The House met at twelve o'clock, m.
Prayer by the Chaplain, Rev. Thomas H. Stockton.
The Journal of yesterday was read and approved.
The question was taken on Mr. Morril's motion, and it was agreed to.
So the rules were suspended, and the House resolved itself into the Committee of the Whole on the state of the Union, (Mr. MALLORY in the chair,) on the special order, which was the consideration of House bill No. 240, to authorize the issue of United States notes, and for the redemption or funding thereof, and for funding the floating debt of the United States; on which the gentleman from Illinois [Mr. KELLOGG] was entitled to the floor.
The CHAIRMAN. The Chair desires to remind the committee that general debate on this bill ceases at ten minutes past two o'clock.
Mr. KELLOGG, [William Kellogg (July 8, 1814 - December 20, 1872) (R)] of Illinois. Mr. Chairman, I intend to detain the committee but a little while. I should not have sought the floor for the purpose of offering any remarks but for the consideration that, in my judgment, this bill was being considered and discussed as it might with propriety have been discussed and considered in time of peace, and when there was no pressing necessity for the action of Congress in placing the Government in possession of all the means and powers that can be safely gathered and exercised under the Constitution. If this question came up in ordinary times I am frank to confess that I might perhaps have had some doubt of its constitutionality sufficient to induce me to oppose it: I mean by that only to say that in time of peace, when the integrity of the Government is not threatened, I would be more careful and cautious; and if I doubted the constitutionality of the measure I would not vote for it. But, sir, in this our extremity, while we are struggling to perpetuate our Government, I am willing to go to the very verge of the Constitution. I will go as far as I feel that the Constitution will permit me to gather up the power and means to carry on the Government to that great consummation which the fathers contemplated when they established it. But while I might have some doubt in time of peace, when the monetary affairs of the country might safely be left to work out their own level and settlement, of the policy of this measure, I have none now. What may be policy in the one case may be vastly different in the other.
I treat this, Mr. Chairman, as emphatically and clearly a war measure. It may appear strange that a money bill should be considered a war measure, and yet it is; for it is necessary, in order to raise means to carry on the Government in a war direction, a direction in which all our measures are or should be tending. Sir, we should not disguise the fact of our complications. We should not deceive ourselves. The worst deception that men ever practice is that practiced on themselves. We should not allow ourselves to be deluded, now that we have a mighty rebellion, nay revolution, before us, and that the Powers of the Old World, who have looked with a jealous eye on the mighty progress of the western continent, are seeking occasion to cripple our onward and upward career. Talk not of their sympathy for us. Our Government antagonizes theirs. The principles are different. We must gird up our loins; we must take all the power we have; we must throw every energy, all the means of our Government, in the direction of the war power, for the purpose of self-preservation and perpetuation.
Mr. Chairman, we must look this matter in the face not only of this continent, but in the face of surrounding nations. We must come to the conclusion that although the world shall rise against us, this Republic must and shall be preserved. All the energy of the country, all the blood and treasure of the country, if need be, must be summoned in from every part of the land to accomplish that object. Sir, we must give to this Government arms of iron and muscles of steel. We must think as with fire and strike as with spears. It is necessary, sir; it must be; and if we now meet this emergency as true men should meet it, we shall succeed. The money of the country must come to its aid, the powers of the Government must come to the aid of the Administration, as well as the strong hands and warm hearts of our people.
Mr. Chairman, I am pained when I sit in my place in the House and hear members talk about the sacredness of capital; that the interests of money must not be touched. Yes, sir, they will vote six hundred thousand of the flower of the American youth for the Army to be sacrificed, without a blush, but the great interests of capital, of currency, must not be touched. We have summoned the youth; they have come. I would summon the capital; and if it do not come voluntarily, before this Republic shall go down, or one star be lost, I would take every cent from the treasury of the States, from the treasury of capitalists, from the treasury of individuals, and press it into the use of the Government.
What is capital worth without a Government ? Gentlemen must understand me, when I indulge in this strain and speak of this talk and quibble about capital, that I do not charge it upon the real capitalists of the country, for they do not hold back. The true capitalists of the country are patriotic; they have furnished their means liberally; but there is a class of huckstering capitalists, there is a class of bankers proper, there is a class of brokers, who would make merchandise of the hopes and fears of the Republic.
Mr. Chairman, in saying this, I do it from a sense of duty. I feel this necessity of gathering all the power we have got under the Constitution, and placing it in hands in which it may be used for the preservation of the nation. And I am glad to say here that, in my poor judgment, there is a determination in the Administration, there is confident determination in the Administration, to save this Government by the most energetic means that you will place at its command. But in this great struggle to save it all, if need be, we will peril all and be wiped out from among the nations of the earth, rather than to go down in disgrace.
But we must have no more cheerful surrender of rebel prisoners, no more concessions, although Russia and France and England and Spain and all the Powers of the earth unite to demand it. We must stand to our integrity, we must stand by our guns and by the honor of the nation; and then, if we are worthy to be a nation and a people, we shall succeed.
This subject of the issuance of Treasury notes is important in this connection. The proposition directly before the committee at this time is simply this. whether now that we must have money, now that we must have a currency, we shall have a good currency or a bad currency. The question is in relation to the issuance of these notes; and the great question is whether they shall be made by law of value, whether, in other words, they shall be made a legal tender; whether that provision shall be attached to them by the direction of the legislative department of the Government, or whether we shall fail to make that provision, so that the harpies, when they have gorged themselves, may befoul all else of the feast ? It is a question whether we shall have a currency that will pass by law and have intrinsic value, by the operation of law in this, that it pledges all the capital of the nation for the ultimate redemption of the notes; whether for that reason we shall have a currency that shall pass from hand to hand, or whether we shall have a currency that shall be placed at the mercy of the banking institutions and brokers of the country who will seek to, and doubtless succeed, in its depreciation ?
The exigencies of the times require some action upon this subject; but the exigencies of the times do not require me, and never will require me, to vote for a law that is in violation of the Constitution, whether in the shape of this bill or any other bill, for the purpose of carrying on this Government; for when the Congress of the United States itself violates the Constitution, it is but mockery to say that we are carrying on a war under the Constitution for the purpose of maintaining the Constitution.
But, sir, upon this subject, in looking over the history of the country, in looking through the judicial and legislative judgment in relation to this power, I have satisfied myself that we have fairly the power under the Constitution to make these notes a legal tender; in other words, to give them value by means of legislation, in the manner I have before indicated, in pledging the entire property of the country for their ultimate redemption.
It is said there is no power to make them a legal tender, and that that is not a legitimate way of expressing their value. If gentlemen are sure upon that subject, they would do well to run back a little further, and ascertain whether there is any power under the Constitution, vested in Congress, to issue the notes at all. And I confess the argument of the gentleman from Ohio [Mr. Pendleton] ran back legitimately to that proposition. At least it carried my mind back to that proposition so fairly and certainly that if I found no power to issue these notes I would have voted against this bill. To that my mind has turned with every argument that has been made. I may have been obtuse, but I confess that I have come to the conclusion that we have the constitutional power to issue these notes; and having that constitutional power, we have, as an incident to that power, the power also to make them of value.
What, sir, is the history of legislative and judicial proceedings upon this subject ? The mind is carried back in response to this question to the charter of the United States Bank, created substantially for the purpose of aiding the monetary affairs of the country. The question was early mooted whether the United States Bank was constitutional or not. That question went to the Supreme United States; and it was decided, according to my recollection -- though I have not read that decision latterly -- that, under the power to regulate commerce, for the benefit of commerce, to aid commerce, Congress had the power to create a United States Bank. What was that for ? Was it merely a declaratory measure of the rights of the persons engaged in commerce ? Not a bit of it. It was to make a currency for commerce; it was to aid commerce in the means of exchanging commodities; it was to make a circulating medium; it was to make a representative of value. That is all it was. In other words, it was to make money. It was to make money for the purposes of commerce; and gentlemen may disguise it as they please, the people knew when they received a United States Bank bill, it meant that for which they could safely exchange their commodities. It was money and in no other way can commerce be benefited by this regulating power. It was to make money, in the ordinary acception of the term. Congress passed the law, and the Supreme Court declared it constitutional, upon the principle that, under the power to regulate commerce, to assist commerce, to benefit commerce, Congress had the power to accomplish the desired object. The Constitution gave it the means of accomplishment.
What, sir, was the next step ? I ask the attention of my friends upon the left, as well as on the tight, to this proposition. After this the policy of the issuance of Treasury notes was adopted. What for ? To pay the debts that, according to the opinion of gentlemen, were due in coin. They voted for it. The gentleman who spoke the other day, if I recollect rightly -- perhaps I may be mistaken -- has voted more than once, since I have been with him in the House, for the issue of Treasury notes. For what purpose ? To pay the indebtedness of the General Government; to aid in the commercial transactions of the country; to make a circulating medium that answered as the means of exchange and to take the place of money, if it suits my friend to call it that rather than money itself. Why, I ask, did not the gentleman rise then and say that it was unconstitutional to make a circulating medium, and the ways and means of commerce easy ? Did they then say that they paid to the creditors of the United States that which was valueless ? No, sir; they made money for them. When the gentleman and I voted, and those who oppose this bill, then voted, for coining -- or making, if the language is better liked -- Treasury notes, they and I voted to make money and put it afloat. They said to the men who were to receive it, "This is currency which we furnish you under the legislation of Congress, authorized by the Constitution." Now, sir, is it not too late to say that there is not power to issue this kind of currency ? I plant myself upon this broad ground, that if there ever was a question, it has been settled by the decision of the Supreme Court. It has been settled by the action of almost every Congress that I can remember. It has been settled by the action of this House itself. I say that it has been unalterably settled, so that I do not stop further to consider about the power of Congress to make this issue.
What next ? Having power to make this issue for the purposes of commerce, to be used as money and to pay our creditors, then I ask in good faith and in all candor why there is not power to fix its value ? You have said that this little piece of green-tinted paper is five dollars. You have said indirectly that every creditor of the Government shall receive it as such. As such it is made payable to the creditors of the Government. My friend says, "0h! no." Perhaps I am mistaken in the precise language of past legislation; that, however, is immaterial. I have too little time to discuss that. I will now go to what gentlemen are now saying.
Mr. Vallandigham. Read the last line on the Treasury notes.
Mr. P.A. Conkling. Nobody is compelled to take them.
Mr. Vallandigham. It reads: "Receivable in payment of all public dues."
Mr. Kellogg, of Illinois. What was it paid for ? Who got it from the Treasury ? Answer me that. It was received by the man or men that the Treasury owed. I am now told that the creditors of the Government are not compelled to receive it. Sir, they were compelled to receive it or get nothing for what was due them, for it was issued because the Government had not the means to pay its debts without its issuance. At best, the gentleman's policy, according to his own views, did that by indirection which he is not now willing to do by direct means. That is the whole of it.
I was saying that if we have the power to issue, we have also the power to fix the value of the issue. It is an incident to the power of issuance. It is to carry out in good faith that power. If you do not issue these notes to take the place of money -- to represent money -- then in God's name do not issue them. Do not give to the people that which they will not understand. Let there be no deception; let the creditors of the Government know whether or not the Government is trying to palm off upon them a spurious, depreciated currency under the guise of money. If we have the right to issue it, and to impress it with the denomination five dollars, and pay it out for five dollars, why not stamp upon its face that it is five dollars every where ?
I had almost passed, because of the interruption of my remarks, the point that I wished to make upon the action of the present House. I have heard gentlemen all around discuss this proposition, saying that we should make these Treasury notes payable to the creditors of the Government and receivable for Government dues. I understood the gentleman from Vermont [Mr. Morrill] to introduce that proposition. I understood gentlemen all around me to agree that we should make them payable for the indebtedness of the Government. I am certain that I heard the gentleman from Rhode Island [Mr. SHEFFIELD] declare that he was willing to make these notes payable to the creditors of the Government and receivable for Government dues. But he said that it was dishonest to make them a legal tender between individuals. Sir, I was shocked at this declaration. Is it dishonest to make it a legal tender between gentlemen who are at home at their ease and making money out of our complications and calamities; dishonest to compel them to receive it as currency, and honest to pay your six hundred thousand soldiers in the same currency ? Is it dishonest to make the trafficker, the huckster, the broker, the banker, the speculator take this money for their debts, and honest to pay it to our private soldiers who are fighting for this Government at thirteen dollars per month -- men who are our peers, our sons, our brothers; men who at this inclement season are undergoing the hardships of the camp and the dangers of the battle-field ? Dishonest, it is said, to pay these notes to the banks and compel them to receive them at par. Thank God! that there are few of them in Illinois. They have been mostly obliterated, as they ought to be.
Mr. SHEFFIELD. They were western wild cats.
Mr. KELLOGG, of Illinois. And let me say that the wild cat concerns of Illinois have been carried on by eastern speculators. As it is sometimes said, the bottom has dropped out of them and they are no longer in existence. We had more than eight millions of dollars of that currency, and we lost by the ingenuity of bankers of New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts from twenty to sixty per cent. on that amount. When the gentleman from Rhode Island speaks of western banks and bankers, I ask him where is the Central Bank of Rhode Island ? -- a specimen article of wild cat banks.
Mr. SHEFFIELD. The Governor of Illinois got control of it, put it into his pocket, and carried it off. [Laughter]
Mr. Kellogg, of Illinois. That Governor has gone out of office and I make no defense for him. He not only pocketed that bank, but he pocketed money from the treasury of Illinois. He went to Rhode Island, got his hand in with that bank, and learned his trade well, before he pocketed the funds of our State. [Renewed laughter.] I say, sir, that the policy which makes payment in Treasury notes to the soldier proper and honest, and dishonest to make them a legal tender in payment of private debts, is a policy that I denounce as unjust and indefensible. I denounce and condemn it unless it shall be equally binding upon the citizen at home as the soldier in the field. Sir, to the winds with such logic, and to the devil with such morals.
What is this legal tender ? Is it found in the Constitution ? Gentlemen seem to admit everywhere that gold and silver are a legal tender. I challenge any gentleman to put his finger upon the clause of the Constitution that expressly declares that anything shall be a legal tender, or that Congress shall have the power to make anything a legal tender. You cannot find it. Yet, sir, everybody seems to understand that gold and silver are a legal tender. What is it that the Constitution declares ? That Congress shall have power to regulate commerce, to coin money, and regulate the value thereof. What is this power of coining money and the regulation of the value thereof ? Certainly the power to issue anything in the nature of coin that is to operate as a circulating medium. Gold and silver are not mentioned here, and there is not a gentleman who will not admit that the Government can coin and make money out of iron, or brass, or copper.
Here let me answer the objection that my colleague has sometimes made, that you cannot by legislation make a dollar out of something that is intrinsically worth only eighty cents. Why, Sir, I say that you do it all the time. Gold has its alloy; silver has its alloy infused into it for the purpose of reducing its intrinsic value. My friend from New York [Mr. F.A. Conkling] shakes his head, but it is certainly so. My friend seems incredulous on every tender points I strike. [Laughter.] If you can alloy gold, and fix by law the value of that alloy, otherwise worthless, can you not also fix the legal value of this bill ? [Exhibiting Treasury note.] The principle is the same. All agree that we have a right to give legal value by legislation to worthless alloy in coin, and yet many deny the right to fix a legal value to a Treasury note, for the payment of which the faith and property of the nation are pledged. Certainly this is a kind of legal logic I cannot adopt.
Well, now, sir, what is a legal tender ? It is the fixed legal value of that which circulates as a medium; and by fixing the legal value of anything which becomes a currency you make it a legal tender. If I owe you fifty dollars, I may pay it in that currency to which is affixed a legal value; and when judgment is recovered against me for fifty dollars I can pay it in anything that is by law fifty dollars. When you fix the value of coin, of lead, or iron, or copper, and of the alloy in gold and silver, you establish a legal tender, and that is all there is of it; and I say you can do it in a note as well as in coin of any kind.
I come, then, to the conclusion that having the power to issue this paper, you have the power to fix and regulate its value. I base this conclusion, I again remark, upon the continuous action of the legislative department of this Government from its earliest days, and the repeated decisions of the Supreme Court in that direction.
Now, sir, assuming that to be proved -- and it is proved to myself, if to nobody else -- I wish to call the attention of the committee for a few moments to the policy of this measure. What will be its effect ? If you make this paper a legal tender, it goes out to the country as the national circulating medium. It may depreciate, and probably it will depreciate, to some extent -- that, however, depends on many contingencies -- but the extent to which it will depreciate will depend entirely upon the means that you leave open to designing men to make and create combinations to depreciate it. It is said, however, that this will be like the currency of the early Confederacy. It will be just like it, sir, I admit, if the condition of the country is just what it was then. They issued many millions of the Continental currency, and it depreciated. Why ? Because there was no property in the country, there was no money in the country. Three millions of people had warred and were warring on for seven years with a great and powerful nation across the Atlantic. They had taken up arms. They had left the plow and the hammer, and had taken the sword. Reaping was almost unknown, except for the sustenance of the Army. Under such circumstances, how could a currency based upon property, as all currency must be, be valuable ? They had come to this point; they had nerved themselves for the great struggle. They had sacrificed commerce, the arts, the sciences, and all the pursuits from which profit flows. They had gone to the tented field, and yet they must have some circulating medium. They passed a bill emitting this kind of money, and of necessity, when peace came, and before it, it depreciated simply because it had little or no property base on which to rest. How is it now ? We have a country that is laboring with wealth --teeming with commerce and valuable productions. We have all the productions of this mighty nation pledged for the ultimate redemption of this paper. If the cases are parallel, the results will be parallel. If the facts in the two cases are alike, so alike will be the fruits of the two measures, but not otherwise.
It is said that the money of the confederate States has gone down. And why, sir ? They have no commerce. They have not the productive and industrial elements that we have. They have not the elements of wealth that we have. But more than all that, sir, they have no government in which men have confidence. The arch traitor rebel Davis himself has no confidence in his government, and why should it have credit ? To make property or currency based on Government pledges valuable, we must have a Government in which the people have confidence. We must infuse this confidence into the Government, for without it it is of little moment to me whether this paper is worth one cent or five dollars. Whether my home is on fire to-day or not I care but little, if I have no confidence in the Government under which I live.
Well, now, sir, how shall we effect this ? By making this paper a legal tender we bring all the interests of the community into close assimilation. We bring the bankers and the moneyed men and the buyers and sellers upon the same level. If you say by law -- as I believe you have a right to say and will say -- that this paper shall be a legal tender, you make it the interest of the banker in Wall street to take it over his counter, for he cannot get his debt without it; he must take it and pay it out, and thus he has a direct interest in maintaining its value. And when you have made this high level of the interests of the whole community in its commerce, in its financial operations, and in its more homely operations in the transaction of business in the country, you have formed a basis of faith and a basis of confidence that cannot be shaken.
Permit me again to say it will be the direct interest of the creditor and the debtor, of the buyer and seller, to sustain this currency. Let me illustrate: the debtor who sells his produce or other commodities for means to discharge his indebtedness, can afford to receive them as par funds, because they will, being a legal tender, discharge his indebtedness without discount. It will be for his interest to sustain this currency, because it supplies an adequate circulating medium that may be received in exchange for his productions that will discharge his own indebtedness, which cannot be done by a depreciated currency. Certainly the purchaser is interested in sustaining at par a currency in which he pays for the articles purchased. This needs no proof. The creditor, if it be made a legal tender, will most clearly be interested in sustaining the money he is compelled to take in the payment of the debts due him -- whether this compulsion be by law or otherwise; so all will be interested in accomplishing the same object -- the high standard of value of these notes.
Mr. Chairman, it certainly may be set down as sound policy to, if possible, make the medium or currency which discharges the indebtedness of the country the same which is used in the purchase and sale of the productions of the country. In other words: that that which operates as a solvent of indebtedness should be of the same standard of value as the currency which fixes the character of indebtedness at the time it was contracted. This policy, if adopted and adhered to, would save us from the ruinous fluctuations in monetary affairs that not unfrequently befall us.
Gentlemen say, however, that this cannot be done unless there is something upon which to base this paper. I point them back to the nation. I tell them that every dollar I possess, and every dollar they possess, and every dollar in the country is pledged for its ultimate redemption. If the Government goes on -- as go on it will, thank God -- then every dollar and every cent of it will be paid; and if the Government goes down, then I do not care how many millions of Treasury notes go down with it.
I want now to take the other view of the question. I want to speak for a moment upon the currency that is proposed to be issued by the opponents of this bill, but those who are yet the friends of the issue of Treasury notes without their being made a legal tender in payment of private debts. The value of that currency will depend upon the combinations that may be made against it. We know that whatever the ultimate security may be, a currency cannot stand at par where there are strong and powerful combinations against it, if it is based upon the idea of ultimate security rather than of immediate convertibility. What will be the result ? Why, the bankers and brokers of the country will have a direct interest to depreciate it. The country owes them. The debts of the country are fixed in amount; and if they can force this currency down, they thereby comparatively force their debts up. They make you pay in a good currency what you owe, and they depreciate the currency you have to pay in. Why will they depreciate it ? Because they propose to furnish the currency themselves. They propose to depreciate it, and speculate in a depreciated currency. And, sir, they can do it by their hold on the commerce of the country. They have become the avenues of commerce, the organs of commerce, from east to west, from north to south; and with this power, and with their interests antagonistic to this currency, they will try to depreciate it, and will succeed. They will make you pay to your tired and true soldier that which will not buy them boots and clothing.
Again, sir, there is a necessity, a pressing necessity, for some relief to the producers of the West, if nowhere else, in the way of a currency to represent our productions. Our commerce has been prostrated and our currency destroyed, and this, too, when the whole land is literally filled with material wealth. Our barns, our granaries, our storehouses are filled; but, sir, this war has locked it all up; business is deranged; commercial confidence is destroyed. Taxation, heavy, burdensome taxation, stares us in the face. Sir, taxation must be met; taxes must be paid. We have property; we have agricultural and mineral wealth in abundance. Give us a reliable currency, as this will be, to represent this wealth. Save us from the snares and foul hands of harpy money speculators, and we will gladly, promptly respond to all and every requirement of the Government. Without it, sir, I tell you plainly and frankly that, in my judgment, your tax laws will remain unexecuted. Pass this bill, and business and commerce will revive; confidence will be restored; and the wealth and productions of the West will be known and represented in the national Treasury.
These, Mr. chairman, are my views on the policy of this measure. Bear in mind that the two systems will operate on two interests. One system will combine the interests of the creditor, the debtor, the purchaser, and the seller. The other will combine the interests of the creditor, and of him who is to sell exchanges in the market. We have suffered enough, Mr. Chairman, in our communities by this question of currency. The people of your State and mine, sir, contracted debts under an expanded currency. When that currency became depreciated, and the currency of the country contracted, they were compelled to pay them in good currency, which was worth almost double as much as it was when the debts were contracted. No Government can exist under such a policy. We want, by this bill, to place the currency of the country on a higher level. We want to equalize and elevate it. Then, as our faith in the Government increases, so will the strength of the Government increase.
Mr. Chairman, I have now said what I desired to say. I will not detain the committee longer. But I do urge upon the committee that, in whatever is done, two great principles may be borne in mind. One principle is, to give to the Government all the facilities in our power, even to the verge of the Constitution. To save the Government I would reach even over the parapets of the Constitution, yet standing within it for power to gave it. The other principle which should be borne in mind is, that when you make these Treasury notes currency, you must make it the interest of all to sustain it Make a currency which will not be deceptive. Make one which will equalize commercial transactions and save them from fluctuations, which will prevent the debtor side being disproportioned to the creditor side. Mr. Chairman, it was well said the other day by the gentleman from Massachusetts, [Mr. ALLEY,] the darkest hour of the Revolution, when money was needed, when the troops were disbanding, when the Army was dissolving, and the hopes of the country were passing away, Robert Morris sprung to his feet and said: "Here is a scheme for making a circulating medium, which shall elevate the commerce of the country, facilitate the transactions of business, enable men who have the means to clothe the soldiers and supply arms." Men doubted; and the same cry was heard then that is heard now, about basing a currency on nothing. He said: "Try it. Everything is at stake; try it. Your Army is passing away; try it. The credit of the Government is going; try it. Faith in everything American is passing away; try it." They tried it. Commerce sprung into life. The Army was clothed. Confidence and hope revived. The Army filled up, and the result was the mighty victory of civilization. Try this now in our day of calamity. Strain every energy of the Government. Have one thing fixedly in view; that while all else may fail, while all may grow dark, the star of the Republic still shines, and all the energies of the nation must be brought into requisition to perpetuate the institution which that star represents.
Mr. Thomas, of Massachusetts. Mr. Chairman, I am anxious to vote for some measure for the speedy relief of the Government. I have listened with care to the whole debate, with the hope that the difficulties which had occurred to my own mind might be relieved. Nay, more, I have diligently sought to convince myself that it was in the Power of Congress to pass this bill, including the provision making the notes legal tender for all public and private debts. I have wished to see also that the bill could be passed and the good faith of this Government maintained. I have failed upon both of these points; and with the indulgence of the committee will state, briefly, some of the reasons which will lead me to vote against the bill as it now stands.
The question at the threshold of the discussion is that of legal power -- the competency of Congress to pass the bill. Congress has upon this subject the powers given to it by the Constitution. This is a Government of specific powers, supreme in their sphere, but the sphere confessedly limited.
We look to the Constitution to see if the power is given. We do not say the power is not denied, and therefore exists; but that it is not granted, and therefore does not exist. The powers granted are express or implied, are given in terms, or are the reasonable inferences from the express grants. Now it is conceded that there is no express power given to Congress to make the notes or bills of the Government legal tender. There is a power given to Congress upon the subject-matter. It has the power to coin money, regulate the value thereof and of foreign coins.
These words, "to coin money," have a plain and obvious meaning. The only coinage is that of the metals, "hard money." To coin money and regulate the value thereof is to fix its legal value, the value for which it is to be received, as an equivalent in commerce and in discharge of obligations and contracts. This constitutional power of coinage was first executed by the statute of 1792; and that statute has a provision making the coins legal tender; but there can be no doubt that whenever money is coined by Government under the Constitution it becomes ipso facto legal tender. But whether legislation be necessary to carry the provision into effect or not, it is too plain for argument that the power to coin money and regulate its value is the power to say for what value it shall be received.
There being no express power in the Constitution to make the notes a legal tender, is such a power to be reasonably inferred from any of the express powers ? Before answering this question, two things are to be observed.
The first is that there being an express grant of power upon this subject of the coining of money and fixing its legal value, we should not reasonably expect to find an additional power on the same subject given by expres implication. The expression of the one would ordinarily be the exclusion of the other. The second thing to be noted is that it appears by the debates of the convention, and by the note of Mr. Madison, that this subject was before the convention, and that a grant of power to emit bills of credit, with the apparent purpose of making them legal tender, was refused.
It is said that the power to make these notes a legal tender is a reasonable implication from the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations, among the States, and with the Indian tribes. The argument is, and it is entitled to consideration, that money is one of the great instruments of commerce -- as much so as the ship -- and that the power to regulate the principal thing is the power to regulate its instrumentalities. I confess that at first this view of the question deeply impressed me. But further reflection has satisfied me it is not sound. If the Constitution were otherwise silent upon the subject, the implication would doubtless be a strong one.
But the Constitution has spoken, has indicated what shall be money under its provisions, and the power of Congress over it.
Again: the practical construction of the Constitution has been that no such power existed. Though the exigencies of the Government have heretofore been great, the experiment has never been tried, nor, so far as I know, ever before suggested.
Of the three great statesmen whose minds have been given to this subject of the currency and the power of the national Government over it, no one has asserted the existence of this power. Mr. Madison and Mr. Webster have expressly denied its existence. Mr. Webster had, of all our statesmen, except perhaps Mr. Hamilton, the strongest convictions of the necessity of a national currency and of the duty of Congress to control it; but on the want of power in Congress to make anything but coin legal tender his language is clear, firm, and unequivocal. He says:
---[this is fakken lawyerly tongue twisting, labouring to vindicate his policy: it is fine to issue bank notes based on non-existing gold, promising to pay that which the bank does NOT have; but somehow it is against the framing of this country for the General Government to issue its own notes which are ALWAYS receivable at their face value by the General Government. The money that Biddle paid Webster as retainer was well spent.]
"But if we understand by currency the legal money of the country, and that which constitutes a legal tender for debts, and is the statute measure of value, then, undoubtedly, nothing is included but gold and silver. Most unquestionably there is no legal tender, and there can be no legal tender in this country, under the authority of this Government or any other, but gold and silver, either the coinage of our own mints, or foreign coins at rates regulated by Congress. This is a constitutional principle, perfectly plain, and of the very highest importance. The States are expressly prohibited from making anything but gold and silver a tender in payment of debts; and although no such express prohibition is applied to Congress, yet, as Congress has no power granted to it in this respect but to coin money and to regulate the value of foreign coins, it clearly has no power to substitute paper or anything else for coin as a tender in payment of debts and in discharge of contracts. Congress has exercised this powerfully in both its branches. It has coined money, and still coins it; it has regulated the value of foreign coins, and still regulates their value. The legal tender, therefore, the constitutional standard of value, is established, and can not be overthrown. To overthrow it would shake the whole system.
"But if the Constitution knows only gold and silver as a legal tender, does it follow that the Constitution cannot tolerate the voluntary circulation of bank notes, convertible into gold and silver at the will of the holder, as part of the actual money of the country ? Is a man not only to be en titled to demand gold and silver for every debt, but is he, or should he be, obliged to demand it, in all cases ? Is it, or should Government make it, unlawful to receive, pay in anything else ? Such a notion is too absurd to be seriously treated. The constitutional tender is the thing to be preserved, and it ought to be preserved sacredly, under all circumstances." --Webster's Works, vol. 4, p. 271.
Again, he says:
"I am certainly of opinion, then, that gold and silver, at rates fixed by Congress, constitute the legal standard of value in this country; and that neither Congress nor any State has authority to establish any other standard or to displace this." --Ibid., vol. 4, p. 280.
There is, Mr. Chairman, another difficulty inferring from the power of Congress to regulate commerce the power to make Treasury notes legal tender which has not been adverted to. It is this: the power given to Congress is to regulate commerce among the States. Now, it is clear in principle and well settled as authority that the provision does not extend to and include the internal commerce of the States. This power is reserved to the States themselves. (Gibbons vs. Ogden, 12 Wheaton 1.) Looking at this power to make these notes a legal tender as incident to the power of Congress to regulate commerce, the power of the incident cannot extend beyond the power of the principal. This bill clearly includes a commerce over which we have no control. It is scarcely necessary to say that this internal commerce would include nine out of ten of all the bargains that are made.
Mr. Chairman, though the legal question has not been judicially settled, I feel compelled to say that the weight of reasoning and authority is strongly against the validity of tire clause making the Treasury notes legal tender. If the validity of the provision be doubtful even, and it becomes, as it inevitably would, the subject of contest and litigation in the courts, the effect upon the credit of the paper will, in my judgment, be worse than if the tender clause had been wholly omitted.
I have a word or two to add upon the justice of this clause of the bill.
To make these notes legal tender for debts, private and public, contracted before the passage of the bill, seems to me a clear breach of good faith. Debts are obligations or promises to pay money, the only money known to the Constitution and the laws, the universal equivalent, having not, merely intrinsic value, but being the measure and standard of value. Paper is not money. The draft bill or note is the mere sign; money is the thing signified. Said John Locke: "Men in their bargains contract not for denominations or sounds, but for the intrinsic value."---[no, they contract for what they can purchase for the money, regardless of what it is made]
This bill, Mr. Chairman, changes the condition and practically impairs the obligation of every existing contract to pay money. When the contract to pay money matures, this bill compels the creditor to take for his debt not money, not even paper convertible into money on demand, but the promise of Government to pay at a future day uncertain. It is a perfect answer of the creditor to this proposition to say "that is not my agreement; a matured debt is not paid by a promise to pay."---[Really ??! Before the 1861 Treasury notes issue, there were $200,000,000 worth of bank notes in circulation, and $200,000,000 worth of coin in existence !!! many, many, many matured debts were paid by bank promises to pay. And when in 1861 the banks were asked to fulfill their promise to pay, they quickly suspended !]
But further, the faith of the contract is broken, because the creditor is not paid in gold or silver, nor in that which is equivalent to gold and silver. He neither gets the coin nor its value in any form; the money, nor the money's worth. Take, for example, one of the Treasury notes issued under the act of July 17, payable in three years, with interest at the rate of seven and three tenths per cent. semi-annually. When the interest is due, the Government is asked to pay. It offers its note convertible into stock worth now eighty-eight cents on the dollar. The holder of the note reads the 9th section of the statute of July:
"And be it further enacted, That the faith of the United States is hereby solemnly pledged for the payment of the interest and redemption of the principal of the loan authorized by this act."
If the lender had understood that by payment of interest was meant the giving another note, payable at the pleasure of the Government, would the loan have been effected ? When by compulsion he takes your note and converts it into stock worth, it may be, eighty-eight or seventy-five cents on the dollar, will he go away with the conviction that the faith of the United States so solemnly pledged has been as solemnly redeemed; will he not feel that faith without works is dead ? No craft of logic or of rhetoric can disguise the real nature of that transaction. If we feel stain like a wound, that wound is immedicable. Take from us, Mr. Chairman, our property, houses, and lands -- they cannot be devoted to a nobler cause; but in God's name leave us the consciousness of integrity; leave us our self-respect. Delays may be inevitable, but we will pay the uttermost farthing.---[Please take a note from the American Exchange Bank and ask them to pay what they promised. What dignity, what integrity are you talking about ? ]
If this provision of the bill be not just, it is, of course, impolitic. It will wound our credit vitally. It will defeat the very end it was designed to accomplish. That credit can only be maintained as individuals or as a nation by the utmost fidelity to our engagements; by keeping our promises as we keep our oaths, registered in heaven.---[would love to hear you talking to the bankers about keeping promises]
No matter what may be the resources of the country; no matter what may be its actual wealth -- its capacity to acquire it. Your creditor has no lien upon your property. He can make no levy upon your lands or goods. If you refuse or fail to pay, he is without remedy. After all, his sole reliance must be upon your honour and good faith. In the keeping of that is his security and your credit. And you cannot afford the experiment of giving him paper when you promised him money. It will cost you, in the long run, even more than it will cost him.
This provision of the bill in the nature of a forced loan is itself a confession of weakness. It seeks to compel credit for the reason that it does not come spontaneously. It assumes that force is necessary to uphold that which must stand on its own legs or cannot stand at all. Credit is faith, is trust, is confidence. If you faithfully keep your promises; if by taxation you avail yourselves of all the resources of the country for the salvation of the country; if you keep always in view the end for which this conflict is waged; if in seeking to enforce the Constitution and the laws you show a readiness yourselves to obey the Constitution and the laws, you will win credit; you cannot command or enforce it. It will follow in the footsteps of rectitude; you cannot drive it before you. You may by this bill say that paper is money; give the same names to things vitally different. The essential difference will be none the less clearly perceived and strongly felt. It is no want of respect to say to you, you cannot change the nature of things.
The friends of this feature of the bill, Mr. Chairman, admit the reluctance with which they assent to it. The only ground of defense is its necessity, that no alternative is left to us. I deeply respect their motives, but I cannot see the necessity.
We have spent a great deal of money in this war, and have wasted a great deal. But we are not impoverished. What we have spent is trivial in comparison to what is left. The amount up to this time will not exceed two years of surplus profits. It is not more than one thirty-second part of our whole property. Not a dollar of tax has been raised, and yet we are talking of national bankruptcy, and launching upon a paper currency. I may be very dull, but I cannot see the necessity or the wisdom of such a course.
Gentlemen who appreciate the perils of this step would relieve themselves and us by the assurance that the amount of paper to be issued is restricted within safe bounds. These barriers are easily surmounted. It is the first step which costs. The descent has always been easy. The difficulty is return. The experience of mankind shows the danger in entering upon this path; that boundaries are fixed only to be overrun, promises made only to be broken. Human nature remains essentially the same. We are neither wiser nor better than our fathers.
The ordinary check, the only effectual check, in the issue of paper for currency, the security of the public against excess in its issue, is that the excess will be returned upon the banks for gold and silver. A certain amount is needed for the purposes of the currency. When that point is reached the paper begins to decline, the gold and silver are demanded, and the issues of paper are contracted. If there be an excess of gold and silver, it will right itself by exportation, or find its way into the arts. To the issue of this paper there is no natural check or restraint. When it begins to depreciate, the necessity is at once created for increasing the issues, public distrust is increased, and this again leads to still further depreciation, and to still larger issues. The process of decline is easy, natural, inevitable.
A word, Mr. Chairman, and I will relieve the patience of the committee. It has been said that coming generations ought to bear a large part of the expenses of this war, and that we may, therefore, justly create a large public debt. A great debt will doubtless be created, but the burdens of the war ought, as far as possible, to fall upon the men of this generation. We are but keeping in repair the structure of our fathers, not building a new one. This expense should be borne mainly by the tenants for life, and not by the heirs. For the discharge of this duty we need four things -- unity of purpose, energy of action, the largest possible taxation, and the severest possible retrenchment.
Mr. Edwards. Mr. Chairman, although I have made occasionally some suggestions to the House in relation to its current business, and have sometimes participated in the brief discussions of limited debate, all will be aware that I have not, at any time, undertaken to occupy the time of the House with a speech of the ordinary length during this Congress. And, sir, I have now not so much time before the hour will arrive at which debate must cease, as that under the circumstances the House, in my judgment, should feel that I am trespassing upon the rights of any member by exercising a privilege which is common to all. I desire further to say, that I did not object to the question of the gentleman from Ohio [Mr. Bingham] in any captious spirit; but I knew that that gentleman had delivered his sentiments here ably, and at great length, upon this constitutional question; and I knew that the gentleman from Massachusetts, in possession of the floor, would present his views with a distinctness that could not be misunderstood, and could not fail to impress the mind of every member of the House. Besides this, I have not often seen, from these constant interruptions, anything result of advantage to the House in coming to just conclusions in relation to questions before it.
But, sir, I cannot dwell longer upon considerations like these. I will proceed to address myself directly to the subject-matter before us -- to the momentous questions on which we are to act.
The state of the country is known to all, here and elsewhere. In a large portion of the Union, by large numbers of the people, the authority of the Government is resisted and defied, and the Government itself disowned; a million of men in arms, with all the dread appointments which belong to modern warfare -- under the best leadership on either side that has yet been developed, distributed to all the strategic points which have been occupied by either party -- now stand ready to dispute the issue of mastery to the death. To meet this emergency, the Government has been compelled to call into exercise its extremest powers; and, sir, in my judgment, nothing but their prompt, full, and fearless exercise can enable us to outride the storm which is raging around us. Nothing else can restore peace, security, and unity to a distracted country.
We all know, sir, by what instrumentalities, if at all, these great results are to be accomplished: we know that armies and navies are the ultimæ rationes of all Governments; and we know, also, that without the motive power of money and credit armies and navies are but inanimate masses, mere corpora delicta, useless for any purpose for which they are gathered and organized.
We have armed, equipped, and organized at great cost one of the largest and best appointed armies the world has known. We have a Navy respectable in the number of vessels it comprises, complete in their armament, and more than respectable in the character of the brave and hardy seamen and soldiery by which they are manned, and of the gallant officers by which they are commanded. To maintain this Army and Navy in a state of efficiency, and to move and operate it as expediency and generalship shall require, involves a vast, a fearful expenditure.
Thus circumstanced, the Administration, wielding the executive powers of the Government, finds itself confronted by an exhausted Treasury, and without the means of meeting its existing or its constantly accruing liabilities. It has in its vaults none of that bright and shining coin which has been so much lauded in this discussion, and which some gentlemen seem to think has been, as it were, made by Providence the only proper representative of property, and the only admissible agency for its exchange and convertibility; nor has it even any of the promises of the banks of the States to pay to the order of somebody the sums specified, in the coin aforesaid, if anybody should request it; nor has it any of its own promises of our authorization which it can apply directly, or by which it can legally possess itself of either of the kinds of currency I have above named. It has therefore no means of filling its Treasury. In this its state of destitution it appeals to this House to discharge its constitutional duty by originating some bill which shall provide revenue sufficient for its necessities.
The amount of floating liability now upon it is at least $100,000,000, and if you will look into the figures presented by the Committee of Ways and Means, made in the opening speech of this debate, you will see that the indebtedness inevitably coming upon the country is immense -- is, I had almost said, appalling. Funded and floating, it is now $400,000,000. It will be $650,000,000 on the 1st of July, and if this war continues, $1,200,000,000 in one year from that time.
But, sir, it is not our future indebtedness that need give us uneasiness to-day so much as absence of the means of meeting our present pressing necessities. We must take care of the present, and we may then trust to the country and to the Power above us to take care of the future. How are we to meet this vast accruing liability -- this incoming indebtedness ? Are we to meet it by taxation ? I agree that taxation is the proper remedy for Government indebtedness in ordinary cases. If our expenditures were small, and our revenue from indirect taxation insufficient, we might provide for them by a direct tax upon the people. But if gentlemen will look at this matter of taxation, they will see that, without prudence or moderation, there is danger even in that direction. The demands are too numerous and of too much magnitude to be met by taxation as they accrue. We shall have, therefore, to postpone a large amount of this indebtedness to a more convenient period, and, perchance to leave some of it as an inevitable legacy to posterity, whose battles we are fighting, and in whose behalf, as well as our own, our liabilities are being incurred.
Look at the taxation that we propose, and in the necessity of which all agree. We propose to raise $150,000,000 by taxation. How will it be distributed ?
If $30,000,000 were to be raised by direct taxation, as was first proposed at the last session, the apportionment to my State -- which I refer to for illustration, and gentlemen can take their own States for the same purpose -- would be $323,610. We are a small State, and we have had no State indebtedness until this rebellion came upon us, and have usually raised only some sixty or seventy thousand dollars to pay the expenses of our State government. It is the first time that the people of that State have looked forward to the visits of the tax gatherer with anything like apprehension. Take $317,000 and multiply it by five, and you got $1,500,000 to be imposed upon the State of New Hampshire by this tax, to the amount of which we all agree. Apply it to the other States in the same proportion, and some of them will have to pay sums not measured by thousands, but by millions.
Let me state the amounts which would thus be imposed on each of the New England States, and on several of the other larger States, that it may be seen that taxation is a stern reality, and only to be indulged in commensurate with an equally stern necessity:
New Hampshire ....... 1,628,050
Massachusetts ........................... 6,184,360
Rhose Island ....................................... 577,325
Connecticut ...... 2,311,605
New York ..................................... 19,529,390
Pennsylvania ........ 14,600,495
Virginia ................................... 15,830,000
Kentucky .......... 5,352,315
It seems to me, then, that the true rule under our existing circumstances is this -- resort to taxation now to the extent of providing for carrying on the Government, for the payment of interest upon all of the indebtedness that we shall incur, and when the time shall have arrived -- now if such is the judgment of the House, or hereafter if more expedient -- when the ability of the country will permit it to provide annually for the ultimate extinguishment of the principal. I think that the correctness of this rule will not be denied.
In connection with taxation, the next means of supply which suggests itself to help out its insufficiency are permanent loans on our bonds payable at a distant day. Can we raise enough money at this time by such loans to eke out the deficiency of taxation, and from the two sources combined meet the wants of the Government ? All must be aware that this is utterly impracticable. No one can fail to see that if any amount of such bonds should be thrown upon the only market open to us, the money markets of the Old World being virtually shut against us, and our own being already overburdened with like securities, they would sink to a level of depreciation which should deter from any such hopeless experiment. Does any one believe that two or three hundred millions of bonds of the United States could be negotiated without a ruinous discount, if they should be taken by our capitalists at all; or that, if we should rely upon them for the larger amounts needed, we could realize more than one dollar in hand for two to be paid hereafter ?
There is no need to discuss further a proposition that is so obviously objectionable. However useful and necessary the issue of bonds may be as the means of absorbing notes the Government shall issue for immediate use, as an independent means of supply, the present price of such securities now in the market, issued under more favorable circumstances, shows them to be entirely unreliable. I now come, sir, to a consideration of the only remaining means which has been suggested of meeting our immediate expenditures, namely, the issue of Treasury notes. The expediency and the necessity of the issue of such notes to the same amount, in some form, is almost unanimously conceded. I know of no one who, in view of the exigency of the country, could have had the courage, if he had the inclination, to express his dissent. The bill reported by the Committee of Ways and Means and the substitute of the gentleman from Vermont [Mr. Morrill] may be regarded as the only propositions now before the House. It is understood that the other propositions will be withdrawn, and that the dissentients from the bill will concentrate on this substitute. One or the other of these, it is expected, will be adopted, and they both agree in this: that the Government must obtain its means, not by taxation alone -- although contemplating the same amount of taxation -- not by bonds, but by notes convertible into bonds; with some differences, it is true, as to the character and terms of both the notes and the bonds. They agree in the main features of a plan, and differ only in details. By resorting to notes, instead of bonds, and these of small denominations, they both are presumed to intend that means shall be furnished by them, not in the shape of loans, but by making them a currency.
I propose to consider which of these plans -- that proposed by the Committee of Ways and Means which, in alluding to it hereafter, I will term the "bill," or that moved by the minority of the committee, which may be called the "substitute" -- is most likely to accomplish the object which we have in view. If the notes shall be issued under the substitute, what circulation will they have ? What kind of currency will they make ? Who will receive them at par in any business transaction ? The substitute does not propose that they shall pass from the Government upon any other terms than at par. They must therefore pass from it at the full amount expressed on their face or remain unused and useless, as would have been the paper on which they were made before it had received the Government impress. If you look at the phraseology of the bill you will see that the Government itself is not to receive them at par for all its dues. It is proposed to make an exception, a discreditable exception, against them at their very outset. They are not to be accepted in payment of duties on imports. They are to be barred of ingress into the custom-houses of the country. Branded with this exclusion, where should they find admission ? For this, and other reasons equally sufficient, they will be at once depreciated, and nobody will take them as a currency, for nobody will be able to pass them as such. They will not pass at par among individuals, and they will not be received at the counters of the banks.
Then what kind of a circulating medium would they make. They would necessarily become depreciated. The provision of a three and sixty-five hundredths per cent. interest which they are to bear, never to be realized by the casual holder, would not buoy them up. I must be allowed to notice another feature of the substitute, which undoubtedly was intended to help their entrance into the channels of circulation. I refer to that feature which makes them receivable by public creditors, a most extraordinary provision, as will be seen when it is examined, and one which, while it must be admitted to be ungenerous, would almost subject those gentlemen who are responsible for it to the charge which was made, I think with less reason against a provision of the bill of the committee; that is, of having incorporated a provision which would be in bad faith on the part of the Government towards all who are bound to its service. They propose to throw these notes into circulation, to be taken by the Army and Navy and all others engaged in the Government service, though expressly prohibited, as before stated, from being taken in payment of one kind of indebtedness to the Government, which would thus offer them at par. To be sure, it is provided that they are receivable at their option. What does that mean ? What option does the substitute offer ? In my judgement that slows the utter desperation and the ill success with which the opponents of the bill have groped around to find some expedient which would supply the place of that provision in the bill which they would avoid, but which alone can give any vitality and strength to the issues of the Government, which all agree are necessary, and renders the substitute, as a measure of relief, unworthy of consideration. They may receive the currency of the substitute at their option. Suppose they do not receive it ? What then ? The Government stands without a dollar in its coffers. It will have neither coin nor bank notes.
This hard-money Government that is to be, if the substitute is adopted, will offer its depreciated paper to those to whom they owe, and they may take it or not at their option, which option means simply that they may take what is offered or nothing. That is the only option which they are to have. It is attempted by the substitute to force this currency into circulation. It is to tell the soldiers who are fighting our battles that they shall receive their pay in something at par that is below par; in something that will not pass from their hands as they receive it, or else they are to remain unpaid. I think that that would be a breach of faith of the most flagrant description. It is more objectionable by far than the legal tender clause. That is open and manly. It declares what it means. This provision is insidious. It does not state what it means. It throws a heavy burden upon all of the employés of the Government. In my judgement, we are under no necessity to adopt a plan, however respectable may be the source from which it comes, so objectionable upon its very face.
There is, however, another objection to the substitute, and that is, that it provides for the payment of large interests by the Government, which are not necessary at this time. It provides for the payment of interest upon these Treasury notes, but not to any extent that will give them any value as a currency, or as a means of borrowing money. Who will voluntarily take Treasury notes, which carry three and six tenths interest per annual, and give what they bear upon their face ? If they shall, however, get beyond the walls of the Treasury, we shall have to pay this interest for the benefit of somebody, into whose hands they may chance to fall, without any benefit of their general use as a currency; and we are also to pay, by the substitute, over seven per cent. interest upon our bonds, when, by the provisions of the other bill, the notes they issue would serve as a currency until they should be invested in bonds at six per cent. We have got to pay this difference in interest for the whole time that the bonds might have to run. I would not object so much to this payment of interest if it could not be properly avoided; I would not object to it if it was the best thing we could do, and we were not to be without it loaded down with this great tax which I have spoken of, and which the people must pay. I am not willing to increase the burden of that tax by increasing the amount of it if it can be avoided properly and honestly, consistently with providing for the wants of the Government.
Now, Mr. Chairman, gentlemen have raised many other objections to this bill. The gentleman from Ohio [Mr. Horton] spoke with great effect the other day in earnest opposition to the plan of the committee. Among other things, he said that it would flood the country with depreciated currency if it passed. Well, sir, what are we to have if the bill passes which he favors ? Are we to have anything else than a depreciated currency ? Whatever direction we take, does anybody suppose that the hundred millions to be provided by the bill which is offered as a substitute and which he favors, is to be all that is necessary for the Government ? Does anybody suppose it is to be more likely to be sufficient than the hundred millions which is to be provided by the bill reported by the committee ? And if we have to send out other millions issued under his substitute, shall we not have a depreciated currency, if we have any currency at all ? And let me inquire of the gentleman, in which plan will we be most likely to have a depreciated currency: under that of the substitute, which has nothing to sustain its notes but the three and six tenths interest, or under the bill which has been offered by the Committee of Ways and Means, which has, to sustain those it proposes to issue, the fact that they can be used by the whole community for every purpose for which money is used, and the issue which it makes is based precisely on the same foundation as that provided for in the substitute rests upon -- that is, upon the whole property of the country, and the power of the Government to tax it for their redemption, and the faith of the country pledged to meet all its indebtedness ?
It is said that the bill will demoralize the country, and the substitute, I suppose it will be asserted, will not. I would ask the gentlemen again if the issues under the bill submitted by the Ways and Means, if it should occasion even the depreciation they talk of, could demoralize the country any more than the issues under the substitute which is offered, if that plan shall be carried out ? Why, sir, the paper which will depreciate most will be likely most to demoralize the country; and that paper, it seems to me, will depreciate most that has for its only basis the general ability of the nation to redeem it at a future time, and the faith of the country that it will be done, rather than that which has all this, and in addition to that, a provision which makes it a convenient circulating medium for all the business of the country. Is it to be supposed that the tender clause itself could depreciate the notes when they shall have all the other elements of strength which can be given to any notes ?
It is said that it will render return to specie payment impossible or unlikely. I ask again, supposing the amount required is to be equal, whether it will be more impossible or more unlikely if issued under the bill than under the substitute ? I would ask again whether there will not be the same ability in the country, the same recognition of its obligation, and the same action upon that recognition to redeem the currency, whatever amount it may be, as soon as its ability shall make it practical ?
I say, then, in conclusion of this part of my argument, that in my judgment the substitute, as offered, is liable to all the objections which can be urged against the bill which has been reported by the Committee of Ways and Means, unless it is the doubtful one of questionable power, and that it has none of its advantages, among which, first and foremost, is that of giving to the Government the instant means it requires to enable it now to carry on its immense operations for the accomplishment of the great object for which it is contending. Sir, I suppose time is regarded as important; I suppose the wants of the Treasury must be supplied forthwith, or it will come too late. And now, sir, the bill reported by the Committee of Ways and Means has this advantage, that it furnishes the means directly, instead of looking to intermediate negotiation for the purpose of furnishing them.
I have examined this matter only in reference to the practical operation of the two plans proposed, one by the Committee of Ways and Means and one as a substitute; and upon that examination I have made up my mind, and upon that conviction I shall act. I shall vote for the bill reported by the Committee of Ways and Means as the one which, in my judgement, should command the approbation of the House, as in all material respects to be preferred to the substitute, one or the other of which -- it is distinctly understood -- will be adopted.
In giving this vote I shall not act in accordance with my inclinations. I but act from a conviction of duty, regarding, as I trust, considerately all the various interests of the various classes of the country -- all equally entitled to consideration. I shall do it because I believe that the necessities of the Government to-day demand of this House that it should come to its rescue; that, we should put in its hands a power which is practical, and which they can use effectually for the great purposes of this conflict which is upon us.
Mr. Chairman, I have not thus far touched the question of constitutionality. I preferred to reverse the usual order of the discussion, and to see whether the measure proposed in itself would justify even calling into exercise a constitutional power which, if it were conceded to exist, has slumbered unused for more than three fourths of a century. For unless it is a measure not merely of clear expediency, but one of controlling necessity in both its leading features, I would have held it to be inexpedient that the question should be raised. But believing that necessity to exist, I do not shrink from meeting the question here or elsewhere; and I propose to devote the brief time I have remaining to examining that constitutional question. I shall not undertake to answer fully the able argument of the gentleman from Massachusetts, [Mr. Thomas.] I have the utmost respect for his legal ability, and listened with great pleasure to the views and opinions he expressed, but I was not convinced by it. And let me say here at the outset, that every constitutional question that has been argued in this body since the Government was established has been argued on the one side and the other, it is no disparagement to the gentleman to say, by men of equal ability with himself, and those who argued on one side or the other were necessarily wrong in the opinions they held.
It does not follow then that, with all the great ability of the gentleman, his conclusions, though entitled to respect, are authority in this House or anywhere else upon the constitutional question involved in this debate.
In his argument he said that whether constitutional or not, he should regard the passage of this bill a broach of faith to the people of this country. I beg leave to dissent from him in that conclusion more emphatically than I do to any other. Why, sir, what is a breach of faith ? What faith is this Government under to the people of this country, other than to exercise the powers that are vested in them, according to their best judgment, for the good of the whole people, under all circumstances, and in every emergency that can arise ? In relation to the slightest or the extremest duties it has to perform, what other faith is there reposed in the Government than this ? Sir, I do not admit that making these issues a legal tender is done in the absence of power or that it is an abuse of power. It impairs the obligations of contracts it is said, and is also in its terms an ex post facto law. I do not admit that it impairs the obligation of contracts. I believe that all contracts made in this country are subject to the proper exercise of all the powers of legislative bodies, whether State or national, and that the right to exercise those powers, when deemed proper, makes, by implication, a part of every contract that is made. And if it does not impair the obligation of contracts, it is not, for that reason in any legal sense, ex post facto.
In relation to the constitutional question, I have a word further to say. It has been said by the gentleman from Massachusetts [Mr. Thomas] that it does not come within the express powers of the Constitution. This is of course conceded; but the gentleman would not regard this position as of much significance. It is hardly anything more in a constitutional argument but an introductory statement. All who know anything more than that we have a Constitution, know that its implied powers far exceed its express, and that the mass of our national legislation is based upon powers implied.
Why, sir, where is the express authority for the legislation -- to seize, upon an illustration nearest to us -- under which this Capitol and all the spacious and durable public buildings around us have been provided for the uses of the Government; where is the express power for most of the details of all the Departments of the Government, for all the interests and security of commerce, for all the organization of your Army and Navy; not to extend this summary, where, sir, is the express power for doing that in which now this whole House unhesitatingly concurs, in the very bills before us ? Nowhere in the Constitution. The emission of bills of credit, which these notes are, is nowhere named except as associated with the provision to make them a lawful tender, and to prohibit the States from doing either; and yet the power to emit bills of credit, when the necessity for its exercise arose in the war of 1812, found its recognition as a constitutional power, and has been acted upon as such at various periods without question.
So, sir, the power which is now attempted to be exercised and to be deduced from the express powers granted would, in my belief -- a belief founded on the records of the congressional discussion and decisions of great constitutional questions at all critical periods in our history -- have found, as have other latent powers, a clear recognition, if the imperative necessity which is now upon us had ever earlier occurred.
But, sir, I will not indulge further in this branch the discussion. It has been already ably discussed. It has been the subject with us all of patient, earnest, and anxious examination and reflection; and I will only say for myself that in view or the circumstances by which we are surrounded, entertaining the opinion I have before expressed of the importance of this bill, of its necessity to enable the Administration to sustain the drooping credit of the Government in this hour of its utmost need, I cannot permit mere doubts and uncertainties to control my action.
Mr. RIDDLE. Almost as soon as men began to traffic they began to observe in it certain usages. These grew with the barter and exchange of commodities until they became customs, enlarged themselves to rules of general observance and application, and finally constitute what we call the laws of trade or commerce. This code, the pure offspring of commerce, owes little to municipal law, though it often in a way dictates municipal statutes. Although it is of vast international obligation, it in no way depends upon treaties, yet in its universal dominion it has compelled the negotiation of more international compacts and arrangements than all other causes combined.
The laws of trade may be said to be universal in their dominion, irrepealable in their nature, and sovereign in their jurisdiction.
At first the sovereign, caring only for his own wants and nothing for those of his subjects, levied his revenues in the simplest and most direct way possible -- he took what he wanted. Experience ultimately demonstrated even to kings that the purposes of revenue could best be subserved by some attention to the rules of commerce. And the suggestion was cultivated and improved until the government fiscal machinery, adjusted by a thousand years of heeded experience, was placed by the great streams and channels of commerce, and propelled by their currants without a serious detriment to trade, and with great advantage to the sovereign's revenues.
It is obvious that the more perfect the harmony between the governmental financial machinery and these courses and currents of trade, the more prosperous and flourishing must be the condition of a given nation. It should be the purpose of the so sovereign to withdraw the smallest needed amount from these streams, retain it the shortest time, and return it in an unimpaired condition. From these briefly stated premises two or three conclusions inevitably arise:
The laws of commerce were not enacted by Congress. They cannot be repealed or controlled by our legislation, and any attempt to disregard them must end in disaster.
A scheme of national finance, to be successful, must be so adjusted that its workings will harmonize and not conflict with these laws.
A scheme that should exhaust the circulating medium that fills the channels of trade would fail.
So, too, if those streams are inadequate to the wants of commerce and the Government, means to augment them must be found; while that plan, based upon principles at utter war with the fundamental principles of commerce, must, upon a gigantic scale like ours, result in the destruction of both.
The primal fundamental demand of commerce, and without which it is impossible, is an adequate supply of money -- actual money; not that which some king or Congress call money, but that which is coined pursuant to the usages of trade, and that cannot be debased below its standard; money and its equivalents, made its equivalents by its actual personal presence. It was early discovered that certain metals had the highest intrinsic value, below which they would, under no circumstances, ever fall. This gave them a still higher exchangeable value. Nations, under the demands of commerce, seized upon these metals and stamped upon them the national estimate of their worth, made up of their intrinsic and exchangeable value, and thus coined money -- as nature coins her works with the image of truth on the outside.---[My dear sir, you should pay attention to those bankers, who pursue the usages of trade. They, in their knowledge of trade, are asking for legal tender paper to be issued by Government]
It is a singular fact that the various national standards thus made up, as applied to a given piece of these metals of known weight and fineness, are nearly identical. Below this standard real money never falls. It is the sovereign quality of money in commercial estimation that the holders of personal service and commodities will always readily exchange them for money. Hence the holder of money can always command them, and his power to do so is limited only by the quantity of his money. If his money is limitless, his power to command services and commodities is limitless. He might buy up the physical and political dominion of the globe, purchase of kings their crowns, and make virtue triumphant by paying a premium for good deeds.---[If silver and gold -- which you claim and imagine to be the only money -- were not "limitless" only as plentiful as copper, they would lose their alleged permanent intrinsic value, below which you dream "real money" never falls.]
Whoever throws into the channels of trade, in the place of money, anything less valuable than it and its equivalents, to that extent, at least, disarranges and demoralizes the whole vast and complex national and individual interests dependent upon their healthy action.
Can money be made of paper ? Clearly not by calling it money, though all the people and their rulers should conspire under any forms of solemnity to call it so, nor yet by attempting to make it perform the functions of money. Paper has no appreciable intrinsic value; and its exchangeable value is of the lowest possible grade. The only high degree of value it can ever attain is that which may be imparted to it by that which is written or printed upon it. Stamp on it by the national impress that it is money, and try it by a commercial test. The holder of it would not necessarily have the power to command a moment's service or the most trifling commodity. Say that it has the quality of discharging private liability, and yet the holders of brain and bone and muscle might not be induced to make the least exchange for it. But it is probable that they would to a certain extent. Give the holder of this money a limitless supply and send him into the market, and we know there is a limit beyond which he cannot get in his purchases, arising wholly from the quality of the article with which he would buy. In the course of his transactions he would soon find that he is obliged to exchange more paper for less commodities, and this would go on until the extreme limit was reached, at which all the paper that he has parted with, as well as all he still holds, is worth less than the paper ere it was made money.
Who now will arise and say that money can be made of paper ?
Let the national hand inject a mass of this mis-called stuff into the channels of commerce, and what result but one can ensue ?
As a nation, we now require and must have a limitless supply of service and commodities. Our market can furnish them. The holders are not only friendly and favorable, but anxious to make the exchange. Indeed, the very purpose we wish to accomplish is identical with their most cherished interests; or, rather, upon its accomplishment depend all the values of all their interests, and our need now is a supply of a commodity with which to effect the exchange.
Money we have not, and hence can not create its equivalents.
In this exigency, it would be easy to issue the proposed $100,000,000 and make it by law a legal tender, or money. Indeed, no choice seems left us but to dare the experiment in some form. Under the wisest provisions and restrictions I look for loss, if not disaster, and I only hope we may escape the worst consequences that have hitherto attended all similar schemes; and I trust we may, if we can still profit by the maxim that permits even fools to learn from experience. It is apparent that the whole quantity of the circulating medium must be materially increased, for obviously that which was only equal to the demands of commerce and the ordinary wants of the Government is wholly inadequate to the same demands and the extraordinary wants of the Government.
The Constitution furnishes ample warrant for an issue of Treasury notes; but it cannot be found in the loose way in which many able gentlemen derive it. They seem to regard the Constitution as a reservoir originally containing limitless power, all of which still remains, unless withdrawn by a special prohibition. In fact, it was to commerce with an empty receptacle, and never contained anything except what was placed in it directly. As to this matter, even if it can be shown that the framers of that instrument did not intend to place the power to issue these notes in the Constitution, and that, they supposed by refusing to deposit it there it would not therein exist, still, with others, I find in that instrument powers and duties that clearly carry with them this power as an incident; but I do not find it, nor any other power, merely because Congress did not prohibit it.
Even if the Constitution had prohibited the Congress, as it does the States, from issuing "bills of Credit," we still might issue Treasury notes, because they are not "bills of credit;" nor are the notes issued by the State banks. Bills of credit were well understood by the framers of the Constitution, and have no essential element in common with notes such as we may issue. I may not now point out the distinctions and differences that clearly mark the two.
The quality to be exclusively relied upon to insure the circulation of a paper medium is the never questioning confidence of a community in the ability and intention of its issuers to pay it. The paper, then, should bear on its face the highest proof of this ability and intention; and no mark or characteristic that would raise a doubt or lead to inquiry should mar it. When paper, whether issued by individuals, corporations, or nations, is once issued, it is subject to precisely the same laws, and under the same circumstances will reach and produce similar results. In these respects no difference can exist. The name "national currency" may delude. The only possible difference that can exist between paper issued by a nation and that issued by an individual is, a nation can write more evidences of its ability and intention to pay upon its obligations than can an individual. No other difference does or can exist. The making these notes receivable mutually between the Government and its creditors and debtors, and also a legal tender, does not and cannot fall withtin the evidences of the nation's ability and inclination to pay them; nor can those characteristics in any way add to the stability of this currency, or provoke a confidence in the people to receive them.
They are only facilities by which a most dangerous and unhealthy circulation will be stimulated kind secured. I am prepared to make these notes receivable for the public dues, which dues make them a qualified legal lender I admit, and gives to those who contend for the main proposition a serious advantage in the argument; but beyond that I will not go. The power to make these notes a legal tender is a constitutional vagabond, and finds a lurking-place nowhere in our system. The proposition that because the States only were prohibited this power, and therefore we may exercise it, needs no further refutation.
The grounds on which my distinguished colleague [Mr. Bingham] rests this power are most extraordinary. He says that the Constitution has conferred no power upon Congress at all in reference to the subject of legal tender -- says nothing at all about it -- and therefore we have the power to make paper a legal tender, and money generally. Why, sir, according to him, a man might, with a tin cup of a prescribed pattern, dip up a pint of water from the nearest puddle and make that a legal tender, if the Congress should so will. This is beyond the reach of argument. Not only is there no warrant for this power, but its exercise violates the whole spirit of the Constitution. Under that we may in one way impair contracts, that is, we may discharge men from the obligation of a contract by a bankrupt law; but that we can only do by express grant of power.
What, would be the effect of making those notes a legal tender ? A man who had borrowed $500 in gold, on thirty days, could discharge himself from the obligation of his contract by the delivery of five hundred nominal dollars in this paper, which might be worth "utter nothing." We, by our law, give the power to do this. I cannot consent to it.
It is ineffectual to quote to me instances where, as gentlemen say, Congress has, in another way, done something like this. It is a villainy not to be repeated.
Still, if my colleague is right in his law, men need not take these note, unless they wish to, for all they would have to do would be to make a special bargain for gold and silver in their dealings. If so, what value is there in this proposed provision of your law, which men can so cheaply nullify ?
This quality of legal tender cannot add to the stability of this currency, nor will it induce confidence, but the reverse of both. It comes in "a questionable shape," bold, confessing, and shameless; kind if a man takes it at all, it is not because he wants it, but either because he must have it, or because he trusts to this characteristic to get rid of it again. Indeed, one of the arguments urged for the incorporation of this provision into this bill is, that the creditors of the Government who must take these notes, must have the power to get rid of them again, as a matter of justice to them; otherwise they might perish on their hands. The death ought to occur one remove from them. In the name of all commercial sagacity, how long do you expect to keep afloat a currency that thus has to cut its way into market -- be shot into men, so to speak ? How long will it be before the holders of services and commodities will refuse to exchange for it ? And when that time comes, even creditors will prefer to trust a debtor still further to taking it, and it comes to an end with almost everything and everybody who depended upon it. To this feature I cannot consent. I will vote to expunge it; and if that fails, I will choose between the bill and its defeat.
Mr. BLAKE.[Harrison Gray Otis Blake (March 17, 1818 – April 16, 1876) Ohio (R); studied law, admitted to the bar; interested in banking and mercantile pursuits] Mr. Chairman, at no time in the history of our country was the peril to our free institutions greater than now. Even that dark period just preceeding the formation of our Constitution, in 1787, was not more gloomy, forbidding, and threatening to civil liberty than the living presence that now confronts us. Then, rebellion had shown itself in Massachusetts; Shay and his band of insurgents had attempted to strike down the very Government that the people had just passed through a bloody seven years' war to establish; credit was gone; the Government without money, and a band of armed conspirators in the field ready and willing to destroy the Government itself. General Knox, who had been sent to Massachusetts by the Government to concert measures for the safety of the arsenal at Springfield, returned and reported that a majority of the people of Massachusetts were in opposition to the Government; that the leaders of the insurgents in that State boldly avowed their design to subvert the Government, abolish all debts, divide all property, and to reunite with Great Britain. It was said the same temper prevailed, more or less, in all of the eastern States, and was ready to break forth whenever the opportune moment might arrive. General Washington, at this time, was earnestly requested by General Knox to appear in person among the malcontents, and use his great personal influence to bring them back to peace and reconciliation. The reply of the Father of his Country was worthy of his name and fame. Said he:
"You talk, my good sir, of employing influence to appease the present tumults in Massachusetts. I know not where that influence is to be found, nor, if attainable, that it would be a proper remedy for these disorders. Influence is not government. Let us have a Government by which our lives, liberties, and properties will be secured, or let us know the worst at once. Under these impressions, my humble opinion is, that there is a call for decision."
This, sir, was the way Washington had of dealing with rebellion, and this is the way we have got to walk, if we succeed in maintaining the Constitution and enforcing the laws. Congress must have decision; the President must have decision; and, more than all, our military officers must have, decision. The people already have decision; they have decided to freely give the latst dollar of money and sacrifice the first and last drop of blood that courses ill their vein to sustain the Government, maintain the Constitution, and enforce the laws. This bill is brought forward as a war measure, to meet the pressing demands now on the Treasury. Will it do that ? The Secretary of the Treasury, who eminently qualified to answer this question, says it will. But, then, it is said to be unconstitutional by the gentleman from Pennsylvania; [Mr. Wright] to make Treasury notes a legal tender for the payment of the debts of the Government.---[You have a very interesting standard of values: It was right for the colonial insurgents to rebel against the british government; it was bad for the british government to apply military and terror means to suppress this insurgency; yet, somehow, wrong for the people to resist this new government of America which is pressing on them a lot more so than the british government pressed on the colonies ?!?....]
That the Congress of the United States can exercise only those powers which are delegated by the Constitution, is it proposition not to be controverted; but it is equally true that there are implied as well as express powers, and that the former are as effectually delegated as the latter. Then there are resulting powers under the Constitution. If the United States should obtain the island of Cuba by conquest or treaty, they would have sovereign jurisdiction over the territory. This would be a result of the whole mass of the powers of the Government, and more from the nature of political society than as a consequence of either of the powers specially given in the Constitution.
To make Treasury notes a legal tender is but an exercise of the sovereign power of the nation, and the authority to do so is as clearly given by the implied powers of the Constitution as the express power is given "to coin money and regulate the value thereof." Congress is expressly authorized "to raise and support armies;" "to provide and maintain a navy;" "to provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrections, and repel invasion;" "to provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the militia;" and then "to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof."
The implied powers of the Constitution, it must be conceded, are as completely delegated as those which are expressed; and it follows, as a logical sequence, that the power of Congress to make Treasury notes a legal tender may as well be implied as any other thing, and may as well be employed as a means of carrying into execution any of the specified powers of the Constitution, as any other means whatever. The only question to be decided is, whether the means we propose to employ has a natural relation to any of the acknowledged objects or lawful ends of the Government. Having answered this question in the affirmative, the constitutional power is clearly and distinctly given for the use of these very means for the accomplishment of the desired object. But it is contended by the gentleman from Pennsylvania [Mr. Wright] that none but necessary and proper means can be employed; and none can be necessary but those without which the grant of the power would be nugatory. Such an interpretation of the Constitution would make the case of necessity, which would warrant the exercise of constitutional power, to depend on accident, or casual and temporary circumstances; and this statement of the effect of such a position is a sufficient answer to that construction of the Constitution. It is true, the expedience of exercising a constitutional power, at a given time, must always depend on circumstances, but the right to do so must be uniform and stable. The word necessary in the Constitution means no more than needful, useful, requisite, or conducive to.
We say it is necessary to make Treasury notes a legal tender, and by it we intend to be understood to mean that the interests of the Government and the people require that it should be done. It is just in this sense the word necessary is used in the Constitution. The whole section containing it shows an intent on the part of the makers to give it a liberal latitude for the exercise of specified powers. Congress is--
"To make all laws necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by the Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any department or office thereof."
Restrict the word necessary, as the gentleman from Pennsylvania [Mr. Wright] would have us, and we are compelled to depart, not only from its obvious and popular sense, but to change it so as to give it the force of the words absolutely or indispensably. Such a construction of the Constitution, I need not say, would be its destruction. We are now in the midst of a great national exigency, and one, too, that we must provide for; and one that in the application of the means there must of necessity be great latitude of discretion. Hence the duty and necessity of exercising the powers given us by the Constitution on the principles of liberal construction, in order that all the power of the Government may be exerted as soon as possible for the salvation of the nation. Our powers are not bounded by the measure of necessity in the Constitution, but by the relation between the measures and the end sought to be accomplished. The nature of the means employed towards the execution of a constitutional power, and the object of that power, is the true test of constitutionality. The nation is now in its life or death struggle, and the Constitution authorizes Congress to use all the means necessary to save its life. We must have money to pay our soldiers, without which our Army will have to be disbanded; the Constitution has given us all power to save the country from such a calamity by the issue of Treasury notes; and by making those notes a legal tender we prevent the money sharks from robbing our soldiers of their hard earnings.---[Don't worry about the money sharks, they will rob ye blind, and the grand children of those soldiers will be paying for that war]
But it is said that this question was before the convention that framed the Constitution; and it was decided that paper money should not be made a legal tender. Sir, I deny it; and to show that this was not the case I read from the debates on the formation of the Constitution, (vol. 5, p. 435.)
Mr. Mason said "he was unwilling to tie the hands of the Legislature. He observed that the late war could not have been carried on had such a prohibition existed."
Mr. Butler said "that paper was a legal tender in no country in Europe."
Mr. Mason "was still averse to tying the hands of the Legislature altogether. If there was no example in Europe, as just remarked, it might be observed, on the other side, that there was none in which the Government was restrained on this head." Sir, there the convention left this question, and there is where we find it -- left to the legislative wisdom of Congress.
Sir, it will thus be seen that the convention did not decide against the Government making its paper a legal tender; but did decide to leave that question to the wisdom of Congress, whenever such all exigency might arise as to make it necessary. It was denied in express terms to the States, and permitted in implied terms to Congress.
It being, then, constitutional, is it necessary to make Treasury notes a legal tender ? Sir, by these notes we are enabled to pay our soldiers, and it is the only means we have to pay them. Does not every gentleman know that if those notes are paid to our soldiers without making them a legal tender, they will immediately be sold at a loss to the soldiers of from four to twenty per cent ? This is not conjecture, sir; this very thing was done here only last month; soldiers were shaved by the money-shavers of this District from four to twenty per cent. on the bills they had received from Government. Who are the men who complain of making Treasury notes a legal tender ?---[Yet, none of ye did anything about those money-shavers]
Sir, I do not impugn the motives of our friends who oppose this bill in this House; but it is well known that the money-shavers of the city of New York, and all their friends throughout the country, have brought all the influence within their power to defeat this bill with the legal tender provision.
Sir, our legislation should be, so far as possible, made to benefit the laboring interests of our country, and not for the especial benefit of the moneyed interests. The rich can take care of themselves, but the poor have not the power at all times to do this, and hence the necessity of protecting them by legislation. The brokers and money-dealers will be the only persons who can by any possibility be injured by making Treasury notes a legal tender. We propose to levy a tax on the people of more than one hundred millions of dollars. How are the people to pay their taxes in gold with every bank in our country suspended ? Sir, it cannot be done without the passage of this bill.
Let us do our duty, and meet every measure necessary to supply the means to put down this wicked rebellion, for maintaining the Constitution, and preserving the Government; and above all, sir, let us have faith, and that faith, too, "which is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen;" faith in the President; faith in the Cabinet; faith in our commanding generals; faith in the people; faith in ourselves, that we are equal to this terrible crisis that is upon our country; faith in God that He will give us wisdom and grace sufficient for this our day of trial.
Sir, I will not detain the committee further than to say that I regard the passage of this bill as one of the most important measures that we shall have before us for consideration.