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, Mr. Seward busied himself as professional liar for the Whig Party.
As a New York State Senator, on January 31, 1832, he 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.
In 1862 Erastus Corning, as Democrat, was Representative from New York, and member of the Sub-Committee of the Committee of Ways and Means, entrusted with producing a National Currency bank bill, making of loans, issuing of Treasury notes (H.R. 240), bonds, and the mode of raising the means to carry on the war.
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
What about future grand old commoner, 49 years old Thaddeus Stevens ? since 1824 he had been attorney to the Bank of the United States.
The People's Democratic Guide
The following are some of the patriots who are urging on a civil war because the people will not recharter the British Bank.
Look at them ! This is the way Nicholas Biddle pays the public servants:
Lawyer Clay's fees, ........ $40,000
Lawyer Sergeant's fees, ...... 40,000
Lawyer Webster's fees and loans, ...... 58,000
Lawyer Johnston's loans ......... 36,000
Lawyer Poindexter's loans ...... 10,000
CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES:
BEGUN and held at the Capitol, in the City of Washington, in the Territory of Columbia, on Monday, the thirty-first day of May, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and forty-one, being the First Session of the Twenty-Seventh Congress, held under the Constitution of the Government of the United States, and in the sixty-fifth year of the Independence of said States.
On which day, being the day fixed by proclamation of the President of the United States, of the seventeenth day of March, eighteen hundred and forty-one, for the meeting of Congress; which said proclamation is in the words following, to wit:
By the President of the United States of America.
Whereas sundry important and weighty matters, principally growing out of the condition of the revenue and finances of the country, appear to me to call for the consideration of Congress at an earlier day than its next annual session, and thus form an extraordinary occasion, such as renders necessary, in my judgment, the convention of the two Houses as soon as may be practicable, I do, therefore, by this my Proclamation, convene the two Houses of Congress, to meet in the Capitol, at the City of Washington, on the last Monday, being the thirty-first day of May next. And I require the respective Senators and Representatives then and there to assemble, in order to receive such information respecting the state of the Union as may be given to them, and to devise and adopt such measures as the good of the country may seem to them, in the exercise of their wisdom, and discretion, to require.
In testimony whereof, I have caused the seal of the United States to be hereunto affixed, and signed the same with my hand.
Done at the city of Washington, this seventeenth day of March, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and forty-one, and of the Independence of the United States the sixty-fifth.
By the President:
William Henry HARRISON.
Daniel Webster, Secretary of State.
An Act to repeal the act entitled "An act to provide for the collection, safe-keeping, transfer, and disbursement of the public revenue," and to provide for the punishment of embezzlers of public money, and for other purposes.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the act entitled "An act to provide for the collection, safe-keeping, transfer, and disbursement of the public revenue," approved on the fourth day of July A.D. one thousand eight hundred and forty, be, and the same is hereby, repealed: Provided, always, That, for any offences which may have been committed against the provisions of the seventeenth section of the said act, the offenders may be prosecuted and punished according to those provisions; and that all bonds executed under the provisions of said act, and all civil rights and liabilities which have arisen or accrued under said act, and the remedies therefor, shall remain and continue as if said act had not been repealed; any thing herein contained to the contrary notwithstanding.
Sec. 2. And be it further enacted, That if any officer charged with the safe-keeping, transfer, or disbursement of public moneys, or connected with the Post Office Department, shall convert to his own use, in any way whatever, or shall use by way of investment in any kind of property or merchandise, or shall loan, with or without interest, any portion of the public moneys entrusted to him for safe-keeping, transfer, disbursement, or for any other purpose, every such act shall be deemed and adjudged to be an embezzlement of so much of the said moneys as shall be thus taken, converted, invested, used, or loaned, which is here by declared to be a felony; and the neglect or refusal to pay over on demand any public moneys in his hands, upon the presentation of a draft, order, or warrant drawn upon him, and signed by the Secretary of the Treasury, or to transfer or disburse any such moneys promptly according to law, on the legal requirement of a superior officer, shall be prima facie evidence of such conversion to his own use of so much of the public moneys as may be in his hands. Any officer or agent of the United States, and all persons advising, or knowingly and willingly participating in such embezzlement, upon being convicted thereof before any court of the United States of competent jurisdiction, shall, for every such offence, forfeit and pay to the United States a fine equal to the amount of the money embezzled, and shall suffer imprisonment for a term not less than six months nor more than five years.
Sec. 3. And be it further enacted, That the act entitled "An act to regulate the deposits of the public money," approved on the twenty third day of June, eighteen hundred and thirty-six, excepting the thirteenth and fourteenth sections thereof, be and the same hereby is repealed.
Sec. 4. And be it further enacted, That so much of an act, passed the fourteenth of April, eighteen hundred and thirty-six, entitled "An act making appropriations for the payment of the Revolutionary and other pensioners of the United States, for the year eighteen hundred and thirty-six," as provides that no bank note of less denomination than ten dollars, and after the third day of March, eighteen hundred and thirty-seven, no bank note of less denomination than twenty dollars, shall be offered in payment in any case whatsoever, in which money is to be paid by the United States, or the Post Office Department, be, and the same hereby is, repealed.
APPROVED, August 13, 1841.
The friends of a National Bank desire to remove the Sub-Treasury scheme.United States Senate,
Mr. Clay offered the following resolution:
Resolved, That the act entitled "An act to provide for the collection, safe-keeping, transfer, and disbursement of the public revenue" ought to be forthwith repealed, and that the Committee on Finance be directed to report a bill to that effect.
Mr. Clay observed that the resolution he had now offered was the same in substance with that moved by him at the last session. Its object was a speedy repeal of the Sub-Treasury system. It was not his purpose to discuss the resolution: indeed, he hoped and presumed that no discussion would be deemed necessary in any quarter, but that the Finance Committee would be allowed at once to report a bill.
Mr. Clay said he had come to this session of Congress with a determination to expedite, so far as he was concerned, the public business, and, in attempting this, to observe the utmost kindness and courtesy towards gentlemen on all sides of the House. He had not the least desire to deal harshly with the feelings of any; and he would take the present occasion to express his deep regret and surprise that a casual expression used by him at the last session had been most terribly perverted by the public prints perverted in a manner and to a degree he never could have supposed possible. In the course of some observations in relation to the Sub-Treasury, he had said that he would as soon address an argument on that measure as attempt to convince a convicted criminal with the rope round his neck that his conviction has been just and right. But the papers had represented him as having compared the gentlemen of the Senate who differed from him in opinion with regard to that measure as a company of convicts with halters round their necks.
Mr. Clay protested to Heaven that nothing could be further from his mind than any such a thought; on the contrary, he had been sedulously desirous of avoiding any language which could wound the feelings of those whom it had been his misfortune to differ. Mr. Clay was happy in the opportunity of making this explanation, although he felt very sure that it could scarcely be necessary in the view of any gentlemen of the Senate who had been present at the time.
The resolution he now offered proposed an immediate repeal of the Sub Treasury law. He was ready, however, to make any alteration in the terms of the resolution which should cause it to conform to the wishes of gentlemen.
Mr. Wright said that he should not interpose any objection of time; if the gentleman from Kentucky would consent so far to modify the language of the resolution as to make it the duty of the committee to inquire into the expediency of repealing the law in question, Mr. Wright would cheerfully vote for it.
Mr. Clay replied that he had not the least objection, and would modify the resolution accordingly. Indeed, this was the more necessary since he believed there were some portions of the law which it might be expedient to retain.
Mr. Calhoun said he must confess his great surprise that a resolution like this should have been offered. The Senate had yesterday, without any opposition, consented to raise a special committee of nine to express the views of the Senate on the entire subject of the finance and currency. After this, he thought it due to a large portion of the people of the United States, and also of the members of the Senate, that that committee should take up this matter of the Sub-Treasury as part and parcel of the general subject committed to them. Before the Senate was asked to repeal the Sub-Treasury law, let it know what was intended as the substitute to be proposed. Repeal involved substitution.
Mr. Calhoun presumed that it had been the intention of the Senate that the select committee should have the whole subject of currency and finance before them, otherwise it would have been a most extraordinary course to appoint the committee, since the subject would regularly have gone to the Finance Committee.
Now, Mr. Calhoun regarded it as not entirely fair to the American people that a committee should be required to report on the repeal of this single isolated measure of the Sub-Treasury, without giving the country to understand what substitute was to be proposed in its stead. Let gentlemen come out with their project a Bank of the United States, or the pet banks, or whatever else it was so that the Senate and the country might see the whole question to be considered. He hoped the Senator from Kentucky would not persist in pressing his resolution. Was it fair that those who considered the Sub-Treasury system as the only constitutional and the only expedient mode of keeping the finances of the Government, should be called upon, at once, without opportunity for consideration, to repeal that system blindfold, without being told what was to follow ?
Mr. Clay said the Senator could not certainly have heard the resolution as modified, or he never would have employed such language in regard to it. He called for the reading of the paper; and it was read. It was as follows:
Resolved, That the Committee on Finance be directed to inquire into the expediency of repealing the act entitled "An act to provide for the collection, safe keeping, transfer, and disbursement of the public revenue."
Mr. Calhoun said that he had not heard the modification; but, even if he had, he should still have objected to the resolution as modified. There was already a special committee appointed to take into consideration the whole subject of a fiscal agent for the safe-keeping and disbursement of the public revenue. He called for the reading of the resolution specifying the duties of the select committee; which was read.
Mr. Calhoun said that this resolution certainly embraced the subject of the Sub-Treasury, which its friends considered as the most perfect of fiscal agents that could possibly be devised for the ends to be effected.
Mr. Clay. That may be; but we think no such thing. Mr. Clay should really have supposed that the Senator from South Carolina would have forborne the remarks he had made if he had heard the resolution. In a large and liberal spirit of concession Mr. Clay had at once consented to modify it so as to meet the wishes of the Senator from New York, [Mr. Wright] and had put the resolution in a form which ought to have protected it from remarks such as the Senator had made. As to the position that repeal necessarily involved substitution, Mr. Clay differed from the Senator entirely. So far from this, if there was to be no substitute under heaven for the Sub-Treasury scheme if repealed, he would nevertheless repeal it; and that in deference to the declared will of the people of the United States. But there was no concealment, no mystery intended. Mr. Clay would tell the honorable Senator, at once, and with all frankness, what he went for, and what he believed his friends who acted with him meant to go for and that was a Bank of the United States. That was the object in view. But as the architect, before he erected a building, first cleared away the rubbish which occupied and encumbered the ground on which it was to stand, so the friends of a National Bank desired first to remove this Sub-Treasury scheme clean out of the way. When they had done that, then they were prepared to move in the direct accomplishment of their object. When they had got a clean and fair sheet of paper before them, then they should be prepared to inscribe upon it whatever a majority of the Senate might deem most expedient for the public good.
Mr. Clay again observed that he had hoped, after yielding at once to the wishes of the gentleman from New York, [Mr. Wright] the resolution in its modified shape would have encountered no opposition from any quarter.
Mr. Calhoun repeated that the modification of the resolution had not met his ear; but he must still object. He knew perfectly well that the only alternative was the Sub-Treasury or a Bank of the United States; hence it was that in 1837 he had taken ground against the one and in favor of the other. The Senator had observed that an architect pulled down first and built up afterwards. This was a metaphor, but metaphors did not always turn out to be sound arguments. The position of the Senator might be true in architecture, but it was not true in legislation. The mere repeal of the Sub-Treasury would reinstate the pet bank system. The creation of a Bank of the United States would supersede the pet banks. He could not vote for the resolution at all, especially since the avowal of the Senator.
Mr. Clay rejoined. The resolution adopted by the Senate yesterday for the appointment of a select committee on the subjects of finance and of a fiscal agent, did not cover this matter of the sub-Treasury, for the duties of that committee rather looked to an increase of the revenues; but even if it did, this act of repeal was an implied exception.
But this was not a session for talking; it was pre-eminently the season for action. The day of judgment is come, (said Mr. Clay, with great emphasis and animation,) the day of judgment, I hope, is come at least to our political world.
Mr. Calhoun said that when he had before remarked that there was but one alternative beside the Sub-Treasury, he meant to be understood that political parties in the country had so rallied on these two measures that there was, practically, no other alternative. But there were other alternatives which might be adopted. The pet bank system was an alternative, though in practice it was but a "half way house" on the road to a Bank of the United States. The Senator himself had so designated it, and had declared himself content to lodge in it for a year or two. But Mr. Calhoun had always known that it must come to a National Bank at last, if the sub-Treasury were once abandoned. It was in this view that he had resisted this scheme in 1837, and should continue to resist it in all its stages.
Mr. Rives said he should vote for the resolution, not on the ground that, if the Sub-Treasury were repealed, the only other alternative must be a Bank of the United States. He thought there were many alternatives. The President in his message had indicated several. There were the State banks, there was the United States Bank, as formerly organized, and there was a fiscal agent which might be marked with a very different character. The removal of the Sub-Treasury would at least narrow the field of choice. If that should be thrown aside, the Senate might sooner reach a decision as to what should be substituted for it. He entirely agreed with the President, that a large majority of the people of the United Slates had unequivocally condemned the measure, while, at the same time, they had not pronounced their will in favor of any other. The Senator from South Carolina himself had expressly admitted on a former occasion that the Sub-Treasury had been condemned by the voice of the nation. So, at least, he was represented to have said; for Mr. Rives did not speak from his own personal recollection.
Mr. Calhoun begged leave to correct the Senator from Virginia. The statement Mr. Calhoun had made was that, in regard to the Sub-Treasury, taken as a sole and solitary measure, the people had declared their opposition to it, but then there had not been a greater majority in favor either of the pet bank scheme, or that of the United States Bank.
Mr. Rives. Well; a majority of the people being confessedly against the Sub-Treasury, he did not see why Congress might not, forthwith, proceed to execute the public will. When that was done, the State bank question would revive, and then it would be for Congress to say whether those banks should hold the public moneys, or whether we should adopt a Bank of the United States, or should create a new fiscal agent. Without intending, at this time, to commit himself to either of the three schemes, Mr. Rives was prepared at once to commit himself, as the nation had committed itself, to the repeal of the Sub-Treasury law.
The question being now called for on the resolution
Mr. Calhoun proposed to amend it by adding the words "and to report a substitute."
Mr. Clay hoped the amendment would not be made; and he called for the question.
Mr. Calhoun demanded the yeas and nays, which were ordered.
Mr. Clay. The amendment proposes that the Finance Committee shall report a substitute for the Sub-Treasury; that is, it totally nullifies the select committee which the Senate appointed on the subject of finance and a fiscal agent of the Government.
Mr. Woodbury suggested whether it would not be expedient to refer the pending resolution to the select committee instead of the Committee on Finance.
Mr. Clay said that the select committee stood on a special and peculiar ground, and the objects of its appointment did not embrace that of this resolution; if he thought that they did, he would with pleasure adopt the suggestion.
Mr. Walker asked whether the subject was not already before the select committee, and whether the amendment would not defeat that reference ?
Mr. Calhoun said his object was to take the sense of the Senate whether they intended to act separately on this subject without the other matters connected with it. There were three sets of opinions in the country one for a National Bank, one for the pet banks, and one for the Sub-Treasury. The object of this resolution had been distinctly avowed; it was the establishment of a National Bank. The Sub-Treasury had just commenced its operations; why not give it a fair trial ?
[Mr. Clay, across. Because the people have condemned it.]
It is said there is a majority of the people opposed to it; and so, I believe, there is against the pet bank system, and against a Bank of the United States. If the resolution was adopted, Mr. Calhoun did not care to which committee it was referred.
Mr. Walker preferred its reference to the select committee on the currency, &c.
The question was now put on Mr. Calhoun's amendment, and decided by yeas and nays as follows:
Yeas Messrs. Allen, Benton, Buchanan, Calhoun, Clay of Alabama, Fulton, King, McRoberts, Nicholson, Pierce, Sevier, Smith of Connecticut, Sturgeon, Tappan, Walker, Williams, Woodbury, Wright, and Young 19.
NAYS Messrs. Archer, Barrow, Bates, Bayard, Berrien, Choate, Clay of Kentucky, Clayton, Dixon, Evans, Graham, Henderson, Huntington, Ker, Magnum, Merrick, Miller, Morehead, Porter, Prentiss, Preston, Rives, Simmons, Smith of Indiana, Southard, Tallmadge, and Woodbridge 27.
The resolution of Mr. Clay was then adopted as follows:
Resolved, That the Committee on Finance be directed to inquire into the expediency of repealing the act entitled "An act to provide for the collection, safe-keeping, transfer, and disbursement of the public revenues."
On motion of Mr. Clay, so much of the President's message as relates to the subject of the finances was referred to the Committee on Finance.
Mr. Clay of Kentucky, after some preliminary remarks, submitted the following resolution:
Resolved, That the act entitled "An act to provide for the collection, safe-keeping, transfer, and disbursement of the public revenue," ought to be forthwith repealed.
Mr. Wright suggested a modification, which Mr. Clay acceded to, and the resolution was submitted in the following words:
Resolved, That the Committee on Finance be directed to inquire into the expediency of repealing the act entitled "An act to provide for the collection, safe keeping, transfer, and disbursement of the public revenue."
Mr. Calhoun opposed the resolution as unnecessary, as the whole subject of the finances and a fiscal agent of the Government had been already referred to a select committee. If this was sent to the Committee on Finance, it should be instructed to report a substitute. He would therefore move to amend the resolution, by adding the words "and to report a substitute."
After some remarks by Messrs. CLAY of Kentucky and WALKER, the question was taken on the amendment, and lost ayes 19, noes 27, as follows:
YEAS Messrs. Allen, Benton, Buchanan, Calhoun, Clay of Alabama, Fulton, King, McRoberts, Nicholson, Pierce, Sevier, Smith of Connecticut, Sturgeon, Tappan, Walker, Williams, Woodbury, Wright, and Young 19.
NAYS Messrs. Archer, Barrow, Bates, Bayard, Berrien, Choate, Clay of Kentucky, Clayton, Dixon, Evans, Graham, Henderson, Huntington, Ker, Magnum, Merrick, Miller, Morehead, Porter, Prentiss, Preston, Rives, Simmons, Smith of Indiana, Southard, Tallmadge, and Woodbridge 27.
The resolution was then agreed to.
Repeal of the Independent Treasury.
The bill reported yesterday from the Finance Committee, to repeal the Sub-Treasury law, having come up as the order of the day, it was read a second time; when
Mr. Clay rose and observed that he had only a word or two to offer by way of explanation on the provisions of the bill, and on the consequences which would result from its passage into a law.
The first section contained the repeal of the Sub-Treasury act. Should that repeal take place, the state of the Treasury, or rather the state of the finance of the country, would be this: it would be under the operation of the law of 1789 establishing the Treasury Department; under the resolutions of 1816 as to the medium receivable in payment of the public dues; and under the law of 1836 establishing what was familiarly called the pet bank system; (but this last law Mr. Clay proposed by an amendment to repeal.)
The second section of the bill contained the re-enactment of one of the sections of the existing Sub-Treasury law with a slight alteration adapting its provisions to the present changed state of the country, and containing a new principle. Under the law as it before stood, embezzlement of the public money was made felony; but in its practical application a difficulty arose. A public officer neglected to pay over, at the proper time the balance in his hands; a demand of the money was made by Government, and the officer refused; and the question arose whether, in such case, the officer could or could not be prosecuted for embezzlement ? To obviate this difficulty hereafter, the present bill provided that the refusal of an officer under such demand shall be held to be prima facie evidence of embezzlement, and unless the individual shall be able clearly to show that the refusal was unaccompanied by any unlawful intent, he shall be subject to all the penalties provided in another part of the bill against those who embezzle the public property.
Mr. Clay went on to observe that should the bill pass in its form as reported, the consequence would be the revival of the act of 1836, establishing the State bank system. He supposed, however, there was no disposition on any side of the House, to revive that system a system which had been found in practice so very inconvenient, and which would now be still more so from the changed circumstances of the country and of the banks. By that law the Secretary was prohibited from making any deposite of the public money in any bank which did not pay specie on demand, and also in any bank issuing promissory notes under the denomination of five dollars; a prohibition which, if enforced at this time, would exclude him from a large majority of the banks of the whole country.
Mr. Clay said he did not introduce a section repealing the act of 1836, because he cherished the confident hope that should the bill pass into a law, it would speedily be followed by another bill providing for a Bank of the United States, or for some competent fiscal agent, such as should furnish to the people that which, of all things, they now wanted most, a sound and uniform currency. It might, however, by possibility, happen, though he could scarcely anticipate such a thing as in the least likely to occur, that no such bill might be passed, or, at least, not for a month or six weeks perhaps, during which interval this law of 1836, coming up in revived force, might operate exceedingly to embarrass the Secretary of the Treasury in conducting the fiscal operations of the Government. With a view to avoid both contingencies, viz. either of no bill's passing, or of its passage being delayed, Mr. Clay had preprepared an amendment to come in as a third section of the bill in the words following:
And be it further enacted, That all of the act entitled "An act to regulate the deposites of the public money," which passed on the 23d June, 1836, except the 13th and 14th sections thereof, and the act supplementary thereto, approved 4th July, 1838, entitled "An act supplementary to an act to regulate the deposites of the public money," passed 23d June, 1836, be, and the same are hereby repealed: Provided, That this repeal shall not affect or impair any securities which may have been taken for the safe keeping of the public moneys deposited with any of the banks in the said act mentioned, nor any remedies to enforce the said securities which have been, or may hereafter be, prosecuted.
By this section the whole of the act of 1836 would be repealed, save the two sections which provide for the deposite of the surplus funds in the Treasury with the several States; this provision, he presumed, was to be considered as of a permanent character, and not to be repealed.
Mr. Clay added he did not mean to say one word on the policy of the Sub-Treasury system, or attempt to re-argue that question; and if he had not misapprehended the temper and disposition of the Senate, gentlemen on all sides of the House were as little desirous of this as he could be. Out of respect to the country, to the Senate, and to himself, he should resolutely abstain from again entering on a question which had been already sufficiently argued, and needed no re-discussion now. In saying this, he hoped that no offence would be understood as intended to the feelings of any gentleman; it was one of those cases which would sometimes occur when a difference of opinion took place between the members of the National Legislature, or a part of them, and the body of the people at large.
The amendment having been read
Mr. Calhoun said that if he had rightly understood the object of the Senator in proposing this amendment, it was to get clear of certain difficulties and restraints imposed upon the Secretary, in consequence of changes which had taken place since the passage of the law of 1836. Certain banks which could at that time be made the depositories of the public money were, in consequence of these changes and of the prohibitions in the law, precluded at this time from being so used. If this was his object, he might get at it much more easily by simply moving to repeal so much of the law as contained those prohibitions. The law had been passed under a thorough and general conviction that it was wrong to have the entire Treasury under absolute executive control, and for the express purpose of taking the public money from under that control, and placing it under the guardianship of the law. But now it was proposed to undo all this, to retrace our steps, and repeal the law. And on what ground ? Why, that in a few weeks a law would be passed establishing a Bank of the United States; so that, if that expectation should fail, and no such law should pass, then the entire public treasure would be left, as it was before the passage of the law of 1836, under the absolute disposal of the Executive !
[Here Mr. Clay gave signs of dissent.]
The gentleman shakes his head. Under what control, then, will it be ?
Mr. Clay. Under the law of 1789.
Mr. Calhoun. Well, I will go back most cheerfully to the law of 1789. If that is the meaning of the Senator, let him move an amendment, (or if not, I will do it,) declaring that the law of 1789 is hereby revived. It declared that the revenue shall be received in gold and silver only, and shall be kept by the Treasurer of the United States.
Mr. Clay said he never had alluded to the subject of a metallic medium, or of any manner in which the dues of the United States were to be paid. He had merely said that should the Sub-Treasury law be repealed, the country would be under the law of 1789, under the resolutions of 1816, and under the law of 1836 unless that should be repealed. What he meant to say was, that under the principles now revived, as to the powers of the President, the act of 1789 would operate as a complete security to the Treasury till a new law should be enacted.
Mr. Calhoun said that, as to that, the law of 1789 was as much in force in 1836, when the law was passed to regulate the deposites, as it was now; and yet President Jackson himself admitted that the public money was left absolutely under Executive control, and that this state of things ought not to continue. Did gentlemen now propose at one blow to undo what it has cost such strenuous efforts and so much prolonged and excited discussion to agree upon ? And on what ground ? Simply because a part of the law of 1836 would, at this time, impose inconvenient and embarrassing restrictions. Well, if that was the case, why not simply repeat so much of the law as imposed these restrictions ? If the Senator wanted to go back to the law of 1789, it was what Mr. Calhoun himself earnestly desired. He was unwilling that the Treasury should for a single day be under any control but that of law. If the Senator will not go back to the law of '89, and reinstate its full force and effect, he [Mr. Calhoun] hoped the act of '36 would be left uninterrupted until a better substitute should be adopted. But his object now was to record his objections to the amendment as proposed; and with this view he demanded the yeas and nays.
And they were ordered by the Senate.
Mr. Clay asked the Senator from South Carolina to recall to mind what were the assertions of Executive power advanced by General Jackson and his friends in 1836. The removal of the deposites in 1833, taken in connection with General Jackson's alleged right to remove any Secretary of the Treasury who opposed that measure, went the whole length of making a Secretary of the Treasury the mere creature of the Executive will. This doctrine Mr. Clay and those who then acted with him utterly and strenuously denied; and he denied it still. The power assumed by President Jackson over the public money and over the Secretary of the Treasury was without law and against law, and wholly arbitrary and tyrannical. But he would not now revive that discussion. Under such principles, the Treasury was not at the absolute mercy of the Executive. The whole doctrine and the whole proceeding was against the law; and he had no doubt, could the question have been brought before a judicial tribunal, the Secretary might have been convicted before any court in the country.
Mr. Clay had considered the law of 1789 as always in force; the union of the purse and the sword was in the face of that law. These had been their principles then, and they have their principles now. If opposite principles, indeed, prevailed at this day, as they had in 1836, if there were now any danger of the removal of the deposites by the Executive mandate, and of the repetition of the Specie Circular, then it might be dangerous to repeal this law of 1836: but such was not the case; and if the law of 1836 were repealed, the law of 1789 would immediately revive, and in union with the resolutions of 1816 would prescribe the duties of Government in relation to the public moneys.
Mr. Benton said he believed it was within the recollection of the Senate and the country at large, what those circumstances were which led to the removal of the deposites by General Jackson, in 1833. The language applied to him at that period, by those who opposed the measure, contained, he believed, almost every epithet that could be applied to any act of the most lawless description. It was repeatedly declared that the public money was in the lawless possession of the Executive; that the officers of the Government were all subject to his unlimited control and pleasure. It was a common thing to call upon him to say where was the public money. But the Senate would recollect the repeated messages of President Jackson, inviting Congress to regulate the subject by law, and the enactment of the law of 1836, and the effects of that law; but, what was proposed now ? To repeal the law by a stroke of the pen, and remit the public treasure to the "lawless custody of the Executive." All would recollect what had been said of General Jackson about uniting the powers of the purse and the sword in the person of the Executive, yet those who then exclaimed against this union, now propose it themselves !
As to the law of 1789, it had been just as much in force in 1836 as it was now; yet these gentlemen then preached, from day to day, that the money was in the lawless control of the President. Mr. Benton contended that, upon the repeal of the Independent Treasury, there would be no law but the act of 1836 to regulate the custody and management of the public treasure, except the act of 1789, which the Whigs themselves contended was a nullity from the removal of the deposites, in 1833, to the passage of the deposite act, in 1836. But it was said that there was no need of the law now, because those in power held principles which would prevent them from any improper use of the public money; they were a different sort of people, and therefore they needed no law to regulate their conduct. This he took to be a fair interpretation of the proposition to suspend for any time for a single day the control of the law over the public money. This (Mr. Benton said) was the very first time, during the twenty years he had had a seat in that House, that he had heard such a doctrine brought forward. It was the first time he had heard that there was to be a difference made between men in the making of the laws of the land; that laws were necessary to govern one set of men, but not another; that the principles of one set of public officers were so pure that they needed no laws to govern them. He called upon the Senate to put the brand of its reprobation upon doctrines like this. He should, at all events, record his dissent from them.
Mr. Calhoun said it was not his purpose to go at large into the argument. He only wished the Senate to understand that it was now proposed, without the least necessity, to return back to that state of things which preceded the passage of the law of 1836. He had himself differed from Gen. Jackson in toto with regard to the removal of the deposites; but he must do him the justice to say that it had been his deliberate opinion that, when the public moneys lay in the banks of the States unregulated by law, they were in a wrong condition. In confirmation of this position, Mr. Calhoun called for the reading of an Executive message calling the attention of Congress to this subject; [which was read accordingly.]
In conformity with this recommendation, the law of 1836 had been passed almost unanimously; yet now an amendment was proposed which went to put back the public money exactly where it had been before, giving the President discretionary power to say in what Bank it should be kept, and when and whither it should be removed. Save the removal of the deposites from the Bank of the United States, General Jackson himself claimed no power beyond this. The pretext he had already stated, but the whole difficulty could be removed by repealing the 5th section of the law which created certain disabilities which would now operate very inconveniently. Under this view, Mr. Calhoun would move to amend the amendment by striking out all but the enacting words, and inserting as a substitute the following:
"That so much of the 5th section of the act of 23d June, 1836, as provides that no bank shall be selected or continued as a place of deposite of the public money, which shall, after the 4th of July, 1836, issue or pay out any note or bill of a less denomination than $5; and that no notes or bills of any bank be received in payment of any debt due to the United States which shall, after the said 4th of July, 1836, issue any note or bill of a less denomination than $5, be, and, the same is hereby, repealed."
This would meet the whole objection, without leaving the public treasure at the Executive control. Mr. Calhoun had all respect for the Executive, but he would not consent to leave the Treasury at his disposal for two days, much less for a month or six weeks. The Senator from Kentucky, in deed, said that the law of 1789 would be still in force. Nothing certainly, would gratify Mr. Calhoun more than a return to the provisions of that law; it might very truly be called a Sub-Treasury act; it declared that the public funds shall be kept by a treasurer, and received in gold and silver only. But, by what process he would not now say, that law had become a dead letter. Could it be revived, nothing would gratify Mr. Calhoun in a higher degree. But he would ask gentlemen if all which had passed to-day on this subject did not go to prove that, as he had at first maintained, the Sub-Treasury law ought to remain in force till some substitute for it was provided ? It might, in architecture, do very well to take down one building before you laid the foundation of another, but this did not hold in legislation. Why not leave the Sub-Treasury law as it stood till some other measure could be agreed on ? Could it be from personal feeling? from party triumph ? Why reunite the purse and the sword after so loudly denouncing that union ?
The amendment of Mr. Calhoun having now been read at the Secretary's table
Mr. Rives addressed the Senate. The effect of the amendment proposed by the Senator from Kentucky would be to nullify, to a great extent, the action of the Senate. The Sub-Treasury law had in it two features peculiarly odious. One was the requirement to collect the revenue in gold and silver, and the other to place the money thus collected in the custody of Executive agents. But was not the effect of the amendment of the Senator from Kentucky to re-establish the Sub-Treasury law, at least in one of those odious features ? It gave the personal custody of the public treasure to Executive officers. Mr. Rives here reverted to the objections which had been urged against this state of things after the removal of the deposites, and previous to the passage of the law of 1836. The law of 1789 was as much in force then as now. And where did it place the public treasure ? In the custody of the Treasurer of the United States. And who was he ? An Executive officer, removeable at the pleasure of the President of the United States, and exercising the privilege of selecting, according to his own discretion, the depositories where the moneys were to be placed, and when so placed, they were held to be, constructively, in the custody of the Treasury itself. And what guarantee had the country for the safe-keeping of funds so disposed of ? None but the Treasurer's bond of $150,000. Who could consider the public funds safe under such a security ? If this state of things must recur, surely there would at least be needed a stronger security than this.
Mr. Rives insisted that the proper course at this time was simply to repeal the Sub-Treasury law, and then stop till they could agree upon some one of the several substitutes which had been suggested. Of these there were at least three to choose out of: first the State banks; secondly a Bank of the United States on the old plan; or, lastly, a new fiscal agent. For his own part, he believed that the people of the United States would even prefer to see the public money kept in the State banks, provided they were restricted to such as paid specie, to having them put under the discretion of the Executive. There were many banks which still continued to redeem their notes. The Senator from Kentucky seemed to desire not only to put down the Sub-Treasury law, but by the same blow to prostrate the State banks, and any other fiscal agent; so that nothing should remain to be adopted but a Bank of the United States. He hoped the Senator would consent to adopt the amendment proposed by the Senator from South Carolina, and surrender the measure he had proposed, and to which there were so many serious objections.
Mr. Magnum thought there was in the Senate much unnecessary excitement on this matter. Gentlemen seemed disposed to look at it rather as dialecticians, than in that point of view in which it would be looked at by the public. He thought there was no real difference between the views of the Committee of Finance and those of the gentleman from Virginia, [Mr. Rives]. If the Sub-Treasury should be repealed, the country would be thrown upon the law of 1836; but the provisions of that law were such, that scarce a depository could be used of all that were in the United States. Of the fifty banks of New England, there was scarce one that did not issue bills under the denomination of five dollars. It was, therefore, a new question of convenience, during the short period between the repeal of the Sub-Treasury law and the adoption of a substitute; for they did not mean to stop at the "half-way house." They desired the establishment of a Bank of the United States; but if that should fail, (which he could not suppose,) still they had no intention of adjourning without placing the public moneys under the custody of law. The inference, therefore, was not to be drawn, that there was any idea of abandoning the principles contended for in 1836. The only question was, whether they should abandon the law of 1836 for a few weeks, till a final law could be agreed on, or should leave the Secretary of the Treasury to struggle with all the embarrassments which must beset him, should that law be revived ? A short time would settle the question; and then, if no Bank of the United States, or other fiscal agent, could be agreed upon, the public money must be placed in the State banks, subject to regulations to be provided by law.
Mr. Barrow said that he certainly had not understood the political discussions of the last ten years if the repeal of the law of 1836 would not place the nation in the very condition which the Whig party had so loudly and strenuously deprecated. He could not concur in the view expressed by the Senator from North Carolina, [Mr. Magnum.] It appeared to him that it would be far better for the Whig party to fall back on the law of 1836, than to allow the public deposites to be at the discretion of the Executive even for a single day. After all he had been telling the people of his district for the last ten days past, he never could consent to adopt the amendment proposed by the Senator from Kentucky. He would prefer even the continuance of the Sub-Treasury law to this so loudly deprecated union of the purse and the sword. He had great respect for the opinion of his political friends, and was disposed to defer to it when he could without a sacrifice of principle, but he could not follow their lead in a measure like this.
When the deposites were removed, the whole American people united in the demand to have them placed under the regulation of law, and it was in consequence of that demand that the law of 1836 had been passed. He was aware that the law could not be carried out in its present form, since a large portion of the banks did not now pay specie; but he would rather alter the law so as to allow the public money to be placed even in such banks, than have it left to the discretion of the Executive, for him to say where it should be put and when it should be withdrawn. He was in favor of allowing time for further deliberation; the subject was more complicated than some gentlemen imagined. He would rather revive the law of '36 in toto than leave the public money for thirty or sixty days at Executive discretion.
When the United States Bank was rechartered in 1816, the law of 1789 was repealed, and new directions were given for the control of the public money. The removal of the deposites of 1833 was not a repeal of the law of 1816, but a nullification of it. Mr. Barrow said that if he was forced to vote now, he must vote for the amendment of the Senator from South Carolina [Mr. Calhoun] He differed from some gentlemen on both sides of the House; but he preferred at present the simple repeal of the Sub-Treasury law. He did not believe that the people of Louisiana had so much distrust for banks as some people imagined.
Mr. Preston said, that the only real question was one of time. All agreed that it was proper the public treasure should not be left without the control of law; and there was but little difference as to a further step, viz: whether it should not be put under further control than by the law of 1789; for it had been conceded, in the discussions of 1816, that the state of the public moneys was not safe, though they were still under the law of 1789. He presumed that if, whether then or now, it was proposed to re-enact the naked law of 1789, there would be a general if not universal objection to it.
The general direction to a Treasurer to receive and keep the public money was not a sufficient separation of it from Executive control, so long as that officer might himself be removed by the President. The law of 1836 had passed by an unusually large majority: it was passed in response to calls from the Executive: and though not intended as a permanent provision on the subject, it was at least better than the law of 1789.
Acting on the principles then avowed, we should proceed with great caution. None of those on his side of the House intended to leave the public treasure with the guardianship of law. Yet they ought to move cautiously and scrupulously. Not that he believed the State bank system had had a full and fair experiment. No system could have done otherwise than fail under such auspices. Yet he did not concur with his friend from North Carolina that the public funds should remain under Executive control for any time at all. He thought they ought not to remove one restraint till they imposed another in its place: they should not untie the Executive hands till they had another cord prepared to bind them.
He concurred with those who desired the repeal of the Sub-Treasury law. He had always been opposed to it. He had thought it better to abide under the law of 1836, than to rush into an untried and doubtful experiment. He thought so still; and would rather go back to that law with all its imperfections its head than confer on the Executive the discretionary control of the public moneys for any period, however brief. It seemed to be demanded, by the voice of the nation, that the Sub-Treasury be repealed. He concurred with that voice; and though he should, for himself, have preferred a repeal only of the specie clause, leaving the residue of the machinery untouched, he submitted to the expression of the public will. He hoped the amendment proposed by the Senator from Kentucky would not be insisted on.
Mr. Clay said he was very indifferent to the fate of the amendment, but he thought that gentlemen had not quite done him justice while urging their objections to it. For, in the first place, the law of 1836 did no more put the public deposites under the control of law, according to the doctrine maintained and insisted on by General Jackson, than the act of 1816. What was that doctrine ? That every Executive officer is bound to conform to the orders of the President, and if he refuses to do so, the President may remove him. Apply this to the law of 1836. How were the depositories to be selected in which to place the public moneys ? By the head of the Department; but unless, in making this selection, he conformed himself to the pleasure of Andrew Jackson, he would be forthwith dismissed. It was, then, perfectly idle to talk of any system being efficacious in removing the deposites from under the control of such a man. By the power he could ever exert over his subordinates, he could, at any time, remove or continue the public funds among the banks just as he pleased.
Now look at the contingencies that would present themselves should the law of 1836 be continued in force. His friend from Louisiana [Mr. Barrow] had said that he would prefer to have the public money placed even in non-specie-paying banks to leaving it under Executive control. But the law of 1836 would not allow the Secretary to place it there. What would be the operation of rejecting the amendment ? To revive a paralytic, more than half of whose limbs were wholly destitute of all power of action. All the banks, or nearly all, in the United States, south of New York, (or perhaps south of New Jersey,) had suspended specie payments, so that if the law were revived the discretion of the Executive would still remain as to all those banks.
If the State bank system must be revived, it ought to be so revived as to become operative all over the Union. As things now stood, it would have no effect whatever throughout four-fifths of the Union, in point of territory, and perhaps three-fourths in point of population. Did gentlemen want to resuscitate such a rickety, half alive thing as this ? He presumed not. Therefore, he repeated, if this law was to come into existence, it must undergo a complete revision. But if public opinion was to be respected in Congress, what had it decided ? Two things: first, it had condemned the State bank system, either as a system for the convenience of the Government or for the good of the people; and still more emphatically had it condemned the Sub-Treasury law. Public sentiment being against both, Mr. Clay was for repealing both; and he was equally against reviving a law which must be inoperative as respects two-thirds of the Union.
What objection could there be to the amendment ? All admitted that there might be a necessity for further legislation; if a Bank or other suitable fiscal agent should be appointed, the law would contain directions to the Secretary as to the disposition of the public deposites. But if the law of 1836 was to be revived, gentlemen must remember that its provisions must be changed, since there had been two suspensions since it had been first enacted. If the law should pass, with the amendment, the Sub-Treasury would be abolished, together with the law of 1836, and the country be placed under the law of 1789, as it had been when the deposites were ordered to be placed in the old Bank of the United States. That law had revived on the discontinuance of the first Bank, as it had again revived at the discontinuance of the second, and as it continued till 1836. What would be the practical course of things ? The Secretary of the Treasury would make his deposites in specie-paying banks, but without regard to the denomination of the bills they might issue; and in non-specie paying banks where he thought they were safe; and this arrangement would be temporarily adopted till a Bank was created, or some proper fiscal agent in its place.
Gentlemen seemed not to have reflected on the consequences of rejecting the amendment. What would be the condition of the Secretary of the Treasury ? The difficulty did not arise from one section of the law of 1836 alone; all parts of the law, from one end of it to the other, were full of sources of embarrassment. He must make contracts which would frequently require protracted negotiation; and in this also he would be thwarted and hampered by that law. If the law was to continue, it must be re-enacted after a thorough revision. If that was the scheme of any Senator, let him say so; let him come out at once, boldly, like a man, and avow it. Mr. Clay hoped the amendment would prevail; if it was rejected, it would only produce a see-saw between two different systems; and the effect would be to revive a miserable, rickety, inefficient law, which would be useless as to a great part of the country.
Mr. Calhoun said it seemed to him that the Senator from Kentucky was on the high road towards proving that the Sub-Treasury law should not be repealed. If it was, either the Treasury must be left unregulated altogether, or the law regulating it would be so full of embarrassments that it could not get along. The argument amounted to this: that the Sub-Treasury should be left to stand till a substitute was agreed upon. He (Mr. Calhoun) did not think the Senator from Kentucky had done General Jackson justice in his account of the removal of the deposites. Gen. Jackson did not recommend their removal in the face of the law, but on the ground that there was no law which obliged him to continue them in the Bank. The senator from Kentucky was not correct in his facts when he said that the banks through four-fifths of the country were non-specie paying. The banks in South Carolina paid specie, so did others in various of the Southern States.
Mr. Clay. O, well, there may be exceptions, I admit. What I mean is the general prostration of the State banks.
Mr. Calhoun. But did the Senator mean that the Secretary should make his deposites in banks which did not redeem their notes ? Was that the object of his amendment ? If it was, let it be avowed let the country understand it; if it was, Mr. Calhoun should be utterly and irreconcilably opposed to it.
As the difficulty arose wholly from the condition of the banks, it might be fully met by repealing the objectionable clause in the law. It was said, indeed, that there were other difficulties in other sections of it; if so, let them be pointed out and removed, and let the law stand as if the banks had not suspended.
Mr. Rives said the Senator from Kentucky was under a mistake in case the Sub-Treasury should be repealed. What is the case he puts ? According to his doctrine the power of the Executive to control the deposite is not guarded against, because the appointment of the Secretary of the Treasury is still left in the hands of the President. President Jackson contended that, when an Executive officer was by law clothed with a discretionary power, and did not exercise that discretion in conformity to the will of the President, the President might rightfully remove him. And on this ground it was that he removed the Secretary of the Treasury.
But the act of 1836 took away all discretion from that officer, and therefore Jackson's doctrine would not apply, and the public moneys would not be left subject to Executive influence and control. The law was explicit as to what banks might be employed, and as to the ground of removing the public moneys.
Mr. Clay requested Mr. Rives would allow him to ask whether, if General Jackson, under the law of 1836, had said to his Secretary of the Treasury, "take the deposites out of this bank, and put them into that, or I will remove you from office," it would not have been done ?
Mr. Rives. I say it would not, sir. I say the law of '36 gave the Secretary of the Treasury a duty to perform, and that duty only could he by law be required to do. He was left no discretionary power, which could be controlled by the Executive. If, for a moment, the principles of this law be dispensed with, all control of the public money is dispensed with. The passage of this law had been justly hailed as the triumph of American liberty it had been gallantly battled for by the Senator from Kentucky himself. Now he feared that Senator was pushing his principle of demolition too far and too rapidly.
He, (Mr. Rives) however, disclaimed having any scheme to advocate; he would not seek to detain the Senate in the half-way-house of the State banks, far less in such a bawdy-house as the United States Bank of Philadelphia. He now waited for the nation to build up a scheme of its own.
The Senator from Kentucky acted on a lofty spirit of compromise now, as on many former and illustrious occasions, in asking for the plan of the Secretary of the Treasury; he was very sure that gentleman was acting for his country's good, and not for party or personal ascendancy.
As to the Senator from South Carolina, he had himself denounced the State bank-system as a "miserable rickety system of puny legislation;" if the judgment of the nation was against it, let it go down. He (Mr. Rives) would not plead in its favor; but for one he did not believe the judgment of the nation had condemned, as yet, either of the substitutes for a Sub-Treasury. It was his opinion that the judgment of the nation had condemned the Sub-Treasury, but had expressed no opinion in favor of any particular substitute. He was not willing to believe there was but one remedy.
If the fiscal agent in contemplation is to be a United States Bank, he [Mr. Rives] would infinitely prefer the State bank deposite system authorized by the law of 1836. Admitting the calculation of the Senator to be true as to the proportion of non specie paying banks, still there were some which did pay specie; and these were situated precisely where the Government most needed them, at prominent commercial points on the seaboard, such, for instance, as New York, Boston, Charleston, S.C., Missouri, Ohio, &c.
In conclusion, he again would disclaim all bigoted attachment to any system; but avowed his preference even for the rickety law of 1836 to having the deposites left even for a moment at the Executive discretion.
Mr. Berrien having obtained the floor, on motion, the Senate adjourned.
Mr. Woodbury said: It was my misfortune, sir, to be in a minority on the committee which reported this bill. I have heard nothing since to weaken my objections to the repeal of what is called the Sub-Treasury, but some things to strengthen them greatly. The die, however, is cast; the Sub-Treasury must, I presume, be abolished. But I fell it due to my opinions, expressed in the committee, as well as to friends, and the importance of the question to the whole country, that the reasons for my opposition to this hasty and extraordinary change in a great system for managing the finances for the Government, for the whole Union, should be publicly given. I am aware of the impatience felt by the majority for a decision, and shall, therefore, use all possible brevity.
It is difficult to comprehend the causes of so much haste in acting on the present subject. Why repeal what exists till some plan is presented instead of it ? Let us have what you consider the bane and antidote before us at once. But, on the contrary, we are in this case asked to destroy an existing system, in full and successful operation, and which would continue to be so, if fairly administered, without expressly presenting any substitute whatever. We pull down our present house, to use the simile of the Senator who originated this measure, [Mr. Clay] without a new one elsewhere to reside in, or even a shantee. No, sir, not even a log cabin for shelter till another house is built. We thus depart, also, from legislative usage in all like cases. The act of June, 1836, in regulating the State bank system, did not repeal the former one till the new regulations could be provided and duly executed. So the Sub-Treasury act did not repeal the State bank system till the Sub-Treasury had time to be carried info full force. He challenged gentlemen to cite a precedent for any such rashness as the present. Even in 1816 the public funds were not forbidden to be kept as before, till the United States Bank was chartered and in full operation. We create, then, a sort of dictatorship as to the finances in the President or Secretary of the Treasury, till some new system is hereafter established by law. We leave the sacred funds of the public, in a period of profound peace, and with no emergency, no urgent necessity impending, to the arbitrary will or caprice of mere Executive discretion.
There is no escape from the conclusion as to the lawless expediency which will then reign, unless, by mere construction, some other system is revived by this repeal. The repeal would be on its face uncertain, vague, loose. It cuts loose from the old moorings, and puts to sea with the whole public revenue, without rudder or compass. But it is said that much can be remedied by implication, by construction, by discretion. Then in abolishing the Sub-Treasury, we abolish what is a system, well considered, and in full force, and we do this for one to exist by implication, and that may mean any thing or nothing, to suit those who administer it one temporary, not certain in its character, gone into disuse, obsolete, impracticable, and which, if no better is devised immediately, may be fastened upon us for years as the law of the land. I know that repealing a repealing statute, according to an old technical principle, well settled in Blackstone, Bacon, and Coke, revives in force the act existing before the first repeal. We shall have, then, apparently, the act of January, 1836; and bad and impracticable in many respects as that act is admitted by many of them to be, they would justify their course in reviving it, by the apology, that, a better system can and will soon be substituted for it.
But are there not more enemies to the Sub-Treasury, than friends to any particular successor ? Can all who vote against the former, unite in favor of a Bank like the last United States Bank ? Or will all take a fiscal agent, not a Bank, and which so many of them have heretofore denounced ? Again: will all unite in any improvement of the act of 1836 ? We know to the contrary; and thus, with the best intentions soon to have some different system, except what will spring up constructively after a simple repeal of the Sub-Treasury, the country may never get one.
Look at the experience on these hopes and good intentions in this very Senate. Last March we were in such haste to get a Public Printer acceptable to the majority, that it was deemed necessary, so as to organize, to remove Messrs. Blair and Rives, though fairly chosen, and regular contractors under bond, without their assent, and without a hearing or trial. Yet we are now in the second week of another session, and no successors to them have been chosen, or attempted to be chosen. Did gentlemen at that time dream of such extraordinary delay ? The improved officers, the reform and new organization which was so indispensable then as not to be delayed scarce a day, strangely remains yet unaccomplished. Gentlemen may find troubles, and family schisms and procrastination as to the new fiscal agent they intend soon to create, which may lead to even longer delay than has occurred in the appointment of new printers.
In the mean time this body and the Union may be subjected to the discretion of the President of the United States and the Secretary of the Treasury, in keeping and disbursing the public money, and which the Senate has been subjected to in its chief officers since last March, in respect to its public printing. We have been too often of late years forced into this condition of mere construction. Who has done our printing since, and at what price? and by whose direction, and under what law ? Nobody, nobody, sir, except under the arbitrary will of our President pro tem. and our Secretary. Exercised that will may have been discreetly, and doubtless with good intention; but under what law, what Constitution, or what printed rule ? Are we then to be governed by star chamber commissions or State circulars ? Gentlemen felt much more jealous and sensitive on these subjects of unlimited discretion in 1836, it seems, than now; and the union of the purse and sword, which was then the burden of daily denunciation that very union they are, by this precipitate repeal, as I shall endeavor soon to demonstrate, they are forewarned, and deliberately, voting to produce. Yes; to produce it for a time, they cannot but admit; and for months, if not years, all will concede is possible, if not probable. To accomplish this union, what is proposed to be previously done ?
Independent of the unprecedented manner, what is the substance of our action to be on this occasion ? What kind of a system do we abolish and why ? And what kind of a system do we virtually substitute for it ? Even for a day, or an hour, as the gentleman from Virginia said yesterday, we should not uselessly leave the public funds to discretion. Is it for the mere whim of change change change and change also for the worse, that we must pass the repeal, and the repeal of a great measure affecting millions of people, and millions on millions of the public treasure ?
What are the reasons, then, for action upon it ? Why, forsooth, the mover of the measure says no reason need be given. It is a case already decided. The people have returned a verdict against the Sub-Treasury, and we have come here merely to enter up judgment against the Sub-Treasury system and its friends.
If this be our position in fact, I hope we shall have the benefit of that gentleman's experience, as well as sympathy, since in 1828, on the same theory of reasoning, the people returned a verdict against a former Administration, of which he was a distinguished member. But will he admit now, or did he then admit, that the election settled all the points in discussion before the people, and that a verdict was returned against him and them on all these points ? Far from it. We were sent here to examine, to reason, and to decide ourselves on reasons and facts, and not on fancied verdicts.
We came here to do a great public act on behalf of seventeen millions of people and twenty-six States of this Union. Ought they to do this without duly considering what was the duty required of them ? And what must be the effect of their act, whether that effect were temporary or permanent ? Without this, they could not act discreetly in abolishing an important existing system. Mr. Woodbury would readily admit, as some gentlemen had suggested, that there had been much talk against the Sub-Treasury, and some arguments during the Presidential canvass. It had been greatly abused and grossly misrepresented, but he was not prepared to admit that there had been any verdict of the people against it. Was the repeal or the continuance of this law the only issue made before the people at the late election ? Was the result of that election a verdict on that issue alone, and not on others ? The Senator from Kentucky had, to be sure, said that they came here for judgment to carry into execution the verdict of the American people; but he would ask that Senator again whether the result of that election was to be held as a decision by the people on all the questions which had been discussed before them ? If so, how did it happen that they were sitting here in this splendid hall, lighted by the magnificent and costly candelabra and other splendid decorations now before them ? Had it not been decided that there should be no extravagances of this kind, with all its unavoidable expenditure ? That gentlemen must not eat out of gold spoons, but must use horn ? That the President must live in a log cabin, and not in a palace ? ride on a pony, and not in a coach ? That they must not indulge themselves in the luxury of champagne, but must drink only hard cider ? Did not the verdict of the people cover all that ? It was easy for gentlemen to talk about issues being decided by elections, but he asked, what had been the issue in 1828, and what had been the verdict given then ?
The Senator had had some experience in such matters, then, as before suggested. Did he believe that the people had passed a verdict on all the questions which had been mooted during that election ? No; nor did Mr. Woodbury. They had different questions argued then; they had the question about soda water furnished at public expense, about billiard tables paid for out of the public money, and other grave issues of a very different and high character as to Panama missions, and certain Presidential coalitions. Did the Senator hold that the people had delivered their verdict on all these points ? Why cut out the Sub-Treasury from all the other subjects agitated at the late election, then, and say that the verdict of the people had been given on that issue. But some of the gentlemen held the doctrine that they were not bound even by express written instructions from their own constituents. Much less, then, were they bound by a verdict given on five hundred issues, given at cross-roads, given at grog-shops, and on the hustings. There was nothing in this argument. It answered very well to talk about for political effect; but the people decided no issues but such as they put on record. The issue they decided was, that they elected this man as their Chief Magistrate, and not that man. That was an issue by which all were bound, and which all must respect. But the evidence went no further. For that reason it was that he addressed arguments to gentlemen, and entreated them not to throw themselves on imaginary or uncertain verdicts. He asked them what they were abolishing ? What were their reasons for abolishing it, and what were the facts of the case ?
You propose to annul a system which facts sustain and sound principles justify, however much it has been assailed from Maine to Louisiana, by the gross misrepresentations and wanton libels caricatures, coarse and obscene songs stump speeches and log cabin carousals all enlisted against it. But in these cooler moments of political strife, all must admit that the Sub-Treasury, though not so fashionable in its appearance as the marble palaces of some banks, is a plain, honest, straightforward system. To the admirers of the improved, refined, polished, boasted credit system of recent times, the the Sub-Treasury may not seem to deal so flippantly in millions on paper; but what it has is its own. It does not strut in borrowed plumes, nor does it cast off its clothing if a little old fashioned, or indeed homespun, for the dandy robes and essenced equipments of its rivals the lovers of the improved modern modes of growing rich without capital and on the industry of others.
In its documents and transactions, it may not use all the classical engravings of the Pennsylvania United States Bank or the Gallipolis Bank; but it has always redeemed its promises a little more promptly, and indulged a little less in unauthorized cotton speculations or gambling purchases of stocks; whether in railroads, canals, or lithographic cites; and whether on the lakes, the Atlantic, or the Mississippi, or, passing the boundaries of the Union, dabbling in Texan scrip, or Mexican bonds. It may be somewhat antiquated. If the Sub-Treasury be not a new invention, like some of the modern banking, in approved modern style, it has the superior merit of being justified by considerable experience in the world. It was in existence here long in the General Government, and in most of the States, with county and town treasurers, as well as with more important ones, and has, substantially, for centuries, been in force in most of the civilized, safe and flourishing Governments of Europe.
It is merely a system to keep, as the act of 1789 simply provides to keep the public money, and not to lend it. To keep it safely till wanted, and not loosely to be squandered in speculations; and to keep it in specie, or its equivalent, so as to have something on hand useful, reliable, and honest, for the payment of debts, instead of being left in the mere rags or fog. This is the true substance of this abused system. Next, it is a system complete in all its parts, and clear in its provisions well argued well matured well guarded rather than the piebald, uncertain, denounced and arbitrary system, which must, in the present condition of the banking institutions, virtually succeed to it by this unqualified repeal.
Furthermore, it is a system, above all others, eminently constitutional. It is partly developed in that holy instrument itself, and it was one of the first offspring of legislation under it imperfect and limited than, I admit, but yet essentially the same as now, except more carefully and explicitly regulated now, and suited to our increased territory, numbers, and wealth.
In the next place the Sub-Treasury is a system independent. This has justly been its title, and one of its boasts. It neither creeps nor cringes to corporations or bank directors for aid, but has within itself officers, safes, vaults, and powers, rendering it, like the General Government as to States, self-moving, self-acting, self-efficient, and thus independent.
It is, also, a system that can be enforced. It has proved practicable, notwithstanding all prophecies to the contrary, and will continue to prove so, if properly administered, and if such amendments are made in details, not affecting its vital principles, as experience may require. Its fruits thus have been salutary; its officers are amenable to us, and not to the banks or the States; and their operations are regulated by us, and not by others, over whom we have no control.
It is a system economical. Its whole expenses yearly, after its operations began, will be scarce half what the new Secretary of the Treasury proposes indirectly to give a Bank of the United States, by borrowing four millions on interest, to be used as a surplus in the Treasury, and of course to be deposited in his new National Bank, to be used there without compensation for loans and accommodations.
It is likewise a safe system. Whatever Mr. Ewing may say as to losses in connection with it, he takes special care in his amount of losses, to go back twelve years instead of one year since this system begun. He thus speaks of losses by millions within twelve years, and which must have been under the United States Bank system and State Sank system. But he does not specify the loss of a dollar under this system alone.
[Mr. Clay, speaking across, said the accounts have not been yet settled.]
Mr. Woodbury replied. No losses have yet been made known, and if any existed, or were believed to exist, the powers that be would not be slow in publishing them. The new Secretary dwells also on its exposure to robberies, when not one has ever taken place; while within the period of its existence, banks without number have been robbed in all possible ways and to almost all possible amounts. It has been almost a universal wreck in some States. Just on the eve of our arrival here, and in an adjoining county, one seems to have been robbed of more than the amount of its whole capital. Neither the President, nor Secretary, nor the keeper of the money, could touch a dollar of it, except as the law directs, without a robbery and condign punishment. The country has been made to believe wrongfully, that any of these officers could take the money at pleasure, and thus had entire control over the purse.
Nor could the President, Secretary, or others, loan a dollar of the public money under the Sub-Treasury, without danger of fine and imprisonment without, indeed, being burglars of thieves and the penitentiary reclaiming its fugitives. This was not a system where the funds can be applied to maintain political favorites or to buy up political presses or to circulate political speeches and pamphlets or to fee counsel or to give salaries of $100,000 to single officers. But under the Bank system, its officers could and have taken millions on millions without authority or punishment and loaned or speculated with it to the four quarters of the globe. Our ears have been almost stunned with the crash of banks around us in every quarter. Scarce a wave floats by us that does not bear fragments of ruin. Indeed, this very bill of repeal contains a high and deserved compliment to the safety of the Sub-Treasury system, however much questioned by Mr. Ewing, for it reenacts one of its prominent and much abused provisions to punish defaults and embezzlements.
Again, how much safer is its currency ? What would have been the credit of the General Government the last four years, with United States Bank notes on hand for public payments, Red Dog notes; Brandon Bank bills and all the shinplaster litter ? It would have been as low as that of many of the spendthrifts, speculators, and partisan vagabonds, who have assailed it, instead of being as high as any Government in the civilized world. What would have been the losses also in its receipts and expenditures with such depreciated trash ?
In 1816, by taking such paper, the loss was computed by Mr. Gallatin, to the Government alone, at near four millions; and by a committee of the House of Representatives in 1832, if was computed at the appalling amount of thirty four millions.
Another of its excellences is, its comparative freedom from Executive influence. The distortions of party have, however, charged and blackened it all over the country with being the reverse in this respect with what truth and justice, let an impartial examination of the act demonstrate. Not an officer of importance can be appointed under it, without the control and approval of the Senate. But under the other system, the Bank that hold the money was selected by the Secretary of the Treasury alone, or by the President alone, with out any interference of the Senate. They were changed at pleasure, too, by them, and its officers by the Bank directors or Bank stockholders. On the contrary, the officers of the Treasury could not be changed without the sanction of the Senate. Yet the partisan cry has been the Sub-Treasury! increased Executive influence! Unfounded. It has diminished such influence in every way.
If the officers can be removed now, without cause and such things seem possible, by the sudden new appointments, since the 4th of March, of Receivers General at Boston, New York, and Charleston so the banks could have been before this system, or at least their officers could have been, and by stockholders, politicians out of office, as well as by the President ? Whether reasons are yet to be given, remains yet to be seen. It they are, or if the Senate does its duty, it will be known whether Executive influence is not checked or restrained, instead of being increased. Nobody had been displaced before for these receivers, and no charges whatever have been published against their irreproachable characters.
But more of this power and practice of removal on some future occasion, whet we will see how proscription has been proscribed by this reforming Administration, and how it has put down, among its other reforms, the rewarding of political, partisans by office how it has set officers free from fear and favor, and emancipated them how office-holders have ceased to be pliant creatures of the Executive, and how members of Congress have been excluded from Executive influence, by being excluded from any share in the odious spoils of office.
Again, as to the comparative influence of the Executive out of doors in pecuniary matters under the Sub-Treasury and former systems; let them come down to facts. Could the Executive put his hands into the vaults of the Sub-Treasury and take out a single dollar without subjecting himself to be sent to the penitentiary ? Not a dollar could be drawn out but by warrants and draft. Neither the President nor his Secretary of the Treasury could take from its custody enough to buy a pen, nor could they loan out the public money for purposes of speculation or gambling. If they attempted such a thing, they would be convicted of embezzlement and sent to prison.
Was this the case under the bank system ? Could not the Executive, or the Secretary, in person, or through their friends, be accommodated with loans by a Bank of the United States or by the pet banks ? Had not the public money been lent in thousands and hundreds of thousands to friends of the Bank; both out of Congress and in Congress ? But when had a dollar of the public money been loaned under the Sub-Treasury ? The thing could not be done without burglary and theft. And yet, strange to tell, the community seemed impressed with the idea that under that much abused system the President and the Secretary of the Treasury could take and use for their own purposes just as much of the public money as they pleased.
Thus it will be seen that the Sub-Treasury, in every way, restricted and reduced, instead of in increased Executive influence; and one of the gorgons conjured up against it before the community turns out to be mere vapour and false glare.
But the Sub-Treasury system had yet one other and infinitely greater excellence. It did not stimulate the spirit of wild and reckless speculation by loaning out the public money. All such loans were, by that law, strictly prohibited, and it was an acknowledgment and homage paid by the Senator from Kentucky to the excellence of that law, that, bent as he was on destroying the system, he retained this feature of it and incorporated it in his own bill. That system provided likewise no stimulus for overtrading. On the contrary, its effect was to subdue and quench that destructive fire which had consumed the prosperity of the country. It kept the public treasure where it could be had when it was wanted. Every receiver general, every treasurer of a mint, must be ready to pass over every dollar of the funds in his hands on its demand by the Government. But was this the case under the Bank ? Far from it. When the money was most wanted by the Government, it was most wanted by the banks also.
On the other hand, it checked instead of stimulating expansions and overissues. It was calculated to work a slow, but sure reform in banking, in every neighborhood where much public money was collected. Because it throws back on the speculating and expanding bank for specie, their excessive emissions of paper.
But, in the next place, he was compelled to look at what must succeed this system when it was destroyed, whether it was temporarily or permanently. What would succeed it temporarily ? Nothing was provided in the bill itself, but it was held that the previous law revived ipso facto. Now, if the Sub-Treasury was destroyed, what law would be revived by its repeal ? We were to have the act of 1836, with all its acknowledged imperfections in its train. Would this be a better system ? Wise men did not pull down one thing to substitute another, unless that other were a better. The act of 1836 was not without some excellences. It contained a provision which restrained the Secretary from removing the deposites from a bank where they had been placed, provided that bank continued to redeem its notes in specie; it also forbade the depositing of the public money in non-specie-paying banks, and in banks issuing notes under five dollars. Some approved of it in the abstract, because it was a system regulated by law.
When the Secretary of the Treasury, under President Jackson, had been forced to remove the public deposites from their former depository, as he was authorized to do by an express law, and there existed no regulated system for the safe-keeping of them, he had implored Congress to pass a law for that purpose, and they passed the law of 1836. It had these excellences. But they were countervailed by defects which, in connection with commercial convulsions and foreign oppression, broke it down in twelve months, and it was now a dead letter.
One gentlemen had suggested that it may have been destroyed by faults in its administration, and not in the system itself. This suggestion had been made before. Mr. Woodbury would not argue whether this were the case or not, but he saw ample cause for its failure without this. It provided that twelve or thirteen millions of what had been deposited in safe banks should be taken out of them and divided among seventy eighty others, for no other purpose than to give each of them the benefit of its possession. A bank was to be selected in every Stale, and numbers in some of the States, as no one could hold over a certain ratio to its capital, and the effect was general stimulation of the community to every form of speculation and gambling. The banks were required to pay interest for the money, at least for all they held over a given proportion, and they consented to take the money obviously because they expected to loan it out. Was not this in itself sufficient to break down any set of banks in the world ? Could such an operation be accomplished without infinite distress ?
To force suddenly twelve or thirteen millions of dollars out of the channels of trade, and to put it in entirely different depositories, was an operation which Mr. Woodbury insisted to be one true cause of the ruin which followed. That alone was sufficient to account for it; but on the back of this, there was superadded the requirement to collect within nine months 36 millions more, and pay it over to the States. Was it any wonder that the most ruinous consequences should follow ? No discretion was left to the Secretary; the time was fixed by law, and, should he fail to obey, he was liable to be impeached, and was actually threatened with impeachment.
This great work he had actually done as to the thirteen millions, and then he had collected nine millions, and then nine more, and deposited it with the States in specie, or in specie worth, and it was emphatically said at the time that every installment in the payment of this money was a new turn of the screw. The pressure rose from rheumatism to gout, and from gout to convulsion. All this suffering had been attributed to the Executive and to the Treasury Department, as though it were their wrong, when, in fact, they had but carried out the law of Congress.
Then had come in addition to all the rest, an unexampled recoil from abroad, produced by the course of the Bank of England. American credit was suddenly cut off by millions at a blow, and the distinguished American houses were obliged at once to stop all their open credits. Yet this, too, was charged upon the Treasury. In such a condition, without any fault on the part of the Executive, the United States Bank went by the board with the others.
The old bills had not all been redeemed in specie to this day. If its charter had been renewed, and the forty millions of public money had then been in its vaults to be drawn out as the fatal act of 1836 imprudently required, it would have been one of the first institutions to suspend specie payments, as it was, without being compelled to disgorge such an immense sum for the Government.
No intelligent merchant or financier in the civilized world can be informed of all the facts, undisguised, and arrive at any different conclusions. To illustrate, that it was the collecting and paying over such immense sums, in connection with the other convulsions which prostrated such a system, rather than any thing wrong in its execution, I will trouble the Senate with a single anecdote.
In compliance with the requisitions of the law, deposites were made in North Carolina, which carried money out of the usual course of trade. The order to transfer the funds was given in advance, payable in North Carolina. This was strenuously objected to, and the Secretary was asked why he did not make the order payable in New York ? The Secretary was acquainted with the operations of trade, and knew that the order could better be met in North Carolina than in New York, because New York was then drained of specie, and claims might be due to it in North Carolina sufficient to pay it there.
But the drawees came to him, and insisted that the drafts should be made payable in New York. He, did so, and the holders immediately went to New York and demanded the specie. The drawees at once saw that by the change they had aggravated the evil, by losing more specie, instead of finding relief; and they entreated that the Department would make the future drafts payable, as they had been made originally, in North Carolina. It was, however, the being obliged to part with the public money in such large sums, in so sudden a manner as the laws rendered imperative, that led to embarrassment, and not the form or manner of paying them.
It reminded Mr. Woodbury of the Irishman who was ordered to be flogged, and when he was flogged low down wanted to be flogged higher up; but when flogged higher up, wanted to be flogged lower down, Mr. Woodbury had been determined to execute the law, cost what it would, and let those who made it be answerable to posterity, that just tribunal whose judgments, though often slow, were ever sure and true. As might naturally have been expected, the newly made deposite banks, flushed with the possession of their twelve or thirteen millions of dollars, speedily disgorged this treasure upon the community, (as the former deposite banks had already done,) for they had been obliged to pay interest for it, arid were glad to loan it out as soon as possible. The consequence of this, in both sets of banks, had been that the land sales, which usually realized from two to three millions of dollars, were swelled to twenty-four millions in a single year. For the prices of public land, too, were kept low, while all other prices rose, and the banks virtually gave credit for the purchase, instead of the Treasury.
The banks which had loaned their money to individuals instead of the Government, giving credit or loans for the lands as formerly, when called upon by Government to pay, could not collect it in, nor what had been lavishly loaned for other speculations and trade, and the natural consequence was, that they all went to wreck suspension was inevitable. But these lamentable consequences were not to be charged to the administration of the pet bank system, but to the provisions of the law itself. And were gentlemen called upon now to revive such a system as this ? Must the Secretary of the Treasury scatter the public money among eighty banks and revive again the scenes of 1836, so far as the public money, diminished, to be sure, greatly in amount, might permit or require ?
It was injudicious almost insane. But this, in truth, would not be the real result of the repeal. The keeping of the money, then, though nominally by the law of 1836, would, in fact and in truth, be cast on the unlimited discretion of the Treasury Department; for the law having been rendered impracticable by the change of times, the Department must necessarily be thrown back on the laws in force before this was enacted.
Mr. Woodbury would undertake to say that there could not now be five banks found in the whole United States such as that act required deposite banks to be; and the act itself declared that in such case the Treasury must revert to the previous laws, and those previous laws allowed the deposites to be placed in banks which did not pay specie; and to place it there, not merely on special but on general deposite. Nor was this any thing new this very thing had been done by Secretaries Campbell and Dallas for years together, and it must be done again.
The Pennsylvania Bank of the United States could be selected as well as any other, if the Department pleased. There were other consequences which must also follow. The Secretary would not merely be compelled to use banks of this description, but he would be stripped of every facility in the business of his Department until he did make his selection among the banks, and place the money there. He invited gentlemen to put inquiries to the present Secretary of the Treasury, and see what answers they would get.
The moment this bill became a law, the receivers general, as such, were dead the Secretary could no longer draw on them. Where must he put his money ? What must he do with his drafts ? In New York immense sums were coming into deposite at the rate of ten to fifty thousand dollars a day. The Secretary could not arrange with a bank to receive this money under less than a week, and in the meantime the Collector or the Receiver-General might have half a million of dollars under his lock and key, and be at the same time out of office. Who would be liable then ? Not his sureties, for the new funds; their liabilities expired with his office. In the more distant parts of the country, such a state of things might exist for a whole month. That time must elapse before the Receiver knew that his office was abolished; but the Secretary here would know it, and could not draw upon him. What, then, must be the result ? In one portion of the country he would draw on collectors; in another portion he must act under the law of 1836; and in still another he must be left at his discretion, under a construction of the old law.
Here would be three or four fiscal systems in operation at one and the same time; and all this state of confusion must ensue because gentlemen would insist upon repealing one plan before they had provided another. In the mean time, what was to be done with the contracts for building with the new vaults, books , and furniture ? Where should marshals and district attorneys deposit their collections often immense ? How should patentees or postmasters get along ? All would be left in chaos. It would be confusion worse confounded.
Gentlemen should at least have retained the mints as depositaries, if nothing else, till they got new agents. They should have at least allowed the hardy emigrant from the east on the seaboard, before crossing the mountains, to continue to pay for his land, if he pleased, before he started, instead of carting specie across the Alleghanies.
What is done with the clause that goes to prohibit any new specie circular ? Abolished. What with the three clerks in the Treasury Department created under this act ? Abolished. But no more of details.
Another question arose as to what money the Treasurer should receive. It was contended that he would be under the act of 1836. If so, then all public dues must be paid in gold and silver. There was not a bank in New England which did not issue or pay out of others bills under five dollars, and the act of 1836 forbid the receipt of any notes of any such banks. He was prohibited from receiving their notes, though redeemable in specie, and therefore, instead of receiving his dues one-half in convertible paper and one half in specie, as in the next month, he must have the whole amount in hard money, or violate his oath. Some gentlemen, indeed, on this side, like the measure on this account, but would the friends of this bill vote for it in this view of its effects ?
They would soon, if no other system was agreed on, begin to reason as on the repeal, that the people had rendered a verdict against specie. Over three-fourths of the Union now, and near all of it in 1837 the practice of a majority of the people and of the State Legislatures, it will be said, were against specie, and the specie circular. The sound sense and strong moral feeling of the people in many places have been deluded and persecuted in favor of depreciated paper. It is not merely a vitiated taste, but gambling speculators have made them believe it is for their interest to have a new paper standard, and not the gold and silver Washington and his compeers sought to introduce and perpetuate.
Let me admonish, then, all who hear me, that concerning the currency to be received for public duties in the new state of affairs, and as to any supposed verdict of the people thereon, if Congress adjourned without providing a substitute for the Sub-Treasury, it would soon be argued and found that the joint resolution of 1816 was not imperative. Its language was not, that paper of a certain description should be taken, but that it ought to be taken. Yes; it ought. But supposing the Secretary could not get it readily, how then ? What had been the argument in 1837 on that point ? Shinplasters were then current, and what had been called the ten cent rebellion in Boston had been gotten up, because specie was demanded by the collector. The Secretary would say he could not get convertible notes, and the verdict of the people was, that in that case he must take depreciated paper. By this state of things, all specie and specie-paying banks must go by the board. Discretion was said to be the law of tyrants; yet now the Treasury was to be let loose again, to use, at pleasure, the paper of non-specie paying banks; and this the Secretary, it would be argued, could not avoid, if he respected public opinion.
But it was said that we should soon have a substitute. Some great fiscal agent was to be provided, or else an old fashioned Bank of the United States. Mr. Woodbury would not argue that question; with him the time was gone by; but he would ask the members of that Senate whether they were ready to repeal the existing law, to re-establish such an institution as the old bank of the United States ? If they were, very well, but he could not yet tell whether such a plan had been matured and was to be presented. Why not wait till then, and see whether a majority of this body will take an institution instead of the Sub-Treasury, which has been condemned by most of the Democratic fathers of the Constitution which the present President himself concedes has been condemned by the people which has been condemned by experience as well as reason which has no power to resist suspensions and enormous losses, and which a few years ago, after becoming better and stronger by a new State charter, and getting rid of a bad partner in the General Government, as its chief officer declared, has since blasted the livelihood of thousands of widows and orphans, and, in opinion of many, covered the whole country with infamy and ruin ? Do gentlemen wish to abolish the Sub-Treasury for such a Bank ? Do they wish to give Congressional sanction at home and abroad to such enormities ?
Next: do the West and Southwest want the still lower prices, and ruinous sacrifices of property, caused by putting such a Bank in operation from 1817 to 1820 ? Let gentlemen read the history of that era, and they will pause. They are seeking the wrong remedy for the existing disease, as he would hereafter attempt to show on some other occasion. It was said, however, that we were to have a Bank that would not be unconstitutional; it was to be free from all objections of that kind. He was glad to hear it; but what was the plan ? Had not gentlemen better wait till they saw whether it did avoid all constitutional difficulty or not ? Surely they would act thus in their own affairs; why not in the affairs of the public ? What was this bank to be ? If it was to be a mere fiscal agent not incorporated, then it was a Government bank; and he said to gentlemen that, by their declarations and opinions, they were abolishing just such a bank, though without the name. All they had to do was to call the the Sub-Treasury a fiscal agent, and the thing would be, by their reasoning, effected. Was this any thing new ? Had not gentlemen contended that the bill of 1840 went to create a Treasury bank ? Yet they were now for destroying that, only to make another.
Here Mr. Woodbury quoted the title of a speech by Mr. Clay in 1840, which he held in his hand, in which the Sub-Treasury was denominated a Government bank, of which the President of the United States was to be president, cashier, and teller. All they had to do was to give the power to issue small drafts, and the Sub-Treasury would be a Government bank, according to the reasoning of this speech.
Mr. Clay here interposed to inquire of Mr. Woodbury whether he rightly understood him as now admitting that the Sub-Treasury was a bank.
Mr. Woodbury replied in the negative. Your speech had represented it as a bank only under the supposition that the Secretary could cut up his draft, into small sums, and use them as bank notes.
Mr. Clay. Well, and could he not do it ?
Mr. Woodbury. He did not do it. I admit that the argument itself is a fair one, but he did not do it, nor could it have been done without sanction of law; nor was it ever intended to be done, unless required by Congress to do it. It would then be only a bank of circulation, but not one of deposite for individuals, nor one of discount at all; which last kind of bank was made, and especially a National one, so open to politaic favoritism and corruption.
I will not, on this occasion, detain the Senate longer, and did not intend at this time to say' half so much.
Debate in the SenateWednesday, June 9, 1841.
Mr. Calhoun wished, before the vote should be taken, to offer a few words on this bill. One fact was established during this discussion, and that an important one: that there was a large majority in the Senate who were utterly averse to leaving the Treasury under an unregulated State bank system. He need not refer to the individual gentlemen who had expressed this opinion: the fact was unquestionable. Now he asserted that these gentlemen had done by their vote of yesterday just what they had said they would not do. In the first place, they had voted for Mr. C's amendment to the amendment of the Senator from Kentucky, [Mr. Clay] which that Senator had acknowledged would remove the disabilities arising under the law of '36 and without which it would be utterly impracticable to carry that law into effect: in that they did right. The object of Mr. C's amendment was to make the law practicable; but gentlemen, after voting in its favor, as in amendment to that moved by the Senator from Kentucky, had voted down the amendment as amended, and left the act of 1836 in a condition acknowledged by themselves to be impracticable. How would this operate ? The Government would be obliged to go back to the alternative of either keeping its own money by its own Treasurer that is, to re-establish the Independent Treasury (the very act they are about to repeal) or of using the State Banks as depositaries, in express violation of law.
There was another result: it would be compelled, unless it violated the law, to collect its duties wholly in and gold and silver; which would in fact and and practice carry out the Independent Treasury system more rigidly than had ever yet been done, contrary to what gentlemen declared to be their object. The Secretary must either do this, or must act in express violation of law. He would be complied to act more rigidly than under the law about to be repealed. He must do so, if he means to act conscientiously. This result is inevitable. And yet gentlemen say they abhor leaving the country under a state of things unregulated by law. Mr. Calhoun called upon them to answer him, or, by their silence, to admit the truth of what he said.
The whole of this proceeding was most extraordinary. Gentlemen said that the voice of the American people demanded the course they were pursuing. Now Mr. Calhoun would admit for the sake of argument, that the voice of the majority was against the Independent Treasury though he held it very doubtful but there could be no doubt that their voice had been uttered in an infinitely louder key against leaving the public money unregulated by law. Under the pretence, then, of carrying out the public will, they were about to do an act which was infinitely more in opposition to the will of the country than any other.
We had been told that this was to be a reform Administration. Now he held that no act which violated the law and the Constitution was worthy of the name of reform; and yet the only two acts of this reform party was to leave the printing of the Senate unregulated by law, and to place the Treasury in a condition still worse; that is, one in which it could only be regulated by violating law. No: there is another: Who was the Printer to the Senate ? Did any gentleman know ? What were the prices fixed for the printing ? Could gentlemen tell ? Who fixed these prices ? Did anyone know ? Could and gentleman reply ? All this was also left to the discretion of the Secretary, and this by rescinding an existing contract with the former Printer, which regulated by law all that appertained to the printing of the Senate. These facts would shortly go to the American people. This gentlemen knew and yet remained silent.
But we are told that this posture of things was to be temporary only. Was this so certain ? Were gentlemen so perfectly united among themselves as to what substitute was to be provided for it ? Did not many start aside on constitutional ground and oppose a Bank of the United States ? If that should defeat the Bank, what was their next plan ? Could there be found an intermediate ground between a bank, the Independent Treasury, and the State bank system ? There might possibly be, but he asked what it was ? He was no enemy to the banking system, but he acknowledged that he had no faith in banks of circulation and issue. He had long said that the banks must fall by their own hand. Did gentlemen think that they acted as friends to the banks by repealing the Independent Treasury ? According to his belief, whether they create a Bank of the United States or not, it was indispensable that the country should collect its dues in gold and silver and its own credit. Without it, the United States Bank itself must run down, if one should be established. There must be expansions, under a bank circulation, great and sudden; nothing could prevent it; and the bank would, sooner or later, he swept by the board, unless some provision was adopted which was quite as strong as the Independent Treasury law.
All general bank expansions had commenced in England, and when their banks or ours must explode, the explosion must take place with us as the weaker part of the boiler. The strongest possible provision against such disasters would be to collect the dues of the Government in specie. But he saw plainly that gentlemen would have their way, but time would show who was right. An experience of less than ten years would satisfy even themselves of their profound errors.
Mr. Benton said it was now pretty well seen that gentlemen in the majority meant to press the question on this bill; but it was so utterly repugnant to all his views of what was right and proper, that he wished to leave on record the strongest and most lasting testimony in his power of his opinion of its impropriety. Therefore, he should take a course which, though not usual, was strictly parliamentary; and he thereupon moved to postpone the consideration of the bill for purpose of considering a resolution, which he sent to the Chair, declaring, in substance, that it was inexpedient to repeal the Sub-Treasury until some other plan for managing the fiscal concerns of the Government had been provided.
Mr. Benton proceeded a to observe that it had several times been remarked, during the course of the debate, that gentlemen were beginning at the wrong end of the road. It was certainly manifest, from the votes given yesterday and the day before, that the greatest possible absurdities inevitably arose from this course of proceeding. Gentlemen were for putting an end to one law a law referring to matters which must continue without intermission, and could not stop for a day without providing any other law in its place. By this course the country was remitted to the law of 1836; yet it had been shown to be impracticable to revive the State bank system contemplated in that law, in time to meet the exigency; and the Secretary would therefore, of necessity, be remitted to the condition of things which existed anterior to the passage of the law of 1836; and this whether for a long or a short period. But whether it was to be for a shorter period or a longer one, was wholly immaterial in the argument. He still held that there should be a substitute provided, before the present law was abolished. Nay, the very fact (if it were a fact) that this state of matters was to continue but a short time, was the strongest of all arguments for postponing the repeal till that short time should have elapsed. If a substitute could be provided in a few weeks, why not wait those few weeks before they put down the existing law ? There would have some machinery to be provided; and during that interval the public money was to be left in a state unprovided for by law, or under a law which was impracticable, which was the same thing. Why, then, put up a scaffold only to pull it down again and put up another ? Why this double demolition ? They would incur an infinity of trouble, while no good end was to be gained by it. What could be the reason for all this ? Why this hot haste ? Was it that the feelings of gentlemen were to be indulged ? Did they wish to gratify resentment against the Sub-Treasury, as if it were some living enemy ? If gentlemen were capable acting from mere feeling, they had had an opportunity presented to them yesterday, when he had offered a resolution to exclude the bank at Philadelphia from receiving any portion of the public deposites. But no; they could not be persuaded to adopt a resolution to keep out of the confidence of the Treasury this pre-eminent culprit. No; they could indulge no feeling; it would not comport with the dignity of the Senate. But how did they act now ? Was there no feeling ? None against the Sub-Treasury, an inanimate thing ? Did they not seem to say to it, we have got you in our hand, now, and we will strangle you without mercy ? Were these the Bank sentiments ? If they did not act from resentment, why this haste ? Why not let the Sub-Treasury stand till they had something to put in its place ? In which part of the Union was it not working well ? working according to the wishes and feelings of the people ? Where was the petition, where the memorial, where was the public resolution, asking for its demolition ? There was not one; no, not one. The clamor all came from two descriptions of individuals. First, the politicians, who wished to obtain a poor triumph, by tearing down and stamping to pieces the work of their opponents. And who else ? The millionary plunderers, who wanted to borrow the public money, without giving that security for it which John Jacob Astor or Stephen Girard would have demanded. Having devoured thirty-five millions of the money of the people, which, had not General Jackson saved it, would have been so many millions of the money of the Government, they were still not satisfied.
Yes, President Jackson had rescued, had saved to the widows and orphans and citizens of the United Slates twenty-four millions of dollars, which would otherwise have been lost in the Philadelphia bank. Had he not removed the deposites, the public would have been plucked to that amount. Yes; the public the people which, in the language of that institution, was "the goose which was to be plucked !" This clamor against the Sub-Treasury came not from the farmers of the country not from the mechanics of the country not from the laborers, the producers of the country. No; but from the millionary plunderers, who longed for yet larger spoil.
What was the argument for the proposed repeal ? It was this. "We have the power, and we will do it." That was the argument. "We will sit here, under the scorching rays of a solstial sun, till we see it done. There shall be no adjournment; there shall be no going out for respiration; gentlemen shall not go out to get their dinner; we wall sit here till it is done."
Gentlemen said that the fate of the Sub-Treasury had been decided by the result of the late Presidential election. The people had decreed its downfall. But on this point Mr. Benton had a question to ask. Suppose, instead of the candidate elected at Harrisburg, a different individual had been chosen to run against Mr. Van Buren, and, through want of popularity, he had obtained but three or four States, what would these same gentlemen consider as the decision of the people in that case ? By parity of reasoning, he supposed that then the people would have been held as all in favor of the Sub-Treasury scheme. But both conclusions would have been equally false. The fact was, that there was no one issue on which alone the election turned, and there was nothing on which to found the conclusion that the people had decided that the Sub-Treasury must be repealed.
All Mr. Benton asked, however, was, that gentlemen would let it stand till they had provided a substitute. It was sufficiently evident what they were aiming at. When they had got down the Sub-Treasury, they would set up another Bank of the United States, or some fiscality such as might have its habitation wherever Congress exercised its exclusive jurisdiction a fiscality that might be set up in navy yards, in forts, in dock yards, and in powder magazines.
In conclusion, Mr. Benton demanded the yeas and nays on the motion he had now made, in order that he might leave upon the journal the most authentic recorded evidence as to his opinion of the proposed measure.
The question being put, the Reporter understood the yeas and nays to be ordered by the Senate.
Mr. Young said that if this bill was to be passed, as he supposed it shortly would be, it must, from its nature, go immediately into effect. What would be the consequence ? Every receiver general would eo instanti become functus officio. What then would become of those officers ? In what light were they to be viewed ? They were salaried officers, and when were their salaries to cease ? From the date of the passage of the act ? Or, at some other time ? It was said, indeed, that we were shortly to have a substitute for the Sub-Treasury, but that he held to be impossible, even admitting that the Senate should, in a few days, agree to charter a Bank of the United States, and that the other House should concur. Could the Bank go into operation in a few days ? Must not its stock be subscribed and paid in ? Must not the plates for its notes be engraved, and its notes printed and signed ? Use what expedition they would, a chasm of weeks must intervene. Would it not be more prudent in the meanwhile to leave the present system standing rather than to throw the country on a wide ocean without compass or chart ? Could any man tell what banks would be needed, what currency we were to have, who was to receive and keep the revenues in the mean while ? On all these questions difficulties would arise. Why not avoid them by postponing the repeal till provision was made to meet them ?
Mr. Benton now expressed his wish to amend the resolution he had sent to the Chair, and on that request a question of order arose, which was argued by Messrs. King, Clay of Alabama, Bayard, Benton, and Clay of Kentucky, which resulted in the withdrawal of the order for the yeas and nays, and Mr. Benton's changing his motion to postpone the bill into a motion to recommit it, with instructions as follows:
"That the bill be recommitted to the Committee on Finance with instructions to report, in connection, a substitute for the Independent Treasury."
On the motion the yeas and nays were demanded; which being ordered and taken, resulted as follows:
YEAS Messrs. Allen, Benton, Calhoun, Clay of Ala. Fulton, King, McRoberts, Nicholson, Pierce, Sevier, Smith of Conn. Sturgeon, Tappan, Walker, Williams, Woodbury, Wright and Young 18.
Nays Messrs. Archer, Barrow, Bates, Bayard, Berrien, Choate, Clay of Ky. Clayton, Dixon, Evans, Graham, Huntington, Ker, Magnum, Merrick, Miller, Morehead, Phelps, Porter, Prentiss, Preston, Rives, Simmons, Smith of Ind. Southard, Tallmadge, White and Woodbridge 28.
So Mr. Benton's motion was negatived.
Mr. McRoberts submitted the following motion in writing, to wit: That the bill be recommitted to the committee that reported it, with instructions to report an amendment
"Providing, first some guards for the security and safety of that portion of the public money of the which will be received by the depositories of the public money, from the date of the passage of this act, until a knowledge of its passage shall be received by said several depositories.Mr. McRoberts proceeded to say that from what had already taken place, it was very obvious that so far as depended upon the Senate the bill now under consideration would pass. A fixed and determined majority had settled that question; but notwithstanding this, there were questions connected with the bill that had not been duly considered questions, too, of the highest importance to the country, and to the safety of the public revenue.
"2nd. That said committee insert a provision providing some future day that said act shall take effect, giving to the Treasury Department ample time to take other bonds, conformable to the state of things produced by the repeal of the Independent Treasury law of July 9, 1840, from all depositories and receivers of the public revenue."
Let us for a few moments examine them; and I ask Senators to accompany me while I point out the fatal objections which exist to the passage of the bill in its present shape.
My first proposition is, that the bill be recommitted to the committee with instructions to provide some guards for the security and safety of the public money which will be received by the depositories of the same, from the date of the passage of this act, until a knowledge of its passage shall be received by the depositories. To test the utility of this proposition, let us inquire if any guards whatever are provided for the public funds to be received during that time. Is there any security whatever for these moneys, or will the bonds of the depositories taken under the Independent Treasury law be any protection to the Government ? So far from it. The first section of the act now under consideration, expressly declares the contrary. It provides for what ? Why, sir, only listen to its language: "All civil rights and liabilities which have arisen under said act and the remedies therefor, shall remain and continue, as if said act had not been repeated." This provision is in the past tense. It applies expressly to the rights and liabilities which have arisen, and not to those which will arise after the act is repealed.
Sir, this provision of the bill is a mere trap. It has no effect whatever, and is shear nonsense. For all rights and liabilities which accrue before the law shall be repealed, the bonds heretofore taken are good, and the securities are bound. This provision of the bill is barely repeating what the law is already. This enactment is therefore mere tautology; the law is so without it, and it can have no effect but to deceive. I need not debate this position before the Senate, for every member knows the position to be unanswerable.
But, Mr. President, are there not some rights that will accrue after that law shall be repealed, that are not provided for in any way whatever ? The moment the President of the United States shall sign this bill, should it unfortunately pass the two Houses of Congress, till the special depositories, created by the Independent Treasury law, are out of office. From that instant the Receivers General at Boston, New York, Charleston, and St. Louis, are private citizens. From that moment they have no right to receive another dollar of the public money. From that moment the right of receivers of all the branch mints, to receive public money, ceases. Will any Senator doubt this ? Will any man of intelligence anywhere doubt it ? Sir, these were the general depositories of the public revenue, created by the Independent Treasury law. They all gave bonds in large sums, with ample security, for the faithful discharge of their duties while they should remain in office.
And the 16th section of the act declares that
"All marshals, district attorneys, and others having public money to pay to the United States, and all patentees wishing to make payment for patents to be issued, may pay all such moneys to the Treasurer of the United States, to the Treasurer of either of the mints in Philadelphia or New Orleans, to either of the receivers general of public money, or to such other depository constituted by this act, as shall be designated by the Secretary of the Treasury."
Here, sir, you will perceive, that the act requires the public money to be paid to these depositories. It is the law of the land which requires and forces the payments to be made. And, sir, there is not one day in the week, Sunday excepted, but large sums are paid over to these depositories. There is not a day but large sums are received and paid out by these depositories in the discharge or their duties. Not a day, sir, not a day.
Well, you go on in hot haste and repeal the Independent Treasury law, without providing any guards for the large sums that must be daily received by the general depositories, between the date of the repeal and the period when the repeal shall be known by the remote depositories. It will require say fifteen days for the most remote depositories from this capital to know that the law has been repealed. In this period, hundreds of thousands of dollars must and will be paid in to these depositories. They are bound to receive it, and the collectors are bound to pay it to them, until they know that the law is repealed. Have you any security for this portion of the public money ? You will have repealed the law creating these officers, and from that instant their bonds become dead letters. Their securities are not liable for what is received afterwards. Can any one doubt this ?
Sir, have not all of us who are in the habit of attending courts of justice, have seen this question tested ? The question is not new, but has been repeatedly decided. The Supreme Court of the United States in the case of Kirkpatrick, 9th Wheaton, 731 and 732, settled this very question. Indeed the court in that case have gone vastly further than I now contend for. They did not only limit the obligatory operation of the bond to the period the party was in office, but they held, in their own words, "That the liability of the securities was strictly confined to the duties and obligations created by the acts passed antecedent to the date of the bond."
By the passage of this bill, therefore, unless you provide some guard, for the funds to be received after the law shall be repealed, and before a knowledge of that fact reaches the most distant depository, you have no security at all. You are throwing the public revenue to the wind. You are doing wrong with your eyes open and in the face of the world.
The depositaries and collectors may all be honest; they may account for the money; but from the reckless system of removals lately pursued, there may be some Swartwouts among them. But it is the duty of Congress to provide guards for the safety of the public revenue. They stand inexcusable before the world if they do not.
Sir, there is another branch of this subject to be considered. And, let me say, it is one of great importance; it involves principles of the highest magnitude, and reaches to the foundation of this whole matter. My second proposition is
"That the said committee insert a provision providing some future day that said act shall take effect, giving to the Treasury Department ample time to take other bonds conformable to the state of things produced by the repeal of the Independent Treasury act, from all depositories and receivers of the public revenue."
Before the Independent Treasury act of July 4, 1840, was passed, bonds were required under the existing laws from all receivers of land offices, and collectors of the customs. The substance, if not the form of the bond, was prescribed in the various acts of Congress. Such, sir, was the state of things when that law was passed. But that law created new, and increased, and varied responsibilities in the collection and safe keeping of the public revenue. For example, that act, and particularly the sixth section, changes the duties of various receiving officers. They are required to act as depositories of the public revenue, as well as collectors, or receivers, and to do other duties not before required. They were to occupy a new relation to the Government after that act was passed. Well, sir, in carrying out the intention of the act, we find by one of its provisions that the Secretary of the Treasury is required
"At as early a day as possible after the passage of this act, to require from the several depositories hereby constituted, and whose official bonds are not herein before provided for, to execute bonds new and suitable in their terms, to meet the new and increased duties imposed upon them respectively by this act."
Yes, sir, the bonds are to be new and suitable in their terms, to meet these new and increased duties. And, sir, I may now say that I know, of my own knowledge, that these new bonds, to cover these new duties, were required by the Secretary of the Treasury of all the receivers and collectors in the Government. My position at that time as Solicitor of the General Land Office, enabled me to know that these bonds were taken in conformity to the provisions of the Independent Treasury act. These bonds are now in force, and no receiver, or collector, is bound by any other bond. The old bonds were cancelled by the giving of the new. And according to the decision already quoted, of the United States vs. Kirkpatrick, the securities in the old bonds could not be made liable under the new and increased duties imposed by that act.
Well, sir, suppose you repeal the Independent Treasury law, without making the provision I have suggested, may not a grave question grow out of it, to wit: whether these new bonds do not also fall with the repeal of the law that required them ? Sir, such is the general rule, that the unconditional repeal of a law, requiring bonds for the performance of duties, will, from the date of the repeal ipso facto, discharge the securities to such bonds. The legal reasoning is, that the law being repealed, the duties under it cease, and the securities from that time are released. Sir, let a suit be brought upon one of these bonds for moneys received by a collector or depository after the Sub-Treasury is repealed, and remember that the receivers and collectors are to go on receiving public money, would not his securities come into court, armed with the settled and solemn adjudications of two hundred years against you ? Sir, the whole doctrines of the common law, with all that favor that securities always receive in courts of Justice, are against you. The rule founded in eternal justice a rule recognised by Holt, and Mansfield, and Marshall the rule that you cannot change the liability of a security, without his consent, rises up in judgment against you. And there is great reason and philosophy in that rule.
Sir, suppose you repeal the act, without providing the remedy required by my motion, the grave questions that I have stated are certain to cone before your courts. They will find their way into the halls of justice, and will be decided by men that know no political parties in judgment. And before the courts will not securities have the power to throw in the teeth of Government, and as an answer to the demand, say that you, the Government, have changed their liabilities in the bond without their consent ? They may truly say that they were equal parties to the contract; that they made an agreement, and signed a bond, under a law requiring particular duties of their principle; that this law you have repealed, and the duties of the principle in the bond, and of course my liability as his security, you have changed without my consent. I was security under the guards of the Independent Treasury law, but in no other form. You have violated your part of the contract without my consent, and I am released.
Sir, the general rule, the universal rule in favor of securities, is as I have stated it. Is there any thing in the particular subject now before the Senate to take the ease of securities under the Independent Treasury law out of that rule ? Can gentlemen see any such ground to occupy ? If they do, I should like to see them attempt to occupy it. But the plain English is the law is as I have stated it; and I might bid defiance to any other construction, for none other can be given. But suppose the question were doubtful, even then, prudence would require that we should provide the guards I have pointed out.
Mr. McRoberts said, allowing a reasonable time by designating some future day, so that it may be known to distant depositories and collectors, when this repealing act is to take effect, will obviate the fatal objection set forth in my first proposition. By giving time for the taking of new bonds, Congress will be acting on the safe side. By forcing this bill through, without providing guards for the safety of the revenue, will be sinning against light and knowledge.
In conclusion, Mr. McRoberts demanded the yeas and nays upon the proposition.
Mr. Calhoun appealed to the friends of the bill whether they could still insist upon its passage in the face of such statements as there ?
Mr. Clay said he should not discuss the point. There was no earthly necessity for any such provision, and there was nothing at all in the objection.
The question being now put on the motion of Mr. McRoberts, it was rejected by yeas and nays as follows:
YEAS Messrs. Allen, Benton, Calhoun, Clay of Alabama, Fulton, King, McRoberts, Nicholson, Pierce, Sevier, Smith of Connecticut, Sturgeon, Tappan, Walker, Williams, Woodbury, Wright, and Young 18.
NAYS Messrs. Archer, Barrow, Bates, Bayard, Berrien, Choate, Clay of Kentucky, Clayton, Dixon, Evans, Graham, Henderson, Huntington, Ker, Mangum, Merrick, Miller, Morehead, Phelps, Porter, Prentiss, Rives, Simmons, Smith of Indiana, Southard, Tallmadge, White, and Woodbridge 28.
The question was now called for, and was about to be put, when Mr. Wright addressed the Senate.
[The remarks of Mr. Wright were published in the Globe of Tuesday last.]
Mr. Tallmadge [Nathaniel Pitcher Tallmadge (February 8, 1795 - November 2, 1864); NY Whig; studied law, admitted to the bar; first Democrat, then Whig; supporter of William Seward in New York] said: I do not rise to debate this question. It has been, heretofore, fully debated in these halls; in the legislative halls of the several States before the people in their primary assemblies and by the people themselves, until the subject has become so thoroughly worn out that even my honorable colleague cannot advance a single new idea upon it, and until it has become perfectly nauseating and disgusting.
I rise for the purpose of expressing my extreme regret at the pain which my honorable colleague [Mr. Wright] tells us he feels from the haste and manner in which this question is pressed to a decision. I am the last man in the world that would, unnecessarily, give pain to any one, and more especially to one so sensitive as that gentlemen. He never inflicts pain, even of this sort, upon his political opponents, unless from a high sense of imperative duty. And from what has fallen from him on this occasion, I am now, for the first time, enabled to appreciate the pain he must have experienced on the original passage of the Sub-Treasury law through the Senate, and which we now propose to repeal. It was pressed, on that occasion, with such "hot haste" to a decision, that, to a sensitive mind like his, the honorable gentleman's "sufferings," like those of his illustrious predecessor on another occasion, must have been "intolerable."
Nothing but the most imperative duty and the most elevated patriotism could have compelled him to the course which was then taken. The bill was on its passage. It has been discussed, but not fully discussed. There were gentlemen waiting to be heard in opposition to it. The day had been exhausted; the session had been protracted to an unusual hour. Night had already begun to throw her sable mantle over the Senate chamber, when an adjournment was asked to enable gentlemen to give their views on the morrow, free from the exhaustion of that day's arduous labors. It was refused; and the honorable Senator from Maryland [Mr. Merrick] was forced into the debate at a late hour, and without some of necessary statistics which he wished to use in the course of the very able argument which he made. After he had concluded, an adjournment was again asked, to enable an honorable Senator from Massachusetts [Mr. Davis] to give his views on the subject. This also was denied, and he was compelled to proceed, late in the night, and, under the burning sense of the injustice done him, made one of the ablest speeches ever delivered on this floor.
The bill was then passed, and sent to the other House, before I had an opportunity to reach Washington, and to record my vote against it. I had just been re-elected, and was then on my way in company with an honorable Senator from Massachusetts, [Mr. Webster] to take my seat. The State of New York was thus deprived of the only vote which truly represented her interests and her feelings on this floor, upon this great public measure which she had already thrice condemned. I repeat, therefore, Mr. President, that my colleague, from his pain, on this occasion, must have been in a perfect agony upon that.
The honorable gentleman objects that the Sub-Treasury ought not to be repeated until a substitute is provided, and has attempted to alarm us by some imaginary difficulties. There are no difficulties. The act of 1789, the joint resolution of 1816, and the act of 1836, which will be revived by this repeal, have ample provisions for the purposes of the Treasury, until a substitute shall be provided. And even if there were no such provisions, I would not hesitate one moment about the repeal of this odious and thrice, nay, four times condemned measure. I have said, on this floor and before the people, that I would take any thing or nothing in preference to this Sub-Treasury scheme; and, before I would hesitate about its repeal, I would see our finances go once more into chaos, as they were when the mighty genius of Hamilton was called to preside over them; when
"Confusion heard his voice,
And wild uproar stood ruled."
But, Mr. President, what excites my "special wonder" is the intimation of my honorable colleague that the people have not decided against this Sub-Treasury scheme. One would suppose that, in reference to his own State, he could entertain no doubt on that subject. The man must have been blind indeed who could not see the outbreakings and feel the outpourings of public sentiment for the last four years in the "Empire State." And least of all should my colleague doubt as to what that sentiment was. He must have been an attentive observer. He early made up the issue for the people. I remember perfectly well, when I first expressed here my dissent from these destructive measures of the late Administration, that my colleague deprecated any collision of opinion between us on this floor; and, with characteristic self-complacency, and with a seeming confidence of anticipated triumph, proposed to submit all our differences to our common constituents, and to abide their decision. I accepted the issue. We went down to the people in 1837, and they found against him. Nothing daunted, he asked another hearing, and was again overthrown in 1838. He was indulged with a third trial, and again beaten in 1839. And in 1840, like Napoleon, he took the field in person. He traversed the whole State. I did the same, sometimes in advance of him, and sometimes on his trail. We seldom discussed any thing but the Sub-Treasury, although my colleague occasionally gave a touch in defence of Mr. Poinsett's standing army. But the Sub-Treasury was the burden of the issue. It was against that the people fought, and at this great Waterloo battle my colleague was finally routed "horse, foot, and dragoons," and was compelled to surrender at discretion.
After all this, he gravely utters his "ambiguous givings out," that the people of New York have not decided against the Sub-Treasury. Why, sir, let me ask him what was the issue ? Was it not the Sub-Treasury ? Every newspaper on that side of the question had at the head of its editorial column, in glaring capitals, "Independent Treasury" "No National Bank." This was the motto everywhere inserted on their banners under it they fought, and under it they were conquered. And still my honorable colleague tells us, if any decision was made by the people at the last election, it was a decision in favor of "log cabins, coon skins, and hard cider."
In the same breath he tells us that, during the administration of General Jackson, the people decided against a National Bank. On that subject I might with much greater propriety retort that it was a decision in favor of hickory trees without roots, and moistened in the ground by a barrel of beer.
Mr. President, if ever a felon was condemned by a court and jury, and deserved to be hung, then has this Sub-Treasury been condemned by the people, and ought to be repealed. They have given their verdict against it, and are impatient at our delay in awarding execution. Let us, then, forthwith enter up judgment, and simply say, "Off with its head; so much for Buckingham."
Mr. Wright made a brief reply. He said it was difficult for him to say, if he should be so unwise as to enter into the lists with his honorable colleague, whether he should not be overthrown. He believed he had explained once before in reply to the accusation of a want of courtesy towards his colleague. That honorable Senator spoke of matters which he did not personally know, and his statements did Mr. Wright great injustice. He was fully aware that the feelings of his colleague were very strong, and their personal intercourse had been only that of courtesy and kindness.
What Mr. Wright had said implied no denial that the people of the State of New York and of the United States had given their verdict against the Independent Treasury. On the contrary, he had expressly declared that he did not stand up to deny that such was the fact. All he had insisted on was, that there was no evidence in the result of the late elections that the people had decided in favor of a National Bank. If his colleague would say that, in addressing the people of their State, he had advocated the constitutionality of a National Bank, he would say something very different from that which Mr. Wright had always heard stated by others.
Mr. Tallmadge replied that he had been too much occupied in speaking against the Sub-Treasury to have any time left for talking about a National Bank.
Mr. Clay of Alabama expressed a desire to present his views on this subject, but it was now late in the day, and his strength was exhausted by a protracted session. To ascertain the mind of the Senate, he would move an adjournment.
Mr. Clay of Kentucky hoped the Senate would not adjourn.
Mr. Calhoun demanded the yeas and nays. They were ordered by the Senate, and, being taken, resulted as follows:
Yeas Messrs. Allen, Benton, Buchanan, Calhoun, Clay of Alabama, Fulton, King, McRoberts, Nicholson, Pierce, Sevier, Smith of Connecticut, Sturgeon, Tappan, Walker, Williams, Woodbury, Wright, and Young 19.
Nays Messrs. Archer, Barrow, Bates, Bayard, Berrien, Clay of Kentucky, Clayton, Dixon, Evans, Graham, Henderson, Huntington, Ker, Magnum, Merrick, Miller, Morehead, Phelps, Porter, Prentiss, Preston, Rives, Simmons, Smith of Indiana, Tallmadge, White, and Woodbridge 27.
So the Senate refused to adjourn.