The Bank having after great consideration presented a memorial for the renewal of the charter, the citizens of Philad are forwarding petitions on the subject of a similar measure [which] will be transmitted by the State Banks. It would be greatly desirable to have the same thing done elsewhere. I have written to-day to our friend Col. Perkins & I wish you & our other friends would endeavour to have a strong & general expression of the sense of your community so that Congress may be apprized of the real sentiments of the country.
* Alleged to be the wealthiest citizen of Boston. Winsor, Justin (editor), Memorial History of Boston (Boston, 1883), vol. IV, pp. 29, 30.
In regard to the bonus for a renewal of the Charter my views are these--
As the bonus is in fact only another name for a tax, and like all other taxes disables the Bank to the extent of it from giving facilities to the community, a Bonus should not be pressed by Govt beyond a very moderate limit, particularly as the Govt is now very rich instead of being needy as it was at the time of granting the Charter.
But if the Bank must pay, I do not think it ought to pay more than the sum of $1,500,000: nevertheless it would not be proper to decline the charter because more was asked & I should be disposed to go as high as two millions or if necessary three; between this last limit & the original sum of a million & a half lies the debateable ground. I think you might at once agree to any sum not exceeding three millions. If more were required or more were insisted upon during the passage of the Bill through the House it would be a subject of further reference to the Board. To the extent I have mentioned, I am sure there would be no difficulty.
* A distinguished lawyer, the son of Dr. Barnabas Binney, a surgeon in the Revolutionary war. Binney first became acquainted with Biddle at the meetings of the Tuesday Club, a literary society organized by Dennie in Philadelphia. Binney and Webster were the legal advisers of the Bank. Cf. Oberholtzer, E.P., Philadelphia, A History of the City and its People, Vol. I, p. 413.
I saw the President for the first time yesterday--introduced by Mr Livingston who kindly volunteered his carriage and personal attendance for the purpose. Thus aus picated my reception was extremely gracious and flattering. There was a great deal of free and general conversation of which the topics were the French treaty, the Mexican treaty, the tariff, Mr Van Buren's rejection and his pending negociation, Mr Clay, and Governor Hamilton of South Carolina. I feel satisfied that from the beginning by gradual and proper advances I may eventually and a propos bring about a tête à-tête communication on the bank, to which end my future intercourse in that quarter shall be directed. I understand from Dickins with whom I had some confidential chat and shall repeat it frequently that General Jackson's antipathy is not to the Bank of the United States in particular, but to all Banks whatever. He considers all the State Banks unconstitutional and impolitic and thinks that there should be no Currency but coin, that the Constitution [was not] designed to compel paper altogether as any part of our monetary system. This view of his doctrine conforms to a report which you shewed me not long ago made by him--to the Legislature of Tennessee;** it coincides with some similar notions that I have long indulged myself, and at any rate to be apprised of the theory of his sentiments will be useful to me as it supplies a platform on which to approach him. If his prejudices are honest they may fairly be dealt with. Louis Williams*** of North Carolina says that all his opposition to the Bank of the United States was fomented if not created by Van Buren who calculated that he could render his ascendancy in New York subservient to the prejudices of Virginia, and that Pennsylvania would acquiesce, which three States thus united would give him a broad basis for the future Presidency....
* At this time a strong advocate of the Bank. Later, however, Ingersoll turned against the institution when Biddle urged open war against Jackson. Cf. Meigs, W.M., The Life of Charles Jared Ingersoll (Philadelphia, 1897), pp. 167-185.
** Jackson was the author of the Tennessee law of 1820 creating a loan office. Cf. Bassett, J.S., Andrew Jackson, p. 592; Sumner, W.G., Andrew Jackson, pp. 158. 159 (3d edition).
*** Representative from North Carolina.
It strikes me that the resolutions of our legislature will place Mr. Dallas in an attitude equally new, and imposing; offering an opportunity of distinction, which a young statesman could scarcely hope for in his dreams, & which the oldest statesman might pass a whole life without encountering. It seems to me, his position is precisely this--He wishes to be the Pennsylvania candidate for the Vice Presidency and then
"Glamis -- and thane of CawdorThe Pennsylvanians are disposed to assist him and to exclude Mr. V Buren. To promote this, Mr. Dallas should identify himself with all the Pennsylvania interests, more especially those interests to which Mr. Van Buren is supposed to be hostile. He should therefore go immediately to the President with these resolutions of Penn.* in his hand -- he should warn him against irritating our State, especially as the offence to her is wholly gratuitous. He should say to him you are not opposed to this bank essentially; you mean to agree to it with certain modifications. Now let me mediate between you and the Bank; let us agree on the modifications; the Bank will consent to them, and I will report them, the rechartering of the Bank will thus become a measure of yours -- you will gratify Penna.--you will take from your adversaries their most formidable weapon, and secure the ascendancy of your friends. If the President will do this his success is certain, if Mr. Dallas will do this, besides sustaining his father's work, & conferring a great blessing on the Country, he will assure to himself distinguished consideration through the nation. I do not know how he is disposed for such an enterprize, but he ought to give ten years of his life for this chance of attaining it. Tell him so, and if in half an hour afterwards he is not on his way to the Presidents,--why then--the stars have conjoined for him in vain.
"the greatest is believed."
* These resolutions carried under the able leadership of Ingersoll, who declared "that the constitution of the United States authorizes and near half a century's experience sanctions, a Bank of the United States as necessary and proper to regulate the value of money and prevent paper currency of unequal and depreciated value."
It occurs to me that the present is a crisis for Genl. Jackson, & for the Bank. The Penna delegation, and eminently Mr Dallas, now have an opportunity of doing great good; and of acquiring great distinction. Let them go forward, and mediate between the President and the Bank, -- make him name his modifications; make the Bank agree to them, make the re-charter an administration measure. You see at a glance all this. Do put them up to it; make Mr. Livingston and Mr. McLane stir in it. It is a real coup d'état. Try if you cannot bring it about, without loss of time.
An article signed Tulpe Hocken destined to appear in the Sentinel, and another signed incognito sent to the Enquirer of Philadelphia, each adapted to the various tastes of the readers of those different papers, the first designed to corroborate the spirit of Pennsylvania, the second to inculcate a belief that the President has no constitutional objections to the Bank, but that the Vice President and his adherents are opposed to it, will serve to shew you that I have been paving the way for just such a coup d'état as your letter of the 6th received to day suggests and after [having] well digested my project I went to the Department of State yesterday to break ground: But Mr Livingston was with the President and I was obliged to defer the overture till to day, which I am not sorry for, as your letter come to hand in the mean time has confirmed my views and shaped them with precision. I now proceed with much satisfaction to report to you substantially what took place. When I saw Mr Livingston, as I did this morning soon after the receipt of your letter, I told him that I wished to speak freely with him respecting an important measure which he had often mentioned with great apparent freedom to me, assuring him that he might rely implicitly on my confidence and my disposition to render a service to General Jackson's administration consistent with what I deemed the welfare of the country: I then explained to him the state of parties in Pennsylvania, that the confidence of the people in General Jackson is undiminished as is well known to the adherents of Governor Wolf, but that they have the whole party organization of the State in their hands, and while they dare not openly oppose General Jackson's re-election, yet that many if not most of them are inclined to be in opposition to him. I repeated all the circumstances of the publication by the Philadelphia members of the Legislature last spring in answer to the charge of bribery* which was intended to strike at the President, and would have done so much more forcibly than it did, but for the mitigation of some of whom I was one, and I added that the present attempt to get up a Van Buren party in Pennsylvania had been a complete failure. I then mentioned the recent almost unanimous resolutions of the present Legislature sustaining those of the last in favor of the bank of the U S and said that he might depend upon it, therefore, that collision between the State and the President would be a dangerous & unfortunate occurrence for the latter for which surely said I there is not the least occasion, for why should he risk any portion of his popularity against an object entirely disconnected with politics, and so purely fiscal that if the Secretary of the Treasury were to tell the President that he found a frying pan the most convenient means of managing the finances, I should suppose the President would agree to it, especially as I understood he has no constitutional scruples. After more of these preliminaries than I can altogether repeat, I asked Mr Livingston if under these circumstances it would not be the simplest resolution of all the supposed difficulties to take the Bank out of the hands of Mr McDuffie and the opposition, modifying its charter so as to suit it to the President's opinion and passing it as a measure of the Administration, Mr McLane taking the place which Mr Dallas occupied and General Jackson the example of Mr Madison in [']15-16 when the Bank was created. I further more offered to see Mr Dallas, expressing my confidence that he would cordially cooperate in such a movement. Finally, I told Mr Livingston all that General Smith had told me as to the wish of the President's immediate advisors, that the Bank question should be put by this Session. Mr Livingston recd. my communication with the utmost apparent cordiality, acknowledged the force of the argument and said the proposed mode of proceeding was exactly that one which he thought ought to be pursued. I then inquired if the President would oppose the Bank on the ground of its unconstitutionality; he answered that he would not, but that he had certain notions of his own as to the frame of the charter which ought to be complied with. Let his friends frame it as they will, said I, provided their alterations are not destructive of the Institution. What are they ? First that it should hold no real estate but what is indespensably necessary. Granted, there is no harm in that. Secondly, that the State should not be prevented taxing it. Thirdly, some addition to the Capital so as to let in new subscribers, and Lastly there is another provision, which he could not call to mind; very well, said I, I have no authority to remould the charter. I interpose only as the friend of Mr Biddle of the Bank, and the Administration, but I have no doubt that any reasonable modifications will be acquiesced in, only take the subject out of the hands of the President's opponents and let it be brought before Congress in such a shape that his friends may support it, and I offered to call upon Mr Dallas forthwith. Mr Livingston desired me to defer doing so for a few days promising in the mean while to have a full understanding with the President -he said he knew there were some who wanted him to veto it, and that he does not know what are the present sentiments of the Secretary of the Treasury whose official situation puts it out of his power to be passive or neutral as General Smith had said he designed to be. For himself Mr Livingston acknowledged that the President's various messages invited the immediate action of Congress upon the subject. I told him that as I had no object in view but the public good which I considered identified with the re-charter, I had no objection whatever to wait on the Secretary of the Treasury, or the President and speak to them in the same tone of candour and earnestness that I had used in communicating with him. Mr Livingston replied that the President would hear me with perfect attention & thankfulness and we agreed that at a proper time I should call upon him. In the mean while Mr Livingston will take the earliest opportunity of a full explanation with him, which he probably could not accomplish today because there is a large diplomatic dinner at the President's but he will try tomorrow....
* C.J. Ingersoll early in 1831 introduced certain resolutions, with the knowledge and consent of Biddle, in favor of the Bank. These resolutions were passed by a decisive majority, having at one stage met with serious repulse, and after having had a clause added in favor of distribution of the surplus revenue among the States, which Ingersoll voted against. Soon after the New Hampshire Patriot charged and the Washington Globe reprinted the charge of bribery. To this Ingersoll and other members of the legislature from Philadelphia and its vicinity hastened to publish an indignant denial. This was dated May 18, 1831, and first appeared in the American Sentinel of Philadelphia and was widely copied. Meigs, Ingersoll, pp. 167-185.
... I cannot doubt, whatever maybe the result, that we have done well in applying at the present session. When we were first warned against it lest it should affect the interests of one of the candidates for the Presidency, such a course seemed so entirely foreign to the duties of the Bank that we could not acquiesce in it for a moment. At a later period when we were counselled to abandon it, lest the influence of that candidate should crush the institution; that course seemed equally inadmissable, and we determined, that having begun, we would go through at all hazards; and that it was better even to be defeated in a fair field than to retreat. Into that field you have now probably led us; and on you much of the fate of the institution will depend. I have often heard the contemporaries of Mr Calhoun, in the Congress of 1816, speak with admiration of the talent, and tact, the gentleness and the firmness with which he carried the present Charter through the H of Reps. and we rely that the union of the same qualities will enable you to be equally successful now....
... Here am I, who have taken a fancy to this Bank & having built it up with infinite care am striving to keep it from being destroyed to the infinite wrong as I most sincerely & conscientiously believe of the whole country. To me all other considerations are insignificant -- I mean to stand by it & defend it with all the small faculties which Providence has assigned to me. I care for no party in politics or religion -- have no sympathy with Mr Jackson or Mr Clay or Mr Wirt* or Mr Calhoun or Mr Ellmaker** or Mr Van Buren. I am for the Bank & the Bank alone. Well then, here comes Mr Jackson who takes it into his head to declare that the Bank had failed & that it ought to be superceded by some ricketty machinery of his own contrivance. Mr Jackson being the President of the U.S. whose situation might make his ignorance mischievous, we set to work to disenchant the country of their foolery & we have so well succeeded that I will venture to say that there is no man, no woman, & no child in the U.S. who does not understand that the worthy President was in a great error....***
It remains to see how its evil consequences maybe averted. It seems to me there is no one course by which his friends may extricate him not merely safely but triumphantly. He has made the Bank a Power. He has made the Bank a deciding question as to his own selection. Now let him turn this power to his own advantage. As yet the Bank is entirely uncommitted--the Bank is neither for him nor against him. In this state let his friends come forward boldly, & taking the Bank out of the hands of their enemies, conciliate back the honest friends whom their rashness has alienated, and who think that the only difficulty which he has yet to overcome is the dread of their internal convulsion to which the prostration of the Bank will lead. The most extraordinary part of the whole matter is that the President & the Bank do not disagree in the least about the modifications he desires. He wishes some changes--The Bank agrees to them--and yet from some punctilio which is positively purile his rash friends wish him to postpone it. Do they not perceive that his enemies are most anxious to place him in opposition to the Bank ? And should not every motive of prudence induce him to disappoint their calculations ? The true & obvious theory seems to me to disarm the antagonists of their strongest weapon -- to assume credit for settling this question for the administration. If the present measure fails, it carries bitterness into the ranks of the best part of the opposition. If it succeeds without the administration it displays their weakness. If the bill passes & the President negatives it, I will not say that it will destroy him--but I certainly think it will & moreover I think it ought to. I can imagine no question which seems more exclusively for the representatives of the people than the manner in which they choose to keep & to manage the money of the people.
... I suppose the President has been made to believe that the Bank is busy in hostility to him -- you know how wholly unfounded this is. For myself I do not care a straw for him or his rivals -- I covet neither his man servant -- nor even his maid servant, his ox nor any of his asses. Long may he live to enjoy all possible blessings, but if he means to wage war upon the Bank--if he pursues us till we turn & stand at bay, why then--he may perhaps awaken a spirit which has hitherto been checked & reined in--and which it is wisest not to force into offensive defence.
Ponder over these things -- and believe me
* William Wirt of Maryland, Attorney-General under Monroe and presidential candidate on the Anti-Masonic ticket of 1832.
** Amos Ellmaker, Vice-Presidential candidate on the Anti-Masonic ticket of 1832.
*** This paragraph is crossed out in the original. It might be noted that this part of the letter is stronger in its tone than the remainder.
... Here is the Bank which most assuredly has been in its proper sphere, perfectly true, and faithful, to the administration; and which has never suffered itself, even while it believed itself very unkindly treated, to be betrayed into the slightest departure from its duty to the Govt. All the members of the Govt. can bear witness to this. The President himself has no hostile feeling towards the Bank, he is disposed to agree to its renewal with certain modifications, and the Bank is disposed to accept these modifications. And yet with no real difference between them, they are now playing into the hands of his enemies, who desire nothing better than to see us at variance. This certainly cannot be right. Is it not wiser for the Presidents friends to disarm at once his antagonists, of their strongest weapon, to settle the question at once; and thus unite all the Presi friends before the next election ? This seems so clear, and obvious, that I am astonished that his friends do not immediately take the matter into their own hands, and settle it their own way.
Now what should prevent this reconciliation ? If the President is restrained from making any advances, I have no such feeling, & I will make them myself. You know that I care nothing about the election. I care only for the interests confided to my care, and so far from having the least ill will toward the President, so far from wishing to embarrass his administration, I will do every thing consistent with my duty, to relieve it from trouble, and will go nine tenths of the way to meet him in conciliation. This is very easy. The whole can be settled in five minutes. For instance, the President wishes some modifications in the charter. Well, let him take the charter and make any changes he likes, let him write the whole charter with his own hands, I am sure that we would agree to his modifications; and then let him and his friends pass it. It will then be his work. He will then disarm his adversaries, he will gratify his friends, and remove one of the most uncomfortable and vexatious public questions that can be stirred.
Now why could not this be ? The moment is propitious and if done soon it will be done triumphantly. Do think of all these things, & if as a friend of the President, as well as of the Bank, you can accomplish this work of peaceful mediation, you will relieve both parties from an apparent misunder standing, you will confer a real benefit upon the country & especially gratify,
Yours with great regard
Thus stands the cabinet -- The Secretary of State with us with all his heart & all his head, anxious to be the author of the President's conversion, who, he says, ought to be fixed if any thing can fix him by Tibbit's Scheme. Mr. L. is confident of succeeding, but has done nothing since my last, not having had an opportunity of bringing the subject before all the members of the cabinet together, not, in the first instance, in form, nor till after he has secured a majority of them -- he says he is constantly and hard at work for us; but the bad weather and other interruptions have put him back, but he promises every thing. The Secretary of the Treasury* with us, but so variable in his moods, so much cooler at times than at others that Mr. L. says he is at a loss what to think of him, after said Mr. L. -- all the pains I have taken with him.
The Secretary of War** with us entirely
The Secretary of the Navy*** with usThe Atty Genl**** against us -- but Mr. L. hopes to convert him -- I found him just now closetted with Kendall, of whom and Lewis I do not despair. My good understanding with the Editor of the Globe is well settled. The Bank has not a warmer or more active friend than Judge Wilkins.
* Louis McLane of Delaware.
** Lewis Cass of Ohio.
*** Levi Woodbury of New Hampshire.
**** Roger B. Taney of Maryland.
Mr. L. == Edward Livingston, Secretary of State
I am in principle opposed to all Banks, and of course to that over which you preside. I wrote the review of that question in the Southern review. I have just written the article on Banks in the Southern Times of this place, which I send by this post. I have not varied in my good opinion of your personal Character, to which I have not omitted to bear willing testimony.
If I could oppose the banking system with success, I would do so; but I cannot. Under these circumstances, I very greatly prefer the renewal of your institution, to the Schemes of Genl. Jackson and Van Beuren; & I have determined to open upon them the battery of the Press here. Have you any facts or suggestions that you would be willing to communicate to me confidentially in aid of my design ? If so, I will use them as I here propose. If not, all is well; I shall go on, with such observations as occur to me. You know me, and I presume will take for granted that I write in good faith, as a Gentleman ought. I am Dear Sir
I have communicated to no one, my intention of applying to you for information, nor shall I. I send you also a pamphlet.
* A distinguished scientist, writer, and politician of South Carolina. Cooper was born in London, October 22, 1759. After studying at Oxford, Cooper visited France where he became involved in the political struggles of that nation. In 1795 he came to America with Dr. Joseph Priestley; but, once more taking up the cudgel against government, he was tried under the Alien and Sedition laws for attacking the administration of John Adams. From 1811 to 1814 he held the chair of chemistry in Dickinson College; in 1816, the same chair at the University of Pennsylvania; and from 1820 to 1834, the presidency of the University of South Carolina. Dr. Cooper soon became interested in Southern politics and was a strong advocate of nullification. The character of the man can easily be discerned from this and the following letters to Biddle. Cf. sketch of life in Niles, June 22, 1839.
... I have observed with great interest what you have written on the subject of the Bank. The truth is, that the question is no longer between this Bank & no Bank. It is a mere contest between Mr. Van Buren's Government Bank and the present institution--between Chestnut St and Wall St--between a Faro Bank and a National Bank. You do not perhaps know that soon after these people came into power, there was a deliberation in Caucus of the most active of the Jackson Party as to the means of sustaining themselves in place--and the possession of the Bank was ranked as a primary object. For this purpose they began in 1829 with an effort to remove an obnoxious President of one of the Branches--which was to be followed by a systematic substitution of their creatures throughout the whole institution. This experiment failed, owing to the firmness of the Directors who determined that they would not permit the interference of the Executive Officers.... From that moment they despared of turning the Bank to their political purposes, and have been intent on breaking it down to substitute some machinery more flexible. To that spirit, a new impulse has been given by a coterie of gamblers who having ascertained
... I have no doubt that we could at once give to the Southern & Western sections of the country twoor three millions of sound & useful circulating medium if we could sign that amount of 5 & 10 dollars. But to make two millions of five dollar notes, it would be necessary to sign my name 400,000 times, which, to a person whose time is & must be absorbed during the day by the duties of his station, is wholly impracticable. The application for this purpose was made to Congress some years ago, but it was accompanied by a request that Congress would alter the Charter so as to prevent the universal receivability of the notes. This I am satisfied from experience, as I was at the time from theory, is not desirable; & all that the Bank now wants is, that it may carry into execution a purpose useful alike to itself & to the community, by assisting in the diffusion of a wholesome currency. I wish therefore to consult you as to the best mode of presenting that subject to Congress. I have been for three years past so anxious to keep the Bank out of view in the political world & bring it down to Its true business character as a Counting House, that I have been very reluctant to apply to Congress for anything. ... I believe it to stand better with Congress than it did some time ago, but the political odour of sanctity is very evanescent & if our purpose can be obtained without bringing on two weeks debate upon the constitutionality of the Bank, the usurpations of the Supreme Court, & omni scibile & quibusdem aliis, it would be a great satisfaction. ....
---[This is the earliest mention of Biddle's most important innovations; draft notes were adopted in 1827 and were first issued in June 1827.]
In consequence of your letter I wrote to the proper source suggesting the gentleman mentioned by you and have this morning an answer of which the following is an extract.
"In regard to the appointment of Mr_____ it is well known here that he is in embarrassed circumstances and his notes now in the Bank are considered discounted on one name, which however is unquestionably good. Repeated efforts have been made to obtain an additional name, in which we have failed. It is with much inconvenience he meets even his check of 10 per cent and his note for $3330 has recently passed the Board for the same amount (now under protest) on condition of his paying 20% on the next renewal. Under these circumstances however happy I should otherwise be to have him attached to the Board, I cannot at present consistently recommend him for a Director."
This presents a strong case. Obliged as we are to look at the pecuniary side of men's characters, to be in embarrassed circumstances and to be even under protest, are deemed disqualifications for sitting at the Board which must decide on his own applications for loans. It is probable that you are not aware of these facts and I mention the subject thus early, so that in case you wish to make any further remarks on it, they may be in time for the election on the 11th of next month. I will only add that as the letter to me is in the most entire confidence, you will consider it in the same manner. I should particularly regret that your correspondent knew the source of the objection as it might excite personal hostility towards a very worthy man. ...
I thank you for your favor of the 9th inst. in regard to the Portsmouth office which we have this day arranged agreeably to your recommendation. The only departure from it is that we have fixed the salary at $800 & the professional compensation at $1,200 --instead of making each $1,000. This was done so as to preserve the symmetry of our system of compensation to the Presidents of Offices of similar Capital to that of Portsmouth, and not to make any invidious distinctions between them. To Mr Mason the form is I presume indifferent.
It remains now to secure his election.
You know that the Parent Board indicated their preference of a President by placing him at the head of the list --and this is usually decisive-- but the election is actually with the Board of the Office, and altho' I have no reason to suppose that there will be any difficulty, yet [it] is always so much easier, if possible, to prevent them to overcome obstacles, that I wish you would take upon yourself to promote his election by any communication which you may deem judicious with the Board of the Office, whose names are subjoined. I enclose Mr Mason's letter to you.
---[In 1816, Jeremiah Mason led the attack upon the establishment of the bank of the United States; by 1828 he obviously changed his mind regarding the Bank, and, through the instrumentality of Daniel Webster, he was chosen as President of the Bank's Portsmouth Branch.......]
The state of my health & the severity of the weather have prevented me, since my arrival here, from being much abroad. Nevertheless, I have seen a great number of persons, & conversed with them, among other things, respecting the Bank. The result of all these conversations has been a strong confirmation of the opinion which I expressed at Philadelphia that it is expedient for the Bank to apply for the renewal of its Charter without delay. I do not meet a Gentleman, hardly, of another opinion; & the little incidents & anecdotes, that occur & circulate among us, all tend to strengthen the impression. Indeed, I am now a good deal inclined to think, that after Gen'l Jackson's re-election there would be a poor chance for the Bank. I am well informed, that within three days, he has in conversation with several Gentlemen, reiterated his old opinions, somewhat vociferously, & declared them unchangeable.
I have thought, My Dear Sir, the best advice I could give you, is, that you come down here, yourself, & survey the ground. You will have access to men of all parties, & can digest your information, compare opinions, & judge discreetly upon the whole matter. In my judgment, this is your true course, & ought to be immediately followed.
I am, Dear Sir, always faithfully
You ask what is the effect of the Veto. My impression is that it is working as well as the friends of the Bank and of the country could desire. I have always deplored making the Bank a party question, but since the President will have it so, he must pay the penalty of his own rashness. As to the Veto message I am delighted with it. It has all the fury of a chained panther biting the bars of his cage. It is really a manifesto of anarchy --such as Marat or Robespierre might have issued to the mob of the faubourg St Antoine: and my hope is that it will contribute to relieve the country from the dominion of these miserable people. You are destined to be the instrument of that deliverance, and at no period of your life has the country ever had a deeper stake in you. I wish you success most cordially, because I believe the institutions of the Union are involved in it.
I have received your favor of the 7th inst. I have no information of the intended removal of the deposits, though my opinion is that they will not dare to remove them. Nevertheless it is very desirable that whatever is done in the way of pacification should be done soon --for if the deposits are withdrawn, it will be a declaration of war which cannot be recalled. ...
Altho' we do not feel anxious as to the result of the movements at Washington touching the Bank, still it is thought prudent to prepare for any adverse event and accordingly we have this day given instructions to the Branches to keep their discounts at their present amount --and to shorten the time for which they buy bills of exchange. This will make the institution strong & if any sudden movement is attempted by the Cabinet, proper or improper, we shall be ready. This will, I trust be temporary, as the squall may blow over.
I write this letter, as a private one, & for the purpose of inquiring whether the course for the adoption of the Bank is yet settled. The removal of the Deposites is a question of great interest to the Government, & as such will doubtless attract the attention of Congress. It is, also, a matter of moment to the Bank, as one part of their Charter. In this point of view, it becomes a question whether the Bank should not lay the transaction of removing the Deposites, before Congress. This, I have no doubt, you have already considered.
It appears to me that our political affairs are taking a very decided turn, & that if nothing be done to check the current, Mr V.B. will be elected President, by a vast majority. It is entirely obvious, I think, that the movement of the Southern Whigs (as they call themselves) in Mr White's favor has disgusted, deeply, the whole body of our friends in the North. Such papers as the Richmond Whig & Telegraph have endeavored to persuade the People that the question is narrowed down to a choice between Judge White & Mr. V. Buren, & If this be the only issue presented, there is already abundant indication that the whole north, east, & middle too, as I believe, will go for V.B. I do not know whether any thing can be done to change the course of things; but I am fully persuaded, that if any thing can be done, it is be done in Penn[sylvania]. Your people are awake to political subjects, in consequence of the pendency of an election for Gov[ernor]. If those who are likely to unite in support of Mr Ritner could unite also in making some demonstration, on National subjects, & do it immediately, it might possibly have some effect. Whether this be practicable is more than I know.
I have thought it right. My Dear Sir, to express to you my opinion, thus freely, on the present State, & apparent tendency, of things. Our friends here receive letters, every day, & from P[ennsylvania] as well as from other quarters, calling on them to do more, & say more. But they hardly see what more they can do, or say. The sentiment of Massachusetts is known; & it would seem to be for the consideration of others, whether it should be seconded.
You will, of course, burn this & let no eye but your own see it. You can judge whether any thing can be usefully done. For my part, I confess, it looks to me as if the whole Whig strength in the Country was either to be frittered away, or melt into the support of Mr V. Buren.
One word more on political subjects. It seems truly lamentable that the National Intelligencer should be so unwilling to give, or take, tone, on questions most interesting to us, as a party. Cannot this reluctance be overcome ? -- If Messrs G[ales]. & S[eaton]. are not disposed to support, at present, any named candidate, they might, at least, preach the necessity of supporting a Whig Candidate -- some Whig Candidate. We are in danger of breaking up, & dividing. Our natural field marshall -- he that should rally & encourage us, is the leading paper on our side. But this natural leader seems at present to be without any "objects, and, aim."
I mention this matter to you, because you can judge, as well as any one, whether the subject deems any attention; & If it do, can, better than any one, give an availing hints, in the right quarter. burn.
... The Sub Treasury bill remains in status quo. Calhoun is moving heaven, earth, & -- to obtain Southern votes for the measure. He labors to convince his Southern neighbors that its success will relieve them from their commercial dependence on the North. His plausibility, & endless perseverance, have really effected a good deal. Even your relative Mr. C. Sheppard has been, & indeed now is, in a state of doubt. Still, I think the Bill cannot pass; but the majority will be small. The labors of Mr Calhoun, & the power & patronage of the Executive, have accomplished more than I have thought possible.
The impression which I have that the coming administration will be in fact your administration: one which I can honorably support & be connected with, has revived a project in which I have for some time indulged -- but which I have never mentioned to any one even of my own family. You will therefore receive it in the same confidence in which it is written.
I have retired, as you know, from all active affairs: I do not wish to return to them. Whatever share I may have had in the war now happily ended -- by the elevation of my friends, I have no pretensions -- and shall stand in no man's way. It is a great wish of my family to travel in Europe, and I should incline to indulge it. But as you know travelling in Europe to a mere private gentleman is a dull business. If a man had a high public station & a higher public fame, as you had, he gets along well, but a private gentleman delivering cold letters of introduction & making his way into what is called society has a task extremely repugnant to his pride. I am too old for that & I am satisfied that the only way of being comfortable is to have some public character which at once settles your rank & places you above the necessity of groping your way. Of these stations some are troublesome from the business to be done & from the crowds of countrymen with whom one comes into contact: others give less rank but less labor. Now my object being to travel I would not be willing to remain in London or Paris or Petersburgh -- but I would prefer some position within striking distance of all the places on the continent, which would form the circle of travel and on the whole the place which seems best adapted for that purpose is Vienna. In regard to fitness, I have nothing to say -- I began my career as Secretary in Paris & afterwards in London. I was to have been sent by Mr Madison as Minister to London at the close of the last war, & was not sent because I was not a member of Congress -- the 'Far I have never made any suggestion about it, I did not know even of the design till some years afterwards, & as I should be "able" & able from my own private means to do all the external honors of a legation & have already been at Vienna. I think I might be not a very bad successor to the recent incumbent. That place too happens to be vacant so that no one need be removed and it is moreover ought of the sphere of ordinary competition among political men. The great interest to be encouraged there is the introduction upon better terms of our own tobacco and this I think I could manage better, perhaps than any mere planter who would carry about him the odour of his "business in this state."
And now my story is told. I wish to travel & deeming some public character essential I have thought of one which might enable me to do some good, & to represent not unworthily the new administration & the new Secretary for foreign affairs both of which I suspect have been misrepresented in more sense than one abroad. To my objects position not salary is what I desire not so much a place as a passport. Now tell me what you think of all this ? Is it a reasonable thing ? Is it a probable thing ?
---[Mr. Webster will be Secretary of State in Mr. Harrison's cabinet; in position to give Mr. Biddle a passport]
I duly received your letter, on a certain subject, & have that subject "in all my thoughts." Nob'y could be better for the Country -- & nothn would be more agreeable to me, than what you suggested. The difficulty will be with the Tobacco men. These Gentlemen got up the Austrian mission, some years ago, & expected a Marylander or a Virginian to fill it. Mr V. Buren disappointed that expectation, & appointed Mr. Muhlenberg, because he could talk German so well. Mr M. having returned, a new rally has been making, & two or three Tobacco raising candidates are in the field already. ...
... 2. I have received a visit of many hours from a friend who has just returned after passing several weeks in the midst of the most confidential circle of the President Elect and his friends -- a disinterested cool observer and I have no doubt of the truth of his observations. He says decidedly that in the opinion of all that circle Mr W[ebster] is the person who will have much more influence with the President than Mr C[lay]
4. My friend came full of another idea. He says that the same knot are of great friends of mine -- that the President himself when lately at Louisville made a very strong & decided eulogium upon me, and that this circle of friends believe that he wishes me to go into the Treasury. When I told him my determination on that head, he concluded with this declaration -- Well I assure you, you can make the Secretary "of the Treasury." Now I would not go into the Treasury for all the money in it -- but if I could help to put a good man there I would do so. But where is the man. If in this turmoil of Pennsylvania candidates, the President wants to get over a difficulty by naming a Penn. man & wishes to name me I will refuse by return mail, and then we can find some competent person. I mention this, that you may understand exactly the footing on which Mr H[arrison] and I are ...
... The Sub Treasury bill cannot now be repealed too soon -- it is believed at Washington that the House will repeal it if the Senate will, and it is thought there that with the Penn. Senators a majority of the Senate will vote its repeal. Buchanan I understand has said that if he is instructed to repeal it he will resign. Your Legislature is Whig is it not practicable to get them instructing your Senators ? Such a movement would come well & with great power from your State. We could instruct M. Wright in our State but he does not give faith to the doctrine. It might not be amiss to get Mr Webster's views on the Subject. The Sub Treasury being out of the way, the Bank must step in.
I understand, tho' at second hand, that a gentleman has arrived from Cincinnati who states that he heard the inaugural read -- and that it speaks of the necessity of a national Bank, & almost recommends it. You may have heard this elsewhere but I mention it that you might be prepared to modify it if you think it should be modified. On the whole I should think the expediency of announcing that purpose so early was questionable. It does not seem to me necessary in the inaugural --however it may do in the message to the new Congress-- and I should think it might rally at once the opposition on topics that might be turned to mischief against the new administration before it had time to strengthen itself.
Those of us who are here are quite united in opinion, that the inaugural should be confined to principles, & not go into measures; or [at] least, with one exception, & that would be to suggest the necessity of early augmentation of naval means.
... The more I have thought about the Bank, the better I like your idea of applying to your State for a charter for 35 Millions -- for a Bank to be called the Bank of the U S. Pennsylvania to subscribe 7 Millions payment in a stock bearing 4½ percts interest or even 4 -- having the same time to run, they grant the charter, pledging the faith of the State for said debt, & the accruing dividends toward part of interest, -- this would give your State at least 200,000 a Year as a Bonus, the present private Stockholders of the BUS to have the right to subscribe for the same number of shares in the New Bank they now hold in the Old -- the unsubscribed stock to belong to the corporation with right to sell as they think proper -- the Bank to have the right to establish Branches in all States permitting, & agencies every where on such terms as may be agreed upon. I feel persuaded all the States but N York would grant such privilege & if they refused, place an agency there -- we would grant you the charter here at once.
I had this morning the pleasure of receiving your letter of the 5th inst. in which you apprize me that you had been informed that the Stockholders of the U.S. Bank would accept a charter from this State and you request to know from me on what terms this can be effected -- especially mentioning the number of years of the charter with which the Bank would be satisfied --the amount of capital-- as well as the premium & other encouragements that would be given to the State in consideration of it.
Having long had reflected much on this subject, I will answer promptly & without reserve.
It was Matthew St. Clair Clarke who first suggested to Biddle the advisability of securing a charter from the State of Pennsylvania. Clarke was a co-worker of Peter Force and aided the latter in collecting and publishing the former's great work American Archives, a Documentary History of the English Colonies of North America.
On October 30, 1832, Clarke wrote to Biddle as follows:"I need only give the outline of what I consider a splendid operation. Only remember I have given it. Let our State of Pennsylvania charter the U.S. Bank, less the Gov. Stock --and in place of Branches, out of the State-- create Agencies --or whatever you please to call them. ... Let the State lay out the Bonus in Internal Improvements and make yourself a 'name & praise among the nations of the Earth.' "
This suggestion evidently impressed Biddle as the above letter and the following actions of the Bank disclose. Moreover, the economic and political aspect of the State favored the Bank men at this particular time. Pennsylvania was already engulfed in the vast internal improvement speculation which characterized these years and was just beginning to feel the effects of her folly. With her commerce sinking beneath the pecuniary agitation of the thirties, her treasury bankrupt, and her citizens overburdened with taxes, the Pennsylvania Legislature was willing to listen to Nicholas Biddle. Furthermore, the Anti-Masonic Party had elected their man, Joseph Ritner, as governor upon an implied promise not to increase the debt nor the taxes, and as the Whigs and Anti-Masons had been voting together on all measures since 1832 under the able leadership of Thaddeus Stevens, Biddle might well deem the time propitious.
---["$479,000 of ascertained bribes, advanced by the Biddle Bank to obtain the State charter, in January1836," when this future "grand old commoner" was the able leader of the legislators who did not notice that 'other purposes' section at the end of a canal bill]
For a variety of reasons, which I forbear to state because your duties have made you familiar with them, I believe it to be of the greatest importance to our State to appropriate to its own benefit the Capital of the Bank of the U.S. which is about to be distributed & can never be recalled if it once leaves the State.
I believe that considering the general growth of the whole Union --and the extraordinary resources of Pennsylvania which require only capital to develope them-- the sum of ten millions which formed the capital of the first Bank in 1791 --and the sum of 35 millions which formed the capital of the present Bank in 1816 was not more than the equivalent of 100 millions at this time-- and that the present institution might with great safety & with great advantage be gradually increased to fifty millions to an amount not disproportionate when it is considered how large a sum could be used for the general purposes of trade, manufactures & agriculture -- how much might be advanced to the State for the completion of its great Plans of improvement -- how large a portion might be given to private associations for rail roads & canals & other objects of general benefit & how much might be judiciously advanced to individuals in the interior for improvements which tho' private in their nature are public in their results. I believe that to give permanency & solidity to the fiscal arrangements of the State it would be greatly for its interest to extend the charter to thirty years.
I have accordingly endeavored to estimate the value of such a charter -- & I have made up my mind to this conclusion which I mention to you at once -- because I have not the least ambition to make any arrangement not mutually advantageous & because after all the benefit of this measure to the Commonwealth in its schemes of improvement is far greater than the mere price which may be paid for the charter. The question you will perceive is, what Inducement can be offered to the Stockholders in other parts of the U.S. or in Europe to leave his funds in Pennsylvania rather than take them home to be employed in other States -- and then what reason can be given for accepting a charter from Pennsylvania rather from any other of the 24 States having an equal with Pennsylvania to give the charter. As a Pennsylvanian devotedly attached to her interests & her fame I would give more to Pennsylvania than to any other State for a Charter -- and my effort would be to induce all the other Stockholders to prefer that arrangement to either a division of the funds or the acceptance of a charter from any other State. To do which it would be necessary to render the terms beneficial to the State yet not too burdensome to the Stockholder.*
* As far as I understand the financial position of the State it is that a large amount of funds is invested in improvements which do not yet defray their own expenses, but will do so when the whole scheme of improvements is finished. It is desirable therefore to make arrangements for the completion of the improvements and until they become more productive to supply the deficiency of income over expenditure. Both these objects would I think be attained by the following arrangement.[New York and later Maryland made generous offers to Biddle when the bill to re-charter the Bank was finally presented to the Pennsylvania Legislature. Both states were most desirous of securing the institution.]
For a charter from Pennsylvania for the amount of Stock held by individuals with a power of gradual increase to fifty millions of dollars, and for thirty years, I would recommend to the Stockholders the following terms.
To give to the State 2,000,000 either in cash on the day when the charter was accepted, or in instalments one fourth cash & the rest in equal payments at six, twelve & 18 months, the sum of 2,000,000. To lend to the State whenever wanted six millions of dollars taking their Stock, which need not be repaid before the expiration of the charter, at five per cent, which interest payable semi annually & giving a premium of ten per cent -- or if more agreeable to take a four per cent stock at par.
To subscribe the sum of one million to the stock of any rail roads or canal companies which the State might elect as worthy of particular patronage and
To advance at all times to the State a temporary loan of Five hundred thousand at five per cent.
Allow me in conclusion to suggest one very important consideration. It is this. The charter of the Bank expires on the 4th of March. The Stockholders are already summoned to meet on the 17th of February to make preparations for the dissolution of the Bank & some final decision will probably be then made for either the division of the funds or an application for a charter from some other authority. It would therefore be highly desirable that the final action of the legislature should be known at that period, so that an immediate acceptance of the charter may be made -- or ulterior measures be adopted.
I need not say that in this frank exposition I speak only my own sentiments -- I believe such an arrangement would be beneficial to the State and as such it might be offered & would be accepted.