being a letter to Mr. Daniel Webster,
on his Speech in the Senate of the United States, asking leave to bring in a Bill to continue for six years the Charter of the Bank of the United States.
by Thomas Brothers
Philadelphia, April 24, 1834.To Mr. Daniel Webster.
I have read your remarks on your asking leave to bring in a bill to continue for six years longer, the Charter of the Bank of the United States, and my opinion is, that those remarks are calculated to deceive and mislead the honest and industrious people of this country. Having said this, it becomes my duty both to them and to you, to support that opinion by argument, and to do all that is in my power to do, to prevent my fellow working-men from being thus deluded.
This speech appears to me, to say the least of it, to be founded in error, and clothed in a language that requires unmasking. Had you railed and ranted like your honourable friend, Mr. Clay, I should not have thought this course at all necessary; his manner and his language betray his motives; from him therefore, there is no great danger to be apprehended.
First, you state, that "in the midst of ample means of national and individual happiness, we have unexpectedly fallen into severe distress." This I think is not correct, we were not in the midst of individual happiness previous to the removal of the Deposites, but, on the contrary, misery has for a long time existed amongst us and that latterly it has so much increased, as to be pretty nearly as severe upon the working people as it is in any part of Europe. I do not think it can be necessary to give, as I could give, a heap of extracts from various documents to prove this fact, because any workingman will tell you, that all the industry, care, and economy he can use, is scarcely sufficient to secure to him a bare subsistence. What then, sir, do you mean when you talk of national and individual happiness ? Do you mean that paper-money makers, usurers, and idlers, compose the nation ? Is there any man that will deny that industry has been worse and worse rewarded for these last ten years ? If there be, I hand him over to Mr. Carey, of this city, who, in behalf of the three-fourths, as he says, of the inhabitants of this country, "will a tale unfold, to harrow up the souls of all those endowed with feelings of humanity."
You say, that "our course has been suddenly arrested, that the general pulse of life stands still, and that the activity and industry of the country feel a pause." Now those who give themselves one moment's time to think, will see that it was high time to arrest the course, when the breakers were close ahead, and that had it not been for the skillful pilot who happened, fortunately to be at the helm, our independence had been lost forever ! After such an escape it is not to be wondered at, that we should feel a pause, or that the general pulse of life should for a time stand still. But, "our resources," you say, "are nevertheless, at the same time abundant." -- "The condition of the country," say you, "is indeed singular, it is like that of a strong man chained -- the country presents an aspect, in regard to all its great interests exceedingly satisfactory and gratifying." To whom, sir ? This is the question that must be fairly met. -- What is meant by the words, "the country?" The fact is, that at the period spoken of, as well as for years before, all those who have had their bread to earn by labour, have had a task to perform by no means satisfactory: and they, Mr. Carey says, amount to nine millions. Now, sir, are the three-fourths, are the nine millions, not to be considered, or identified with the great interests of the country ? Are they not, in fact, the strong man in chains ? Iron chains you call them, but I call them paper chains.
It is your duty, you say, "as representative of the people to unshackle their industry." Then why do you not cut this accursed chain ? Can there be a doubt in a sane mind that banking, managed in the manner it is here managed, is a dead weight about the necks of the three fourths ? Can there be any doubt that it is a craft devised on purpose to plunder the poor labourer of his hire ? Sir, there is no scene of iniquity described in the Old or New testaments, with respect to usurers and money-changers, that, for baseness, is fit to be compared with this system of banking. You give a charming picture of our situation in September last. "The money circulation" you say, "was free and banks in good credit, but they were doubtless somewhat too economical in the use of specie, and sustained their credit on a basis not sufficiently broad to be quite secure." Yes, when we look at the heaps of paper money issued within the last two years for political effect, and when we consider that the craft succeeded in lulling "suspicion to sleep," we need not, nor we do not wonder at the freedom of the circulation. Indeed, it was almost forced upon any man who possessed a little property; and such a delusion was never before practiced upon a people. Thousands, perhaps millions will be ruined by the fraud; honest, sober men, who, agreeable to the wish of the great, troubled their heads only with their own business, and never suspected, until their properly, at the suit of the bankers, was in the hands of the Sheriff, that "all was not gold that glistened." They never dreamed that the credit of the banks was sustained on a basis not sufficiently broad to be quite secure." What you mean by the words "they (the bankers) were doubtless somewhat too economical in the use of specie," I know not; you attribute the charming state we were in in September last to the free circulation of money, -- paper money of course: for, as Mr. Calhoun says, "what now are the facts? that the currency consists almost exclusively of bank-notes;" and only fifteen millions of dollars in specie. Now, I cannot see how the bankers could well be too economical in the use of specie, when we consider their scanty supply.
Well, next you show us, an anticipated stale of the revenue. "It may," you say, "fall off, and Congress may be called on much earlier than within two years, to furnish additional means of revenue," but you admit that on such subjects no very sure anticipation can be founded, and therefore you speak with no positiveness." If I may be allowed to judge of others by myself, I would say that the people of America are not to be alarmed at this bugbear. They have no apprehension of any additional revenue being called for, but if it should be the case, and the interest of the country requires it, there can be no doubt but that it would be promptly and cheerfully supplied and to prepare us for such an event, let us cease to pay tribute to this race of paper money makers, who have fastened themselves upon us -- look to us for support; and demand renewals of their charters as if they had legitimate authority; and: as Mr. Calhoun sais, stigmatize, and oppose those who demand specie for their notes. A pretty state of things this, for a people to be in, who call themselves free. In some states, says Mr. Calhoun, there are sixteen paper dollars, to one in specie!! nay speaking of the safety fund system of New York, he says, that, "Already have they become substantially mere paper machines; several having not more than from one to two cents in specie to the dollar, when compared with their circulation; and taking the aggregate, their average condition will be found to be but little better."
Good God! if this country had not, to use the words of the "venerables," literally flowed with milk and honey, the eyes of its people never could have been so long closed to this blood-sucking system. Shall we toil day after day, from the rising till the setting of the sun, for the purpose of producing luxuries, to hand over to these idle bankers for their bits of paper that cost them nothing, is this being "equal!" Is this living under a government where there are no privileged classes ?
Some will say that any man may be a banker, and issue his notes without a charter; yes, but he must answer for them as long as he has any kind of property left, except twenty dollar worth of furniture; whereas, these fellows issue as many notes as they possibly can, and if they should be called upon for payinent, break, and secure to themselves, by various means the property that those notes have purchased; their charters having protected them, except for the stock of the Bank; and what does this stock consist of ? -- In the first place, by legislative logrolling, they obtain a charter. In the next place they hire men to scramble and tear each other to pieces for the scrip: this obtained they pay in, perhaps, and perhaps not, the amount subscribed for, but we will look at it on the bright side only, and suppose it promptly paid, in paper borrowed from other banks already in operation. The bank then gets a mahogany counter, a bright pair of scales and weights; a big book and some little ones; a bit of copper 7 inches by 3, embellished with an engraving of the emblem of Prosperity; of Agriculture, perhaps of Trade; Commerce, Virtue, Liberty and Independence; And I have actually known the impious wretches even to profane the name of justice by taking for an emblem, her sacred scales!! all this is done to delude us poor simple creatures, and to make us look with respect upon that, which all men ought, from the bottom of their souls, to execrate; well then they want a bundle of quills, an ink-stand, and a few things to use them, and then the Bank is complete! O, no, I forgot the paper, of course they must have the bits of paper, upon which the whole thing depends. Well, thus equipped, it may be said, (to use a sailor's phrase,) they are fairly under weigh, and the first thing they do, is to accommodate the stock-holders by lending them out three times the amount that they have just put in. If they can discount largely enough to support the whole of them in splendor, then the bank goes on, in a steady and orderly manner; but if this cannot be done, then a marauding party is sent out to purchase all the property that can be got; and to pay for, or promise to pay for the same, with the said bank notes.
--In Niles' Weekly Register, dated September 8th 1821, will be found an instance of one of the way, by which the people are plundered, "We observe" says he, "by a notice in the Dutchess Observer, that the farmers of Duchess County have been shorn of all their wool by a most singular operation or, in other words, that nearly all the wool in that county had been sold to J. Butler, cashier of the Litchfield Bank, who had recently failed, and assigned his factory, wool, &c. to the Bank, as security for his debts, leaving the farmers to suffer."
Sir, it would not be necessary to say any thing to you of the villany of banking were it not that I hope this letter may be generally read by the sufferers; many of whom are not aware of the disease under which they labour. For their benefit, therefore, I will give a description of the banking system, and I know of no way of doing it so well, as by taking one of them and tracing its movements from the day of its birth to the day of its death. But to save myself the trouble of research, I will take the report made by a Committee of the Legislature of Rhode Island, the 20th of March 1809, appointed to enquire into the situation of the Farmers' Exchange Bank of Gloucester. The Committee states,
"that the said bank was incorporated, February, A.D. 1804. That by the charter, its capital stock was to consist of two thousand shares, of fifty dollars each, payable in seven instalments, in gold or silver. It appears to the committee that the capital stock was not paid in according to the provisions of the charter. Some of the stockholders paid the whole amount of the shares by them subscribed; others paid a part and gave their notes for the residue. The directors did not pay any money whatever, for although, in common with the other stockholders, the directors lodged the amount of their first instalment in specie, yet, in a very few days afterwards, all the directors received out of the Bank the amount of said instalments in bills of said bank, for which no security what ever was given, and they gave five notes, without endorsers, for the five first instalments, payable on demand with interest: for the two last instalments, no payment was made or security given, the said notes remained in the Bank until the directors transferred their stock, when they were delivered up in the manner hereinafter mentioned. The directors were the holders of one hundred and three shares each, and in this manner did the Farmers' Exchange Bank, which, by the charter, was to consist of two thousand shares, commence its operations with only six hundred and sixty shares, on which any payment had been made in gold and silver, agreeable to the express provisions of the charter; and the whole money paid into the Bank at any one period whatever, on the said six hundred and sixty-one shares, amounted to nineteen thousand one hundred and forty-one dollars and eighty-six cents.
"Prior to the 29th of March 1808, sundry stockholders, holding four hundred and fifty shares, transferred them to the Directors of said Bank. No money or other consideration whatever was paid by the directors with their own property to any of the stockholders who so transferred their shares, but they were uniformly paid for with the property of the corporation, most of the said stockholders were indebted to the Bank in notes, and to them their notes were given up, and if their shares exceeded the sum due from them to the Bank, the balance was paid out of the Bank with the property of the corporation; and none of the said directors, or any person whatever, was debited for the said sum so paid, or for the notes surrendered.
"On the third day of June, 1805, the board of directors passed a vote permitting each directors to take out of the Bank two hundred dollars for the purpose of exchanging the same. The said directors have never paid or accounted for said money to the Bank.
"When the Bank first commenced its operations, the capital paid in, including the money paid by the directors, and which was soon after repaid to them, as is herein before stated, amounts to the sum of eleven thousand eight hundred and six dollars and sixty one cents. When the directors had as before stated, taken back in bills the amount they had paid in specie for their first instalments the capital stock really paid in, amounted to only the sum of three thousand and eighty one dollars and eleven cents. The directors never declared any certain dividend of the property of the bank, but once a year paid to the stockholders interest generally at the rate of eight per cent, per annum on the sum they had respectively paid in, and the residue amounting in some years to one hundred and thirty dollars each, the directors divided among themselves.
"According to the books containing the weekly state of the bank, there were several periods when the amount of bills in circulation far exceeded the amount of notes due the bank, for instance, on the 25th day of March 1805, the amount of bills in circulation was seventy-two thousand two hundred and eleven dollars, and the amount of debts due the Bank was fifty-three thousand two hundred and seventy-five dollars, at some periods, anterior to the 29th day of March 1808, the bank had in circulation from sixty to seventy thousand dollars. On the 28th day of March 1808, there was in said Bank in specie and bills of other banks, three hundred and eighty dollars and fifty cents, and th Bank had twenty-two thousand five hundred and twenty-four dollars of their own bills in circulation.
This, sir, is the state that the banks were in a few years back, and we have no proof, nor can we have any proof, that they are not in the same state now. Indeed, some of them are in a worse state, if what Mr. Calhoun says can be relied on, to wit, that they have but from one to two cents in specie to the dollar in paper.
It will be found by the above statement, that the people had to pay a sinecure tax of thrity-four thousand eight hundred dollars annually, to that one bank during its life time, and to suffer a loss of $580,000 at its death.
Sir, do you know of any nation upon earth where the people are taxed equal to this ? It may be said this was a solitary instance, --not at all, sir; one of the members of Virginia, said at the time, in Congress, that the State of Massachusetts found, upon examining the vaults of the banks, the whole of them did not contain specie equal "to the paper issued by a single one." At that time, sir, you yourself considered the banking system as base, and abominable; and we are left entirely to conjecture as to the charm that induced you to change your opinion, and to give us such a horrible history of the first six months experiment to get rid of it; in doing which, your soul seems to have been overflowing with sympathy for us, the working-men. 25,000 spindles here, 5000 spindles there have ceased operation and all caused by the removing of the deposites !! "This deprives the industrious and labouring classes of their occupations, and brings want and misery to their doors." Sir you draw too largely upon the credulity of the three-fourths, when you think, by special pleading, they can be made to believe, that the removing of a few millions of their own money from one bank to another, in October last, has been the occasion of their want and misery, of the "hideous and deplorable state," that, Mr. Carey says, "they are in, and that this subject has for five years been pressed on the public attention in almost every shape and form." How then can it be owing to any thing that was done in October last ? --- Oh no sir, if you mean that the three-fourths compose the strong man in chains, you are altogether in error about the materials of the chain; but if you mean that the Shylocks make up the strong man, then you are right in saying that this act of the Secretary has helped to bind the strong man. Previous to this act, you say the banks
"All moved in their own spheres, harmoniously and in order. The Secretary disturbed this state of the system. He broke up all the harmony of the system. By suddenly withdrawing all the public moneys from the Bank of the United States, he forced that bank to an immediate correspondent curtailment of its loans and discounts. It was obliged to strengthen itself, and the State banks, taking the alarm, were obliged to strengthen themselves also, by similar measures. So that the amount of credit actually existing, and on which men were doing business, was suddenly greatly diminished. Bank accommodations were withdrawn; men could no longer fulfil their engagements by the customary means; property fell in value, thousands failed, many thousands more maintained their individual credit by enormous sacrifices, and all being alarmed fro the future, as well as distressed for the present, forbore from new transactions and new engagements. Finding enough to do to stand still, they do not attempt to go forward. This deprives the industrious and labouring classes of their occupations, and brings want and misery to their doors. This, sir, is a short recital of cause and effect. This is the history of the first six months of the experiment."
And a pretty history it is to come from an historian, who only two years back told us, that "Of all the contrivances for cheating the laboring classes of mankind, none has been more effectual than that which deludes them with paper money."
While this contrivence worked well, they (the bankers) all moved in harmony. While they could by legerdemain, or b y facility, if it must be so, make one dollar into sixteen and get six per cent. interest; for then they were in a state of peace, and the one dollar thay had to work upon, it appears, belonged to the people; for the peace and harmony was broken by suddenly withdrawing the people's money. So here are the people taxing themselves more than is necessary, to raise funds to lend without interest to these bankers for them to increase sixteen fold and lend again to us upon interest. If I earn by the sweat of my brow, one hundred dollars more than I want to use, I lend it, and get six dollars per annum, for the use of it. But if I belonged to the privileged class and was dignified by the title of "Banker" I could write my name upon sixteen hundred bit of paper, call them dollars, and by this contrivance obtain 96% per annum, for the use of the said one hundred dollars !! O God!! what an infernal thing it is, that I, who so abominably detest the whole contrivance should be taxed for such a purpose !! If a just government required that I should pay fifty per cent. for every thing that I used, if it was in my power, I would pay it without a murmur, but for me to give my earnings to a gang who live by the "best contrivance for cheating the laboring classes of mankind" is not to be quietly borne with.
As to the stopping of spindles, the three-fourths know all about that, nearly as well as you know yourself; that is of very common occurrence, the cotton lords have at all times, and by all manner of means, that oppression could invent, reduced the wages of the laborers until they are upon a level with the "operatives" as they are called in England and in Scotland. In all cases when it is discovered that the souls and bodies of these poor men and their families can be kept together with one mouthful less food, the foreman is forthwith ordered to stop the spindles, until the matter can be adjusted. About 18 months back, and this you will please to bear in mind was before the removing of the deposites, the workmen of Manayunk turned out for wages and, in addressing their lords and masters, humbly, and very meekly said that they would be satisfied if, by working all the hours that God gave them, they could earn enough for a bare subsistence. I do not vouch for the very words, but they were similar, and to the same effect; yet these men on the 20th of March last, marched rank and file, to this city, for the purpose of declaring by word of command from the accommodated cotton lords, that their distress was all owing to the removal of the deposites, and this was done too in "Independence Square" was it not enough to make the very trees reproach them ?
I am a hatter, and I speak without fear of contradiction, and say that the wages of the journeymen belonging to my trade, have got worse and worse for these last ten years; that, the price of napping hats, which is a principal part of business, has been reduced, in the big paper-money manufactories, to just one half of what it was ten years back, and that the consequence is, the journeymen have to work harder than any slaves in the country, to be able, as Mr. Carey observes, to make enough to sustain them. How is this to be otherwise when these men have their share of the interest of three or four hundred millions of paper money dollars to pay, to a privileged class, who call themselves our betters, and claim to be kept of the best, in idleness. In vain may you deal out your logic about commercial credit and paper money being to us a blessing. "It is the creation of modern times" say you --we know it is, the dark ages were not aware of its facility. It "belongs, in its highest perfection only, to the most enlightened and, best governed nations." Do you think, sir, that for the sake of being ranked with the most enlightened, the American people will suffer themselves to be plundered as the English people have been ? They have endured it hitherto, because they did not understand the contrivance by which they were cheated; but this Bank discussion in their Congress has done much towards opening their eyes, and I am much mistaken if flattery will be able to shut them again. When the working classes of England were about to be hoodwinked forty years since, Lord Stormont adopted your plan, or rather you adopted his. "The English," says he, "are a sober, thinking people, and are more intelligent, and more solid than any people I ever had the fortune to see;" upon which the silly sheep lay still, while the shearer took the fleece.
You say that "As hard money represents property, so credit represents hard money; and it is capable of supplying the place of money so completely, that there are writers of distinction, especially of the Scotch school, who insists that no hard money is necessary for the interest of commerce." You, however, say that you "do not think any Government can maintain an exclusive paper system without running to excess, and thereby causing depreciation." You "hold the immediate convertibility of Bank notes into specie, to be an indispensible security to their retaining their value;" and yet, you have told us that "the banks were all moving in their proper sphere," when they had but fifteen millions of specie to pay three hundred and fifty millions of notes and debts. How could these notes be immediately converted into specie ?! If the people were to demand the specie, and were lucky enough to get what there is, it would not amount to one dollar in twenty.
From the whole tenure of your remarks, you appear to wish to impress it on the minds of the people, that paper will answer all the purposes of money, writers of distinction have said it, especially those of the Scotch school. Ah! those of the Scotch school have said strange things ere now. Mr. Jno. Randolph expressed his fears twenty years back lest Gentleman had got some of their ideas on the subject of a circulating medium, from the pamphlets of that wretched school. That school has done more than all the rest of the schools in Great Britain to bring the industrious inhabitants of that country to a diet of potatoes and water, and to drive them to state of madness and despair; to the burning of farm houses and ricks to the destroying of cattle, and the numerous other outrages that are now nightly taking place, and which so dreadfully alarm the despots, the paper money makers and the usurers. -- This school of distinction teaches the practicability of making paper answer all the purposes of money. You are not exactly of that opinion; but you give us a dissertation on the blessings of "the system".
"In the primitive ages of commerce," say you, "article is exchanged for article; without the use of money or credit. This is simple barter. But in its progress, a symbol of property, a common measure of value, is introduced, to facilitate the exchanges of property, and this may be iron, or any other article, fixed by law or by consent;" although the other day you was treating with contempt the idea of having gold and silver, which was "too Spartan" and with a sneer said, that we might as well go to iron at once.
As to Mr. Rives' project, said you, "that I think will find but little favour." Now, if iron or any other article will answer all the purposes, I think you ought, at least, to have treated that gentleman's project with becoming courtesy.
"Credit," you tell us, "is the vital air of the system of modern commerce." Gold and silver was certainly a great advantage beyond simple barter; but credit "has done more, a thousand times, to enrich nations, than all the mines of all the world." It "increases consumption, by anticipating products, and that it supplies present wants, out of future means." As a proof which you might have added -- see the debts of England. That nation ripped up the goose, took the golden eggs and supplied present wants out of future means. O!! if the wish of Franklin could have been complied with ! If he had been immersed in a cask of Madeira Wine, and could at this moment have been brought forth to view the state of this country. -- "Where," he would have said, "are the effects of my precepts ? I recommended economy: I showed the propriety of keeping out of debt, and of always living within one's income. Fisrt, I said-- let honesty and industry be thy constant companion; and secondly-- spend one penny less than thy clear gains, then, said I, shalt thou be a man and not hide they face at the approach of the rich, nor suffer the pain of feeling little, when the sons of fortune walk at thy right hand. Let honesty be as the breath of thy soul, and never forget to have a penny when all thy expenses are enumerated and paid; then thou shalt reach the point of happiness, and independence shall be thy shield and buckler, thy helmet and crown; then shall thy soul walk upright, nor stoop to the silken wretch because he hath riches, nor pocket an abuse because the hand which offers it wears a ring set with diamonds. It was I, my friends, who wrote poor Richard's Almanack; and have you," he would say, "so early, too, departed from, disregarded, and forgotten, the advice given in the Farewell Address of the father of the country ! That great and good man, whose equal never lived in the tide of times, he warned you to avoid the accumulation of debts, not only by shunning occasions of expense, but to discharge the debts which unavoidable wars may have occasioned; not ungenerously throwing upon posterity, the burden which we ourselves ought to bear."
How should we be able to look him in the face ? What would be his feelings when we told him, as we must tell him, that he lived in the days of darkness, that we have got a modern contrivance, which belongs in its highest perfection only to the most enlightened and best governed nations, and that this contrivance enabled us to supply our present wants out of future means ? Poor man! doubtless he would lie back, with shame and with sorrow to his spiritual abode, and, as a last request, beg to be bunged up once more, and that forever !!
The system you tell us, "has excited labour;" this is about the first truth I have met with: it does, indeed, excite labour, and makes it necessary as Mr. Carey says, for the workingmen to be unremittingly employed. Next you tell us, that "pushed commerce over every sea, and brought every nation, every kingdom, and every small tribe, among the races of men, to be known to all the rest." What nonsensical, trifling talk is this ! can it be possible that you can expect Americans to believe that there was no commerce in the world, until it was discovered how to make worthless bits of paper pass for money, and bring in six per cent. interest to the equally worthless and unprincipled usurers who issue them ? Was it by the aid of paper money 1494, that Columbus discovered this great country ? Was there no commerce, no pushing over the seas in the days that gave birth to the discoverer of the new world ? Was there no pushing over the seas in 1494, when the Portuguese first sailed to the East Indies by the Cape of Good Hope -- in 1497 when South America, and in 1499 when North America was discovered ? Talk of pushing over the sea indeed, with flimsy trash like that. Sir Francis Drake made the first voyage round the world in 1550, and if he had done that, by the aid of paper money, there would have been some propriety in your boasting of your paper system having pushed commerce over the sea. How many more instances might I give, if it were necessary, to prove that the seas were pretty well pushed over hundreds of years before, "the system" was invented. Perhaps you may say, these were voyages of discovery, and not of commerce; but what was their object in discovering else than that of commerce, and that of enriching themselves ? Besides, it is not unreasonable to think, that a people who could push for the first time round the world without paper money, could do any thing that has since been done, as well without it as with it.
It has "brought every nation, every kingdom, and every small tribe, among the races of men, to be known to all the rest." I deny that it did anything of the kind, and what I have just been stating is sufficient to prove my assertion.
Well then, if it has done nothing else, it "raised armies, equipped navies, and, triumphing over the gross power of mere numbers, it has established national superiority on the foundation of intelligence, wealth, and well directed industry." This sentence appears to me to be as muddy as Swift's puddle; I cannot see to the bottom of it; therefore, I must pass it, except the raising of armies, and equipping of navies; I think I know what that means. "The facility of raising ways and means, in the early part of the American war, had too much extravagance in the Commissary Department," says a late American writer on the continental money, "and prevented the establishment of a sound system of finance." It is said that when a proposition was before Congress to establish a regular revenue system, one member exclaimed, "do you think, gentlemen, that I will consent to load my constituents with taxes, when we can send to our printers and get a waggon load of money, one quire of which will pay for the whole ?!" And it appears that nine million dollars of this sort of money was issued by the government to the people for the produce of their labour; and that by this means, the Government was enabled to raise armies and equip navies. But what will the honest part of mankind think of the contrivance, when they hear that not one single dollar of that money was ever redeemed, and that finally, it took almost a sack-bag full of it to buy a breakfast.
That the army was raised, and that it effected the object for which it was raised, are matters of commendable exultation to the friends of liberty, but the means by which these things were effected, and which ruined the best patriots in the country, are not to be approved of. Why not tax the country openly, for all the expenses that a just government can require ? If armies are necessary, there are means enough to raise them without the assistance of paper. Armies and navies were raised thousands of years before banks were thought of. We read of the battle of Ascalon in Judea, in which Richard, King of England, defeats Saladin's army, consisting of three hundred thousand men: this happened in the year 1192, about five hundred years before the Bank of England commenced. -- Let us suppose there to be now three hundred thousand soldiers in Judea, and that the King of England had to meet and conquer them in their own country, in one engagement, would he be able, with all his facilities, to do it do you think ? Has not, in fact, the system so weakened and destroyed the power of England, as to cause her to be kicked and cuffed about by almost any power that calls itself a Government ? "Come what will," said Canning, "peace for us." In fact, there are writers, and those of distinction too, who insist upon it, that England can never war again, while she has the interest of her debt to pay. Indeed, Brougham, who belongs to the "Scotch school," says, "she is bound in a bond of £800,000,000 to keep the peace;" and all this owing to the system, for without the Bank, the debt never could have been contracted. But how did Alexander conquer the world; and how did Cæsar, who lived before the birth of Christ, contrive to fight fifty pitched battles, and to kill one million one hundred and ninety-two thousand men ? And, for the further assurance to those who love war and carnage, and support paper money because they think their appetites cannot be indulged without it; they shall not only have "proof as strong as holy writ," but they shall have holy writ itself:
"And Abijah and his people slew them with a great slaughter, so there fell down slain of Israel, five hundred thousand men." --2nd Chron. 17th chap.
Now, the good people who read their bibles, and support paper money because they think it facilitates the raising of armies, I hope will be satisfied from this one verse, that armies can be raised without it. Surely five hundred thousand chosen men slain in one battle, is abundantly sufficient to satisfy the most blood-thirsty wretch that ever lived by human slaughter. As to navies, Cæsar, in one engagement, captured 300 ships, so that our galant tars need not suppose that their profession depends on paper.
You tell us, that "unless we are to reject the light of experience, and to repudiate the benefits which other nations enjoy, and which we ourselves have hitherto enjoyed, we should protect the system with unceasing watchfulness."
And then you give us a short history of the system. "Where do we first find them ? Do they make their first appearance in despotic governments, and show themselves as inventions of power to oppress the people ? The first Bank was that of Venice; the second that of Genoa. From the example of these republics they were next established in Holland and the free city of Hamburg. England followed these examples, but not until she had been delivered from the tyranny of the Stuarts, by the revolution of 1688. It was William the deliverer, not William the conqueror, that established the Bank of England." Now, sir, before you call upon us to cherish and watch the "deliverer's system," you ought to have shown us what we are likely to get for our pains. You ought to have described the light and pointed out the benefits, that the English people are enjoying from the system, established by the deliverer. This would not have been necessary if your speech had been made in that country; but having been made here, it is calculated to make the people believe that the system has worked in such a beautiful manner in England, that it has caused the people to be living in a state of unexampled happiness, and that, if we follow up the system, we may eventually be in the same condition.
You run blundering on, making assertion after assertion, without attempting to prove anything, and you have put forth such a rhapsody of words, that it is totally impossible to reduce them to any kind of order. But, with respect to England, sir, you either know nothing, or you disguise the facts, when you refer us to that country to view lights and benefits occasioned by the banking system. In the first place, what sort of a man was this favourite king of yours. Hume the historian gives him a character that would disgrace the name of William the conqueror. It was to this king, "this deliverer," and his heirs, that "the lords spiritual and temporal, and commons, did, in the name of the people, most humbly and faithfully submit themselves, their heirs and posterities for ever;" and in what state did the deliverer leave them ?
The French describe it, perhaps, as well as it can be described, they say that "the power of making laws belongs exclusively to the members of the aristocracy. -- Public situations, which are the road to honour and fortune, fall to the share of nobody but those who are vested with the power of making the laws, their children or relations: and the people who do the work, are the property in fee of those who have the management of the public affairs. The people that work are neither hampered, nor disturbed in their labours, but are as free in their industry and their commerce as bees in a hive. The working classes, however, derive no more advantage in the end from this freedom in their operations, than the bees do from the honey they take so much pains to make. To describe the thing properly, the English Parliament perform the office of a pump. It sucks up the wealth produced by the working classes, and turns it over into the hands of the families of the Aristocracy. But as it is a machine that has a head, and can think, it leaves the working people as much as is necessary for them to go on working and no more."
Now, this is the way the system worked when the Deliverer left it; this is the light, this is the example, that we are solicited to follow. O, what a charming time! when you shall legislate only for the rich, and let them take care of the poor. But will the three-fourths of this country ever submit to be thus delivered. This William the deliverer, that you take so much pains to distinguish from William the conqueror, established, you tell us, the first bank in that country, and we are directed to view its effects, to cherish its examples, and not to reject its benefits. This William it was, too, who commenced the first national debt there, the first state lottery, and the first standing army. What he delivered them from, I know not; but if it were worse than these things, it must have been of the devil's invention, as a frightful proof of which, behold the following statement:
But there are those who consider, or pretend to consider, these things blessings, and say that taxes operated like a water spout, which gathers up the waters into its trunk, and then gently diffuses them over the country again in refreshing, or, as Burke, the pensioner, called it, fructifying showers. You, sir, appear to be of this school, and you try to persuade us to think, that fifty million of dollars per annum gathered up from the people, in the name of interest, for these bits of paper, are a benefit to us, because it enables the privileged idlers to buy our goods, and which, in your opinion, is so much superior to "simple barter." Now, I cannot, for the soul of me, see the beauties of this "modern improvement." -- Sometimes I imagine that I am living in the "primitive ages," and that I and a farmer are about to have a simple barter; hat for flour: we have just wiped the sweat and dust from our brows and are about exchanging our commodities, my hat for his barrel of flour, each valued at five dollars. At this moment appears before us a thing that calls itself a Banker: neat, trimly dressed, fresh as a bridegroom, and his chin new reaped. "Hold men," says he, "for one moment. Have ye not heard of the modern contrivance for facilitating trade ! See," says he, "this bit of paper; it is a symbol of property, it facilitates the exchange of property; do you but take it and give me sixty cents for the use of it, and you will be astonished how it will facilitate the barter that you are about to make." Facilitate! said we, why if it had not been for your nonsense, the exchange would have been effected by this, and we should have been at our work again. "Ay, ay," said he, "but you do not comprehend it. It is what we call the credit system. It is the most delicate, and at the same time most important agent in producing general prosperity." Explain this, said we, and we will believe it. "Believe it!?" said he, "Why don't you know that to destroy credit is to put a stop to all labours." No, said we, we do not know that, but we know that if you was obliged to labour sixteen hours a day, as we do, you would be one of the first to destroy credit, if you thought the act would put a stop to all labour.
But the fact is, there has been plenty of labour ever since Eve eat the apple, and God has decreed that, that shall be the case, until we all return unto the ground from whence we came. Was there no labour in the days of Alfred the founder of the city of Oxford, the like of which, for expensive buildings, is not to be found in the world ? Was there no labour about the thousands of castles, abbeys, priories, &c. that were built in England & Ireland, between the reigns of Alfred, the great, and William the deliverer ? Was there no labour on the land in England, the steepest hill of which exhibits to us marks of cultivation, and which in these days lie idle because they require too much labour to bring them into cultivation ? The men that ploughed those hills, worked eight hours a day; had, by law, eight hours of recreation, and eight hours for rest. The men that ought now to be ploughing those hills are huddled together in cotton factories, heated to eighty-four degrees, there to work sixteen hours instead of eight, and there to submit to laws, made by the cotton lords themselves, such as make one shudder to think of; and such as make one blush to name. And these are the doings that we are not to repudiate; these are the lights we are to follow; and these are lights that, of late, we have followed.
"The history of banks," you tell us, "belongs to the history of commerce, and the general history of liberty. It belongs to the history of those causes, which in a long course of years raised the middle and lower orders of society to a state of intelligence and property, in spite of the iron sway of the feudal system. In what instance have they endangered liberty, or overcome the laws ? Their very existence depends on the security and the rule, both of liberty and law. Why, sir, have we not been taught, in our earliest reading, that, to the birth of a commercial spirit, to associations for trade, to the guilds and companies formed in the towns, we are to look for the first appearance of liberty, from the darkness of the middle ages; for the first faint blush of that morning, which has grown brighter and brighter, till the perfect day has come ?"
A man that will tell us this, must indeed, have a mean opinion of our understanding. What! are the lower orders, as you are pleased to call them, in England, Ireland and Scotland, prosperous ? Am I, who have seen the labourers of England reduced from a comparatively happy people, to the lowest state of wretchedness and degradation; and who so well recollect the happy, the contented, and the cheerful manner in which the villagers of that country lived, when each man kept his pig, and most of them kept their cow, when all were well clad; all were respectable, and lived in peace and harmony together, and for honesty (as in the days of Alfred) bracelets might have been hung by the way side, without danger of them being touched. Shall I who have seen all these things vanish at the approach of paper money; shall I be told that banking has raised them to intelligence and prosperity, and that the perfect day is come there ?
Sir, I feel a something within me that propels me on to do my best towards warning this nation of its inevitable destruction, if the false lights that you have set up, should be taken for the true beacons and indiscreetly followed. What! take England for an example, and say that the perfect day is come there ?! The it becomes my duty to try to give a description of that perfect day.
I recollect the time, when in the middle of England there was not such a thing as a bank note to be seen, and, shall I ever forget the night when the old Patriarch of the house, came in from market, and as a great curiosity pulled out of his breeches pockets a one pound note: it was the first that had been seen in the village, and I well remember the words of poor old Dame. "Nothing," said she, "that can be said about it, shall ever make me believe that both, bit of paper and a shilling, is worth a gold in guinea." The old man smiled at her simplicity and said, "what matter is it, so that it will pass ? We soon, however, found out what the matter was, and from that very hour until the present moment, England's troubles have continually increased, until, for misery, you might have said the "perfect day is come." Dame was right, and in a very short time it took 28 or 30 shillings in paper to buy a golden guinea, and, in 1819, it was agreed on in the House of Commons that a one pound note was worth only fourteen shillings. And, O, God!! in what a variety of ways has it operated to impoverish the working man. One can hardly turn one's eyes, without beholding proofs of it. Yesterday I picked up, by chance, a piece of waste paper, on which was printed a few lines. It was part of Brougham's report, made eight or ten years back, respecting the property that had been bequeathed for the use of the poor in different parts of England, and it read as follows:--
"Weaver's Company -- Alms House at Hoxton -- Satchwell's gift.
Wm. Satchwell, by will, dated 12th April, 1675, gave and bequeathed to the Company of Weavers, London, the sum of thirty pounds; the yearly interest and produce whereof he appointed to buy eight pair of shoes and eight pair of stockings, for eight poor freemen's widows, of the same Company, to be given on the fast day of all saints, in every year, forever.
"These articles of dress," says the report, "are not now furnished, but 30 shillings being the interest of this legacy, at five per. cent. are added to the money payments made to the Alms women as hereinafter mentioned."
So here we find that the paper money has so altered the nominal value of shoes and stockings that eight pair of each can no longer be furnished for 30 shillings, the money is therefore given and the poor widows have been cheated out of four pair of shoes and four pair of stockings. "Cursed be he that moves his neighbour's land mark and double cursed be he who moves the land mark of the poor widows!!" The property out of which this legacy was to be paid, doubtless enhanced in value with the shoes and stockings. These charities abound in England, and if properly applied, would be nearly sufficient to maintain the poor; but the aristocracy, who are the trustees, let the estates thus left, to each other, upon everlasting leases and old fashioned prices; instead of diving the gold and silver, which, had it not been for Banks, would have continued to buy the number of shoes and stockings. They give this facilitating trash, which will only buy half the number, the other half they keep themselves; and this is one of the ways they "moved the land mark." The poor law too, has been frittered away till there is scarce the appearance of it left; and wretchedness mingled with splendour, covers the face of the country. Where are those neat and delightful cottages that I so well remember ? Where are those shelves of shining pewter, and other furniture, that for neatness and convenience was all that a king need want ? Where are they ? and what do we behold but wretched hovels, not fir for beasts to rest in. What has become of that happy, cheerful, lively race of beings among whom I spent my early days ? even the village green, that from all eternity appeared to have been allotted for rural sports, has disappeared, and in the general confusion has been divided among the damned paper money despots: the "recording angel," who knows my feelings, will, I trust, "blot out the oath." I find my incapacity to give a description of what I have witnessed of the wrongs and injuries of the poor in England. To call to mind and to contrast, those days of happiness with the present day is pain and grief to me. I will, therefore, give you the evidence of a William Hanning, Esq. given before a select committee of the House of Commons appointed to enquire into the present state of Agriculture and persons employed in Agriculture.
Question. Has there been a change in the food of the labourers within the last few years.
Answer. Unquestionably; I see the labourers being constantly moving about my farms. I see them almost now wholly supplied with potatoes; breakfast and dinner brought to them in the fields and nothing but potatoes.
Question. Were they in the habit in better times of consuming a certain quantity of animal food ?
Answer. Some certain portion: for instance, bacon, and cheese, which they do not eat now.
Need I go on, need I say any more about the Deliverer's System that we are not to repudiate ? Will Americans be persuaded to watch with unceasing care a system that has produced a state of things like this ? "What is that defective being," says a late popular writer on the miseries and distress endured by the "bulk of the people of England," that is, the "labouring classes;" N.Y. Traveller.
"What is that defective being, with calfless legs and stooping shoulders, weak in body and mind, inert, pusillanimous and stupid; whose premature wrinkles and furtive glance tell of misery and degradation ? That is an English peasant or pauper; for the words are synonymous. His sire was a pauper, and his mother's milk wanted nourishment. From infancy his food has been bad as well as insufficient; and he now feels the pains of unsatisfied hunger whenever he is awake. But half clothed, and never supplied with more warmth than suffices to cook his scanty meals, cold and wet come to him, and stay by him, with the weather. He is married of course: for to this he would have been driven by the poor laws, even if he had been, as he never was, sufficiently comfortable and prudent to dread the burden of a family. But, though instinct and the overseer has given him a wife, he has not tasted the highest joys of husband and father. His partner and his little ones being like himself often hungry, seldom warm, sometimes sick without aid, and always sorrowful, without hope, and greedy, selfish and vexing; so, to use his own expression, 'he hates the sight of them,' and resorts to his hovel only because a hedge affords less shelter from the wind and rain."
Even this picture is not, to my own knowledge, much, if any, overcharged. Can Tunis or Algiers, where you say hard money is indispensible because they are arbitrary rapacious governments, can they beat this for barbarism ? Shall these "undeniable truths make well informed men ashamed to cry out against Banks?" "In what instance," ask you, "have Banks endangered liberty, or overcome the law?" Sir, I boldly answer and say in every instance where they have existed. I think I have amply shown that they have not only endangered liberty and law in England, but they have actually subverted both.
You speak of Venice, where you say the first bank was established, as an instance of the blessings of banking. "Venice," says, Daniel O'Connell, and I think he is like enough to know, "Venice, during a space of more than eight hundred years rose from a small fishing village to power and wealth, to glory and domestic prosperity, by means of her then pure democracy, indeed, into such strength and power, that it required near six hundred years of the withering hand of aristocratic selfishness, to reduce her again to village of weakness and debility." Now, this first Bank was established at that place, in the middle of the twelfth century, about six hundred years since, and it is fair to conclude that at that moment Venice began to wither and decay. That it did not decay faster, is a matter of great surprise, but it must be borne in mind that the Bank did not issue sixteen paper dollars for one in specie in their vaults; if it had, the withering hand of aristocratic selfishness would have reduced her again to village weakness and debility, in a twentieth part of the time. Next you point to Genoa, as another example to us. And what are the visible effects of banking there ? This you leave for me to point out, which I must do from history in the following words:
"Before it was taken by the French, which happened in 1805, the government was purely aristocratic, consisting of a great council of eighty persons, chosen out of the old and new nobility, in whom the legislative authority resided; but the administration of affairs was vested in a Senate, consisting of a Doge and two Senators. The Genoese fleet, anciently celebrated for its victories over the Saracens, Pisanese, Venetians, Spaniards, and Turks, and a long time masters of Sardinia, Malta, Majorca, Minova, Candia, Cyprus, the Crimea, and other places in the Archipelago, is now reduced to six galleys."
So much for Genoa. Surely, sir, you must have picked up the wrong brief, for never could instances better than these be required to show the devastation and ruin occasioned by the banking system.
As to Holland, what are the people of Holland, other than the property of the High and Mighty ? You term it a "Republic," but there is nothing to be found in its government that deserves the name of a Republic. The council of State are called "Noble and mighty lords," and the States General, "High and mighty lords." "Though Holland is a Republic," says the historian, "yet its government is far from being of the popular kind; nor do the people enjoy that degree of liberty which might at first be apprehended. It is indeed," says he, "rather an Oligarchy than a Commonwealth, for the bulk of the people are not suffered to have the least share in any part of the government; not even in the choice of deputies. It may also be observed that very few persons dare speak their real sentiments freely, and they are generally educated in principles so extremely cautious that they cannot relinquish them when they enter more into public life."
And these are the lights and examples that we are not to reject. These are the blessings of the banking system that we are called upon not to repudiate but to "protect with unceasing watchfulness." To offer commerce upon such advice would be to insult the understanding of those who listen once a year to the reading of that solemn instrument that declares, that all men are equal.
Tripoli, Tunis, and Algiers are countries not fit for the credit system. No, they must be free and Independent countries, like England and Ireland; or the system cannot be expected to thrive, "credit cannot exist under arbitrary and rapacious governments." "who supposes that a bank of England could have existed in the time of Empson and Dudly?" (Webster) "The history of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations. All having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these States," (Declaration of Independence). "Why, sir," say you, "have we not been taught, in our earliest reading, that, to the birth of a commercial spirit, to associations for trade, to the guilds and companies formed in the towns, we are to look for the first appearance of liberty, from the darkness of the middle ages." Sir, I can hardly believe, when I read this speech of yours, but that I must (like Van Winkle,) have been in a trance, while the country has been given up to the English; that you are the Vice Roy of his Britannic Majesty, and Governor General of the Province of Pennsylvania. I know not what you may have been taught in your early reading, but I know that Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, and all those who did so much towards obtaining our Independence, taught us a different doctrine. What ?! look to guilds and companies formed in towns for the first appearance of liberty ?
Washington and Jefferson both said that, if our Independence depended on the cities, there would be but little hopes of its preservation. "It is," said they, "upon the industrious, honest yeomanry of the country that we depend." As to charters or guilds, how can that be a government of equality and justice that privileges some to enjoy what to others it denies ? The most despotic government on earth, could neither devise or desire a better mode than chartering, for plundering its subjects. If we were to grant one grand charter to the one-fourth at once, allowing them their heirs and posterity for ever to live in idleness upon the people's industry. It would be the same thing in effect as the present system. Indeed, an alteration of this kind would be all in favour of the three-fourths, it would save a great deal of mockery, besides many weeks of costly debating, in our annual assemblies.
"Tripoli, Tunis and Algiers," say you, "are countries, above all others, in which hard money is indispensable, because under such governments nothing is valuable which cannot be secreted and hoarded." Now, this, well digested, will I think afford us some useful information. If they had not hard money they could not hoard it from their rapacious tyrants. This allows, clearly, that you look upon paper money as an instrument in the hands of the rich to prevent the poor from hoarding; and it shows, too, that those much abused governments, after all, are the true republics, that, instead of the will of the Dey being the law, the people have laws that protect their property from the rapacious hands of tyrants. The Dey cannot put his hands into the people's pockets, or find their board, but, if he had the power, and was cruelly enough disposed, he might adopt the banking system, which, you say "extend every where and touches every thing." When the people begin to wince under their galling load, this Algiers is the tyrant's scarecrow; and is intended to act upon us as the word kidnapper acts upon children. When you spoke of guilds and companies, I doubt not but your eye was turned towards the city of London, and perhaps you was thinking what ail excellent thing it would be if we could do here, as they do there. Not a turnip, a cabbage, or any kind of vegetable, can the husbandman sell in that city without paying a tax to some of the nobility; and taking the whole thing together, it is a mass of corruption, such as I venture to say, and such as I could, easily prove, if my space would admit, that Tripoli, Tunis, or Algiers never beheld.
Speaking of "the system," you say you "hardly know a writer on these subjects who has not selected the United States, as an eminent and striking instance, to show the advantages of well established credit, and the benefit of its expansion, to a degree not compatible with safety, by paper circulation." There are however, a few writers on this subject, that advocate the interest of the three-fourths; these, it appears, do not belong to the circle of your acquantaince. Allow me to introduce to you "A SHORT HISTORY of paper money and banking in the United States, including an account of provincial and continental paper money. To which is prefixed an inquiry into the principles of the system with considerations of its effects on morals and happiness. The whole intended as a plain exposition of the way in which paper money and money corporations, affect the interests of different portions of the community." by William M. Gouge.
This book was published last year, and ought to be read by every American citizen; after which there could be but one opinion amongst the honest and well meaning, as to the horrid effects of paper money. That book, read with attention, would do more good than has ever been done by all the booing Scotchmen that ever lived by political shilling. You "hardly know a writer;" sir, do you know nothing of the writer of "Paper against gold, or the history and mystery of the Bank of England?" Did you never hear of the author of "The decline and fall of the English system of finance" ? Men indeed that never belong to the "Scotch school," but men whose names will be distinguished long; and long after that school shall have been held in contempt by all sensible and upright men.
You are grieved to say that public expectation "is answered by declamation against the bank, as a monster, by loud cries against moneyed aristocracy, by pretended zeal for a hard money system and by professions of favor and regard to the poor." This is only part of the way in which public expectation has been met, it has also been met by declamation against our worthy President, by a real zeal for paper money, and by professions of favour to the poor. The poor want no favours from any party, give them justice; protect them from the wily craft of the rich, and they need no more. It was but last year that an Irish lord, lorded it over his men till they would endure it no longer; he had two or three hundred acres of grass to cut, and a great number of cows to milk. The labourers suddenly left him to mow his grass and milk his cows himself. When lo! and behold! the frail wretch discovered that he had lost his property, and that his riches all lay in the labour of the men whom he would not suffer to come within the breath of his nostrils; at night the udders of the cows began to overflow, and before two days had passed he was glad enough upon any terms to get back the men. If the facilitating Marble Bank had been at his elbow, would that have cut down his rotting grass, or milked his dying cows ? And yet these chartered companies have the impudence to call themselves, "The Rich," by whom we are to be taken care of; these are the men that are called, "the country," "society," and so on. No matter about the three-fourths, so as the other fourth be well!! (as Romeo said) "then nothing can be ill!!"
If the government were to openly decree, that fifty millions of dollars per year must be raised to support the honour and dignity of an American Nobility, would the people submit to it ? No! It is necessary, therefore, for those who must and will live by the labours of others, to devise some other means, more cunning and fuller of deception. Hence, instead of the State pauper list, we have the modern contrivance for the nett profit of which I question much whether the English nobility would not be willing to exchange their plunder which they get in the name of pensions; place and so on. Those who want hard money, you say, cry out, "the poor! we are waging war for the benefit of the poor! We slay that monster, the Bank; that we may defeat the unjust purposes of the rich, and elevate and protect the poor." Yes, sir, these are the objects that I trust our President has in view; and these I am sure are mine. I disclaim all factions or party motives. I believe that bank notes are all that I have said about them; and I care not in what shape, by whom or from what quarter they may be introduced; they ever have had, and they ever shall have all the opposition that it is in my feeble power to give them.
"And what if the effect of all this?" say you, "what happens to the poor, and all the middling classes, in consequence of this warfare ?" So because we will not renew the monster's charter, it has declared war against us?! and its general in chief issues a kind of an edict, showing us the dangerous consequences of rebelling against the power of the mighty monster.
"Where are the poor?" say you. "Are they well fed?" 9no, not so well as they used to be_ -- "well clothed?" (no, not so well as formerly) -- "well employed?" (yes, unremittingly or they starve) -- "independent?" (no, part of them are slaves to the banking system, and the other part are dreadfully trammeled by it) -- "happy?" (no, nor ever will they be until the monster is put to death) -- "grateful?" (yes, to Providence, for the milk and honey, although the bankers get most of it) -- "They are all at the feet of the capitalist;" (yes, and have been for a long time) -- "They are in the jaws of usury;" (we know it, and if we cannot break those jaws, we must perish) -- "If there be hearts of stone, in human bosoms, they are at the mercy of those who have such hearts in their breasts;" (true) -- "Look to the rates of interest, amounting to twenty, thirty, fifty per cent;" (is that all? why then it si lower; I have shown that before the deposites were removed, it was ninety-four) -- "This measure of Government has transferred millions upon millions of hard earned property from the poor to the rich." How did the poor come by these large sums ? Mr. Carey, and the leading citizens must have been mistaken, when for these last five years they have been pressing on the attention of the public the "hideous and deplorable" state of the poor. Speaking of the labourers they said,
"Whereas, It appears that their wages are inadequate to their support, even when fully employed."
Now, if this be true, how did the rich manage to squeeze out of the poor, since October last, millions upon millions ?!
"It is difficult," say you, "to restrain one's indignation when, to so much keen distress, there is added so much which has the appearance of mere mockery." Did ever man mock more than you mock ? The whole of your speech is downright cant, sophistry, and mockery; and oft since I began to remark upon it, I have found it difficult to restrain my indignation, and to forbear from trampling it under my feet. What! do you think the people have no idea of the poison that preys upon their vitals ? The very beasts of the fields, you know, shun the deadly herbs; depend not therefore, too much upon the ignorance of your fellow men. If we get rid of the banking system you tell us, that "We shall see a new America. On the map where these United States have stood, we shall behold a country that will be strange to us;" --'fine words, I wonder where you stole 'em.' Oh, I recollect,--Burke "saw a chasm that once was France!", and his opponent, very properly told him, that he talked like a dreamer of dreams. The same natural France;" said he, "existed as before, and all the natural means existed with it, the only chasm was that which the extinction of despotism had left." And this would be the case if we were to get rid of your favorite system. What a pity that such eloquence should not have been better applied. If you had said, "sir, I entreat you for the sake of my country, to listen with attention to me while I describe to you the effects produced by the first bank that ever curst mankind; --know then, that from a small fishing village in Naples, where pure democracy existed, arose the town of Venice. It continued to thrive and increase for eight hundred years, at the end of which time, some designing swindlers contrived a method to cheat the people out of their earnings. They called the contrivance the Bank of Venice, and, mark me gentlemen, from that very moment, Venice began to wither and decay, and now little remains there but the spot where once stood Venice." If you had said this, you would have spoken truths, I and the children of America would have had reason to bless you for it; but instead of this you go on and say, that if the system is destroyed "we shall see a class of idle rich, and idle poor; the former a handful, the latter a host." Ah! that would be very bad indeed, to have us all idlers. Who is to mow down the grass and milk the cows ? The Irish gentleman soon discovered that would not do; better by half have a system that will keep the three-fourths unremittingly employed; better by half have your system which you say, and justly say too, "cheers on labour to the utmost stretch of its sinews," you will not look on the other picture. But you say, that banks cause personal and individual independence, which enables every man to say that no man is his master, and Mr. M'Duffie says, that "the man who controls a bank, controls all who are indebted to that bank." Both of you feed out of the same crib, and which is he that ought to be believed ?
You find it difficult to respect the intelligence, and at the same time, the motives, of those who alarm the people with the cry of danger to their liberties from the Bank. Do they see the same danger from other banks ? say you. For myself, sir, I see the same danger in proportion to their means, and I believe with your friend M'Duffie, that "to sanction them, is to sanction the meretricious union of money with power, and to deliver up our country into chains, which nothing but divine interposition can ever break or dissolve." You tell us, that "both the Members from New York, have laboured to persuade us that the public liberties of this whole Country, are in imminent danger from a Bank with thirty-five millions; and yet they feel no fears for the liberties of the people of their own state, with a banking capital of twenty-three millions, and a proposed addition of ten millions, all lodged in Banks, associated under the safety fund system, and all under the supervision of a political board, appointed by the government. In all this they see no danger to liberty. But their anxiety is intense, lest a bank of thirty-five millions, should enslave all the people of the twenty-four states." I am truly sorry to hear that these members feel no fear at this state of things; but fear they, or fear they not, the danger is the same.
"Again sir," say you, "from the time of the Veto Message to the present moment, the Country has been assailed with the cry of danger, from the small portion of foreign capital which is in the stock of the Bank. Republicanism, it is said, cannot exist in a country where there is a Bank, with dukes and marquises, and lords among its stock holders. And yet, sir, have we not seen the executive approving of an enormous loan by the cities of this district of dutch capitalists, and sanctioning a law binding down all their citizens, and all their property, to pay the interest of this foreign debt, by provisions vastly more strict and severe than those which compel the payment of taxes to their own government ? And is not Pennsylvania now deliberating whether she will or not send an agent to Europe to borrow money to meet that very exigency which the present state of thing creates ? And is not the new Bank too, proposed to be established in New York, to be created on foreign capital ?" I say it over again, sir, that dukes, marquises, and lords should not be suffered to mingle with us republicans; they are bad ingredients, and there is danger lest they spoil the whole. As to the enormous loan, and the provision to pay the interest, which is more severe than those which compel the payment of taxes to our own government, this I do not approve of; I say that it is wrong, and that it will lead to had consequences.
A country like this, rich in every necessary, can never be doing right to run itself into debt to the high and mighty of other nations, who, having more water spouts, than their own countries can supply with water, endeavor to fix their trunks upon other nations. "Is not Pennsylvania" you ask, "now deliberating whether she will or not, send an agent to Europe to borrow money ? And is not the new bank too, proposed to be established in New York, to be created on foreign capital ?" This I admit is too true, and it makes me blush while I read it. The deliberation in Pennsylvania, has, it seems, been put a stop to by a Jew, who, it is said, has "nobly stepped forward and saved the State," for which, the democrats, at the late Jefferson celebration in this city, drank his health, and said, "well done, thou good and faithful servant, may health and plenty always attend thee." Now I do not by any means, wish to take one single particle from the merit of this gentleman in saving the state! on the contrary, I say, that our deepest gratitude, and unfeigned regard ought to be shown to any man who saves the state. But what a striking effect it ought to have upon us, as to the consequences of running into debt; how forcibly it ought to call to our minds the words of Franklin: "independence, whether with little or much is good fortune." What a wretched, miserable, and degrading thing it is for us to reflect upon, that our state is "flowing with milk and honey," but, that it is mortgaged to the noblemen of England, and hampered in such a manner, that it would have been lost forever, had it not been for this worthy Jew! who "NOBLY STEPPED FORWARD AND SAVED THE STATE !" This is as the story goes. What he saved it from, whether it was from plague, pestilence and famine, from battle and murder, or from sudden death by "the jaws of usury," I know not.
You ask what they will think of us abroad ? I will tell you what they will think of us abroad. If we do our duty in this important crisis; if we put down the accursed system, then those abroad, who love liberty, and independence will love us, and think well of us and those who love tyranny and oppression will hate us, and think ill of us.
You say, that "the truth is, banks every where, and especially with us are made for the borrowers." O dear yes, who ever supposed that the bankers, disinterested souls, cared any thing about the matter, were it not for the good of the borrowers ? The making a dollar pass for sixteen dollars, and lending them out at six per cent per annum each, is not a thing of moment, sufficient to attract the attention of men like them. To be sure they were made for borrowers, who ever disputed that? as well might we dispute that the gaming houses were not made for dupes and simpletons.
In speaking of your plan it is not just such an one as you like yourself, but "if we can not do all we would, let us do what we can," say you, and then you say "a word to the gentlemen who have constitutional scruples about all Banks. They find a Bank," say you, "actually existing. They find that this Bank, or another like it, has existed through three-fourths of the whole period of our government." You ought to have told us what was the reason why it did not exist in the other fourth.
The arguments that the Bankers most depend upon is, that this is a young growing country and that on that account it needs paper money, forgetting that one quarter of its days were spent without a Bank and that those days were the days of its youth. What stronger evidence can we wish than this, to prove the fact that the founders of the republic in all their difficulties and troubles which at times were great enough almost to make them exclaim with Job, "what is our strength that we should hope ?" yet with all these troubles they would not resort to a measure that they so well knew would, ultimately, be the destruction of their country's liberties ! They knew that such a measure if adopted, would case the pressure that was upon them, they knew that it would be "strength in the beginning," but they also knew that "it would be weakness in the end."
Instead, therefore, of chartering banks, they issued "Continental money" which I have before noticed, and which nothing could justify, except it was that emergency, but it was infinitely better than that of chartering banks. No age can have any right, however great their difficulties, to saddle debts and expenses on a future generation. This method was intended to prevent that, and it had the desired effect, the war was ended; the expenses ceased; the value of the money dwindled away gradually; twinkled, as it were, till the very last in the socket, and went out, without being missed or lamented. Now, if they had granted long charters to a pack of bankers, they might perhaps have conquered despotism as they marched forward, but she would have been round again in the rear and at the end of the war, they would have discovered that they had released themselves from the claws of the lion and got into the rapacious jaws of the usurers. The french in their last three days fight, found it easy enough to hurl the tyrant from his throne. But while they were exulting over their victory, they suffered the usurers and bankers to form a new government for them, and now they are more oppressed than before, and have the fighting to do over again, or to be eternally enslaved by the money changers, for the general routing of whom in all parts of the world, I most heartily pray.
You tell us that "we find Congress to have asserted the constitutional power to establish a bank, over and over again." Now this shows plainly how uneasy the people have been under this burthen, it having been necessary for Congress over and over again to assert the constitutional power to establish a bank; and it shows also that Congress has no such power, for, if it had, it would be visible to every man of plain understanding and would need no asserting at all, and much less over and over again.
"But, let it be admitted" say you, "that the bank stands on a doubtful title, does it follow that they must suddenly destroy it ? Will they not give it time to wind up its affairs without producing excessive injury to the people ?"
Sir, my opinion is, that a thing which "cheers on labour to the utmost stretch of its sinews, and sucks up all the earnings," ought to be suddenly destroyed. However, no man has proposed to suddenly destroy it. Although it be unconstitutional, still, says its enemies, let it live out its charter, and let it have its stipulated time for winding up its affairs. So, on this head, I see no reason why you should whine and complain. Ah! no! I think I hear you repeat, but then there is the "expressive injury to the people!!" Poh! nonsense; I have already shown how the matter stands in that respect.
"There are those who are for a new bank" -- you are not against a new bank, but it cannot be had until 1836; and we are, say you, "in emergency." "Great interests are in danger of being overwhelmed; we need some plank, something to lay hold on, to buoy us up; and keep our heads above water, till more effectual and permanent provision for our safety can be made." All this, I take it, relates to the Dukes, the Marquesses and the Lords, their great interest is in danger, they want something to lay hold of, to buoy them up, till more effectual and permanent provision for their safety can be made -- and since you cannot do as you would, you mean to do as you can, you therefore propose to continue the charter for six years longer. Can any thing, say you, be more reasonable than this. And then you pine again, about giving it time to wind up its affairs, without distressing the people. Oh, that the people knew how to estimate that sympathetic feeling!
You mean to give the present bank no claim to a renewal; but, on the contrary, the only new power conferred on it by your bill is a power to enable it to wind up its concerns. What have we to do with its concerns ? If it cannot wind up, why let it take the benefit at once; can it be right that we, who are already in the "jaws of usury," should be compelled to pay men five hundred dollars per hour for sitting week after week, to debate the question as to whether or not a new power shall be given to this bank, to enbale it to wind up its concerns ? If power of this kind is to be given, why not give it to honest working men, whose contracts, and especially if they be with banks, are obliged promptly to be complied with, or their property is in the hands of the sheriff, before they have time to think of what is best to be done. A power to wind up one's concerns is, certainly, a very convenient thing; and why, if it is granted to that bank should it not be granted to all of us, remembering our declaration that all men are equal.
And lastly you give us the plan:--
"If I had been suddenly called to my great reckoning in another world, I should have felt that one duty was left unattempted, if I had no measure to recommend, no expedient to propose, no hope to hold out to this suffering community." -- I am happy to hear, sir, that you would have felt one duty only left unattended. You are now then without spot or blemish, and ready to depart according to the word, having performed that duty, by recommending to us "William the Deliverer's System," and by holding out hopes to us, the suffering community, that if we follow up the system, the perfect day will come to us as sure as it is already come to England !
I am, sir,
Your obedient humble servant,
The United States of North America
as they are;
not as they are generally described:
being a cure for radicalism
To Thomas Attwood, Esq., M.P.
Bishop's Itchington, July 15, 1839.
AT the great reform meeting held at Birmingham, in the year 1832, you made a speech, from which I take the following extract:---
"When I first assisted in forming the Political Union, it was not without long and anxious deliberation that I embarked into it. I solemnly declare to you that, the night before I decided, I sat up all night in serious and anxious meditation; and, after I had made up my mind, I went down upon my knees in the grey of the morning and prayed to Almighty God that, if the great association was not calculated to promote the liberties and the happiness of the mass of the people, it might not prosper."
On reading this speech, I was much surprised to find how hard it was for you to decide, but, since then, I have learnt that it is, indeed, a difficult thing to know in matters so serious what is beat to be done.
With the greatest pleasure, Sir, I gather from the above that you are anxious to do right, and willing to be guided by facts. It is this that gives me confidence, and encouragement to hope that what I am about to lay before you will be duly considered.
I have resided many years in a democracy, where the people are said to have all that freedom that the reformers of England are asking for. And I find, Sir, a state of things there more to be deplored than anything ever seen by you or me in our native country. I have written several letters to different persons, tending to show how vain it is for Englishmen to hope to better their condition by a further extension of democracy; and that, in fact, which every reformer, who can stop for a moment to examine, will find, all our grievances have grown up since England began to reform. The more we reform the worse and worse do we get. Forty or fifty years back we suddenly became so enlightened as to begin to depart from the good old-fashioned government of England, that had for so many centuries given comfort, glory, and renown, to an industrious and virtuous people. We then, among other extraordinary things, changed away for paper our British gold and silver, the standard of exchange in all times before. We took from the crown its most important prerogative, the making of the money of our country, and gave it to private individuals, who pleased us exceedingly, because they created "riches," or paper money, which they made us believe was the same thing, and which was so, to one-third or more of the people; who became possessed of all the good things, without, for the most part, knowing themselves how it was done. But they knew it was done without work; -- they therefore, despising the jog-trotting old-fashioned way of making a living, taught their children to follow their example, which children have long since been so numerous as to make it almost impossible for the bees of the hive to maintain them. Hence all those reckless mad-brained schemes which we now behold, and which are every day increasing. Reform, indeed, there must be, or the laws of nature will soon desolate the earth; but, Sir, the reform that is likely to be beneficial to mankind is of a very different nature to what seems at present to be thought of: it is not the making boroughs, of places like Birmingham, and creating a great number of fat offices to be filled by demagogues, who have a knack of noodling the people while they pick their pockets. Guess my surprise, Sir --no, not my surprise, because I had been prepared to expect it from what I had seen in America-- but guess my displeasure, on my arriving at Birmingham, to find that the leading radicals are all quite enamoured with the New Poor Law -- that law that makes the poor man's daughter fair game for the licentious. This, and every evil thing, do they advocate that they think is calculated to give ease and pleasure to themselves, no matter how it impoverishes and distresses others. And they will, if no stop be put to them, go on until they bring about what seems to them to be so very desirable, a real republic, a democray, similar to the one that their like manage with such dexterity in the United States of America; and which I have undertaken to hold up as an example to be avoided by the people of England.
I address this letter to you because it is on the subject of fraudulent banking --the principal means by which the self-governed of the United States are cheated, to an extent that you cannot, I think, possibly have any idea of; and because you are a banker yourself, and have, at various times, advocated the filling of every man's pocket with paper money: paper money, not, it is true, to be issued upon the vile principle of the republican system-- you, I trust, would be the last to sanction a contrivance so base and fraudulent; but it will not be long before that system is introduced, if American democracy is suffered to make many more strides into this country; and when once that is established, there is an end to all England's greatness. This, Sir, is my firm belief, as I hope to be saved; I pray you, therefore, to let it receive your attention --meditate upon it in the grey of the morning--pray with me to Almighty God that it may not happen --that England may retrace her steps; go back to her former greatness; depend chiefly on her glorified land, teeming as it does with every thing that is lovely; abandon the wild schemes of the day-- designed, as I have witnessed in America, to shift the property from its ancient owners, and put it into the hands of the vilest race that ever infested the world; a race, Sir, who are ever engaged, in all manner of subtlety, to take from the poor their earnings, from the rich their inheritance, and who, instead of promoting liberty and happiness to the mass of the people, promote everything that is calculated to harass and distress them.
Allow me to describe to you the manner in which the American banks are created: it will prepare your mind to expect the calamitous results that I shall have to inform you of. An American bank, Sir, is first projected by a number of men, not one jot more respectable than are the garter men themselves, thimble-riggers, pickpockets, and such like, that we see are now covering the face of the course at our county races. Such fellows in America, if they do not happen to be in the legislature, will, by means of open bribery --no shame whatever about it-- obtain a charter for a bank, get themselves made commissioners, whose duty it is to sell what the villains call the stock; and, having made the necessary arrangements, or wound up the garter, they proceed to their game.
There is a law made for the occasion, which says that the "scrip" shall be sold and delivered through the window of a certain building; that a proper time shall be allowed for the disposing of the whole; that if customers are not found for the whole in that time, then the commissioners shall divide the remaining shares among themselves. The "stock," at first, owing to the intolerable ignorance of the suffering multitude, is always at a premium; so that it is advantageous for the commissioners to retain for themselves as many shares as they can; which they do, by depriving others of the opportunity of getting them.
In the first place they get a window about ten feet from the ground; they put to the shutters, and cut a hole in one of them, about six inches square, through which the money is to be paid and the "scrip" delivered. Nobody in the whole world but American republicans would ever have thought of such a scheme, and none but democrats would ever submit to it.
If you were there, Sir, and wanted stock, you would have to take with you, to the place of business, two or three friends, --tall, powerful friends,-- men that could fight and riot as well, or better, than any on the ground. You must all be dressed, or rather undressed, for the occasion; a pair of very thin trousers, for those in active service, being the uniform; the exertions required, and the thermometer, perhaps, at a hundred degrees, making any further attire not only superfluous, but an impediment. If, in three days' attack, you should be so far victorious as to get up to the wall, under the window, you will have effected that which hundreds cannot effect, though they may be beaten black and blue, and lose their trousers in the attempt. But we will suppose you and your friends have so far succeeded, and are actually under the windows; subject, of course, to an instantaneous removal, as all are now contending against you three. You will be punched and jostled very severely; all of which you must disregard, and proceed, to be hoisted, or to hoist one of your friends, up to the hole in the shutter --full, already, with two or three hands that have held by the frame, and suspended as many bodies, for, perhaps, an hour. If it be you that is hoisted, you are now in a most favourable position; because, when one of them falls, from exhaustion, you can clap your hand in the place from which his is removed, and thus support your own weight till your strength is fairly gone, in the event of your friends, whose heads you stand upon, being driven from under you. You will have to fall at last, and most likely without obtaining the scrip; but you can console yourself by reflecting that yours is a case common to nine out of ten that have gained the same happy and advantageous position, and, indeed, to all that have not the ring, the ribbon, or countersign; without which, to get stock, none but the stranger thinks of making an attempt.
Sir, I have seen all this, and more, over and over again. I have seen Philadelphian merchants perform this. I have seen men taken off the ground for dead. I have seen them entirely naked; and I have seen them, in other respects, in a state too shameful to be described. And the better to support what I say, which I can scarcely expect will be believed, by those to whom I am a stranger, without some sort of testimony, I take the following account of the "scrip selling" of two of these banks from a Philadelphian newspaper, called The Inquirer, dated May 19, 1832, which paper is one of the leading journals of the State of Pennsylvania; it is opposed to the commissioners of these two banks in politics, to which fact we are indebted for this faithfully recorded account of that which I myself did witness. Had the commissioners believed in the editor's creed, their proceedings would have passed without his notice, and would have formed matter for the reporters of the opposite party:--
"Strong censure is expressed by many of our citizens at the disgraceful proceedings which have taken place at the Masonic Hall with reference to the Girard Bank Stock. It appears, from all that we can ascertain upon the subject, that, in order to obtain a large portion of the stock, a few persons --three or four-- engaged fifty or sixty muscular men, who stripped themselves of their best apparel, and substituted other in its place suitable to a riot; they then formed themselves into a cordon, and surrounded the three windows at which the stock was to be taken, and by noise, bustle, blows, and confusion, prevented peaceable citizens from obtaining shares.
"In addition to this, however, another circumstance has been mentioned to us, which appears highly culpable. There are one hundred and fifty-three commissioners, who have been appointed by the legislature, for the disposal of this stock. Each of these commissioners was, by the act of the legislature, permitted to take five shares on the first day, ten on the second, and fifty on the third; and, after that, they are allowed to take the balance of shares that might remain unsold. The whole number of shares to be disposed of at the commencement was thirty thousand. These, if a proper course of conduct had been pursued, might have all been disposed of during the first day; but, on the contrary, little more than a thousand shares were sold, it being the interest of the commissioners to protract the sale until after the three days. It is said, moreover, that certain of the commissioners avoided disposing of the shares to those who had forced their way to the window, having entered into contracts with relatives and friends to share the profits of the stock. Hence they reached over the hands and heads of others, in order to take the money from those with whom they had made bargains, and whose hands they recognised by wearing rings, white strings tied round their fingers, and other marks of designation."
The following is from the same paper, but appeared on another day, viz., May 23, 1832:--
"The town meeting of yesterday afternoon, held with reference to the Girard Bank Stock, was very large. We heard the number of persons present estimated at upwards of three thousand !
"John Hare Powell, Esq., was called to the chair. Benjamin Tevis and John Naglee, Esquires, were elected vice-presidents. Condy Raguet and Richard Penn Smith were appointed secretaries.
"The meeting was addressed in an eloquent and impassioned manner by Colonel John Swift. He gave a history of the proposed Girard Bank from the moment the scheme was first suggested; was severe upon the members of the legislature who were instrumental in the appointment of so large a number as one hundred and fifty-three commissioners; was very severe upon a majority of the commissioners, whom he denounced as guilty of a 'breach of trust,' and of 'fraud.' He protested that the whole thirty thousand shares might have been disposed of in a single day; that there was an evident intention on the part of the commissioners to protract the sale for self-advantage; asseverated that they made bargains with their friends outside, whose hands were recognised by concerted badges, rings, &c. He believed that the whole was a system of fraud and corruption, and as such the voice of public condemnation should be pronounced against it in the most emphatic language.
"He concluded by moving a preamble and a set of resolutions, in which the spirit of his remarks was concentrated. After they had been read by the secretary, Mr. Hare Powell made a few observations adverse to their manner. He said he was not willing to denounce one hundreds and fifty respectable men as guilty of fraud, and thus render himself liable to a prosecution for slander and a libel. He was utterly opposed to the proceedings at the Masonic Hall, but he thought the grievance complained of might be redressed by milder measures.
"The resolutions were then put to the meeting, and carried by a very large majority."
The following is one of the resolutions:--
"Resolved, That the open and palpable system of bargain and sale, the utter disregard of the people's rights, the scenes of riot, confusion, and disorder which have sprung from and characterised the proceedings of the commissioners, are sources of sincere regret and humiliation, and call loudly for such an expression of public opinion as shall not only bring home to the authors of this disgrace the odium which they merit, but shall redeem the character and redress the wrongs of an insulted and injured community."
From the same paper, The Inquirer, I extract the following account of "Taking Stock from the Western Bank:"--
"Yesterday was the last day assigned by the act of the legislature for the people to subscribe for the stock of the Western Bank. As 50 shares might be taken by each person on this last day, the struggle and excitement were commensurately increased. We were among the spectators of the scene during a few minutes of yesterday, it is impossible, without rendering ourselves liable to the charge of exaggeration, to give an adequate idea of the disgraceful and inhuman proceedings. There were probably 5000 spectators --many of them, however, interested in the struggle that was going on among those who were attempting to force their way to the window and obtain scrip. These latter, about 300, were for the most part stout and athletic men, a large proportion of them stripped of every vestment but their pantaloons and shoes, and many of them distinguished by black eyes, bruised limbs, and gashed faces --sad indications of their struggles for stock.
"The building from which the stock was dispensed is a four-story brick house, on the north side of Market-street, and immediately below Twelfth. All its lower windows were closed, and over the one through which the stock was delivered boards were nailed, through which was a solitary aperture sufficiently large to admit two hands at one time. Around this window was a solid phalanx of men, wedged together as compactly as living beings could be wedged, some of them writhing and struggling to reach the aperture, others fainting, shrieking with pain, and beseeching a passage outward in order to save their lives. Many were dragged out like dead bodies, after ropes had been attached to their limbs. Not one-fifth of those who reached the windows were able to remain there a sufficient length of time for the commissioners to take their money and hand then their certificates; and some who had accomplished this object were so weakened and exhausted by the effort, that their certificates fell from their nerveless hands before they could effect their escape. Shouts, huzzas, cheers, and imprecations, were blended; and while some attempted to revive the strength and protract the courage of their friends by fanning, &c., others adopted another plan, and administered to them potations of whiskey.. . . . . . . . . . .
"The scene throughout was disgraceful, shocking to humanity, and discreditable to the character of the city. Many of those present appeared to entertain the opinion that the fault was in the law, and the makers of the law should be held responsible. Others appeared to think that the law, although a bad one, was not liberally and disinterestedly construed by the commissioners; and that, instead of there being but one window opened, there should have been twenty, or at all events an adequate number." --Inquirer, 1832.
To give you an idea, Sir, how stock, as it is called, is paid for, be good enough to read the following extract from the minutes of the proceedings of the Girard Bank in 1836. The legislature, I ought to observe, had given the proprietors authority to add to their stock:--
"Resolved, that the stock may be paid up in full at the time it is taken, or at any time hereafter; and, for the greater convenience of the stockholders, the bank will discount the notes of such as may desire it for forty dollars per share, on a hypothecation of the stock, at sixty days' date, and renew the same for sixty days, from time to time, on payment of five dollars per share at each renewal, until the whole shall be paid."
Here, then, we have the manner in which American banks are made, and in which the public money is squandered. These are two real democratic banks, commonly called, on account of their sterling worth, "Jackson Banks," meaning that they belong to the Jackson party, which so warmly professed to love justice, hard money, and the dear people, when they thought the people would be satisfied with no other professions; but when it was found, in 1838, that the bankers of the state of New York had led the way in purchasing the dear, but, of late, turbulent people, of that state, and had driven them to the polls like beasts to the slaughter, then the "hard-money democrats" of other states began to alter their tone, as you will see from the following extract from an
"Address of the Democratic Committee of Correspondence for the city of Philadelphia, adopted at a meeting of the Committee, held on Wednesday, May 23rd, 1838, and ordered to be printed.
"That our opponents are strongly impressed with the belief that General Porter will be elected, is obvious, in a great degree, from the virulence with which they assail him, and the gross misrepresentations to which they continually resort. They allege that the democratic party is hostile to the best interests of the people, and is continually engaged in endeavouring to break up the credit-system under which the community has prospered. They aver that it is hostile to all banking institutions, and is seeking their overthrow and ruin, and endeavouring to impose upon the country a mere metallic circulation. This, suffer us to remark, is a sheer imposition upon the credulity of the community, and is at war with all the principles ever entertained by the republican party of the country. The acts of all democratic legislatures, heretofore, corroborate this remark, and show that banks have been brought into existence, and fostered and protected by democratic administrations. Even the last official organ of the party, which assembled at Harrisburg (we allude to the fifth of March convention), have exposed the fallacy of a contrary notion, and have vindicated the party from this slander of the enemy."
I had the honour to be chosen a member of this Corresponding Committee, at the nomination of which the people were made to believe that we were all opposed to fraudulent banks; and, indeed, they pledged us to do all we could to put them down. I attended two or three of the meetings of this committee; and I declare to God that I never, till then, believed that the people could be so deluded as to be made to choose for their servants such base and unprincipled men ! At the time, and in the public newspapers, I denounced them as such, resigned, and resolved never again to be the servant of men, sovereigns or not, who had not sense to see and courage to redress such grievous wrongs.
I have often seen, at "great meetings," where the fawning demagogue has professed to exult because majesty, in all its glory, was present, and about to execute that most important prerogative, the delegating power to form "a ticket," to be voted at the ensuing election. Oh, with what solemnity do their "majesties" there resolve and decree ! But the very moment their royal backs are turned, their doings are cast to the wind, and a ticket formed of materials exactly opposite to those just commanded to be used. The people have, for these last eight years, declared hostility to their own acts, and particularly to the banking system; and yet they are annually presented with a ticket, composed chiefly of bankers themselves ! At first sight of such ticket they are terribly enwrathed, and swear that they will not support or stand by the doing of their own delegation; but they are soon persuaded, for that one time, to bear with them, for the sake of the party on behalf of which, night after night, do the orators eloquently and most affectionately appeal. They allow that the ticket is not as it should have been; but, say they, "We must not split, we are the crew of the gallant ship 'Democracy;' she is in imminent peril and danger, and will you not bear a hand to save her from impending destruction ?"
"The question, fellow-citizens," say the paid orators, "is not less than --whether you will vote for tyrants, or whether you will rally, as usual, round the standard of liberty-- the star-spangled banner, that proclaims to the world the land of the free and the home of the brave ? We cannot do otherwise, fellow-citizens, than vote the ticket (bad as it may be) whole and entire, upon the principle that a bad democrat is better than a good aristocrat. No scratching, then; he that scratches is no democrat."
With these, and such like appeals, their "majesties" are pacified; and, again, give to the bankers "the long pull, the strong pull, and the pull altogether." Thus, some are cajoled, some frightened, and the rest bribed, till the thing is managed with far more ease than it could be under any other description of despotism.
It is astonishing, Sir, to see what American "eloquence" will do. When England becomes a republic all sensible and consistent discourse must be laid aside --the stranger the doctrine the better; if it be but eloquent, all will throw up their caps and drive the orator into a rich place, such as none but democrats have to dispose of.
But, a word more of the corresponding committee; it spoke truth, when it said that its party brought into existence the banks. And, it might have added, all other villainous things that have been fostered by the legislature of Pennsylvania for these last thirty-five years, with the exception of the three years of the late administration. And this, Sir, is worthy of your attention. Here are men governing themselves, no obstacle that they know of in their way. The governors have, all this time, been of their own choice. The senate and house of representatives, called the National Assembly, have emanated directly from them; at least their form of government calls upon us to believe this; but, in truth, they have no more to do in these matters than had the Moors, in matters of the kind, under the Dey of Algiers. And General Jackson said when President, "that sooner than live in a country where such a power (meaning the bank power) prevailed, he would seek an asylum in the wilds of Arabia."
Why, Sir, the common people --oh! no, I beg their pardon, there are no common people in the United States, but the working people-- know no more at the commencement of an electioneering contest, which takes place every year, where they are to be led by the sleight-of-hand mountebanks, or what they shall be done with, than the little black Welsh beasts know what is to be their fate, when Taffy is getting them together, in droves, for the English market.
I will now return to American banking, and exhibit to you some of the consequences that flow from sources like the making of banks, as they wind their way through the republic. I have before me a Philadelphia newspaper, "The Democratic Herald," edited by a cashier of a bank, to whom great credit is given for his knowledge in the affairs of banking. In this paper, dated October 26, 1836, he states, that the paper currency of the United States, at that time, was eight hundred million dollars ! That the specie capital was sixty million dollars, leaving a deficiency of specie of seven hundred and forty million dollars !
This is the highest statement that I have seen, for there is no correct statement to be got; and when the statesmen, in their speeches, or in their public documents, speak on this subject, there are no two that make the amount anything like the same. They frequently confess, which you will see in the Appendix, that there is no possibility of knowing what is the amount. And their situation appears to me to be similar to that of France, in the days of assignats and the reign of terror. Since the above statement, there has been added to the circulation millions upon millions of trash, called shin plasters, that are worse, if possible, than those notes that we before had to complain of; and, when we consider this, I think we need not hesitate to take eight hundred millions as the amount of paper money, or what they call money, afloat in the United States. You will observe that the interest of this seven hundred and forty millions of nothing --for in this paper there is no value, any more than there would be if issued by the beggars in the street, except what it gains from the credulity of the people-- is forty-four millions four hundred thousand dollars! !
We must not, however, suppose that this is all; that villains like them can be kept to lawful interest: they are not satisfied with their grant; they are above the law and do just as they please: the question with them is, how much can be wrung out of the industry of the country ? they therefore have gone from six, to ten, twenty, thirty, and, to my own knowledge, forty per cent. per annum usury ! So that the true amount paid to these tyrants at that time, if we were to take it for granted that they let all their trash, out to good customers, at the latter rate, would be two hundred and sixty millions four hundred thousand dollars per year. A tax of upwards of twenty dollars each, for every man, woman, and child in the union to pay, besides the expenses of the government, which is another matter. I know that you will think that I must be wrong about the exorbitant interest, but I assure you, Sir, that everybody knows it is quite common for what is termed the best paper to be done at forty
be made to lower their prices ? And then only think of all this fuss, adjourning, as they did, from time to time, all winter, to find out the cause of the "imposing evil!" Why, Sir, I need not tell you that I, myself, am no Solomon, nor do I pretend to divination; I could not see, before the land was prepared to receive the seed, that there would be a deficiency in the crop; but I knew that the notes, to an enormous amount, had been issued, and I foretold the consequences in a letter addressed to the working men, published in 1835, in which are these words:
"As to steering clear of the sweeping pestilence, like the one that, in a few months, will make its appearance among us, it is out of the question: no matter how wise a man may be, or how much he may detest the abominable system of banking, it will be out of his power to escape from its ravages."
Now, in respect to time, surely no almanac-maker, Dr. Partridge not excepted, could be more exact; and where is the man, except the sixty, and their brother bankers and speculators, that have escaped the ravages ?
And again, in the same year, when Matthew Carey, Esq., --you have heard of M. Carey, I suppose; every body must have heard of him; he who has spent a long life in fishing for flattering compliments, and who has been so kind as to string all that he ever obtained together, and present them to us in a celebrated work, called "Autobiography of M. Carey," and who also insists upon it, that he has done more good in the world than all the rest that ever lived in it; that, if his advice had been attended to, he could have given peace, prosperity, and happiness to thirteen millions of souls; that he could have changed the fate of the government; prevented the forthcoming dissolution of the Union, civil war, and ultimate despotism-- this is a character that, I trust, you will admit of sufficient consequence for me to refer to. Well, he and his friend, Dr. Draper, told the poor working women, then "on strike" for wages, that their condition would soon be one of comfort, plenty, and happiness; and the Doctor complimented his friend for having written "ably and eloquently" upon the "lowness of the women's wages," and hoped to have the "supreme gratification of seeing such efforts crowned with success." I wrote and published a letter to the Doctor, in which I remarked that, if the thing depended on Carey's "eloquence," the condition of the poor women would get worse and worse. "Others," said I, "may tell pleasing tales to the workers, to make them believe that by the strike they will effect all that is wanting; but, for my part, whether I please them or not, I will tell them nothing that I do not steadfastly believe; and," said I, "I beg both you and them to remember, that I now tell you that the condition of the workers will never be improved while the
good men in the United States as any in the world --men who sincerely regret the political condition of their country, and would, if they could, alter and amend it. But such men are scattered, not numerous enough to form a successful party, and are without hope, knowing that immorality is too widely spread over their land, and that their national affairs are too firmly grasped by the hands of unprincipled men.
Subsequently to writing the preceding I have learnt, Sir, with very great regret, that you are a most strenuous advocate, both in Parliament and out, for introducing the American system of banking into these dominions. May the Almighty, in His great mercy, avert your pernicious and ruinous design! Your own character, Sir, both as a man and a banker, I have always heard spoken of in the highest terms of commendation --and I believe that you deserve such terms of commendation. I conclude, therefore, that you must have been, previously to reading my letter addressed to you, profoundly ignorant of what the American system of banking really is, or I am convinced you would never have advocated it, much less have endeavoured to introduce it into our ever dear native country.
I am, Sir,
Your obedient servant,
I will now, Sir, conclude with refreshing your memory as to what was said in the State Convention [of Pennsylvania], May 23rd, 1837, by the committee on currency, corporations, "eminent domain," &c. There were nine on that committee, and the majority, consisting of five, reported as follows:
"That they have had these subjects under consideration, and that, in the opinion of the committee, it is unnecessary and inexpedient to make any alteration, addition, or amendment to the constitution therein, other than those embraced in the report heretofore submitted by the chairman, and ask to be discharged," &c.
The minority, consisting of four, made a long report, from which I take the following extracts :--
"Preposterous luxury, insolvency, and crime, are the certain followers of the bank mania -- a system of stupendous gambling supersedes and derides regular occupation. Plethora brings on want, unnatural plenty, unnatural scarcity, prices so high that the working classes were pinched for food, then all at once so low that nothing but a bad currency, speculation, and monopoly can account for such vicissitudes; the most devouring usury, controversy, and litigation, panic, clamour, convulsion, and at last the unlawful refusal of the banks, in a time of profound peace, to redeem their notes in good money -- these have been the rapid events of the last few months: with eighty millions of gold and silver, and abundance of everything needful for prosperity and content, large portions of our people are in a revolutionary state of disquiet and excitement, are reduced to want and maddened with disappointed hope. Vicious speculation should be restrained by vigorous and independent legislation. Whereas, unhappily and dishonourably, it is legislation that authorises speculation and gambling to supplant the precious metals by paper, and has inflicted that degradation by which the country is now suffering the disasters of a currency not much better than that of the Revolution, against which all our early institutions so sedulously guarded.
"The whole theory and practice of American banks are false and pernicious. Their first act being to lend trust-money, left with them to keep; their next misconduct is to issue mere promissory notes, instead of gold and silver money, which notes do not represent such money. Then they make loans of fictitious credit, by secret and arbitrary discounts, increased or decreased with no regard to public good. The holders of their unpayable notes calling on them for money, the banks oblige their debtors to pay what they have borrowed; thus, without any system, at one time gorging the community with false plenty, at another straitening it with supposed want, (as six months ago there was actually no want of food, though prices indicated dearth, and at present, when in the midst of plenty of money, there is none,) distressing all with either too much or too little of the means of livelihood.
Again, bank loans, such as they are, are not made to those who want; to the industrious mechanical classes, but to the speculating and extravagant; often by bank directors to themselves, with which to grind the needy, by usurious lending again, or to other unworthy favourites. The laborious and frugal are rarely assisted, but those who are stimulated to live beyond their income, and pursue a course of folly, luxury, and insolvency. Nine-tenths of them become insolvent, for there is not one prize to a thousand blanks in the bank lottery, and by their assignments almost always secure the bank, leaving other creditors, friends, and even their own families, to destitution and ruin. It is mainly through bank influence that courts of justice have been brought to sanction those unjust preferences which have now become part of the established law, although condemned by a whole class of our people as dishonest. Banking and other corporations have the best means to fortify themselves with the first professional talents, so that laws are both made and administered to their advantage; and, by a sort of priority in the payment of debts, equal to government prerogative, they take rank of all other creditors.
The last has been a terrible year for this country, more so than any one that has preceded it since the independence of these United States; distressing at home, and disgraceful abroad. It will require many years of prosperous production to repair the banking ravages of the two last years at home, and a long tract of time to recover the American character lost abroad.
"Should no check be put on the present facilities and habits of incorporating individuals for lucrative purposes, that system of extensive and provident legislation, which guarded against the accumulation and perpetuity of property by primogeniture and entail, will be completely annulled, and the tenure of property carried back to a system, not feudal in its military features, but much more strict and lasting than feudal tenure. Liberty remains, freedom of speech, of action, of the press, of religion, and of acquiring property; but equality is rapidly disappearing in the possession, distribution, and transmission of it. It may be asserted, with truth, that property is more equally divided and held in France than in Pennsylvania, where, though personal titles abound, yet property privileges are much less common than here.
And here again it is proper to notice, not with censure but regret, that the courts of justice in this country have not controlled the predominance of corporations. The common law respecting them is simple and satisfactory. Incorporation gives to many men no dispensation from law, (except their peculiar privileges,) which is not the equal if not the better right of every man; and it is the settled law that corporate powers cannot be carried beyond the columns of its grant. Yet such has been the social and political influence of corporations, that every day they assume constructive powers transcending their charters with perfect impunity; and few, if any, are the instances in which any American court of justice has ever exercised the authority, said to belong to courts of justice alone, of annulling a charter or rebuking abuses of it.
The great business of legislation, of late years, has been to grant charters; and no considerate man can reflect without mortification on the means by which they are accomplished, the purposes to which they are too often applied, the manner of their organization, their number and their influence. Thoroughly impressed as your committee are with well-considered doubts of the constitutionality of many, and a strong conviction of the impolicy of most of them, they have no hesitation to avow, as will be obvious to this Convention, that the articles proposed to be incorporated in the constitution are designed to render it much more difficult than at present to procure an act of incorporation at all; so that hereafter no such act shall take place without the most cogent necessity."
There, Sir, your countrymen high in authority tell you that, if you be a considerate man, you cannot reflect without mortification on the immorality and wickedness with which your country abounds. A state of things that, I assure you, has caused no little mortification to your grievously disappointed, humble servant,