Henry Sheffie Geyer, Esq.
In Reply to the
Hon. Thomas H. Benton and Robert W. Wells, Esq.
on the expediency of a
National Bank, the Validity of the Currency, and the American System
Delivered at the Court-House in St. Louis, before an Assembly of the People.
In the St. Louis Beacon of the 13th October, 1831, the following publication appeared:
St. Louis, October 11, 1831.
"Gentlemen:-- Your note of this day's date is this moment received, and in answer to it I have to say, that I acknowledge the right of any portion of my constituents to call for the public expression of my opinions on any subject of public interest, and particularly in a case like the one presented, which involves an inquiry into the legality of almost the whole circulating medium of the country, and directly concerns the personal interests of every individual in the community. The question is not new to me. My mind has been long made up upon it; and I should be ready at any moment to express my opinion, and to give my reasons in support of it. But expecting the arrival of a gentleman here in a few days, whose opinions on this momentous question the people may also wish to know, I will postpone my address to a day which will probably cover his arrival, and name Monday the 17th inst., as the time for delivering it.-- On that day, 3 o'clock in the afternoon, I will be ready at the Court-House in St. Louis to declare my opinions, and to justify them upon a review of the chartered powers of the Bank. In the mean time, and that all minds may be directed to the points which I shall endeavor to maintain, I will now state, that I hold the judicial decision made in Ohio to be correct; that I believe the orders (commonly called notes,) which are drawn by the Presidents of the United States Branch Banks on the Cashier of the principal Bank, to be illegal; that nobody is legally bound to pay them but the drawer and endorser; and that after presentation at Philadelphia, and protest and notice of non-acceptance or non-payment. Yours respectfully,
Thomas H. Benton.Col H. Walton, Jno. Shade, and 56 others."
According to the appointment thus made, the people assembled at the Court House on the 17th October, where Mr. Benton delivered an extended argument in defence of his opinion, expressed in the published letter, and also urged some reasons against re-chartering the Bank of the United States. He was followed by Mr. R.W. Wells, Esq., a candidate for Congress, who argued at length against the policy of granting a re-charter and against the validity of the currency furnished by the Bank for circulation, and delivered his views on the policy of a system of protecting duties and Internal Improvements. At the request of a respectable number of the citizens. Mr. Geyer replied to their speeches on the ensuing day, the following is the substance of his remarks.
Mr. Geyer said, he had delayed the commencement of his remarks, some time beyond the hour appointed, in the expectation that the gentlemen to whom he was about to reply would be present, but as he was not informed that they had any inclination or intention to attend, he did not feel himself authorised, any longer to postpone his observations.
It will not (said Mr. Geyer) be expected that any apology should be offered for asking the attention of the meeting, to the remarks which I shall have it in my power to present. It is known to many of you, that on yesterday, I was requested by a number of my fellow-citizens (who did me the honor to suppose that my remarks might be useful) to present my views of the questions then to be discussed. Although I have been for some years withdrawn from public life, and feel no disposition to participate in the strife and excitement of the times; yet, as in a government like ours, it is the privilege if not the duty of every citizen, to make himself acquainted with the origin and operation of the leading measures of government, I have bestowed some attention upon the measures of public policy denounced by the two gentlemen on yesterday, and have arrived at conclusions opposite to those which they seem to have formed. In the free interchange of opinions with my fellow-citizens, my views have been often expressed, but I have neither sought or desired an opportunity to present them in a public speech. In accepting the invitation to address you, I have not been influenced by any great interest I feel in the approaching congressional election. Between the gentlemen who are candidates, personally I am indifferent. I have no predelictions or prejudices to gratify, in the success or disappointment of either. The result of that election is, in my judgment, a matter of comparatively minor importance, in which I did not feel called upon to take an active part. Were that the only thing to be decided, I should certainly have forborne to participate in the discussion --I do not now appear as the advocate or adversary of either of the candidates, (they are both, I doubt not, competent to manifest their pretensions to the suffrages of the people)-- and I repeat, it is not my disposition to interfere; I am influenced by higher and I trust nobler considerations, I appear in answer to the call of a respectable portion of my fellow-citizens, which I did not feel at liberty to refuse -- to contribute my feeble efforts to sustain the leading policy of the government, which has my decided approbation, because I believe it essential to the happiness, prosperity and independence of the republic. Not being a candidate for your suffrages, I have no personal interest in the decision you shall make, other than is common to us all. As American citizens, all of us are equally interested in public measures, we are alike concerned in every proposed change of policy, all under equal obligations to examine the reasons on which propositions are founded, the end to be accomplished and the consequences likely to result. Nor is it less our duty to avail ourselves of the reflections of others in framing our opinions. I have to regret that I have not had sufficient time for the preparation, necessary to a systematic and full discussion of questions, which (to adopt the language of a distinguished gentleman on a different subject) "are of awakening interest to the American people." I ought, perhaps, to have shrunk from the undertaking; but I proceed, in the hope that if I do not present arguments to produce conviction, I may at least furnish food for reflection.
When it was first announced that the people were to be convened for the purpose of hearing the honorable Senator deliver an argument, on what I then thought, and he has now declared to be, a mere question of law -- it struck me as a most novel and extraordinary procedure. An assembly of the people to try the validity of a contract is a spectacle, unprecedented in this or any other country. Why not submit the question to a court of law, the only legitimate tribunal in which such matters can with propriety be discussed or satisfactorily decided ? The ostensible object was to deliver a legal opinion -- and when did any man in this assembly or elsewhere, ever before hear of a lawyer, holding a respectable rank in his profession, who, when called upon for his opinion on a question of law, would assemble the people and undertake before them, to convince his clients and the public that he did not err ? -- But we have seen that the meeting was purposely deferred until the gentleman (Mr. Wells) could be present, to support the Senator's legal opinion by a political speech. The real object, then, of the meeting and speeches of yesterday, cannot be disguised. The gentlemen have moved in concert for the purpose of producing an effect, not only on the approaching election, and others in this state not very remote, but to influence the decision of the great questions now pending before the people of this Union. Their speeches, therefore, ought to be considered as a joint concern, having a common object; and as such they will be treated, without regard to the division of labor between them.
Questions of public policy which were supposed to have been long since settled are, it seems, now again to be agitated and disputed. Attempts are made to persuade the people to overturn and destroy the measures approved and fostered by the good and great men of the nation, at every period of its history. The work of patriots and statesmen who understood the interests of their common country, and devoted their time, their talents and their energies to promote its happiness, prosperity and independence, has not escaped the excitement of the times. The spirit of innovation is abroad; politicians of accidental origin, who cannot hope to win the favor of the people by the exhibition of talents or principles to sustain the fair fabric reared by wiser and better men in happier times, devote themselves to its destruction. They who cannot build would demolish -- they would sever and scatter abroad what they can never again gather and bind. In this unholy enterprise they seek to enlist the people, not by addressing their reason, but by an appeal to the magic influence of a party name. Times of great excitement are unfriendly to calm reflection, and are, therefore, always seized upon by that class of politicians whose element is troubled water, to advance themselves. As it is easy to fancy evils, there is a facility in raising objections to any measure very tempting to small politicians; especially, if there is a prospect, that its blessings long enjoyed will be overlooked or forgotten, in the ardor of party zeal; and unhappily it must be acknowledged, that in our eagerness to accomplish a particular object, we are often very prone to suffer our attachment for measures to be weakened, if not destroyed, soon after we cease to feel the pressure of the calamities from which they have relieved us. You, I trust, are not prepared to hazard a change of any policy which shall appear to have been adopted in wisdom, and which has promoted the prosperity of the nation -- unless some better reason can be offered, than that the harmony of the party requires you to renounce the good of your country.---[This is the same argument Daniel Webster made: you people do not know what is good for you; we got this system established for ye, we got the continentals from you for pennies on the dollar, we assumed the State debts and set up a permanent federal debt, we organized a privately owned grand central bank, we made the notes of this bank the currency of the federation; now, don't try to extinguish this federal debt, to do away with this bank currency (and return to the coins of the constitution, to let this bank of ours to expire and go out of existence
The expediency of rechartering the Bank of the United States, is the first question to which I shall invite your attention-- its constitutionality being admitted. But before I proceed to an examination of the objections which have been urged, allow me to present a brief view of the history of the Bank and the condition of the country, at the several periods when the policy of establishing such an institution was examined & discussed in Congress. It is necessary to the just appreciation of any measure, that the occasion in which it originated, should be perfectly understood; that we should be informed of the evils intended to be remedied, ascertain how far the measure adopted has accomplished the end proposed, and satisfy ourselves how far the evils redressed will probably return upon us, by an abandonment of the remedy. In this way only can we form any comparison between the advantages and disadvantages of any course of policy. These obvious considerations have been studiously kept out of view by the adversary. Objections are urged against the Bank, not with a view to be obviated in a new charter, but for the purpose of destroying the existing institution and preventing the substitution of any other. The Bank is denounced as an "unshorn Samson," as "a roaring lion," not to be restrained by the power of legislation, which is called "cob-webs" -- as a "vampyre," gnawing at the vitals and sucking the blood of the States -- as a "machine" contrived for, and adapted to, the purpose of sapping the foundation of civil liberty, and overturning the constitution of the republic. And those who now advocate a re-charter, with or without modification, are denounced as "traitors" to their country, and 'enemies' to our republican institutions. The spirit of party seems to have hung like a night-mare on the bosoms of the gentlemen, and engendered these horrible imaginings -- they cannot be the offspring of minds at ease. Gentlemen might have spared their denunciations, had they freed their minds from the influence of party, and condescended to examine into the history of their country, or taken the trouble to enquire by whom, under what circumstances, and for what purposes, the Bank was established and sustained.
The past experience of our country attests the necessity of a National Bank, to aid the operations of the treasury in the management of the finances of the Union-- in the collection, safe-keeping, and transmission of the public revenue and to provide a safe and uniform circulating medium. At no period since 1781, has this necessity been disputed, except at a time of great political excitement. The honorable Senator is probably the very first politician who has ventured to affirm, that the specie circulation of the United States, is equal to the financial and commercial necessities of the country-- so I understand him to mean, when he says he takes his "stand for silver against paper." Does not every one here know, that the metallic currency of the country is scarcely equal to the annual revenue, and falls infinitely short of the supply necessary for the extensive and constantly increasing commercial operations of the country ? The bills of the National Bank in circulation amount to about twenty-two millions and a quarter; that of the local banks, perhaps forty millions more; besides, a large portion of the business of the country is carried on through the banks by means of bills of exchange, perhaps equal in amount to the bills in circulation; and all this does not exceed the wants of the people. It is idle to say that a demand for more than one hundred millions of circulation can be supplied by specie, especially when, if the advocates of this system succeed in their destruction of manufactories, and compel us to rely on foreign nations to supply our wants, there would be an annual export of millions of specie to adjust the balance of trade. But suppose all the Banks, National and Local, demolished, and suppose (what never will happen) that we had an amount of specie equal to the demand for currency. How would the operations of the Treasury be carried on ? Where would the public money be deposited, safely kept, and returned when required, without expense ? How and by whom would the public funds be transferred, as now, from one extreme of the Union to another, without charge or hazard ? The idea of relying on a specie circulation is fanciful. No secretary of the treasury has ever entertained any such visionary notion. The local banks cannot be destroyed, by any course of measures of the general government. The moment the circulation now furnished by the National Bank is withdrawn, local institutions will spring up and supply the deficiency by a free issue of their notes. A paper currency will be created far beyond the necessity of the country, or the ability of the banks to pay; we shall be overwhelmed by the disasters of a depreciated and unequal currency.
Happily for the government, in times of past difficulty, the people brought into the national councils, men who understood the necessities of the country, and possessed the patriotism and intelligence to adopt a system of measures which have contributed largely to our prosperity. To such men we are indebted for the establishment of a national Bank.-- To the Secretary of the Treasury belongs the consideration of all questions connected with the finances and commerce of the nation -- yet among the many distinguished financiers who have held that office, not one has ever been able to devise any other means for conducting advantageously the financial operations; but all of them who have had occasion to allude to the Bank, concur in bearing testimony to the utility and necessity of such an institution. Robert Morris, the able financier of the revolution, Alexander Hamilton, Albert Gallatin, Mr. Crawford and Mr. Dallas, (all of them distinguished for their financial ability,) support the opinion that such a Bank is of primary importance to the prosperous administration of the finances in time of peace, and indispensable in time of war. Such an institution has found favor with the Congress of the revolution; President Washington and the Congress of 1791 -- President Madison and the republican Congress of 1816, and a republican committee of each house of Congress in 1830. We have thus the concurring testimony of all the departments of government, repeatedly attesting the necessity of a National Bank.
On the 31st December, 1781, before the adoption of the constitution, the congress passed an ordinance in these words:
"Whereas, congress on the twenty-sixth day of May last, did, from a conviction of the support which the finances of the United States would receive from the institution of a National Bank, approve a plan for such an institution, submitted to their consideration by Robert Morris, Esq., and now lodged among the archives of Congress, and did engage to promote the same by the most effectual means; and whereas, the subscription thereto is now filled from an expectation of a charter of incorporation from Congress, the president and directors are chosen, and application has been made to Congress, by the president and directors, for an act of incorporation; and whereas, the exigencies of the United States render it indispensably necessary that such an act be immediately passed:
"Be it therefore ordained, and it is hereby ordained by the United States in Congress assembled, that those who are, and those who shall become subscribers to the said Bank be, and forever after shall be, a corporation and body politic to all intents and purposes by the name and style of The President, Directors, and Company of the Bank of North America."
The objects intended to be accomplished are stated in the preamble, to be of a public nature, and the opinion of the indispensable necessity of such an institution is distinctly declared. This was the act of the patriots and statesmen, whose political wisdom and patriotic devotion to the cause of liberty were then, and still are, the wonder and admiration of the whole civilized world.
After the adoption of the constitution, it was thought necessary by the statesmen of that day, in the organization of a financial system, to establish a National Bank as the only means of correcting the existing evils of a depreciated paper currency, and securing a safe and beneficial administration of the fiscal affairs of the country. Accordingly, Congress in 1791, by large majorities in both houses, incorporated the Bank of the United States. Its beneficial operation is matter of history-- public and private credit were re-established-- the public finances were placed in a prosperous condition, and the general prosperity of the Union advanced. Thus was the first Bank under the constitution established-- at a time when the people were yet indisposed to commit the administration of their affairs to half-fledged politicians, or demagogues of questionable principles, such as afflict the land in our day, willing to do any thing for a party, but nothing for their country. The men who passed that charter were the wise and the good, who appreciated their country, and made its happiness and prosperity the leading object of their lives. This Bank continued its beneficial operations for the period of 20 years, limited by its charter. During all that time we had a sound and convenient circulating medium, and the finances of the country were prosperously administered.
In 1811, when the question of a renewal of the charter was presented to Congress, it was among the misfortunes of the country, that there existed great political excitement; and the renewal of the charter was taken up under circumstances, of all others, the most unfavorable to profitable deliberation. The republican party had then a decided majority in both houses of Congress; but the minority were still sufficiently formidable to keep up the heat of party zeal by constant collisions and struggles for power. The victory of the dominant party was not considered secure, so long as the minority continued united. This begat a desire to overthrow every measure urged by the minority. Many, no doubt, had satisfied themselves of the inexpediency of re-chartering the Bank, from considerations above the influence of party prejudice; but there were then, no doubt, as now, some who were willing to reverse all their former principles for the sake of the party whose cause they had espoused, because it was the majority. There were perhaps also, as now, others, whose whole stock of political knowledge consisted in knowing after an election which party had the majority; their political wisdom, in adopting the party name of that majority, their only merit, in shouting for the favorite of their party, and fidelity in following him. Those who were opposed to the Bank upon principle, did not fail to take advantage of these circumstances; they did not fail to use the power of party discipline, and the aid of party prejudice. It was urged that a large portion of the stock was owned in Great Britain; it was known that the greater part of the American stock-holders were of the party in the minority.
The Bank, though established during the presidency of Washington, and the patriotic Congress of that day, became identified with, and shared the odium of, the most obnoxious measures adopted during the administration of John Adams. Mr. Crawford, however, whose unaffected republicanism and sterling patriotism neither of the gentlemen will dispute, looking upon the question with the eye of a statesman, foresaw the consequences which would follow a dissolution of the Bank, & patriotically and ably advocated the re-charter, notwithstanding the denunciations of those of his party, who overlooked the interest of the country in their blind zeal to disappoint the minority. Other republicans voted with Mr. Crawford; but by the force of a party name, the bill was defeated by a majority of one.---[One in the House of Representatives, and by the casting vote of the Vice President in the Senate.
Some of those who voted for a rejection of the bill were, no doubt, influenced by the consideration, that a re-charter would keep up the price of the stock, which consequently could not be purchased at par. They were willing to destroy the old Bank, though they knew there would be an immediate necessity of creating a new one. Such a course would at once injure the old stockholders and benefit themselves, by affording an opportunity to purchase the new stock at par -- to be again sold to others at a profit. To some or all of these causes must be attributed the refusal of a new charter, and not because of any solid objection to such an institution.
Let us now attend to the admonition of the wholesome, though dear bought experience, consequent upon this event. Although at that time we had only about 7-12ths of the population, about one half the annual revenue we now have, and very little commerce, no politician was mad enough to believe, that the financial and commercial affairs of the country could be conducted with specie alone; none possessed the presumptuous vanity to imagine that he could persuade his fellow-citizens that they could; every body who had paid the least attention to the subject, knew that the amount of coin then in the United States, was far short of the circulation demanded by the exigencies of the country. When the Bank of the United States was discontinued, the whole amount of the foreign stock was withdrawn, and the notes of the Bank redeemed. The deficiency in the circulation was immediately felt, and it was universally admitted that this deficiency must be supplied by a paper currency. The recent decision of Congress forbid the hope that another National Bank would be established. A number of local banks were created in every part of the Union, to meet the pecuniary exigencies of the country. The capital of these institutions was by no means proportioned to their issues of paper; and the currency became disordered by the increasing differences of the value of their notes in different parts of the Union. These institutions could not sustain themselves as soon as their paper began to be returned upon them, and specie demanded. They availed themselves of the existence of the war, and the embarrassments of commerce, as a justification for a suspension of specie payments; and such was the unhappy pecuniary condition of the country, that both the government and the people were compelled to connive at it. It being once agreed that banks might be conducted without capital, and that no danger would result to the institution from excessive issues, a new system of banking arose; the stockholders were no longer required to have capital. Banks were not made by those who had money to lend, but by such as wanted to borrow. The needy associated to form a bank; charters were granted by the score; stock was liberally subscribed for, there being nothing to pay; the promissory notes of the stockholders, called stock notes, constituted the whole capital, with the exception of a few thousand dollars paid in by small stockholders, who were not initiated into the mysteries of the new system, and were consequently simple enough to be honest and pay up the amount of their subscriptions. This was the manner in which a large proportion of the local banks were constituted. There being neither ability or intention to pay, the country was overrun by the excessive issues of these banks, and involved in all the evils of a spurious and disordered currency.
This state of things not only exercised a disastrous influence on the morals of the community, but inflicted enormous evils on the government and the people, by introducing a currency unsound and unequal, and a fluctuating state of exchange. The currency was variously and rapidly depreciated from 2½ to 25 per cent. below par; the greatest in the west, the smallest in the north and east; and there was a corresponding difference in the exchange. The people of the west, it will be readily perceived, were taxed to the whole amount of this difference in all their purchases of commodities brought from the east. The payment of the public dues was unequal; a dollar paid to the government in Boston, was equal to one dollar and twenty cents paid in Baltimore. The expenses of the war being supplied chiefly by loans, losses, unexampled in any government, were sustained in obtaining the necessary supplies; stock was usually sold at a discount of 15 per cent. nominally, and this being paid in depreciated currency, the government was compelled also to lose the amount of that depreciation. The payments to public creditors, the officers, seamen, and soldiers were exceedingly unequal; those who received the notes of the banks of the District of Columbia, Baltimore, and the west, received from 12½ to 25 cents in every dollar, less than those who were paid in northern and eastern paper. The disordered state of the currency visited the government and the people with an actual loss of many millions; nobody profited by the system but fraudulent stockholders in those baseless banks, and money brokers, whose harvest time it was.*---[The committee of Ways and Means estimated the losses occasioned to individuals, at six millions annually; and the loss sustained by the government, at forty-six millions.]
But I need not detail the evils with which we were afflicted; many of you remember them; you know that public and private credit were greatly impaired, and the fiscal operations of the government almost entirely arrested. Your recollection will bear testimony to the truth of the declaration of the committee of Ways and Means of the House of Representatives, that
"The last year of the war presented the singular and melancholy spectacle of a nation abounding in resources; a people abounding in self-devoting patriotism, and a government reduced to the very brink of avowed bankruptcy, solely for the want of a national institution, which at the same time that it would have facilitated the government loans and other treasury operations, would have furnished a circulating medium of general credit in every part of the Union."---[A fully owned Federal Postal Bank could have provided that fiscal agency and sound national currency, but that was not to your Whig liking.....]
Let it not be said, that the existence of a National Bank would not have prevented the occurrence of these evils. Mr. Gallatin, who has made finance the study of his life, and who now ranks as one of the ablest financiers the world has produced, and certainly understands the fiscal and commercial resources and necessities of this country, as well as any man now living, has expressed his opinion, that it would have prevented the suspension of specie payments, and consequently would have prevented the establishment of banks without capital; would have facilitated the obtaining loans of by the government and furnished a sound circulating medium. That the establishment of a Bank was the appropriate remedy for the evils inflicted by local paper banks and their baseless depreciated currency, we have the concurring testimony of President Madison, Mr. Dallas who recommended the present Bank, and the majorities of both Houses of Congress who passed the act of incorporation.
"Whatever diversity of opinion prevailed as to the proper basis and organization of a Bank, almost every one agreed that a National Bank, of some sort, was indispensably necessary to rescue the country from the greatest of financial calamities."
In a very few years after the republican party had refused to re-charter the old Bank, experience taught an impressive lesson. The very men who denounced and voted against the Bank in 1811, were found among the most ardent and efficient advocates of a new one in 1815 and 1816. No doubt the pride of consistency would have induced them to prefer and adopt any other measure, if any one adequate to the end could have been devised. The whole financial talent of the President and his cabinet, and the appropriate committees of both Houses of Congress, was put in requisition; but no other measure could be devised to rescue the country from its embarrassments; and the present Bank was incorporated, as one of the leading measures of the theu republican administration. The charter was not asked for by individuals; there was no petition, no solicitation, to either house; it was recommended by the administration purely as a measure of public policy, suggested by the experience of the past, as the only means of securing public credit, restoring to the nation a sound and uniform circulating medium, and securing a successful administration of the revenues of the Union. We have then the authority of the patriots of the revolution; the sages who framed the constitution, (for such were the leading members of the Congress of 1791;) the republican Congress of the last war; the judgments of Washington and Madison, and of all the Secretaries of the Treasury, of the good and great men of every period of our history, in favor of the Bank as an indispensable institution. We have the evidence of our own experience attesting its utility; and yet we are told by political aspirants, whose political principles begin and end in a party name, that those who favor the re-chartering of the present Bank, are enemies to the country and its republican institutions.
The Bank thus created, and now proposed to be destroyed, has demonstrated by its effect the great advantages, if not the indispensable necessity, of such an institution. It has restrained the excessive issues of the local banks. It was the direct and immediate agent in producing the resumption of specie payments. It has established and maintains a uniform and sound currency of equal value with silver, at all points of the Union. It has equalized exchange, and has furnished a cheap, expeditious, and safe mode of transferring funds from one portion of the Union to another. It maintains the general solvency of the currency, without injuring solvent state banks. It affords to the government security and facility in its fiscal operations, in the safe keeping of the public monies, in the perfect facility with which all public payments are made by checks or treasury drafts at any office of the Bank; all the public monies are transferred through our extensive territory at a moment's warning, without any risk or expense, to places most remote from the place of collection, and wherever public exigencies may require. Such are a few of the many advantages derived from this institution, by the people and the government. I now proceed to examine the objections made, and I am persuaded that the evils which gentlemen pretend to exist, will be found only in their fervid imaginations.
The first objection is, that the Bank does business on the credit of the government.*---[In the speech of Mr. Wells as published, the objection is stated to be the exclusive privilege of Banking in the name of the United States. And what objection can there be to the name of the corporation; it must have a name of some sort. And the one given to it by Congress is as appropriate and quite as innocent as any other.]
It is exceedingly difficult to conceive upon what this objection is founded, certainly not upon the charter; neither the faith or credit of the government is pledged, it has not assumed any responsibility for any of the transactions of the Bank. It is no otherwise bound than as a stockholder, and may at any moment dispose of its stock. In point of fact, the United States actually derive a profit from the capital furnished by individuals. They have not contributed one dollar to the capital which can be made available, if the exigencies of the Bank should require it, to meet a sudden pressure. The government has subscribed seven millions, in certificates of stock bearing an interest of five per cent.; which may be redeemed at pleasure of the government in gold or silver coin, but it cannot be converted into money by the Bank to meet any emergency; they cannot sell more than two millions in any one year. [Chart. Sec. 6] The remaining twenty eight millions subscribed by individual stockholders, constitutes the available capital on which the business of the Bank is transacted. The United States receive annually a dividend on their bank stock, at the rate of seven per cent., and paying only five per cent. on their subscriptions, derive a neat gain of two per cent. per annum, out of the profits made by the use of the money of individual stockholders. So far then from the Bank making a profit out of the credit of the United States, the United States profit largely by the use of the funds of individuals in conducting the business of the Bank.*---[If the government were to sell off its stock now, the actual profit derived from the operations of the Bank would be not less than three and a half millions.
The government does not sustain the credit of the Bank. The latter was created to sustain the credit of government, and has accomplished the end of its creation.
It is true that the revenues of the United States are to be deposited in the Bank and its branches, "unless the Secretary of the Treasury shall at any time otherwise order and direct;" but it is not true that these deposites "are so much capital in the hands of the bank." They are paid out on the drafts of the Treasury, as rapidly as they are paid in; and the average balances on deposits according to the exaggerated statement of Mr. Wells, does not exceed five millions, and according to that of the finance committee of the Senate (who are at least as well informed on the subject,) two and a half millions.
Whatever may have been done by some of the favorite local banks in former times, the public deposits are not treated by the National Bank as part of its capital nor as a special fund for the use of the directors. These deposits are paid out at any hour and at any place required, without loss or expense to the Treasury. The public money must be deposited somewhere, that the Bank furnishes a safe depository should not be complained of, especially as these deposits are made freely and may be discontinued at pleasure of the government.---[Why should this depository be a privately owned bank ?]
The next objection is founded on that clause of the Charter which declares that the bills and notes of the Bank "shall be receivable on all payments to the United States, unless otherwise directed by Congress." It is argued that the notes of other banks are excluded from being received in payments of the public revenue, and are consequently discredited, and that this enables the Bank to destroy all the local institutions. The idea that there exists any such power, monopoly or exclusive privilege, is the offspring of a total misapprehension of facts and a misunderstanding of the provisions of the charter. By the 14th Section referred to, the notes of the Bank are to be received in payments to government; but there is nothing to prevent the notes of other banks from being also received. By a resolution of Congress passed at the same session in which the National Bank was incorporated, the Secretary of the Treasury is required to adopt such measures as he may deem necessary to cause, as soon as may be, the revenues to be collected in legal currency; the notes of the Bank of the United States, "or in notes of Banks which are payable and paid on demand, in legal currency." By this resolution, the whole subject was referred to the Secretary of the Treasury. The notes of local specie paying Banks, so far as the law is concerned, are upon the same footing, and have equal privileges in payments to government, as the specie or the notes of the Bank of the U.S. And whether they are received or not, is a matter in which the Bank has no agency. We know that, in point of fact, local bank notes were so received, and are now received, to a certain extent.
In 1827, the Secretary of the Treasury, admonished by the losses sustained by the indiscriminate receipt of the notes of all Banks, called specie paying Banks,* issued a circular requiring the receivers of public monies "to discontinue the receipt, at any Land Office, of any note of any local or state bank, not established or existing in the state or territory where the land office is situated."---[Among the unavailable funds of the Treasury are more than one million of dollars, consisting of debts due by broken local Banks, on account of deposits and notes received in payment of public revenues.
This whole affair, then, is a matter of Treasury regulation, in which the Bank has no right to interfere. The Bank has, then, no exclusive privilege; and as its notes are at least as good as those of any other Bank, there is not even a pretext for alarm, because they may be received in payments to government. If the exclusion of the notes of local banks will destroy them, it will not be the fault of the national Bank, but of the government, for whose benefit all the provisions on this subject were made, or of the Secretary of the Treasury, in whom all power in the premises is vested. The corporation, so far from esteeming the fourteenth section of the Charter an advantage, applied to Congress in 1819, to repeal it; but it was thought to be the policy of the government to adhere to it, and the application was denied. Whenever it shall be ascertained that the government derives no advantage from the receipt of the bills of the Bank in payment, or that this privilege, as it is called, is likely to produce evil, the remedy is at hand, and no doubt will be promptly administered.
In the seventh fundamental article of the constitution of the Bank, the gentlemen have discovered an objection to the institution, which they pronounce extraordinary and unprecedented, and hostile to the nature of republican government, because, they say, "it enables the Bank to hold real estate, receive rents and retain a body of tenantry." This clause, instead of being an enlargement, is a limitation on the general power; instead of being alarming, novel or extraordinary, is precisely such a clause as is found in many, if not all, the charters of the banks of the District of Columbia, and of banks established in the several states; including the banks of St. Louis and Missouri. It amounts to nothing more than that the Bank may hold real estate, necessary for the transaction of its business; may take mortgages to secure, or conveyances in discharge of debts due, and may purchase on sales under its own mortgages and executions. The Bank can have nothing to do with the real estate of any person who is not its debtor, and as no person can be compelled to become the debtor of the Bank without his consent, it would seem that no danger ought to be apprehended from this power. But, as it sometimes happens that debtors are unwilling or unable to pay, the collection may be enforced, and the Bank become purchasers of their property at sheriffs sale; and then, say the gentlemen, "they will receive rents and maintain a body of tenantry." The complaint is not that the Bank can and does lend money; and though it is sometimes undoubtedly a grievous thing to be compelled to pay, yet the power to enforce payment is not objected to in direct terms. It is the power of the Bank to purchase at sheriff's sale, on its own executions or mortgages, that constitutes the ground of objection; yet this power can injure no one. The debtor is benefitted rather than injured. It is his interest that his property should be made to sell for the highest price possible, and it is of the greatest advantage to him that there should be a bidder interested in enhancing the price. The Bank being authorised to purchase, brings to the sale of the sheriff one more bidder, than there would be if the power in question were taken away. And that bidder is often more valuable than all the rest, from the fact that he is interested in making the property sell for the amount of the debt. That which would be knocked off at the first or second bid, is often bid up gradually to tenfold the amount, in consequence of the presence of a competitor. At all events, when property is struck off to the Bank, it is because nobody else will bid as much, and the debtor is at least benefitted by the difference between the bid of the Bank and the next highest. The complaint is, substantially, that the Bank has the dangerous power and the unheard of cruelty, to use compulsory means to recover its debts; and if no-body with a soul, will give more for the debtor's property, "this body without a soul" unmercifully endeavors to secure its demand by purchasing the real estate of the debtor.
The property being purchased under circumstances thus beneficial to the debtor; it is urged that while the Bank continues to hold it, the public is injured, because the Bank maintains a body of tenantry and receives rents. But as nobody is made a tenant against his consent, and is required to pay no more than he contracts to pay, there can be no great harm done. The Bank surely will not be required to let its property lie idle, or to bestow the use of it without rent. It is, however, said that the greatest evil resulting from this power is, that the corporation may exert a disastrous influence in elections, by controlling the votes of its tenantry. How this is to happen, gentlemen have not informed us. A single fact is worth a thousand speculations. Cincinnati, which is said to have been desolated by the exercise of this power, and is certainly the only city in which much real estate is held by the corporation, is, at this moment, as prosperous as any city in the Union; and in the Congressional district of which it forms a part, and where the Bank is said to "maintain a large body of tenants," its influence in elections has certainly never been felt. There is ample security against the evils apprehended from the power of the Bank to hold real estate. It is against the interest of the corporation. The capital can be more profitably employed in the appropriate business of banking. Real estate cannot be managed by the officers of the bank; it requires separate and special agents to conduct this branch of business. To divert the means of the Bank, would not only increase the expense and hazard of the institution, but would entirely disable and destroy its efficiency, as a Bank. It has, therefore, been the constant effort of the Directors to dispose of the real estate not necessary to the transaction of its business; in Cincinnati alone, they have disposed of real estate to the amount of seven hundred thousand dollars within a very short period.
A few words will serve to dispose of the objection that the Bank has power to establish branches in the different states without their consent. It will be remembered that the act of incorporation was passed, as a measure of the government, necessary to its financial system. The stockholders did not ask for it -- they became such at the solicitation of the government, the power in question was conferred for the benefit of the nation, and is essential to enable the Bank to discharge its obligation. Wherever the nation has revenues or debts to be collected, it is necessary and proper it should have a safe and convenient place of deposit; wherever money is to be disbursed it is necessary and proper that there should be an office through which it may be done, and certainly this operation cannot be carried on without the aid of a bank. If it has been or can be satisfactorily shown, that the Bank itself is necessary and proper to facilitate the operations of the National Treasury, it follows that branches are necessary in every part of the Union where public money is collected or disbursed. The constitutionality of the institution being admitted, it is difficult to perceive how the rights of the States can be violated, in the establishment of branches within their borders. The same power which authorises the location of the principal Bank in Pennsylvania, justifies the location of a branch in Missouri. The right to create, includes the right to locate the Bank and its offices; and it is necessary and proper that there should be an office for the transaction of the business of the Bank, wherever the government or the people may have business to be done.---[A sub-treasury office (a branch office of the Treasury) may serve as place of disbursement and collection and storage of monies.....
The fifth objection is, that the Bank has the privilege of holding the money of the United States, without making compensation for the use of undrawn balances. Now, the object of the government in making its deposits any where, is safety, not profit. The Bank receives and pays out the public money. It asks no indulgence and receives none. It does not use the deposits, as was the fashion in some of the local banks; and why should it be required to pay for the use of that which it does not and cannot use ? The act of 1817, provides, that when there shall be more than two millions in the treasury, the surplus shall be applied to pay the public debt. The effect of this is to retain two millions in the treasury to meet contingencies, not as a fund to be used by the Bank, it is not even necessarily deposited there. The secretary is vested with a discretion which enables him to deposit the public money, where he thinks most expedient. In the exercise of his discretion, we know that deposits have been made in local banks, which were never returned.---[Two years from now, the Secretary of the Treasury will do just that; he will deposite the public monies in other banks, and not in the Bank of the United States. What hoot and howler will go up from the friends of the Bank.
And the public funds are now deposited, because of its safety, in the Bank of the United States. The two millions reserved by the act of 1817, are, consequently, in the Bank only as the depository of the Treasury -- this is what is called the undrawn balances. Whatever the amount, it is under the control of the Secretary of the Treasury, just as much as if it was kept in a public chest, it cannot be used by the Bank for any purpose of profit, but it may become a charge to the institution in consequence of its obligation to transfer the public funds to any part of the Union, where the Secretary, in his discretion, may require. Funds, thus situated, must necessarily remain idle, and cannot be used by the Bank. But the Bank does amply compensate for every benefit, real or imaginary, which it can derive from the public deposits.
Passing over the advantages derived by the government from a sound circulating medium, the stability given to the revenue, and other benefits derived from the institution which cannot be calculated in dollars and cents, to those of which some estimation can be made, by that mode of calculation, it will be seen, that it has paid into the Treasury fifteen hundred thousand dollars as a bonus, it pays to the government one hundred and forty thousand dollars annually, out of the profits made on the capital furnished by individuals, it transacts the business of commissioner of loans and pension agents, which otherwise would have cost the nation near sixty thousand dollars per annum; it has transferred in one year, free of expense or charge, twelve millions and a half of the public revenue. The savings and profits thus derived by the Government, if calculated in dollars and cents, would greatly exceed any reasonable allowance which could be demanded "for the use of the undrawn balances," if they were in fact used.-- This whole subject has, however, been already disposed of by a committee of the senate, to whom it was referred on the motion of the Honorable Senator (Mr. Benton.) That committee after an attentive examination of the matter made a report which concludes with the decisive declaration that The Bank Has Amply Paid for the Benefit Derived from Treasury Deposits.
The next objection, is to the exemption of the stockholders from individual liability, or the failure of the Bank. And whoever heard of an incorporated Bank, in which the stockholders were each, individually, liable for the whole of the debts of the corporation ? If that were the case in the Bank of the United States, it is not plain that it would subject the institution to a much more formidable objection than any which can now be urged ? "The credit and revenues of the United States would indeed be given up to the Bank." The United States being a stockholder or partner, would be liable for every debt contracted by the institution: and in case of the failure of the bank, would be compelled to pay all unpaid deposits and all notes in circulation, and fulfil every other contract of the Bank. It is true that the staunch holder in the Bank of Scotland, is responsible to the holders of its paper, till he has paid up the amount of his subscription. And it is undoubtedly correct that each stockholder should be compelled to pay up the amount of his stock. This has been done by the stockholders of the Bank of the United States nothing more can reasonably be required. Gentlemen ought to remember that the Bank of the United States is managed upon the old principle of banking, and not upon the principle adopted in many of the States, during the war and a few years after its close, by which banking was conducted with little or no capital except the promissory notes of the subscribers.
The next objection, is to foreign stockholders. That there are foreigners holding stock is true, but alarm on that account is unnecessary. A foreigner cannot be a director nor vote at any election of directors. This is conceded by Mr. Wells; but he says this provision is easily evaded because the foreigner may make a fraudulent transfer of his stock to an American, who will give the vote according to the commands of the real owner of the stock, and thus foreigners will acquire an influence in the management of the Bank, and by obtaining a majority of the stock (which might be done) obtain the control of the institution and use it to the injury of the American Government and people especially in time of war. There are several obvious answers to all this. An American citizen must concur in the fraud, or perjury must be committed. The vote when given must be for an American citizen or it will be void. There is danger to the foreigner who corrupts an American to obtain a vote for directors that he will find his partner in the fraud willing to keep the stock after all is done. The foreigner would scarcely hazard this for the privilege of voting for American citizen directors. The effect of the power of foreigners to hold stock, is that Americans may sell to them at an advance as most of it was sold -- that foreigners have supplied near eight millions of capital to be managed by a board of American directors (five of whom are appointed by the president and senate) for the benefit of the American Government and people. Why not as well prohibit an American citizen from selling to a foreigner his lead or hemp, as to forbid his selling him bank stock ? The foreigner might derive as much profit, and certainly would acquire as much influence, by the purchase of the one as the other. Where is the danger in the event of war if eight millions of Bank stock or more should belong to the enemy ? The liberties of the American people would be just as free from danger, as they would be if American citizens were the sole owners of the stock. The whole control of the foreign, as well as the American capital, being under the control of American directors elected by American stockholders. All that can be said is that we should have so much of the enemy's money to be loaned to the Government or if necessary appropriated to its use, to carry on the war and fight the enemy on his own money.*---[Mr. Jefferson, during his administration, sold every dollar of stock owned by Government (2,220 shares, $1,287,600.00), to the Messrs. Barrings of London, at 45 per cent. advance. The republicans of that day did not, it seems, entertain the patriotic dread of foreign stockholders, affected by the exclusives of our times.
Really if we did not know that this objection had been gravely urged in the senate, we might suppose it was made now, by way of burlesque of the affectation of alarm, which has of late become so common with some distinguished gentlemen.
It is further argued against the corporation that it is exempt from the ordinary course of the laws for the violation of its charter. This objection was certainly made without reference to the provisions of the act of incorporation; or upon the presumption that you are wholly ignorant of them, and will not take the trouble to inform yourselves. It will be found on examination that no Bank in existence, is subject to a more strict scrutiny, more effectual checks. Five directors on the part of the Government are appointed to watch over its interests, and are in all the secrets of the board.-- A statement of the affairs and business is to be furnished weekly to the Secretary of the Treasury. Its books and proceedings are at all times liable to be inspected by committees of either house of Congress. The Secretary of the Treasury may at any moment and without notice withdraw all the public deposits. Congress may refuse its notes in payments to the United States. On a refusal to pay any note, bill of legation or deposite, damages are to be paid at the rate of twelve per cent. per annum. If at any time a committee of either house of Congress shall report, or the president shall have reason to believe that the charter has been violated, Congress may direct, or the president may order, proceedings against the Bank: and on conviction, the charter is declared forfeited and annulled. What greater responsibility; what more powerful checks could be required ? The means of detection are easy and ever ready -- the remedy prompt and efficient. If a violation of the charter escapes unpunished, the blame must attach not to the strength of the corporation or the weakness of the law, but to the corruption, negligence or imbecility of those who are charged with the execution of the laws.
The objections which have now been considered are substantially the same which are found in the published speech of the Honorable Senator, re-inforced by the arguments of the other gentlemen. The Honorable Senator, now proclaims that the corporation, in addition to all the other enormities of which he has accused it, has three times violated its charter; and these violations occurred before the last session of Congress: nay, according to his representation of the matter, the board of directors have been in the daily habit of violating the charter for the last six or seven years, by the emission of illegal currency.-- And is it so ? Does he mean to accuse the President of the United States with a violation of his official oath by neglect to execute the laws ? Has the corporation indeed so often and so flagrantly violated its charter; has it during that time been going about like a "roaring lion," seeking to devour the people's substance -- has the "infernal machine" been employed in undermining the liberties of the nation, and have the President and both houses of Congress been all this time slumbering at their posts ? What becomes of the gentleman's fidelity to his constituents and the nation ? Why carry in the recesses of his own bosom what seems to have been a secret to every body but himself, and yet, if true, of the deepest interest to the nation ? If he believes, as he says, that the Bank has violated its charter, he was bound by his official oath, as senator, to disclose the secret and move an enquiry into the conduct of the corporation; but it seems neither his love for the people nor his hatred for the Bank, could extract from him the information. Did his solitary possession of the secret render it more dear to him than his constituents ? If he was disposed "to take his stand on the side of the people" and "contend with them for hard money and equal privileges against bank power and illegal currency," why not take that stand in the senate ? Why keep in reserve for future use, what the safety of the people demanded should be decided on promptly ? He now tells his constituents whose sworn sentinel he was, that during the whole period of six years, he had seen their enemy making inroads upon their liberty --had kept his knowledge in reserve-- but now the war was to begin, the battle to be fought and the victory to be won, which might have been won without a battle if he had not reserved the outbreaking of his patriotic zeal until the approach of an election. Instead of taking his stand in the senate, the war is to be "fought over every election ground," that "the honors of triumph," which the Senate, cannot give, may be won, and won by the instigator of the war.
There are several objections made to the Bank, which are the offspring of the unassisted genius of Mr. Wells. He charges that the Bank loans to the rich, who buy up commodities offered for sale by the necessitous at reduced prices, and sell at an advance. That the directors lend the money of the Bank to each other at six per cent., and loan to the needy at enormously usurious interest. That as they may increase or diminish the amount of currency, they may raise and depress the price of every thing at pleasure. He then adds (what might well have been spared) some insinuations against the directors of the Branch at St. Louis, of whom his competitor is one. Surely the gentleman ought to have reserved his personalities for some occasion when his competitor should be present. In this respect, however, as in others, the gentleman has been betrayed into errors which might have been avoided; perhaps he was deceived by his recollection of the doings of the directors of local banks in Missouri, and supposes all banks to be managed in the same way.
The institution of banks, we all know, is no otherwise beneficial to monied men, than as it affords to them a means of investing their funds for the purpose of loaning to others. The rich do not create banks for the purpose of borrowing their own money to lend to their fellow-citizens. Is it not obvious, that if they wished to lend money to the necessitous at large interest, they could do it as well without as with a bank ? In fact, usurers, of all others, are most injured by the establishment of banks. Solvent persons may borrow from the Bank at six per cent., and by this means not only escape the necessity of resorting to usurers, but acquire capital to come in competition with those who have money, in all the business of trade, in buying lead and other products of the country. The gentleman himself (for consistency's sake probably) complains "that money is loaned to hundreds of the necessitous, and mortgage taken on real estate." A brief statement of the mode of doing business in this city, will demonstrate that monied men have not derived nor cannot derive advantages from the bank to the exclusion of others.---[Now you are lying: if all they wanted to do was lending money they had, they could have done it without organizing a bank; the reason they instituted a bank was to be able to lend credit represented by a piece of paper promising to pay money; that is where the money is, lending that which they do not have. Two years from now Mr. Gouge will publish a book, you should read it.
Before the establishment of a Branch here, it often happened that products were brought to this market for sale. The article of lead for instance -- the owner had immediate necessity for money, and was compelled to sell. Monied men were not generally engaged in trade, and the men of business having all their capital invested, had not surplus funds to apply to the purchase. The owner of the lead found, perhaps, not more than half a dozen persons who could purchase for cash, and these not willing to engage in the business; but suppose them ever so willing, they could regulate the price, and having no competitors, force him to sell on their own terms. What is the case now? the owner of lead, under like necessities, finds a hundred competitors for the purchase, by means of the facilities afforded by the bank. Every dealer in good credit may purchase, and generally is desirous to do so. There is at once an increase in the demand, and consequent appreciation in price. The purchaser draws his bill on his correspondent in the east at four months; the bank discounts the bill, and the vender at once receives his money. The purchaser ships his lead to his correspondent, which, in the ordinary course of business, is converted into money in time to meet the bill. Before the establishment of this Branch, there were often other difficulties and dangers to the owners of products brought here for sale. If monied men would not buy, or the owner refused to sell on their terms, he was compelled to sell on credit; and being pressed by necessity, sold the notes of the purchaser to monied men or money brokers, at an enormous discount, and at the same time became himself the guarantee for the solvency of the drawer; if he failed, the whole was lost. Thus does the bank furnish capital to carry on trade, and has introduced safety to producers of commodities in the transaction of their business.
Another specification in Mr. Wells' list of grievances is, that the directors loan money to each other, for the purposes of speculation; and combining together, regulate the price of commodities. If it were true that the directors obtain money from the bank for the purpose of buying lead, furs and other commodities, they would only enhance the price by increasing the number of buyers; and would thus do a service to the producers. But unluckily for the whole of this flourish (which was evidently intended for particular local effect) Mr. Wells has been misled as to facts. I have been informed, on the most unquestionable authority, that the whole amount of loans made to the directors, are not equal to the amount granted to any equal number of merchants of respectable standing in business. But according to Mr. Wells, the directors not only use what money they borrow, in buying lead and furs, but they also actually lend out the same money at usurious interest. The gentleman may quiet his alarms on this subject. No director, who understands the course of business in the bank and his own interest, will engage in this business of borrowing to lend. The bank loans are limited to 120 days; borrowers at 20 per cent. are not commonly prompt in their payments. There is danger in the operation which could not be compensated for by the difference of interest. But the charge is made without evidence to authorize even a suspicion. It behooves the gentlemen, certainly, to support it by something better than his own suspicions; especially when he confesses, and certainly demonstrates his ignorance of the operations of the Bank here or elsewhere.
Danger is also apprehended from the influence of the Bank in elections. The great capital of the institution, it is said, affords to the directors ample and ready means to control elections. What, says he, may not be done with thirty-five millions of dollars in the hands of men disposed to use it; let them send their agents through every congressional district, a majority may be secured, and the power of the corporation perpetuated. That is to say: the Bank will influence elections by bribery. Really the gentlemen, in his zeal to heap imputations on the institution, and overwhelm its directors with suspicions, forgets that he is not very complimentary to the people whom he loves so ardently. Assuredly he means to take back the fine compliment which he bestowed on you, at the expense of the other assemblies he has addressed, when he said he had "never before addressed so respectable and intelligent an audience." This insinuation of the readiness of the people to be bribed, is rather ill-timed, when made by their ardent admirer in the very act of wooing them. Somebody must be corrupted to offer the bribe as well as to receive it; and it might as well be said that they would hire assassins, to slay the majority, or that men might risk the halter in any other way. To bribe a sufficient number to secure a majority, would allow little more than forty dollars for each vote, if the bank should even empty its vaults for the purpose. It would be, perhaps, quite as easy to bribe members of Congress; many of whom are, at least, as accessible for that purpose as the people. And what would the charter be worth if the capital was exhausted in bribes ? But, whenever the people shall be ready to sell their liberties, it will be of little consequence who pays or who receives the consideration.
After all it seems that Mr. Wells does not insist that these enormities have been committed at the Branch in St. Louis, or to any great extent elsewhere. He gratuitously insinuates that this forbearance is to be attributed solely to the fact that the bank is seeking a new charter, and is now on its best behaviour. -- It is only in the event of the charter being renewed that the country is to be overrun by this "cloven footed monster." Then, Mr. Wells predicts, it will swallow up all the money --mount posterity with spurs on -- gallop about the country under the direction of foreigners, controlling elections -- "lord and rule it over the people" -- refuse loans to the nation in time of war -- stop the wheels of government and perpetuate its own existence. All this and worse is to happen, in spite of the President -- the Courts -- Secretary of the Treasury and both houses of Congress, even though the eloquent gentleman himself should be a member.
That the President and directors may do wrong, may be conceded. That the remedy is ready, prompt and efficient is certain, if the public functionaries will do their duty. It will not do to argue from the possibility of an abuse against the existence of a power. So long as we must depend on fallible man for the administration of our affairs, trusts may be abused and the functionaries may become corrupt. It is possible that at some future day a President may abuse his power and become a tyrant, would you therefore, abolish the office ? Corrupt and dishonest men may find their way into the Senate -- nay, it is possible that both houses of Congress might become subservient to the will of an arbitrary executive. Does that furnish a reason why we should annihilate the legislative department ? Because the President and directors of the Bank might so far overlook their interest as to refuse a loan to government, shall we destroy their power to make the loan if they are willing, and deprive the government of that resource ? Shall we refuse to renew the charter because it may be violated ? The remedy is to punish the abuse -- not to abolish an institution because its power might be abused. It is not probable that the Bank would expose itself to the application of the powers reserved to the President, Secretary of the Treasury and Congress. Unless all these are corrupted or fail in their duty, the Bank can perpetrate no mischief.
We are indebted to Mr. Wells for a few more novelties. He reminds us that the Bank was established for the purpose of making loans to the government, to disburse and pay monies to the public creditors, to pay pensions, to equalise the currency; he admits that it was necessary for these purposes and has realised the expectation of its founders: but denies that it is expedient to recharter it, because, he says, by the time of the expiration of the charter, the public debt will be paid -- all the pensioners will be dead -- there will be a surplus revenue and no necessity to borrow -- there will be no public creditors, the public deposits might be made in local banks, and lastly the resolution of Congress, passed in 1816, will equalise the currency with the aid of steam boats, internal improvements and post offices. A few of the things required to be done by the Bank have been here mistaken for the whole purposes of its institution. The objects intended to be accomplished by the charter of the Bank I have already detailed and shall not now repeat them.
It is a mistake to suppose that the Bank was established for the purpose of making loans to government. There was no immediate necessity for borrowing money at the time of its creation. But it was supposed that if an emergency should thereafter exist requiring the government to resort to loans, the Bank might make one, and certainly would greatly aid the treasury in negotiating others. The occasion may yet arrive, if the Bank is re-chartered the government may receive its aid; if it is not, that resource will certainly be cut off. To pay pensioners is one of the duties enjoined on the bank, but is not among the reasons of its creation. Besides the gentleman is somewhat out, when he predicts they will all be dead before 1836. Many of the officers and soldiers, regulars and militia who served in the late war, are on the pension list, some of them younger than either the gentleman or myself, if they all die before then, it will not be of old age:-- a majority of the pensioners we may hope will live beyond that period. There will, also, in all probability be public creditors after 1836. What, are we to have no officers, no navy, no army, no congress-men, no contracts, nothing requiring government to disburse money ?-- Surely a political millennium is at hand, and the year 1836 fixed upon as the period of its commencement.
The honorable Senator is against all banks, "he is for silver against paper, for hard money and equal privileges against bank power and illegal currency." His coadjutor intends to make local banks the depositories of the public revenues, and promises to equalise the currency by means of "roads, steam boats, the post offices and the resolution of congress of 1816."
The government has some experience in the eligibility of local banks as places of deposit, for its revenues. We need not go beyond the limits of this state to find an instance in which the nation paid one hundred and fifty-two thousand dollars for one experiment. It is not desirable certainly, to multiply experiments of that sort. The resolution of 1816, authorises the secretary of the treasury to receive the notes of specie paying banks, in payments to the United States; but how this can have the effect to equalise the currency, unequal in value, by means of "roads, steam boats and post offices," remains to be explained. The resolution has been in force fifteen years, we have had all the auxiliaries spoken of, they have affected nothing toward equalising the currency, all that has yet been accomplished in that respect, has been done by the National Bank. Deprive us of this institution and the local banks will be multiplied and great inequality in the currency will be the consequence. Local banks can never equalise the currency or furnish a uniform circulating medium, until space is annihilated and the exports and imports of each state are precisely equal. They cannot afford facilities to the treasury by the transfer of funds without expense to the government. They cannot equalise exchange, and would not if ihey could.
No substitute having been suggested, it becomes us to consider, what are the consequences likely to follow a refusal to renew the charter of the Bank. The sudden withdrawal of twenty-two millions of circulating medium, now equal to gold and silver at all places, and the facilities offered by forty millions of exchange would naturally and inevitably result in an incalculable extent of distress and pecuniary embarrassment. The Bank in winding up its concerns, would not only create a demand for currency by pressing its debtors, but would make heavy drafts on the local banks and compel them also to curtail their discounts. The demand for money would be greatly increased, white the supply was suddenly diminished:-- a depreciation of property must be the consequence. The wealthy stockholders having withdrawn their funds, with other capitalists now so dreaded, would become doubly formidable; having no other employment for their money, they might be tempted to speculate on the distresses of others, and a vast amount of property would be sacrificed. There being no restraint upon the power of the states to incorporate local institutions; the general embarrassment of the country would furnish an apology for its exercise: scores of local banks would spring up in every part of the Union. Congress having no power over these institutions; excessive issues of paper and a suspension of specie payments must be expected as the natural consequence. Past experience teaches us that it is not probable the state legislatures would interfere to compel specie payments, and the interest of the Banks would prevent their doing it voluntarily. There would be no means of testing the solvency of any bank; the public money would again be exposed to the depredations of unprincipled and irresponsible directors. The government would be again subject to great risk and expense in the transfer of its funds to meet its engagements, sustain heavy losses in the collection of its revenues, and the accumulation of a vast amount of unavailable funds.-- The people would be again afflicted with all the evils, of unsound, unequal and disordered currency, and ultimately when we shall have once more paid millions for an experiment, we shall be compelled again to establish another National Bank to relieve the embarrassments of the treasury and correct the disorders of the currency.---[Well, sir, you just described a huge credit bubble; based on no capital and asset, whatever, the Bank of the United States circulated $22,000,000 of its notes (promising to pay that which the Bank did not have) and discounted $40,000,000 worth of other people's bills; there is a decision to make: either discontinue the use of this (or any) private bank as fiscal agent and extricate the country from this entanglement, or declare the notes of this bank de facto legal tender in the country and permanently attach the government to this bank and its credit system; it was easy to get into this predicament, it will always be a hardship to get out of it.....
Having thus disposed of the objections made to the re-chartering the Bank, as a political question, I propose now to consider the question of law, the examination of which, was the ostensible object of the meeting of yesterday.-- That there may not again be a pretence that the proposition of the Honorable Senator is not fairly stated and fairly met, I will read what he has said, in his own words, as published in the Beacon of Thursday last-- He says,
"I believe the orders (commonly called notes) which are drawn by the Presidents of the United States Branch Banks on the cashier of the principal Bank, to be illegal; and that nobody is legally bound to pay them, but the drawer and endorser, and that, after presentation at Philadelphia, and protest and notice of non-acceptance or non-payment"---[Before issuing those branch drafts, Nicholas Biddle requested the opinion of his three experts on retainer
This is the invaluable secret which he has, for six years, carried in his bosom; during the whole of which period, his less enlightened fellow citizens, have been made the dupes of their unsuspecting credulity;-- What public good is to be accomplished, by this late disclosure of the long cherished secret, has not been shown-- What possible advantage can it be to the people, to make them doubt and distrust (if that were possible) almost the only currency in circulation, which can be made to answer their purposes?-- No decision can be made here, which will settle the question-- You might perhaps be alarmed, but you cannot provide a better currency, whatever doubts might be raised, you would after all be disposed to believe that the bills of a Bank which by possibility is not bound, yet does pay, are better as a currency, than the bills of Banks that are bound, but do not and cannot pay. All the difficulties which have been made in relation to the validity of these "drafts or orders," will, however, on examination, be found to be imaginary; and that the positions assumed by the gentlemen, are as unfounded in law, as the exhibition of yesterday, is unprecedented in fact.
While imputations have been lavishly and gratuitously heaped upon the President and Directors, for having adopted the resolution to issue these drafts or orders, the causes which produced that resolution have been very imperfectly stated. We know that immediately after the war, unusually heavy importations of British goods were made into the eastern cities, which were sold at high prices to western merchants, and others willing to engage in merchandise, in consequence of the alluring temptation of apparently long credits. The resumption of specie payments about the same time, compelled many of the local Banks to discontinue business, and all of them were forced to curtail their discounts and withdraw their notes from circulation. Most of the goods brought into the West, were sold on credit.-- In a short time, the debts owing by the Western to Eastern merchants, became due. The great inequality between the demand for currency and the supply, occasioned an almost universal resort to the branches of the United States Bank, then recently established; discounts were liberally granted, and a large amount of notes then payable at any of the offices was issued. These notes, for the most part, fell into the hands of the merchants, by collection from their debtors, or as borrowers:-- they were remitted beyond the mountains to pay eastern debts, and being presented and paid by the branches located there, a drain of specie was produced which almost exhausted their vaults.
It was readily perceived that this system of operations, in the then course of internal 'commerce,' could not be sustained. It would not only have required the Bank to carry on the whole business of commercial exchange free of expense, but would have compelled it to provide and retain in the vaults of each branch, an amount of specie equal to the whole amount of the circulation, which, in any possible contingency, might be concentrated at any point. The Directors, in order to relieve the Bank from the consequences of an experiment which had thus well nigh wholly stopped its operation, first withdrew from circulation nearly the whole of the paper then issued, so that on the first day of January, 1823, it was reduced to little more than four and a half millions. This amount, I need not say, was altogether unequal to the necessities of the country. It having been ascertained that a currency payable at all places, could not be sustained, it became a question alike interesting to the community and the corporation, whether one of the leading objects of the institution, the supply of a uniform currency, must be abandoned as wholly impracticable, and the business of the Bank limited to the drawing, buying and selling bills of exchange, (which the Honorable Senator calls dealing as brokers) or whether it had within the scope of its legitimate powers the means of preserving its usefulness. The Directors, duly impressed with the importance of the question, viewing it in all its aspects, resolved to make another effort to realize the wishes and relieve the necessities of the community, by issuing the drafts or orders in question. The "experiment was interesting and hazardous" not because the corporation was in danger of violating its charter by it, for they are not bound to issue "paper securities" redeemable in more than one place; but it was "interesting and hazardous" as it regarded the uniformity of the currency. It was doubted whether these drafts or orders, made payable at one place only, would be of equal value every where. Eight years experience attests the wisdom of the resolution. We have now what we could not otherwise have, a uniform currency. In the language of the committee of the House of Representatives, speaking of these very drafts, "The Bank has actually furnished a circulating medium more uniform than specie." A committee of the Senate, say "it is not easy to imagine, it is scarcely necessary to desire any currency better than this." Both these committees declare, as their opinion, that it is against sound policy, that the Bank should be required to issue bills payable at more than one place, and affirm that the charter does not require, and was not intended to require more. If, then, these bills are obligatory on the Bank, and payable at any one place, the object of the charter has been accomplished, and the public will be satisfied.
Much labor has been bestowed by the Honorable Senator, on the effort to find an appropriate name for the "paper securities" in question, as if a name in law, as well as in politics, now a days, was every thing, and principle nothing. The result is, that he has discovered no technical name which will answer his purpose, and protests against their being called bills of exchange. In my judgment, it is altogether unimportant to the question of their validity and negotiability, whether they are called bills of exchange, checks, drafts, or orders. A bill of exchange is defined to be, "an open letter of request from one person to another, to pay to a third person a sum of money therein mentioned." It is generally made payable to order, but may be payable to bearer. A draft or order is nothing more nor less. A check is a draft on a banker, in form nearly resembling a bill of exchange --it is generally made payable to bearer, but may be payable to order-- it is negotiable in the same manner as a bill of exchange, and may be declared on as such. In England, the chief distinction between checks and bills of exchange, is created by the statute imposing a stamp duty on the latter. In this country, their form and effect are ascertained by the common law. Orders, checks, drafts, and bills of exchange, are all of them requests to pay money, substantially the same in form -- all import a consideration, are equally negotiable, and have the same legal privileges. The gentleman himself, insists that the drafts or orders issued by the Bank, are subject to all the laws applicable to bills of exchange: it certainly then, cannot be very important to protest against the name.
Having satisfied himself that the laws relating to bills of exchange, govern the anonymous currency issued by the Bank, the Honorable Senator proceeds to apply what he calls "tests" of negotiability or transfer. He informs us, first, that the drafts being payable to order, they cannot be transferred but by special endorsement to order -- that every subsequent transfer must be by like endorsement, and that an endorsement to bearer is void. 2d. That they are payable to a fictitious payee, and therefore must be endorsed specially to order. 3d. That if they are lost or stolen, a subsequent bona fide holder cannot recover on them. The chief merit of these propositions consists in their originality; they certainly are not to be found in any law book of respectable authority. And I cannot forbear to express my surprise that any gentleman, professing a knowledge of the laws of the land, should undertake to enlighten the public on a question of law, with no better recollection of the principles applicable to the subject, and without consulting his books. That he should be content to inform you, that a "very small portion of legal knowledge is necessary to decide the question," and yet neglect to furnish even that small portion. There is now before me a book familiar to commercial men, and in the office of almost every lawyer -- I mean Mr. Chitty's excellent treatise on bills of exchange, checks, and promissory notes. Had the gentleman consulted this book, he would have found that all his doctrines, on the subject of the transfer of bills of exchange, are at variance with the well established law. I brought the volume here for the benefit of both the gentlemen, and intended to have referred them to it, had they been present, in the hope that they would have confessed their mistakes, if they intended nothing more than to lead you to a correct decision. It is not necessary to read the book to you, who have no interest in deceiving yourselves or others.
The principles of law applicable to this subject, are familiar to you all, and your experience will attest the correctness of what I now state to be well settled law-- that a note or bill payable to order, may be endorsed to bearer, and thereby becomes negotiable by delivery, without the necessity of any endorsement by subsequent holders, to all intents and purposes, as if it had been originally made payable to bearer. So far from a subsequent special endorsement being necessary, it cannot, if made, restrain the negotiability of the note or bill. Nor would the fact that the name of the payee is fictitious, (if that were the case) require a special endorsement. On the contrary, such a bill requires no endorsement at all, but is in effect payable to bearer, and may be declared so as such, against all parties having notice that the name of the payee is fictitious. However, as the clerks of the bank, who are the payees and endorsee of these drafts or orders, are not fictitious, no difficulty exists on this point. If a draft or order, negotiable by delivery, be lost or stolen, a subsequent bona fide holder is precisely in the same situation as a like holder of a note negotiable by delivery. If then the doctrine assumed were correct, the holders of these drafts or orders, would be in no more danger of loss, than if they were the holders of the favorite "promissory notes of the Bank payable to bearer on demand, signed by the President and countersigned by the Cashier," and nothing would be gained by the argument. But the contrary of the doctrine is the true one. The possession of a bill or note originally made payable to bearer, or becoming so by endorsement, is evidence of ownership, and the holder is not prejudiced by a defect in the title, without his knowledge. And it is no defence to an action on such a bill or note, that it was lost by the owner or stolen from him, if the plaintiff be a bona fide holder.
It has been stated that the "paper securities" alleged to be of no validity, are issued under the authority of a resolution of the Board of Directors of the Bank of the United States, to whom is committed the management and control of the affairs of that institution. It is not denied that the Presidents and Cashiers of the Branches, by whom they are signed and countersigned, the payees and endorsers, and the Cashier on whom they are drawn, are the legally constituted officers and agents of the corporation. Nor is it pretended that the Bank cannot draw, endorse, and accept, a bill of exchange, order, draft, or check, by agent, if it has power to do it at all. As these agents, then, act within the scope of their authority and in their official character, they cannot be held individually responsible; therefore, the onerous ceremony of presentation, protest, and notice of non acceptance or non payment, recommended by the gentleman, so far from being necessary, would be utterly useless. Again, an authority to an agent to draw a bill on his principal, is of itself an acceptance; even a letter promising to accept a bill to be drawn, is an acceptance, if the bill be drawn and negotiated on the faith of the promise. And as an acceptance is irrevocable without the consent of the holder, it follows that an accepted bill, order, check, or draft, is equally obligatory with a promissory note, and at common law, has higher privileges; for promissory notes were not negotiable and did not import a consideration, until they were placed on a footing with bills of exchange by statute. These drafts being drawn by one authorized on another authorized agent of the Bank, they are nothing more nor less than bills drawn by the corporation on itself, in which it is drawer, endorser, and acceptor, and therefore bound to pay according to their tenor; just as if an individual were, to draw a bill on himself, and by him endorsed to bearer and negotiated, in which case it would be superlatively ridiculous, to require the holder, to make presentation to the drawer, and if not accepted or paid, protest the bill for non-acceptance or non-payment; and notify the party that he did not accept or pay. Truly, it requires but little legal knowledge to decide that these absurdities do not belong to the common law, nor to minds familiar with its principles.
The maker of a note payable to the order of another, is bound to pay it to the endorsee or holder, because by making the note, he in effect acknowledges that he has funds of the payee and authorises him to draw his order on the note for the amount, and the endorsement by the payee is nothing more than such order. This instrument, which before could not be assigned or sued on, is placed, after endorsement, upon the footing of a bill of exchange. The endorser of the note is viewed as the drawer of a bill, of which the drawer of the note is accepter by virtue of his previous promise to pay the amount when the order should be made. The resolution of the Board of Directors, authorising the emission of the bills in question, amounts in law, to a promise to pay all such bills as their agents, the Presidents of the Branches, shall draw on their agent, the Cashier; and their obligation to pay, is the same as if they made and issued promissory notes, payable to the order of the Presidents of the Branches. A promissory note is special authority to the payee to draw for the amount specified; the resolution is a general authority to draw a number of bills -- this is all the difference in fact, and the legal consequence is the same. But it is said, the Bank has nowhere "promised, in so many words, to pay these bills." Nor was there ever a bill, draft, or order, in which any of the parties made what the gentleman would call an express promise to pay. The drawer requests the drawee to pay to the payee or order a sum of money, the payee directs it to be paid to some other person or to bearer generally, and the accepter writes on the instrument, "accepted." Now, in all these proceedings, there is not one word about a promise. The law, however, regarding the substance, declares that all of them have made a promise, and may be compelled to perform it.
Another objection is, that these bills being once taken up or paid, cannot afterwards be re-issued so as to bind the Bank. It is true that when a bill of exchange or note is once paid, it cannot afterwards be negotiated so as to bind any of the parties to it, who do not assent to the re-issue; but it is equally true, that all concerned in putting such a bill or note in circulation, are bound. The principles of law, which the gentleman seems to have very imperfectly remembered, are equally applicable to notes as to bills of exchange, in this country. In England, there are exceptions in favor of promissory notes by statute, which regulates what notes shall be re-issuable. So that if the argument proved any thing, it would be as fatal to the re-issue of his favorite promissory notes as to these bills. The supposed obstacles to a re-issue of bills and notes, never have existed in relation to Bank bills. But if we were to apply to the bills in question, all the rules applicable to bills of exchange, with the utmost strictness, they would still be re-issuable. The corporation, as has been shown, is the only party to them, in their creation, and is alone concerned in their re-issue, and upon the principle referred to, is as much bound to pay them, as upon their first emission. The Bank, in contemplation of law, has promised to pay them both as drawer and accepter; has put them into circulation, and is bound to pay them, upon every principle of law, unless there exist a prohibition in the charter, which disqualifies it from making any such contract.
As the basis of the argument against the power of the Bank to contract, in the form, which we have examined, it is assumed as a principle of law, that a corporation has no power, not expressly granted by the letter of the act of incorporation. This doctrine I cannot recognize as the law of the land. While I am not in favor of the exercise of what are strictly implied powers, and am ready to admit that none can be exercised but such as are granted, I maintain that a power necessarily incident to what is given by the letter, is as fully granted as if described in words at length, and is itself a part of the power specifically granted. In this position I am sustained by the judicial decisions of the most enlightened judges that have ever presided in England or America. The Supreme Court of the United States hold that
"wheresoever a corporation is acting within the scope of the legitimate purposes of its institution, all parole contracts made by its authorized agents, are express promises of the corporation, and all duties imposed on them by law, and all benefits conferred at their request, raise implied promises, for the enforcement of which an action will well lie."
This decision was made in the case of an action against the Bank of Columbia, on a contract, made by a committee of directors, for building a banking-house. The power of the corporation to make contracts was directly in question. The act of incorporation contained no express provision authorizing the corporation to make contracts, nor was any power directly given to issue notes; but the court sustained the action upon the principle which I have quoted from their opinion. The court in that case reviewed all former decisions, and, say they,
"public policy as well as law, in the judgment of the court, fully justifies the doctrine we have assumed. Indeed the opposite doctrine, if it were yielded to, is so purely technical, that it would answer no salutary purpose; and would almost universally contravene public convenience."
The doctrine here established has been recognized as the undoubted law by the Supreme Court of New York and in other states of the Union. So far then from the Bank having no power but what is given by the letter of its charter, it has full power by its authorized agents, to make all contracts within the legitimate scope of banking, except such as are forbidden by its charter; and it will be seen in the sequel that the Bank depends upon this doctrine for its powers, to issue notes, draw or accept checks, draughts or bills of exchange, or bind themselves in any manner, except by their corporate seal.
We have been informed by the honorable Senator, that all the chartered powers of the Bank are contained in the eleventh section of the act of incorporation. Now, it so happens, that there is not a single power granted to the Bank in any one of the seventeen articles contained in that section, they are, what they purport to be, rules, restrictions, limitations, and provisions. The ninth and twelfth articles have been examined with great particularity by the gentlemen, for the purpose of proving that the power, to issue the drafts or orders in question, is not contained in them. I should not think it necessary to say one word on this subject, but that these articles seem to be considered as grants of power. The ninth, instead of conferring any power, is throughout a "limitation and restriction" of the general power to deal or trade, to specific articles and for special purposes. No one, it is presumed, ever supposed that under this clause the Bank derived its power "to deal or trade in bills of exchange, gold and silver bullion or merchandise;" the clause was inserted to restrain the exercise of a power of dealing, which, in its absence would have extended to other things and other purposes than those named. Much less did any one suppose that "to deal or trade in bills of exchange," means to make and issue or accept them, any more than "to deal or trade in merchandise" means to manufacture and sell it. It is therefore conceded, that under the ninth fundamental article, the Bank does not derive a power to issue paper securities of any kind.
It is said that the twelfth fundamental article enumerates and defines the different species of paper securities which the corporation may issue. The honorable Senator having assumed that this article contains a grant of power, says that bills obligatory under the corporate seal, and bills or notes signed by the President and countersigned by the Cashier, are all the "paper securities" that the Bank can issue. It will presently be seen that no power to issue any paper security whatever is granted by this article. In the mean time let us for a moment assume the proposition of the honorable Senator to be true, and it will result, that we have a Bank that cannot transact the appropriate business of banking; or accomplish any one of the purposes of its institution; that can neither transfer the public funds, nor furnish the community with the ordinary facilities of commercial exchange. But the honorable Senator endeavors to escape from the difficulty, by the admission that the Bank may make and accept bills of exchange, but not for purposes of circulation as currency. Certainly if the powers of the Bank depended on his opinion, there would be an end of the discussion. However, as he denies that the Bank has any power not specifically granted, and is equally positive that all paper securities not authorised by the twelfth article are forbidden. We may ask whence does he derive the power to make, accept, or issue bills of exchange ? The term bills in the twelfth article cannot mean bills of exchange as he sometimes seems to suppose. To enact that a bill of exchange payable to order, shall be assignable by endorsement in like manner and with like effect as bills of exchange, would be worse than useless. Besides, he denies that any paper securities issued by the Bank are valid, unless they are signed by the President and countersigned by the Cashier; so that no bill of exchange could be made at any other place than Philadelphia; neither the government or any individual could obtain a transfer of funds, but by a transportation of specie. Checks, orders, drafts, certificates of deposit, and bills of exchange are alike comprehended in the Senator's exclusion, so that the most beneficial objects contemplated in the establishment of the Bank will be defeated, if his construction of its power prevails.
By the common law, bills obligatory, were not assignable, nor could the assignee recover in his own name. A similar difficulty existed in relation to promissory notes. They were not assignable nor negotiable, so as to enable the assignee to sue on them, nor could the payee himself recover on them, without averring and proving the consideration for which they were given. These difficulties as to promissory notes, were obviated in England by the passage of the statute of Anne, which made them assignable by endorsement, and placed them on a footing with bills of exchange -- the validity and negotiability of which, had been established at common law. Most of the States, (perhaps all of them,) have made sealed instruments assignable, and have adopted, in some form, the substance of the statute of Anne, in relation to promissory notes; but these laws, generally, do not apply to the contracts of corporations -- hence, we find the substance of the twelfth article incorporated into almost every bank charter, as it is embodied in this; and manifestly operates as an enabling power to payees of bills obligatory and promissory notes, by enabling them to assign, and the assignee to recover. It declares the effect of the contract when made and assigned; but does not give power to make it. As far as the Bank is connected with the twelfth article, its power is restrained. The prohibition to make bills obligatory of less amount than five thousand dollars, or to make notes not payable on demand, for a sum less than one hundred dollars, or on a longer credit than sixty days, certainly cannot be construed into a power to make these "paper securities." The result, then, is that bills obligatory, and promissory notes, are nowhere specifically authorised, and must share the fate of orders, drafts, and bills of exchange:-- all of them depend upon the same grant of power; and, fortunately, all of them are within the principle decided by the Supreme Court of the United States, and approved as sound law by all the respectable State courts in the union.
The most that can be said of the twelfth article, is, that by the limitation imposed on the power of making bills obligatory and promissory notes, there is an admission of the general power. There is no specific grant of power to make loans or take paper securities, directly or by transfer; but the tenth fundamental article imposes a limitation on the power, and consequently recognises its existence. The charter does not by its letter, authorise the corporation "to deal or trade in bills of exchange, gold or silver bullion, or in the sale of goods;" but the ninth article limits the power, and certainly recognises the existence of a general authority, though nowhere granted in words. There is nowhere a specific power to contract debts, or issue paper securities, but the eighth article limits the amount which "the corporation may at any time owe, whether by bond, bill, note, or other contract." Assuredly, here is a clear expression of the opinion of Congress, that without this limitation, the Bank might have contracted debts to any amount, "by bond, bill, note, or any other species of contract." In a word, it is clear recognition of a general power to contract in any form and to any extent, not expressly forbidden. It is idle to say, that the eighth, ninth, tenth, or twelfth articles confer any power whatever-- they are, every one of them, so far as the Bank is concerned, "limitations and restrictions of powers," existing independent of them. It would be the most extreme of legislative folly, to limit and restrict the loans, trade, dealings, and contracts of the Bank, if in the absence of the "limitations and restrictions," the corporation could neither make loans, trade, deal, or make contracts.
Nor will it avail the adversary to contend that these limitations are the recognitions of the only powers of the Bank. The eighth article recognises the power to contract debts "by bond, bill, or other contract," without limitation, except as to the total amount. And even in case of excess, the contract is not declared void, but the Directors are made liable, as well as the Bank. It appears, then, that this corporation was understood, by the framers of the charter, to be authorised to make contracts other than bills obligatory and promissory notes; and, as there is no restriction as to the form or the amount of these contracts, it follows that the Bank has all power to make any contract which individuals might mike, and with like effect: with no other limitation than that they shall be within the scope of the legitimate purposes of the institution, (as checks, drafts, orders, and bills of exchange certainly are) --that no contract in the form of a bill obligatory shall be made for a less sum than five thousand dollars-- and no promissory note shall be made on demand, for less than five dollars; nor on a credit, for a less sum than one hundred dollars, on a longer time than sixty days. So that instead of "Bills obligatory under seal, and bills or notes signed by the President and countersigned by the Cashier," being "the only paper securities which the corporation of the Bank can issue," they are the only form of contract in which there are any limitations or restrictions imposed on the power of the corporation.
Another set of tests have been resorted to for the purpose of shewing that the paper securities in question are not within the scope of the legitimate purposes of the institution -- the first of which is, that they are not signed by the President and countersigned by the Cashier of the principal Bank, and are therefore not authorised by the 12th fundamental article. It is sufficient that they are not prohibited by that article or any other, and that they are signed by the authorised agents of the corporation. The idea is certainly somewhat new, that all the checks, drafts, orders, and bills of exchange, drawn by one Branch on another, or on the principal Bank, must first be sent to Philadelphia, and there signed by the President and countersigned by the Cashier, to give them validity.
The second test is, that these drafts are not lawfully issued by the offices of discount and deposit, because, he says, they can only "do what their name imports" -- "they may discount notes, that is, lend money when they have it -- they must receive money on deposit, and restore it on demand." The fourteenth section was read as authority for this enumeration of the powers of the offices, which does not contain one word on the subject, except the authority to establish them. But the honorable Senator derives these powers and duties from the "name." They may do "what their name imports." The Bank of the United States, however, according to the same authority, cannot do what its corporate name imports:-- nor any thing, unless granted by the express words of the charter. And does the honorable Senator really imagine that these Branches are so many distinct corporations ? -- Verily, "it requires but a small portion of knowledge," to know that these offices are but so many places in which the corporation transacts its business; that the Bank conducts all its affairs and makes all its contracts by agents, as well at the Banking house, as in its offices; and the corporation is, in contemplation of law, present at all of them. All contracts within its competency to make, other than bills obligatory and promissory notes, may be made by any agent or officer duly authorised by the Board of Directors. It being conceeded that authority to make the "paper securities" in question, his been given to the Presidents and Cashiers of the offices, it is wholly immaterial in what room of the Banking house, or in what office of the corporation, they are signed.
Thirdly. It is said that the eighth fundamental article limits the amount of debts which the corporation may owe, and that this provision does not apply to these drafts. And why not ? This 8th article provides that the total amount of debts which the said corporation shall at any time owe, whether by bond, bill, note, or other contract ("over and above deposites") shall not exceed thirty-five millions of dollars; and are not these drafts contracts? and does not the Bank owe the whole amount in circulation ? But the honorable Senator says the remedy provided, is against the directors of the parent Bank; and not against the managers of the office of discount and deposite. And what of that? the drafts are nevertheless contracts, and the corporation owes debts by occasion of them -- they are made and issued by authority, and under the direction of "the directors of the parent Bank;" and the excess of debt contracted, if any "happens under their administration."
Fourthly. It is contended that in the event of a refusal to pay any of these drafts on demand, the holder cannot recover damages under the 17th section of the charter -- first, because it is neither a bill, note or obligation authorised by the 12th fundamental article; next, because they are not signed by the president and countersigned by the cashier of the parent Bunk. Now not one of these happen to bo mentioned in the 17th section as tests of the contracts upon which damages are to be recovered. Besides, it has been shown that the 12th article is no authority for issuing any paper securities, and much less a prohibition to make others than bills obligatory and promissory notes; nor are the signatures of the president and cashier required to give validity to other paper securities. A third reason given why damages cannot be recovered is, that these drafts do not "contain any contract, promise or undertaking therein expressed," that is, these words are not written on the paper. Here again "a very little legal knowledge" would have taught the gentleman better. The law declares the effect of "paper securities," and all of you know that by the law of the land any party to a bill, order, check, or draft, does contract, promise and undertake that the sum specified therein shall be paid at the place and time appointed; and according to the decision of the Supreme Court, these drafts being made by the authorised agents of the bank are express promises of the corporation. The last reason is, "because payment cannot be demanded at the office at which they are issued;" now I agree that damages cannot be recovered unless payment is demanded and refused at the place where the drafts are made payable; but how this can be urged as a reason why damages cannot be recovered upon demand and refusal at the proper place, I am at a loss to comprehend.
Fifthly. It is argued that because the 17th fundamental article declares that no note shall be issued of less amount than five dollars; therefore nothing but notes can be issued, because there would be no limit of the minimum size of any other "paper security." This argument may appear plausible to those accustomed to contend that although the Constitution of the United States declares that no state shall "emit bills of credit" -- any state may issue "paper securities" for the purposes of circulation, if she will only call them by another name. The honorable Senator probably has carried this opinion in his bosom, ever since the period when he was contending for the constitutionality of the loan office concern, long before he had taken his stand for "hard money against illegal currency." The Supreme Court however have disposed of that question by deciding that the loan office certificates were bills of credit within the meaning of the Constitution; upon the principle that what is prohibited by one name, cannot be done by the assumption of another. They regard the intention of the framers and adhere to the substance, regardless of the shadow. Now the 17th fundamental article was manifestly intended to prevent the bank from emitting as a circulating medium, paper securities of less denomination than five dollars. Regarding then the end designed, the principle of the case decided by the Supreme Court, includes in the prohibition every paper security of less amount than five dollars. But suppose these drafts not included in the limitation imposed; still it does not follow, that because they are not limited therefore they are prohibited.
Sixthly. It is insisted that these drafts are forbidden because the weekly statement required to be rendered to the Secretary of the Treasury, by the 15th article, is to contain only the amount of capital stock, the debts owing by the corporation, the debts due to it, notes in circulation, deposites and specie on hand. "Here," says the honorable Senator, "is no mention of bills or obligations, nor of bills of exchange;" and he might have added, nor of the real and personal estate, nor of contracts, nor of salaries due, nor of unclaimed dividends, nor of expenses, nor of mortgages. All of which are necessary to enable the Secretary to determine on the solvency of the Bank. The reason however which is given for the omission of these bills obligatory and bills of exchange is, that "they do not constitute a charge upon the Bank" -- "it always receiving cash for them, or ample security for the cash when they were sold ! And is it true that because a man has received value for his bill or obligation, he is not bound to pay it? or because the Bank receives your money and gives you a bill of exchange on one of its offices, it does not constitute a charge on the Bank ? Here is another evidence how "small a portion of legal knowledge will serve" to make a speech upon. But does not the Bank receive cash or security for cash when it issues its notes ? Are they not in this respect precisely in the situation of other paper securities of the corporation ? Not to multiply words these drafts are certainly comprehended for the reasons already given; and if omitted, are nevertheless obligatory on the Bank, just as bills obligatory and bills of exchange are binding, notwithstanding no statement of them is required to be given.
Seventhly. Another position is, that their drafts are not included within the description of "bills and notes" in the fourteenth section, and are therefore not receivable in payments to the United States. This, if true, would only deprive the corporation of one of the exclusive privileges, so much complained of by the gentleman himself. But the argument is, that because they are not so receivable they are forbidden by the charter. Now it happens that the nine thousand officers engaged in the collection of the public monies, do in fact receive them; and does any one suppose that they would do so if they concurred with the honorable Senator, in opinion ? A committee of both houses of Congress have declared that they are so receivable, and this after a full investigation of the whole subject. It is said, however, that they are not "signed by the president and countersigned by the cashier;" and not one word about signatures is found in the fourteenth section. Was the word "notes" alone found in the section: what has been already said in the examination of the two preceding tests, would suffice to show that these are included; but bills as well as notes are to be received, and if we must be technical, are not all paper securities, (excluding checks and drafts) bills ? The bills here mentioned cannot be bills obligatory -- they are not to be for a less sum than five thousand dollars, nor bills of exchange in the ordinary sense of that term, and what other bills can the bank issue except checks, drafts or orders ? If we regard the substance of the provision, and have done cavilling about names, it is plain that it was intended that the "paper securities" issued by the bank as currency, and none other should be received.
Eighthly. It is asserted that the 18th and 19th sections of the act of incorporation, do not provide a punishment for counterfeiting these drafts, or for engraving or having in possession an engraved plate, blanks, or paper adapted to the counterfeiting them. As to the eighteenth section, this is a clear mistake. This section provides for the punishment, for counterfeiting, or passing, "any bill or note issued by order of the President, Directors &. Company, or any order or check on the said bank or corporation, or any cashier thereof." These drafts are nothing more nor less than bills admitted to be issued "by order of the President, Directors & Company of the Bank," and are moreover by their very terms, orders or checks on the cashier. The 19th section provides a punishment for the engraving, or having in possession an engraved plate, or any blanks or paper adapted to the counterfeiting notes or bills issued by the corporation. Now if these drafts are bills issued by the corporation, which is very clear, if there be any meaning in legal terms, they are comprehended in this section also; and it is difficult to conceive how an offender could escape punishment upon proof of his guilt, if the indictment was framed to correspond with the facts. Not being informed of the points decided by the court in Ohio, it is impossible to say how far that decision affects the validity of these paper securities; or whether the offender escaped in consequence of a variance between the facts alleged and the proof; the defect of the law or the error of the court. If however it goes the whole of denying the application of the 19th section to the drafts, it would only prove that the legislature has neglected to provide for the punishment of an offence, an omission not unfrequent; but it does not at all affect the validity of the instrument intended to be counterfeited. A repeal of all the laws on the subject of forging and counterfeiting paper securities, would by no means impair their validity or discharge the makers of any of them from their liability. The solemn ratification of the decision of the court of Ohio, gratuitously and extra-judicially made by the honorable Senator on yesterday, can at most only operate an encouragement to counterfeiters; and if there are any such willing to take the gentleman's opinion for law, they have no doubt been much gratified by the exhibition he has made; but for any good the honest portion of the community are to expect from it, he might as well have carried his long cherished secret, in his bosom yet a little while longer.
The last test by which the honorable gentlemen ascertains that the drafts are invalid is, that they are issued at the branches, and payable on demand at Philadelphia; and because they are thus made payable at a place different from the place of issuing them, they are necessarily on credit for so long a time at least as is necessary to go from the place of emission to the place of payment. And would not the same course of reasoning deny the power of the bank to issue the favorite notes on demand, "signed by the president and countersigned by the cashier," payable at one place, and issued or put in circulation at another ? It would take about the same time to carry a note, as a bill, from the place of issue to the place of payment; and the credit on the one would be quite as long as on the other. The idea that the bank is bound to furnish a currency payable every where, and that none other can be sound, valid and uniform is fully refuted by the reports of the committees of both houses of Congress already mentioned.
We may then safely continue our confidence in the validity of these "paper securities" which are issued by the corporation at its offices, by whatever name they may be called. Though the offensive word "order" is found on their face, they are negotiable by delivery when endorsed to bearer. A bona fide holder is in no danger of having them taken from him, because some previous holder may have stolen or found them. They are the acts of the corporation, and not "of the individual gentlemen whose names are upon them"-- The clerks who endorse them are not "fictions"-- they, too, are the authorized agents of the Bank. The corporation being the only party to these "paper securities," and alone concerned in their emission and re-issue, they are in law obligatory promises of the Bank. There exists no necessity for the performance of the ceremony of presentation, protest and notice. In form, they are valid contracts, and within the scope of the legitimate purposes of the institution; as directly authorized and as binding as promissory notes. They are subject to all the limitations, and have all the privileges provided in the charter, in the case of bills, notes, and other contracts. They furnish a sound and uniform circulating medium, receivable and received in all payments to government; a currency which is, throughout the union, equal to specie in all transactions, public and private, which is in fact, paid in gold and silver at the Banking house, and all the offices of the corporation, wherever demanded. In the language of the Finance committee of the Senate, "It is not easy to imagine, it is scarcely necessary to desire, any currency better than this."
The Tariff and Internal Improvements, are the remaining subjects of discussion;-- and are still more interesting and important to the American people, than the questions already examined. To do full justice to either, would require more of your time and attention than I feel myself authorized to occupy, after the extended argument which I have already addressed to you. I shall therefore content myself with presenting a brief view of the reasons, which, in my judgment, should induce the people of this Union to protect and foster manufactures, and promote the construction of roads and canals.-- Happily, the constitutional competency of Congress, to impose duties for the protection of our agriculture and manufactures, and to appropriate the national revenue to the construction of internal improvements, is conceded. We are therefore relieved on the present occasion from the necessity of discussing the doctrine of Nullification, and of defending the Federal Government against the imputation of violating the virgin purity of the States, by breaking up their soil. The extent to which these admitted powers ought to be exercised, is the only subject of controversy. This question, it seems to me, has been approached by the last gentleman who addressed you, on yesterday, with a degree of indecision and want of firmness, indicating that he has either formed no fixed opinions himself, or is uncertain what are the opinions of the majority.---[Question, sir, from the audience: if tariff encouraged and protected industry, and this new industry produced goods of better quality and lower price, how was it that revenue from tariff remained high? -- if people buy domestic products instead of imported ones, imports should diminish, and surplus revenue should disappear..... As we know from the report of the Secretary of the Treasury, in the year 1826 --while protective tariff was in full effect-- importation of goods increased, noticeably increased ! How could that happen ? --you wouldn't want to ask-- credit bubble and disorganized currency did more harm than tariff did good; inflation enabled the importer to pay the tariff and still sell his goods at a profit; Mr. Geyer did not live long enough to see the same thing happen in the 1860s: inspite of 50% tariff, disorganized currency made it possible for importers to sell their products at a profit
In relation to the Tariff, the gentleman declares himself in favor of imposing adequate duties on every article of produce and manufacture of general utility. And had he gone no further, we might have supposed that he favored the principles of the Tariff of 1828, which comes recommended to us by the high authority of the approbation of both our Senators, who voted for it on its final passage. Whatever may be the defects in the details of that act, the principle on which it imposes duties on importations, is to protect and encourage the production and manufacture of all articles of general utility, whether they are produced or manufactured in one or in several States. But when the gentleman further informs us that protection ought to be extended to such articles only, as are essential to national defence, and not to regulate the industry and profits of the labor of individuals -- and that upon this principle he would protect the lead and hemp of Missouri, and exclude from protection the sugar of Louisiana, and the manufactures of the Northern States; we discover that by "a tariff national in its character," he means, the imposition of such duties only, as will afford protection to the produce of his own State, and no other -- and that, in his opinion, all the interests of the nation, worthy of protection, are in Missouri.
When the gentleman thus announces himself in favor of a protecting tariff, but says that he will oppose its application to any article other than such as happen to be produced by the people he is addressing, he may be said, (to use his own language,) "to be holding with the hare and running with the hounds."
The attempt to separate the interests of the several States in the tariff, is both insidious and dangerous. It is nothing less than an attempt of the enemies of the system, to overturn it in detail, by an appeal to what are supposed to be local interests. Despairing of success in an assault upon the Tariff as a whole, they inculcate the idea that the duties on particular articles operate as a tax on the consumers, in States where they are not produced, and advocate a repeal of the duties as matter of interest; keeping out of view the advantages secured by other duties, and the inevitable consequences which would result to the people addressed, by the withdrawal of the protection afforded to their own industry. Thus, Louisiana being the only State which produces sugar, all the other States, it is said, will be benefited by the repeal of the duty on that article. If the people of the other States yield to this argument, and the attack on the production of Louisiana is successful, the people of that State may be induced to second a like effort against the protection afforded to the productive industry of other portions of the Union. By this process, a majority of the States may be deprived, one by one, of the benefits of the tariff, and will be induced to repeal all the protecting duties. So that, if we encourage this system of attack, all our manufactures being deprived of protection, will be borne down by foreign competition, and we shall return to the helpless condition of dependence on foreign nations to supply our wants.
Every State desirous of protection for its own products and manufactures, will find it the best policy, to continue the protection of the productive industry of other States. The people of each State are indemnified for any temporary increase in the price of articles necessary for consumption, in the certainty of supply under all possible contingencies, in the protection of their own productions; and the increase of price, if such be the consequence of imposing duties on imports. Nor is the protection of articles now produced or manufactured in any State, the only interest which her people have in the system. The encouragement afforded to the development of their resources, in the product of the raw material and the establishment of manufactories, is of incalculable value. In this respect, the western States are more interested in the protective system, than the northern and eastern portions of the Union. With a dense population, labor comparatively cheap, manufactories established, and all their resources in active employment, the latter are better able to encounter foreign competition, than the former can be, notwithstanding all their acknowledged advantages in the production of the raw material. Missouri should be the last of all the States to assail the tariff. If local interest were the governing principle, twenty-two States might be found to unite against the duty on lead. Nor is this the only article in the protection of which she is interested. Her future prosperity, as much as that of any other State, depends on the protection of the industry of her mechanics, and of all the manufactures of lead, iron, hemp, flax, wool, and glass, not only because she will be capable of producing an abundant supply of the raw material, but may engage extensively in the manufacture.
No Tariff, in my opinion, can be national, equal, or just, which does not extend its protection to the produce and manufactures of every portion of the union, needing that protection. It forms no objection to the protection of any article, however, that it is not produced in all, or even a majority of the States. The difference of climate, soil, and situation of the several States, while it affords the means of an abundant supply of all our wants, necessarily produces a corresponding difference in their products and manufactures. This circumstance, instead of exciting jealousies and producing a war of opposing local interests, furnishes the strongest possible motive to union, and a common effort to encourage and foster the productive industry of each, because necessary to all. If there be any one State capable of producing any article necessary for consumption equal to the probable demand, though no other State does or can produce it, protection should be afforded; and the politician who would withhold it, and compel the people to rely on foreign nations for a supply, in preference to the people of a sister State, may make a very good political partisan in these times; but his patriotism might well be questioned. A Tariff "national in its character," and capable of rendering us independent of other nations in every possible contingency, should be graduated so as to avoid the imposition of duties beyond the necessities of revenue, on such articles as are not, and cannot be produced or manufactured in the United States; while at the same time, encouragement and protection should be afforded to the production and manufacture of all articles necessary to supply our wants, which can be produced or manufactured by our own people, by the imposition of adequate duties on the importation of like articles from abroad. Whenever it shall appear that any such article can be furnished in the United States to an extent equal to the demand, the duty on the corresponding foreign article ought to be gradually increased, until the American producer or manufacturer shall be enabled, with fair profits on his industry, fully to sustain himself against foreign competition: and when such product or fabric is actually furnished by our own people, to an extent sufficient to supply our wants, in my judgment, the duty on the foreign article ought to be made to amount to a prohibition.
Productive labor is not only the source of the wealth, but of the lasting prosperity and independence of nations. And whenever the industry of the people of any country is paralized or borne down by foreign competition, it is among the first duties of the government to interpose its protection. Foreign commerce alone, has never brought permanent prosperity to any people; and that nation which depends upon the importation of foreign products to supply its wants, is neither prosperous, nor independent.
Agriculture and manufactures are not only exempt from the operation of causes, which frequently are fatally destructive to foreign commerce, but furnish in themselves resources in times of difficulty, which cannot be supplied by foreign trade. Venice and Genoa prospered, it is true, while their foreign commerce flourished, but it must be remembered that they were at the same time engaged in manufactures, and that they did not import commodities for their own consumption alone -- their prosperity was derived from the sale of their own fabrics, as well as the merchandise imported from the east, to the other nations of Europe.-- Besides, whatever prosperity they derived from foreign commerce, was, as such a trade will ever be, held by a precarious tenure; it did not depend on themselves, and they were ultimately deprived of it, by causes which they could not control. The discovery of the passage to the East Indies by sea, entirely changed the course of trade, by enabling the nations of Europe to import for themselves.
This discovery was no doubt of service to the general commerce of Europe; but that commerce did not advance the prosperity of those nations, who engaged in the importation of eastern commodities, for their own consumption. Notwithstanding the profits derived from the employment of their ships and seamen in the carrying trade, commerce with the east was found to be a losing business to them. Eastern commodities being purchased chiefly with gold and silver, there was produced a constant drain of bullion and cash. This evil was greatly palliated by supplies of precious metals, obtained through Spain and Portugal, from their American possessions. These nations, content with the abundance of gold and silver furnished by their mines, as the means of paying for their importations from abroad, overlooked the many solid advantages which they might have derived from the establishment of manufactories, to supply the wants of their colonists as well as their own. They continued to import almost every thing, and manufactured almost nothing necessary for consumption; and their people at home and abroad were compelled to depend on other nations, who grew wealthy, and prosperous by supplying their wants; while Spain and Portugal, became the most degraded and helpless nations in Europe, and are now the contempt of the rest of the world. The disadvantages of eastern commerce were felt by England most sensibly in her manufactures, which had advanced sufficiently to fabricate goods for exportation. The introduction of foreign fabrics, of superior quality and at lower prices than her manufacturers could afford, paralized their industry and threatened their ruin. The advantages of eastern commerce, were thus more than counterbalanced by the evils it introduced. The statesmen of England perceiving that the prosperity of the nation could not be advanced until these evils were counteracted, adopted the wise policy of fostering manufactures and cherishing every branch of domestic industry. In a very short period, England, by thus bringing her resources into active usefulness, was enabled to supply the wants, not only of her own people at home and abroad, but of other nations, too indolent to manufacture for themselves and so unwise as to encourage what is called "free trade." The consequence is, that notwithstanding the imperfections of her political code, the embarrassments of her finances, her ill advised ambition and profitless foreign wars, that nation is now as prosperous and powerful as any on the globe.
As a part of the policy adopted by England to encourage and sustain the industry of her population, every effort was made to increase the demand for her manufactures. Her colonies were made to depend on her people at home for the supply of their wants. In the language of one of her most distinguished statesmen, it was against her policy to allow the colonists to manufacture even a hob nail. By this policy the dependence of the Americans was secured, while they were made to furnish support and maintenance to a large portion of their fellow subjects in England. A dependence, from which, experience has taught us, it is much more difficult to relieve ourselves, than to establish our political independence. The effect of the policy adopted by England in relation to her colonies, is felt to this day, in the American States. There are many among us, who cannot obtain their own consent to adopt a system of self-dependence. The revolution has relieved us from political bondage, and established our independence of the Crown of Great Britain; but our independence of the manufacturers of England is not yet secured.
We had scarcely settled down under a regular government, before the French revolution commenced and produced protracted wars in Europe.-- This disordered state of things opened the ports of Europe to our commodities, commerce was vigorously prosecuted, and apparently we were rapidly advancing to unexampled prosperity; our exports were annually increased, and the supply of foreign manufactures was abundant. But that prosperity which depends on foreign commerce, is ever precarious, because it is subject to be arrested or destroyed by circumstances, over which the nation has no control, and is exposed to the jealousy, the caprice, or policy of foreign powers.-- In 1807, the British and French, then at war with each other, resolved to make us take part in their quarrel, and commenced a system of aggression, and spoliations on our commerce. Our flag had been repeatedly insulted on the high seas, and we were thus made to feel the helplessness of our condition. Without manufactures, and with our resources depending on foreign commerce, we were utterly unprepared to go to war with the very nation on whom we depended for the most of our supplies. We were compelled to resort to an embargo, and other restrictive measures. Our commerce, and with it, our revenue were cut off. The aggressors still not only refused to do justice, but repeated their aggressions, until we were driven into a war, without revenue, commerce, or manufactures.
Our prosperity being thus arrested by the influence of causes which we could not control, the means of our people were diminished by the loss of the export trade, while their expences were increased by the scarcity, and consequent enhancement of price, of all the commodities upon which they were accustomed to rely, to supply their wants. The revenue, which had been derived chiefly from commerce, was almost destroyed; direct taxes were resorted to, at a time when the people were least able to pay them; and we depended on the work shops of the enemy to supply the clothes of our army, and even some of the arms and munitions of war. The increased expences of the government and the people in the purchase of their supplies, during the war, would greatly exceed the whole amount which consumers will ever be required to pay in order to establish manufactories equal to all their necessities in every possible contingency. It is by no means extravagant to say, that the expences of the war, to the government and the people, were doubled for the want of manufactures.
Thus schooled by experience, the statesmen of America, supported by the almost unanimous sentiments of the people, soon after the close of the war, resolved on the adoption of a system of measures, to enable the nation to sustain herself on her own resources, in all future difficulties, by the encouragement and protection of domestic manufactures. And this was thenceforth esteemed the settled policy of the nation. Although our manufactures are yet in their infancy, the advantages of adhering to the policy, have been illustrated by our comparative prosperity, notwithstanding the ports of Great Britain have been almost ever since its adaption, to all practicable purposes, closed against all our productions, except cotton and a few articles of minor importance.
It was not until about the year 1828, that any serious opposition was made to the system. When it was attempted to afford efficient protection to the production of wool and iron, and their manufactures, some of those who had been among the most ardent supporters of the policy of protection when applied to manufactures of cotton, having secured to themselves the full benefit of the system so far as their productions were concerned, manifested an unwillingness to extend its blessings to other portions of the Union. These are the gentlemen who first made the discovery that a Tariff, "national in its character," was that which protected their own commodities and excluded all others. So that the gentleman whose affection is confined to the productions of Missouri, has not even the merit of originality, in the opinion that "the good of the nation as a nation," consists in promoting the interests of a portion of the union in which he happens to reside, and opposing the advancement of every other.
That we have abundant resources for the production of the raw material, and all the manufactures of cotton, hemp, flax, wool, leather, iron, lead, and glass, no man at all acquainted with the condition of our country, will venture to dispute. That these resources can be brought into active usefulness, and made available to supply all our wants in these manufactures, by the skill and industry of our population, if adequately protected, is fully attested by experience. Then why should we continue to rely upon the work shops of Europe for our supplies, which may be cut off by events that we cannot control ? Why should we continue to afford employment and profit to those who refuse us an equivalent in the purchase of our products ? Why impose upon ourselves the necessity of depending on foreigners for that which we can obtain at home ? Why leave to the caprice or policy of other nations, the control of that prosperity which we can command for ourselves ?
It is unnecessary to state the reasons why manufactories, in their infancy, are unable to sustain themselves against the competition of those in successful operation. It is sufficient for us to know, that we cannot expect to succeed in manufactures, if we encourage what is called "free trade," -- a policy which England, having regard to the prosperity of her manufactories, has ever encouraged in other nations, and refused to adopt for herself. If we had nothing else to encounter, the interest of the manufacturers of Europe, would induce them to sacrifice millions, rather than our manufactories should flourish -- give them but the full benefit of free trade, and they would not allow you "to manufacture a hob nail." If we would manufacture for ourselves, we must take counsel from experience, and do as other nations have done -- afford protection to manufactures in their infancy. The principle of protecting domestic industry has been adopted and exists wherever a prosperous people are found. Degradation and humiliation, is the fate of every nation that encourages "free trade."
The objections to a system of protecting duties are, that they operate as a tax on the consumers, and afford monopolies to manufacturers. Now if it were true that the imposition of duties on imports for the protection of domestic industry, do raise the price of commodities temporarily or permanently, it would not necessarily follow that consumers are taxed to the amount of that advance, if the system is extended to the protection of domestic industry generally; and certainly, no state can expect that it will be continued to her productions, and denied to the produce and manufactures of other portions of the Union. Passing over for the present other advantages, (which would properly enter into the estimate of equivalents,) if the Tariff raises the price of consumptions, it will also raise the price of productions -- if it increases the price of articles to be purchased, it produces a corresponding increase of the means to pay for them. The disadvantages will probably not be more lasting than the advantages. The state of the trade among the several states in regard to profit and loss, does not depend upon whether there be or be not protection, but upon industry -- if there be a balance of trade against any state now, it will continue, though the tariff should be repealed, unless the productions are increased, or consumption diminished. It is not true, however, in all cases that the duties have the effect of increasing the prices of commodities protected.
In 1828, a high duty was imposed on lead, and soon after, the price of the article was reduced below the amount of the duty. Since that period, the duties on salt, coffee and tea have been reduced, and those articles now command higher prices than before. There are various causes familiar to mercantile men, which operate to control prices. As a general rule, however, prices are affected chiefly by the demand and supply. If the market is overstocked or the supply exceeds the demand, there will be a reduction of price; if the contrary be the case, there will be a corresponding advance. And the probable effect of measures on prices of commodities may be estimated by their tendency to increase or diminish supplies.
Nor is it true that any monopoly is granted to manufacturers, by the imposition of protecting duties, any more than it is granted to producers of provisions and raw materials of manufacture. Neither interest acquires any exclusive privileges by the tariff. If either monopolizes the market of the United States, in the sale of any product or manufacture, it must be attributed to their industry and skill, or to advantages of population, climate, soil or situation, and not to any exclusive privilege. The tariff does indeed encourage and enable them to avail themselves of these resources, but it does not give them. It is not the fault of the protecting duties that Missouri, Illinois and Michigan monopolize the market for lead; the same may be said of other states in regard to their productions and manufactures. All that can be said is, that the tariff, by enabling American citizens to produce and manufacture, creates competition; instead of encouraging monopoly, it destroys that of the English manufacturers, who would otherwise monopolize our own markets. Really, it would seem that some of our politicians have exhausted all their patriotism in the out-breaking of their wrath against foreign capital under the control of American citizens, and suffer foreign manufacturers to monopolize their affection and their sympathies.
The benefits which will result from the policy of self-dependance, are numerous, vitally important and easily demonstrated. Much, however, must be left to your own reflections; there being no opportunity now to go much into detail. A few of them only will be mentioned. The establishment of home manufactures will produce a regularity of supply and a steadiness of prices. A dependence on foreign product and manufacture for articles of daily necessity, is precarious -- the supply may be reduced or entirely cut off, by measures of other nations, by foreign wars, by revolutions in Europe, by the caprice or interests of manufacturers, whose trade we cannot control; whatever may be the condition or disposition of our country, we can have no agency in preventing the occurrence of events, which increase or diminish supply; and consequently cannot regulate prices, or prevent fluctuations in the market, which are at all times fruitful of mischief, by tempting our people into speculations and often alluring them to their ruin.
Another advantage resulting from home manufactures is, that they will create markets, for the production of agriculture, in the demand for raw materials and provisions which do not exist elsewhere. During the existence of general peace in Europe, there is no demand for our provisions, and at no time for the raw materials of manufacture. Our agriculturalists, therefore, must find a market at home, or they will have none for any of the products of their industry, except in times of great disorders among foreign nations. It is no small evil, that a nation calling itself christian, should force the most valuable portion of its population to depend for their prosperity upon the calamities of other nations; and make it the cherished wish of their heart that the other nations of the world should engage in cutting each others throats. We know by experience that in a general peace the ports of Europe are closed against our productions. Our agricultural interest is alike exposed to danger, from the disasters of any war in which we may engage, and the consequences of a peace among foreign nations. It is important to them that there should be a market open to their productions at all times and in every possible condition of the world.
Every manufactory established, and every thing which will afford employment to mechanics, operates as a bounty on agriculture, by diminishing the number of producers and increasing the consumers of agricultural products. Mechanics and artizans engaged in manufacture, purchase and consume products which the agriculturalist could not otherwise sell, but must suffer to rot in his hands; they furnish to him what he might not otherwise be able to obtain. Without troubling you with a complicated statement of the various operations of agriculture, commerce and manufactures, and the causes of their dependence on each other, the subject may be illustrated and simplified by stating a case easy of comprehension. Suppose all the inhabitants of any country engaged in agriculture, each family producing what, is necessary for its own consumption, and a surplus equal to the support of another family.
Now if they have not a foreign market for this surplus, it follows that it is worth nothing to them, and consequently will not furnish the means to supply themselves with fabrics necessary to their wants; if they import them from abroad, they must become involved in debt, and ruin themselves by the operation of such a course of trade. But suppose one half withdrawn from agriculture and employed in manufacture, producing fabrics equal to the wants of the remaining agriculturalists, it is evident that they will each furnish the other a market. The surplus product of the farmer now supplies him with his necessaries; and the manufacturer is supplied with subsistence and materials. A community which before had nothing but bread, is now supplied with all its necessaries. This I agree is an extreme case which may never happen; but such is, nevertheless, invariably the effect produced on agriculture by the establishment of manufactories. It is not now so sensibly felt, because the effect has been and will be gradual, as we progress gradually in the system of establishing manufactories; but the aggregate advantages will be as great as in the case supposed.
The establishment of American manufactories, will promote our internal commerce; and this, unlike foreign commerce, may be carried on at all times, without the consent, and independent of the legislation or influence of foreign nations -- a commerce which cannot be sensibly affected by the condition of the rest of the world. It will keep up a constant intercourse among our people, and establish a community of feeling and of interest, which will keep us united under all circumstances. The feeling of dependence on foreign nations, will give place to the consciousness of mutual dependence on each other. The ties of interest which bound a portion of our population to other nations, will be dissolved. If an insult shall be offered to our flag, or our rights be invaded, we shall not have to take into the calculation of the costs of resistance, the evils which will be inflicted on our people, by cutting off their commerce, and the supply of their wants. Embargos and restrictions on commerce, would not, as heretofore, inflict more injuries on ourselves, than on our enemy. A state of war will not be attended with half the calamities of the last; we can supply all the wants of our army and navy, and our people will not be compelled to sustain, among other burdens, that of paying double prices for all articles of their consumption. We shall be a united people, with abundant resources within ourselves, prepared to meet every possible contingency.
Let us attend, for a moment, to a few facts, drawn from our own experience in the protective system. Before the war, many of you will remember that our coarse cotton goods were imported from the East Indies, and that we exported specie to pay for them. These goods were of very inferior quality, and at high prices. The flimsy fabrics called gurrahs and baftas, were sold at from 17½ to 20 cents per yard. Under the system of protection adopted after the war, cotton manufactories were established, which now furnish coarse cotton goods, better in quality, and cheaper in price, than any that were ever imported, while we continued to yield to the allurements of free trade. White cotton cloth, of American manufacture, may now be purchased at from 7 to 10 cents per yard; and any piece of these goods is worth four times the quantity of those formerly imported, for which we paid double or treble the price.
These manufactories have benefited agriculture, by the market furnished for their products; they consume, annually, a large amount of cotton, provisions, and other productions, which must otherwise have sought a market elsewhere, and have been wholly lost. Of these manufactures, we have now an abundant supply for home consumption, and export largely to foreign nations. If like protection be given to other productions, like results will follow. At first, there may be a small advance in the price; but as every profitable employment invites competition, manufactories would multiply, and the supply be increased; prices would be reduced by competition as low as could possibly be afforded; the gradual improvement in skill and machinery, would enable the manufacturers to sell their goods as low as could be desired.
In order to raise an opposition to the Tariff in the West, much declamation, is indulged in, about the duties on certain articles which are said to be necessary for the consumption of the poor, who are declared to be oppressively taxed by these duties. Now, if the effect of the tariff be to secure a home supply of the articles on which protecting duties are imposed, articles of indispensable necessity, instead of being postponed to the last, are the very first, which demand the protection of government. In proportion as any commodity is essential to our wants, should be our anxiety to render ourselves independent of other nations for a supply -- what we cannot do without, ought to be the first to be produced by ourselves. The poor, instead of being injured by the duty on these articles, are essentially benefitted. They are least able to sustain the consequences of an inadequate supply, and suffer most by a fluctuation of prices.
The duties on sugar have been assailed, on the ground that the article is of first necessity, and it is pretended (notwithstanding our recent experience in the article of salt) that the price would be reduced, if the duties were lessened. Success is hoped for, because Louisiana alone is supposed to be interested in the preservation of the present rate of duties. Now there is no doubt that Louisiana is capable of producing a sufficient quantity of sugar to supply the whole demand of the United States. The duties have promoted the culture, until, by competition, the prices have been reduced to from 44 to 5 cents per pound in New Orleans, and this is ascertained to be as low as it can at present be afforded, and quite as low as foreign sugar, of equal quality, could be imported free of duty. There is no deficiency in the supply, and Louisiana now affords a market for a vast amount of the productions of the western States.
If the duty on sugar were reduced, the probability is, that the culture of the article would be abandoned, and the market for our commodities destroyed. It would be even better for us to pay six cents a pound for sugar, and secure the sale of our products, than three cents a pound, with no market for our provisions, and, consequently, nothing to pay with, even if an abundant supply of foreign sugar could at all times be secured. But in the event of a war, a small squadron would seal up the mouth of the Mississippi, and we should be compelled to import our sugar across the mountains at a heavy expense; in that event, the much hated Yankees would have greatly the advantage of us. The duty on sugar, is certainly no part of the "northern tariff." They might import that article much cheaper than we can. The Northern States are now supplied by Louisiana; their necessities contribute to the sugar plantations, and we profit by supplying the wants of the planters. Destroy the culture of sugar, and they will make a profit out of us, by importing and selling to us, and leave us without a market for many of our productions. Nor would the price of sugar be reduced by the reduction of the duty. It is already as low as it can be imported for free of duty; the danger is, that by reducing the supply, we shall increase the price, and that supply will be precarious and uncertain, and the prices fluctuating and unsteady. Though Louisiana is the only state, engaged in the production of sugar, the whole of the Western States are vitally interested in sustaining and encouraging it. Missouri, at least, will not consult her interests, if she engages in the suicidal policy of destroying the sugar plantations, now so profitable to her population in the consumption of their products.
There are some politicians (and our friend, Mr. Wells, is among the number,) who contend that the duties on imports ought to be reduced, because, they say, that when the national debt is paid off, we shall have an immense surplus revenue, and shall not know what to do with it. That is, we shall be too rich; and therefore we must make ourselves poor, by destroying the manufactories. We shall be too independent; therefore we must return to our former dependence on foreign nations. But the alarm about a surplus revenue is rather premature. It may be, that when we are able to manufacture for ourselves, though our exports may be increased, the imports will not be so great as to produce an alarming amount of revenue. And if we should have more money than is necessary to meet the ordinary expenditure, the surplus may be very profitably employed in arming the militia, providing depots and military stores, and in preparations for defence; in the construction of roads and canals, and other improvements to facilitate the transmission of intelligence, the transportation of troops and munitions of war, and to promote the internal commerce and intercourse of the people. And if there be still an excess, it might be, not unprofitably, employed in bounties on the productions of domestic industry.
The idea that the duties ought to be reduced, because the proceeds will not be required for revenue, is at variance with the admission of the expediency of protecting duties at all, and is nothing short of an opposition to the whole system of American manufactures. If the duties are reduced, and our manufactories destroyed, the imports will be increased to supply the deficiency, and as an increase of imports will necessarily increase the revenue, we shall still be exposed to the alarming evils of a surplus, and a further reduction must be resorted to, until we can reduce the income to a precise equality with the expenditure. And then, having destroyed our manufactures, and with them, the market for agricultural produce, a war, or even restrictions on commerce, would find us as poor and helpless as our worst enemy could desire. Does any one here imagine, that in the general reduction of duties to the necessities of the revenue, the productions of Missouri will escape ? Whatever, then, gentlemen may profess, they are making war upon the whole system of protection, --they are no other "than advocates for "free trade"-- and would bring ruin on those who have vested their capital in manufactures, expose our mechanics and artisans* to the overwhelming competition of foreign work shops --paralise domestic industry-- compel us to import every thing, and manufacture nothing, that we may contribute to the support of those who manufacture every thing, and buy none of our productions; and depend for our comforts on the will and caprice of foreign nations.---[It is not the large manufactories alone which are protected, but the industry of our mechanics and artisans of every description is now protected by the duties on imports. Without this protection, they could not sustain themselves against foreign competition, but must abandon their business.]
No doubt is entertained of the power of Congress to appropriate the public money to the construction of Internal Improvements; and it is distinctly declared to be their duty to exercise it in certain cases. The gentleman who seeks your suffrages, avows himself in favor of "National," and against "local improvements."These terms are of recent invention, as applied to the subject; having been brought into fashion among certain politicians about eighteen months ago. They required explanation, and the gentleman is very careful to inform us, that by "local roads," he does not mean all having locality. He is of opinion, that even a national road should be located somewhere, though he cannot tell whether in this state it ought to be on the south or north side of the Missouri river. He informs us, that by "local" roads, he means private or neighborhood roads, as contra-distinguished from those of public utility. No body, it is believed, has as yet contended that the public money ought to be appropriated, to any such local improvements, and the gentleman's sentiments on that part of the subject needed no very elaborate defence. We might wonder, however, why those who shudder with patriotic alarm, in the anticipation of the evil of a surplus revenue, did not resort to appropriations, for such "local" roads, as admirable drains to prevent the treasury from bursting by repletion; and after all, perhaps neither of the great national interests of agriculture, manufactures, and commerce, would be impaired, if roads were made to every man's door. But the further explanation given, leads to the conclusion, that the gentleman means by the term national improvements, such only as are located within, or lead to the state of Missouri, and all others are "local," and therefore ought not to be constructed by national means. Here our own State is again mistaken for the whole nation. No one here supposes that the nation will remove the snags out of the Missouri, and the obstructions in the Mississippi, "as far as our state boundary," and make a road from the "Atlantic States to Jefferson City," and leave all other portions of the Union to help themselves. Be assured, that if this selfish policy is successfully inculcated and insisted on in practice, Missouri will not be the first to profit by appropriations for improvements.
The National Road, (meaning the one passing through Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois,) appears to be in special favor, and has monopolized almost all the affections of our friend, (Mr. Wells.) This, he distinctly approves as an improvement, "national in its character;" but he announces himself as a thorough-going supporter of all the measures and principles of the present administration, so far as developed, and consequently he is opposed to appropriations for the Maysville road, the Rockville road, and Louisville canal, "as local in their character," and disapproves the votes given by the honorable Senator, (Mr. Benton) in favor of all these measures. The latter is no less ardent in support of all the acts and principles of the administration, though they reject the measures which he approves and sanctions by his vote. According to the politics of the new school, the same improvements, may at the same time be local and national --expedient and inexpedient--wise and unwise-- the supporters and opposers both right, and antagonist principles equally admired and approved. The road on the north side of the Ohio river, is ascertained to be "National in its character;" a branch of the same road is "local" as soon as it crosses that river. This end of the same road is national, the other end "local." Such are the contradictions in which gentlemen involve themselves who surrender their judgments to the influence of a party name.
The Maysvilie road is nothing less than a part of the line of a branch of the great national road, from Zanesville in Ohio, through Kentucky and Tennessee, to a point on the Mississippi river, from which the passage to New-Orleans is open at all seasons of the year. Passing over the advantages to be derived from such a road, in the transmission of intelligence and transportation of commodities, it would be of incalculable national utility in time of war, in the transportation of troops and supplies for the defence of New-Orleans. We may be assured that every attempt on this city by any foreign power, will be made in winter, being most favorable to a campaign in that quarter, as well on account of the climate, as because of the difficulty of throwing in troops and munitions of war for its defence at that season. Had it not been for the unusual, we may say providential, swell in the river, and consequent disappearance of the ice, in the winter of 1814-15, New-Orleans would, in all probability, have fallen into the hands of the enemy. With the navigation obstructed by ice, and without roads, the resources of the Western States in men and supplies could not have been brought to the aid of that city. But if we would learn wisdom from experience, we would not postpone the construction of the road, which would enable us promptly to transport troops and munitions of war, at any season, and on any emergency, to the defence of a point, of all others the most important to be defended, because a larger portion of our population depend on it, than on any other point of the Union. Besides, a road from the centre of Ohio, through Kentucky and Tennessee, is not less important for the transportation of the mail and to promote and facilitate internal commerce, than a road through Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois.
What is called the National Road, commences at Cumberland, in Maryland, and is intended to be continued through the Seats of Government of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois to Jefferson City. From Cumberland, there is a continued turnpike road to Washington City, with the exception of about twenty-five miles, between the Monocacy river and Rockville. This is what is known by the name of the Rockville road, and is the only part of the great road leading from the Seat of the National Government to the Western States, not turnpiked. It is almost impassable in the winter and spring, and persons having business at Washington in those seasons, ordinarily go round by way of Baltimore, to avoid the difficulties and dangers of the direct route. This short distance is all that is necessary to be improved by turnpike, in order to establish a safe and uninterrupted line of communication between the Seat of the National Government and the rapidly improving States of the West. It is "located" in a sterile and thinly populated part of the country, and presents no motive to individual enterprise, to undertake the improvement. The people of the western parts of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, and of all the Western States, are as much interested in that part of the road, as in any equal distance on this side of Wheeling, and would derive as much benefit from its improvement. But a bill appropriating a portion of the national means to the improvement of the Rockville road, has been rejected, for the alleged reason, that it is not "national in its character." Thus we find gentlemen contending, that this end of the road to Washington, is "national," while the other end, of as much public utility, is "local." It is true, the favorite end is on this, and the rejected, on the other side of the mountains; this may be a sufficient reason with narrow minded politicians, why they favor the one, and disfavor the other end of the same road; but the people of Missouri should have a care how they act on such principles. It may be discovered that a road located in this state, is not more national than a road in Maryland.
Nine States are directly, and most of the others indirectly, interested in measures to avoid the danger to their commerce, in the navigation of the Ohio, by securing a safe passage round the falls. To effect an object of such general utility, the Louisville canal was commenced, and the United States had become largely interested. But when a further appropriation was asked for, to aid in the completion of that difficult and arduous undertaking, it was refused, because it was a local improvement, and because it was deemed inexpedient, that the Government should be concerned in any such enterprise, jointly with individuals. Now it may be, that a canal was not the most eligible mode of attaining the object; but it had been commenced; the United States were already partners in the enterprise; and were in danger of large loss, if it was abandoned;-- yet, the administration rejected the bill, passed by both houses of Congress, to aid in the completion of an improvement of such vital interest to a large number of the people; and had it not been for the exertions of individuals, the government must have lost the whole amount of capital already invested.
Internal Improvements have of late been the occasion of singular inconsistency in some of our politicians. Their speeches are directed against the policy, and their votes are uniformly given in favor of all appropriations to be expended for the purpose of constructing roads and canals in their own section. They declaim against making any road or canal leading from the western to the eastern States, because, they allege, they will divert the commerce of the Great Valley from its natural channel, the Ohio and Mississippi, and its appropriate market, New-Orleans.*---[Mr. Benton, in his speech on the resolution introduced by Mr. Foot, of Connecticut, says, "The canal across the Alleghanies is mentioned -- I utterly disclaim and repudiate that canal, as a western object. And here, Mr. President, I take up a position which I shall fortify and establish on some future occasion. It is this: That every canal, and every road, tending to draw the commerce of the Western States across the Alleghany mountains, is an injury to the people of the West." He then argues that the Ohio and Mississippi rivers are the natural and appropriate channels of our commerce, and New-Orleans, our natural and appropriate market; which, he undertakes to say, we will not abandon. Now, it is possible it might be found advantageous to the people of the West, to carry on a portion of their commerce across the mountains, especially in time of war. Roads and canals in that direction, cannot be of any possible injury to them, since they will not obstruct the natural channel, and those who think proper, may still carry their produce to New-Orleans.
They affirm that nature has designated the avenues of commerce and intercourse, and insinuate that it is disfiguring the face of nature, to construct such improvements, where she has interposed obstacles, that seem to forbid them. In other words, they will not make roads, canals, or harbors, where they are not furnished ready made, by nature. And yet, these very gentlemen have uniformly voted for every appropriation for extending the national road, even when the President pronounced them to be interfering in local matters. And is it a disadvantage to the people of the West, that they should have more than one avenue for their commerce, or more than one market for their produce ? Are we to make no improvements but where none are necessary ? Most of us, probably, have been of opinion, that to multiply avenues to the Eastern States, would be of advantage to us, in our internal commerce, by presenting a choice of markets. We have thought, too, that where nature has not furnished roads and canals, ready made, was the very place where we ought to construct them ourselves, if we wanted them. The inconsistencies of certain politicians on this subject, are probably the result of certain committals, in the combination of a party, which renders it expedient to inculcate opinions hostile to the system, and keep in favor by voting against those opinions, until a majority shall be secured, and they shall be safe in throwing off the mask altogether.
It is not on all occasions, however, that this class of politicians are found voting against the doctrines they inculcate. They are unsteady, even in their inconsistency. When measures in which their immediate constituents are supposed to feel a direct interest are proposed, they find no scruples in voting for what their doctrines condemn. Every thing is made to yield to the desire of personal popularity. But when it is proposed to make appropriations for improvements on the "Atlantic slope," they fail not to gratify their hostility to the system, by voting against the measure. No scruples were entertained about disfiguring the face of nature and disappointing destiny, in the construction of the Cumberland road; but the construction of the Break-water at the mouth of Delaware Bay, was strenuously opposed, as violating the decrees of nature, and being, withal, "a local improvement," because its locality was beyond the mountains. Government designed to construct an artificial harbor, to afford a refuge to shipping, which might be overtaken by a storm in its neighborhood; but the undertaking was denounced, as doing violence to nature, who, if she had designed we should have a harbor there, it was said, would have made one. This Break-water, instead of being of local or neighborhood utility, is not only of the first importance to the shipping interest in the United States, but to all who produce commodities to be shipped, or import for consumption, and especially to the people of the Western States, whose exports and imports are for the most part shipped coast wise.*---[There is no safe natural harbor, on or near our coast, between Sandy Hook and the mouth of the Chesapeake; consequently, every storm on our coast, exposes the crews, vessels, and cargoes to danger of total destruction.]
And, surely, it is of general interest to ship owners and shippers, that a secure harbor should be provided, which will prevent the loss of many lives, and of millions of property. Efforts are continually made, to excite the jealousies of one portion of the union against another in relation to the public expenditures on improvements. The appropriations made for these objects, located in any particular State, are charged to that State, as so much obtained by her, for her use, as if the improvement were made for her exclusive benefit.*---[In the speech referred to in a preceding note, Col. Benton says-- "I resume the subject of Internal Improvement. I say, and I say it with proof in hand, that this whole business has been a fraud on the West." The "proof in hand" referred to, consists in locating the benefits of certain improvements made for the good of the whole union, to the districts in which they happen to be. The frauds committed on the West are, "The Cumberland road to Wheeling, $2,000,000." "Delaware Break-water, (required) $2,500,000." "Canal over the Alleghany, (subscribed) $1,000,000." "Baltimore rail road, (demanded) $1,000,000." "Delaware and Chesapeake Canal, $450,000." "Nantucket Harbor, (demanded) $900,000." The Honorable Senator having thus made a formidable account by including among the expenditures what was asked for, (not granted) for the Baltimore and Ohio Rail Road, and Nantucket Harbor, $1,900,000, says, "Here we go by the million." ..... "But, sir, it is not only in a great way, but in the small way also, that the West has been made the dupe of this delusive policy," -- meaning internal improvements. "If we must be compelled to ship our produce to New Orleans, and thence coast wise, the Delaware Breakwater is of the first importance to us. If we may be permitted to go across the mountains, the Cumberland road, Chesapeake and Ohio canal, and Baltimore rail road, will be, at least, of as much service to us, as to New England. If we shall not be forced into total non-intercourse with Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and the States North and East, the Delaware and Chesapeake canal will be no fraud on the West.]
Thus an enormous amount has been charged to the State of Delaware, on account of the Chesapeake and Delaware canal, because a portion of it passes through that State. That canal, you all know, is a short link in a long chain of internal communication between the Eastern and the Southern and Western States, and there are but few of them that do not derive more advantage from it than Delaware. It affords safety to internal commerce in peace, and will be found of incalculable utility to the whole union in time of war.
Internal Improvements have been arrested because it is said we should first pay off the public debt. The same gentlemen who have discovered that we are too rich to manufacture, are equally confident that we are too poor to make internal improvements, -- and they promise us that when we have paid off the public debt, something in that way may be done. This is the very period, you will remember, when it is recommended to you, to reduce your income to your ordinary expenditure, and you are even urged to commence the reduction of duties on imports now, in order to insure an empty treasury, that we may not have the delights of the promised political millennium, marred by the surplus revenue. But if, notwithstanding, all the efforts of gentlemen to the contrary, we shall still be afflicted with a surplus, wherewith we might make improvements; it is proposed that the nation shall rid herself of the curse, by distribution among the states.*---[The scramble in anticipation of a surplus revenue, may afford a subject for demagogues to make a noise about. But if our politicians can succeed in compelling the government to deposite the revenue in local banks, there will be no danger of a surplus -- insurance against such a calamity, could be obtained on reasonable terms. If we should have a surplus it is not probable that it will ever be divided among the several states. The Western states oppose a division according to population, the Atlantic states are not less unfriendly to a division according to territory. It is not a little singular, that when a proposition was made to divide the proceeds of the public lands among the states it was vehemently (and very justly) opposed; but when a proposition came from another quarter, to divide all the revenue (the proceeds of the public lands as well as the rest) not necessary to defray expences of government, some of those who were swelling with patriotic indignation against those who proposed to divide a part, were forthwith the most forward in favor of a division of the whole.
The several states are then to make internal improvements, according to the will or caprice of twenty-four different legislatures. Is not this an admirable scheme to be proposed by gentlemen who are in favor only of such improvements as are "national in their character," and opposed to all "local" expenditures of national revenue ?
The idea of leaving to the states the whole legislation on the subject is not original, but the fact (if that should ever exist,) of any one state undertaking to make an improvement for the benefit of the union would be a novelty. The probability is that every legislature would contrive to promote what they supposed to be the interest of their own state, and leave the other states to take care of their own. Instead of harmony and co-operation with each other there would be continual strife and discord. The jarring interest, of rival cities have even now, brought the legislatures of two of the states in conflict.*---[Pennsylvania will not allow Maryland to make a rail road from Baltimore to the Susquehanna, nor make the part within her territory, herself.
We should find roads and canals, leading from the commercial metropolis or seat of government of each state, to other points within its limits, but those constructed by adjoining states, would rarely if ever meet on their borders; and, if they did, would furnish a sort of zigzag avenue, of little or no service, in the transportation of the mail, troops or supplies, or in facilitating commerce, among the several states. Our own state has had some experience in the application of the funds appropriated by congress, and delivered over to her, for the purpose of constructing roads and canals; that fund has been applied to the laying out and marking roads from Jefferson City, to different points on the confines of the state; commissioners and surveyors have been employed going through the country, blazing trees, as marks for roads, which will not be opened in a century. Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia would never have constructed that portion of the national road which passes through their territory. States, like individuals, are operated upon by interest, and none it is believed would ever appropriate money to make a road across a corner of her territory. Ohio might have made a road east of her seat of government; but she would have no motive to extend it westward. Illinois would have conducted the road to one point on the Mississippi, and Missouri to another. Delaware would never have constructed a break water at the mouth of her Bay or cut a canal across her territory. In a word, if we would have "national improvements" we must rely on the national government to construct them. Local legislatures will make no other than local improvements. Let each do their duty in their appropriate sphere, and the prosperity of the states individually, and the nation generally, will be advanced.
The clearing out and improving natural harbours and even the construction of artificial ones, where nature has provided none, are of the first importance to our foreign commerce and the coasting trade of the whole union. The construction of roads and canals, clearing out and improving the rivers and harbours, in the interior, are of no less importance, in the promotion of internal commerce among the several states, the transmission of intelligence and the transportation of the troops, arms and munitions of war. As Congress is charged with the duty of regulating commerce with foreign nations and among the several states, of establishing post roads, and providing for the national defence, there can be no sensible reason for depriving them of the means of discharging their duty effectually.
Internal Improvements afford facilities to internal commerce, by opening avenues for the transportation of our products and manufactures, and presenting to every interest incalculable advantages. They contribute to our independence of foreign nations, and hence the promotion of internal improvements and the protection of domestic industry united, constitute the true American policy, with singular propriety denominated the American System. Their object and their effect is to promote the interest and advance the prosperity of the American people, and to secure their independence of foreigners by enabling them to rely on their own resources, in every possible condition of the world, and under every difficulty, in war or in peace.-- Among the evils of our late conflict with Great Britain, may be ranked the difficulties of transporting provisions, troops and munitions of war; and the coasting trade being cut off, commerce among the several states was almost wholly destroyed, and the little carried on was attended with enormous expense. Cotton was transported in wagons through the interior to Philadelphia, and places north and east of that city to be manufactured. If we persevere, these difficulties will be avoided. Manufactures and internal improvements, will afford to our people employment and resources which cannot be cut off by the enemy. Agricultural product will not rot on the hands of the producers, for want of a market; our soldiers, seamen and people may be clothed at home, without leave of the enemy. There will be no ruinous stagnation of business, no fluctuation of prices. Foreign commerce may be cut off, but it will not be, as heretofore, our all. The nation will still abound in resources to sustain the conflict, and prosper even in war.
In estimating the value of measures, their moral influence should not be overlooked. If the people of the different sections of the union, are severed in interest, or hostile in feeling, the political union of the states, will only serve to promote the jarring, jealousy and discord which some of our politicians are industriously engaged in fomenting.---[See Col. Benton's Speech on the Resolutions of Mr. Foot. Twelve pages of which are occupied in denouncing the North-eastern states. The resolution was construed into an offer of battle from the North to the West. "This resolution," says he, "was to checkmate my graduation bill ! It was an offer of battle to the West! I accepted that offer, I am fighting that battle. Some are crying out and hauling off, but I am standing to it, and mean to stand to it. I call upon the adversary to come on and lay on, and I tell him 'Damned be he that first cries out, ENOUGH.' Fair play and hard play, is the game I am willing to play at. War to the knife and the knife to the hilt; but let the play be fair." The resolution, thus taken to be a gauntlet of defiance, proposed to enquire into the expediency of suspending the further survey of the public lands; a proposition which certainly did not call for the cutting of the throats of the people of New England.
By internal improvements, every portion of the union will be rendered easy of access, intercourse will be promoted among the people, they will mingle in their business and their pleasures, learn to know and value each other, a community of feeling and interest will be established, and we shall treat each other as brethren of the same political family. In this respect, the Cumberland Road alone has done more for the preservation of the union, than ever has been, or will be done, by all the politicians who ate openly or in disguise, making war upon the American System. Sectional feeling we know has existed. Some of our politicians instead of using their exertions to allay it, have been untiring in their efforts to increase dissention and produce an irreconcilable hostility of feeling. The littlenesses of small politicians, in one section, have been seized upon, by those of a like cast in another, and imputed to the whole population, until the people of each section began to believe that those of every other, were like their little great men, of small merit and large ambition, full of prejudice, without principle or a solitary redeeming virtue. These sectional prejudices are rapidly wearing away, our people avail themselves of the advantages afforded by the opening of easy avenues of commerce and intercourse, and have established intimate, commercial and social relations. By unreserved and continual associations they learn to know each other. They no longer take upon trust the opinions of the designing; they imbibe none of the prejudices of the selfish; but judging for themselves, find that the people of other portions of the union are not less honest, less patriotic or less devoted to the interest of their common country than themselves. We, of the west, have learned that our eastern brethren, north of the Potomac, are not all knaves with their interests and their feelings irreconcilably hostile to our prosperity. Notwithstanding the opprobrious epithets which some among us, continue to heap upon the "yankees," most of us have now more respect and affection for our countrymen of New-England, than for the inhabitants of Old England; we regard the interests of all as the interests of Americans. Our feelings are less sectional and more American.
In conclusion, allow me to entreat, that in all your reflections on every proposed change of the measures, we have had under consideration, you will bear in mind that they are the result of the wise counsels of our best and greatest men, our purest patriots and most enlightened statesmen, whom the patriotism of the people, aroused by the exigencies of the country, had called to the administration of the national affairs. Dear bought experience had demonstrated the utter helplessness of this nation, when depending on the disorders or calamities, the policy or caprice of foreign nations, to open markets for our produce; on foreign manufacturers, to supply our wants; on a precarious foreign commerce, for our prosperity and national resources; on local Banks, for a national currency, and the means of administering the national finances; and on the local legislatures, for national improvements. The National Bank was established, and the policy of protecting domestic industry and promoting internal improvements, was adopted by the nation, to redress existing evils, and insure the prosperity and independence of the nation in every possible contingency. These are not party measures; they were not adopted in times of angry partisan strife and struggle for office. In times past, they have received the approbation of many of the most distinguished men, of all the parties that now distract, and divide the country. Your own experience attests the wisdom of these measures. You have witnessed their operation. You have seen the nation steadily advancing to wealth, power, and independence. The leading interests of the country, agriculture, manufactures, and commerce, are promoted, fostered, and encouraged; and our people are prosperous and happy. Let us then forbear to arrest the advancement of our prosperity, or hazard a return of all our past calamities, by reversing our course of public policy. We have done enough for party -- let us now cherish the interests of our country. Let not a love of change, or the influence of a party name, induce us to forsake the "good we have, and fly to ills we know not of."