declared to be the treasury of the United States.  And all moneys paid into the same shall be subject to the draft of the treasurer, drawn agreeably to appropriations made by law.

Sec. 2.  And be it further enacted, That the mint of the United States in the city of Philadelphia, in the State of Pennsylvania, and the branch mint in the city of New Orleans, in the State of Louisiana, and the vaults and safes thereof, respectively, shall be places of deposit and safe-keeping of the public moneys at those points, respectively;  and the treasurer of the said mint and branch mint, respectively for the time being, shall be assistant treasurers under the provisions of this act, and shall have custody and care of all public moneys deposited within the same, and shall perform all the duties required to be performed by them, in reference to the receipt, safe-keeping, transfer, and disbursements of all such moneys, according to the provisions hereinafter contained.

Sec. 3. And be it further enacted, That the rooms which were directed to be erected and provided within the custom-houses in the city of New York, in the State of New York, and in the city of Boston, in the State of Massachusetts, for the use of receivers-general of pubic moneys, under the provisions of the act entitled "An Act to provide for the Collection, Safe-Keeping, Transfer, and Disbursement of the public Revenue" approved July fourth, 1840, shall be for the use of the assistant treasures hereinafter directed to be appointed at those places respectively;  as shall be also the fire-proof vaults and safes prepared and provided within said rooms for the keeping of the public moneys collected and deposited with them respectively;  and the assistant treasurers, from time to time appointed at those points, shall have the custody and care of the said rooms, vaults, and safes, respectively, and of all the public moneys deposited within the same, and shall perform all the duties required to be performed by them, in reference to the receipt, safe-keeping, transfer, and disbursement, of all such moneys, according to the provisions of this act.

Sec. 4.  And be it further enacted, That the offices, with suitable and convenient rooms, which were directed to be erected, prepared, and provided, for the use of receivers-general of public money, at the expense of the United States, at the city of Charleston, in the State of South Carolina, and at the city of St. Louis, in the State of Missouri, under the act entitled "An Act to provide for the Collection, Safe-Keeping, Transfer, and Disbursement of the public Revenue" approved July fourth, 1840, shall be for the use of the assistant treasurers hereinafter directed to be appointed at the places above named;  as shall be also the fire-proof vaults and safes erected within the said offices and rooms for the keeping of the public money collected and deposited at those points respectively;  and the said assistant treasurers, from time to time appointed at those places, shall have the custody and care of the said offices, vaults, and safes, erected, prepared, and provided, as aforesaid, and of all the public moneys deposited within the same, and shall perform all the duties required to be performed by them, in reference to the receipt, safe-keeping, transfer, and disbursement, of all such moneys, according to the provisions hereinafter contained.

Sec. 5.  And be it further enacted, That the President shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate appoint, four officers to be denominated "assistant treasurers of the United States" which said officers shall hold their respective offices for the term of four years, unless sooner removed therefrom;  one of which shall be located at the city of New York, in the State of New York;  one other of which shall be located at the city of Boston, in the State of Massachusetts;  one other of which shall be located at the city of Charleston, in the State of South Carolina;  and one other at St. Louis, in the State of Missouri.  And all of which said officers shall give bonds to the United States, with sureties, according to the provisions hereinafter contained, for the faithful discharge of the duties of their respective offices.

Sec. 6.  And be it further enacted, That the treasurer of the United States, the treasurer of the mint of the United States, the treasurers, and those acting as such, of the various branch mints, all collectors of the customs, all surveyors of the customs acting also as collectors, all assistant treasurers, all receivers of public moneys at the several land offices, all postmasters, and all public officers of whatsoever character, be, and they are hereby, required to keep safely, without loaning, using, depositing in banks, or exchanging for other funds than as allowed by this act, all the public money collected by them, or otherwise at any time placed in their possession and custody, till the same is ordered, by the proper department or officer of the government, to be transferred or paid out;  and when such orders for transfer or payment are received, faithfully and promptly to make the same as directed, and to do and perform all other duties as fiscal agents of the government which may be imposed by this or any other agents of the government which may be imposed by this or any other acts of Congress, or by any regulation of the treasury department made in conformity to law;  and also to do and perform all acts and duties required by law, or by direction of any of the Executive departments of the government, as agents for paying pensions, or for making any other disbursements which either of the heads of those departments may be required by law to make, and which are of a character to be made by the depositaries hereby constituted, consistently with the other official duties imposed upon them.

Sec. 7. And be it further enacted, That the treasurer of the United States, the treasurer of the mint of the United States, the treasurer of the branch mint at New Orleans, and all the assistant treasurers hereinbefore directed to be appointed, shall respectively give bonds to the United States faithfully to discharge the duties of their respective offices according to law, and for such amounts as shall be directed by the Secretary of the Treasury, with sureties to the satisfaction of the solicitor of the treasury;  and shall, from time to time, renew, strengthen, and increase, their official bonds as the Secretary of the Treasury may direct, any law in reference to any of the official bonds of any of the said officers to the contrary notwithstanding.

Sec. 8.  And be it further enacted, That it shall be the duty of the Secretary of the Treasury, at as early a day as possible after the passage of this act, to require from the several depositaries hereby constituted, and whose official bonds are not hereinbefore provided for, to execute bonds, new and suitable in their terms, to meet the new and increased duties imposed upon them respectively by this act, and with sureties and in sums such as shall seem reasonable and safe to the solicitor of the treasury;  and from time to time to require such bonds to be renewed and increased in amount, and strengthened by new sureties, to meet any increasing responsibility which may grow out of accumulations of money in the hands of the depositary, or out of any other duty or responsibility arising under this or any other law of Congress.

Sec. 9.  And be it further enacted, That all collectors and receivers of public money, of every character and description, within the District of Columbia, shall, as frequently as they may be directed by the Secretary of the Treasury, or the Postmaster-General so to do, pay over to the treasurer of the United States, at the treasury, all public moneys collected by them, or in their hands;  that all such collectors and receivers of public moneys within the cities of Philadelphia and New Orleans shall, upon the same direction, pay over to the treasurers of the mints in their respective cities, at the said mints, all public moneys collected by them, or in their hands;  and that all such collectors and receivers of public moneys within the cities of New York, Boston, Charleston, and St. Louis, shall, upon the same direction, pay over to the assistant treasurers in their respective cities,l at their offices, respectively, all the public moneys collected by them, or in their hands, to be safely kept by the said respective depositaries until otherwise disposed of according to law;  and it shall be the duty of the said Secretary and Post-Master General respectively to direct such payments by the said collectors and receivers at all the said places, at least as often as once each week, and as much moire frequently, in all cases, as they in their discretion may think proper.

Sec. 10.  And be it further enacted, That it shall be lawful for the Secretary of the Treasury to transfer the moneys in the hands of any depositary hereby constituted to the treasury of the United States, to be there safely kept, to the credit of the treasurer of the United States, according to the provisions of this act;  and also to transfer moneys in the hands of any one depositary constituted by this act to any other depositary constituted by the same, at his discretion, and as the safety of the public moneys, and the convenience of the public service, shall seem to him to require;  which authority to transfer the moneys belonging to the post-office department is also hereby conferred upon the Postmaster-General, so far as its exercise by him may be consistent with the provisions of existing laws;  and every depositary constituted by this act shall keep his account of the money paid to or deposited with him, belonging to the post-office department, separate and distinct from the account kept by him of other public moneys so paid or deposited.  And for the purpose of payments on the public account, it shall be lawful for the treasurer of the United States to draw upon any of the said depositaries, as he may think most conducive to the public interest, or to the convenience of the public creditors, or both.  And each depositary so drawn upon shall make returns to the treasury and post-office departments of all moneys received and paid by him, at such times and in such form as shall be directed by the Secretary of the Treasury or the Postmaster-General.

Sec. 11.  And be it further enacted, That the Secretary of the Treasury shall be, and he is hereby, authorized to cause examinations to be made of the books, accounts, and money on hand, of the several depositaries constituted by this act;  and for that purpose to appoint special agents, as occasion may require, with such compensation, not exceeding six dollars per day and travelling expenses, as he may think reasonable, to be fixed and declared at the time of each appointment.  The agents selected to make these examinations shall be instructed to examine as well as the books, accounts, and returns, of the officer, as the money on hand, and the manner of its being kept, to the end that uniformity and accuracy in the accounts, as well as safety to the public moneys, may be secured thereby.

Sec. 12.  And be it further enacted, That, in addition to the examinations provided for in the last preceding section, and as a further guard over the public moneys, it shall be the duty of each naval officer and surveyor, as a check upon the assistant treasurers, or the collector of the customs, of their respective districts;  of each register of a land office, as a check upon the receiver of this land office;  and of the director and superintendent of each mint and branch mint, when separate offices, as a check upon the treasurers, respectively, of the said mints, or the persons acting as such, at the close of each quarter of the year, and as much more frequently as they shall be directed by the Secretary of the Treasury to do so, to examine the books, accounts, returns, and money on hand, of the assistant treasurers, collectors, receivers of land offices, treasurers of the mint, and each branch mint, and persons acting as such, and to make a full, accurate, and faithful return to the treasury department of their condition.

Sec. 13.  And be it further enacted, That the said officers, respectively, whose duty it is made by this act to receive, keep, and disburse, the public moneys, as the fiscal agents of the government, may be allowed any necessary additional expenses for clerks, fire-proof chests or vaults, or other necessary expenses of safe-keeping, transferring, and disbursing, said moneys;  all such expenses of every character to be first expressly authorized by the Secretary of the Treasury, whose directions upon all the above subjects, by way of regulation and otherwise, so far as authorized by law, are to be strictly followed by all the said officers:  Provided, That the whole number of clerks to be appointed by virtue of this section of this act shall not exceed ten;  and that the aggregate compensations of the whole number shall not exceed $8,000;  nor shall the compensation of any one clerk so appointed exceed $800 per annum.

Sec. 14.  And be it further enacted, That the Secretary of the Treasury may, at his discretion, transfer the balances remaining with any of the present depositaries to any other of the present depositaries, as he may deem the safety of the public money or the public convenience may require:  Provided, That nothing in this act shall be so construed as to authorize the Secretary of the Treasury to transfer the balances remaining with any of the present depositaries to the depositaries constituted b y this act before the 1st day January next:  And provided, That, for the purpose of payments on public account, out of balances remaining with the present depositaries, it shall be lawful for the treasurer of the United States to draw upon any of the said depositaries as he may think most conducive to the public interests, or to the convenience of the public creditors, or both.

Sec. 15.  And be it further enacted, That all marshals, district attorneys, and other having public money to pay to the United States and all patentees wishing to make for patents to be issued, may pay all such moneys to the treasurer of the United States, to the treasurer of either of the mints in Philadelphia or New Orleans, to either of the other assistant treasurers, or to such other depositary constituted by this act as shall be designated by the Secretary of the Treasury in other parts of the United States to receive such payments, and give receipts or certificates of deposit therefor.

Sec. 16.  And be it further enacted, That all officers and other persons, charged by this act, or any other act, with the safe-keeping, transfer, and disbursement, of the public moneys, other than those connected with the post-office department, are hereby required to keep an accurate entry of each sum received, and of each payment or transfer;  and that if any one of the said officers, or of those connected with the post-office department, shall convert to his own use, in any way whatever, or shall use, by way of investment in any kind of property or merchandise, or shall loan, with or without interest, or shall exchange for other funds, except as allowed by this act, any portion of the public moneys intrusted to him for safe-keeping, disbursement, transfer, or for any other purpose, every such act shall be deemed and adjudged to be an embezzlement of so much of the said moneys as shall be thus taken, converted, invested, used, loaned, deposited, or exchanged, which is hereby declared to be a felony;  and any failure to pay over or to produce the public moneys intrusted to such person shall be held and taken to be prima facie evidence of such embezzlement;  and if any officer charged with the disbursements of public moneys shall accept, or receive, or transmit to the treasury department to be allowed in his favor, any receipt or voucher from a creditor of the United States, without having paid to such creditor, in such funds as the said officer may have received for disbursement, or such other funds as he may be authorized by this act to take in exchange, the full amount specified in such receipt or voucher, every such act shall be deemed to be a conversion  by such officer to his own use of the amount specified in such receipt or voucher;  and any officer or agent of the United States, and all persons advising or participating in such act, being convicted thereof before any court of the United States of competent jurisdiction, shall be sentenced to imprisonment for a term of not less than six months nor more than ten years, and to a fine equal to the amount of the money embezzled.  And, upon the trial of any indictment against any person for embezzling public money under the provisions of this act, it shall be sufficient evidence, for the purpose of showing a balance against such person, to produce a transcript from the books and proceedings of the treasury, as required in civil cases, under the provisions of the act entitled "An Act to provide more effectually for the Settlement of Accounts between the United States and Receivers of public Money,"  approved March 3rd, 1797;  and the provisions of this act shall be so construed as to apply to all persons charged with the safe-keeping, transfer, or disbursement, of the public money, whether such persons be indicted as receivers or depositaries of the same;  and the refusal of such person, whether in or out of office, to pay any draft, order, or warrant, which may be drawn upon him by the proper officer of the treasury department, for any public money in his hands belonging to the United States, no matter in what capacity the same may have been received or may be held, or to transfer or disburse any such money promptly, upon the legal requirement of any authorized officer of the United States, shall be deemed and taken, upon the trial of any indictment against such person for embezzlement, as prima facie evidence of such embezzlement.

Sec. 17.  And be it further enacted, That, until the rooms, offices, vaults, and safes, directed by the first four sections of this act to be constructed and prepared for the use of the treasurer of the United States, the treasurers of the mints at Philadelphia and New Orleans, and the assistant treasurers at New York, Boston, Charleston, and St. Louis, can be constructed and prepared for use, it shall be the duty of the Secretary of the Treasury to procure suitable rooms for offices for those officers at their respective locations, and to contract for such use of vaults and safes as may be required for the safe-keeping of the public moneys in the charge and custody of those officers respectively, the expense to be paid by the United States.

And whereas, by the thirteenth section of the act entitled "An Act to regulate the Collection of Duties imposed by Law on the Tonnage of Ships or Vessels, and on Goods, Wares, and Merchandises, imported into the United States," approved July 31, 1789, it was provided that all fees and dues collected by virtue of that act should be received in gold and silver coin only;  and whereas, also, by the fifth section of the act approved May 10, 1800, entitled "An Act to amend the Act entitled 'An Act providing for the Sale of the Lands of the United States in the Territory North-west of the Ohio, and above the Mouth of Kentucky River'," it was provided that payment for the said lands shall be made by all purchasers in specie, or in evidences of public debt;  and whereas, experience has proved that said provisions ought to be revived and enforced, according to the true and wise intent of the constitution of the United States--

Sec. 18.  Be it further enacted, That on the 1st day of January, in the year 1847, and thereafter, all duties, taxes, sales of public lands, debts, and sums of money accruing or becoming due to the United States, and also all sums due for postages or otherwise, to the general post-office department, shall be paid in gold and silver coin only, or in treasury notes issued under the authority of the United States:  Provided, That the Secretary of the Treasury shall publish, monthly, in two newspapers at the city of Washington, the amount of specie at the several places of deposit, the amount of treasury notes or drafts issued, and the amount outstanding of the last day of each month.

Sec. 19.  And be it further enacted, That on the 1st day of April, 1847, and thereafter, every officer or agent engaged in making disbursements on account of the United States, or of the general post-office, shall make all payments in gold and silver coin, or in treasury notes, if the creditor agree to receive said notes in payment;  and any receiving or disbursing officer or agent who shall neglect, evade, or violate, the provisions of this and the last preceding section of this act, shall, by the Secretary of the Treasury, be immediately reported to the President of the United States, with the facts of such neglect, evasion, or violation;  and also to Congress, if in session;  and if not in session, at the commencement of its session next after the violation takes place.

Sec. 20.  And be it further enacted, That no exchange of funds shall be made by any disbursing officers or agents of the government, of any grade or denomination whatsoever, or connected with any branch of the public service, other than an exchange for gold and silver;  and every such disbursing officer, when the means for his disbursements are furnished to him in gold and silver, shall make his payments in the money so furnished;  or when those means are furnished to him in drafts, shall cause those drafts to be presented at their place of payment, and properly paid according to the law, and shall make his payments in the money so received for the drafts furnished, unless, in either case, he can exchange the means in his hands for gold and silver at par. And it shall be and is hereby made the duty of the head of the proper department immediately to suspend from duty any disbursing officer who shall violate the provisions of this section, and forthwith to report the name of the officer or agent to the President, with the fact of the violation, and all the circumstances accompanying the same, and within the knowledge of the said Secretary, to the end that such officer or agent may be promptly removed from office, or restored to his trust and the performance of his duties, as to the President may seem just and proper:  Provided, however, That those disbursing officers having at present credits in the banks shall, until the first day of January next, be allowed to check on the same, allowing the public creditors to receive their pay from the banks either in specie or bank notes.

Sec. 21.  And be it further enacted, That it shall be the duty of the Secretary of the Treasury to issue and publish regulations to enforce the speedy presentation of all government drafts for payment at the place where payable, and to prescribe the time, according to the different distances of the depositaries from the seat of government, within which all drafts upon them, respectively, shall be presented for payment;  and, in default of such presentation, to direct any other mode and place of payment which he may deem proper;  but, in all these regulations and directions, it shall be the duty of the Secretary of the Treasury to guard, as far as may be, against those drafts being used or thrown into circulation as a paper currency or medium of exchange.  And no officer of the United States shall, either directly or indirectly, sell or dispose to any person or persons, or corporations, whatsoever, for a premium, any treasury note, draft, warrant, or other public security, not his private property, or sell or dispose of the avails or proceeds of such note, draft, warrant, or security, in his hands for disbursement, without making return of such premium, and accounting therefor by charging the same in his accounts to the credit of the United States;  and any officer violating this section shall be forthwith dismissed from office.

Sec. 22.  And be it further enacted, That the assistant treasurers directed by this act to be appointed shall receive, respectively, the following salaries per annum, to be paid quarter-yearly at the treasury of the United States, to wit:  the assistant treasurer at New York shall be paid a salary of $4,000 per annum;  the assistant treasurer at Boston shall be paid a salary of $2,500 per annum;  the assistant treasurer at Charleston shall be paid a salary of $2,500 per annum;  the assistant treasurer at St. Louis shall be paid a salary of $2,500 per annum;  the treasurer of the mint at Philadelphia shall, in addition to his present salary, receive $500 annually, for the performance of the duties imposed by this act;  the treasurer of the branch mint at New Orleans shall also receive $500 annually, for the additional duties created by this act;  these salaries, respectively, shall be in full for the services of the respective officers;  nor shall either of the be permitted to charge or receive any commission, pay, or perquisite, for any official service, of any character or description whatsoever;  and the making of such charge, or the receipt of any such compensation, is hereby declared to be a misdemeanor, for which the officer convicted thereof, before any court of the United States of competent jurisdiction, shall be subject to punishment by fine or imprisonment, or both, at the discretion of the court before which the offence shall be tried.

Sec. 23.  And be it further enacted, That there shall be and hereby is appropriated, to be paid out of any money in the treasury not otherwise appropriated, the sum of five thousand dollars, to be expended, under the direction of the Secretary of the Treasury, in such repairs or additions as may be necessary to put in good condition for use, with as little delay as may be consistent with the public interests, the offices, rooms, vaults, and safes, herein mentioned, and in the purchase of necessary additional furniture and fixtures, in the purchase of necessary books and stationary, and in defraying any other incidental expenses necessary to carry this act into effect.

Sec. 24.  And be it further enacted, That all acts, or parts of acts, which come in conflict with the provisions of this act be, and the same are hereby, repealed.

Approved, August 6th, 1846.


April 2, 1846, House
Independent Treasury bill introduced