What was future President H.A. Lincoln doing in those halcyon days ?
In 1839 he already gave a speech against the Sub-Treasury; because, as Mr. Clay stated (in 1841), the rubbish had to be cleared away before the central Fiscal Bank could be established.
How about future Secretary of the Treasury, Portland Chase ?
Since 1832 he had been attorney for the Bank of the United States; where he learned everything he knew about banking, central banking, national banking, and national currency.
What of future Police Minister William Seward ?
In 1840, during the election campaign, as governor of New York, Mr. Seward busied himself as professional liar for the Whig Party.
As a State Senator, on January 31, 1832, made an elaborate defense of the Bank of the United States.
Seward was counsel for Erastus Corning, a large capitalist of Albany who was the head of the projectors of the Minnesota and Northwestern Railroad Company which, in 1854, by fraud and corruption obtained from Congress an extensive land grant of 900,000 acres.
Where was future Chairman of the Committee of Finance, Pitt Fessenden ?
In 1841 he was sitting as a Whig member of the House of Representatives
A bill to incorporate the subscribers to the Fiscal Bank of the United StatesSpeech of Mr. Thomas Hart Benton,
Mr. Benton said this was an important motion in its nature, though not presented in the shape to develope all its importance. It would come up again in a more effectual form, namely, on a motion for the proper distribution of the capital of the Bank. This motion would be made at a suitable time, whether the present motion succeeded or not, and what was now said would be applicable to that motion, when made.
He (Mr. B.) considered a National Bank to be first, a political engine to enable the Federal party to rule the country, and to crush the Democracy; secondly, a moneyed engine, to enable the North-east to plunder the South and West, and to enrich the few at the expense of the many; thirdly, as a branch of the Bank of England, which was to collect specie in the United States, and ship it to London which was to give us paper money, and the English hard money, and which was to stop payment just as often as the political or the pecuniary interests of the English required it to stop.
Viewing the institution in this point of view, he felt it to be his duty to follow a three fold course of action towards it; first, to offer all the amendments to the charter which would tend to diminish its capacity to do mischief; secondly, to oppose the passage of the charter, when ready to be passed; thirdly, to work at its destruction by all constitutional and legal means, after it passed, until it was repealed by law, or vacated by judicial decision.
This being his view of the institution, and his sense of duty in his conduct towards it, his course was a clear one, and he should take that course and follow it, without the least regard to consequences. He was against the Bank, as the Babylonish harlot of our morals and politics; he had enlisted for the war against her; he wanted no quarter; and he was ready to take political death at any moment that it would come in so just and holy a cause.
Viewing the Bank as a political machine, to be worked by the Federalists against the Democracy, I would place the chief seat of its power and direction as far off as possible from Washington city; and that would be at New Orleans. Viewing it as a moneyed engine for plundering the South and West, which two previous National Banks had already plundered for forty years, I would remove the engine from the plundering to the plundered part of the Union, and would reverse or neutralize its action in time to come.
Viewing it as a branch of the Bank of England, I would place its chief seat as far off as possible from England; and that again would be at New Orleans.
For all these reasons I will now vote for sending these nine lords of the Fisc by no means the nine muses to the mouth of the Mississippi; and thus put them as far as possible from contact and communication from evening walks, and midnight entertainments with the heads of department and the members of Congress here. I would prefer to annihilate these nine lords altogether, and for that purpose shall make a motion to strike them out of the bill at a proper time: for the present I must confine my efforts to placing them as far off as possible. Cicero wanted a wall between himself and Cataline: he feared his dagger. I want distance between these fiscal lords and us: I fear their millions.
Mr. B. said this question was sprung upon him suddenly, and somewhat accidentally. It was evidently precipitated by what had just occurred. It took him without his arms the arms which this particular question required but he could never be caught without the capacity to show that these national banks to say nothing of their other evil properties were the greatest enemy of the South and West which the genius, or the folly, of man had ever invented. The two previous banks (in conjunction with their twin sisters, tariff and pensions, public debt, funding system, paper system) had pillaged these two regions of their wealth, and eviscerated them of their gold and for forty years. They had crippled and broken Southern and Western banks during the whole period of their existence. They had inflicted upon the South and West the curse of depreciated paper money. They had taken away the export and the import trade of the South and West from the Southern and Western ports, to which it naturally belonged, and transferred it to the Northeast, where it did not belong. They had made the rich part of the Union poor, and the poor part rich. They had made the hundred millions of annual Southern and Western exports the gain of those who did not produce them, and the loss of those who did. They had given to the Northeast the command and control of Southern and Western labor and industry the fetching and carrying, and the buying and selling, of all they send out and of all they bring back. They had given to the Northeast a double profit upon Southern and Western crops, one profit upon the produce sent abroad for sale, another upon the goods brought home for consumption.
They had made the Northeast the seat and the centre of the moneyed system of our America, so that these whose labor produced money, had none, and were compelled to go to those who had got theirs, and humbly apply for loans too happy, if by mortgaging patrimonial inheritances, or the industry of posterity, they can borrow some paper trash for which their estates are eventually sold.
The two banks of the United States, with their twin progeny, have produced all this. The action of this Federal Government has done it; and to this action, Southern and Western politicians have lent a culpable and a helping hand. The politicians on the two sides of Mason's and Dixon's line, seem to have made a bargain, and to have acted on it faithfully those of the South and West to have the honors of the Federal Government; and those of the North to have the profits of Federal legislation. Thus it would seem to have been for above forty years, until the South and West had nearly all the Presidents, and the Northeast has got quite all the money.
Now I am for breaking and reversing this bargain, so full of solid profit to one so fraught with vanity and poverty to the other. I am for reversing this bargain, I say to our Northern brethren, take the Presidency for forty years give us Democrats only, and take it for forty years and let us have the beneficial action of the Government as long as you have had it at least let us have exemption from the plundering action of the Government as long as you have been plundering us.
Give us a truce from pillage. I will compromise for that. Take the Presidential chair that gilded and painted bauble take it and keep it as many years as the children of Israel wandered days in the wilderness, and let us be free during the while from your cormorant bank, and its harpy brood of loans and tariffs, debts and pensions, funding, stockjobbing, paper money, and all the crimes and demoralization which follow in their train.
Mr. Benton said he was not prepared now with the FACTS and FIGURES which this question required, nor was it material that he should be. The question would come up again in a better form: that of a provision for the equitable distribution of the capital of the Bank. The South and West had been cheated and bamboozled heretofore in the distribution of the Bank capital they had received not a cent ! On the contrary, they had been pillaged of the capital they possessed ! A cashier sent from the East with authority to draw that is to say, with authority to collect their specie and ship it to the East was all the capital they got. This insult and injury must be stopped, and will be, if my motion for an equal distribution of capital shall prevail. The bulk of the capital should go to the South and West, where the bulk of the exportable productions are; and to this effect a motion will be made at the proper time.
Mr. Benton reiterated that the greatest curse which the power of man could inflict upon the South and West, was the creation of a National Bank its chief seat and direction to be located north of the Potomac. He referred to several incidents to show the disastrous workings of such a Bank upon those regions; and among the rest to a late report of a South Carolina Legislature, founded upon the testimony of a late president of the United States Branch Bank in the city of Charleston. The testimony of the president [Mr. Elliot] showed the ruinous drafts for specie made on his branch, which he had to collect from the State bank and the people, the paralyzing and destructive effects of these drains upon the business and property of his State, the ruin to imports, the decline of prosperity, and the withering and blasting effect of the whole operations of the Bank upon the domestic and foreign trade of the State.
Mr. Benton read this extract from the report:
"From 1819 to 1825 the drain of specie from the banks of the South from by the United States Bank, was so great as to paralyze the whole energies of the Southern country. It is admitted by the President of the latter Bank himself, that in fourteen years he drew from the bank in that quarter twenty-two millions a half, for the mother Bank and for the branch at New York, while, during the same period, he sent back less than a million. At a single operation, in order to assist New York alone, five millions of specie were sent to her aid, and, in the language of Mr. Elliott, President of the Charleston branch, the immediate operation of the measures of the United States Bank has been to cause the banks in this city (Charleston) to suspend all business. From the Bank of the State alone, the sum of one million and a half was wrung in the course of a few years; and the import trade of this State, which, in the year 1765, with a population of but 130,000, was about one million six hundred thousand dollars, was reduced, in 1830, to near one million, although the population of the State and the value of its exports had increased more than fourfold. Before this action of the United States Bank had commenced, the imports into Charleston were as high as five millions, while, at the same period, the imports into New York were only twenty millions. A change immediately ensued, after the adoption of a new policy by the Bank in 1819; and when its charter expired, the imports into Charleston had dwindled to less than two millions, while those in Now York had increased beyond eighty-eight millions."
Mr. Benton said that this extract was brief, but powerful. It presented a picture which armed the statesman with irresistible arguments, and before which the empty headed, clapper tongued, brawling politician, with his cuckoo notes and parrot song of "best currency in the world" "regulating the local banks" "equalizing exchange" "furnishing capital to the South and West " dwindles into a pigmy, and sinks into the insignificance which ignorance or knavery must forever encounter in the presence of truth and justice, armed with facts and reasons. The picture is irresistible; and what is said of Charleston applies with more or less truth to every city south of the Potomac and west of the Alleghany mountains. From Richmond to Savannah the picture is the same; and, if in the West the injury to the people is less, it is not because they are not stripped of their specie, and their trade given to Atlantic cities, but because, like the East Indies under British oppression, the exuberant fertility of the West enables it to survive the exhaustion to which it is subjected.
He should vote for the motion now made; and, whether gained or lost, he should make a motion at a suitable time to distribute the capital of the Bank according to the relative value of the exports from the respective places where the mother Bank and branches should be situated.[end of remarks]
Speech of Mr. Benton, of MissouriIn Senate, Wednesday, July 7, 1841.
Mr. Benton was in favor of the motion to strike out the words mentioned, for he was opposed above all things to have the management of this Bank here at Washington city. It would complete its capacity as a political machine in the hands of the Administration, ruling and corrupting the Congress at the same time. The nine managers at Washington will be the nine lords of the Treasury, living at the seat of Government, always arm in arm with members of Congress, and giving them sumptuous entertainments every night. They have salaries, such as the stockholders will allow them, and the stockholders will doubtless see their advantage in enabling these nine lords to entertain magnificently, especially as the United States pay a heavy part of it. The pay will come out of the people, for it is to come out of the Bank, and the Bank is to be built up with public money, and to be kept filled up with public money. Besides salaries, they will have their expenses and perquisites: their dining fund their presents of plate their office, and its paraphenalia some great building with a train of clerks, messengers, and servants all at the expense of the people. The danger of these nine lords of the Fiscal Bank has been already exemplified when Congress and the first Bank of the United States sat together in Philadelphia: the Bank directors and the Federal members of Congress always acted together they made what laws they pleased twisted and tortured the Constitution into what they pleased and set the people at defiance.
Mr. Jefferson has given us some view of these wretched times the fruits of the licentious union between bank and state and I will read a paragraph from his works. It is in the ana, near the end of the fourth volume. It sustains most fully the view which the Senator from Pennsylvania [Mr. Buchanan] took of this corrupting connection, and may be well read as an illustration of his argument. Mr. Jefferson says:
While the government remained at Philadelphia, a selection of members of both houses were constantly kept as Directors, who, on every question interesting to that institution, or to the views of the federal head, voted at the will of that head; and, together with the stockholding members, could always make the federal vote that of the majority. By this combination, legislative expositions were given to the constitution, and all the administrative laws were shaped on the model of England, & so passed. And from this influence we were not relieved until the removal from the precincts of the bank, to Washington."
This, said Mr. Benton, is the voice of experience, the voice of Jefferson an eyewitness of what he relates and relating what he saw for the benefit of posterity. He wrote for our benefit; and shall we neglect his warning voice ? He tells you that the Bank directors, and the Federal members of Congress, acted together while the Bank and the Congress sat in the same place, and that there was no relief from the baneful influence of this corrupt combination until Congress was removed from Philadelphia. This was in the year 1800 say forty years ago. The removal was then real the travel between Washington and Philadelphia was then slow, tedious, and expensive; now it is rapid, easy, and cheap; still Philadelphia and New York, accessible as they are to members of Congress, are too far off to answer the purpose of the new Government Bank, and therefore the directors must be brought to the city of Washington, and placed in immediate communication with the President, the Cabinet, and the Congress.
The nine LORDS of the FISC will be a Treasury board here; they will sit as the council and instrument of the Secretary of the Treasury. They will be a political, as well as a moneyed board, and their influence will be felt in Congress, and in all the business of the country. And who will compose this board ? Who will these nine lords be ? The bill very cautiously, most carefully, provides that they shall not be members of Congress members of the Government or the Government contractors. This is pretty, very pretty indeed ! Members and contractors are excluded, but the ex-members and the ex-contractors are admitted ! so than a resignation an expiration of the term of service removes the disability, and qualifies the member or the contractor to become one of the board ! And of such will it be composed ! Members will resign their places or decline elections, to become fiscal lords. It will be the highest place in the Union; the most splendid and powerful post in the Union; the Presidency only excepted. You can depopulate the two houses of Congress with such offices you can pick and cull the Union with such a temptation. What is it ? A power over money and politics a power over a bank of thirty millions, to be increased to fifty millions a residence at Washington a power over Congress salaries a palace to live in ante-chambers, crowded with suppliant expectants. Such will be the new offices, and who can refuse them ? Sir, they will be eagerly, furiously, sought. The incumbents will be politicians old hacks prostitutes worthy to grace the new political Magdalen hospital, of which they will be the battered and worn out inmates.
Mr. Benton scouted the whole idea of this board of nine directors at Washington city. Bad in itself, this board was conceived for a fraudulent purpose for a fraud on the Constitution to cheat the poor Constitution out of its objections to a Bank ! It is for a fraudulent purpose it is to make the Bank constitutional to obviate constitutional objections to it that this new and tremendous engine of political and moneyed corruption of a board at Washington is interjected into this charter.
The Senator from Pennsylvania [Mr. Buchanan] is right in characterizing this proposed Bank as a Treasury Bank. It is a Treasury Bank in every way in which you can view it. It is to be built up with Treasury money; all the taxes and duties are to be put there; it is to be the Treasury of the United States, so declared by a clause in the charter; it is to be under the supervision of nine managers that is to say, lords of the Treasury and they stationed here where the Government resides; and, finally, its name is Treasury. Its name is fiscal; and what is fiscal, but belonging to the a Treasury ? It is from the latin adjective fiscalis, and signifies belonging to the treasury. Fisc is Treasury, from the latin noun fiscus. The French say fisque for Treasury, from the same noun. Fiscus and fiscalis are from the Greek phaskos, and phaskalos. The primitive meaning of the Greek is big basket, and belonging to the big basket, commonly called hanaper, or hamper basket. This is the primitive sense: the figurative or metaphorical sense is treasury, and belonging to the treasury; and the reason of this metaphorical sense is this, that anciently governments collected their taxes as the priests did their tythes, and as many landlords now collect their rents, that is to say, in kind.
Thus when the wheat, barley, olives, grapes, &c. were ripe, the Government tax-gatherers entered the field with the owner, and gathered the Government share, which was always a large share, and required large baskets to receive it. The farmer had a little basket, and the Government a big basket a hanaper, or, as our good housewives call it, a hamper which had handles to it, and required several men to carry it. This big basket received the tax for the treasury; what was put in it was put in the Treasury; and hence, by an easy metaphor, the Treasury took the name of big basket. Thus we trace the word fiscal in this bill, to the latin fiscus and fiscalis, and that to its Greek root phaskos and phaskados; and it all comes to the same thing, that is to say, belonging to the Treasury.
Sir, said Mr. Benton this name fiscal ought to be changed; it will bamboozle the people, and lead them off from the true idea of this Bank; it will conceal its true character, that of a Treasury, or Government Bank the thing so much dreaded and decried in General Jackson's and Mr. Van Buren's time. It is a bamboozling name, and ought to be changed. [Some member near repeated the word bamboozle, doubtingly.] Yes, said Mr. Benton, it is a good word an old English word a powerful word in its place and appropriately used here. I have used it before in the Senate, and justified it by Johnson, and the best lexicographers, and the finest writers in the English language. You will recollect, Mr. President, [addressing himself to Mr. Southard in the chair,] that you rather sneered at this word when I first used it here; whereupon I called in the hercules, Dr. Samuel Johnson, LL.D. and F.R.S. and he quickly settled the matter in my favor. Some of the illustrations of its meaning, which I then read, will not be forgotten on this floor, they suited the times and the subject so well.
Mr. ARCHER. What were they ? I was not here.
Mr. Benton (to one of the little pages) bring me the book bring me Johnson. [The boy brought it.] Here, said Mr. Benton, listen. He read:
"To Bamboozle, active verb, to deceive; to impose upon, to confound.
After Nic had BAMBOOZLED about the money, John called for counters." Arbuthnot.
"All the people upon earth, except these two or three worthy gentlemen, are imposed upon, cheated, bubbled, abused, BAMBOOZLED !" Addison.
Mr. Benton said here was good authority for the verb, to bamboozle; there was also good authority for the noun substantive, bamboozler. Listen to Johnson again:
Bamboozler, a tricking fellow; a client.
"There are a set of fellows they call banterers and Bamboozlers, that play such tricks." Auburthnot.
This is good authority, said Mr. Benton, but it is not all. Richardson, more modern than Johnson, and a standard lexicographer, has redeemed and established the word in our language. He says the meaning is to delude, to mislead, to cheat, to cozen, to deceive, to beguile; and he gives several illustrations, some very suitable to our times. Thus:
"After Nic had bamboozled John awhile about the 18,000 and the 28,000, John called for counters; but what with sleight of hand, and taking from his own score and adding to that of John's, Nic brought the balance always on his own side." Swift's History of John Bull.
This whimsical phenomenon,
Confounding all my pro and con
Bamboozles the account again
And draws me nolens volens in
King, in Stumbling Block
But, says I, sir, I perceive this is to you all bamboozling. Why you look as if you were Don Diego'd to the tune of a thousand pounds tatler, No. 31.
[The reading of these illustrations occasioned much amusement in the Senate.]
Mr. Benton trusted that he had vindicated the use of the term to which exception seemed to be taken, and he trusted that it was equally easy to vindicate the application which he had made of it. The name of this Bank was a cheat and a trick; it deceived the ignorant and the thoughtless. The name implied that it was for the Treasury alone that it was an agent for the Treasury when it is a Bank of discount, deposite, and circulation, in which foreigners and other banks may be stockholders, and which, instead of being an agent of the Treasury, will be its master ! The name is a cheat; it should be altered; fiscal should be struck out, and some other substituted.
It is a compound monster, part treasury, part individual, part subordinate corporations, for other corporation may subscribe to its stock. Call it the Treasury Bank of the United States. Then it is the abhorred thing the chimera dire the gorgon head the raw head and bloody bones which was held up to terrify the people during the whole administration of Jackson and Van Buren. Even the Independent Treasury was stigmatized as a Treasury Bank, and many good people were excited against it on that account; yet it issued no notes, received no deposites, made no discounts, bought and sold no bills of exchange; had no attribute of a bank; yet the Independent Treasury was cried down as a Government Bank. Now we establish one in fact, a mixed one to be sure an hermaphrodite but give it a name which misleads the mind. It is a bamboozling name, and should be changed for a plain one. Call it Treasury at once, or Treasury and British; for the British are to be stockholders. Call it the Treasury and Company; for there are to be companions enough in it. Call it by some common and plain name, and at the same tme appropriate. Call it the Hanaper Bank. That would be classic; for it goes up to the Greek root of the term. It also is an English term for the Exchequer and the Treasury.
We remember very well, said Mr. Benton, addressing the President of the Senate, that, as apprentices to the law, we had to learn a long list of courts in England, among other that of Hanaper, in law latin, Hanaperium. The Hanaper court, the Hanaper office, the clerk of the Hanaper, are all familiar to the student at law; and they all refer to the exchequer, the Treasury. It is the old Greek word for Treasury, and is revived in England, both because the clerk formerly used a big basket to hold his papers, and these papers belonged to the Treasury, and because it is an Exchequer, or Treasury court. I would recommend it to the gentleman, then, to call this a Hanaper Bank, especially as they have English precedent for it, and this fiscality is to be a half English concern.
Hanaper will do, but I would prefer Hamper. It is the same word, in a shorter form, and not only has all the power of meaning which belongs to Hanaper, but has another meaning very appropriate to this institution. The noun hamper, is the big basket; the verb, to hamper, is to restrict, to hobble, to fetter, to cramp, to hamstring, &c. and that is the way this bank will serve this Government and the people. It will hamper, hobble, and hamstring them; and then, like a real basket, it will not hold water ! that is, it will not hold the people's money, which will go by the hundred thousand to jobbers, gamblers, speculators, and millionary plunderers.
Mr. President, continued Mr. Benton, will wonders never cease ? will political miracles never cease ? Last year, and for many years, the country was alarmed, agitated, terrified, at the idea of a Treasury Bank, gratuitously and unfoundedly attributed to the Democratic party. Now, the very persons who charged this as an offence upon the Democracy are themselves openly doing the same thing. A Treasury Bank is now their idol, after having been their terror; and the good people are required to love it as much now as they were instructed to hate it a few months ago. Such are the inconsistencies, the contradictions, which are played off before the people; and which, it is supposed, the good nature or the ignorance of the people will swallow.
Mr. Benton referred to the speech of the Senator from Pennsylvania [Mr. Buchanan] as one that would not be answered, because it could not be answered. He (Mr. B.) had waited for some one on the other side, to reply to this speech. No one rose. No ore broke silence. Shut pan, seemed to be the word of command on the left side of this Chamber. It was one way to curtail, and stifle debate.
Another way was to limit the time of the speaker, as was done in Rome in the time of the second Triumvirate; and this way we have partly adopted in the Senate. The morning hour, which, with manly exertion on our part, was saved for resolutions, was an infringement of our right of speech, perpetrated for the first time in this Chamber, and even this hour is now taken away from us by those from whom we wrung it; it is frittered away by motions, and presentations, and small speeches, from the gentlemen of the other side.
Another way of stifling debate is to fix an arbitrary hour for its termination; another, to cut off amendments without debate; but the most capital way of all was to authorize the majority to put an end to all talk whenever their minds were convinced. This capital conception originated with the Jacobins of the French Revolution, and was applied on the trial of the celebrated Madame Rolland. This lady defended herself with such courage and ability before the Revolutionary tribunal, that the Attorney General, the bloody Fouquier Tinville, wrote a note to Robespierre to let him know that the woman would encite the people to mutiny if she was not stopped; whereupon Robespierre ran a decree of three lines through the Convention authorizing the judges to stop the trials whenever their minds were convinced. This decree was immediately applied, the defence stopped, and Madame Rolland sent to the guillotine and thus it was in all subsequent trials. The judges stopped the trials, and put an end to the speaking whenever they pleased; and this last and most approved method of stopping debates, so effectual before the French revolutionary stifling and suppressing debate which remains to be taken in our free country, under this revived reign of sedition law federalism.[end of speech]
"That the cashier of every office of discount or deposite shall, on the first Monday of January in each year, transmit to the presiding officer of each House of Congress a list of all notes discounted, and of all bills of exchange bought and sold by those offices, together with the names of all drawers and endorser of said notes, and of all bills of exchange, with the drawers, endorsers, and acceptors."
Mr. BENTON was friendly to the amendment, or rather to the object of the amendment; for, while aiming at a good object, he did not think it went far enough. He was in favor of publicity in bank proceedings, as well as in other cases, and had no doubt that this publicity would be eventually attained. It was in harmony with the spirit of the age, which demanded light, and abhorred darkness, and which was ready to condemn any institution, or any proceedings which required secrecy for their protection. The loans and discounts of banks ought to be public; not only those granted, but those refused.
Mr. Benton said that banks were public institutions he meant banks of circulation and should have a public course of action. Every bank which possessed the privilege of issuing paper money for a currency, was in possession of a public and sovereign privilege, the exercise of which concerned the public welfare, and gave every citizen a right to know how that privilege was exercised. The bank of circulation gave out its own notes in exchange for the notes of individuals; and if these were insolvent, the notes put out had no basis to rest on, and the public were cheated. The private property of the stockholders was not bound for the debts of the institution; and thus, where the borrower was insolvent, the notes lent to him, and put into circulation, were so many frauds upon the community. Publicity of loans and discounts would detect this fraud, and save the community from imposition and loss.
Again: by obtaining a charter, with the valuable privileges which it confers the privilege of usury the exemption of individual liability for corporate debts the privilege of fabricating money out of lampblack and rags a monopoly of these privileges, and many others the Bank comes under an obligation to the public to conduct itself fairly in making its loans and discounts, and especially to favor the producing classes, and the small dealers in preference to speculators, and great capitalists. This obligation was constantly violated by banks; and at present there was no remedy for it. Publish the discounts, and the refusals to discount publish the loans made, and the loans refused and a remedy would be presented. The unjust and partial banks would be detected, and would fall under public censure and legislative rebuke.
Loans were often made profusely, to raise the price of property, produce, or stocks; and then rigorously refused, and curtailments ordered, to sink the price of property. In these seasons of high prices, the directors and the initiated sell; in the season of low prices they purchase. They know when they are going to make money plenty, and when scarce; and thus have an advantage over the rest of the community. Publicity would detect this knavery, and put the public out of danger from these contractions and expansions.
Often a small loan is refused to a worthy man to enable him to prosecute some meritorious undertaking, or to save his property from sacrifice; and at the same time a large loan is made to a broker at 6 per cent. per annum, who lends a little of it to the distressed man, as a great favor, at three per cent. a month; or it is lent to a speculator to go and purchase the poor man's property for a trifle, at sheriff's sale. Here, again, publicity is the remedy. The Bank would become infamous, which should be caught at such work.
Loans made between neighbor and neighbor are public they are known to all the neighbors and often made a matter of record; in the case of a mortgage, they are always recorded. All the debts between man and man are public, and ought to be so, for the security of the public; that people may sea whether a man is already in debt; and how far he is entitled to further credit. This is the case between man and man; why should it not be so in relation to bank debts ?
Mr. Benton was very positive in his belief that the mass of the crimes, frauds, and iniquities which disgraced our banking system, and presented such a frightful picture of demoralization, arose from the SECRECY of bank proceedings, and that the main remedy for these enormities was PUBLICITY. He believed that this great truth was gaining ground, and would soon become universal, and would be applied to all banks. He was certain it ought to be so applied. With how much more reason, then, should this principle apply to this bank, which is to be a national institution, wholly intended to accomplish national objects, and built up, or intended to be built up, chiefly on public money ! This made a distinction between this bank and other banks, and gave new and powerful reasons for the publicity of its proceedings.
Let us see, said Mr. Benton, how this bank is to be built up; let us see where the bulk of the money is to come from which is to go into it, and that will give us clear views of what its conduct and management should be, and of our rights over it. Its capital is thus made up: First, the United States are to subscribe ten millions out of thirty, and these ten are to be borrowed to be put into the Bank, at five per centum interest; and these ten millions, and the annual interest upon it for the twenty years the loan is to run, are to be a debt upon the people of the United States. These ten millions, with 5 per centum interest for twenty years, is twenty millions of dollars. Secondly, upon the increase of the capital to fifty millions, the United States are to subscribe the one-third of the increase, which is six and two-thirds millions more; and this again is to be borrowed at 5 per centum per annum, which in twenty years will make the interest equal to the capital, and the two amount to thirteen millions and a third. Thirdly, if the amount of the capital (which is two-thirds of the whole) which is to be subscribed by individuals or corporations, shall not be taken in three months after the books are opened, then the United States are to subscribe for the part so not taken, to the extent of the one-third of the deficiency.
Now the amount left to be subscribed for by individuals and corporations, is two-thirds of the whole, that is to say, twenty millions of the first thirty, and thirteen and one-third millions of the increased twenty, making, in the whole thirty-three and one-third millions to be subscribed for by individuals. To the extent of one third of this sum, being eleven millions of dollars, the United States may become, and probably will become, the subscriber; and that again is to be borrowed at 5 per centum. Thus the United States is to become, or may become, owners of about twenty-seven millions of dollars; and that to bear interest for twenty years, which doubles its amount. This is to be the subscription of the United States to the capital of the Bank, a large sum, but by no means the whole.
The Secretary of the Treasury proposes to retain four millions as a reserved fund, to be always on hand, and which, of course, will be a deposite to that amount for twenty years, without interest, with the Bank. This would be four millions more, and the interest another four.
Another large infusion of public money is to go into it. All the deposites are to go there; and we already see that the friends of the Bank are determined that these deposites shall be something worth having ! Loans, taxes, and large appropriations, are to come into play to swell these deposites ! This is to be the play; and, already, we see it began. A loan bill is already actually brought in to borrow twelve millions of dollars, which will go straight to the vaults of the Bank. Another bill is already actually brought in to recommence the tariff by levying twenty per cent. upon near seventy millions of imports now free of duty. This would raise fourteen millions, to go straight into the Bank.
Another bill is brought in to appropriate about three and a half millions to fortifications (while the land revenue to that amount is to be presented as a douceur to the States) and this three and a half millions would go straight into the Bank, to be there a year or two before it should be used up.
This is sufficient to show how the Bank will be built up that it will be composed almost entirely of public money that the mass of the loans and discounts will be made out of this public money; and now is it wrong and unreasonable that the public should know to whom these vast masses of public money shall be lent ? We hold that it is every way right and reasonable that the public should know how these public moneys shall be disposed of in loans; and, therefore, we go for publicity.
Mr. Benton exemplified the evils of secrecy in bank transactions by referring to the late United States Bank, when it was a national institution. He knew it was the fashion now to deliver up the Bank to execration for its conduct since it got a charter from Pennsylvania, and to claim for it a pure and virtuous character before that tine. He knew this was the fashion now; but he knew also that this was a great and flagrant mistake that, in point of fact, there is not a single enormity of which the Pennsylvania institution was guilty, leaving out the single one of the cotton speculations, which was not perpetrated by the old Bank under its national charter, and which was not defended and supported by the whole Federal party in Congress and out of Congress.
He would not go into this comparison at present, but he would take one point, that of the enormous loans to Thomas Biddle, and which were shown by Mr. Clayton's committee of 1832, to have exceeded three millions in less than two years, while the business community of Philadelphia were refused small sums during the same time.
Mr. Benton then read from Mr. Clayton's report a list of loans to Thomas Biddle & Co. as follows:
1830 Sep. 17, $220,000 at 5 per cent.
Oct. 15, 1,123,000 do
Nov. 16, 730,000 do
Dec. 14, 730,000 do
1831 Jan. 14, 720,000 do
Feb. 15, 540,000 do
March 15, 400,000 do
April 15, 480,000 do
May 17, 443,138 4½ and 5 per cent.
June 14, 557,968 do
July 15, 504,912 5 per cent.
Aug. 16, 579,000 do
Sept. 16, 683,000 at 6 per cent.
Oct. 74, 698,000 at 5 and 6 per cent.
Nov. 14, 698,727 do
Dec. 16, 689,125 do do
Jan. 17, 652,388 do do
Feb. 17, 488,323 at 5 per, cent.
These loans are exclusive of the discounts on bills of exchange to the same parties during the same time, and which amounted to about two millions of dollars.
During the same time, continued Mr. Benton, resident citizens of Philadelphia were refused small sums for their current business. The same report shows this fact. The report shows this question put to the President of the Bank: The aggregate amount of good notes offered for discount and rejected by the board, drawn and endorsed by residents of Philadelphia, on the following days respectively: 9th August, 16th December, 1831; 2d January, 10th February, 2d and 14th March, 1832; 24th September and 15th October, 1832 ? And to this question, it was answered, that on the 29th September, 1830, the sum of $6,312 was refused to such applicants; on the 9th August, 1831, the sum of $6,892; on December 16th, $82,181; on January 3d, 1832, $200,623; February 10th, $162,353; March 2, $164,631; and March 13, $148,255.
Here, (said Mr. Benton) a most enormous, and iniquitous abuse was committed. A broker, and a relation of the president of the Bank, got loans for millions, and for years, at 4½, 5 and 6 per centum; at the same time, dozens and hundreds of citizens, applying for small suns, the aggregate of the whole of which was only a fragment of a single loan to this cormorant, were refused ! The persons so refused were in all probability driven to borrow what they needed from the same Thomas Biddle and Co. at two or three per cent. a month; and then the public would be entertained with a story that the money market was "tight;" and that tightness would be attributed to some act of the Government.
This has been done (said Mr. Benton) by a National Bank, and may be done by another. Let us then provide against it by providing for a publication of the loans and discounts made and refused.
Mr. Benton illustrated the progress of the publicity principle by referring to what had taken place in this very chamber. He said that the Senate, for many years after the commencement of this Government, sat always with closed doors sat under lock and key on legislative and judicial business as well as on executive with their doors closed. The journals show repeated votings for many years before this secrecy could be arrested, and the doors of the Senate opened to the public eye.
Mr. Benton read several of these motions, one of which was made in the year 1793, and was in these words:
Resolved, That the conducting of the legislative and judicial powers of the Senate in public, and suffering an account of their measures and deliberations to be published in the newspapers, is the best means of diffusing general information concerning the principles, motives, and conduct of individual members; and that, by withholding this information, responsibility becomes unavailing, the influence of their constituents over one branch of the Legislature in a great measure annihilated, and the best security which experience has devised against the abuse of power and a mad-administration abandoned."
Who can believe, at this day, said Mr. Benton, that this resolution was rejected overwhelmingly rejected by three to one by 21 votes against 7 ? Yet such was the fact. The resolution was rejected again, and again, and again; and the doors of the Senate were not opened to the public until the Democracy became triumphant in Mr. Jefferson's time.
This was formerly the condition of the Senate chamber; now it is open to every visitor galleries provided for them Reporters admitted and not merely admitted, but comfortable seats and desks prepared for them. What is now thought of the secret proceedings of the Senate in former times ? I can see astonishment in every face; and so it will be in a few years with respect to bank secrecy. The people of the United States are at school at the Bank school learning rapidly: in three years they will graduate, and will scorn the dogmas of Bank arcana, and, above all, will scorn the secrecy in which Bank proceedings are wrapped up. The Democracy opened the doors of this Senate chamber, and they will open the doors of the Bank parlor. To the Democracy these crowds now in our galleries, and these Reporters in their logographe, owe the privilege of witnessing and reporting our proceedings; to the same Democracy we will hereafter be indebted for an inside view of that laboratory of crime, misery, public shame, and national demoralization the Bank parlor !
The question having been taken on Mr. Walker's amendment, and lost, Mr. Benton immediately offered his own in the following words, and demanded the yeas and nays upon it:
"That the board of directors and exchange committee shall keep suitable books, in which are to be entered all notes and bills offered to be discounted, together with the bills of exchange offered to be sold or purchased, the names of drawers and endorsers, the amount of the note and the time to run, and whether the same was discounted or purchased, or refused the same to be open daily on the Bank counter during hours of business, and subject to the inspection of the public."
The vote was taken, and Mr. Benton's amendment rejected by the following vole:
YEAS Messrs. Allen, Benton, Buchanan, Calhoun, Clay of Alabama, Cuthbert, Fulton, King, Linn, McRoberts, Mouton, Nicholson, Pierce, Sevier, Smith of Connecticut, Sturgeon, Tappan, Walker, Williams, Woodbury, Wright, and Young 22.
NAYS Messrs. Archer, Barrow, Bates, Bayard, Bertien, Choate, Clay of Ky., Clayton, Dixon, Evans, Graham, Huntington, Magnum, Miller, Morehead, Phelps, Porter, Prentiss, Preston, Simmons, Smith of Indiana, Southard, Tallmadge, While, and Woodbridge 25.
Mr. Benton submitted the following amendment:
"That no part of the proceedings of the Bank, nor any loans, discounts, or payments made by it, nor any order given shall be made or kept secret from the Government directors, nor shall be said directors be excluded from the free and full participation in all the transactions and business of the institution."
Mr. Benton in in support of his amendment, referred to the conduct of the late United States Bank which, during the time of its war upon the currency, commerce, and business of the country, and during its operations upon the press and the legislative power, in order to coerce its recharter, regularly and systematically excluded the Government directors from all share in the management, and all knowledge of the proceedings, of the Bank. The Government directors, from about the year 1832 to 1836, when the Bank charter expired, were denied their rights as directors, and the most important measures transacted without their knowledge or consent.
The famous mission of General Cadwallader to Europe to obtain a postponement of the payment of the three per centum debt of the United States a mission which was the first symptom of the insolvency of the Bank which has since become apparent this famous mission, and its object, was entirely concealed from the Government directors, and only became known to them, as it did to the rest of their fellow-citizens, by a paragraph in a London newspaper. The great loans to editors of newspapers and to members of Congress were chiefly made without the knowledge or consent of the Government directors. The business of the Bank was actually carried on for several years without the knowledge of these directors. They were treated as spies, or interlopers, and shut out from a knowledge of what was going on in the Bank; and that not occasionally, and by passion or resentment, but systematically, and by rule.
The excluded directors made a report of this tyranny to President Jackson in the winter of 1833-34, and by him it was communicated to Congress; but all to no purpose. The Bank was sustained in her course, in thus expelling the Government directors, by its friends in Congress and out of Congress, and no measures could be taken against her for such infamous breach of charter, and flagrant insult to the Government.
The exclusion of the Government directors from a knowledge of the business of the Bank, was a most villainous breach of the charter, and a blackguard, ruffian insult to the Government and its directors; yet no censure or punishment could be inflicted on the perpetrators of such outrages; there was no penalty for it, although forbid by the charter; and it is my purpose, if possible, to provide a penalty for such conduct in future.
Mr. Benton said it was certain that the Government directors had been evicted from their proper places in the Bank, and it was his intention to place an instance of that eviction, and its consequences, before the Senate and the country: it related to the panic curtailment, and fictitious distress, made by the Bank in 1833-34, and falsely attributed to the removal of the deposites. When the Bank plotted this wicked and infamous attack on the business of the country, arid this diabolical falsehood to cover it, secrecy became indispensable to her success; and accordingly a system of secret operations were devised, which placed the whole power of the Bank in the hands of Mr. Biddle, and exempted him from reporting his doings to the board ! This incredible conduct was related to the Government at the time, by the excluded directors, and has lately been exhibited to the public by Mr. Biddle himself, in his five letters to Mr. Clayton, in justification of his secret millionary loans to jobbers, gamblers, swindlers, and speculators.
Mr. Biddle had done right to expose these directors, who had impugned him for the exercise of the power which they had granted him, and the exhibition of the yeas and nays which he made on the passage of these resolutions, investing him with despotic and secret power over the whole capital, loans, discounts, and debts of the Bank. In every exhibition of these yeas and nays, the five Government directors appeared in the negative; the twelve of fifteen Biddle directors, including Mr. Biddle himself, always appeared in the affirmative. Mr. Biddle has done right to expose these directors; he has done right to show their subserviency to him when he was powerful their assaults upon him, now that he is down. He has done well in this, but, it does not legitimate the original wrong, that of excluding the Government directors from their share and knowledge in the transaction of the business of the Bank.
Mr. Benton felt it to be his duty to pursue this subject to show that the panic and pressure of 1833, '34 was the secret work of Mr. Biddle alone, and that the Government directors were kept ignorant of what was done. For that purpose, he referred to the memorial of these directors, complaining of their exclusion, and showing that when the wicked curtailment and pressure of 1833 '34 was commenced, a resolve was adopted by the Board of Directors, vesting the Exchange Committee, and the Committee on the Branch Banks, with supreme power over the loans and discounts of the Bank, and especially over the curtailment which was meditated, with an express authority not to report their proceedings to the Board ?
Now these committees consisted of three members each. Two of these were appointed by the president of the Bank; and the president himself was, ex officio, a member, and the first member the chairman of each. The result was that Biddle alone constituted the committee, and the committee constituted the Bank ! All power was gone to one man, and that man was not even to report his doings to the board of directors. Thus clothed with secret and despotic poorer, the panic and pressure was begun.
A cruel curtailment was made among the business men of the South and West, and even in the Atlantic cities; large loans were made at the same time to brokers, favorites and family connections in Philadelphia; and all the money wrung from the hand of industry, was shipped to the Barings in London, to remain there until a rise in the rate of exchange made it profitable to draw for it. In this manner the sum of near four millions was shipped to London, and lay there until foreign exchange, which had been sunk by the panic and pressure to five per cent. below par, was raised to eight per cent. above it. This was in August following; and then the Bank drew for her four millions.
This, said Mr. Benton, is what has happened to our Government directors, and may happen to them again. All the crimes of the Bank were hid from them; the orders and machinery for making panic and distress in 1833-'34, were also concealed from them the attacks upon the purity of the press, and of legislation, were in like manner concealed from them. They were excluded from all knowledge of what was done during these times of atrocious and diabolical villainy. To prevent such things from being done in future, and to rebuke those who did them, Mr. Benton now brought forward his motion to prevent Government directors from being hereafter excluded from a knowledge and a participation of what was done in the Bank.
Mr. Berrien would only observe that that was provided for in the bill in the most full and ample manner.
Mr. Benton referred to the experience of the past to show that an infamous outrage had been perpetrated by the other Bank, and instanced the case of directors known to have been insolently excluded.
Mr. Bayard. Suppose Government directors did not attend, were they to be informed of all the proceedings by note or otherwise ? Confidence was to be placed somewhere; and, after all the guards thrown around this bill, he did not think any thing was to be apprehended.
Mr. Benton insisted that it was done in the case of the old Bank, and that the Government directors were not aware of many of its transactions, until informed of them through the medium of the public papers.
Mr. Bayard. Then all I have to say is, that it was a gross abuse, and a violation of the spirit of the charter.
Mr. Sevier was clear for making every violation of the charter felony, as they would make the embezzlement of the funds felony.
The question was taken on the amendment, and decided in the affirmative as follows:
YEAS Messrs. Allen, Archer, Barrow, Benton, Buchanan, Calhoun, Clay of Alabama, Cuthbert, Fulton, King, Linn, McRoberts, Mouton, Nicholson, Pierce, Porter, Prentiss, Sevier, Smith of Connecticut, Sturgeon, Tappan, Walker, Williams, Woodbury, Wright and Young 26.
NAYS Messrs. Bates, Bayard, Berrien, Clay of Kentucky, Clayton, Dixon, Evans, Graham, Huntington, Ker, Magnum, Merrick, Miller, Morehead, Phelps, Preston, Simmons, Smith of Indiana, Southard, Tallmadge, White and Woodbridge 22.
Mr. BENTON said he noticed in the bill what he supposed was a mistake. By the bill it was provided that the Bank should only pay out its own notes, gold or silver coin, and bullion. It was an unusual and unprecedented thing to authorize a bank to pay out bullion, and he supposed it was a mistake. He would therefore move to strike it out.
Mr. Clay of Kentucky opposed the amendment. He thought the Bank had as much right to deal in bullion as to deal in stocks, in houses, in lands, &c.
Mr. Benton said he had no idea that this amendment would be opposed, as the provision was a palpable violation of the Constitution, and he had supposed that it was a mistake, which it was only necessary to call to the attention of gentlemen, to have it corrected.
Mr. Huntington contended that it was no mistake, and that there was a similar provision in the charter of the old Bank. There was nothing in the bill to compel persons to accept bullion. It was at the option of the individual, as it was with regard to the notes. In another portion of the bill, the Bank was authorized to deal in bullion, and how could it deal in the article without paying it out, as well as receiving it ?
Mr. Wright said it was not necessary to retain the word bullion in this provision to enable the Bank to dispose of it. Deal means to sell as I well as buy, and it might sell its bullion, though not authorized to make payments in it.
Mr. Benton. I am truly astonished at this opposition opposition to striking out a word which is a clear breach of the Constitution, and a mere burlesque upon specie payment and which in good faith, and in great simplicity of heart, I had supposed it to have crept in by inadvertence. In good faith I believed it to be a lapsus pennae a slip of the pen which only required to be pointed out, by friend or foe, to receive immediate correction. The replies of the Senator from Kentucky, [Mr. Clay] and the Senator from Connecticut, [Mr. Huntington] show me that I was mistaken that the word was inserted understandingly and advisedly and that it will not be stricken out if they can prevent it. It now becomes my duty therefore to sustain my motion, and to give reasons for expunging this word from the bill.
The word is contained in the 22d fundamental article of what is, fancifully, called the constitution of the Bank. The article is in these words:
"The said Bank shall not pay out the notes of any other bank, or any thing except legal coin, bullion, or its own notes."
The general import of this article is restrictive; but there are exceptions to the restriction, and these exceptions are permissions. What is excepted, is permitted; and among the exceptions, is the permission to pay out bullion. Bullion, then, is to become a tender at the counter of the Bank; a thing, in the language or the article, to be paid out in discharge of the notes, deposites, and other debts of the institution. This is a flagrant breach of the Constitution. By that instrument nothing but gold and silver coin can be a tender in payment of debts, either public or private. The bullion must be coined before it can be tendered; and, in the case of foreign coins, they, although coined, are not to be a tender, except specially made so by act of Congress, and the value thereof fixed by law.
Sir, the unconstitutionality of this tender is too gross for argument. It is plainly and obviously a palpable breach of the words and of the spirit of the Constitution. I proceed, then, to its inexpediency. Certainly nothing can be more inexpedient than to allow the National Bank to pay its debts with bullion. What is bullion ? Misshapen masses of gold or silver metal, in lumps, bars, balls, or wedges, more or less impure from the admixture of foreign substances ! Such is bullion, in the common acceptation of the term. In England all foreign coins are bullion; for no foreign coins are allowed to be a tender there. With us, all the foreign coins which are not made tenders by act of Congress, may come under the legal idea of bullion; but the primitive and common acceptation of the term is, that state of the precious metals when, being smelted, and in the form of bars or ingots, they are not yet coined. Plate also comes under the idea of bullion. If, then, this word shall stand in the bill, the Bank will have the privilege of tendering lumps and masses of impure metals to the holders of it[s] notes, or pieces of plate, or uncurrent coins, the value of which can only be ascertained by an assay and a skilful chemical analysis, and which must be either carried to the Mint or sold to a broker. Certainly this would be a very pretty and a very effectual mode of preventing calls upon the Bank for the redemption of its notes ! The tender of an ingot of gold or a bar of silver would make the note holder recoil from the counter; and resort to a broker to sell the note for so much coin as it would bring. This is a new privilege never yet granted to any bank, and less occasion for it now than ever, since the branching of the Mint has multiplied the facilities for coining, and has taken away all excuse for tendering bullion, even if it was constitutional.
The Senator from Connecticut [Mr. Huntington] is most egregiously mistaken in the matter of fact, when he says that the late Bank had the right to pay out bullion. It had no such right. The charter will show it had not, to any one that will read it. But the Senator from Kentucky, [Mr. Clay] and the Senator from Connecticut, [Mr. Huntington] ask if the Bank may not deal in its bullion ? may not sell it as well as buy it ? The Senator from New York, [Mr. Wright] has already given the proper answer to this question. He has shown you that dealing in an article is one thing, and a right to pay your debts in that article is quite another thing; and that the ninth fundamental article of the charter has given full authority to sell all the bullion they possess. I will read the article, and show that it is all the Bank can ask to authorize it to dispose of its bullion. This is the article:
"The said corporation shall not, directly or indirectly, deal or trade in any thing except bills of exchange, gold or silver coin, or bullion, or goods, or lands purchased on execution, or taken bona fide in the payment of debts, or goods which shall be the proceeds of its lands. It shall not be at liberty to purchase any public debt whatever, nor shall it take more than at the rate of six per centum per annum for or upon its loans or discounts."
Mr. Benton continued. This section gives the Bank all the power it can wish over its bullion, and all that is asked for by the Senators who oppose my motion. The article gives them a right to deal and to trade in bullion. This gives as much right to sell as to buy, and if the contrary is maintained, and if it is still insisted that authority must be given to pay out, in order to enable them to dispose of it, then it will be necessary to enable them to dispose of their lands, houses, goods, stocks, &c. that authority should also be given them to pay out these goods and lands in discharge of their debts.
But enough. The thing is wrong. This authority, in this new Bank, to pay out bullion, is unconstitutional, unprecedented, and preposterous. It should be stricken out from the bill; and I demand the yeas and nays on any motion.
Mr. White called the attention of the Senator from Missouri to another portion of the bill in which the Bank was required to redeem its notes in "gold and silver." He suggested the propriety of inserting the word "coin" after the words gold and silver.
Mr. Benton thanked the Senator from Indiana for his suggestion, and made the motion to insert coin, which was agreed to.
The question was as then taker, on the motion to strike our "bullion," and it was agreed to yeas 26, noes 21, as follows:
YEAS Allen, Bates, Bayard, Benton, Buchanan, Calhoun, Choate, Clay of Alabama, Cuthbert, Fulton, King, Linn, McRoberts, Mouton, Nicholson, Pierce, Sevier, Smith of Connecticut, Sturgeon, Tappan, Walker, White, Williams, Woodbury, Wright, and Young 26.
Nays Messrs. Berrien, Clay of Kentucky, Clayton, Dixon, Evans, Graham, Henderson, Huntington, Ker, Mangum, Miller, Morehead, Phelps, Porter, Prentiss, Preston, Simmons, Smith of Indiana, Southard, Tallmadge, and Woodbridge-21.
So the word bullion was stricken out.
Mr. TAPPAN rose and addressed the Senate as follows:
So much has been said, Mr. President, questioning the power of Congress to repeal its own acts, that I deem it necessary to bring that question more directly before the Senate; and for that purpose I propose, as an amendment, the following additional section, to come in as the last section of the bill:
"And be it further enacted, That nothing in this act contained shall be construed an admission that Congress have not the power to alter, modify, or repeal, the same."
In cases like this, where the power of Congress is asserted on one side, and denied on the other, it seems to me to be necessary, to a right understanding of the question, that we should go back to first principles, and examine the foundation of political power. The immediate proposition here is, to exclude the inference that the power to repeal this particular act, if it should become a law, is abandoned by any thing contained in it. But in considering the question of repeal as to this particular bill, in determining as to the rightful application of the power in the individual instance, it may be permitted to examine whether Congress have the power to repeat all laws which they may enact; or, in other words, whether the power of repealing is not coextensive with the power of making laws.
I hold that the power of repealing all laws that may be passed by Congress, or by a State Legislature, is a power inherent in, and necessarily incident to, the law-making power a power of which legislators cannot divest themselves. We cannot, without a violation of the oath we have taken, omit the exercise of this power on any occasion where the Constitution or a just regard to the public interest renders it necessary. Whenever there is a law existing which is found to operate differently from the object and intention with which it was enacted a law which is found operating injuriously, and which is clearly detrimental to the public welfare a law that has been inadvertently and improvidently passed, and one that is ascertained to be altogether improper we ought to repeal such laws; public duty requires it; we should violate our trust and our oaths by neglecting to do it; for to repeal is as much a part of the power of legislation upon any given subject as to make the law. Legislative power has no distinction between them.
That "the earth belongs to the living, and not to the dead," is an observation of Mr. Jefferson, which lies at the foundation of this question of the power of repeal. Mr. Jefferson, by elaborate calculation, shows that the average duration of human life, or the life of a generation of men, is nineteen years; and from that fact concludes that the existing generation of men, having no power over their progeny, can only contract debts for themselves to pay within that period of time. I shall not enter into this argument, for I think upon one point Mr. Jefferson was mistaken; and that is, that the existing generation may, by law, bind itself for the term of nineteen years. He applies reasoning only applicable to the individual man to man in the aggregate to societies of men associated together for purposes of government. Society has no heirs. The individual man cannot bind his heir to pay one cent of his debts. The property of the ancestor found in the possession of the heir may be applied to the payment of them; but nothing of the property of the heir can be so applied. As men cannot individually bind their children to provide for the payment of their debts, so, collectively, as a commonwealth, they may borrow money beyond their power or inclination to pay, and no power on earth can compel their successors to pay the debt.
It is customary with States to pay such debts; and I will agree that, where our ancestors have contracted debts for our benefit and advantage, like the debts of the Revolution, we are under a moral obligation to pay them; and in such cases the public faith is impliedly pledged to their liquidation. But if a State borrows money and squanders it away in what leaves no durable benefit to the successors of the borrowers, I cannot see any greater obligation resting on those successors to pay such debts, than rest upon the frugal and industrious child to pay the gambling debts of its dissipated father. The obligation, however, be it strong or weak, is an obligation of morals only not a duty imposed by one generation upon succeeding ones.
The existing generation of men have no power over those who will succeed them in the possession and ownership of this earth. Then they cannot charge them with the payment of their debts; they cannot prescribe for them the form of Government they shall use; they cannot forestall them in their legislation. Though in their benevolence they provide for all the future, such provision is necessarily, and by an invincible law of nature, confined to their own temporary existence; it affects not that future, for it exists independent of them and their cares.
The sovereign power in this country (for of other countries I have no occasion to speak) is at all times in the adult white male population, not in each individual man, but in societies of men associated in separate commonwealths. In this form they institute and maintain civil government, and exercise all the powers of sovereign and independent States, with such limitations only as they from time to time themselves prescribe to their action. For the experiment being on trial in this country to see with how little of government societies of men may be prosperous and happy, it is found that the action of Government may leave the individual at much greater liberty than had formerly been thought compatible with public security.
The sovereign power, then, does not exist, and cannot exist in a free country, in any other than the whole body of the active population. Man is the sovereign master not only over the earth and all its productions, but over his own course of action. Whether he shall exercise the powers of government by himself, or by his delegated agent, or whether he shall permit those powers to be usurped and exercised by men holding the sword or the purse, is for himself to determine. "For man to be free, it is sufficient that he wills it."
When Alexander Hamilton built his whole argument in support of the power in Congress to charter a bank upon the position that "every power vested in a Government is, in its nature, sovereign," he mistook the thing created for the creator; the instrument and form of action of the sovereign, for the sovereign himself. The laws and Constitution of the United States are the laws and Constitution of a Confederacy of sovereign States, and are, by agreement, supreme and paramount over the laws of the individual sovereignties. But it is a misapplication of language to call those laws and that Constitution the sovereign over a people, whose will can abolish the one and change the other at pleasure. It is mind alone that governs, and not brute matter or prescribed formulas.
The sovereignty exists in its own right. There is no delegation or limitation of the power it holds, but the nature of things or the Deity. But this power is over itself only; over its successors it has no power. Those who will succeed the existing generation will be the men in whom the sovereign power in each of the States will be as full and complete, as vigorous and entire, as it is in the existing generation. If this is doubted or denied, it is incumbent on those who deny it to show how, and to what extent, the existing generation of men acquire power over these who are to follow them; for the claimants of power must prove their legitimate title. Until that is attempted, it is sufficient to deny its existence.
In a small Commonwealth, (like Athens amongst the states of ancient Greece,) where all the free men might meet in one body, the sovereign power not only resided in, but was exercised in most cases by, the whole body. Legislation, the greatest act of sovereign power, was performed by the general assembly of the people. So it would be in our State Governments, were they as confined in their territory and numbers as Athens was; but being more extensive in both respects, necessity has introduced the practice of representation. And so with us; the sovereign power, instead of being exercised directly in making laws, is exercised in the selection of agents to perform that duty; agents who, when elected, are the representatives not of themselves, but of that sovereign power which called them into existence.
The meeting of the sovereign power may be annual or biennial: such meeting and election of agents, to execute for the whole community the legislative power, is the only exercise of sovereign power known to our usages and practice.
Let us go back to the first meeting of the electors to choose delegates to form a constitution of government, or to their first meeting under a State constitution; and if it is inquired what powers they possess, the answer must be, that the whole power over themselves is in them; they have no dominion over their successors. They may elect and instruct their delegates, but they can neither elect nor instruct the delegates of future years; their power, full and plenary as it is, extending to the entire change and subversion of the form of government under which they live, extends only to the next assemblage of the sovereign to elect its delegates; that assembly, whether in one district or many, has the same full power as any of its predecessors.
If, sir, I am correct in saying that the sovereign power of the State resides in the existing generation of men, and that this generation cannot be controlled in its political action by any thing done by its predecessors, and cannot control the political action of its successors our next inquiry should be, who are those successors ?
I have said that those who attend the elections, or, as we say, come to the polls this year, possess in themselves and exercise the sovereign power of the State; so those who may come to the polls at the next general election in any State, come there, possessing in themselves the same sovereign power; politically speaking, they are the next generation. They may be composed in part, of the same individuals; they may cone together with changed minds, with a determination to subvert the existing order of things, and there is no human power which can control such determination, or prevent its execution. They are the successors of the sovereign which has passed off the political stage. No man can convey to another powers he does not himself possess; so community of men can give to their representatives or agents greater powers than they themselves might lawfully exercise.
The power of binding our successors not being in us, cannot be communicated to those who act only for us; and hence the representative body is as powerless over futurity, as the constituent body. In no one of our constitutions of Government, State or Federal, is any distinction made in the exercise of the powers of legislation between the power to enact laws and the power to repeal them. Abrogating an unconstitutional or pernicious law by repeal, is an exercise of the same legislative power as the enacting a wise, constitutional, and salutary law; one is as much the duty of the legislator as the other; one is as necessary for the safety and happiness of the people as the other. If this were not so if man, either individually or aggregated in legislative assembles, with all his ignorance, imperfection, and errors, were prohibited from hearing the lessons of experience, from increasing his knowledge, perfecting his labors, and correcting the multitude of his unavoidable errors, as they were discovered Government, instead of being a great blessing, as it may and ought to be, would be the direst curse which could be inflicted on intelligent man.
This doctrine is admitted to be true in all cases but those where some exclusive privilege is granted some right is supposed to be vested in individual citizens; in truth, it is admitted to be true in all cases but those where the act sought to be repealed is, at least, of very questionable constitutionality.
The Government of the United States differs from the State Government in this; that the latter, in their Legislatures, exercise all powers not prohibited; and the former exercise no powers but those which are granted. It is a great error, as we have seen, to suppose, as some have done, that the Government of the United Slates is sovereign in the exercise of all the powers given to it by the Constitution. We have no sovereign in this country but the people; the various governments instituted by them are their instruments, not their masters.
I think I have said enough to satisfy you that the power of repealing laws is co-extensive with the power of enacting them, taking it as an abstract question. I will now ask your attention to the supposed limitations to this power. The first of these limitations is in the tenth section of the first article of the Constitution of the United States: "No State shall pass any law impairing the obligation of contracts." This is a limitation, to some extent, of the power of State legislation; but is no limitation whatever of the power of Congress. If, therefore, I should admit that a Bank charter is a contract, such charter, when granted by Congress, is subject to their repealing power as much as any other law.
So far, then, as respects the immediate question before us on this amendment, I might leave the question of constitutional power without further remarks; but, as I believe that an erroneous construction has been given to this clause in the Constitution, some consideration of its import and bearing will be given. If plain common sense men were to be asked what is a contract ? they would answer, if not in the language of an able lawyer in that of similar import a contract is "an agreement, upon sufficient consideration, to do or not to do a particular thing." A State Legislature passes an act chartering a bank; that is, providing that, at certain times and places, books of subscription may be opened for the capital stock of a bank. At the time of the passage of the act, when it becomes a law, it is plain that there is but one party to it the State Government. It is, then, but a simple grant of powers and privileges to whomsoever will accept them. In most eases, there is nothing given to the State for these powers and privileges; they are for the benefit of the grantees for their substantial emolument; and if any public benefit is to be the result, it is wholly fortuitous and speculative.
On the part of a bank, we know full well that the power granted is power to tax the industry of the country to an enormous extent, for the benefit of those corporations. What equivalent the State receives, or expects to receive, I know not unless it be the pleasure its citizens may experience in the use of paper for money, instead of gold and silver. There is nothing of agreement, of contract, in all this. The State grants the power of taxation to individuals; and relies on their cupidity, not on any contract, for their using their power.
But it is alleged that this question has been decided by the Supreme Court of the United States, in the Dartmouth College case. I declare to you, Mr. President, that I have no respect for the opinion of the court in that case. I think it is not law, and would not be recognized as law, were the question again brought before that court. Besides being an attempt to give an intent and meaning to the term contract, novel and altogether unwarranted by usage, the Dartmouth College case contains, in itself, the reason why its authority should be disregarded. It is a settled rule, in the construction of constitutions and laws, that "the reason and spirit of the law, or the cause which moved the legislator to enact it," are to be considered, and must govern in determining its true meaning.
In giving the opinion of the court, Chief Justice Marshall, after assigning his reasons for considering the charter of Dartmouth College a contract within the meaning of the Constitution, says: "It is more than possible that the preservation of rights of this description was not particularly in the view of the framers of the Constitution, when the clause under consideration was introduced into that instrument. It is probable that interferences of more frequent recurrence, to which the temptation was stronger, and of which the mischief was more extensive, constituted the great motive for imposing this restriction on the State Legislatures." The history of the times when the Constitution was formed furnishes abundant evidence what those "interferences of more frequent recurrence" were. They were laws directly interfering with private contracts, as to time of payment, and as to what should be received in payment by creditors.
The charter of Dartmouth College had existed many years, and many charters of various kinds, including banks, were in full operation at the time the Constitution was formed. If it was intended to protect these institutions from a repeal of their charters, it may be asked, would not the Convention have used language which unequivocally expressed that intent ? I think they would, and their not using such language, under those circumstances, greatly strengthens the probability to which the Chief Justice adverts, and renders that probability a certainty. There is no doubt in my mind that, "it was the inviolability of private contracts, and private rights acquired under them, which was intended to be protected" by this clause of the Constitution; and for many years no one seems to have dreamed that a greater extent could be given to it.
It is in truth an instance of judicial Constitution-making, not very uncommon formerly with the court who gave the decision referred to.
I do not recollect any decision of the Supreme Court which has ruled that bank charters are contracts, and cannot be repealed. The case of Terret vs. Taylor, (9th Cranch, 43,) which has been supposed to go this length, falls far short of it; for that case only decided that "the Legislature could not repeal statutes creating private corporations, or confirming to them property already acquired under the faith of previous laws, and by such repeal vest the property of such corporations exclusively in the State, or dispose of the same to such purposes as they should please, without the consent or default of the corporators."
This decision does not rest for it support upon the clause of the Constitution cited and relied upon in the Dartmouth College case, but upon the last clause of the fifth amendment to the Constitution "nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation," a provision which is adopted in all our State Constitutions, and which, while it does not limit or restrain the power of repeal, secures to corporators their property, in case the exclusive privileges attached to it by an act of incorporation cease to exist.
Nothing, Mr. President, proves more clearly the great influence of corporations in society, than the prevailing opinion that it would be unsafe to trust Legislatures with the power of repealing charters. And why unsafe ? They incorporate persons for a vast variety of purposes, and, until the decision of the Dartmouth College case, they repealed, without any one questioning their power to do so, several charters which were thought to operate injuriously; and yet there is no instance where such repeal has been considered as improper and unjust. There is, indeed, much less chance of a bad law being repealed, than of such a law being enacted; the same means and appliances which are used to obtain grants of exclusive privileges will be used to retain them; and all experience has shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer the evils of bad laws, than to right themselves by repealing them.
The power of repealing laws, and the policy and justice of applying this power in any given case, are very different questions. An act of incorporation may have been hastily and improvidently passed; its existence may be some injury to the public, yet such injurious consequences may follow a repeal, as to render that measure inexpedient. There may be cases, also, where a repeal would give to incorporators a just claim to indemnity. In all such cases, is there any danger that a Legislature acting on the subject would not have all these considerations before them ? I think not. Conceede the power of repealing to be co-extensive with the power of enacting laws, and you will not secure the repeal of all bad laws until legislators become wiser and honester than they have yet been. If the sole end and object of legislation in our country had been the promotion of the public interest and welfare, then the only question which could arise in making or abolishing a law would be. Does the pub!ic good require this enactment ? But our legislation has run so much towards promoting private interests, and the encouragement of monopolies, that we have insensibly raised up a host of interested men to clamor for the preservation of their privileges, under the name of vested rights, and the perpetuity of their monopolies, under the specious character of contracts. Let us suppose that these claims of vested rights, and this doctrine of the inviolability of contracts, should prevail: must be the consequence ? Even if your legislative assembly is composed of the most intelligent, pure, and upright men, they cannot foresee the effect of their legislation in all cases. They may incorporate companies with powers which, to their judgment, can only be used beneficially for the public; and yet they may be mistaken: the chartered powers which they have conferred may prove to be powers of mischief and destruction. Instead of being used to promote the public interest and welfare, guided by private cupidity, they may be used to corrupt the morals of the people, and sap the foundations of our Government; and yet, upon this theory of vested rights, there is no remedy the enslaved people must submit.
But we must not rely on an ideal state of things. We know by experience that ignorant, selfish, and dishonest men are found in all Legislatures. When a band of speculators ask for a charter granting them exclusive and valuable privileges, they are rarely refused; they get as many of the members interested in their scheme as practicable, and the most influential of those who at first oppose them they bribe. In this way a majority may be secured, and a law passed, which American jurists will pronounce binding upon succeeding generations of men.
Even without any extraordinary means used to influence and corrupt legislators, if the rule is once established, that acts of incorporation are beyond the reach of the power creating them, the Government of the country will be in a few years totally subverted. In theory, the people of this country have the right of changing their forms of government at pleasure; they may abolish the Government of the United States, and of each of the States, and establish any other form, despotic or free, to suit themselves.
But suppose this bill to pass, with a capital increased to fifty millions, and to endure forever, by renewals every twenty years; the company formed under it would have power over the currency and whole property of the country, and the privilege of raising a tax, for their own use, of one million seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars per year, on the industry of the country, forever; and no revolution in Government can give any human power a right to divest them of these powers and privileges. This system of monopoly, once again commenced here, will be likely to go on. The party in power have learned by experience that they cannot rely for the support of their principles of government upon the public judgment; and they will find it as necessary "to withdraw every question of public policy, as far as possible, in time to come, from political agitation," as the question of the currency.
This bill makes a Bank the National Treasury, and the Secretary of the Treasury its efficient head. Another bill may incorporate a company to manage all the military affairs of the Government, and place the Secretary of War at its head. An incorporated company, with branches in each State and Territory, would give you much greater uniformity in recruiting your army, in feeding and clothing it, and in providing munitions of war, as well as in directing the march of armies, than could a Secretary without such machinery. Another charter may bring into a like partnership some adventurers, with the Government in conducting our naval affairs, with the Secretary of the Navy as principal visiter and inspector. It will be said in defence of this project, that ships may be built cheaper and with more uniformity by a company than on the present plan; that great savings may also be made in rigging, arming, and fitting them out. Other companies may be formed to collect the taxes, (as to their disbursement, the party in power will need no assistance) to take care of the Indians, and to conduct each branch of our extensive trade, commerce, and fisheries; and they may be proved to be as necessary, proper, and constitutional, as a bank is proved to be necessary to give us a uniform and stable currency.
You will have as much constitutional power to charter all these companies, as you have to pass this bill; for you do not pretend to pass this, but on the principle of Alexander Hamilton: "a power," says he, "of creating a corporation, may as well be implied as any other thing; it may as well be employed as an instrument or mean of carrying into execution any of the specified powers, as any other instrument or mean whatever."
As strong reasons would be urged in favor of chartering companies in all the cases mentioned, and as many more as ingenuity could devise, as are urged in favor of passing this bill; and with as much truth may it be asserted, that the great majority of the people have decided in favor of such corporations. This bill is said by its projector to be wanted to give a currency of equal and uniform value throughout the whole country, when we have such an equal and uniform currency already, not made in violation of, but sanctioned by the Constitution, and as if paper could ever have the uniformity in value of gold and silver. If this plan succeed, I do not think it even improbable that before many years chartered companies will be the "means of carrying into execution all the specified powers" of this Government. When this is done, Mr. President, we shall be no longer a free people. The first great step in giving away our liberties, is to remove from us the control of our circulating medium; and if this bill pass, that step is taken.
Should this bill, then, become a law, it will not only be clearly in the power of Congress to repeal it, but it will be their duty; and a duty which we give full and fair warning we shall not shrink from the performance of, when we have the majority in this body. It will be repealed, because Congress have not the constitutional power to pass it. This is a question I do not intend to discus, nor is it necessary to discuss it. The silence of the supporters of this bill on the question of constitutional power, is a tacit admission that on that ground the measure is indefensible.
The Senator from Kentucky, who reported this bill, complains, indeed, of us for referring to his unanswered and unanswerable argument on this question in 1811. He seemed to insinuate that we quoted that speech, not because we admired it and subscribed to its doctrines, but because it contradicted his present opinions. In justification of his admitted change of opinion upon this subject, he referred us to his speech of 1816, in which he told us he laid down, in the most conclusive, full, and satisfactory manner, his reasons for repudiating the doctrines of his speech of 1811. This speech of 1811 was spread all over the country, from one end of the Union to the other. It was read by every one, and approved. I read it then with the admiration which the talents of the Senator can at all times command in support of sound principles; and I found it concurred with my own opinions on the subject.
When the Senator, the other day, referred us to his speech of 1816 to show us how false were the doctrines of his speech of 1811, and to justify his change of opinion, it seemed as if he took it for granted that the speech of 1816 was in every one's hands, and had been as widely circulated as that of 1811. I was glad to hear that, because I had never been able to get a copy of it, and I was glad to find that there was a possibility of being referred to some record where I could read it. We were all rejoiced to find that it was accessible, and that we should at last have some tangible clew to the weighty reasons that justified the Senator's repudiation of his speech and principles of 1811.
I asked a friend of the distinguished Senator where it was to be found; I was impatient to look into it. I was told by that friend it was to be found in the History of the United States Bank. I turned to that book, and found (at page 669, in the debate on the bill chartering the United States Bank of 1816) it stated that "Mr. Clay rose and explained his reasons for supporting the bill." When I had read so far, I congratulated myself on at last finding what I had been so long seeking, and wishing in vain to see. But what was my surprise to find the first paragraph leading off to a speech delivered in Kentucky to his constituents, (when or where is not stated,) in which the Senator's support of the Bank bill of 1816 is apologized for, and a lame attempt is made to defend and justify the Senator's change of opinion. I will read the paragraph:
From the Legislative and Documentary History of the Bank of the United States, [by Matthew St. Clair Clarke and David A. Hall, 1832] page 669.
["The speech delivered on this occasion by Mr. Clay appears not to have been printed in the newspapers of the day, and, of course, cannot be inserted as uttered in the House; but after the return of Mr. Clay to Kentucky, he made an address to his constituents, in which the part he took in the House in regard to the Bank, is explained. The following is what he then said upon the subject:]
"On one subject, that of the Bank of the United States, to which, at the late session of Congress, he gave his humble support, Mr. Clay felt particularly anxious to explain the grounds on which he had acted. This explanation, if not due to his own character, the State and the district to which he belonged had a right to demand. It would have been unnecessary if his observations, addressed to the House of Representatives pending the measure, had been published; but they were not published, and why they were not published he was unadvised."
He then goes on to make an apology for his change of vote in 1816 an apology that does not in the least affect the soundness of the doctrine maintained in his speech of 1811. I have no doubt that the Senator (for he is growing old, like myself, and his memory must be failing) thought, when he referred the other day so triumphantly to his speech of 1816, that it really had been published, and might be read by any one who pleased, in some of the numerous records of the day. It seems to be his present impression that, on going over from the Democratic party in 1816, he had left them a clear light by which they could see their way, and follow him. But the fact was, that, instead of having done that, he only let that light gleam a moment, like an ignis fatuus, while leading himself out of the right path, and then suffered it to be extinguished forever; for no man that I have ever met, to this day, can say he has any knowledge of what that speech was. There is not even a newspaper scrap of it extant. What reasons the Senator really had at the time for deserting the Democratic ranks, and changing his opinion, remain unexplained to the present generation; and the process by which he had discovered a power granted by the Constitution to Congress for chartering a National Bank, still remains a mystery, as complete as if the speech of 1816 had never been made.
The suppression of the Senator's speech of 1816 (I call it suppression; for if the Senator had desired, it would have been published) having left his friends uncertain on what part of the Constitution he fixed what he so graphically, in 1811, called "that vagabond power" in the Constitution, and he having now first discovered that suppression will not the Senator, at this late day, give us the reasoning which proved so very satisfactory to himself ? It seems to me that it is not fair and honorable for that Senator and his friends to decline all argument upon the power of Congress to charter a Bank, under the pretence that the question has been settled, and settled, too, by his speech of 1816, as the facts now appear; for if that speech was so convincing and conclusive in that year, it must bear repetition now. Let him, then, take up the question, and, with the added knowledge and skill of twenty-five years' practice, point out to us that clause in the Constitution which authorizes us to charter a company with the enormous power to be conferred on this. I think that he owes it to his fame as a statesman to do this; for, without such explanation, his change of opinion stands recorded as one of the most memorable changes for a really great man to make, upon a great and very plain constitutional question, without any reason whatever assigned to the public for it, which is found recorded in history.
He owes it, also, to the Democratic party, which he has retired from to the Federal party, which he has joined, and now leads to assign his reasons for this change of position. Many men have read and admired the Senator's argument of 1811 for its brilliant eloquence and sound logic; and I assure him that most of them are not informed that it has received an answer, or yet believe that it can be answered. I therefore call upon the Senator now, in the name of his friends of 1811, of whom he well knows I was one, to do justice to himself and them in this matter.
The Senator who reported this bill tells us that, in saying that we will endeavor to repeal it, if it should be passed by him and his friends, we advance "a new, dangerous, and monstrous principle." We threaten, according to his account of the matter, to destroy a contract; and if we do what we threaten, or even attempt it, we shall rouse the indignation of the whole Christian world against us. The Senator ought to recollect that the party he associated with in 1811 are not to be frightened from their course of duty by railing and denunciation. To repeal, we shall regard as the performance of a high and solemn duty, to which we shall be urged by our oaths to support to the Constitution, and by the voice of an insulted and outraged people.
Already we hear that voice from the hills of New Hampshire to the plains of Carolina, declaring that this new fiscal agent of iniquity must and shall be repealed, if the party now in power succeed in imposing it on the people. By the Legislature of New Hampshire it has been
Resolved, That should the present Congress grant a charter for a United States bank, contrary to the will of the people of the United States, as expressed at every election at which the question has been presented to them, it will be the duty of a subsequent Congress to repeal it.
Resolved, That the Democratic party of New Hampshire will support no candidate for a seat in the Congress of the United States, who will not, when requested thereto, pledge himself to go for an absolute and unconditional repeal of the charter of any National Bank which may be created by the dominant party.
A numerous meeting of citizens of South Carolina, on the 27th of May last, at Charleston, with a like spirit,
Resolved, That the power to incorporate a Bank is not only not in the Constitution, but was expressly refused to Congress; that its establishment will be a wound on the Constitution, and inflict a fatal blow upon the best interests of South Carolina.
Resolved, That, Congress having no authority, under the Constitution, to incorporate a National Bank, if such an institution be incorporated, we hold that the charter may be at any time be repealed, and the Bank abolished.
These are strong and very explicit declarations. Next I will give you the opinions of some of the Democracy of Ohio on the same subject. This is a State where, notwithstanding the difference existing in it on other subjects, there is great unanimity in the opinion that Congress have not the power to charter a National Bank; and a large majority agree in opinion that the power of repealing is commensurate with the power of making of laws. At a meeting, at Carthage, of the citizens of Hamilton county, in that State, it was, among other things,
Resolved, That we will use all honorable measures to prevent the passage of a bank charter at the present session of Congress, or any future time; and that should such a measure ever be adopted by Congress, that we will consider it as null and void; and that we pledge ourselves to try who is willing to stand up for the liberty bequeathed to us by our ancestors; that we will continue our opposition by all legitimate measures, until such an institution shall be repealed or otherwise blotted out of existence, and our glorious Constitution again be respected as the supreme law of the land.
Resolved, That we call upon every patriot in the country, of whatever political party he may be, to enter his solemn protest against the establishment of such an institution, and to join with us in efforts to stay the tide of despotism and corruption which threatens to sweep over the land.
Resolved, That the members of the present Congress who oppose the charter of a United States Bank, are doing battle in a noble cause, and that they will have the support and gratitude of millions of freemen in their opposition to this odious measure.
Resolved, That if the present Congress should be mad enough to substitute for the present National Treasury a National Bank, in any form whatever, we pledge ourselves to the country, and to each other, that we will vote for no candidate for Congress who will not most solemnly pledge himself that he will vote for the repeal of the charter of such Bank, and use every exertion for the re-establishment of an Independent Treasury.
Resolved, That to charter such a Bank as has been recommended by the Secretary of the Treasury, by making the Government of the United States, and of the individual States partners with money-dealers, shavers, and swindlers, would entail upon the whole country an indelible disgrace, which every honest man and sound patriot must deprecate, and hold in the utmost abhorrence.
Such proceedings are reaching us daily; meetings are held in every part of the Union to declare the same principles the unconstitutionality of the proposed law, and the duty of repealing it. From Maine and Vermont to Louisiana and Alabama, the sound of repeal comes on every wind; and while the law is yet in an embryo state, and the evil is only threatened, public opinion is concentrating against its monstrous usurpations.
The distinguished Senator, who denounces the doctrine of repeal at this time as infamous, did not always believe it either unjust or inexpedient; he once thought correctly, and took a common-sense view of this subject. Repeal was not only in general correct and proper where a bad law existed, but even Bank charters were not under an aegis manufactured by judicial charlatans for their preservation; all were subject to be repealed. I ask the Secretary to read
An act to repeal the act entitled "An act establishing independent banks in this Commonwealth, and an act supplemental thereto".
Whereas, in the tenth article of the constitution of Kentucky, it is declared: First, that all freemen, when they form a social compact, are equal; and that no man or set of men are entitled to exclusive separate public emoluments or privileges from the community, but in consideration of public services; and, secondly, that all power is inherent in the people, and all free Governments are founded on their authority, and instituted for their peace, safety, and happiness. And whereas it is self-evident, according to those fundamental principles of Government, that all laws which grant to a few the power to oppress the many are tyrannical in their nature, and adverse to the primitive rights of the people, and therefore repealable by the supreme authority. To say that a sale of primitive rights of the people, by the Legislature, is to be perpetual and unalterable, because there is a contract in the case, is to declare that error and abuse of power may consecrate themselves. Fraud vitiates all contracts. To effect the intention of the parties, is the object of all laws regarding contracts. That a privilege granted shall be used for the destruction, or even to the disadvantage of those who granted, could never be the intention of the parties. All legislative power is derivative, proceeds from the people, and is to be used for their happiness and prosperity only; consequently all laws of a contrary tendency violate the intention of the social compact, and are subject, upon first principles, to the condition of being repealed, whether the evil springs from the nature of the privilege granted or contract entered into, or from the abuse of either. A bank charter, from its nature, extends, and necessarily confines, the powers and privileges granted to a few, to the exclusion of the many. It therefore follows, as an unavoidable conclusion, that if the powers and privileges granted in a bank charter operate against the public good, the people, by their Legislature, have the primitive light to revoke such charter. To the end, therefore, that the good people of this State be delivered, in future, from the baneful effects of the powers and privileges granted by the law establishing independent banks in this Commonwealth, which have been exercised, in many instances, in the plenitude of tyranny, oppression, and abuse, to the great injury of the good people of this State:
Sec. 1. Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, That all power, right, of privilege, granted to the corporations established by an act entitled "An act establishing the independent banks in this Commonwealth," approved January the twenty-sixth, one thousand eight hundred and eighteen, and an act entitled "An act supplemental to the act establishing independent banks in this Commonwealth," approved February third, one thousand eight hundred and eighteen, to deal and trade in discounts, bills of exchange or current money, or to issue notes or bills of credit, payable to bearer or otherwise, shall be, and the same are hereby, repealed and revoked from and after the first clay of May next; and all other power, rights, and privileges granted to said corporations, in said recited acts, are hereby repealed and revoked from and alter the first day of January, one thousand eight hundred and twenty-three. [Approved February 10, 1820]
Here is a law of Kentucky, the Senator's own State, and most emphatically so; for such are his commanding talents, and so great is the popular belief there in his profound wisdom, that his influence has been for a long time paramount in its legislation. It is a law probably drawn up by himself, or under his direction; for it expresses those Democratic sentiments once so much cherished by the Senator. The supposition that the Senator formerly was a full believer in the power and duty of repeal, though he now holds the doctrine to be so monstrous and wicked, does no more violence to probability than that he should discover in the Constitution in 1816 a power which was not there in 1811. I say it with all respect for the Senator, for surely I entertain towards him personally no feelings but those kindness and good will. I oppose only his political course. It may be that some speech explained, at the time this law was passed, the Senator's notions on the subject, and satisfied the Kentuckians that the power of repeal was commensurate with the law-making power. It is but fair to presume this; for it he then thought such a law monstrous and wicked, he would have raised his powerful voice against it; he would have denounced it, as he denounces the threat of such a law here. More: he would have prevented the passage of the act; for his voice has been potential and his influence paramount in that State, since before this act was passed.
I hope, Mr. President, after hearing this read, the Senator from Kentucky will not feel himself justified in reiterating the charge that we are going on a new and monstrous principle when we advocate the power of repeal.
I think I have proved that, upon the recognized principles of legislation, we have the power of repealing any law that ever has been passed by Congress, and that the same power will belong to those who shall succeed us. It is a power which we cannot cast off. We come here charged with that power. We are not only bound to pass all laws necessary for the public good, if constitutional, but we are also bound to repeal all laws that operate injuriously against the community, or that are in themselves unconstitutional. It is a dereliction of duty if we refuse to repeal such laws as much so as to refuse to enact a good and constitutional law, when the public interest and welfare require it.
I have said thus much in support of my views and opinions on the subject of repeal, because a discussion of the question seemed to be necessary at this time; and, while we are charged with advocating doctrines "monstrous, immoral, and infamous," I thought it the best way of repelling so insulting a charge, to state, as fully and as plainly as the state of my health has permitted, the reasoning on which those opinions are founded, that the truth or falsehood of the charge may be judged by an intelligent people.
It is due to the friends of this bill to assign our reasons for holding such opinions of duty; and to warn them that a large party in this country, and, as I believe, a majority of the people, will require that duty to be performed if they persist in passing this unconstitutional and iniquitous act.
It is due even to that greedy host of gamblers and speculators in stocks, who are waiting with impatience to take the stock of this Bank, that they should know what a doubtful and disputed interest they are likely to get in this great monopoly; that they may be able to make a fair estimate of their chances, and see whether the chance of repeal is not one of greater and more paramount importance to them than all the chances of gain. The view I have taken of the subject is the result of much reflection upon it. But whether my political friends are governed by the same course of reasoning, or not, I cannot say. Of this, however, I am assured we all agree that, so far as respects the bill under consideration, the power and duty of repeal are unquestionable.