The House having resolved itself into a Committee of the Whole, Mr. NELSON, of Virginia, in the Chair, on that subject, the bill having been read, establishing a National Bank, with a capital of thirty-five millions of dollars
Mr. Calhoun rose to explain his views of a subject so interesting to the Republic, and so necessary to be correctly understood, as that of the bill now before the Committee. He proposed at this time only to discuss general principles, without reference to details. He was aware, he said, that principle and detail might be united, but he should at present keep them distinct. He did not propose to comprehend in this discussion the power of Congress to grant bank charters, nor the question whether the general tendency of banks was favorable or unfavorable to the liberty and prosperity of the country; nor the question whether a National Bank would be favorable to the operations of the Government. To discuss these questions, he conceived, would be an useless consumption of time. The Constitutional question had been already so freely and frequently discussed, that all had made up their mind on it. The question whether banks were favorable to public liberty and prosperity, was one purely speculative. The fact of the existence of banks, and their incorporation with the commercial concerns and industry of the nation, proved that inquiry to come too late. The only question was, on this hand, under what modifications were banks most useful, and whether the United States ought or the bank ought not to exercise power to establish a bank. As to the question a National Bank would be favorable to the administration of the finances of the Government, it was one on which there was so little doubt, that gentlemen would excuse him if he did not enter into it. Leaving all these questions then, Mr. Calhoun said, he proposed to examine the cause and state of the disorders of the national currency, and the question whether it was in the power of Congress, by establishing a National Bank, to remove those disorders. This, he observed, was a question of novelty and vital importance a question which greatly affected the character and prosperity of the country.
As to the state of the currency of the nation, Mr. Calhoun proceeded to remark that it was extremely depreciated, and in degrees varying according to the different sections of the country, all would assent. That this state of the currency was a stain on public and private credit, and injurious to the morals of the community, was so clear a position as to require no proof. There were, however, other considerations arising from the state of the currency not so distinctly felt, nor so generally assented to. The state of our circulating medium was, he said, opposed to the principles of the Federal Constitution. The power was given to Congress by that instrument in express terms to regulate the currency of the United States. In point of fact, he said, that power, though given to Congress, is not in their hands. The power is exercised by banking institutions, no longer responsible for the correctness with which they manage it. Gold and silver have disappeared entirely; there is no money but paper money; and that money is beyond the control of Congress. No one, he said, who referred to the Constitution, could doubt that the money of the United States was intended to be placed entirely under the control of Congress. The only object the framers of the Constitution could have in view in giving to Congress the power "to coin money, regulate the value thereof and of foreign coin," must have been to give a steadiness and fixed value to the currency of the United States. The state of things at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, afforded Mr. Calhoun an argument in support of his construction. There then existed, he said, a depreciated paper currency, which could only be regulated and made uniform by giving a power for that purpose to the General Government. The States could not do it. He argued, therefore, taking into view the prohibition against the States issuing bills of credit, that there was a strong presumption this power was intended to be exclusively given to Congress. Mr. Calhoun acknowledged there was no provision in the Constitution by which States were prohibited from creating the banks which now exercised this power; but, he said, banks were then but little known; there was but one, the Bank of North America, with a capital of only four hundred thousand dollars; and the universal opinion was, that bank notes represented gold and silver, and that there could be no necessity to prohibit banking institutions under this impression, because their notes always represented gold and silver, and they could not be multiplied beyond the demands of the country. Mr. Calhoun drew the distinction between banks of deposite and banks of discount, the latter of which were then but little understood, and their abuse not conceived until demonstrated by recent experience. No man, he remarked, in the Convention, much talent and wisdom as it contained, could possibly have foreseen the course of these institutions; that they would have multiplied from one to two hundred and sixty; from a capital of four hundred thousand dollars to one of eighty millions; from being consistent with the provisions of the Constitution, and the exclusive right of Congress to regulate the currency, that they would be directly opposed to it; that so far from their credit depending on their punctuality in redeeming their bills with specie, they might go on, ad infinitum, in violation of their contract, without a dollar in their vaults. There had, in deed, Mr. Calhoun said, been an extraordinary revolution in the currency of the country. By a sort of under-current, the power of Congress to regulate the money of the country had caved in, and upon its ruin had sprung up those institutions which now exercised the right of making money for and in the United States for gold and silver are not the only money, but whatever is the medium of purchase and sale, in which bank paper alone was now employed, and had, therefore, become the money of the country. A change, great and wonderful, has taken place, said he, which divests you of your rights, and turns you back to the condition of the Revolutionary war, in which every State issued bills of credit, which were made a legal tender and were of various value.
This, then, Mr. Calhoun said, was the evil. We have in lieu of gold and silver a paper medium, unequally but generally depreciated, which affects the trade and industry of the nation; which paralyzes the national arm; which sullies the faith, both public and private, of the United States; a paper no longer resting on gold and silver as its basis. We have indeed laws regulating the currency of foreign coin, but they are under present circumstances a mockery of legislation, because there is no coin in circulation. The right of making money an attribute of sovereign power, a sacred and important right was exercised by two hundred and sixty banks, scattered over every part of the United States, not responsible to any power whatever for their issues of paper. The next and great inquiry was, he said, how this evil was to be remedied. Restore, said he, these institutions to their original use; cause them to give up their usurped power; cause them to return to their legitimate office of places of discount and deposite; let them be no longer mere paper machines; restore the state of things which existed anterior to 1813, which was consistent with the just policy and interests of the country; cause them to fulfil their contracts, to respect their broken faith, resolve that everywhere there shall be an uniform value to the national currency, your Constitutional control will then prevail.
How, then, he proceeded to examine, was the desirable end to be attained ? What difficulties stand in the way ? The reason why the banks could not now comply with their contract was that conduct which in private life frequently produces the same effect. It was owing to the prodigality of their engagements without means to fulfil them; to their issuing more paper than they could possibly redeem with specie. In the United States, according to the best estimation, there was not in the vaults of all the banks more than fifteen millions of specie, with a capital amounting to about eighty-two millions of dollars; hence the cause of the depreciation of bank notes the excess of paper in circulation beyond that of specie in their vaults. This excess was visible to the eye, and almost audible to the ear; so familiar was the fact that this paper was emphatically called trash or rags. According to estimation, also, he said there were in circulation at the same date, within the United States, two hundred millions of dollars of bank notes, credits, and bank paper, in one shape or other. Supposing thirty millions of these to be in possession of the banks themselves, there were perhaps one hundred and seventy millions actually in circulation, or on which the banks draw interest. The proportion between the demand and supply which regulates the price of everything, regulates also the value of this paper. In proportion as the issue is excessive, it depreciates in value; and no wonder, when, since 1810 or 1811, the amount of paper in circulation had increased from eighty or ninety to two hundred millions. Mr. Calhoun here examined the opinion entertained by some gentlemen that bank paper had not depreciated, but that gold and silver had depreciated, a position he denied by arguments founded on the portability of gold and silver which would equalize their value in every part of the United States, and on the facts, that gold and silver coin had increased in quantity instead of diminishing, and that the exchange with Great Britain had been (at gold and silver value) for some time past in favor of the United States. Yet, he said, gold and silver were leaving our shores. In fact, we have degraded the metallic currency; we have treated it with indignity, it leaves us, and seeks an asylum on foreign shores. Let it become the basis of bank transactions, and it will revisit us. Having established, as he conceived, in the course of his remarks, that the excess of paper issues was the true and only cause of depreciation of our paper currency, Mr. Calhoun turned his attention to the manner in which that excess had been produced. It was intimately connected with the suspension of specie payments; they stood as cause and effect; first, the excessive issues caused the suspension of specie payments, and advantage had been taken of that suspension to issue still greater floods of it. The banks had undertaken to do a new business, uncongenial with the nature of such institutions; they under took to make long loans to Government, not as brokers, but as stockholders a practice wholly inconsistent with the system of specie payments. After showing the difference between the ordinary business of a bank in discounts, and the making loans for twelve years, Mr. Calhoun said, indisputably the latter practice was a great and leading cause of the suspension of specie payments. Of this species of property (public stock) the banks in the United States held on the 30th day of September last about eighteen and a half millions, and a nearly equal amount of Treasury notes, besides stock for long loans made to the State governments, amounting, altogether, to within a small amount of forty millions, being a large proportion of their actual capital. This, he said, was the great cause of the suspension of specie payments. Had the banks (he now discussed the question) the capacity to resume specie payment ? If they have the disposition, he said, they may resume specie payments. The banks are not insolvent, he said; they never were more solvent. If so, the term itself implies that, if time be allowed them, they may before long be in a condition to resume payment of specie. If the banks would regularly and consentaneously begin to dispose of their stock, to call in their notes for the Treasury they have, and moderately curtail their private discounts; if they would act in concert in this manner, they might resume specie payments. If they were to withdraw by the sale of a part only of their stock and Treasury notes, twenty-five millions of their notes from circulation, the rest would be depreciated to par, or nearly, and they would still have fifteen millions of stock disposable to send to Europe for specie, &c. With thirty millions of dollars in their banks, and so much of their paper withdrawn from circulation, they would be in a condition to resume payments in specie. The only difficulty, that of producing concert, was one which it belonged to Congress to surmount. The indisposition of the banks, from motives of interest, obviously growing out of the vast profits most of them have lately realized, by which the stockholders have realized from 12 to 20 per cent. on their stock, would be, he showed, the greatest obstacle. What, he asked, was a bank ? An institution, under present uses, to make money. What was the instinct of such an institution ? Gain, gain; nothing but gain; and they would not willingly relinquish their gain from the present state of things, which was profitable to them, acting as they did without restraint, and without hazard. Those who believed that the present state of things would ever cure itself, Mr. Calhoun said, must believe what is impossible; banks must change their nature, lay aside their instinct, before they will aid in doing what it is not their interest to do. By this process of reasoning, he came to the conclusion that it rested with Congress to make them return to specie payments by making it their interest to do so. This introduced the subject of the National Bank.
A National Bank, he said, paying specie itself, would have a tendency to make specie payments general, as well by its influence as by its example. It will be the interest of the National Bank to produce this state of things, because other wise its operations will be greatly circumscribed, as it must pay out specie or National Bank notes; for he presumed one of the first rules of such a bank would be to take the notes of no bank which did not pay in gold and silver. A National Bank of thirty-five millions, with the aid of those banks which are at once ready to pay specie, would produce a powerful effect all over the Union. Further, a National Bank would enable the Government to resort to measures which would make it unprofitable to banks to continue the violation of their contracts, and advantageous to return to the observation of them. The leading measures of this character would be to strip the banks refusing to pay specie of all the profits arising from the business of the Government, to prohibit deposites with them, and to refuse to receive their notes in payment of dues to the Government. How far such measures would be efficacious in producing a return to specie payments, he was unable to say; but it was as far as he would be willing to go at the present session. If they persisted in refusing to resume payments in specie, Congress must resort to measures of a deeper tone; which they had in their power.
The restoration of specie payments, Mr. Calhoun argued, would remove the embarrassments on the industry of the country, and the stains from its public and private faith. It remained to see whether this House, without whose aid it was in vain to expect success in this object, would have the fortitude to apply the remedy. If this was not the proper remedy, he hoped it would be shown by the proposition of a proper substitute, and not opposed by vague and general declamation against banks. The disease, he said, was deep; it affected public opinion, and whatever affects public opinion touches the vitals of the Government. Hereafter, he said, Congress would never stand in the same relation to this measure in which they now did. The disease arose in time of war; the war had subsided, but left the disease, which it was now in the power of Congress to eradicate; but, if they did not now exercise the power, they would become abettors of a state of things which was of vital consequence to public morality, as he showed by various illustrations. He called upon the House, as guardians of the public weal, of the health of the body politic which depended on the public morals, to interpose against a state of things which was inconsistent with either. He appealed to the House, too, as the guardians of public faith and private faith. In what manner, he asked, were the public contracts fulfilled ? In gold and silver, in which the Government had stipulated to pay ? No; in paper issued by these institutions; in paper greatly depreciated; in paper depreciated from five to twenty per cent. below the currency in which the Government had contracted to pay, &c. He added another argument: the inequality of taxation in consequence of the state of the circulating medium, which, notwithstanding the taxes were paid with strict regard to the Constitutional provision for their equality, made the people in one section of the Union pay perhaps one-fifth more of the same tax than those in another. The Constitution having given Congress the power to remedy these evils, they were, he contended, deeply responsible for their continuance.
The evil he desired to remedy, Mr. Calhoun said, was a deep one; almost incurable, because connected with public opinion, over which banks have a great control; they have, in a great measure, a control over the press. For proof of which, he referred to the fact that the present wretched state of the circulating medium had scarcely been denounced by a single paper within the United States. The derangement of a circulating medium, he said, was a joint thrown out of its socket; let it remain for a short time in that state, and the sinews will be so knit that it cannot be replaced; apply the remedy soon, and it is an operation easy, though painful. The evil grows, whilst the resistance to it becomes weak; and, unless checked at once, will become irresistible. Mr. Calhoun concluded by observing, that he could have said much more on this important subject, but he knew how difficult it was to gain the attention of the House to long addresses.
Mr. Randolph, in explaining an allusion which Mr. Calhoun had made to a remark of his on a former occasion, said that he had listened to the honorable gentleman with pleasure; he was glad to see a cause so important in hands so able. He promised the honorable gentleman, though he might not agree in his mode of remedying the evil, he would go with him in the application of any adequate remedy to an evil which he regarded as most enormous.
Mr. WARD, of Massachusetts, acknowledged the correctness of the representation of the existing evil, for which he appeared to think the remedy was near at hand and, more simple in its application than the establishment of a National Bank, viz: by refusing to receive the notes of those banks, which do not pay specie, in dues to the Government. But for an alliance which he considered disgraceful to the country and unjust to individuals, between the Secretary of the Treasury and the banks which refused to pay specie, the evil never would have existed. If Congress adopted the measure which he (Mr. Ward) proposed, those banks must go down and public credit rise. Why not resort at first to the obvious expedient, and then proceed to the consideration of the less urgent question of establishing a National Bank ? The banks, who it was now agreed had engaged in a business for which they were not calculated, having received a sufficient bonus for the loans they made to Government, and made handsome profits by it, had no claim on Government to protect them in their refusal to pay specie. Mr. Ward rose not to propose any amendment to the bill, but to express his entire coincidence in the gentleman's opinion that a great evil exists, which Congress had the power to remedy; and, if the remedy were not immediately applied, on them would be the responsibility and the blame.
Mr. SERGEANT moved to amend the first section of the bill by striking out the words "thirty-five," and inserting "twenty," as the amount of the capital of the bank. He did not intend, he said, to go into a general consideration of the principle of the bill, or of the motion now submitted by him. He made the motion on the ground of the facts and arguments just delivered by the gentleman from South Carolina, (Mr. Calhoun.) From the quantity of paper stated to be in circulation, he thought the calculation fair that the amount proposed to be added to the existing bank capital was larger than necessary, and entered into some calculations to support the propriety of his motion.
Mr. Calhoun hoped the motion would not prevail, and replied briefly to the calculations of Mr. SERGEANT. The necessity of a larger capital consisted, he said, in the important functions to be performed by the National Bank. The desirable point was to fix the capital so large as to prevent undue profit, and so as to prevent a loss to the stockholders. Perhaps a bank of twenty millions might afford a fair profit, but the great business it would have to perform made a larger capital necessary.
Mr. Pitkin supported the motion to reduce the capital. He thought the banking capital of the country already too great, and offered a few calculations to prove the position. In 1805, 1806, and 1807, said he, when the commerce of the country was very great, our banking capital did not exceed fifty or sixty millions; and yet, in those times, no complaint was heard of the deficiency of capital. If not more than that amount was wanted, then, is it possible that one hundred and thirty or one hundred and forty millions can be necessary at this time ? Mr. Pitkin declared himself in favor of a National Bank, if it could be established on good principles, such as would restore the old state of things when bank notes were paid with specie. If, however, the bill passed with its present capital, it would in his opinion increase the evil instead of proving a remedy. Such a capital was not necessary, either, for the purposes wanted. As to loans, no bank could make long loans without stopping the payment of specie and destroying the circulating medium; and to support the assertion, he quoted the fate of various banks in Europe. A large capital for that purpose, therefore, was unnecessary. Loans, he said, must be made by individuals; it cannot be done by banks, without ruin; and a large capital was not necessary, therefore, to enable the Government to obtain from the bank all the aid it could or ought properly to receive. Nor would a large capital, he said, restore the old state of things that must be done by the co-operation of the large banks in the cities; the specie has got into those banks, and there it will remain until they resume the payment of it. Mr. Pitkin said, likewise he was unwilling to place fifty millions of money in the hands of any set of men in this country. They would use it oppressively; the old Bank of the United States had done so, and so would this. Such a power would enable them to wield the destinies of this nation. For this strong reason, Mr. Pitkin said, as well as the others he had stated, he was in favor of reducing the capital; and, to allow more time to reflect on this important feature of the bill, he moved that the Committee rise.
After a few remarks by Mr. Calhoun, on what had fallen from Mr. Pitkin, the Committee rose, reported progress, and obtained leave to sit again.
Mr. Webster first addressed the House. He regretted the manner in which this debate had been commenced, on a detached feature of the bill, and not a question affecting the principle; and expressed his fears that a week or two would be lost in the discussion of this question, to no purpose, inasmuch as it might ultimately end in the rejection of the bill. He proceeded to reply to the arguments of the advocates of the bill. It was a mistaken idea, he said, which he had heard uttered on this subject, that we were about to reform the national currency. No nation had a better currency, he said, than the United States. There was no nation which had guarded its currency with more care; for the framers of the constitution, and those who enacted the early statutes on this subject, were hard-money men; they had felt, and therefore duly appreciated the evils of a paper medium; they, therefore, sedulously guarded the currency of the United States from debasement. The legal currency of the United States was gold and silver coin; this was a subject in regard to which Congress had run into no folly.
What, then, he asked, was the present evil ? Having a perfectly sound national currency, and the Government having no power in fact to make any thing else current but gold and silver, there had grown up in different States a currency of paper issued by banks, setting out with the promise to pay gold and silver, which they had been wholly unable to redeem: the consequence was, that there was a mass of paper afloat, of perhaps fifty millions, which sustained no immediate relation to the legal currency of the country --a paper which will not enable any man to pay money he owes to his neighbor, or his debts to the Government. The banks had issued more money than they could redeem, and the evil was severely felt, &c.
Mr. Webster declined occupying the time of the House to prove that there was a depreciation of the paper in circulation: the legal standard of value was gold and silver: the relation of paper to it proved its state, and the rate of its depreciation. Gold and silver currency, he said, was the law of the land at home, and the law of the world abroad; there could, in the present state of the world, be no other currency.
In consequence of the immense paper issues having banished specie from circulation, the Government had been obliged, in direct violation of existing statutes, to receive the amount of their taxes in something which was not recognized by law as the money of the country, and which was, in fact, greatly depreciated, &c. This was the evil.
As to the conduct of the banks, Mr. Webster said he would not examine whether the great advances they had made to the Government, during the war, were right or wrong in them, or whether it was right or wrong in the Government to accept them: but, since the peace, he contended, their conduct had been wholly unjustifiable, as also had that of the Treasury in relation to them. It had been supposed the banks would have immediately sold out the stocks, with which they had no business, and have fulfilled their engagements; but public expectation had in this respect been disappointed. When this happened, Mr. Webster continued, the Government ought, by the use of the means in its power, to have compelled the banks to return to their specie payments. In his opinion, Mr. Webster said, any remedy now to be applied to this evil, must be applied to the depreciated mass of paper itself; it must be some measure which would give heat and life to this mortified mass of the body politic. The evil was not to be remedied by introducing a new paper circulation; there could be no such thing, he showed by a variety of illustrations, as two media in circulation, the one credited and the other discredited. All bank paper, he argued, derives its credit solely from its relation to gold and silver; and there was no remedy for the state of depreciation of the paper currency but the resumption of specie payments. If all the property of the United States was pledged for the redemption of these thirty millions of paper, it would not thereby be brought up to par; or, if it did, that would happen which had never yet happened in any other country. An issue of Treasury notes, he added, would have no better effect than the establishment of a new bank paper. He illustrated this general position by referring to a period anterior to the time of the reformation of the coin of England, when the existing coin had been much debased by clipping, &c. which had created much alarm. An attempt had been made to correct the currency thus vitiated, by throwing a quantity of sound coin into circulation with the debased; the result was, that the sound coin disappeared, was hoarded up, because more valuable than that of the same nominal value which was in general circulation, &c.
The establishment of a national bank not being in his opinion the proper remedy, he proceeded to examine what was. The solvency of the banks was not questioned: there could be no doubt, he said, if the banks would unite in the object, they might in three weeks resume the payment of specie, and render the adoption of any measure by this House wholly unnecessary. The banks, he said, were making extravagant profits out of the present state of things, which ought to be curtailed. He referred, for illustration of this point, to the state of the Bank of Pennsylvania, as exhibited in the return to the Legislature of that State, which, with a capital of 2,500,000 dollars, had done a discount business of 4,133,000 dollars, at the same time that it held 1,811,000 dollars of the United States stock so that, without taking into account a mass of Treasury notes, real estate, &c. that bank was receiving interest on six and a half millions, nearly three times the amount of its capital. This he considered an extraordinary fact. That bank had been pronounced by the Legislature to be in "a flourishing state"; it was so to the stockholders in the bank, he doubted not; but how was it to those who were affected by the depreciation of it to the man who comes into an office for life, and relinquishes all his prospects and profits for a fixed salary, not to be diminished during his continuance in office, to the poor pensioner, whose wounds, received in his country's service, are yet bleeding ?
These banks not emanating from Congress, what engine were Congress to use for remedying the existing evil ? Their only legitimate power, he said, was to interdict the paper of such banks as do not pay specie, from being received at the custom house. With a receipt of forty millions a year, Mr. Webster said, if the Government was faithful to itself and to the interests of the people, they could control the evil; it was their duty to make the effort. They should have made it long ago, and they ought now to make it. The evil grows every day worse by indulgence. If Congress did not now make a stand, and stop the current whilst they might, would they, when the current grew stronger and stronger, hereafter do it ? If this Congress should adjourn without attempting a remedy, he said, it would desert its duty.
If this bank were calculated to do good at all, Mr. Webster contended, it was only as an agent of the revenue officers of the Government. As a bank established for ordinary banking purposes, what would be its operation ? If this were to be a specie bank, it would go into operation at Philadelphia; would promise but little, but would perform all its promises: independent of its connexion with the Government, it would not be able to get its notes into circulation, nobody would borrow of it; it would operate merely as a bank of deposite. All its transactions would be confined to the negotiation of paper for merchants, to enable them to anticipate for a short time so much of their income as was necessary to pay their bonds for duties on importations; and so far, but no farther, it would have a positive good operation. But, as a measure to supply a remedy for the disorders of our currency, Mr. Webster argued, this bank would be of no efficacy; because, if he were not mistaken in his views, its bills would have but a very limited circulation.
As to the evil of the present state of things, Mr. Webster admitted it in its fullest extent. If he was not mistaken, there were some millions in the Treasury, of paper, which were nearly worthless and were now wholly useless to the Government, by which an actual loss of considerable amount must certainly be sustained by the treasury. This was an evil which, he said, ought to be met at once; because it would grow greater by indulgence. In the end, the taxes must be paid in the legal money of the country; and the sooner that was brought about the better. Such was the operation of the present state of the circulating medium, he proceeded to show, that the duties laid by the United States were at a rate of ten per cent. higher in Boston than in Baltimore, and in Baltimore higher than in Washington, &c. If Congress were to pass forty statutes on the subject, he said, they would not make the law more conclusive than it now was, that nothing should be received in payment of duties to the Government but specie; and yet, no regard was paid to the imperative injunctions of the law in this respect. The whole strength of the Government, he was of opinion, ought to be put forth to compel the payment of the duties and taxes to the Government in the legal currency of the country.
In regard to the plan of this proposed bank, Mr. Webster said, he would consent to no bank which, to all intents and purposes, was not a specie bank; and in that view he was in favor of the proposed amendment. He expressed some alarm at the stock feature of the bank, which would enable and might induce the existing bank corporations to come forward and take up the whole stock of this national bank. He should be glad to see a bank established, he observed, in the course of his remarks on this point, which would command the solid capital of the country. There were men, he said, of wealth and standing, who would embark their funds in a bank constituted on commercial specie principles, but who would not associate in such an institution with the stock-holders in the country, any more than a good currency would associate with a bad one. A national bank, he said, ought to be regarded, not as the power to rectify the present state of the currency, but as a means to aid the Government in the exercise of its power in this respect. He concluded his remarks by saying that the power of the Government must be exercised in some way, and that speedily, or evils would result, the extent of which he would not attempt to describe.
Mr. WARD, of Massachusetts, moved that the House proceed to consider the resolutions submitted by him some days ago, in the following words:
Resolved, That all duties, imposts, and excises, laid by Congress, ought not only to be laid uniformly through out the United States, agreeably to the provision in the Constitution, but ought to be collected in all parts of the United States in the same currency, or in currencies equivalent in value.
Resolved, That the Secretary of the Treasury be instructed to receive alone in payment of duties, imposts, excises, and debts, due to the United States, gold, silver, and copper coin, Treasury notes, and the notes of such banks as pay specie for their bills, excepting in cases in which it is otherwise provided by law.
And, on the question of consideration, he demanded the yeas and nays. The House agreed to consider the resolutions yeas 52, nays 49: and the question being stated on adopting the resolutions
Mr. Calhoun moved to refer the resolutions to the Committee on the National Currency, which, he said, already had the subject under consideration. This motion was opposed by Mr. WARD at some length, who thought the resolution spoke for itself, and could be decided on by the House without the aid of a committee; that the reference would also be productive of delay; in regard to measures which he regarded as of great urgency, as well as of necessity.
Mr. Wright supported the reference, and replied briefly to the remarks of Mr. WARD. After some further discussion, the resolutions were referred as moved by Mr. Calhoun ayes 62, nays 49.
The National Bank.
The House then again resolved itself into a Committee of the Whole on the National Bank. On motion of Mr. Cady, with the assent of Mr. Calhoun, the bill was amended by striking out so much thereof as gives to Congress the privilege, hereafter, of extending the capital of the bank from thirty-five to fifty millions. Mr. Cady moved to amend the bill by striking out so much thereof as authorizes a subscription by the Government of seven millions to the capital stock of the bank, and supported his motion by a number of observations. He contended that no advantage would accrue to the United States from the possession of this interest in the Bank. The money to pay for this stock, he said, would cost the United States more than any profit they could derive from it that is, by the expense attending its collection, all the funds of the Government accruing sooner or later from taxation on the people; and would, besides, render necessary the imposition of additional taxes to meet it. It would be like an individual's taking up money at 18 per cent. (which he estimated as the cost of collection, &c.) to put into this bank. The seven millions of money, he added, would contribute more to the wealth and improvement of the country would produce in the end a better interest to the United States, by suffering it to remain in the hands of the people than it could possibly do by being invested in the stock of this bank. But it had been intimated that a stock might be created, bearing 5 or 6 per cent. interest, for the purpose of paying the proportion of the United States' subscription to the bank, the bank interest on which would redeem it in time. Though this idea was plausible, Mr. Cady argued it was not solid. The United States must ultimately pay the stock; and as to the income or profit to the Government from the bank, it would be much more simple to compel it to pay such a sum annually to the Treasury, without the circuitous process of taking stock in it, &c. He suggested other modes by which the bank could be made to contribute to the general wealth, without the Government's becoming a stockholder, &c.
Mr. Calhoun opposed the motion, so decidedly, that he said he should consider the success of it as tantamount to a decision to strike out the first section of the bill. He showed by his statement of the operation of vesting this stock in the bank (which by the bill is to be done in certain annual proportions) that there would be a clear gain to the Government of at least 2 per cent. per annum being the difference between the interest the Government pays on the stock and the interest it would receive on its bank shares.
Mr. RANDOLPH supported the motion, and availed himself of the occasion of his rising to enter largely into the subject, in a speech of considerable length. His general views follow: He said he should vote for this motion, because one of his chief objections one of them, he repeated was the concern which it was proposed to give to the United States in this bank. He referred to the sale by the Secretary of the Treasury, some years ago, of the shares belonging to the Bank of the United States, and stated the reasons of his approving that step; but, he added, that it was a strong argument against the feature of the bank bill, now under discussion, that, whenever there should be in this country a necessitous and profligate administration of the Government, that bank stock would be laid hold of by the first Squanderfield at the head of the Treasury, as the means of filling its empty coffers. But, if there was no objection to this feature stronger than that it would afford provision for the first rainy day, it might not be considered so very important. He argued, however, that it was eternally true, that nothing but the precious metals, or paper bottomed on them, could answer as the currency of any nation or any age, notwithstanding the fanciful theories that great payments could only be made by credits and paper. How, he asked, on this point, were the mighty armies of the ancient world paid off ? Certainly not in paper or bank credits. He expressed his fears lest gentlemen had got some of their ideas on these subjects from the wretched pamphlets under which the British and American press had groaned on the subject of a circulating medium. He said he had himself once turned projector, and sketched the plan of a bank, of which it was a feature that the Government should have a concern [in] it; but he became convinced of the fallacy of his views; he found his project would not answer. His objection to the agency of the Government in a bank was therefore, he said, of no recent date, but one long since formed. The objection was vital; that it would be an engine of irresistible power in the hands of any Administration; that it would be in politics and finance what the celebrated proposition of Archimedes was in physics a place, the fulcrum from which, at the will of the Executive, the whole nation could be hurled to destruction, or managed in any way, at his will and discretion.
This bill, in the view of Mr. Randolph, presented two distinct questions: the one frigidly and rigorously a mere matter of calculation; the other, involving some very important political considerations. In regard to the present depreciation of paper, he did not appear to agree with those who thought the establishment of the National Bank would not aid in the reformation of it. If he were to go into the causes which produced the present state of things, he said, he should never end. As to the share the banks themselves had in producing it, he regarded the dividends they had made, since its commencement, as conclusive proof. The present time, Mr. Randolph went on to remark, was in his view one of the most disastrous he had ever witnessed in the Republic, and this bill proved it. The proposal to establish this great bank he described as a crutch, and, as far as he understood it, it was a broken one: it would tend, instead of remedying the evil, to aggravate it. The evil of the times, he said, was a spirit engendered in this Republic, fatal to Republican principles, fatal to Republican virtue; a spirit to live by any means but those of honest industry; a spirit of profusion in other words, the spirit of Catiline himself, alieni avidus, sui profusus a spirit of expediency, not only in public but private life; the system of Diddler in the farce, living any way and well wearing an expensive coat, and drinking the finest wines, at anybody's expense. This bank, he imagined (he was far from ascribing to the gentleman from South Carolina any such views) was to a certain extent a modification of the same system. Connected, as it was to be, with the Government, whenever it went into operation, a scene would be exhibited on the great theatre of the United States, at the contemplation of which he shuddered. If we mean to transmit our institutions unimpaired to posterity, if some now living wish to continue to live under the same institutions by which they are now ruled and, with all its evils, real or imaginary, he presumed no man would question that we live under the easiest Government on the globe we must put bounds to the spirit which seeks wealth by every path but the plain and regular path of honest industry and honest fame. This was one of the grounds on which he was hostile to this bill.
Alluding to Mr. Webster's observation respecting the laws fixing the currency of the United States, he said, it was very true they were clear and peremptory in their provisions. If the existing laws did not compel men to pay their debts, the establishment of a bank would not. Let us not disguise the fact, said he, pursuing his remarks on what he described as the evil of the times; we think we are living in the better times of the Republic, we deceive ourselves; we are almost in the days of Sylla and Marius; yes, we have almost got down to the time of Jugurtha. It was unpleasant, he said, to put one's self in array against a great leading interest in a community, be they a knot of land speculators, paper jobbers, or what not; but, he said, every man you meet in this House or out of it, with some rare exceptions, which only served to prove the rule, was either a stockholder, president, cashier, clerk, or doorkeeper, runner, engraver, paper-maker, or mechanic in some other way to a bank. The gentleman from Pennsylvania, he said, might dismiss his fears for the State banks, with their one hundred and seventy millions of paper on eighty-two millions of capital. However great the evil of their conduct might be, he asked, in the course of his illustrations, who was to bell the cat who was to take the bull by the horns ? You might as well attack Gibraltar with a pocket pistol as to attempt to punish them. There were very few, he said, who dared to speak truth to this mammoth; the banks were so linked together with the business of the world, that there were very few men exempt from their influence. The true secret is, said he, the banks are creditors as well as debtors; and if we were merely debtors to them for the paper in our pockets, they would soon, like Morris and Nicholson, go to jail (figuratively speaking) for having issued more paper than they were able to pay when presented to them. A man had their note, he said, for fifty dollars perhaps in his pocket, for which he wants fifty Spanish milled dollars; but they have his note for five thousand in their possession, and laugh at his demand. We are tied hand and foot, Mr. Randolph said, and bound to conciliate this great mammoth, which is set up to worship in this Christian land we are bound to propitiate it, &c. Thus, he said, whilst our Government denounces hierarchy, will permit no privileged order for conducting the service of the only true God, whilst it denounces nobility, &c., has a privileged order of new men grown up, the pressure of whose foot he at this moment felt on his neck. If anything could reconcile him to this monstrous alliance between the bank and the Government, he could, if the object could be attained of compelling these banks to fulfil their engagements, almost find in his heart to go with the gentleman in voting for it.
Mr. Randolph proceeded to a minute examination of the state of the paper currency, and its various phases, recently and in earlier times. The stuff uttered on all hands, and absolutely got by rote by the haberdashers' boys behind the counters in the shops, that the paper now in circulation would buy anything you want as well as gold and silver, was answered, he said, by saying, that you want to buy silver with it. He examined, in detail, the present mode of banking, which, he said, goes to demoralize society; it was as much swindling to issue notes with intent not to pay, as it was burglary to break open a house. If they were unable to pay, the banks were bankrupts; if able to pay, and would not, they were fraudulent bankrupts, &c. But, he said, a man might as well go to Constantinople to preach Christianity, as to get up here and preach against banks. He despaired, he said, almost, of remedying the evil they cause, when he saw so many men of respectability directors, stockholders, debtors of the banks. To pass this bill, he said, would be like getting rid of the rats by setting fire to the house; whether any other remedy could be devised, he did not now undertake to pronounce. The banks, he said, had lost all shame, and exemplified a beautiful and very just observation of one of the finest writers, that men banded together in a common cause, will collectively do that at which every individual of the combination would spurn. This observation had been applied to the enormities committed and connived at by the British East India Company, and would equally apply to the modern system of banking; but still more to the spirit of party, &c., on which Mr. Randolph digressed at some length.
He then resumed the consideration of the history of bank paper in this country, and stated the fact that, not many years ago, the New England paper had been at almost as great a discount here, as the paper of this part of the country now was there; and that even in New England the notes of some of the banks were not current within their own States, except at a discount. As to establishing this bank to prevent a variation in the rate of exchange of bank paper, he said, you might as well expect to prevent a variation of the wind; you might, said he, as well pass an act of Congress (for which, if it would be of any effect, he should certainly vote) to prevent the northwest wind from blowing in our teeth as we go from the House to our lodgings. After a minute discussion of the causes and rates of the difference of exchange in the paper of various banks, Mr. Randolph concluded his remarks by pledging himself to agree to any adequate means to cure the great evil, that were consistent with the administration of the Government, in such a manner as to conduce to the happiness of the people: and the reformation of the public morals.
Mr. WARD defended the Massachusetts banking institutions from imputations, which he thought a part of Mr. Randolph's remarks on the currency calculated to cast on their correct management.
Mr. SMITH, of Maryland, then rose, and addressed the House at considerable length in opposition to the motion before the House, and in reply to Mr. CADY, Mr. Randolph, and other gentlemen. He explained, by ample illustrations, the preference which a note of the National Bank .....
Wednesday, March 6, 1816.
Mr. Randolph moved to add the word native in the clause which limits the choice of directors to citizens of the United States; which motion was agreed to without debate ayes 68.
Mr. Jewett moved that the word native be inserted also in the clause [to restrict appointment of directors of the Branch Banks to citizens of the United States], so as to limit the appointment to native citizens.
Mr. RANDOLPH said it was indisputably true that it was to our system of naturalization laws the United States owed that spirit of faction by which they had been torn for the last twenty years, and along with it the war out of which the country had just emerged. He spoke from the information of statesmen inferior to none in this or any other country, that the system of granting protections to foreign seamen was one of the chief causes of the war with Great Britain, which system had grown out of our naturalization laws.
Much had been said, and he dared to say much more would be now said, and much more be written on this subject, for it was a melancholy truth, that the press was in the hands of those very people who had long taken upon them to dictate to the American people, and to tell them who ought to be their President, who their Vice President, and who their Representatives, and to direct them in their most essential concerns.
He was aware, therefore, that the press would be at work, and that much would be said and much printed about what he was now saying; but that had no terror for him. How long the country would endure this foreign yoke, in its most odious and disgusting form, he could not tell; but this he would say, that if we were to be dictated to, and ruled by foreigners, he would much rather be ruled by a British Parliament than by British subjects here. Should he be told that those men fought in the war of the Revolution, he would answer that those who did so were not included by him in the class he adverted to. That was a civil war, and they and we were, at its commencement, alike British subjects. Native Britons, therefore, then taking arms on our side, gave them the same rights as those who were born in this country, and his motion could be easily modified so as to provide for any that might be of that description; but no such modification, he was sure, would be found necessary, for this plain reason.
Where were the soldiers of the Revolution who were not natives ? They were either already retired, or else retiring to that great reckoning where discounts were not allowed. If the honorable gentleman would point his finger to any such kind of person now living, he would agree to his being made an exception to the amendment.
It was time. Mr. Randolph said, that the American people should have a character of their own; and where would they find it ? In New England and in Virginia only, because they were a homogeneous race a peculiar people. They never yet appointed foreigners to sit in that House for them, or to fill their high offices. In both States this was their policy; it was not found in, nor was it owing to, their paper constitutions; but what was better, it was interwoven in the frame of their thoughts, and sentiments, in their steady habits, in their principles from the cradle a much more solid security than could be found in any abracadabra, which constitution mongers could scrawl upon paper.
It might be indiscreet in him to say it, for, to say the truth, he had as little of that rascally virtue prudence,*** he apprehended, as any man, and could as little conceal what he felt as affect what he did not feel. He know it was not the way for him to conciliate the manufacturing body, yet he would say that he wished, with all his heart, that his bootmaker, his hatter, and other manufacturers, would rather stay in Great Britain, under their own laws, than come here to make laws for us, and leave it to us to import our covering. We must have our clothing home made, said he, but I would much rather have my workmen home-made, and import my clothing. Was it best, he demanded, to have our own unpolluted Republic peopled with its own pure native Republicans, or erect another Sheffield, an other Manchester, and another Birmingbam, upon the banks of the Schuylkill, the Delaware, and the Brandywine, or have a host of Luddites amongst us, wretches from whom every vestige of the human creation seemed to be effaced ?
Would they wish to have their elections on that floor decided by a rabble ? What, he asked, was the cause of the ruin of old Rome ? Why, their opening their gates and letting in the rabble of the whole world to be her legislators. If, said he, you wish to preserve among your fellow-citizens that exalted sense of freedom which gave birth to the Revolution if you wish to keep alive among them the spirit of '76 you must endeavor to stop this flood of foreign emigration.
You must teach the people of Europe that if they do come here, all they must hope to receive is protection; but that they must have no share in our Government. From such men a temporary party may receive precarious aid, but the country cannot be safe, nor the people happy, where they are introduced into Government, or meddle with public concerns in any great degree.
Let them then take away their spinning jennies let them carry off their principles and their machinery back again to Europe, and leave our Republic to its repose. I dread those men; I have a horror, a loathing of a paper machine, and a manufacturing aristocracy; I would protect commerce, but I dislike and contemn manufacturing. Can you be defended by a rabble of manufacturers ? No, you cannot depend upon them; they would leave you to be sacked. It would be as rational for any man who really valued his country, to bring in a bill for the encouragement of a breed of wolves. I never see a merino sheep without its occurring to me that we are about to be the tributaries of the most timid, weak, inefficient animal on the face of the earth.
Among our home manufactures, I wish gentlemen would attend to that of human bodies, and not keep foreigners for the purpose of making their clothing at home, when they could import to so much more advantage from abroad. This, he said, was a favorable time to make a stand and against this evil, and if not this session, he hoped that in the next there would be a revisal of the naturalization laws.
He was not partial to the French, but if we were to have emigrants, he wished them to be of that people. Not the birds of Newgate or Kilmainham, nor the rabble of British manufacturing towns. He preferred the French, because they would be a distinct people among us and not as the subjects of Great Britain, who, from the similarity of their language and manners, identified themselves at once with our people, and brought their principles into our councils.
The question was loudly called for during the latter part of the sitting; and, being taken at a late hour, the vote on the passage of the bill was yeas 80, nays 71, as follows:
Mr. Wells rose and addressed the Chair, as follows:[William Hill Wells (January 7, 1769 - March 11, 1829) Delaware, Federalist; studied law, admitted to the Bar]
Mr. President, the Senate having gone through the different amendments which have been before them, and it not being probable that there are many more, if any other, intended to be brought forward, the proper period for submitting a proposition, which will fairly bring into notice the general views of this subject, has, perhaps, now arrived. In support, then, of the proposition of postponement, to the first Monday in December next, of the further consideration of this bill, which I purpose to move you, I beg the indulgence of the Senate, while I endeavor to show, first, that it transcends the Constitutional power of Congress to pass a bill containing the provisions which this does; secondly, the inexpediency of enacting such a law as this, even if we possess the Constitutional power to do it; and thirdly, that our true policy is to avoid, at this time, legislating upon the subject to pass no law, at the present session, incorporating a banking company.
That which has heretofore been the occasion of so much heated controversy, was simply a question relating to the existence or non-existence of a power in Congress to incorporate a company for establishing a bank. That question is now at rest, nor do I propose to disturb it. The sole inquiry we now have to make is, as to the true character and just extent of this authority, that we may not, in the exercise of it, carry it beyond its proper limits.
The power that is granted is a power to establish a bank for a particular end, and, of course, constitutes only a part of the general power, in relation to the establishment of banks that previously existed in the States. For this reason it is a power of a minor character to that of the States, and is to be exercised always with a steady and distinct view to the end for which it is created. So far as it goes, it is a lawful power, and has a right to pursue its prescribed course. It may keep company with the State authority, but has no right to quarrel and slay its companion on the road. Every application, then, of this power, by the United States, which has a tendency to embarrass or impair the free exercise of the power reserved to the States, is unwarranted, and if done by us with a view to such a purpose, is the affair of arrogance and usurpation.
This is not a primary, expressed, original power. In vain, as such, do we seek for it in the Constitution. It is only a secondary, an implied, derivative power, if such maybe properly termed the means of executing an expressly delegated power. Here it may fairly be asked, Why was this power left to implication ? Did it escape notice ? Was it overlooked ? Was it too unimportant for enumeration ? Every view of this subject, and every relation in which it can be placed, to the other authorities, affords an inference not easily resisted, that a grant of this power was not intended to be applied. If, the express grant of such a power was moved, the silence of the Constitution, as to that power, proves that it must have been rejected. I understand that it was moved in that body, and was rejected. If this was actually the case, (as I am persuaded it was,) it certainly requires the utmost effort of ingenuity to prove that this power was left to implication, in order that the subordinacy of its character might be the more clearly established, and the arrogance of its pretensions the more easily repressed. This is all, if it be not a great deal more than any fair mode of interpreting the Constitution, as we have it, will warrant.
We cannot, for a moment, suppose that the great men, who formed this frame of government, were unacquainted with, or unmindful of, the imposing character of this power, or of its history here or abroad. Did they not know that a proposition to incorporate a banking company, by the old Congress, had been, by that body, rejected ? And furthermore, could those grave and learned men [have] been unaware (if they intended this power to be inferred as a means of executing another power) of the arduous, perhaps I might be permitted to say, the odious character of the task they devolved upon implication ? Did not that enlightened body know that grants of specially enumerated authorities would not warrant the exercise of a power as a means for carrying into effect another power, where the means itself is, in character and importance, entitled to rank with some one of the enumerated authorities ? That such is the real character of the means in question, in relation to some of those authorities, even limited and circumscribed as it may be, I am obliged to admit there is too much reason for insisting. That I have a doubt, therefore, on my mind, on this point, I am free to confess. It is possible, perhaps it is probable, if, the vote I am to give upon this bill demanded of me, in respect to that difficulty, a decision, that further deliberation, aided by the authorities which, I am told, support the opposite opinion, might remove that doubt.
Sir, I confidently rely upon the cheerfulness with which honorable gentlemen who have heretofore so strenuously denied the existence of the power in question in this Government, will accompany me in the inquiry respecting the extent of this power. It is agreed, on all hands, to be (not an original, substantive, but) a derivative, incidental power. What, then, is the specially enumerated power to which it is incident, as one of the "necessary and proper" means for its execution ?
Is it an incident to the power to "promote the general welfare ?" The capacious character of this provision, if it is to be viewed simply as a grant of power, would render the subsequent enumeration of special powers a matter of supererogation. The terms "general welfare," when used in the Constitution, can only be considered as having themselves reference to one of the great objects for the promotion of which this Government was established, and for the accomplishment of which the special powers, contained in the Constitution, have been delegated.
Is this authority to establish a bank an incident to the power of Congress "to borrow money on the credit of the United States," by reason of its correlative tendency in procuring a faculty to lend ? If this be the source from which it is lawfully derived, we need look no further for the origin of this or of any other authority. If this be its fountain-head, we have here a never-failing spring of power, abundantly sufficient for all the purposes, lawful or unlawful, of this or of any other Government upon earth. I turn away from it, therefore, without further investigation.
Is this power derived from that of coining money, regulating its value and that of foreign coin ? Is the right to establish a National Bank, on account of its tendency in our hands to operate upon what is called the currency of the country, derived from this or any other specially delegated authority ? There are two provisions in the Constitution which have some bearing upon this point. That to which I have just referred respecting coin, and that which prohibits the States the issue of "bills of credit, and the declaring of anything but gold and silver a lawful tender in the payment of debts." It cannot be necessary to argue that a power to make a bank distinctly with a view to its putting into circulation promissory notes that shall have the faculty of mixing and keeping company with the currency of the country, and of becoming something like paper money, is not a necessary and proper auxiliary to the power in this Government of making a metallic medium; that a power, in short, to make a metallic money has not incident to it, as a "necessary and proper" means for its execution, the power to make a paper money. Nor need any time be spent in resisting an inference, drawn from a restraint imposed upon a particular power in the State governments, which affects to communicate to, and to set up in, this Government a faculty co-ordinate with another power, which is left in those governments, free and unshackled. So far, then, as honorable gentlemen say this measure is intended or calculated, whether with a view to regulation or improvement, or under any other pretence, to operate upon what is called the national currency; or, in other words, to restrain the States from establishing similar institutions, and impair the free exercise of the franchises of those already incorporated, it is warranted by no part of the Constitution.
I come now, sir, to that part of the Constitution where alone can be found, if anywhere, the lawful source of the authority of this Government to incorporate a banking company. We have the power "to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises," for certain great national purposes. It is now admitted, by most of the former opponents of this doctrine, that the establishment of a National Bank is nothing more than the employment of a "necessary and proper" means for carrying "into execution" the power to which I have just referred. The correctness of this doctrine, I have before declared it to be not my purpose to call into question. This part of my argument is entirely predicated upon its admission, and is designed solely to be confined to those views of the subject which will show the true character and just extent of this authority, and enable us to determine whether we are not carrying it, by the provisions of the bill now on our tables, further than is warranted by the Constitution.
This, then, being the power to which the authority to establish a bank is incident, as a "necessary and proper" means for its execution, we cannot have much difficulty in the definition of its limits. Its effect upon this power must be in relation to the collection, the safe-keeping and transmission of the public revenue. The notes which a bank issues may (but, by the by, the affairs of a bank may be mismanaged and they may not) provide the people with an equal medium for the payment of their public dues to this Government. This is, to a certain extent, to operate upon the currency; it is not merely to afford the people, in their relations with the Government, something more portable and convenient to procure, and pay, than metallic money, but it is to provide them with a medium of contribution, at a time when the metallic medium shall disappear from circulation. Here provision, in relation to the currency generally, would seem at first, to be intended for an event like that of the disappearance of the metallic medium; but we must always remember that our power, in relation to the medium of circulation, refers solely to a metallic medium; and of course excludes the other expressio unius est exclusio alterus.
If it be not questioned how far, in this point of view, as connected with the currency (a subject, as before mentioned, expressly legislated upon) there is a power to procure for the people these kind of facilities, for the payment of their taxes; surely the power must, in this respect, confine itself directly to this end. What then is the capital necessary for constituting a bank to answer this purpose ? This ought to have been shown us. Those who have no warrant to employ this power, but distinctly with a view to the attainment of a particular end, must have known that the purposes for which alone it can be lawfully used, prescribe the limitations to its exercise. The moral obligation imposed upon them not to exceed those limits, requires, likewise, that they should ascertain where they were placed. If there has been an inquiry made upon this head, what principles have guided that inquiry; and which of them have been presented to the Senate ? What calculations have been submitted to us, to show that, in respect to the capital, we are not exceeding the pale of our authority ?
The hazard of excess must not be incurred, while there are any means at our command of ascertaining how it may be avoided. It is not for those of us who think it, at this time, inexpedient to establish a bank, to show where the excess is. It is incumbent upon the friends of this bill, who call upon us for our votes, who desire that we should keep them company, to prove to us that they are going no further than they ought to go. This they have not done. It has not been affirmatively proven to us that a capital to this amount is necessary; and, for one, I think it can be demonstrated that a capital of thirty-five millions is larger than is required, for the purposes for which we are to establish a bank. A capital much lower than even twenty millions would be adequate to the establishment of a bank, in each State in the Union; and the objects of safe-keeping, and easy transmission of the public revenue accomplished. The capital of this bank, with a view to the effect of its notes, in affording an equal medium for the payment by the people, and the receipt by the Government, of the public dues, is not to be inquired into, with a view to any given state of things. The charter is to last for twenty years. If this capital, during that period, should be likely to become too small, the power to raise it by our own, or other subscriptions, may be reserved. If we have a view, in ascertaining the proper extent of this capital, to periods when the preservative of a metallic medium shall be withdrawn from the paper circulation, then this capital (if the bank is to be what its advocates insist upon to be their intention to render it, a specie paying bank,) is unnecessarily large. Its issues, in such times, must be limited, not by the amount of the public revenue, but by that of the specie in its vaults.
If our attention, however, is principally directed, as to me it seems it ought to be, to the usual and natural state of things, when the presence of the metallic medium will afford to the paper currency a free and uninterrupted circulation, then a much smaller capital than that of thirty-five millions, in such a state of things, would enable the bank, by the successive issues and returns of its paper, to afford to the people and to the Government the desired facilities. The process between the Government and the people, is that of payment and disbursement; and the steady and uniform succession of these operations, which can never be disturbed, communicates to a paper medium, even in a higher degree, the well known faculty belonging to a metallic medium, of transacting a large amount of business, with a small amount of money. In this view of the subject, can there be a question whether a much smaller capital would not afford every lawful facility that the revenue operations of this Government require ? A capital of ten millions successfully accomplished this object, and with the aid of three or four millions of other banking capital, conjointly with the metallic medium, circulated the whole business of the Government and the country. Surely, then, a national banking capital of twenty millions, with the banking capital of the States, will be now amply sufficient for the same purposes; however high may be our estimate of the increased activity and expansion of the industry and enterprise of the country.
If I am well founded in these remarks, I have sustained and established one Constitutional objection to this bill; by showing that the capital of this bank is larger than is necessary for the accomplishment of the objects we are required to keep in view, in the establishment of this institution.
There is another and a more interesting point of view which it remains to notice, and which goes to show that this bill does not merely, in respect to capital, exceed our Constitutional authority. I refer to that provision which authorizes the appointment of a certain proportion of the directors of this bank by the Government. Every control and authority over this great moneyed institution, so intimately connected as it is with the great interests of society, beyond what is requisite for the promotion of the limited objects we are bound to keep in view, communicates to the Government an influence and patronage which it has no right to possess. It is proper that I should circumscribe, within narrow limits, what I have to say in respect to the just character of that influence, after the able view of it which must have been presented by the honorable member from New York [Mr. King] in support of his motion to strike out this part of the bill. The honorable chairman [Mr. Bibb] who reported this bill, in reply to that argument, insisted that there was incident to the power to establish a bank, that of prescribing the regulations which are necessary to guard the country against the mischief it might otherwise do.
Sir, I deny not the truth of this position; but, still it equally remains to be shown that the regulation in question, which invests the Government with an influence of such magnitude, is "necessary and proper" to prevent a greater mischief than the one which the regulation itself introduces. The honorable gentleman from Virginia [Mr. Barbour] contends for the salutary effect of this regulation, and insists that it communicates to the Government an influence too unimportant to justify any serious apprehension. He considers these directors merely as sentinels on the watch tower, and that the smallness of their number can never give to the Government a dangerous ascendency in the management of this institution.
Let us for a moment inquire into the character of these directors. If they are sentinel on the watch tower; if they are to be enlisted into our service, what bounty are we to give them; what pay are they to receive from us ? They are to perform for us an important service; they are to apprize us of the earliest approaches of danger. The board of directors will be daily assembled, and these our sentinels must mount guard as often; they are to have a full share of trouble in the superintendence of this institution, and they are to do all this, not for the good of the concern, in which they have no participation, but for our advantage solely, that we may know, in time to take care of ourselves, when this company is likely to go astray from its duty to the stockholders, the country, or the Government. These are services, I admit, of great value, and to be performed, no doubt, by able and virtuous men; and yet, for all this, you pay nothing; and why so ? Are we to calculate upon a degree of patriotism and disinterestedness, to which we make no claim ourselves ? The truth is, we do not expect these services to be performed for us without remuneration; but the anomaly consists in our not paying for them ourselves. These spies are to be in our service, and to labor for us, on account of the pay they receive from others. In imitation of the Napoleon model, these gentlemen are to be maintained by those whom they are set over to guard. Their posts will be places in request at all times in peace as well as in war. In times of peace, of public repose, when the business of the country is undisturbed, and the Government in no need of loans from the bank, these directorships will be entirely useless, for any lawful purpose, to the United States. During this period, the men who hold these appointments, and their numerous friends, will be but as vultures fattening on the institution. During this period you obtain a patronage for the Administration, through the medium of these directors, and their retainers, without the performance of any lawful service. In this respect, then, the provision is unconstitutional; and the influence for which you oblige others to pay, is as unjust as it is unconstitutional. But when the season of difficulty arrives; when war shall disturb and break up the regular course of business; when public and private credit shall be shaken; when the good of the country shall imperiously require the affairs of this institution to be conducted with even more than the usual prudence and circumspection, then will be the time that the pernicious agency of this directorship, co-operating with other active influences, will wield this great moneyed corporation, at the will and pleasure of the Government. It is no answer to tell us of the smallness of the number of these directors. The Hercules is in the system in the power that the Government possesses of continuing or withholding its deposites. These directors are but the club with which you arm him. The smallness of their number is no security. The principle upon which they are introduced is unsound, is corrupt, is contagious, and its natural tendency will be to spread itself. These five di rectors, (whom the Government then will take care to keep in their own pay,) themselves the absolute creatures of those from whom they have derived their authority, will be sure to find at the board, when the spirit of party in the country runs high, others become as subservient as themselves; and cannot fail, in a season of difficulty and embarrassment, with their united influence, to accomplish, through the fears and the hopes of the rest, whatever shall be demanded of the bank, as the price of the continuance of the Governmental favor. By this process, will loan upon loan be rivetted upon the bank, until this great debtor will become its lord and master.
Surely these apprehensions cannot justly be called the offspring of distempered imaginations. Honorable gentlemen certainly who, themselves, have painted in such glowing tints the terrors of this influence not of the influence of such a body politic as this, in which it is organized, and directly set up and established, and openly avowed to the world, but of one where it was sedulously guarded against surely such will not insist that there is no foundation for alarm. Formerly it was said, give this new power, this lever, but a fulcrum, a point to rest upon, and, like another Archimedes, it will move the political world as it pleases. Afford it but an opportunity to act upon the States, and there will be nothing in their sovereignties or the people beyond its purchase. Formerly it was calculated, in its mildest form, to destroy the responsibility between the Government and the people; and leading to extravagance, to corruption, and to wicked and ruinous wars, to overturn the liberties of this nation.
If these representations of danger were somewhat surcharged in respect to the former institution, how just are they with respect to the present ! To me it seems that now is the time that we ought most sedulously to guard against a power of this kind in the Government, while the young, the enterprising, the ambitious, and the military character of this country is developing itself. I say the military character of this nation, because it is but too apparent that the events of the late "glorious war" (as it is not unfrequently triumphantly termed) have had no tendency to increase our fondness for the pursuits of peace. That there was glory in that war I am proud to acknowledge; but speaking of the war generally, and the situation of the country during its continuance, of its causes, and its errors, I may be permitted to say, if there was glory and I repeat again I am proud to acknowledge it it was only "gloom in glory dressed." Much, sir, I fear that this happy country, once so fond of peace, when sufficiently practised upon, is to become as deeply enamored of war and valorous enterprise as La Mancha's Knight, and, with him, is to be made to exclaim, "armor is our dress and battles our repose." I shall press this objection no farther.
We are permitted by the Constitution to incorporate a banking company to facilitate the collection and disbursement of our revenue. It has been shown that this power must be exercised with a view to its proper objects; and that every regulation that looks further than the attainment of these objects is unwarranted; and in relation to this directorship, I think it must be apparent, that it is entirely foreign to these objects; or, if in a slight degree incidentally connected with them, that its main bearing is upon other points, and that its general tendency, by the concurring testimony of all parties, is to communicate an influence to the Government of the United States of an extremely dangerous character. The bill, therefore, in this respect, is unconstitutional.
The remaining Constitutional objection to this bill arises from its interference with the concurrent power of the States. It is to operate upon the State banks, "peaceably if it can, forcibly if it must." With this object in view, the bill no doubt has been formed to have due effect. Indeed, with the controlling influence of the Government, it cannot fail to accomplish its object, whenever the necessary impulse for that purpose shall be given. If a faculty is communicated to a power in this Government to regulate a concurrent power in the State governments, there is an end at once of the co-ordinacy of these powers; one of them instantly becomes only the humble dependant upon the other, and must even cease its existence whenever the will and pleasure of its superior shall be known. How extraordinary has been the course of opinions upon this subject !
The friends of a bank formerly required for this Government the exercise only of an equal and concurrent power, even not so much; they are now obliged to argue against honorable gentlemen who refused that power, and who now, in effect, contend for the exercise of a superior and exclusive power. If such, then, is intended to be the effect of this bill, and if its provisions are calculated for the attainment of that end, it is most indubitably unconstitutional. If what is termed implication, is to become the lawful proprietor of what she is only permitted to use for a special purpose, and is to bear off, too, what she has no pretence for asking to borrow, all our paper regulations are idle. With an encroaching and restless agency of this kind in the Constitution, there is no limit to the power of this Government. I shall press no further Constitutional objections to this bill, but will now proceed, with the further indulgence of the Senate, to examine the general policy of this measure.
This bill came out of the hands of the Administration ostensibly for the purpose of correcting the diseased state of out paper currency, by restraining and curtailing the over-issue of banking paper; and yet it came prepared to inflict upon us the same evil; being itself nothing more than simply a paper-making machine, and constituting in this respect a scheme of policy about as wise, in point of precaution, as the contrivance of one of Rabelais' heroes, who hid himself in water for fear of rain. The disease, it is said, under which the people labor, is the banking fever of the States; and this is to be cured by giving them the banking fever of the United States.
To my mind, the real evil consists not so much in a superabundance of paper, as in a scarcity of specie. The paper currency does not exceed what is required to circulate the business of the country; it only wants the accrediting, the quickening, the vivifying principle which it requires a certain proportion of specie to communicate to it. But this bill is to supply that want; it is to be our alchemist, and is to effect for us even the transmutation of paper into gold. How this matter is to be conducted, we have not been told. It is admitted that the great desideratum will not be afforded all at once. The process, we are informed, requires time; but we are assured that, in the end, it will not disappoint our hopes.
For one, sir, I am not willing to trust to a scheme of this sort. Not only it is not shown how its professed object is to be accomplished, but the fallacy of its pretensions is susceptible of demonstration. This is to be a specie, or a paper-paying bank. Take either hypothesis suppose it the former will it increase the quantity of specie in the country; will it restore to circulation that which is in the country; or will it put into circulation anything that will answer the purpose of specie ? That it will increase the quantity of specie, powerful as may be its alchemy, none will pretend. Will it emancipate from restraint what is already in the country ? That the quantity of specie in the United States is diminished, is acknowledged, and it will not be denied that a much larger proportion of specie, than formerly was sufficient to maintain the free circulation of bank paper, will be required to revive and establish public confidence in that currency as a steady and certain representative of gold and silver. Those banks, therefore, that have now the precious metals locked up in their vaults, not only will but ought to keep them there, until the necessary addition is made by the course of trade; more especially ought they to do so, at this time, when the course of that trade has thrown the exchange so much against us, that every dollar they paid out would be exported.
If this bank is to be a specie hank, will it put into and keep in circulation anything that will answer the purpose of specie ? Who are to borrow of this bank, and what will be their inducements to borrow ? Those who obtain discounts will receive paper equal in value to gold and silver; and their debts must be paid off, when they become due, not in the notes of other banks, but in the notes of this bank, or in gold and silver. If they borrow for the purpose of obtaining a more equal and unvarying medium, than any other bank paper will afford them, of remittance to any part of the United States, or with a view to purchase cheaper anything they may want to buy, their object is accomplished. But when the time arrives for them to pay off their debts to the bank, they must purchase up the paper of this bank, or gold and silver, with other banking paper, and with the same or a greater loss. What will they then have gained by the transaction ? Pay their debts they must, when they become due; and, cost what it will, they must procure the paper of the same bank, or gold and silver. They have gained, say ten per cent. in their remittance, or their purchase, and they must give it up again to obtain the means of paying these debts; and, moreover, run, without any advantage, the risk of being disappointed in procuring those means.
There will be, likewise, accompanying this, another operation. Those who borrow (if any under such circumstances will borrow) must have a view to purchase, or remittance to some other part of the Union; and, in that mode, the paper of this bank will get into the hands of persons who have no debts to pay to the bank. What will they do with this paper ? Will it come into their possession so utterly untainted with suspicion, with such all-inspiring confidence, as to make the holders of it prefer it to gold and silver ? Certainly not. The recollection of recent events, the infirm condition of the other banking paper, will prompt the holders of it to demand immediately in exchange that which they know is immutable in its value. And, moreover, there may be a sudden fluctuation in the rate of foreign exchange, which may communicate to gold and silver a temporary appreciation over the paper currency, without sensibly (if at all) depressing contemporaneously its value in relation to anything else it may command. When this takes place, the holder of the gold and silver obtained from this bank in exchange for its paper, will find a profit between the value at which he received the paper, and the gold which he has obtained for it, sufficient to induce him to part with it for the currency of the other banks; and which profit he can, by investment and purchase, render certain before the impulse of appreciation can be communicated to what he finally obtains.
While, therefore, the exchange against the country is progressing, this process will accompany it, and effect the removal abroad of our specie. To emancipate specie from the restraints now imposed upon it, is to permit it to pursue its own course; and that course (in the present state of foreign exchanges) leads it out of the United States; and thus the immediate and inevitable effect of our legislation for restoring specie to circulation, is to send what we have remaining of it out of the country. If in this state of things, then, this bank is to be a specie bank, it can issue paper only to the amount of its specie. It cannot issue paper even to that amount, because there will be no inducement to borrow, upon the terms upon which a specie bank can now alone lend; and even if it could lend out, on these terms, paper to the amount of its specie, it would effect nothing in value towards the great object of this policy. It would be only amusing itself, like Diogenes, who set himself about rolling his tub, rather than be idle while all others were employed.
But allow me here, sir, to ask, what is to be done, if this bank, in which we as stockholders are to have so deep an interest, should, as it probably pretty soon will, wade out of its depth; should exhaust its specie, (as it inevitably must do if it issues paper to an amount exceeding, even in a very limited degree, its specie capital,) and become unable to pay its paper ? When that happens, as happen it must if there is not a considerable addition to the specie capital of the country, the urgency of the case will make its own law; and it will either be the law of public opinion, of public necessity, and public interest the same law under which the State banks now operate or it will be a law of our own enactment, striking off the shackles we are now riveting upon this institution.
No, sir, this bill cannot restore the specie in the country to circulation, nor can it dissolve the powerful spell which fear, and suspicion, and even prudence, have placed upon it. Of our capacity to increase its quantity by this bill, we have about as good evidence as the facetious writer before referred to had of his royal descent; he had, he tells us, "a marvellous desire to be a king himself;" we have "a marvellous desire," I admit, to increase the quantity of specie, and we have no other better way of showing the specie making tendency of this bill.
I beg leave, sir, to remark upon the distinctly avowed coercive policy in which this bill originated, with a view to considerations that are foreign to the Constitutional question. This bank has an immense capital; and when the state of things in this country shall be better settled; when a favorable course of trade shall have brought us the necessary supplies of specie, the operations of this, and other banks, will be conducted as formerly. This, then, will become a paper making bank, as well as the others; but the excess of all will be guarded against by the necessity which will be imposed of maintaining the principle of convertibility. This new bank, with its branches, will have afforded it by governmental deposites, and the receipt by the United States of the public revenue, in its paper, the means of extending its discounts, and increasing its issues in proportion to its capital, greatly beyond what the other banks can venture to do; and particularly must the operations of the State banks continue very limited and circumscribed, until the first hostile impulse communicated to this institution has ceased to operate, and until due confidence can be inspired that the same vindictive spirit will not again be aroused and inflamed. In this state of things the banking capital you now create will firmly establish itself, and eventually take the place of so much of the capital of the State banks.
You create a banking capital beyond what is requisite for the attainment of the lawful ends of this Government, no one having disproved, indeed all seeming to admit, the existence already in the country of a sufficient banking capital. Why, then, is this injustice done, of supplanting one species of banking capital with another ? Can we forget that a large proportion of the State banks is the offspring of our own policy ? We refused the reincorporation of the old Bank of the United States; we declined altogether the exercise of the authority to establish these institutions, and mainly upon the ground that the power to organize them was exclusively vested in the State governments. This opinion was adopted, and zealously and perseveringly asserted by the most potent States in the Union; and subscribed to, and openly maintained by the most enlightened, the most intelligent, and influential supporters of the present order of things. Hence the origin of a great many of the State banks. The subscribers to those banks, relying upon the soundness, or at least, the permanency of this opinion, purchased their charters of the States; and the public money of those governments has been invested to a large amount in those banks. What, then, can warrant, in a renunciation of former sentiments, the extension of the capital of this bank beyond the proper objects of such a bank ? It is equally forbidden by the Constitution, and by the plain principles of common justice.
Let the conduct of these institutions (generally speaking) be examined; let it be exposed to the severest scrutiny, and there will be nothing found to justify the severity of this measure. Even if it be admitted that the course of these bodies, set free from the restraints which usually oblige them to revolve in their proper orbits, has been somewhat erratic what then ? Has their course been that of public calamity, and private distress ? You must judge of them by the good as well as the evil they have done. They have been the nerve and spring of your industry; they have been the spirit which has animated your enterprise; and if they have been a fountain which has sent out bitter waters, they have sent out sweet waters too. What would have been your condition what would be our condition this moment, without them ? Have they banished the specie from the country ? That was the affair of our achievement. This useful friend we lost ourselves; and they have, to the best of their ability, supplied its place. Is it for us to bestow upon them unqualified censure; for us, whose measures annihilated the restraints, and withdrew from them the great security of steadiness and uniformity ? Is it for us to condemn them in mass, who were the first to seize with avidity, and to profit to the fullest extent of our influence over them, of the opportunity made by ourselves to lead them astray ? Then our conduct to them was "as soft as the tips of our ears;" but now that our purpose is served, "our gorge rises" at them, and, in the time of their need, we unhesitatingly devote them to destruction.
I have said, sir, that the evil was not in a super-abundance of paper, but in a scarcity of specie; for I think every view taken of the operations of the bank will show, with but few exceptions, that they have not exceeded their proper limits. The first effect of loosening their restraints was not to send them a heedless, head-long course. The influence of habit continued after the necessity which gave it birth had ceased. They went on the same path, and might have been so expected to do for some time by their own momentum. These banks were generally under the direction of able and honest men; not of such as were incapable of appreciating the difficulty and delicacy of their situation, but of men whose prudence, foreseeing the embarrassments they would have to contend with, immediately replaced the restraints which necessity had imposed and maintained. The particular instances of excess which have been referred to are those of exception; and, even in those cases, the business of the banks has fallen below what specie times have witnessed and will warrant; and still further below what this bank, with its paper circulating capacity, will do in such times.
What course, different from that which they have taken, would we have had them to pursue in the situation in which they were placed ? Ought they, in a time of public and private calamity and distress, have called upon their debtors ? Ought their paper to have disappeared in the proportion that specie was withdrawn ? And if this ought to have been done, how was the business of the country to have been transacted in the absence of both specie and paper ? If these banks had called in their paper as the specie disappeared, and as the necessary demand for it in creased at a time, too, when public confidence, accompanied by public necessity and public convenience, tendered herself ready to perform for this circulation every office of specie to reanimate it to breathe into it a new and efficient principle of vitality; if such, under such circumstances, had been the conduct of these banks, we should have been, ourselves, among the loudest to complain.
They did then, sir, what they ought to have done. Like wise and prudent men, instead of resisting an evil they could not avert, they did all that was left for them to do; they applied to it the best and only remedy that remained; one which, if it has not cured the disease, has at least alleviated its affliction.
I do not know that there is much hope of effecting the postponement of this measure; yet every consideration belonging to it, every view which can be taken of it, seems to me to require of us the utmost deliberation and circumspection. I know that there is a loose and vague notion afloat in the public mind, of one great uniform national currency. I will not dignify this notion by calling it public opinion. I know, sir, that we are looked to, as were, in other times, "the baker and the baker's son;" but surely the cool and intelligent and enlightened men of our country, who have reflected seriously upon the existing state of things, do not expect relief, in this matter, from our legislation. They know full well how much easier it is to legislate a country into difficulties, than it is to legislate it out of them. They understand the nature of the disease its cause, and its remedy. They look not to us for health, who have medicined them into sickness. All they ask of us is to desist, "to let them alone." Time is their physician. They want time to recover from us he has "healing upon his wings," we have none upon ours.
Those who know not the cause of our disease who have been blind to the natural tendency, to this state of things, of the measures which have been pursued for several years back; who know not the agencies which have withdrawn the specie from our country, and who cannot comprehend the influences which have given such activity and effect to those agencies, may have a notion that we can relieve them; and it cannot be expected that the deep responsibility, which is involved by the measures which have led to the present difficulties, should take much pains to dissipate the delusion. If we are to profit by this delusion, which conceals the past from public view, let us not go still further into error. The step we are going to take, we should remember, with the honorable gentleman from New York, [Mr. Sanford] is not one which we can retrace. In common cases, if we commit an error, subsequent legislation can remedy it. Not so here. An error committed, in the passage of this law, is beyond our power to correct.
And furthermore, let us specially remember the magnitude of the power which we propose to regulate. It is not merely the banking power of this institution, but the banking power of the States. What is to be the bearing of our legislation upon great interests like these; so closely interwoven as they are with the pursuits of the people, it is incumbent upon us well and maturely to consider. The science of banking, connected as it is, in peace and in war, with the circulating medium, with the various operations of Government, with the different great interests of society in general, with the individual industry and enterprise of the citizens, with the value of other capital, and with the moral character of the people, is a science, like all others, of progressive improvement; and is, perhaps even at this time, but very imperfectly understood by those who have devoted most time to its study. Could, sir, this science now call to her aid, him who wrote upon this subject, "as with a sunbeam" the justly celebrated author of the "Wealth of Nations" even this, her favorite son, would be obliged to confess that much of his theory, which the world has so long adopted, was but like "the clouds that gather round the setting sun; and seeming only to form a part of the brightness, by which they are illumined." Who then, among "us," is entitled to hold the "lamp of truth" to this subject ?
None of us, it is true, can be blind to the causes of the evil complained of. We know now too well the effect of the bold experiments we have tried upon the people. Tremendous as they were, it required but little skill to make them. But to build up anew what we have broken down, to repair what we have wasted, is an achievement of another sort. Peace, and the uninterrupted pursuits of industry and enterprise spread their blessings around us. Restrictive regulations and war have snatched many of them from us. The price the country has paid for our experiments is gone. If it has not made us wiser, we have nothing in return. What we have lost must be replaced as it was gained. Legislation is the medicament which has made us sick, but it has no charm to restore us to health. One great interest in our country, from sad experience of our measures, has long since learned to look to the period of assembling the National Councils as to the period of national calamity. What Thucydides says of the speech of Alcibiades, turning against his own country and explaining to her enemies her vulnerable positions, "while he speaks she totters," may justly be remarked of too many of our measures while we legislate the country totters.
The great body of our merchants have, in a special manner, cause to tremble at our legislation; that great body of men, whom the swooping denunciation of an honorable member on this floor has this day placed in the most degraded and the most worthless ranks of society. The honorable member makes exceptions, which serve, however, only to set in stronger view the estimate he forms of the rest. Sir, when honorable members of this House, and from great and potent States in the Union, entertain these sentiments, and express them upon this floor, it manifests a hostility to commerce, which justifies all the apprehensions of her friends. It is full time for the merchants the Morrises and the Fitzsimmonses to take their seats among us, to assert their own character and maintain their own interests. Were they here they would find occasions to tell us that it is not the farmer, or the country gentleman, the fleeces of whose flocks grow too slow for our Walpoles that we have repaired to their "altars," not to worship there, but to shut up their "Bible," and bear off their "God;" that the seat of Commerce is not to be found "in the midst of the secret and solitary hill, nor her voice to be heard in the murmur of the mountain stream."
Upon a subject, sir, like that now before us, of a complex and intricate character, having the closest relations to the strongest interests in society; with no special illumination ourselves; in the absence of all practical information; uninspired with much of confidence in our own skill by the success of our former experiments on political economy; is it wise to act at all; but, most especially, upon a subject of this character, is it possible, in the nature of things, for a general legislation, which commits itself to the strong impulse of one given pressure, to pursue the proper course ? In circumstances like the present, it is circumspection, it is deliberation which is required, and not action. There are situations of peril in which the soldier halts. There are crises of difficulty and embarrassment in which the statesman pauses. It is folly, it is rashness, and not wisdom, not courage, that marches blindfold upon danger. "It is no inconsiderable part of wisdom to understand how much of an evil is to be endured;" and particularly so, when there is reason to hope that the evil will remedy itself.
The existing laws which authorize the issue of Treasury notes, will remove all sectional difficulties, and afford to the people a safe and equal medium for the payment of their taxes.
I rely upon the indulgence of the Senate to excuse my having so long trespassed upon their time. I do not flatter myself with the expectation that my humble views of this subject will have much weight; they are such as have presented themselves to my mind; and, imperfect as they may be, I have obeyed only the sense of duty, in submitting them to the Senate. It remains, sir, to move you, which I now do, that the further consideration of the bill upon your table should be postponed to the first Monday in December next.
The 14th United States Congress was a meeting of the legislative branch of the United States federal government, consisting of the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives. It met in the Old Brick Capitol in Washington, D.C. from March 4, 1815 to March 3, 1817, during the seventh and eighth years of James Madison's presidency. The apportionment of seats in the House of Representatives was based on the Third Census of the United States in 1810. Both chambers had a Democratic-Republican majority.
House of Representatives
Speaker of the House: Henry Clay
All representatives were elected statewide on a general ticket. At-large. Epaphroditus Champion (F) At-large. John Davenport (F) At-large. Lyman Law (F) At-large. Jonathan O. Moseley (F) At-large. Timothy Pitkin (F) At-large. Lewis B. Sturges (F) At-large. Benjamin Tallmadge (F)
Delaware Both representatives were elected statewide on a general ticket. At-large. Thomas Clayton (F) At-large. Thomas Cooper (F)
Georgia All representatives were elected statewide on a general ticket. At-large. Alfred Cuthbert (DR) Zadock Cook (DR) At-large. John Forsyth (DR) At-large. Bolling Hall (DR) At-large. Wilson Lumpkin (DR) At-large. Thomas Telfair (DR) At-large. Richard Henry Wilde (DR)
Indiana At-large. William Hendricks (DR), from December 11, 1816
1. James Clark (DR) Thomas Fletcher (DR) 2. Henry Clay (DR), from October 30, 1815 3. Richard M. Johnson (DR) 4. Joseph Desha (DR) 5. Alney McLean (DR) 6. Solomon P. Sharp (DR) 7. Samuel McKee (DR) 8. Stephen Ormsby (DR) 9. Micah Taul (DR) 10. Benjamin Hardin (DR)
At-large. Thomas B. Robertson (DR)
The 5th district was a plural district with two representatives.
1. Philip Stuart (F) 2. John C. Herbert (F) 3. Alexander C. Hanson (F) George Peter (F) 4. George Baer, Jr. (F) 5. Nicholas R. Moore (DR) Samuel Smith (DR) 5. William Pinkney (DR) Peter Little (DR) 6. Stevenson Archer (DR)
Robert Wright (DR)
8. Charles Goldsborough (F)
1. Artemas Ward, Jr. (F) 2. Timothy Pickering (F) 3. Jeremiah Nelson (F) 4. Asahel Stearns (F) 5. Elijah H. Mills (F) 6. Samuel Taggart (F) 7. John W. Hulbert (F) 8. William Baylies (F) 9. John Reed, Jr. (F) 10. Laban Wheaton (F) 11. Elijah Brigham (F) Benjamin Adams (F) 12. Solomon Strong (F) 13. Nathaniel Ruggles (F) 14. Cyrus King (F) 15. George Bradbury (F) 16. Benjamin Brown (F) 17. James Carr (F) 18. Thomas Rice (F) 19. Samuel S. Conner (DR) 20. Albion K. Parris (DR)
All representatives were elected statewide on a general ticket. At-large. Charles H. Atherton (F) At-large. Bradbury Cilley (F) At-large. William Hale (F) At-large. Roger Vose (F)
At-large. Daniel Webster (F)
At-large. Jeduthun Wilcox (F)
All representatives were elected statewide on a general ticket. At-large. Ezra Baker (DR) At-large. Ephraim Bateman (DR) At-large. Benjamin Bennet (DR) At-large. Lewis Condict (DR) At-large. Henry Southard (DR) At-large. Thomas Ward (DR)
There were six plural districts, the 1st, 2nd, 12th, 15th, 20th & 21st, each had two representatives. 1. Henry Crocheron (DR) 1. George Townsend (DR) 2. William Irving (DR) 2. Peter H. Wendover (DR) 3. Jonathan Ward (DR) 4. Abraham H. Schenck (DR) 5. Thomas P. Grosvenor (F) 6. Jonathan Fisk (DR) until March 1815 James W. Wilkin (DR), from December 4, 1815 7. Samuel R. Betts (DR) 8. Erastus Root (DR), from December 26, 1815 9. John Lovett (F) 10. Hosea Moffitt (F) 11. John W. Taylor (DR) 12. Asa Adgate (DR), from December 7, 1815 12. John Savage (DR) 13. John B. Yates (DR) 14. Daniel Cady (F) 15. James Birdsall (DR) 15. Jabez D. Hammond (DR) 16. Thomas R. Gold (F) 17. Westel Willoughby, Jr. (DR), from December 13, 1815 18. Moss Kent (F) 19. Victory Birdseye (DR) 20. Oliver C. Comstock (DR) 20. Enos T. Throop (DR), until June 4, 1816 Daniel Avery (DR), from December 3, 1816 21. Micah Brooks (DR) 21. Peter B. Porter (DR), until January 23, 1816 Archibald S. Clarke (DR), from December 2, 1816
North Carolina 1. William H. Murfree (DR) 2. Joseph H. Bryan (DR) 3. James W. Clark (DR) 4. William Gaston (F) 5. William R. King (DR) Charles Hooks (DR) 6. Nathaniel Macon (DR) Weldon N. Edwards (DR) 7. John Culpepper (F) 8. Richard Stanford (DR) Samuel Dickens (DR) 9. Bartlett Yancey (DR) 10. William C. Love (DR) 11. Daniel M. Forney (DR) 12. Israel Pickens (DR) 13. Lewis Williams (DR)
1. John McLean (DR) William Henry Harrison (DR) 2. John Alexander (DR) 3. William Creighton, Jr. (DR) 4. James Caldwell (DR) 5. James Kilbourne (DR) 6. David Clendenin (DR)
1. Joseph Hopkinson (F) 1. William Milnor (F) 1. Thomas Smith (F) 1. Jonathan Williams (DR)
John Sergeant (F)
On this day Mr. Sergeant voted against the Bank; but a few years later he became a Director, then Counsel, and ardent supporter of the Bank and the central bank concept.
2. William Darlington (DR) 2. John Hahn (DR) 3. James M. Wallace (DR), from October 10, 1815 3. John Whiteside (DR) 4. Hugh Glasgow (DR) 5. William Crawford (DR) 5. William Maclay (DR) 6. Samuel D. Ingham (DR) 6. John Ross (DR) 7. Joseph Hiester (DR) 8. William Piper (DR) 9. David Bard (DR) Thomas Burnside (DR) William P. Maclay (DR) 10. Jared Irwin (DR) 10. William Wilson (DR) 11. William Findley (DR) 12. Aaron Lyle (DR) 13. Isaac Griffin (DR) 14. John Woods (F) 15. Thomas Wilson (DR)
Both representatives were elected statewide on a general ticket. At-large. John L. Boss, Jr. (F) At-large. James B. Mason (F)
1. Henry Middleton (DR) 2. William Lowndes (DR) 3. Benjamin Huger (F) 4. John J. Chappell (DR) 5. William Woodward (DR)
6. John C. Calhoun (DR)
CALHOUN, John Caldwell (1782 - 1850), (cousin of John Ewing Calhoun and Joseph Calhoun), a Representative and a Senator from South Carolina and a Vice President of the United States; born near Calhoun Mills, Abbeville District (now Mount Carmel, McCormick County), S.C., March 18, 1782; attended the common schools and private academies; graduated from Yale College in 1804; studied law, admitted to the bar in 1807, and commenced practice in Abbeville, S.C.; also engaged in agricultural pursuits; member, State house of representatives 1808-1809; elected as a Democratic Republican to the Twelfth and to the three succeeding Congresses and served from March 4, 1811, to November 3, 1817, when he resigned; Secretary of War in the Cabinet of President James Monroe 1817-1825; elected vice president of the United States in 1824 with President John Quincy Adams; reelected in 1828 with President Andrew Jackson and served from March 4, 1825, to December 28, 1832, when he resigned, having been elected as a Democratic Republican (later Nullifier) to the United States Senate on December 12, 1832, to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Robert Y. Hayne; reelected in 1834 and 1840 and served from December 29, 1832, until his resignation, effective March 3, 1843; Secretary of State in the Cabinet of President John Tyler 1844-1845; again elected to the United States Senate, as a Democrat, to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Daniel E. Huger; reelected in 1846 and served from November 26, 1845, until his death in Washington, D.C., March 31, 1850; chairman, Committee on Finance (Twenty-ninth Congress); interment in St. Philip's Churchyard, Charleston, S.C.
Senate Years of Service: 1832-1843; 1845-1850
Party: Democratic Republican; Nullifier; Democrat
7. John Taylor (DR) 8. Thomas Moore (DR) 9. William Mayrant (DR) Stephen D. Miller (DR)
1. Samuel Powell (DR) 2. John Sevier (DR) William G. Blount (DR) 3. Isaac Thomas (DR) 4. Bennett H. Henderson (DR) 5. Newton Cannon (DR) 6. James B. Reynolds (DR)
All representatives were elected statewide on a general ticket. At-large. Daniel Chipman (F), until May 5, 1816 At-large. Luther Jewett (F) At-large. Chauncey Langdon (F) At-large. Asa Lyon (F) At-large. Charles Marsh (F) At-large. John Noyes (F)
1. John G. Jackson (DR) 2. Magnus Tate (F) 3. Henry St. George Tucker (DR) 4. William McCoy (DR) 5. James Breckinridge (F) 6. Daniel Sheffey (F) 7. Ballard Smith (DR) 8. Joseph Lewis, Jr. (F) 9. John P. Hungerford (DR) 10. Aylett Hawes (DR) 11. Philip P. Barbour (DR) 12. William H. Roane (DR) 13. Burwell Bassett (DR) 14. William A. Burwell (DR) 15. Matthew Clay (DR) John Kerr (DR)
16. John Randolph (DR)
RANDOLPH, John (1773-1833), (nephew of Theodorick Bland and Thomas Tudor Tucker, half brother of Henry St. George Tucker), a Representative and a Senator from Virginia; born in Cawsons, Prince George County, Va., June 2, 1773; known as John Randolph of Roanoke to distinguish him from kinsmen; studied under private tutors, at private schools, the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), and Columbia College, New York City; studied law in Philadelphia, Pa., but never practiced; engaged in several duels; elected to the Sixth and to the six succeeding Congresses (March 4, 1799-March 3, 1813); one of the managers appointed by the House of Representatives in January 1804 to conduct the impeachment proceedings against Judge John Pickering, and in December of the same year against Supreme Court Justice Samuel; unsuccessful candidate for election in 1812 to the Thirteenth Congress; chairman, Committee on Ways and Means (Seventh through Ninth Congresses); elected to the Fourteenth Congress (March 4, 1815-March 3, 1817); was not a candidate for reelection in 1816 to the Fifteenth Congress; elected to the Sixteenth and to the three succeeding Congresses and served from March 4, 1819, until his resignation, effective December 26, 1825; appointed to the United States Senate on December 8, 1825, to fill the vacancy in the term beginning March 4, 1821, caused by the resignation of James Barbour; served from December 26, 1825, to March 3, 1827; unsuccessful candidate for reelection to the Senate in 1827; elected to the Twentieth Congress (March 4, 1827-March 3, 1829); was not a candidate for reelection to the Twenty-first Congress; chairman, Committee on Ways and Means (Twentieth Congress); member of the Virginia constitutional convention at Richmond in 1829; appointed United States Minister to Russia by President Andrew Jackson and served from May to September, 1830, when he resigned; elected to the Twenty-third Congress and served from March 4, 1833, until his death in Philadelphia, Pa., May 24, 1833; interment at his residence, Roanoke, in Charlotte County, Va.; reinterment at Hollywood, Richmond, Va.
Senate Years of Service: 1825-1827
17. James Pleasants (DR) 18. Thomas Gholson, Jr. (DR) Thomas M. Nelson (DR) 19. Peterson Goodwyn (DR) 20. James Johnson (DR) 21. Thomas Newton, Jr. (DR) 22. Hugh Nelson (DR) 23. John Clopton (DR) John Tyler (DR)
Non-voting members Illinois Territory. Benjamin Stephenson, Nathaniel Pope
Indiana Territory. Jonathan Jennings, until December 11, 1816
Mississippi Territory. William Lattimore
Missouri Territory. Rufus Easton, until August 5, 1816 John Scott, August 6, 1816 - January 13, 1817