The Papers of John C. Calhoun
University of South Carolina Press, 1979
SPEECH IN REPLY TO DANIEL WEBSTER
ON THE SUB-TREASURY BILL
[In the Senate, Tuesday, March 22, 1838.]
Mr. President: After having addressed the Senate twice, I should owe an apology, under ordinary circumstances, for again intruding myself on its patience. But after what fell from the senator from Massachusetts nearest to me (Mr. Webster), the other day [3/12], the greater part of which was not only directed against my arguments, but at me personally, I feel that my silence, and not my notice of his remarks, would require an apology. And yet, notwithstanding I am thus constrained again to address the Senate, I fear it will be impossible to avoid exciting some impatience, fatigued and exhausted as it must be by so long a discussion ; to prevent which, as far as practicable, I shall aim at as much brevity as possible, consistently with justice to myself and the side I support.
The senators speech was long and multifarious, consisting of many parts, which had little or no connexion with the question under consideration. For the sake of brevity and distinctness, I propose to consider it under four heads. First, his preliminary discourse, which treated at large of credits and banks, with very little reference to the subject. Next, his arguments on the question at issue ; and that to be followed by his reply to my arguments at this and the extra session ; and, finally, his conclusion, which was appropriated wholly to personal remarks, and a comparison between his and my public course, without having the slightest relation either to the subject or anything I had said in the debate, but which the senator obviously considered as the most important portion of his speech. He devoted one day almost wholly to it, and delivered himself with an earnestness and vehemence which clearly manifested the importance which he had attached to it. I shall, as in duty bound, pay my respects first to that which so manifestly occupied the highest place in his estimation, though standing at the bottom in the order of his remarks.
The senator opened this portion of his speech with much courtesy, accompanied by many remarks of respect and regard, which I understood to be an intimation that he desired the attack he was about to make to be attributed to political, and not personal motives. I accept the intimation, and shall meet him in the sense he intended. Indeed, there never has been between the senator and myself the least personal difference, nor has a word having a personal bearing ever passed between us in debate prior to the present occasion, within my recollection, during the long period we have been in public life, except [in 1833] on the discussion of the Force Bill and Proclamation ; which, considering how often we have stood opposed on deep and exciting questions, may be regarded as not a little remarkable. But our political relations have not been on as good a footing as our personal. He seems to think that we had harmonized not badly till 1824, when, according to his version, I became too sectional for him to act any longer with me ; but which I shall hereafter show originated in a very different cause. My impression, I must say, is different, very different from that of the senator. From the commencement of our public life to the present time, we have differed on almost all questions involving the principles of the government and its permanent policy, with the exception of a short interval, while I was in the war department, when the senator agreed with the South on the protective system and some other measures. I do not consider our casual concert during the last few years of the late [Andrew Jackson] administration, when we were both opposed to the executive power, as constituting an exception. It was understood that we both adhered to our principles and views of policy without the least surrender, and our personal relations were formal and cold during the whole period. In fact, we moved in entirely different spheres. We differed in relation to the origin and character of the government, the principles on which it rested, and the policy it ought to pursue ; and I could not at all sympathize with the grave and deep tone with which the senator pronounced our fine separation, as he was pleased to call it, and which, in my opinion, would have been much more appropriate to the separation of those who had been long and intimately united in the support of the same principles and policy, than to the slight and casual relations, personal and political, which had existed between us.
Setting, then, aside all personal motives, I may well ask, What political grief, what keen disappointment is it, which at this time could induce him to make the attack he has on me, and, I might add, in the manner in which he made it ? The senator himself shall answer the question. He has unfolded the cause of his grief, and pointed to the source of his disappointment. He told us that victory was within reach, and my co-operation only was wanted to prostrate forever those in power. These few words are a volume. They disclose all. Yes, victory was within reach, the arm outstretched, the hand expanded to seize it, and I would not co-operate. Hence the grief, hence the keen disappointment, and hence the waters of bitterness that have rolled their billows against me. And what a victory ! Not simply the going out of one party and the coming in of another ; not merely the expulsion of the administration, and the induction of the opposition ; but a great political revolution, carrying with it the fundamental principles of the government and a permanent change of policy. It would have brought in, not only the senator and his party, but their political creed, as announced by him in the discussion on the Proclamation and Force Bill, with which he now taunts those in powera fact to be noted and remembered. He, the champion of those measures, against whom I contended foot to foot for one entire session, now casts up to me, that in refusing to co-operate with him, I protect the party in power, not a small portion of whom, I have good reason to believe, were drawn by the adverse current of the times reluctantly from their own principles to the support of those measures, and with it the senator and his principles. Yes, I repeat, it would have brought in the senator and his consolidation doctrines, which regard this government as one great National Republic, with the right to construe finally and conclusively the extent of its own powers, and to enforce its construction at the point of the bayonet ; doctrines which at a blow sweep away every vestige of State rights, and reduce the States to mere petty and dependant corporations. It would also have brought in his policybank, tariff, and all. Even now, when victory is still uncertain, the senator announces the approach of the period when he shall move the renewal of the protective system : a precious confession, that dropped out in the heat of discussion.
(Mr. Webster : No, I spoke deliberately.)
So much, then, the worse. That justifies all I have said and done ; that proves my foresight and firmness, and will open the eyes of thousands, especially in the South, who have heretofore doubted the correctness of my course on this question.
The victory would not only have been complete had I co-operated, but it would also have been permanent. The portion of the State Rights party with which I acted would have been absorbedyes, absorbed ; it is the proper word, and I use it in spite of the sarcasm of the senator. The other would have been scattered and destroyed, and the senator and his party, and their principles and policy, would have been left undisputed masters of the field, unresisted and irresistible. The first fruits of the victory would have been the reunion of the political and money powera wedded union, never more to be dissolved. The tariff would have been renewedI may now speak positively, after the declaration of the senatorto be again followed by an overflowing revenue, profuse and corrupt expenditures, heavy surplus, and overwhelming patronage, which would have closed the door to wealth and distinction to all who refused to bend the knee at the shrine of the combined powers. All this was seen and fully comprehended by the senator ; and hence again, I repeat, his deep grief, his keen disappointment, and his attacks on me for refusing to co-operate.
The senator must have known that, in refusing, I acted on principles and opinions long entertained and fully declared years ago. In my reply to [Henry Clay] his associate in this joint war on me, in which I am attacked at once in front and rear, I demonstrated, to the satisfaction of the Senate, the truth of what I assert so completely, that the senators associate did not even attempt a denial. And yet, such is the depth of the senators grief and disappointment, that it hurried him to a repetition of exploded charges, which, in his cooler moments, he must know to be unfounded. He repeated the stale and refuted charge of a somerset, of going over, and of being struck with a sudden thought ; and summoned up all his powers of irony and declamation, of which he proved himself to be a great master on the occasion, to make my Edgefield letter, in which I assigned my reason for refusing to co-operate, ridiculous. I see in all this but the disappointed hopes of one who had fixed his gaze intensely on power that had eluded his grasp, and who sought to wreak his resentment on him who had refused to put the splendid prize in his hands. He resorted to ridicule, because it was the only weapon that truth and justice left him. He well knows how much deeper are the wounds that they inflict than the slight punctures that the pointed, but feeble, shafts of ridicule leave behind ; and he used the more harmless weapon only because he could not command the more deadly. That is in my hand. I brandish it in his eyes. It is the only one I need, and I intend to use it freely on this occasion.
After pouring out his wailing in such doleful tones because I would not co-operate in placing him and his party in power, and prostrating my own, the senator next attacks me because I stated in my Edgefield letter, as I understood him, that I rallied on General Jackson with the view of putting down the tariff by executive influence. I have looked over that letter with care, and can find no such expression. (Mr. Webster : It was used at the extra session.) I was about to add, that I had often used it, and cannot but feel surprised that the senator should postpone the notice of it till this late period, if he thought it deserving reply. Why did he not reply to it years ago, when I first used it in debate ? But the senator asked what I meant by executive influence. Did I mean his veto ? He must have asked the question thoughtlessly. He must know that the veto can only apply to bills on their passage, and could not possibly be used in case of existing laws, such as the tariff acts. He also asked if there was concert in putting down the tariff between my self and the present chief magistrate [Martin Van Buren]. I reply by asking him a question, to which, as a New-England man, he cannot object. He has avowed his determination, in a certain contingency, which he thinks is near, that he will move the renewal of the tariff. I ask, Is there concert on that point between him and his associate in this attack ? And, finally, he asks if I disclosed my motives then. Yes : I am not in the habit of disguising them. I openly and constantly avowed that it was one of my leading reasons in supporting General Jackson, because I expected he would use his influence to effect a gradual, but thorough reduction of the tariff, that would reduce the system to the revenue point ; and when I saw reason to doubt whether he would accomplish what I deem so important, I did not wait the event of his election, but moved openly and boldly in favour of State interposition as a certain remedy, which would not fail to effect the reduction, in the event he should disappoint me.
The senator, after despatching my letter, concluded his speech by volunteering a comparison between his and my public character, not very flattering to me, but highly complimentary to himself. He represented me as sectional ; in the habit of speaking constantly of the unconstitutional and oppressive operations of the tariff, which he thought very unpatriotic ; of having certain sinister objects in view in calling on the South to unite, and of marching off under the State Rights banner, while he paints himself in the most glowing and opposite colours. There is, Mr. President, no disputing about taste ; such are the effects of a difference of organization and education, that what is offensive to one is often agreeable to another. According to my conception nothing can be more painful than to pronounce our own praise, particularly in contrast with another, even when forced to do so in self-defence ; but how one can rise in his place when neither his motive nor his conduct is impeached, and when there is nothing in the question or previous discussion that could possibly justify it, and pronounce a eulogy on himself, which a modest man would blush to pronounce on a Washington or a Franklin to his face, is to me utterly incomprehensible. But if the senator, in pronouncing his gorgeous piece of autobiography, had contented himself in simply proclaiming, in his deep tone, to the Senate and the assembled multitude of spectators, that he came into Congress as the representative of the American people ; that if he was born for any good, it was for the good of the whole people, and the defence of the Constitution ; that he habitually acted as if acting in the eyes of the framers of the Constitution ; that it would be easier to drive these pillars from their bases than to drive or seduce him from his lofty purpose ; that he would do nothing to weaken the brotherly love between these States, and everything that they should remain united, beneficially and thoroughly, forever, I would have gazed in silent wonder without uttering a word at the extraordinary spectacle, and the happy self-delusion in which he seems to exist. But when he undertook, not only to erect an image to himself, as an object of selfadoration, but to place alongside of it a carved figure of myself, with distorted limbs and features, to heighten and render more divine his own image, he invited, he challenged, nay, he compelled me to inquire into the high qualities which he arrogates to himself, and the truth of the comparison which he has drawn between us. If the inquiry should excite some reminiscences not very agreeable to the senator, or disturb the happy self-delusion in which he reposes, he must not blame me, but his own self-sufficiency and boasting at my expense.
Know yourself is an ancient maxim, the wisdom of which I never before so fully realized. How imperfectly even the talented and intelligent know themselves ! Our understanding, like our eyes, seems to be given, not to see our own features, but those of others. How diffident we ought to be of any favourable opinion that we may have formed of ourselves ! That one of the distinguished abilities of the senator, and his mature age, should form so erroneous an opinion of his real character, is indeed truly astonishing. I do not deny that he possesses many excellent qualities. My object is truth, and I intend neither to exaggerate nor detract. But I must say that the character which he attributes to himself is wholly unlike that which really belongs to him. So far from that universal and ardent patriotism which knows neither place nor person, that he ascribes to himself, he is, above all the distinguished public men with whom I am acquainted, remarkable for a devoted attachment to the interest, the institutions, and the place where Providence has cast his lot. I do not censure him for his local feelings. The Author of our being never intended that creatures of our limited faculties should embrace with equal intenseness of affection the remote and the near. Such an organization would lead us constantly to intermeddle with what we would but imperfectly understand, and often to do mischief where we intended good. But the senator is far from being liable to such a charge. His affections, instead of being too wide and boundless, are too concentrated. As local as his attachment is, it does not embrace all within its limited scope. It takes in but a class even therepowerful, influential, and intelligent, but still a class which influences and controls all his actions, and so absorbs his affections as to make him overlook large portions of the Union, of which I propose to give one or two striking illustrations.
I must, then, remind the senator that there is a vast extent of our wide-spread Union, which lies south of Mason and Dixons line, distinguished by its peculiar soil, climate, situation, institutions, and productions, which he has never encircled within the warm embraces of his universal patriotism. As long as he has been in public life, he has not, to the best of my knowledge, given a single vote to promote its interest, or done an act to defend its rights. I wish not to do him injustice. If I could remember a single instance, I would cite it ; but I cannot, in casting my eyes over his whole course, call to mind one. As boundless and ardent, then, as is his patriotism, according to his own account, it turns out that it is limited by metes and bounds, that exclude nearly one half of the whole Union !
But it may be said that this total absence of all manifestation of attachment to an entire section of the Union is not to be attributed to the want of an ardent desire to promote its interest and security, but of occasion to exhibit it. Unfortunately for the senator, such an excuse is without foundation. Opportunities are daily and hourly offering. The section is the weakest of the two, and its peculiar interest and institutions expose it constantly to injustice and oppression, which afford many and fine opportunities to display that generous and noble patriotism which the senator attributes to himself, and which delights in taking the side of the assailed against the assailant. Even now, at this moment, there is an opportunity which one professing such ardent and universal attachment to the whole country as the senator professes would greedily embrace. A war is now, and has been systematically and fiercely carried on, in violation of the Constitution, against a long-standing and widely-extended institution of that section, that is indispensable, not only to its prosperity, but to its safety and existence, and which calls loudly on every patriot to raise his voice and arm in its defence. How has the senator acted ? Has he raised his mighty arm in defence of the assailed, or thundered forth his denunciation against the assailants ? These are searching questions. They test the truth of his universal and boasted attachment to the whole country ; and in order that the Senate may compare his acts with his professions, I propose to present more fully the facts of the case, and his course.
It is well known, then, that the section to which I refer is inhabited by two races, from different continents, and descended from different stocks ; and that they have existed together under the present relation from the first settlement of the country. It is also well known that the ancestors of the senators constituents (I include the section) brought no small portion of the ancestors of the African, or inferior race, from their native home across the ocean, and sold them as slaves to the ancestors of our constituents, and pocketed the price, and profited greatly by the traffic. It is also known, that when the Constitution was formed, our section felt much jealousy lest the powers which it conferred should be used to interfere with the relations existing between the two races ; to allay which, and induce our ancestors to enter the Union, guards, that were deemed effectual against the supposed danger, were inserted in the instrument. It is also known that the product of the labour of the inferior race has furnished the basis of our widely-extended commerce and ample revenue, which has supported the government, and diffused wealth and prosperity through the other section. This is one side of the picture. Let us now turn and look at the other.
How has the other section acted ? I include not all, nor a majority. We have had recent proof, during the discussion of the resolutions I offered at the commencement of the session, to what great extent just and patriotic feelings exist in that quarter, in reference to the subject under consideration. I then narrow the question, and ask, How has the majority of the senators constituents acted, and especially a large portion of his political supporters and admirers ? Have they respected the title to our property, which we trace back to their ancestors, and which, in good faith and equity, carries with it an implied warranty, that binds them to defend and protect our rights to the property sold us ? Have they regarded their faith plighted to us on entering into the constitutional compact which formed the Union, to abstain from interfering with our property, and to defend and protect us in its quiet enjoyment ? Have they acted as those ought who have participated so largely in the profits derived from our labour ? No ; they are striving night and day, in violation of justice, plighted faith, and the Constitution, to divest us of our property, to reduce us to the level of those whom they sold to us as slaves, and to overthrow an institution on which our safety depends.
I come nearer home. How has the senator himself acted ? He who has such influence and weight with his constituents, and who boasts of his universal patriotism and brotherly love and affection for the whole Union ? Has he raised his voice to denounce this crying injustice, or his arm to arrest the blow of the assailant, which threatens to dissever the Union, and forever alienate one half of the community from the other ? Has he uttered a word in condemnation of violated faith, or honour trampled in the dust ? No ; he has sat quietly in his place, without moving a finger or raising his voice. Without raising his voice did I say ? I mistake. His voice has been raised, not for us, but for our assailants. His arm has been raised, not to arrest the aggressor, but to open the doors of this chamber, in order to give our assailants an entrance here, where they may aim the most deadly blow against the safety of the Union, and our tranquillity and security. He has thrown the mantle, not of protection, over the Constitution, but over the motive and character of those whose daily avocation is to destroy every vestige of brotherly love between these States, and to convert the Union into a curse instead of a blessing. He has done more. The whole Senate have seen him retire from his seat to avoid a vote on one of the resolutions that I moved, with a view to rally the patriotic of every portion of the community against this fell spirit, which threatens to dissolve the Union, and turn the brotherly love and affection in which it originated into deadly hate ; which was so obviously true that he could not vote against it, but which he dodged, rather than throw his weight on our side, and against our assailants. And yet, while these things are fresh in our recollection, notorious, known to all, the senator rises in his place, and proclaims aloud that he comes in as the representative of the United States ; that, if he was born for any good, it was for the good of the whole people, and the defence of the Constitution ; that he always acts as if under the eyes of the framers of the Constitution ; that it would be easier to drive these pillars from their bases than him from his lofty purpose ; that he will do nothing to destroy the brotherly love between these States, and everything that the Union may exist forever, beneficially and thoroughly for all ! What a contrast between profession and performance ! What strange and extraordinary self-delusion.
But this is not the only instance. There is another, in which the contrast between the course of the senator and his lofty pretension of unbounded and ardent patriotism is not less astonishing. I refer to the protective tariff, and his memorable and inconsistent course in relation to it.
Its history may be told in a few words. It rose subsequent to the late war with Great Britain. The senators associate [Henry Clay] in this attack was its leading supporter and author. Its theory rested on the principle, that all articles which could be made in our country should be protected ; and it was an axiom of the system, that its perfection consisted in prohibiting the introduction of all such articles from abroad. To give the restrictions on commerce necessary to effect its object a plausible appearance, they were said to be for the protection of home industry, and the system itself received the imposing name of the American System. Its effects were desolating in the staple States. The heavy duties imposed on their foreign exchanges left scarcely enough to the planter to feed and clothe his slaves and educate his children, while wealth and prosperity bloomed around the favoured portion of the Union.
The senator was at first opposed to the system. As far back as the autumn of 1820, he delivered a speech to the citizens of Boston, in Faneuil Hall, in opposition to it, in which he questioned its constitutionality, and denounced its inequality and oppression.
His speech was followed by a series of resolutions embodying the substance of what he had said, and which received the sanction of himself and constituents, who, at that time, were less interested in manufactures than in commerce and navigation, which suffered in common with the great staple interests of the South. I ask the secretary to read the resolutions :
Resolved, That no objection ought ever to be made to any amount of taxes equally apportioned, and imposed for the purpose of raising revenue necessary for the support of government ; but that taxes imposed on the people for the sole benefit of any class of men, are equally inconsistent with the principles of our Constitution, and with sound judgment.
Resolved, That the supposition that until the supposed tariff or some similar measure, be adopted, we are, and shall be dependant on foreigners for the means of subsistence and defence, is, in our opinion, altogether fallacious and fanciful, and derogatory to the character of the nation.
Resolved, That high bounties on such domestic manufactures as are principally benefited by that tariff, favour great capitalists rather than personal industry, or the owners of small capitals, and therefore that we do not perceive its tendency to promote national industry.
Resolved, That we are equally incapable of discovering its beneficial effects on agriculture, since the obvious consequence of its adoption would be, that the farmer must give more than he now does for all he buys, and receive less for all he sells.
Resolved, That, in our opinion, the proposed tariff, and the principles on which it is avowedly formed, would, if adopted, have a tendency, however different may be the motives of those who recommend them, to diminish the industry, impede the prosperity, and corrupt the morals of the people.
What can be more explicit or decided ? They hold the very sentiments and language which I have so often held on this floor. That very system was then pronounced to be unconstitutional, unequal, and oppressive, and corrupting in its effects, by the senator and his constituents, for pronouncing which now he accuses me of being sectional, and holding language having a mischievous effect on the rising generation.
Four years after this, in April, 1824, the senator delivered another speech against the system, in reply to the then speaker, and now his associate on this occasion, in which he again denounced the inequality and oppression of the system with equal force, in one of the ablest arguments ever delivered on the subject, and in which he completely demolished the reasons of his then opponent. But an event was then fast approaching which was destined to work a mighty and sudden revolution in his views and feelings. A few months after, the presidential election took place ; Mr. [John Quincy] Adams was elected by the co-operation of the author of the American System [Henry Clay], and the now associate of the senator. Those who had been enemies came together. New political combinations were formed, and the result was a close alliance between the East and the West, of which that system formed the basis. A new light bursted in on the senator. A sudden thought struck him, but not quite as disinterested as that of the German sentimentalist. He made a complete somerset, heels over head ; went clear over ; deserted the free-trade side in a twinkling, and joined the restrictive policy, and then cried out that he could no longer act with me, whom he had left standing where he had just stood, because I was too sectional ! At once everything the senator had ever said or done was forgotten entirely expunged from the tablets of his memory. His whole nature was changed in an instant, and thereafter no measure of protection was too strong for his palate. With a few contortions and slight choking, he even gulped down, a few years after, the bill of abominationthe tariff of 1828a measure which raised the duties so high as to pass one half of the aggregate amount in value of the whole imports into the public treasury. I desire it to be noted and remembered that, out of an importation of sixty-four millions of dollars, including every description of imports, the free and dutied articles, the government took for its share thirty-two millions under the tariff of 1828 ; and that the senator, yes, he, the defender of the Constitution and equal protector of every section and interest, voted for that measure, notwithstanding his recent denunciation of the system as unconstitutional, unequal, and oppressive ! But he did more, and things still more surprising, as the sequel will show.
The protective tariff did not change the character of its operation with the change of the senator. Its oppressive and corrupting effects grew with its growth, till the burden became intolerable under the tariff of 1828. Desolation spread itself over the entire staple region. Its commercial cities were deserted. Charleston parted with its last ship, and grass grew in her once busy streets. The political condition of the country presented a prospect not less dreary. A deep and growing conflict between the two great sections agitated the whole country, and a vast revenue, beyond its most extravagant wants, gave the government, especially the executive branch, boundless patronage and power, which were rapidly changing the character of the government, and spreading corruption far and wide through every condition of society. Something must be done, and that promptly. Every hope of reformation, or change through this government, had vanished. The absorbing force of the system had drawn into its support a fixed majority in the community, which controlled, irresistibly, every department of the government. But one hope was left short of revolution, and that was in the States themselves, in their sovereign capacity as parties to the constitutional compact. Fortunately for the country and our institutions, one of the members of the Union was found bold enough to interpose her sovereign authority, and declare the protective tariff that had caused all this mischief, and threatened so much more, to be unconstitutional, and therefore null and void, and of no effect within her limits ; and thus an issue was formed, which brought events to a crisis.
We all remember what followed. The government prepared to assert by force its usurped powers. The Proclamation was issued, and the war message and Force Bill followed, and the State armed to maintain her constitutional rights. How, now, I ask, did the senator act in this fearful crisis ; he who had, but a short time before, pronounced the system to be unconstitutional, unequal, unjust, and oppressive ? Did he feel any sympathy for those who felt and thought as he did but a brief period before ? Did he make any allowance for their falling into the same errors (if such he then considered them) into which he himself had fallen ? Did he show that ardent devotion to preserve the brotherly love between the members of the Union he now so boastingly professes ? Did he, who calls himself the defender of the Constitution, feel any compunction in resorting to force to execute laws which he had pronounced to be in violation of the Constitution ? Did he, who manifested such deep distrust of those in power, who had been foremost in proclaiming their usurpations, and calling on the patriotic of all parties to oppose them, show any dread in clothing the President with unlimited power to crush one of the members of the Union, and which, after accomplishing that, might be so readily turned to crush the liberty of all ? Quite the reverse. A sudden thought again struck him. He again, in a twinkling, forgot the past, and rushed over into the arms of power, and took his position in the front rank, as the champion of the most violent measures, to enforce laws at the point of the bayonet which he had pronounced unconstitutional, unjust, and oppressive ! and this, too, at the hazard of civil war, and the manifest danger of subverting the Constitution and liberties of the country ; refusing all terms of adjustment, and resisting to the last, with violence, the bill which compromised and settled the conflict ! And yet, with all this fresh in the recollection of himself and all present, he can rise in his place and proclaim himself the universal patriot ; the defender of the Constitution and benefactor of every portion of the Union ; the man who has done everything to preserve brotherly love between its members, and who is ready to make every sacrifice to make it beneficial to all the parties !
But what is more extraordinary, what is truly wonderful and astonishing, is, while these words were on his tongue, he, in the same breath, with a full knowledge of all the disastrous consequences which have, and must necessarily follow the renewal of the protective system, should declare that he anticipates the speedy arrival of the time when he will again undertake to revive the system ! More cannot be added. The contrast between the senators course and the character which he ascribes to himself cannot be rendered more striking. I shall not add another instance, as many of them as are at my command. A volume could not more conclusively prove how unfounded are his pretensions to that lofty, universal, and ardent patriotism which he claims for himself, and how strong the delusion under which he is in regard to his true character.
Let us now turn and inquire what has been my course ; I, whom he represents as sectional, whose course he pronounces to be unfriendly to the Union, because I now call the protective system unconstitutional and oppressive ; who, he intimates, desires to unite the South for no patriotic purpose, and represents as going off under the State Rights banner. And here, Mr. President, let me say, I put in no claim to the lofty destiny to which the senator says he was born. Instead of coming here, like the senator, as the representative of the whole people, I appear in the more humble character of the representative of one of the States of this Union, sent here to watch over her particular interests, and to promote the general interest of all, as far as the Constitution has conferred power upon us, and as it can be done without oppression to the parts. These are my conceptions of my representative character, with the trust confided to me, and the duties attached to it, which I endeavour to discharge with industry, fidelity, and all the abilities which it has pleased my Creator to confer on me. Instead of falling short of what I profess, I trust my public life, if examined with candour, will show that I have ever so interpreted my duty to my State as to permit it in no instance to interfere with the just claims of the Union. It is my good fortune to represent a State which holds her character far above her interest, and which claims the first place, when a sacrifice is to be made for the safety and happiness of all, and would hold me to strict account if, in representing her interest, I should forget what is due to her honour among her confederates. All her acts prove that she is as liberal in making concessions, when demanded by the common good, as she is prompt and resolute to resist aggression to promote the interest of others at her expense. Acting in the same spirit, as her representative, I have never failed to meet and repel aggressions, while, I trust, I have on no occasion been unmindful of her honour, and the general interests of the whole Union. Having made these remarks, I shall now proceed to show that, as humble as my pretensions are, and as sectional and unpatriotic as he hay thought proper to represent me, my course for liberality and a just regard to the interest of every portion of the Union will not suffer in comparison with his, as lofty as are his pretensions.
In making the inquiry I have into the course of the senator in relation to the section to which I belong, I called on him to point out a single instance, with all his boasted patriotism, in which he had given a vote to promote its interests, or done an act to defend its rights ; but now, when the inquiry is into my course in relation to his section, I propose to reverse the question, and to apply to myself a much more severe test than I did to him. I ask, then, From what measure, calculated to promote the interests of his section, have I ever withheld my support, except, indeed, the protective tariff, and certain appropriations, which, according to my mode of construing the Constitution, I regard as unconstitutional, and would, of course, be bound to oppose, wherever the benefit should fall ? I call on the senator to point out a single instance ; and, if he desires it, I will yield him the floor, in order to give him an opportunity to do so. Will the senator call, on his part, for instances in which I have supported the interest of his section ? I can point to numerous : to my early and constant support of the navy ; to my resistance to the system of embargoes, Non-importation and Non-intercourse Acts ; to my generous course in support of manufactures that sprung up during the war, in which my friends think I went too far ; to the liberal terms on which the tariff controversy was settled, and the fidelity with which I have adhered to it ; and to the system of fortifications for the defence of our harbours, which I projected and commenced, and which is so important to the two great interests of commerce and navigation, in which his section has so deep a stake. To which I might add many more ; but these are sufficient for one, represented as so sectional, against the blank list of the senator in relation to my section, with all his claim to ardent and universal patriotism. If we turn to the West, my course will at least bear comparison with his for liberality towards that great and growing section of our country. To pass over other instances, I ask him what measure of his can be compared with the cession I have proposed of the public lands to the new States on the liberal conditions proposed ? It is a measure above all others calculated to promote their interest, to elevate their character, to terminate their political dependance, and to raise them to a complete equality with the old States for the mutual benefit of us and them, but which, sectional as I am represented to be, proved too liberal for the senator, with all his wide-extended and ardent attachment to the whole Union.
But it seems that I mean something very sinister in my call on the South to unite, and the senator very significantly asks me what is meant. I have nothing to disguise, and will readily answer. If he would look at home, and open his eyes to the systematic and incessant attacks made on our peace and quiet by his constituentsif he would reflect on his threat to renew the system of oppression from which we have freed ourselves with such difficulty and dangerand bear in mind that we are the weaker section, and, without union among ourselves, cannot resist the danger that surrounds us he will see that there is neither mystery nor danger in the call. I go farther. Our union is not only necessary to our safety and protection, but is also to the successful operation of our system. We constitute the check to its over-action ; and, as experience proves we are the only power through which, when disordered, reformation can be peaceably effected. Our union is dangerous to none, and salutary to all. The machine never works well when the South is divided, nor badly when it is united.
The senator next tells us that I declared I would march off under the State Rights banner, which he seized on to impugn my patriotism and to boast of his own. It is an easy task, by misstating or garbling to distort the most elevated or correct sentiment. In this case, the senator, by selecting a single member of the sentence, and throwing a strong emphasis on off, gave a meaning directly the opposite of representing me as abandoning the cause of the Constitution and country, and himself as being their champion, which, it seems, was sufficient for his purpose. The declaration is taken from my opening speech [of 9/18/1837] at the extra session ; and, that the Senate may judge for itself, I shall give the entire passage :
We are about to take a fresh start. I move off under the State Rights banner, and go in the direction in which I have been so long moving. I seize the opportunity thoroughly to reform the government ; to bring it back to its original principles ; to retrench, economize, and rigidly to enforce accountability. I shall oppose strenuously all attempts to originate a new debt, to create a National Bank, to reunite the political and money power (more dangerous than Church and State) in any form or shape.
This is what I did declare, and which the senator represents as deserting the Constitution and country ; and this is the way I am usually answered. I know not whether I have greater cause to complain or rejoice at the fact that there is scarcely an argument or a sentiment of mine which is attempted to be met, that is not garbled or misstated. If I have reason to complain of the injustice, I have, at the same time, the pleasure to reflect that it is a high implied compliment to the truth and correctness of what I say.
There still remains an important chapter to complete the comparison between the public character of the senator and myself ; I mean the part which we took in the late war between Great Britain and this country. I intended at one time to enter on it, and to trace the rise and progress of the war, with its various vicissitude of disasters and victories, and the part which the senator and his political associates acted at that important period ; but these are bygone events, belonging to the historian, in whose hands I am content to leave them, and shall not recur to them unless the senator should provoke me hereafter by a renewal of his attack.
Having now despatched the personalities of the senator, I turn, next, to his argument, which, as I have stated, consists of three parts : the preliminary discourse on credit and banks ; the discussion of the question at issue ; and the reply to my remarks at this and the extra session. I shall consider each, as I have begun, in the reverse order. The argument of the senator is, indeed, so miscellaneous and loosely connected, that it is a matter of but little importance in what order it is considered.
When he announced his intention to reply to my remarks, both at this and the extra session, I anticipated that they would be met fully, if not satisfactorily, point by point. Guess, then, my surprise on finding him pass by, without even attempting an answer to the numerous objections which I made to the union of the political and money power, as affecting the morals, the politics, the currency, the industry, and prosperity of the country, which, if the fourth part be true, is decisive of the question, and noticing but two out of the long list in his reply. If we may judge of the strength of those which he has passed over by his inconclusive answer (as I shall presently show) to the two which he selected, my argument may be pronounced to be impregnable. I shall begin with his reply to my remarks at the present session.
It will be remembered, among other objections against the connexion with the banks, I urged that the government had no right to make a general deposite in bank, or receive the notes of banks in the public dues. I placed the first on the ground that, when public money was placed in deposite in banks, and passed to the credit of the government, it was, if ever, in the treasury ; and that it could not be drawn out and used for any purpose, unless under an appropriation made by law, without violating an express provision of the Constitution, which provides that no money should be drawn out of the treasury but in consequence of appropriation by law. I then urged, that to place money in general deposite in banks, with the implied understanding always attached to such transactions, that they should have the right to draw it out and use it as they please till called for by the government, was a manifest violation of this provision of the Constitution.
In support of the other objection against receiving bank-notes in the public dues, I laid down the known and fundamental rule of construction on all questions touching the powers of this government, that it had no right to exercise any but such as are expressly given by the Constitution, or that may be necessary to carry into effect the granted powers. I then insisted that no such power was granted, nor was its exercise necessary to carry any granted power into effect ; and concluded, that the power could not be exercised unless comprehended under one or the other head. To which I added the farther objection, that if we had the right to receive the notes of State banks in our dues as cash, it would necessarily involve the right of taking them under our control and regulation, which would bring this government necessarily into conflict with the reserved rights of the States ; and to this I added, that the receipt of bank-notes by the government tended to expel gold and silver from circulation, and depreciate and render their value more fluctuating, and, of course could not be reconciled with the object of the express power given to Congress to coin money and regulate the value thereof, to which it is as repugnant in its effects as the debasing or the clipping the current coin would be. I at the same time conceded that the practice of the government had been opposite from the commencement. Such are my reasons, and how have they been met ?
The senator commenced by stating that he would consider the two objections together, as they were connected ; but, instead of that, he never uttered another word in relation to the right of making a general deposite. That was surrendered without an attempt to meet my objections, which, at least, proved his discretion. He next undertook to show that precedents were in favour of receiving bank-notes, which I had conceded, and no one disputed. Among other thing, he stated I was the first to authorize the receiving of bank-notes by law, and, in proof, referred to my amendment to the joint resolution of 1816, which authorizes the receipt of the notes of specie-paying banks in the dues of the government. He stated that the resolution, as proposed by himself, provided that nothing but gold and silver and the notes of the United States Bank should be received, and that my amendment extended it to the notes of State banks. This is all true, but is not the whole truth. He forgot to inform the Senate that, at the time, the notes of non-specie-paying banks, as well as specie-paying, were received in the dues of the government, and that my amendment limited, instead of enlarging, the existing practice. He also forgot to state that, without my amendment, the notes of the United States Bank would have been exclusively received in the public dues, and that I was unwilling to bestow a monopoly of such immense value on that institution, which would have been worth ten times the amount of the bonus it gave for its charter.
After bestowing much time to establish what none denied, the senator at length came to the argument ; and what do you suppose were the convincing reasons he urged against my positions ? Why, simply that he had no time to reply to them with which, and the erroneous assertion that I had denied that the government could exercise any incidental power, he passed over all the weighty objections I had urged against the constitutionality of receiving and treating bank-notes as cash in the public dues. It was thus he met the only argument he attempted to answer of the many and strong ones which I have urged in support of my opinion on this important question, and to which he proposed to make a formal reply.
I shall next notice the reply he attempted to my remarks at the late session. And here, again, he selected a single argument, and to which his answer was not less inconclusive and unsatisfactory than to that which I have just considered. Among other objections to the union of the government with the banks, I stated that it would tend to centralize the circulation and exchanges of the country ; to sustain which, I showed that no small portion of the credit and circulation of the banks depended on the public deposites, and the fact that the government received and treated their notes as cash in its dues. I then showed that it was that portion which pre-eminently gave a control over the circulation and exchanges of the country. In illustration, I asked, if the government, when it first went into operation, had selected a merchant of New-York, and entered into a contract with him that he should have the free use of the public revenue from the time it was collected till it was disbursed, and that nothing but his promissory notes, except gold and silver, should be received in the public dues, whether it would not give him a great and decided control over the circulation and exchanges of the country, accompanied with advantages to the port where he resided, over all others. I next asked, whether the location of a Bank of the United States at the same place, with the same privileges, would not give equal control and advantages ; nay, much greater ; as, in addition, it would concentrate at the same place an immense amount of capital collected from every portion of the country.
Such was my argument, which the senator, months after it was delivered, undertakes to controvert ; but, I must say, for my life I could not understand his reasons. He lost his usual clearness, and became vague and obscure, as any one must who attempts to refute what is so perfectly evident. To escape from his difficulty, he, with his usual address, confounded what I had said on another subject with another point, which he thought more easily answered, and against which he directed his attack. He stated that I proposed a government paper, and that my notion is, that all the paper that circulates should be government paper ; and then insisted that it would be the union of the political and money power, and would do more to centralize the currency and exchanges than the connexion of the government with the banks.
Now, unfortunately for the senator, I proposed no such thing, and expressed no notion of the kind, nor anything like it. He may search every speech I have delivered at this and the extra session, and he can find nothing to justify his assertion. To put this beyond all dispute, I will quote what I did say, and the only thing that I ever did that could afford him even a pretext for his assertions. The extracts are taken from my remarks [of 9/18/1837] at the extra session.
I intend to propose nothing. It would be impossible, with so great a weight of opposition, to pass any measure without the entire support of the administration ; and, if it were, it ought not to be attempted when so much must depend on the mode of execution. The best measure that could be devised might fail, and impose a heavy responsibility on its author, unless it met with the hearty approbation of those who are to execute it. I, then, intend merely to throw out suggestions, in order to excite the reflections of others, &c.
Believing that there might be a sound and safe paper currency founded on the credit of the government exclusively, I was desirous that those who are responsible and have the power, should have availed themselves of the opportunity of the temporary deficit in the treasury, and the postponement of the fourth instalment intended to be deposited with the States, to use them as the means of affording a circulation for the present relief of the country and the banks, during the process of separating them from the government, &c.
Here is not a word about proposing ; on the contrary, I expressly stated I proposed nothing ; that I but threw out suggestions for reflection. Instead of excluding all paper from circulation, I suggested the use, not of treasury notes, as he stated, or any other paper containing a promise to pay money, but simply one which should contain a promise to be received in the dues of the government ; and that, too, only to the extent necessary to meet the temporary deficit of the treasury, and to alleviate the process of separating from the banks ; and this he has arbitrarily construed and perverted to suit his purpose, in the manner I have shown.
It is a great misfortune that there should be brought into this chamber the habits contracted at the bar, where advocates contend for victory, without being scrupulous about the means ; while here the only object ought to be truth and the good of the country. All other considerations ought to be forgotten within these walls, and the only struggle ought to be to ascertain what is truth, and calculated to promote the honour and happiness of the community. Great individual injustice is done by such misstatements of arguments. The senators speech will be published and circulated in quarters where my correction of his statements will never reach, and thousands will attribute opinions to me that I never uttered nor entertained.
The suggestions which he has so perverted have been a favourite topic of attack on the part of the senator, but he has never yet stated nor met what I really said truly and fairly ; and, after his many and unsuccessful attempts to show what I suggested to be erroneous, I now undertake to affirm positively, and without the least fear that I can be answered, what heretofore I have but suggestedthat a paper issued by government, with the simple promise to receive it in all its dues, leaving its creditors to take it or gold and silver, at their option, would, to the extent that it would circulate, form a perfect paper circulation, which could not be abused by the government ; that would be as steady and uniform in value as the metals themselves ; and that if, by possibility, it should depreciate, the loss would fall, not on the people, but on the government itself ; for the only effect of depreciation would be virtually to reduce the taxes, to prevent which the interest of the government would be a sufficient guarantee. I shall not go into the discussion now, but on a suitable occasion I shall be able to make good every word I have uttered. I would be able to do moreto prove that it is within the constitutional power of Congress to use such a paper, in the management of its finances, according to the most rigid rule of construing the Constitution ; and that those, at least, who think that Congress can authorize the notes of private State corporations to be received in the public dues, are estopped from denying its right to receive its own paper. If it can virtually endorse by law, on the notes of specie-paying banks, Receivable in payment of the public dues, it surely can order the same words to be written on a blank piece of paper.
Such is the character of the paper I suggested, and which the senator says would do more to centralize the circulation and exchanges than the union of the government and the banks, which, however, he signally failed to prove. That it would have a greater tendency than the exclusive receipt in its dues of gold and silver, I readily acknowledge, and to that extent I think it objectionable ; for I do not agree with the senator that there should be some one great emporium, which should have control of the commerce, currency, and exchanges of the Union. I hold it desirable in neither a political nor commercial point of view, and to be contrary to the genius of our institutions and the spirit of the Constitution, which expressly provides, among other things, that no preference shall be given to the ports of one State over another. But that a receivable paper, such as I suggested, would have a greater, or as great tendency to centralize the commerce and currency of the country as the union with the banks, I utterly deny ; and, if I had no other reason, the vehement opposition of the senator, who approves of such tendency, would be conclusive ; but there are others that are decisive.
The centralizing tendency of such a paper would result exclusively from the facility it would afford to remittance from distant portions of the Union, in which respect it would stand just on a par with bank-notes when received in the dues of the public ; while the latter would, in addition, give to the favoured port where the mother-bank might be located (or the head of the league of State banks), the immense profits from the use of the public deposites, and the still greater from having their notes received in government dues. The two united would afford unbounded facilities in the payment of customhouse bonds, and give millions of profit annually, derived exclusively from the use of government credit. This great facility and vast increase of profit would give a great and decided advantage to the commerce of the section where the head of the system might be located, and which, in a great measure, accounts for the decay of the commerce of the South, where there were no banks when this government was established, and which, of course, gave to the other section exclusively all the benefit derived from the connexion. If specie had from the first been exclusively received in the public dues ; the present commercial inequality would never have existed ; and, I may add, it never will cease till we return to the constitutional currency. What the senator has said as to the union of the political and money powers, and the tendency to extravagance from the use of treasury notes and their depreciation, is so clearly inapplicable to the description of paper I suggested, that I do not deem it necessary to waste words in reply to it.
Having now repelled his reply to my remarks at this and the extra session, I shall next proceed to notice his argument on the question under discussion, which, extraordinary as it may seem, constitutes by far the most meager and inconsiderable portion of his speech. The structure he reared with so much labour is composed of a little centre building, of some twenty or thirty feet square, with an extended wing on each side, and a huge portico in front. I have, I trust, effectually demolished the wings, and propose next to go through the same process with the centre building.
As long as was the speech, it contained but three, or, at the utmost, four arguments, directly applicable to the question under discussion ; of which two have again and again been repeated by him every time he has addressed the Senate ; another was drawn from an argument of mine in favour of the bill, which the senator has misstated, and pressed into his service against it ; and the other is neither altogether new, nor very well founded, nor, from its character, of much force. I shall begin with it.
The senator objected to the collection of the public dues in gold and silver, because, as he conceives, it would be exceedingly inconvenient ; in proof of which, and in order to present as strong a picture as possible, he went into minute calculations and details. He first supposed that the average peace revenue would be equal to thirty millions annually, and the average deposites to twenty-one. He then estimated that this vast sum would have to be counted at least five times in the year, and then estimated that it would require eight hundred thousand dollars to be counted daily, which would require a host of officers, in his opinion, to perform the task. The answer to all this is easy. In the first place, the senator has overestimated the average receipts by at least one hundred per cent. Fifteen millions ought to be much nearer the truth than thirty. Even that I regard as exceeding what the expenditure ought to be ; and I venture to assert, that no administration which expends more on an average for the next few years can maintain itself, unless there should be some unexpected demand on the treasury. In the next place, twenty-one millions is at least five times too large for the average deposites. Should this bill pass, three millions would be much nearer the truth. We shall hear no more of surpluses when the revenue is collected in gold and silver. This would make a great deduction in his estimate of the trouble and labour in counting. But I give the senator his own estimate, and ask him if he never heard of other and shorter modes than counting of ascertaining the amount of coins. Does he not know that it can be ascertained with as much certainty and exactness by weight as by counting, and with more despatch, when the amount is large, in coins than in his favourite bank-notes ? If I am not misinformed, it is the mode adopted at the English Exchequer, and it is done with the greatest possible promptitude by experienced individuals, so that his formidable objection vanishes.
But the senator next tells us that I stated, in my remarks, that the bill, should it pass, would place the banks and the government in antagonist relation to each other, which he considers as a very weighty objection to it. I again must correct his statement. I made no such remark ; I, indeed, said, when the banks were connected with the government, they had a direct interest in increasing its fiscal action. The greater the revenue and expenditures, and the larger the surplus, the greater would be their profit ; but, when they were separated, the reverse would take place. That the greater amount of gold and silver collected and withdrawn from circulation, the less would be left for banking operations, and, of course, the less their profit ; and that, in one case, they would be the allies, and, in the other, the opponents of the government, as far as its fiscal action was concerned ; or, to express it more concisely, when united with the government, they would be on the side of the tax-consumers, and, when separated, on that of the tax-payers. Such were my remarks ; and I now ask, Is it not true ? Can any one deny it ? Or, admitting its truth, can its importance be disputed ? Were there no other reasons in favour of the bill, I would consider this of itself decisive. It would be almost impossible to preserve our free institutions with the weight of the entire banking system thrown on the side of high taxes and extravagant disbursements, or to destroy it if thrown into the opposite scale.
But the senator regards the expression of tax-consumers and taxpayers as mere catch-words, of dangerous import, and tending to divide society into the hostile parties of rich and poor. I take a very different view. I hold that the fiscal action of the government must necessarily divide the community into the two great classes of taxpayers and tax-consumers. Take taxation and disbursements together, and it is unavoidable that one portion of the community must pay into the treasury, in the shape of taxes, more than they receive back in disbursements, and another must receive more than they pay. This is the great disturbing principle in all governments, especially those that are free, around which all other causes of political divisions and distractions finally rally. Were it otherwiseif the interest of every portion and class of the community was the same in reference to taxation and disbursements, nothing would be more easy than to establish and preserve free institutions ; but as it is, it is the most difficult of all tasks, as history and experience prove. This principle of disorder lies deep in the nature of men and society, and extends equally to private associations as to political communities. There will necessarily spring up in both a stockholding and direction interest ; the latter of which, without wise provisions and incessant vigilance, will absorb the former, of which the winding up of many a bank will prove.
The two remaining arguments of the senator have been often asserted, and as often refuted, and I shall despatch them with a few words. He tells us, as he has often done, that we are bound to regulate the currency ; and that the Constitution has given to Congress the express power to regulate it, with many other expressions of similar import. It is manifest that the whole argument turns on the ambiguity of the word currency. If by it is meant the current coin of the United States, no one can doubt that Congress has the right to regulate it. The power is expressly given by the Constitution, which says, in so many words, that it shall have power to coin money and regulate the value thereof ; but if it is intended to include bank-notes, as must be the intention of the senator, there is no such express power given in the Constitution. It is a point to be proved, and not assumed ; and every attempt of the senator to prove it has ended in signal failure. He has not, and cannot meet the answer which he received from [James Buchanan] the senator from Pennsylvania, at the extra session ; and his repetition of the assertion, after so decisive an answer, serves but to prove how much more easy it often is to refute an argument than to silence him who advanced it. But I do not despair even of silencing the senator. There is one whose authority on this point I am sure he must respect : I mean himself. When the bill granting a charter to the late United States Bank was under discussion in the other house, in 1816, he then took the opposite side, and argued with great force against the very right for which he now so obstinately contends. He then maintained that the framers of the Constitution were hard-money men ; that currency meant the current coin of the United States, and that Congress has no right to make any other. But the senator shall speak for himself ; and, that he may be heard in his own words, I shall read an extract from his speech delivered at the time :
Mr. Webster first addressed the house. He regretted the manner in which this debate had been commenced, on a detached feature of the bill, and not a question affecting the principle ; and expressed his fears that a week or two would be lost in the discussion of this question to no purpose, inasmuch as it might ultimately end in the rejection of the bill. He proceeded to reply to the arguments of the advocates of the bill. It was a mistaken idea, he said, which he had heard uttered on this subject, that we were about to reform the national currency. No nation had a better currency, he said, than the United States ; there was no nation which had guarded its currency with more care ; for the framers of the Constitution, and those who enacted the early statutes on this subject, were hard-money men ; they had felt, and therefore duly appreciated, the evils of a paper medium ; they, therefore, sedulously guarded the currency of the United States from debasement. The legal currency of the United States was gold and silver coin ; this was a subject in regard to which Congress had run into no folly.
What, then, he asked, was the present evil ? Having a perfectly sound national currency, and the government having no power, in fact, to make anything else current but gold and silver, there had grown up in different States a currency of paper issued by banks, setting out with the promise to pay gold and silver, which they had been wholly unable to redeem ; the consequence was, that there was a mass of paper afloat, of perhaps fifty millions, which sustained no immediate relation to the legal currency of the countrya paper which will not enable any man to pay money he owes to his neighbour, or his debts to the government. The banks had issued more money than they could redeem, and the evil was severely felt, &c. Mr. W[ebster] declined occupying the time of the house to prove that there was a depreciation of the paper in circulation ; the legal standard of value was gold and silver ; the relation of paper to it proved its state, and the rate of its depreciation. Gold and silver currency, he said, was the law of the land at home, and the law of the world abroad ; there could, in the present state of the world, be no other currency. In consequence of the immense paper issues having banished specie from circulation, the government had been obliged, in direct violation of existing statutes, to receive the amount of their taxes in something which was not recognised by law as the money of the country, and which was, in fact, greatly depreciated, &c. This was the evil.
What can be more decisive ? What more pointed ? They are the very doctrines which he is in the daily habit of denouncing under the name of Loco-foco. The senator may hereafter be regarded as the father of the party, and I deem it not a little unnatural that he should be so harsh and cruel to his offspring.
But it may be said that I then advocated the opposite side. Be it so, and it follows that his authority and mine stand as opposing qualities on the opposite sides of an equation ; and I feel confident that the senator will readily admit that his will, at least, be sufficient to destroy mine.
I readily acknowledge that my opinion, after the lapse of upward of twenty years, with the light which experience in this long period has shed on the banking system, has undergone considerable changes. It would be strange if it had not. I see more clearly now than I did the true character of the system, and its dangerous tendency ; but I owe it to myself, and the truth of the cause, to say I was, even at that early period, far from being its advocate, and would then have been opposed to the system had it been a new question. But I then regarded the connexion between the government and the banks indissoluble, and acquiesced in a state of things that I could not control, and which I considered as established. The government was then receiving the notes of non-specie-paying banks in its dues, to its own discredit, and heavy loss to its creditors. The only practical alternative was at that period between a league of State banks and a Bank of the United States, as the fiscal agent of the government. I preferred then, as I now do, the latter to the former, as more efficient, and not a whit more unconstitutional ; and, if I now were again placed in the same state of things that I then was, with all my present feelings and views, I could hardly have acted differently from what I then did.
The senator greatly mistakes in supposing that I feel any disposition to repudiate or retract what I then said. So far from it, I have, I think, just cause to be proud of the remarks I made on the occasion [of introducing the National Bank bill, on 2/26/1816]. It put the question of the bank, for the first time, on its true basis, as far as this government is concerned, and the one on which it has ever since stood ; which is no small compliment to one then so inexperienced as myself. All I insist on is, that the report contains but a very hasty sketcha mere outline, as the reporter himself saysof my remarks, in which four-fifths are omitted, and that it would be doing me great injustice to regard it as containing a full exposition of my views. But, as brief as it is, what is reported cannot be read, in a spirit of fairness, without seeing that I regarded the question at the time as a mere practical one, to be decided, under all the circumstances of the case, without involving the higher questions which, now that the connexion between the government and the banks is broken, come rightfully into discussion. At that time the only question, as I expressly stated, was, not whether we should be connected with the bank, for that was existing in full force, but whether it was most advisable, admitting the existence of the connexion, that the United States, as well as the separate States, should exercise the power of banking. I have made these remarks, not that I regard the question of consistency, after so great a change of circumstances, of much importance, but because I desire to stand where truth and justice place me on this great question.
The last argument of the senator on the question at issue was drawn from the provision of the Constitution which gives to Congress the right to regulate commerce, and which, he says, involves the right and obligation to furnish a sound circulating medium. The train of his reasoning, as far as I could comprehend it, was, that without a currency commerce could not exist, at least to any considerable extent, and, of course, there would be nothing to regulate ; and, therefore, unless Congress furnished a currency, its power of regulating commerce would become a mere nullity ; and from which he inferred the right and obligation to furnish not only a currency, but a bank currency ! Whatever may be said of the soundness of the reasoning, all must admit that his mode of construing the Constitution is very bold and novel. To what would it lead ? The same clause in that instrument which gives Congress the right to coin money and regulate the value thereof, gives it also the kindred right to fix the standard of weights and measures. They are just as essential to the existence of Congress as the currency itself. The yard and the bushel are not less important in the exchange of commodities than the dollar and the eagle ; and the very train of reasoning which would make it the right and duty of the government to furnish the one, would make it equally so to furnish the other. Again : commerce cannot exist without ships and other means of transportation. Is the government also bound to furnish them ? Nor without articles or commodities to be exchanged, such as cotton, rice, tobacco, and the various products of agriculture and manufactures. Is it also bound to furnish them ? Nor these, in turn, without labour ; and must that, too, be furnished ? If not, I ask the senator to make the distinction. Where will he draw the line, and on what principles ? Does he not see that, according to this mode of construction, the higher powers granted in the Constitution would carry all the inferior, and that this would become a government of unlimited powers ? Take, for instance, the war power, and apply the same mode of construction to it, and what power would there be that Congress could not exercisenay, be bound to exercise ? Intelligence, morals, wealth, numbers, currency, all are important elements of power, and may become so to the defence of the Union and safety of the country ; and, according to the senators reasoning, the government would have the right, and would be in duty bound to take charge of the schools, the pulpits, the industry, the population, as well as the currency of the country ; and these would comprehend the entire circle of legislation, and leave the State governments as useless appendages of the system.
Having now, I trust, taken down to the ground the little centre building, with its four apartments, nothing remains of the entire structure but the huge portico in front, and on which I shall next commence the work of demolition. The senator opened his discourse on credits and banks by asserting that bank credit was, in reality, so much capital actually added to the community. I waive the objection, that neither credit nor the banking system is involved in the question ; and that those who are opposed to the union of the political and money power oppose that union with other reasons, on the ground that it is unfavourable to a full development of the credit system, and dangerous to the banks themselves, which they believe can only be saved from entire destruction by the separation ; and it follows, of course, all that he said in relation to them is either a begging of the question or irrelevant. But, assuming what he said to be applicable, I shall show that it is either unfounded in fact or erroneous in conclusion.
So far from agreeing with the senator, that what he calls bank credit is so much real capital added to the country, I hold the oppositethat banks do not add a cent of capital or credit. Regarded strictly, the credit of banks is limited to the capital actually paid in. This, usually, is the only sum for which the stockholders are liable ; and, without what are called banking privileges, they would not have a cent of credit beyond that amount. But the capital subscribed and paid is not created by the banks. It is drawn out of the general fund of the country. Now, I ask, What constitutes its credit beyond its capital ? In the first place, and mainly, it is derived from the fact that both General and State Governments receive and treat bank-notes as cash, and thereby, to the extent of their fiscal action, virtually give them the use of their credit. It is an existing credit, belonging to them exclusively, and is neither created nor increased by permitting the banks to use it. In the next place, the deposites with the banks, both public and private, add a large amount to their credit ; but this, again, is either the property or credit of the government and individuals, which they are permitted to use, and which they neither create nor increase. Finally, notes and bonds, or other credits discounted by the banks, make up their credit, which are neither more nor less than the credit of the drawers and endorsers, on which the banks do business. They take in the paper or credit of others, payable at a given day, deduct the interest in advance, and give out their own credit or notes, payable on demand, without interest ; that is, the credit of their own paper rests on the credit of the paper discounted or taken in exchange, which credit they neither create nor increase. In a word, all their credit beyond the capital actually paid in is but the credit of the public or individuals, on which, by what are called banking privileges, they are permitted to do business and make profit ; and, so far from creating credit or capital, they, in fact, add not a cent of capital or credit to that which previously existed.
But the senator next tells us that there is three hundred millions of banking capital in the Union, and that it is real bona fide solid capital, as much so as the plantations of the South. This is certainly news to me. I had supposed that this vast amount was little more than a fictitious mass of credit piled on credit, in the erection of which but little specie or real capital was used ; and that, when a new bank was created, the wheelbarrow was put in motion to roll the specie from the old to the new institution, till it got fully under way, when it was rolled back again. But it seems that all this is a mistake ; that the whole capital is actually paid in cash, and is as solid as terra firma itself. This certainly is a bold assertion, in the face of facts daily occurring. There have been, if I mistake not, four or five recent bank explosions in the senators own town, in which the whole vanished into thin air, leaving nothing behind but ruin and desolation. What has become of that portion of his solid capital ? Did the senator ever hear of a plantation thus exploding and vanishing ? And I would be glad to know how large a portion of his three hundred millions of solid capital will finally escape in the same way ? A few years may enable us to answer this question.
The senator next, by way of illustration, undertook to draw a distinction between bank credit and government credit, or public stocks, in which he was not very successful. It would be no difficult task to prove that they both rest substantially on debt, and that the government stock may be, and is to a great extent, actually applied in the same mode as bank credit in the use of exchanges and business. It in fact constitutes, to a great extent, the very basis of banking operation ; but, after having occupied the Senate so long, it would be unreasonable to consume their time on what was introduced as a mere illustration.
The senator next undertook to prove the immense advantage of banking institutions. He asked, What would be done with the surplus capital of the country, if it could not be invested in bank stocks ? In this new and growing country, with millions on millions of lands of the best quality still lying unimproved ; with vast schemes of improvements, constantly requiring capital ; with the immense demand for labour for every branch of business, the last question I ever expected to hear asked is that propounded by the senator. I had supposed the great difficulty was to find capital, and not how to dispose of it, and that this difficulty had been one of the main reasons assigned in favour of the banking system.
The next benefit he attributed to the system was the vast amount of lands which had passed out of the hands of the public into that of individuals of late, which he estimated, during the last three years, at thirty-six millions of acres, forming a surface equal in extent to England, and which, he stated, would rise in value greatly, in consequence of their passing into private hands. That this immense transfer has been effected by the banks, I admit ; but that it is to be considered an advantage to the country, I certainly never expected to hear uttered anywhere, especially on this floor, and by one so intelligent as the senator. I had supposed it was infinitely better for the community at large, and particularly for those not in affluent circumstances, that the lands should remain in possession of the government than of speculators, till wanted for settlement ; and that one of the most decided objections to our banking system is, that it becomes the instrument of making such immense transfers whenever the currency becomes excessive. This is a point not without interest, and I must ask the Senate to bear with me while I pause for a few moments to explain it.
The effect of an expanding currency is to raise prices, and to put speculation in motion. He who buys, in a short time seems to realize a fortune, and every one is on the look-out to make successful investments ; and thus prices receive a constant upward impulse, with the exception of the public lands, the price of which is fixed at $1.25, excepting such as are sold at public auction. The rise of other landed property soon creates a new demand for the public lands, and speculation commences its giant operations in that quarter. Vast purchases are made, and the revenue of the government increases in proportion to the increased sales. The payment is made in banknotes, and these pass from the land-offices to the deposite banks, and constitute a large surplus for new banking facilities and accommodations. Applicants from all quarters press in to partake of the rich harvest, and the notes repass into the hands of speculators, to be reinvested in the purchase of public lands. They again pass through the hands of receivers, and thence to the banks, and again to the speculators ; and every revolution of the wheel increases the swelling tide, which sweeps away millions of the choicest acres from the government to the monopolizers for bank-notes, which, in the end, prove as worthless as the paper on which they are written. Had this process not been arrested by the Deposite Act of 1838, and had the banks avoided an explosion, in a short time the whole of the public domain, the precious inheritance of the people of this Union and their descendants, would have passed through the same process with the thirty-six millions of acres which the senator so highly commends. What took place then will again take place at the very next swell of the paper tide, unless, indeed, this bill should become a law, which would prove an effectual check against its recurrence.
The senator next attributes our extraordinary advance in improvement and prosperity to the banking system. He puts down as nothing our free institutions ; the security in which the people enjoy their rights, the vast extent of our country, and the fertility of its soil, and the energy, industry, and enterprise of the stock from which we are descended. All these, it seems, are as dust. The banks are everything, and without them we would have been but little advanced in improvement or prosperity. It is much more easy to assign our prosperity to the banking system than to prove it. That in its early stages it contributed to give an impulse to industry and improvement, I do not deny ; but that, in its present excess, it impedes rather than promotes either, I hold to be certain. That we are not indebted to it for our extraordinary advance and improvements, wholly or mainly, there is an argument which I regard as decisive. Before the Revolution we had no banks, and yet our improvement and prosperity, all things considered, were as great anterior to it as since, whether we regard the increase of population or wealth. At that time not a bank-note was to be seen, and the whole circulation consisted either of gold and silver, or the colonial paper money, which all now, and especially the senator, consider so worthless. Had the senator lived during that period, he might, with equal plausibility, have attributed all the improvement and prosperity of the country to the old colonial paper money, as he now does to the banks ; and have denounced any attempt to change or improve it as an overthrow of the credit system, as warmly as he now does the separation of the government from the banks. I tell the senator that the time is coming when his present defence of the banking system, as it is now organized, will be considered as extraordinary as we now would regard a defence of the old and exploded system of colonial paper money. He seems not to see that the system has reached a point where great changes are unavoidable, and without which the whole will explode. The state of its manhood and vigour has passed, and it is now far advanced in that of decrepitude. The whole system must be reformed, or it must perish in the natural course of events. The first step towards its renovation is the measure he denounced in such unmeasured termsthe separation from the government ; and the next a separation between discount and circulation. The two are incompatible ; and so long as they are united, those frequent vicissitudes of contractions and expansions, to which bank circulation is so subject, and which is rapidly bringing it into discredit, must continue to increase in frequency and intensity, till it shall become as completely discredited as Continental money.
The senator seems not to be entirely unaware of the danger to which the system is exposed from its frequent vibrations and catastrophes. He tells us, by way of apology, that had it not been for the specie circular, the present catastrophe would not have occurred. That it hastened it, I do not in the least doubt ; but that we should have escaped without it, I wholly deny. The causes of the explosion lay deepfar beneath the circulars, and nothing but the most efficient measures, during the session immediately after the removal of the deposites, could have prevented it. That was the crisis, which, having passed without doing anything, what has since followed was inevitable. But admitting what he says to be true, what a picture of the system does it exhibit ! How frail, how unstable must it be, when a single act of the executive could bring it to the ground, and spread ruin over the country And shall we again renew our connexion with such a system, so liable, from the slightest cause, to such disasters ? Does it not conclusively show that there is some deep and inherent defect in its very constitution, which renders it too unsafe to confide in without some radical and thorough reform ?
The senator himself seems conscious of this. He entered into the question of its expansions and contractions, and suggested several remedies to correct an evil which none can deny, and which all must see, if not corrected, must end in the final overthrow of the system. He told us that the remedy was to be found in the proportion between bullion and circulation, and that the proper rule to enforce the due proportion between the two was, when exchange was against us, for the banks to curtail. I admit that the disease originates in the undue proportion, not between bullion and circulation, but between it and the liabilities of the banks, including deposites as well as circulation (the former is even more important than the latter), and that the remedy must consist in enforcing that proportion. But two questions here present themselves : What is that due proportion ? and how is it, under our system of banking, to be enforced ? There is one proportion which we know to be safe ; and that is when, for every dollar of liability, there is a dollar in bullion or specie ; but this would bring us back again to the old, honest, and substantial Bank of Amsterdam, so much abused by all the advocates of banks of discount. If that proportion be transcendedif we admit two or three to one to be the due proportion, or any other that would make banking more profitable and eligible than the mere loaning of money, or other pursuits of society, the evil under which we now suffer would continue. Too much capital would continue to flow into banking, to be again followed by the excess of the system, with all its train of disasters. But admit that such would not be the fact, how are we to compel the twenty-six States of this Union to enforce the due proportion, all of which exercise the right of establishing banks at pleasure, and on such principles as they may choose to adopt ? It can only be done by an amendment to the Constitution ; and is there any one so wild and visionary as to believe that there is the least prospect of such an amendment ? Let gentlemen who acknowledge the defect, before they insist on a reunion with a system, acknowledged to be exposed, as it now stands, to such frequent and dangerous vicissitudes, first apply a remedy and remove the defect, and then ask for our co-operation.
But the senator tells us that the means of enforcing the due proportion is to be found in the regulation of the exchanges ; and for this purpose the only rule necessary to be observed is to curtail when exchanges are against us, and as a counterpart, I suppose, to enlarge when in our favour. How much dependance is to be put on this rule, we have a strong illustration in the late catastrophe, under which the country is now suffering. The exchanges remained in our favour till the very last ; and before the rule, on which the senator so confidently relies, could be applied, the shock was felt and the banks ingulfed ; and this will ever be the case, when preceded by a general expansion in the commercial world, such as preceded the late.
The cause of that commenced on the other side of the Atlantic, and originated mainly in the provisions on which the recharter of the Bank of England was renewed, which greatly favoured extension of banking operations in a country which may be considered as the centre of the commercial system of the world. The effect of these provisions was a depreciation of the value of gold and silver there, and their consequent expulsion to other countries, and especially to ours, which turned the exchange with England in our favour ; and which, in combination with other causes, the removal of the deposites, and the expiration of the charter of the late Bank of the United States, was followed by a great corresponding expansion of our banking system. The result of this state of things was a great increase of the liabilities of the banks compared with their specie in both countries, which laid the train for the explosion. The Bank of England first took the alarm, and began to prepare to meet the threatened calamity. It was unavoidable, and the only question was, where it should fall. The weakness of our system, and the comparative strength of theirs, turned the shock on ours, but of the approach of which the exchanges gave, as I have stated, no indications almost to the last moment. And even then, so artificial are exchanges, and so liable to be influenced by other causes besides the excess of currency on one side and the deficit on the other, after it began to show unfavourable indications, we all remember that a single individual, at the head of a State institution, I mean Mr. [Nicholas] Biddle, by appearing in New-York, and bringing into market bonds on England drawn on time, turned the current, and restored the exchange. All this conclusively proves, that when there is a general expansion (the most dangerous of all), exchanges give no indication of the approach of danger, and, of course, their regulation, on which the senator relies, affords no protection against it.
I might go farther, and show that at no time is it to be relied on as the index of the relative expansion or contraction in different countries, and that it is liable to be influenced by many circumstances besides those to which I have alluded, some of which are fleeting, and others more permanent. It presupposes the perfect fluidity of currency, and that it is not liable to be obstructed or impeded by natural or artificial causes in its ebbs and flows ; which is far from being true, as I have already shown in the instance of Mr. Biddles operation preceding the late shock. In fact, it may be laid down as a rule, that where the currency consists of convertible paper, resting on a gold and silver basis, the small portion of specie which may be required to uphold the whole has its fluidity obstructed by so many and such powerful causes as to afford no certain criterion of the relative expansion of the currency between it and other countries, and, of course, afford no certain rule of regulating banking operations. The subject is one that would require more time to discuss than I can bestow on the present occasion ; but of its truth we have a strong illustration in the state of things preceding the late shock, when, as I have stated, the exchanges remained favourable to the banks, while the vast amount of our imports, and the unusual character of many of the articles imported, clearly indicated that our currency was relatively greatly expanded compared with those countries with which we have commercial relations.
To correct the defects of the system, the senator must go much deeper. The evil lies in its strong tendency to increase ; and that, again, in the extraordinary and vast advantages which are conferred on it beyond all other pursuits of the community, which, if not diminished, must terminate in its utter destruction, or an entire revolution in our social and political system. It is not possible that the great body of the community will patiently bear that the currency, which ought to be the most stable of all things, should be the most fluctuating and uncertain ; and that, too, in defiance of positive provisions in the Constitution, which all acknowledge were intended to give it the greatest possible stability.
From Speeches of John C. Calhoun, pp. 329-351. Also printed in the Washington, D.C., Daily National Intelligencer, April 9 and 10, 1838 ; the Washington, D.C., Globe, April 10 and 13, 1838 ; the Washington, D.C., Chronicle, April 10, 1838, pp. 1-2 ; Niles National Register, vol. LIV, no. 8 (April 21, 1838), pp. 115-121 ; the Charleston, S.C., Mercury, April 23, 24, and 25, 1838 ; the Jackson, Miss., Mississippian, May 4, 11, 18, and 25, 1838 ; the Raleigh, N.C., North Carolina Standard, May 9 and 16, 1838 ; Speech of Mr. Calhoun, of South Carolina, in Reply to Mr. Webster, on the Sub-Treasury Bill. Delivered in the Senate of the United States, March 22, 1838 (No place : no publisher, no date), an 18-pp. pamphlet ; Congressional Globe, 25th Cong., 2nd Sess., Appendix, pp. 243-250 ; Crallé, ed., Works, 3:279-326. Variants in the Washington, D.C., Chronicle, March 24, 1838, p. 3 ; the Augusta, Ga., Chronicle and Sentinel, March 27, 1838, p. 2 ; the Charleston, S.C., Courier, March 27, 1838, p. 2. Partly printed in [Benjamin E. Green], Opinions of John C. Calhoun and Thomas Jefferson on the Subject of Paper Currency (No place : no publisher, no date), pp. 4, 11-12.
NOTE : A text of Websters speech of 3/12 to which Calhoun was replying above can be found in Congressional Globe, 25th Cong., 2nd Sess., Appendix, pp. 632-641. At the conclusion of Calhouns speech above Webster rose to reply. A text of his reply can be found in Mr. Websters Speech in Answer to Mr. Calhoun, March 22, 1838 (No place : no publisher, no date), a 19-pp. pamphlet. Calhoun responded. His further remarks are below.
SPEECH IN REPLY TO DANIEL
[When Calhoun had completed his speech Webster rose and spoke at length. He asserted that Calhoun had provoked a personal confrontation which he desired to avoid, compared his and Calhouns careers from their first appearance in Congress, alluded to many issues of the day, and reiterated his belief that there should be one money for the government and the people. The last point he supported jocularly by a reference to a 1789 law of the State of Franklin which provided for the paying of officials salaries in deerskins. When Webster was finished :]
Mr. Calhoun rose and said, I am not at all surprised, Mr. President, that the Senator from Massachusetts should show such solicitude to free himself from the responsibility of converting this discussion into a mere personal altercation, so unworthy of the place and the occasion. But it is not a little unjust in him to attempt to transfer the responsibility from himself to me, having acted throughout, as I have, wholly on the defensive, and done every thing I could to avoid personalities. I have, in truth, a deep and unfeigned aversion to personal altercations, in any case ; especially here, in my official character, where duty and self-respect, as well as the dignity of the body, forbid its introduction. On the present occasion, I had every reason to avoid it. The subject is one unsurpassed in magnitude and importance, and which requires the calmest and most deliberate consideration. I have had entire confidence in the strength and truth of the side I support ; and of course, felt deep solicitude to limit the discussion strictly to the merits of the question.
But the Senator, in order to throw the blame on me, denies that he drew a comparison between us. Does he consider it no comparison to claim for himself the most universal and ardent patriotism ; and to attribute to me the opposite qualities, of being sectional, and entertaining feelings far from friendly to the Union ? And this, too, without any thing in the question, or my previous remarks, that could, by possibility, justify it ? Does he really think that I ought to have sat in silence without attempting to show, as I have done, how perfectly unfounded are his claims to superior patriotism, and how unjust his charges against me ?
But in order to justify himself, he accuses me of having first attempted to fix on himself and friends the charge of inconsistency, in supporting the substitute of the Senator from Virginia, (Mr. [William C.] Rives). I made no such charge. I simply availed myself of the opinion which he and they entertained and expressed, in relation to a similar measure in 1834acquitting them expressly of all inconsistency. So far from a charge of the kind, I placed my argument on the assumption, that their opinion remained unchanged ; and yet this he calls a charge of inconsistencya throwing of the first stone ; and on which he rests the justification of his unprovoked personalities. The Senator next attributes to me the assertion, that I intended to draw a comparison between his course and mine during the late war, if time had permitted, accusing me at the same time, of making a railing accusation against him. My answer is, that I said nothing like it ; and made no accusation whatever, either railing or specific. I said not a word of time permitting me. What I really said was entirely different ; and bears no analogy whatever to what he attributes to me, as the Senate must remember. I confined myself to an inquiry into the truth of the picture he had drawn of his patriotism ; and his comparison between his public conduct and mine. I demonstrated what little claims he had to the high qualities he arrogated to himself ; and how unfounded his assumption was to a more universal and ardent patriotism. I illustrated all this by a reference to his course in relation to abolition and the tariff ; and declined going into a comparison between our courses during the late warnot for a want of time, as he states, but expressly on the ground that the events of that day were by-gone, and belonged to history, where I was willing to leave it, and where I should leave it, unless provoked to go into the comparison, by some future attack from the Senator. I added not a word of accusation whatever, either railing or otherwise. It is true, I said that, at one time, I intended to go into the comparison. I certainly had no reason, personally, to decline it ; but I felt a strong repugnance, which I could not overcome, to recurring back to such distant events, that have passed out of the circle of the politics of the day. Acting under its influence, I limited my remarks, in reference to the Senator and myself, to the great and living questions of the day, which are still unsettled, and are destined to exercise an important control over the future destiny of the country.
But, if I should be forced into the comparison, I shall not confine myself simply to what the Senator did at that important period of our history : I would take a far wider range. He claims for himself an exalted patriotism, far above others, and myself in particular : and that, too, in war as well as peace ; and he would have no right to complain, if held responsible, not only for what he did, but for what he did not ; not only for his own acts, but also for his political associates and party, which passed without his censure or rebuke. I have no wish, for the reasons I have stated, to enter on the comparison but if he desires it, I will read a statement of some dozen or fifteen of his votes, which I laid my hands on since he commenced his reply and which will furnish some index of his course during that period.
(Mr. Webster indicating no desire for the reading, Mr. Calhoun proceeded:)
Dropping, then, the Senators course during the war, I shall proceed to notice some remarks of his in reference to myself. He has hunted up with much industry, and brought forward with great parade, my course in relation to the tariffto the Bankand the Bonus bill, immediately subsequent to the late war, in order to fix on me a charge of inconsistency. I am pleased that he has afforded me, on this occasion, an opportunity to speak of this portion of our political history, and of the part I took. It is one that requires explanation, not only in reference to myself, but to the party to which I belong.
In supporting the measures to which the Senator referred, I was not alone : I acted with the great body of the party : and, if I took a more prominent part in relation to them than others, it is to be attributed to the position which I held in the House and the party at the time. It is not my intention to defend those measures, but to explain, in justice to myself and the party, the circumstances under which we acted. I do not deny but that we departed, more or less, from the true principles and policy of our party ; but it was under circumstances which, though they do not justify the departure, are calculated, in a great degree, to excuse it, and to repel effectually any inference that it was an intentional abandonment of them.
No popular party is proof against success, and the long possession of power ; and such proved to be in fact our case. We had been in the uninterrupted possession of power for more than sixteen years, and had just carried through successfully a war against the greatest power on the earth, and, at the same time, overthrown the party in opposition to us. The flush of victory had, as is usual, the effect of working a considerable change in the feelings and views of our party, which contributed to the introduction of the measures to which the Senator refers. But there were other, and powerful causes, which also contributed to it. During the war, the country had suffered much from a depreciated and unequal currency ; from the want of domestic supplies to take the place of those articles which [we] had been in the habit of receiving from abroad, but which had been cut off by the war, and from the want of good roads, and other channels of conveyance, on which to transport munitions of war, and to concentrate promptly a sufficient force on the points menaced or attacked by the enemy. After its termination, there was a vivid recollection of the difficulties occasioned by these wants. The danger, at the time, to the country, was believed to be connected exclusively with our foreign relations. The war, it is true, had terminated successfully, but there were hostile feelings left behind on both sides, between our country and Great Britain ; and she kept up a powerful force in her possessions in our immediate vicinity, which was calculated to excite our vigilance, and to admonish us of the necessity of being prepared for a renewed contest. Besides, we were in danger of being involved in a long and dangerous contest, growing out of the revolution in Spanish America ; in which, at one time, the great powers of Europe, united by what was called The Holy Alliance, were strongly inclined to interfere. Under these circumstances, and when the political principles of our party appeared to have gained a permanent ascendancy, by the prostration of our old opponents, and to be in no danger, it is not at all wonderful that the measures with which the Senator now reproaches me should have received the support of myself and the party to which I belong. I confess, for myself, that I then believed the danger to be, not within, but withoutnot from the giving away of our principles, but violence from abroad ; and that I had no suspicion that it lay in the quarter which experience has shown it really did. This accounts for my course at that period.
In voting for the tariff of 1816, which I am still of opinion was a judicious measure, with the exception of the minimum principle ; of which I think as badly as any one, I regarded it as a revenue measure, and called for by the circumstances of the time. But l did not dream that, in the short space of twelve years, it would be perverted by those interested into an instrument of such unbounded oppression as to exact and pass into the Treasury one-half of the whole proceeds of our foreign exchanges. Nor did I imagine that in introducing a bill to set apart a particular fund for internal improvement, and leaving it to Congress to determine thereafter the extent of its power over that subject, and to what objects the fund should be applied, (that was its real character,) there was the least danger that, in a few years, the whole revenue of the country would become an object of scramble among the various sections ; in which the struggle would be, who should get most, without any reference to the public good. As to the bank, placed in the circumstances in which I and those with whom I acted were, I do not now see how we could have acted differently, even with our present experience. The time for reformation in reference to the currency had not then arrived ; and any attempt at reform would have proved abortive.
But I offer not what I have said as a justification ; I acknowledge we all departed, in a greater or less degree, from the stern and rigid principles of the party, and the true policy of the Government, and well have we paid the penalty. It has taught me a lesson never to be forgotten ; and I now call on the younger and more inexperienced members of the party, as I then was, to profit by our example. Avoid, as you would the greatest evil, the least departure from principle ; however harmless and innocent it may at the time appear to be. The smallest departure may prove to be an entering wedge ; and others, differing from you in views and principles, will drive the measure farther than you ever contemplated ; just as we have seen our old opponents seize on the tariff, internal improvement, and the bank, to overthrow our principles and to establish their own. Never cease to bear in mind that ours is a limited Government, with specific powers ; and that if the prescribed line be passed ever so little, there is no fixing any limits to the encroachments of power.
Nor is the period of which I am speaking the only one in which success has caused departure from the principles and policy of our party. The vast revenue, which the protective tariff placed at the disposal of the Government, had the effects on those in power which might have been anticipated. They no longer relied on principles as the means of preserving their ascendency. The patronage and resources of the Government were deemed sufficient for that purpose ; and many measures were adopted, which will hereafter be regarded as great and dangerous departures from the creed of the party ; and which have done more to reconcile the people to the principles and policy of our opponents, and to weaken their confidence in ours, than all other causes put together.
As to myself, each revolving year impresses me deeper and deeper with the truth and wisdom of the old Virginia school of politics. She was blessed, when this Government went into operation, with leaders of the clearest discernment and purest patriotism ; the [Thomas] Jeffersons, the [John] Taylors, the [Spencer] Roanes, and many others, who had formed the most just conception of our system of Government, and the policy to be pursued to preserve it. I had, from my earliest years, imbibed a strong attachment for that school. Indeed, I may say, it was inherited by me. But I never realized to the full extent the depths of its wisdom, and the vast importance of adhering rigidly to its maxims, till experience, and the reflection of riper and more advanced years, taught me. And here is the broad line of distinction between the Senator and myself, which he, with all his ingenuity, cannot obliterate. He belongs, and always has, to another and an opposite school, which, to designate by its most distinguished leader, may be called the school of [Alexander] Hamilton ; a man distinguished for his great abilities, perfect frankness, and ardent patriotism, but who was decidedly inferior to Mr. Jefferson in genius, the power of original thinking, and the clearness and depth of his conception of the true nature and character of our Government. Belonging, as we do, and ever have, to schools so diverse, our agreement has been casual, while our difference has been habitual and fundamental, both as to the nature and character of our Government, and the policy it ought to pursue ; and which has placed us opposite to each other on the present, and most of the other great questions which have been agitated in our time.
He sees in the success of the present question the advancement of the principles and policy to which I am devoted, and in its defeat the advancement of his own ; hence our difference, and the ardor of the present conflicta conflict of opposing systems, in which, as one or the other may prevail, the future destiny of the country will be permanently influenced. The separation of the political and moneyed power will give a lasting ascendency to the political school to which I belong, and their union to that of the Senator.
He is right in fixing on 1825 as the year when my views in relation to the principles and character of the Government became firmly fixed and settled. It was then I took my seat in the chair which you, sir, now occupy. I had devoted the seven preceding years laboriously to the duties of the War Department, which I had found in a state of complete disorder, and which so engrossed my attention as to leave me little leisure to attend to the general politics of the country. The change of office gave me both time and opportunity to view more minutely the general operations of the Government, which I did not neglect. I soon saw the incipient state of those disorders, which had then just begun to develope themselves, and the causes in which they originated, as well as the fearful consequences to which they threatened to lead. This induced me to make a careful review and examination of the principles of the Government. I went to the source, the Kentucky resolutions and the Virginia resolutions and report, which I carefully investigated, in all their bearings. I then turned my attention more carefully to the investigation of the character and tendency of what was called, at the time, the American system, and saw clearly its oppressive, corrupting, and dangerous tendency. I took a firm stand against it. Since then, my life has been one incessant struggle to maintain or restore the principles and policy of the old State rights Republican party, regardless of all personal consequences. During this long period of thirteen years of continued action, amidst the most trying scenes, I may bid defiance to the most rigid scrutiny to point out the slightest variation in my course, or the least departure from the principles or doctrines of the political school to which I belong. I may be accused of carrying my principles too far, or of adhering too rigidly to my doctrines, but of the opposite fault none have ventured to accuse me. My adherence to them has never wavered under the greatest difficulties or danger. If, then, I erred in common with the great body of the party, under the circumstances which I have explained, I, at least, have long since made, I trust, ample amends. If I have done any thing to contribute to the common errors of the period immediately subsequent to the late war, I have done far more, I hope, towards their correction, and the restoration of the principles and doctrines which our party profess[es], as well as to arrest the ascendency of the opposite. To this great object, which, I solemnly believe, involves our liberty and the perpetuation of our popular and free institutions, I have devoted my life.
From Congressional Globe, 25th Cong., 2nd Sess., Appendix, pp. 264-265. Also printed in the Washington, D.C., Globe, April 20, 1838, p. 2 ; the Washington, D.C., Chronicle, April 21, 1838, p. 2 ; the Charleston, S.C., Mercury, May 8, 1838, p. 2 ; Speech of Mr. Calhoun, of South Carolina, in Reply to Mr. Websters Rejoinder. Delivered in the Senate of the United States, March 22, 1838 (No place: no publisher, no date), a 4-pp. pamphlet the title of which, because of an imperfect impression on many copies, has often been misread and miscatalogued as 1833 rather than 1838. Partly printed in the Washington, D.C., Chronicle, May 3, 1838, p. 1. Variants in the Washington, D.C., Chronicle, March 24, 1838, p. 3 ; the Charleston, S.C., Courier, March 27, 1838 (reprinted from the Baltimore, Md., Commercial Transcript of an unknown date) ; the Washington, D.C., Daily National Intelligencer, April 12, 1838, pp. 2-3.
[From the Michigan Historical Society, ca. 3/23.] Recorded minutes of this organization indicate that John Quincy Adams, John C. Calhoun, J[ames] K. Paulding, and William E[llery] Charming were invited to become honorary members. Abs in The Michigan State Historical Society, Michigan Historical Collections, vol. XII (1888), p. 321.
Remarks on amendments to the Subtreasury bill, 3/24. William R. King offered an amendment to the 23rd section for the purpose of postponing the governments refusal to accept bank notes from 1838 to 1839. Mr. Calhoun said he thought the times designated by the bill ample, but he would go in favor of the amendment. He thought all changes in the currency ought to be very gradual, and as this was a matter of very little importance, he would vote for it. The amendment passed 42 to 9. However, a motion by Alfred Cuthbert to strike the entire 23rd section soon was passed 31 to 21. Daniel Webster offered an amendment that would prohibit a Secretary of the Treasury from issuing any order rejecting bank notes in one branch of revenue (like public lands) while continuing to accept them in another (like customs). This clearly had reference to the Specie Circular. Calhoun said : The amendment still did not meet his views : it left the construction of the resolution of 1816 so that the reception of all bank notes might be suspended, without the gradual process proposed in the 23rd section of the bill, which had been stricken out ; and gentlemen on the other side maintained that this would break all the banks, and make the question one of bread or no bread. Mr. C[alhoun] would submit it to the gentlemen, whether, under the resolution of 1816, there was any such power. Mr. C[alhoun] was here in opposition to all discretionary power, from every quarter, and he held that the amendment, if adopted, would be one of the most fatal of measures. Webster remarked that Calhoun had a few minutes before voted against an amendment by John Tipton which had given specific directions to the Secretary of the Treasury as to what funds were to be receivable. Calhoun said : My reply to the gentleman from Massachusetts is this : that for the purpose of taking away a partial discretion, he will give by implication all other discretionary power entire. He says I have given a vote contradictory to my principles. He got in this difficulty himself, and he must get out of it. Websters amendment passed 37 to 14. From the Washington, D.C., Daily National Intelligencer, April 23, 1838, pp. 1-2.
Mr. Calhoun and Mr. Webster.
A most extraordinary instance of fletcherism occurred in the Senate of the United States in the discussion between these two distinguished Senators. So hard pressed was Mr. Webster, that he is represented to have denied two of the most prominent acts of his life, his opposition to the war, and his support of anti-tariff doctrines in 1820. It is thus stated by a correspondent of the Journal of Commerce:
Mr. Calhoun caused to be read certain resolutions against the tariff, passed in Faneuil Hall in 1820, alleged to have been written by Mr. Webster.
[Mr. Calhoun was much excited here. Mr. Webster has been accused twenty times of writing these resolutions, and twenty times he has denied in the Senate chamber that he was the author. The resolutions were friendly to free trade. Mr. Calhoun's strong remark that he "cared nothing for the truth or falsehood of the statement that he was the author," excited general surprise among friends and enemies.]
We cannot express our surprise at this gross evasion, if not falsehood, on the part of Daniel Webster. We have examined the record, which will convict him of a most dishonorable attempt to charge falsehood upon Mr. Calhoun. The pith of the charge is, that Mr. Webster sanctioned certain anti-tariff doctrines at a meeting in Faneuil Hall. Mr. Webster disclaimed the resolutions, and in his reply to Mr. Calhoun "repeated that the free trade resolutions of 1820, in Boston, were not his."
Here is a denial of these resolutions, in the face of the nation. What will the nation say of the facts we now give --that Daniel Webster was appointed chairman of the committee to report these resolutions --that Daniel Webster called the meeting to hear his report --that Daniel Webster, as chairman of the committee, made the report, and resolves, which were a part of the report --that Daniel Webster made a speech in support of the resolutions, much stronger anti-tariff than the resolutions themselves, and that this speech, as written by him, was published at the time. Read the evidence, and let honest men say, if the man who would attempt to get rid of a home thrust by so palpable an evasion of truth, does not stand dishonored in the sight of all honorable, high-minded men. Mr. Calhoun has adhered to facts; Mr. Webster attempted to charge him with falsehood. Let the brand now be placed on Webster's brow, the wreath on Calhoun's.
From the Daily Advertiser, Sept. 2, 1820.
The new Tariff.--- At a convention of delegates from Boston, &c. assembled at the hall of the Suffolk Bank in Boston, by the invitation of a committee of correspondence of a former meeting of merchants and others, to consider a communication from the Chamber of Commerce of Philadelphia, on the Tariff bill proposed at the last session of Congress, Hon. William Gray, President, William Foster, Secretary:
"Voted, That Daniel Webster, James Perkins, Samuel Gardner, William Sturgis, S.A. Welles, Francis Gray, John Dorr, and William Reed, be a committee to prepare and publish an address to their fellow citizens, and to invite them to meet at Faneuil Hall on the 1st Monday of October next, and to adopt such other measures as they may think proper in relation to the important subject before this convention.
"William Gray, President.
In pursuance of these instructions, Mr. Webster, the chairman, who was charged with the arrangements of the proposed meeting, published in the papers of September 25 the following:
At a convention of merchants and others, interested in commerce, from the principal seaports of this Commonwealth, on the 1st of September, it was resolved that a meeting should be holden at Boston for the purpose of considering the operations of the tariff, recommended to Congress at the last session, and the undersigned were requested to give public notice of this meeting, and invite merchants, manufacturers, farmers, and others, who feel an interest in the subject, to assemble at Faneuil Hall, the second day of October next, at 10 a.m. in order to express their opinions on it, and to adopt such further measures with relation to it as they may deem expedient.
Daniel Webster, James Perkins, S.P. Gardner, John Dorr, W. Sturgis, S.A. Welles, F.C. Gray,
W. Peel, W. Reed.
In pursuance of this call of Mr. Webster, who as chairman was charged with preparing the address and resolutions, the meeting was held the 2d of October, and says the Advertiser, "was attended by a large number of respectable citizens. A long and able report, presented by the committee, chosen at a former meeting (Mr. Webster chairman) was read. In support of the report, Colonel Austin and honorable Mr. Webster addressed the meeting in ingenious and eloquent speeches; after which the report was adopted."
The Advertiser of October 11 contains this "ingenious speech" of Mr. Webster, written out by himself, and incomparably stronger against the tariff, than any of the resolutions referred to by Mr. Calhoun, and which Mr. Webster affected to deny in the face of this nation. We give a few extracts from Mr. Webster's anti-tariff speech, the sense and import of which he now undertakes to deny.
"In his opinion, no measure could prove more injurious to the industry of the country, and nothing was more fanciful than the opinion that national independence rendered such a measure (the tariff) necessary."
"It certainly might be doubted whether Congress would not be somewhat acting against the spirit and intention of the Constitution in exercising a power to control the pursuits and occupations of individuals."
"If such changes were the necessary consequence of imports for purposes of revenue, they could not be complained of, but he doubted if Congress had fairly the power of turning the incident into the principal."
"Restrictions on trade and commerce, to benefit particular classes of manufacturers, were generally understood to be mischievous, and inconsistent with just notions of political economy."
"To individuals this system is as injurious as it is to Government. A system of artificial Government protection leads the people to too much reliance on Government. If left to their own choice of pursuits, they depend on their own industry; but if Government essentially affects their occupations by its systems of bounties and preferences, it is natural, when in distress, that they should call on Government for relief. And when Government has exhausted its invention in these modes of legislation, it finds the result less favorable than the original and natural state and course of things."
"He could hardly conceive any thing worse than a policy which should place the great interests of this country in hostility to one another."
"England has become what she is, not by means of this system, but in spite of it. Why, then, are we so eager to adopt a system which others, who have tried it, would be glad to repudiate ?"
"Excess corrects itself. If there be too much commerce, it will be diminished. If too few manufactures, they will be increased. The principle of leaving such things very much to their own course, was the only true policy."
"We can no more improve the order, habits, and composition of society, by an artificial balancing of trades and occupations, than we could improve the natural atmosphere by means of the condensers and rarifiers of the chemists."
"The great object aimed at (by the tariff) seemed to be, either to annihilate or greatly diminish our foreign trade."
"He did not consider a great manufacturing population a benefit to be pursued with so much cost. There were great evils in it."
"The great object of good government was individual happiness; and this, to be general, required something like an equality in condition."
"The tendency of the manufacturing system, pushed to excess, would be to make the poor both more numerous and more poor, and the rich less in number, but perhaps more rich."
"It does not encourage industry, like capital employed in some other pursuits."
"Manufacturing capital comes in the end to be owned by few."
"He would put it to any man who possessed the blessing of children, whether he would not rather they would be freeholders, although beyond the Stony Mountains, than that they should go through life as journeymen manufacturers, taking the chance of the ignorance and vice, the poverty and profligacy, of that condition."
"It was no recommendation to him, that the large factories gave employment to women and children. He thought it a kind of employment not suited to one or the other."