An Exposition of the Course and Principles of Andrew Jackson's and Martin Van Buren's Administration in Relation to the Custody of the Public Moneys.
The persevering and unjust attacks which are made upon the late and present Administrations, in reference to banks and the public revenue, induce one who has been intimately acquainted with those who have controlled the Executive Departments of the General Government for the last nine years, to ask your patient attention, while he discloses, in sincerity and truth, the motives by which he believes they have been actuated, and the objects they have desired to accomplish.
General Jackson's hostility to the Bank of the United States, not from any private considerations, but from a deep conviction that it was dangerous to the liberties of the country, existed long before he came to Washington to enter upon the functions of Chief Magistrate. In a draft of his inaugural address, prepared in Tennessee, before he had ever seen those who, it has since been alleged, controlled him on this point, there was a passage in opposition to that bank, which, after his arrival in Washington, he was induced to omit. While his first annual message was in preparation, it is known that all his counsellors dissuaded him from touching upon that topic, inasmuch as it seemed to them unnecessary, if not premature; but he was then inflexible. "I cannot sleep upon my pillow," said he," if I should omit to call the attention of my countrymen to the dangers of that institution." He therefore, contrary to the wishes of his friends, even those who agreed with him in opinion, called the attention of the country to the approaching termination of its charter, and to the constitutionality as well as expediency of its renewal. It produced reports in favor of the institution from committees of both the Senate and House of Representatives, which were widely circulated through the country.
Although the bank appeared to be almost omnipotent in the two houses of Congress, and there were scarcely half a dozen Executive officers who raised their voices against it, the Hero of New Orleans again introduced the subject more at length in his annual messages of December, 1830 and 1831.
In the mean time, the bank had taken the alarm, and put in requisition all its means of influence. It hired writers, paid for the printing and circulation of documents, corrupted editors by fat jobs and exorbitant and unusual loans upon nominal security, conciliated members of Congress and public officers by extraordinary favors; and, through hundreds of presses and thousands of orators, put in motion by its means, filled the country with argument and declamation in its favor.
Notwithstanding the partial disclosure of these abuses by the committee of investigation at the session of 1831-2, the bank had sufficient power in Congress to procure the passage of an act rechartering it by a heavy majority. General Jackson hesitated as to his course as little as he did at New Orleans in December, 1814, when he heard that the British had landed below the city. He gave a direct veto to the bank, as both inexpedient and unconstitutional, and submitted the question, whether there should be a Bank of the United States or not, directly to the people, to be tested upon his re-election. The people re-elected him almost by acclamation, and thereby decided against a Bank of the United States.
Still that institution, though shown to be loaded with abuses, and rejected by the people, did not relinquish the hope of a continued existence. It had the public moneys in its keeping, and on every side it was renewing and strengthening its hold upon public men and institutions, with the evident object of renewing the struggle on the first favorable occasion. This consideration, together with the necessity of providing a new system of deposite prior to the expiration of the bank's charter, its interference to prevent the payment of the national debt, its corrupt "facilities" to editors and others, the application of its funds to political purposes, the exclusion of the Government directors from its business, the placing of its funds at the disposition of the president, to be expended without accountability, and other enormities of a highly aggravated character, determined General Jackson to take from it the means of influence it possessed through the use of moneys of the United States.
Having summed up the minor considerations by which he was influenced in his celebrated Cabinet paper, he added:
"In conclusion, the President must be permitted to remark, that he looks upon the pending question as of higher consideration than the mere transfer of a sum of money from one bank to another. Its decision may affect the character of our Government for ages to come. Should the bank be suffered longer to use the public moneys, in the accomplishment of its purposes, with the proofs of its faithlessness and corruption before our eyes, the patriotic among our citizens will despair of success in struggling against its power; and we shall be responsible for entailing it upon our country for ever."
The decisive step was taken, and the panic and distress which the bank wantonly and wickedly brought on the country for the avowed purpose of controlling Congress, and overruling the Executive, are now a matter of history, and afford a criterion for conceiving what would have been the scene had the transfer of the deposites been delayed until 1836, then to be made in the midst of an electioneering campaign for the Presidential succession.
The exhibition of the power of the bank on that occasion, and its disposition to use it without scruple to control the Government, probably did more to confirm the minds of discreet men against its reestablishment than all the arguments of its opponents. It had caused leading political men to exclaim: "We are in the midst of a revolution," "There are no Sabbaths in revolutionary times;" it had elicited predictions that dirks would be brandished and pistols flash; it had stimulated infuriated and misguided men to arm, and declare their intention to march to Washington and encamp on Capitol Hill; it had brought upon the head of the honest man and fearless patriot who stood at the helm of State with a steady hand and unblenching eye, not only the denunciation of bank presses, orators, and committees, but innumerable threats of assassination !
Let every honest man look back, and ask himself whether there was any real necessity for all this panic, distress, clamor, and uproar, amounting almost to civil war. Was the bank under any necessity to curtail near nineteen millions of dollars, as it did ? It began the curtailment with ten millions of specie shut up in her vaults, and ended it with fifteen millions ! As soon as its effort to control the action of Congress had failed, and there was no longer any hope of a restoration of the deposites, it immediately increased its loans about twenty millions of dollars, raising them about a million higher than they were before the deposites were removed ! Yet, how often did it proclaim, during the panic, that further and still further curtailment was necessary to its safely, even to the extent of two millions a month, until wound up, constantly pointing to General Jackson as the tyrant who was grinding the people to powder, and turning a deaf ear to all their remonstrances and sufferings. During all this time it was itself the tyrant, inflicting misery and distress upon the country, wickedly and wantonly, to control the Government for selfish ends.
More atrocious injustice was never done to an honest man than the bank and its advocates inflicted on General Jackson. He has had his redress. The unjust and unconstitutional sentence passed on him by a bank-directed Senate, has been expunged and stigmatized as it deserved by a Senate representing a just people. But the wanton mischief done to innocent citizens, and to the country at large, in that relentless and unnecessary war of the bank and its myrmidons on the Administration, has never been redressed. For crimes less aggravated, and injuries less severe, upon individuals and the public, many a man has been led to the scaffold. Yet, the real authors of this panic and mischief hold up their heads in the midst of society, and confidently aspire to its highest honors !
No intelligent and honest man will now say that the gradual transfer of the public deposites from the Bank of the United States to the State banks, would have produced any material sensation in commercial affairs, much less a general panic, but for the needless curtailments made by the bank and the clamor of its partisans. It was the bank, and not the Administration, which produced all of calamity, real or imaginary, by which the country was set in an uproar. But when the bank found herself defeated in her grand object, her policy was instantly changed. She opened the flood-gates of bank accommodation, and in eight months inundated the country with about twenty millions of dollars, notwithstanding her loss of the deposites !
The State banks, encouraged by her example, and strengthened by the public deposites, as well as by the specie which the panic curtailments had forced into the country, sent out their overflowing tributary streams. The facility with which bank accommodations could be acquired, encouraged men to become speculators. Merchandise, produce, city and village lots, new towns and public lands, every thing that could be bought and sold, were brought into the gigantic whirlpool. Men enough were not left at the plough to raise bread for the country --all were accumulating fortunes by buying and selling. From extraordinary importations and excessive sales of public lands, the public revenue began to accumulate beyond the wants of the Government. The surplus being deposited in banks, became immediately the basis of new bank issues, adding to the means of speculation, and aggravating the prevailing evils.---[because no bank is any better than the bank of U.S., the difference is the degree of success in selling their baseless, fractional reserve, credit notes. as long as the credit system is allowed to operate, boom and bust will always come]
Gen. Jackson saw the banks, led on by the Bank of the United States, careering onward to destruction, and considered whether it was in his power to arrest them. The only mode by which he could reach them, was to reject their notes in payment of the public dues, and thus diminish their power to extend their issues still further, to the ruin of many honest men, with jeopardy to themselves and mischief to the country. In this disinterested and patriotic object originated the much abused Specie Circular. No measure could be more just or more appropriate to the state of the country, yet none was ever more abused. It checked the issues of banks and consequently lessened the means of speculation, and arrested the unnatural advance of prices, or rather the depreciation of the currency. Hence, it was denounced by the swarms of speculators which buzzed in every body's ears throughout the country, and was alleged to be the cause of numberless evils which it only could not prevent.
If the banks, admonished by this measure, had given attention to their own condition and that of the country, and forthwith adopted a system of moderate curtailment, the catastrophe of suspension might have been avoided. But, though checked in their career, they did not recede. For months they appeared to stand still, waiting for events. In the mean time, the excessive importations of merchandise, ---[in spite of all the high tariff; so much for tariff protecting domestic production] and the influx of bread stuffs from abroad, produced a demand for specie for exportation. This was immeasurably aggravated by the violent and unjustifiable course of the Bank of England, which suddenly destroyed American credit in that island, with the avowed object of forcing back the specie which had been forced out of England by the panic curtailments and reducing the price of cotton, the reaction of which is now again sending the specie of England to every commercial nation of the globe.
After a short struggle, the New York banks gave way and suspended the payment of specie. As fast as the news spread, the other banks followed their example, and in ten days there was scarcely a specie paying bank in the Union. It is now the theme of every Federal orator and Federal press, that this result has been brought about by General Jackson and Martin Van Buren.
Did General Jackson compel the Bank of the United States to make the panic curtailments ? No: they were made by Nicholas Biddle, without necessity, to control the action of Congress through the sufferings of the country.
Did General Jackson compel the State banks to curtail at the same time, and thereby increase the public distress ? No: those banks were forced to curtail by the Bank of the United States ! ---[and by their own practice of issuing unredeemable credit notes by the million, as is common practice among bankers]
Did General Jackson compel the Bank of the United States to extend her loans about twenty millions of dollars as soon as the panic was over, and thereby open the floodgates of paper issues ? No: this step was taken by Nicholas Biddle without pretence of compulsion or counsel from the Administration.
Did General Jackson compel or advise the State banks to follow this pernicious and fatal example ? No: he advised against it; and when counsel was found to be of no avail, made an effort to arrest the impending ruin by the Specie Circular.
Did General Jackson set on foot the ten thousand wild and reckless speculations which pervaded the Union ? No: they were generated by the sudden and extravagant bank issues after the close of the panic in which the Bank of the United States led the way. The voice of that honest and fearless Chief Magistrate was always heard against them.
Did General Jackson produce the excess of importations, and the influx of breadstuffs, which generated the demand for the exportation of specie to pay for them ? No: the excess of importations was a portion of those speculations which originated in excessive bank issues, and the importation of bread stuffs was the consequence of untoward seasons, and the withdrawal from grain-growing of a large portion of our laboring people, who thought they saw a shorter road to wealth in speculation or other employments.
Did General Jackson induce the Bank of England to make its violent attack on American credit, and thereby augment the demand for specie to pay debts in England ? No: that step, improper as it was, grew out of a foolish desire to force back to England a portion of the specie which Mr. Biddle's panic curtailments had forced away, and put an end to the swelling bubble which was rising out of the interchange of credit between the two countries.
Did General Jackson recommend the sudden displacement of large sums of public money which had entered into the banking operations of particular places, for the purpose of depositing it with the States, thereby increasing the embarrassments of the banks ? No: it is well known that he was opposed to that measure, and signed the bill with reluctance.
And what act of Mr. Van Buren produced or hastened the catastrophe ? None whatsoever. He did indeed decline rescinding the Specie Circular, being satisfied that its operations were salutary both upon the country and the banks.
The causes of the suspension of specie payments are not then to be looked for in the acts or designs of the Administration, but chiefly in the mismanagement of the banks, in which the Bank of the United States took the lead. That the design of Mr. Biddle and his political associates was to produce this very result, is by no means improbable. It is a part of history that they did, during the panic, coolly and deliberately, "calm as a summer's morning," pursue a course which produced the suspension of several banks, and put many others in jeopardy, with the single view of controlling the Government through the distresses of the people, producing a restoration of the deposites, and a recharter of the bank. What would have been the extent of this suspension, had not the policy of the bank been counteracted by an immense influx of specie, it is impossible to know; but men who were capable of conspiring to accomplish their objects in one mode are not too good to conspire its accomplishment in another.
The throwing out of twenty millions by Mr. Biddle, obtaining loans in Europe, and extending his credit in every direction, was the most insidious and at the same time the most effective means to tempt the State banks upon dangerous ground, which could have been devised. They had that effect, and led the whole army of banks into a position where they were unable to withstand for a month the operations of an adverse trade. To the banks themselves, therefore, the whole mischief is to be ascribed, and chiefly to the Bank of the United States. The steps taken by them which led to the recent catastrophe, were neither the necessary, nor the natural result of the measures of the Administration. On the contrary, they were taken to defeat its policy, and in opposition to its wishes and will.
Let us now look at the position at present occupied by the Administration, the policy it has pursued, and the measures it proposes in reference to its own duties, and the currency of the country.
Suspension of Specie Payments, and the Course of the Administration thereupon.
The people had decided against having a Bank of the United States in the reelection of General Jackson, and Congress had provided by law for the safe-keeping of the public money in certain State banks. By the Constitution and laws of the United States, nothing but gold and silver, or their equivalent, could be received or paid out by the General Government; and the deposite law itself prohibited the employment of any bank as a depository, which did not pay its notes in gold and silver. All the funds of the Government, both of the Treasury and Post Office Departments, were deposited in State banks.
Simultaneously, nearly every bank in the Union stopped payment. Treating the Government as they did the rest of their creditors, the banks refused to pay the warrants of the Treasury and the Post Office in any thing but their own notes --notes which could not be legally offered to a public creditor in payment. Threats of violence were used in Boston, New York, and at other places, with the view of compelling the Executive to violate the plainest laws, in receiving depreciated and irredeemable paper for all public dues. These threats were disregarded, and the public dues collected in gold and silver. But there was a difficulty in complying with the laws in paying the public creditors, all the funds of the Government being shut up in the banks, from which nothing but irredeemable paper could be obtained. By the Post Office Department, the difficulty was soon surmounted. The current income of that Department being equal to its current expenditure, it was only necessary to have its income paid in specie, to meet all its expenditures in the same currency. Prompt and successful steps were taken to effect that object, and not a warrant of the Postmaster General has been returned protested since the suspension, which has not been promptly paid in specie; and for several months past, all payments have been made in that currency. This great establishment, having an income of about four millions of dollars a year, is now carried on, without the slightest difficulty, in the midst of the suspended banks, receiving and disbursing gold and silver only.
The difficulty would have been as readily surmounted by the Treasury Department, had not its necessary disbursements exceeded its current income. The sales of public lands, and the importations of dutiable merchandise, were almost stopped by the commercial revulsion, and it was found necessary to grant indulgence on duty bonds already given. Thus the resources of the Treasury were dried up, while the army and navy, the civil list and diplomatic corps, necessarily gave rise to heavy demands upon it almost daily. It had no alternative, but was obliged to render available, as far as possible, the funds in bank, and anticipate its future receipts. The Secretary of the Treasury, therefore, continued to draw upon the banks; and to enable the holders of his warrants or drafts to use them in payments, if they preferred it to taking bank notes, and to give them the highest practicable value, made them receivable for duties and public lands. This very operation, though just to the public creditors, cut off the specie receipts, by anticipating the revenue, and gave no effectual relief to the department. At their extra session, Congress granted the power to issue Treasury notes, as a means of keeping up the credit of the Treasury with a deficient revenue. It was believed by many of our most sagacious men, that this paper would pass at specie par with a very moderate interest, or none at all; but as present value cannot be had for them, except by paying them in for public dues, and as the disbursements of the department are still greater than its receipts, it has been in the power of a powerful party press, and other hostile interests, to cry them down below par at certain points. Efficient measures have, however, been adopted to raise them to specie par, and at that rate, it is confidently believed, they will soon be negotiated. In the meantime, the Treasury Department has paid specie as far as it had the power, and, since the stoppage of specie payments by the banks, has actually disbursed over six millions of dollars in gold and silver. It is expected that all its future disbursements will be in coin, or its equivalent. Receipts are beginning to flow in, and in a short time they will probably exceed the current expenditure, when all embarrassments will be at an end.
The Independent Treasury.
To avoid the embarrassments encountered from the stoppage of the banks for ever hereafter, and secure the faithful application of the public money to the purposes for which it is exacted from the people, the Administration proposes no longer to entrust it to the custody of corporations, but to keep it in an independent Treasury. The following are some of the reasons upon which this proposition is sustained:
1. It is obviously the plan originally intended by the Constitution. It is a provision of that instrument, that "no money shall be drawn from the Treasury except in pursuance of appropriations made by law." What does this mean, but that the public money shall, when collected, be put into a Treasury, and there remain until drawn out to pay appropriations made by Congress ? Is it not wholly inconsistent with the idea that it can be taken out, and lent to the merchants or others ? Suppose that John Campbell, the Treasurer of the United States, had have millions of dollars in the Treasury --in a vault, room, or chest under his own care-- could he lend $10,000 to Daniel Webster, $10,000 to Henry Clay, and $1,000,000 to Nicholas Biddle, for their private purposes, pocketing the interest himself, without drawing it from the Treasury, in palpable violation of the Constitution ? Is not this an application of the public money to private, illegal, and unauthorized uses, the very thing which the restriction in the Constitution, was intended to prevent ? To lend out the public money is the only purpose for which the banks want it. They do not desire it to keep, but to use. Their peculiar friends will not even hear of a special deposite which would restrict or prevent their using it. The liberty of using it as they please is what they demand; in other words, they claim the privilege of lending it out to their customers for their own profit. And is it not then out of the Treasury ? Has it not been drawn out, without appropriation, in palpable violation of the spirit of the Constitution ?
It is not a satisfactory answer to say this practice is of long standing. If it be a palpable violation of the Constitution, its instant reformation is an imperative demand of principle and duty. The disasters which have followed an abandonment of the Constitution on this point, require a return to it as a matter of expediency as well as of principle.
2. An Independent Treasury is necessary to maintain the independence and efficiency of the Government. We have much in English history, as well as in the productions of our own statesmen, about the "union of the purse and the sword" in the same hands. In Great Britain, the power to declare war, and raise an army and marine, is vested in the King, and that is called "the sword." The power to raise money to pay the army and marine, is vested in the Parliament, and that is called "the purse." The King holds "the sword" and the Parliament holds "the purse." This arrangement checks the King, and protects the liberties of the people from Executive aggression.
In our Government, Congress only can declare war and authorize the raising of an army and marine, and, therefore, Congress holds "the sword." Congress only can raise money to pay the army and marine, and, therefore, Congress holds "the purse" also. In these provisions is a double check upon Executive aggression. He has neither "the purse" nor "the sword" until Congress put them into his hands by law; and although, after they have given him "the sword" by declaring war, they cannot withdraw it by making a treaty of peace, they can withdraw or close up "the purse" by refusing to raise money.
But modern avarice and ingenuity have introduced a new purse-holder --it is the banks. Congress or Parliament can no longer be trusted with "the purse" --it is safe only in the hands of banks !! Such is the modern theory. Let us see what may be the practical operation of this theory. Congress declares war and raises twenty millions of money to carry it on, which, instead of being deposited in the Treasury, under charge of the appropriate officers, is put into sundry banks, which now become the purse-holders of the Government. These banks are opposed to the war, and think "the condition and circumstances of the country" will not justify its prosecution. The Executive applies to them for the money provided by Congress to pay the army and navy, and they withhold it for the purpose of putting an end to the war. Is this the check which the Constitution intended to impose on the Executive ? On the contrary, is it not a third power introduced into the Government, unknown to the Constitution, and subversive as well of the just powers of Congress as of the President ?
Look at what actually has happened. Last May  the deposite banks had on hand about twenty-seven millions of the public money, every dollar of which was appropriated by Congress, or directed to be deposited with the States. These laws the Executive was proceeding to execute, when the banks suddenly stopped payment. If the money had been in the Treasury, as the Constitution requires, the Executive could have drawn it out in pursuance of law, and carried into execution the will of Congress. But as the money of the Government was gone to speculators and others, with the capital of the banks, the stoppage of the banks was necessarily the stoppage of the Treasury. The Executive could not execute the acts of Congress; he could not pay a soldier or sailor, a clerk or contractor, in the legal currency of the United States, though nominally there were twenty-seven millions of dollars in the Treasury, already appropriated for that purpose. And the efforts made to fulfill the obligations and keep the faith of the Government, under circumstances brought upon it by these safe purse-holders, have been the constant theme of abuse, taunt, and ridicule, by their organs and advocates ever since !
Now, are not the liberties of this people safe under the guardianship of the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial departments of their Government ? Must we have a third power to step in between the Legislative and Executive departments, to nullify the laws passed by the former by obstructing the constitutional action of the latter ? Is not the guardianship of Congress over the public purse sufficient ? When Congress have raised money, and appropriated it, is it not safe to let the Executive have it to apply to the designated objects ? Must a third power, independent of both, be brought in to check the Executive, and refuse him the means to execute the laws of Congress, and discharge the obligations of the Government ?
It must not be overlooked that this foreign power is as much a check upon Congress as upon the Executive. It is in vain that Congress raises money and appropriates it, if there be a third power which can interpose and prevent its expenditure. It is in vain that Congress declares war, and raises money to carry it on, if they put it into the custody of an independent and irresponsible power, which has the will as well as the ability to withhold it from the Executive, and thus prevent its application to the support of an army and navy. This principle puts not only the Executive, but Congress also, directly under the control of the banks, and without their consent, a ship cannot sail, and an army cannot march.
This check upon popular government is of modern invention. It is not one of those safeguards of liberty which was fought for in the Revolution. There was not a bank in 1776 within the limits of the thirteen States. They are not found to constitute a part of the State Governments in their early constitutions; they formed no part of the General Government under the Articles of Confederation; and they were directly repudiated by the Convention which formed our present Constitution. If the Continental Congress resorted to a bank, it was not for the purpose of keeping their money, (for none they had,) but as a means of getting money to carry on the war. The first Bank of the United States was not created for a depository of the public moneys, (for there is no such provision in its charter,) but as a means of restoring and sustaining the public credit. In the charter of the second Bank of the United States, granted in 1816, is found the first germ of this third power, which it is now insisted must interpose between the legislative and Executive Departments of the Government, in order to prevent an "union of the purse and the sword."
Often and loudly has it been asserted by the new-lights of the age, that the United States Bank had an absolute right to the public moneys, and that it was usurpation in the Executive to deposite them elsewhere; and it has since been attempted to vest such a right in State banks. Constituting no part of the Government, not elected to any office by the people, or appointed by the President or any public authority, independent of the people, and substantially irresponsible to the Government, it is maintained that they ought to be entrusted with one of the most delicate and responsible functions of the executive power.
The Constitutions of the States and of the United States establish Governments which, when carried out by law, are complete in all their parts. The checks which the safety of liberty requires, are found in the adjustment of the several Departments in relation to each other, and various written prohibitions. The interposition of banks as purse-holders is no part of the constitutional plan; it is a modern innovation; it is the intrusion of a new and irresponsible power, subversive of the purity of the Government, fatal to its independence, and dangerous to its existence. If it be suffered to progress and confirm itself in its usurpation, questions of peace and war, of commerce, trade, and taxation, will be decided, not by the representatives of the people and of the States in Congress, but by the presidents and directors of banks in secret conclave assembled.
3. Another argument in favor of an Independent Treasury is found in the centralizing influence and consolidating tendency of the bank power. New York and Philadelphia are so close together that they may be called the centre of our commercial and monetary system. The interior banks, the orbs of our credit system, are as dependent on that centre as the planets are on the centre of the solar system. When the banks at that point stop, they all stop, nor can they resume with any convenience in their business, unless the banks of the two great cities set the example. When the New York banks stopped payment in May last, the shock ran with electric speed through the whole credit system, and the banks of all the States were prostrated at a blow. And now we are told, that the banks of Ohio, Kentucky and the most distant States, cannot resume without a movement from the centre.---[The fault is in the credit system, in the banking system of issuing fractional reserve-based bank credit-notes as currency with no money to redeem them, not merely in the New York banks. In 1832 New York banks and New York state opposed the renewal of the charter and supported Andrew Jackson in his efforts and re-election....]
Thus the eight hundred banks are one in their essential operations; they are a consolidated, concentrated power, though seemingly under various jurisdictions, yet effectually controlled by the few men who govern and direct the banks in New York and Philadelphia. Nor does it materially alter the case in this respect, whether this controlling power be organized and regulated under the name of a Bank of the United States chartered by Congress, or left in the hands of banks, great or small, chartered by the States. Its organization under the name of a Bank of the United States undoubtedly increases its influence by concentrating its power in one head; but the seat of the mischief is in the laws of trade and the nature of our credit system. Though most fearfully illustrated in a Bank of the United States, its consolidating tendencies are equally palpable in the operations of the State banks. Passing scenes prove the dependence of the extremes upon the centre too clearly and conclusively to require argument or proof to satisfy the mind of the reader.
Is it not apparent that as far as the General Government and State Governments identify themselves with the banks, they become consolidated into one great whole ? The General Government and State Governments had become dependent on banks for their actual currency and the keeping of their treasures. By a single blow their currency is depreciated and their treasures are rendered unavailable. By whom and where was this blow struck ? Not by any legitimate authority in the General Government or in the several States. The blow came through the banks of New York, and was felt in the most distant States in the Union. All the States and the Union itself were found to be dependent on that centre; there was concentrated the power to control all our Governments and people in this respect; in relation to the currency and credit system, the States were found to be consolidated already, and the ruling power sits enthroned in New York and Philadelphia ! Let the Southern, Western, and even Middle and Northern States look to it.
Every new bank they create upon the principles now approved, is a new ligament to bind them to the central power. Every new bank created in New York, and every increase of bank capital, adds to the fatal attraction which binds the distant States to the centre.
Every act of the General or State Governments which goes to strengthen banks, adds to the intensity and danger of this centralizing influence, and diminishes the power of the States and the people over their own affairs. Already, a great corporation has sprung up in Philadelphia, which at this moment not only controls the entire currency of the States, by preventing a resumption of specie payments, but is entering deeply into their trade. It is another East India company, and the South and West are the rich provinces which it aspires to conquer and to plunder. A competitor may be expected in New York, not to restrain the inroads and usurpations of the Philadelphia marauder, but to rival him in subjecting the golden South and the teeming West to the central banking power. Consequences the most fearful to the independence of the States, and results the most fatal to all popular control over the General Government, may be justly apprehended from the growth, extension and organization of this pervading and subtle power.
Nor does the mischief end in throwing the entire control of the currency into the hands of a few men in Philadelphia and New York. Those men are at last but the instruments and agents, perhaps unwillingly, of the London bankers and the Bank of of England. London is the centre of the credit system of the whole commercial world, and the Bank of England is the sun of that system.
The banks of New York and Philadelphia bear a relation to the Bank of England, very similar to that which the banks of Ohio and other distant States bear to them. Our interior banks are their dependent orbs, as the planets of our solar system have their moons, and they themselves are but secondary bodies, revolving around the distant sun of the credit system. The immediate cause of their recent stoppage was a measure of the Bank of England, cutting off American credit, and thus withdrawing from them the light and support in which they lived and moved. It was the Bank of England, therefore, which stopped our banks, depreciated our currency, and shut up our Treasury.
Our central banking power is at last but the dependent of another power, seated in a foreign land; and our consolidated States are, through their banks, and in their currency, but the provinces of the money king, who sits enthroned in London. Those who control us are but his satraps and tributaries, acting in submission to his power and in obedience to his will.
And is it safe to trust our public moneys to the keeping of the dependents of the Bank of England ? Is is safe to place our country in a position where a foreign power can shut up our Treasury, almost at will, and cripple our Government in all its operations ? If so, let us rescind the Declaration of Independence, and acknowledge ourselves, as we really shall be, again provinces of the British Empire.
4. The Independent Treasury, instead of fostering over-trading and wild speculation, like the deposite of the public moneys in banks, would be a most effective and salutary check upon those operations. The revenue of the United States accrues from sales of public lands and duties on imports. As soon as speculation in public lands and excessive importations commence, the revenue begins to increase beyond the immediate wants of the Government. Deposited in banks, and there made the basis of new loans, it lends to swell the rising tide of over-trading and speculation. But collected in gold and silver, and put into the Treasury, the accumulation itself would soon check the cause of it.
If, instead of being deposited in banks, the late surplus, as it rose from ten to twenty millions of dollars, from twenty to thirty, and from thirty to forty, had been locked up in the Treasury in gold and silver, who can doubt that it would have prevented the immense extension of credit which led to the general suspension of specie payments ? The shutting up of the specie would have had the same effect as its exportation. It could not have risen to twenty millions before the check would have been felt throughout all the ramifications of the credit system, and the banks would not so indiscreetly have extended their issues. The means of over-trading and speculation could not have been obtained; the receipts of the Treasury would not have accumulated; and the suspension would have been averted.
"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." The Independent Treasury would be a pregnant means of preventing speculation in public property and dutiable merchandise --an evil which, under the bank deposite system, finds its cure only in general embarrassment, extensive bankruptcy, and, lately, an universal suspension of specie payments. Surely it would be better for the country, the Government, and the banks, that these operations should be checked in their early stages, than that they should thus involve the innocent as well as the guilty in indiscriminate ruin. But, if these advantages are considered insufficient to make it politic to retain a growing surplus in the Treasury, how easy it is to put the accumulating funds into State stocks, and thus throw the specie into circulation.
5. The Independent Treasury would tend to preserve a currency of specie or its equivalent. If no one would receive paper, we should have a specie currency. In the precise extent to which paper is refused, specie will always circulate. The General Government is the greatest creditor in the country. If it receives nothing but the constitutional currency in its transactions, it will keep many millions of gold and silver in circulation which would otherwise be substituted by bank notes, and shut up in the vaults of banks, or exported from the country. In this way, it would greatly increase the specie basis, restrict the issues of banks, and give greater security to the people. The Post Office Department now collects and disburses about a million of dollars a quarter, all in specie, without the least difficulty or embarrassment.
6. The Independent Treasury will place the keepers of the public money under the direct authority and control of Congress, the constitutional guardian of the public moneys. A national bank is too strong to be controlled, having heretofore with impunity shut its doors upon a committee of Congress. Over the State banks that body has no legal authority or control whatsoever. When placed in those institutions, the public moneys are beyond their constitutional supervision. Neither the Legislative nor Executive power can control them. They are out of the possession of the Government, without being in the hands of the people. It is otherwise with the officers of an Independent Treasury. Congress must first create them; must prescribe their respective duties, and fix their salaries; must direct the amount of the bonds to be taken; may, at any time, inquire into their conduct; may impose further restrictions; may turn them out by impeachment, or abolish their offices. Through them, Congress may exercise as direct supervision over the custody of the public money as it is possible for them to possess; while their power of control over bank depositories is nominal and impotent.
7. The Post Office Department is now, and long has been, a complete illustration of the Independent Treasury system. For many years past, nine-tenths of the postmasters have been the keepers of the moneys which they collected until they were paid over to the creditors of the Department. Upon the suspension of specie payments last spring, they were all put upon that footing. No principle of administration was changed, but the one-tenth which had deposited in banks, were placed on the same footing that the nine-tenths were before. Now, every postmaster keeps the money he collects until it is paid out to contractors or others, unless safety or convenience require that it shall be transferred to some other postmaster. For years, there have been ten to eleven thousand of these officers, and now there are twelve thousand, each performing the duties which would be required of an Independent Treasury, though generally on a small scale. Do the public hear of any inconvenience arising from this plan ? Is not every thing going on with harmony, convenience and safely ? The transfer of funds costs not a cent. On the contrary, the Department could make money out of the operation if it chose to do so.
Here, then, is a practical illustration of the system in full and successful operation before the eyes of the people, contradicting every day, in the most emphatic manner, the objections which self-interest and party feeling so eagerly invent and so perseveringly propagate.
Another principle is illustrated by the daily operations of that Department. With slight exceptions it receives and disburses gold and silver only. Twelve thousand Postmasters in twelve thousand neighborhoods receive and pay out about a million of dollars a quarter, in the legal coin of the United States, though surrounded with a paper circulation. What does this prove ? It proves, that specie will come when there is a demand for it. It proves, that it appears and is used as a currency in proportion to the demand. It proves, that whenever any other Department of the General or State Governments, any corporation, company or individual, refuses to take paper in payment, specie will make its appearance. It proves, that the people can have a specie currency at any time when they have the firmness to refuse paper.
If the people in every town, village and neighborhood in the country, can find specie to pay their postages, is it to be believed that it cannot be found by merchants in the great cities to pay their duty bonds ? The idea is idle. The purchase of public lands in specie is going on every day; and so far as it may be needed for other purposes, it can always be obtained, if required by the people.
Let us now turn our attention to the objections urged against the Independent Treasury and the Administration which proposes it.
1. It is declared to be a measure calculated to promote levelling principles and an equalization of property --principles which are traced to the declaration of Robert Dale Owen, in 1829, advocating "a civil revolution, which would leave behind it no trace of any Government that had not provided for every human being an equal amount of property on arriving at the age of maturity, and during minority equal food, clothing, and education, at the public expense." How the keeping of the money of the Government exclusively for its own use, instead of letting those use it to whom it does not belong, tends to impair the right of property, it is not easy to conceive. However that may be, I venture to say there is not a man connected with the Administration who entertains opinions in any degree analogous to the wild and impracticable scheme developed by Mr. Owen. It would be equally just to attribute to them, as their settled opinions, the incoherent givings, out of any madman in bedlam. On the contrary, there is believed not to be a man connected with the Administration who does not maintain, as a fundamental principle, that every man has a right to possess, enjoy and dispose of, whatever he has acquired by the efforts of his own mind, strength and industry, without infringing upon the rights of others; and that one of the first objects of all just institutions is to protect that right. Equal Rights is a sound doctrine; but it is wholly incompatible with equality of property. "Equality of rights" secures to every man alike the privilege of enjoying the property he honestly acquires; but it does not require him to divide his acquisitions with his neighbors who are less able to work, less fortunate, less industrious, or less economical. Whatever he gives out of the proceeds of his labor, is not required of him as a matter of right, but is exacted by holy charity, or other persuasive considerations, operating upon his liberality and his will. The Supreme Being has not made men equal in physical strength, in mental power, in excitability of passions, in solidity of judgment, or in any other things between which it is possible to draw a parallel. Human institutions which should attempt to produce an equality of property, when Heaven itself has made men unequal in the faculty of acquisition, would be a violation of natural law, of individual rights, impracticable and absurd. In a country where mind is free, all sorts of wild theories will spring up, like weeds in a rich soil; but rooted out by reason and common sense, they only lend to fertilise the land of liberty. It is as ridiculous as it is unjust, to pick up these teeming extravagances and attribute them to the Administration, or any political party in the country. Sure it is, that the idea of an equality of property, or of a general distribution of property, is utterly repudiated by every man connected with the Administration, and the charge might, with more plausibility, be retorted upon those who so strenuously maintain that the banks should have the use of money which does not belong to them.
2. It is charged that the Independent Treasury is a measure or hostility to the general credit system of the country, and is calculated, if not designed, to reduce the operations of trade to the mere exchange of one thing for another, without the interposition of credit paper in any shape. This charge has as little foundation in fact as the preceding. It is almost as absurd to talk of banishing credit from a civilized community as of producing an equality of property. Credit is found useful in the most simple, as well as in the most complicated forms of society, and to destroy it, would be to cut one of the ligaments which bind men together in civil communities. Doubtless, like all other honest men, the members of the Administration are opposed to that abuse of credit which robs the good man for the benefit of the knave, ruins multitudes by its excesses, and produces demoralization, distrust, and anarchy in the business of society. To draw the proper line, and say to credit "thus far shalt thou come and no farther," is perhaps impracticable; and the only difference on the subject which exists in the country is believed to be, not whether credit shall exist, but to what limit it is expedient to permit its extension. On that point scarcely any two intelligent men will be found to agree; and as the Administration have no control over it, they do not entertain the question. While there is not one of its members who is hostile to the credit system, there may be the same diversity of opinion among them, as to some of its features, which exists among their fellow-citizens.
3. The Independent Treasury is charged with being part of a scheme to overthrow the State banks or "State institutions." There is not even a plausible foundation for this charge. The single ground on which it is got up is the known desire of the Administration to be relieved from their aid in the management of the public revenue, because they have signally failed in the performance of their public duties and obligations in that respect. Multitudes of individuals, as well as the Government, had deposites of specie funds in the banks at the time of their stoppage. Suppose one of these private citizens, who was bound by the law and an oath to pay all his debts in specie, and had found himself thus unexpectedly deprived of the power to obey the one, or comply with the other, should determine hereafter to keep his money in his own chest, ought he to be charged with a design to destroy the banks ? Must every man keep his money in banks, or be set down as their enemy ? Must he buy their friendship, or encounter their hostility ?---[If every men kept his money in his own chest, banks would be out of business. If every men used his existing money, instead of borrowing credit notes from banks, banks would be out of business. You wrote two pages ago that in 1776 there was not a bank in the thirteen colonies, how did civil communities get by without this ligament ? How were operations of trade carried without the interposition of bank-credit paper ?]
The Administration has proposed no measure for the injury of banks. On the contrary, it has applied for, and obtained from Congress, an act of indulgence, giving them time to pay over the public moneys on hand. Its aim, from the time of their suspension, has been to separate from them, and let them alone --to leave them to the States by which they were created --to leave them in the free and full exercise of all their powers and privileges --neither to help nor hinder them --not to interfere with their business, nor ask their interference with the Government --to let them be what they are, "State institutions" for State purposes, and not practically constituent parts of the General Government, is there evidence of hostility in this ? Must the Administration renew its fatal connection with them, to prove it is not their enemy ? It is willing to leave them just as it found them, before they were employed as depositories of the public money --to use their own capital in their own way, without molestation on its part.
But if not giving public deposites to the State banks is a measure of hostility calculated to destroy them, how is it that those banks contrived to exist so long without these deposites ? What sustained them while the Bank of the United States had the public moneys ? What has sustained those of the State banks which have had none of those moneys down to this day ? Under the late system, only about eighty banks out of eight hundred had a dollar of those deposites. How did the others get along ? Cannot any portion or all of the banks sustain themselves hereafter without deposites as well as they have done heretofore ? And has the Government always aimed to overthrow those banks to which it has entrusted none of the public money ? The idea is absurd, and the imputation groundless.
It is not intended to say, however, that all or any of those connected with the Administration, are theoretically in favor of the State banks as now organized, or approve the course they have pursued within the last two or three years. There is probably on those points the same diversity of opinion among them which exists in the community. It may, however, be safely asserted that, to a man, they think the banking system needs extensive reforms, and additional checks and responsibilities to protect the country from an eternal round of expansions and contractions, apparent prosperity and real distress, sometimes leading to the temporary subversion of the currency established by the Constitution. It is not banks to which they are hostile, but bank abuses.
3. It is objected that the Independent Treasury would expose the public money to be misused and applied to private purposes. It would seem impossible to devise a system under which the public money could be applied to more mischievous purposes than it has been under the bank deposite system. Where were the many millions of public money when the banks stopped payment in May last ? They were lent out to the presidents and directors of the banks, their friends, and their customers. Instead of being employed for public purposes, or even in promoting the agriculture, manufactures, and commerce of the country, they were instrumental in putting on foot speculation in city lots, new towns, public lands, stocks, produce, and merchandise --speculations injurious to public morality and fatal to the best interests of society. A more wholesale misapplication and misuse of the public money it is impossible to conceive. The Independent Treasury would put an end to this enormous abuse. The keepers of the public moneys, under such a system, would not only be under heavy bonds, but would even be subject to fine and imprisonment for using or lending them for any purpose whatsoever, except to pay the appropriations of Congress. If the same latitude were allowed to them as heretofore has been to the banks; if they were permitted to use the money in their private business, or to lend it out and pocket the interest; if they were permitted to extend their own credit, and enter into all sorts of speculation upon the credit of the public, then, indeed, nothing but the most disastrous plundering of the Treasury could be expected. But it is to put an end to these very mischiefs that the Independent Treasury is proposed.
By whom is our revenue collected ? By the Collectors of the Customs, by Receivers of Public Moneys at the land offices, and by Postmasters. Into their hands the entire revenue of the Government now comes in the first instance. And are not they all Executive officers ? Is not the money while in their possession in the hands of the Executive ? Do they plunder and misapply it, their bonds notwithstanding, in a dangerous or destructive degree ?
Again: by whom are our public moneys disbursed ? By Paymasters, Pursers, Navy Agents, Postmasters, and other agents; all of whom are Executive officers. Do they misuse and misapply it, except in occasional instances of small importance ?
Every dollar of our revenue under the present and all former systems, is twice found in the hands of Executive officers, and subject to their control. Even when deposited in banks, it is, in the contemplation of law, in the custody of the Treasurer, who is an Executive officer. It is one of the Executive functions in every Government, to collect, keep, and disburse, the public moneys, according to the plans prescribed by the legislative power. In principle, banks might as well be employed to collect the taxes and disburse them, as to keep the money during any portion of the intermediate time. If it cannot be safe in other hands than those of banks, why let it go into other hands at all ? Why not employ the banks in every operation involving the public money ?
How would a bank figure as paymaster of an army, or purser of a ship, to prevent the public moneys being kept by Executive officers ? Would it be precisely safe, in the midst of a campaign or a voyage, to put the cash into the hands of those over whom the commanders had no control ? What if they should lend out the money to merchants and speculators, and then suddenly stop payment, and thus cut off all supplies ?
Our ship of State was recently under full sail, with banks for its purser. Unexpectedly, and without notice, they stopped payment, and the commander has had great difficulty to feed and pay his crew ever since. He now asks for a purser who will keep the money in good faith for the sole use of the ship's crew, instead of lending it out to traders or pirates. Is this wrong or unreasonable ?
4. It is further objected that the independent Treasury plan would, in a dangerous and alarming degree, extend the patronage and influence of the Executive.
Under the late system, there were about eighty deposite banks, with 80 presidents and 80 cashiers, about 600 directors, and about 10,000 stockholders, besides other officers. Here were about eleven thousand men whose pecuniary interests were directly affected by the action of the Executive. A deposite of twenty millions, on loan at six per cent, put into their pockets upwards of a million of dollars a year ! This the Executive could give or take away by increasing or diminishing the amount deposited in the several banks. The eagerness with which the public deposites were sought after by the banks, is sufficient evidence of the importance they attached to them. That they would incline to the support of those who threw business and money in their path, it requires no evidence to prove. Here was a direct pecuniary influence over an army of rich and powerful men, the effect of which, if adroitly managed by an administration disposed to make the most of it, it is impossible to calculate.
Nor is it possible to calculate the secondary influence over the customers and debtors of the banks which might be exerted through friendly presidents, directors, and officers, speaking well of the Executive which favored them, and making those with whom they dealt believe that to his policy they were indebted for accommodation and indulgence, they might greatly enlarge the sphere of his popularity, and secure to his interests the whole corps of bank debtors, as well as their presidents, directors, other officers, stockholders, and customers.
How is it with the proposed Independent Treasury ? Most of the agents which would be employed are already public officers, and as much under the control of the Executive as they can be. Three or four Receivers of Public Moneys, and perhaps a dozen clerks, would be the entire additional force added to the Executive Department. This is the whole accession to Executive patronage, so much dreaded and deprecated. If their influence were as great, individually, as that of the presidents and directors of the eighty banks, it may safely be left to the people to determine whether, in the aggregate, it would not be immeasurably less. Between the Independent Treasury and the Deposite Banks, there is the same difference that there would be between a man sitting upon a money chest, sternly defending its precious contents against an eager multitude, and one sitting by such a chest open, and distributing its contents with smiling face and ready hand to all who asked the "accommodation." It is proposed to impose heavy penalties on any Executive officer who may lend or use the public money, whereas the banks want it for no other purpose. The difference of the influence exerted in sternly keeping money and kindly lending it, is not difficult of comprehension. Does any man believe the Executive will obtain more influence and power by the appointment of four Receivers and a few clerks, than he could by employing the eighty banks and conciliating eight hundred ? If the President were seeking to extend his influence by operating on the private interests of men, he has resorted to the wrong means. The absurdity of the charge is evinced by the fact, that this very bank influence which he refuses to purchase, is boldly held up by those who make it, as the power which is to destroy him --all the patronage of an Independent Treasury notwithstanding !
5. It is further objected, that the Independent Treasury system would withdraw the specie of the country from circulation, place it under the control of the Executive, take away the basis on which the banks sustain their circulation, and fatally affect the credit system of the country.
If Congress raise no more by taxes than is necessary for the current wants of the Government, the amount of specie on hand at any one time could not exceed four or five millions of dollars. Although the annual revenue may be twenty or thirty millions, it will, if not greater than the necessary disbursements, be paid out as fast as it is paid in; and the amount on hand need be only enough to enable the Government to carry on its business with convenience and safely. The United States Bank has frequently had on hand for considerable periods, ten to fifteen millions of dollars in specie, and all the banks are in the habit of retaining large sums; yet nobody complains. Why are there not loud complaints that the banks needlessly shut up millions of specie from the uses of the community ? It is because every body knows that a considerable sum of money on hand is necessary to enable them to sustain their credit and carry on their operations. Why, then, should any one complain if the Government does the same thing, and for the same purposes ? It does not propose to keep specie for the purpose of hoarding it, but for the purpose of expending it --not for the purpose of withholding it from the community, but for the purpose of returning it in disbursements --not for the purpose of impairing the credit of banks, but of sustaining its own. Is it any cause of just complaint that the Government, or a bank, or an individual, should keep money enough on hand to meet claims daily presented, and carry on business without embarrassment ? But if any fears are really entertained of a mischievous accumulation of specie in the Treasury, they can be readily obviated, by providing for its investment in State stocks.
How is the Independent Treasury an attack on the credit of banks ? Does it propose to take from them any of their privileges, or any of their capital ? No: it proposes to leave them just as they are, and just as the States choose to make them. It proposes to permit them to issue their notes, to pass them upon every body who is willing to take them; to use their credit and capital without let, hindrance, or control from the General Government. It will not be maintained that the banks have any right to the deposites of the Government or individuals, or have a right to require the Government or individuals to take their notes. Every individual in the community has a right not to keep his money in bank; and he has a right not to receive bank notes. For the exercise of these undoubted rights he ought not to be censured, or charged with attacking the credit of the banks. So it is with the Government. To maintain its own credit under all vicissitudes, it proposes to keep its own money, and deal in its own currency. This is a measure of precaution and safety for itself, and not an act of hostility to the banks. If they manage their affairs prudently, they will have credit; if not, they will lose it. If they cannot maintain their own credit, they ought to have none; and the Government would do a wrong to the people, by attempting to give them any.
"The credit system" is a very indefinite phrase. If it be intended to impute to the Administration a design to subvert credit in general, by the Independent Treasury plan, the charge has no foundation in fact. The only object is to withdraw the public money from the credit system --to prevent its being used as bank capital --to prevent its being loaned out for the profit of banks --to prevent its being exposed to the hazards of private speculation and bank management, and to keep it to pay the debts and expenses of the Government, the purposes for which the people pay it into the Treasury. Its effect would be to put an end to a gross abuse of the credit system, in lending out the people's money for private gain, thus hazarding its safety, and violating the spirit of the Constitution. What would be said, if it were discovered that collectors of the customs, receivers of public moneys, or postmasters, were lending out the public money in their hands to their friends to speculate upon, and pocketing the interest themselves ? They would be denounced through the country as guilty of a gross abuse, for which they ought to be signally punished. Yet the principle is the same, whether the public money be lent out by one keeper or another; by individuals or corporations; by collectors of the customs or banks. It is an application of the public funds to private uses.
And would a collector or a postmaster find any justification in saying, that to keep the money on hand would be an attack on "the credit system"? that it would be an improper shutting up and hoarding the specie of ihe country? that it would be an attack upon the banks ? He might be laughed at for his folly, or stared at for his impudence; but would receive little credit for his fidelity or his patriotism. Yet his reasons would be just as good as those of the same character adduced against the Independent Treasury.
6. It is further objected, that to dispense with banks altogether in the keeping of the public money, is to make "one currency for the Government and another for the people" --a "patrician" currency and a "plebeian" currency.
This objection comes with a bad grace from those who assume to be the special friends of the banks. It has originated since the stoppage of specie payments. The legal currency of the United States --the people's currency, the currency established by the Constitution and protected by the laws-- is gold and silver. Although the States may establish banks, they can make nothing but gold and silver a tender in payment of debts. All the laws of the United States and of the several States recognise that currency; the courts of justice all give their judgments payable in that currency. It is emphatically the people's currency, established by their Constitution, confirmed by their laws, and protected by their courts of justice. The banks are authorized to issue notes only upon condition that they shall pay them on demand in that currency.
But the banks having, by the indulgence of the people, filled the country with their notes, thrust them into every man's hands, and caused them to supersede the people's currency almost entirely, suddenly stop payment with over a hundred millions of dollars in circulation. The people who are the holders of this currency, and generally have no other, are obliged, in consequence of this general violation of law by the banks, to use it for a time, contrary to their wishes and will. It is absurd to say that they prefer a paper dollar, at ten per cent discount, to a silver dollar; or a ten dollar note, worth nine dollars, to a golden eagle. The people are not so simple. But individuals not being able, single-handed, to resist this violation of their rights, submit unwillingly to the loss and inconvenience, and fall, one after another, into the habit of using for a currency the depreciated bank notes. And the banks having thus, in violation of the Constitution and laws, and of the will of the people, forced their notes upon them to the exclusion of the legal currency, now turn round and say, "behold! depreciated bank notes are the currency of the people, and the Government should look for nothing better!" That is to say, "having imposed our notes on the people, substantially as a tender in payment of debts, contrary to the Constitution, and in violation of the laws, the Government ought to acquiesce in the usurpation, and be content to see its fundamental principles overthrown and trampled in the dust !"
The people created the Government to protect them, as far as possible, against wrong and outrage. They have, by their Constitution and laws, established gold and silver as the only legal currency of the land. They hare sworn every public officer to obey the laws, and to protect and defend the Constitution. The public officers could not recognise bank notes as the currency of the Government without being guilty of perjury. In refusing to receive them, they were true to their oaths to obey the laws, and protect and defend the Constitution. But if there had been no such oath, public duty would have required the same course. The Government had promised to pay all contractors, and others engaged in the public service, in the legal currency of the United States. The public faith could not be maintained without collecting from the debtors of the Government the money to pay its creditors. As in consequence of the stoppage of the banks, nothing could be legally paid but gold and silver, so no other currency could be received. Had the officers of Government, therefore, been disposed to receive the bank paper for public dues, they could not do so because they were prevented by the Constitution and laws of the land, by their oaths of office, and by their obligations to preserve the public faith inviolate.
But it was essential that resistance should commence somewhere to the attempt to subvert our fundamental laws, and impose on the country, for an indefinite and unknown period, an irredeemable paper currency. Single individuals were not strong enough to raise their arms against the overwhelming power with which the foundations of morality and law were suddenly assailed. It became the General Government, whose example and whose influence were likely to have great weight, to raise the standard of correct principle, commence the resistance to this demoralizing innovation, and aid in restoring to the people their legal and constitutional currency. The object was not to establish a better currency for the Government and a worse for the people, but to restore to the people the better currency, of which they had been wrongfully and illegally deprived. It was to secure to the people and Government both, that currency which was established by the Constitution, and promised to be protected by the laws and the courts of justice. It was, instead of subjecting the Government to the wrongs the people suffered, to deliver the people from these wrongs, and restore to them their lost rights. It was to make the Government and people equal as to the currency; to secure to both the same currency --the currency which finds its basis in the Constitution, and is essential to fair trade and honest dealing. This was not the equality which the Federalists wanted. Instead of raising the people up, they would pull the Government down. Instead of restoring their rights to the people, they would make both Government and people the victims of a common wrong. Instead of placing them on an equality of right, they would place them on an equality of wrong. This is what they mean when they charge the Administration with seeking to have one currency for the Government, and another for the people. They mean that the Government and people should both be compelled to take depreciated bank notes. The difference between the Administration and its opponents, is this:
The Administration insists that the Government and people shall have the same currency, and that it shall be gold and silver or their equivalent, as provided by the Constitution and laws of the land.
Its opponents insist that the Government and the people shall have the same currency, and that it shall be depreciated bank notes and worthless shin-plasters, in violation of the Constitution and laws, in subversion of the public faith, and in derogation of all moral principle.
Let those who raise this cry of a better currency for the Government, and a worse for the people, come out and tell us what they mean. Bank notes redeemable in gold and silver, they tell us, are a better currency than the gold and silver themselves. If the notes be redeemable, and the Government do not take them, and the people do, the people, according to these gentlemen's theory, will have the better currency, and the office holders the worse. They cannot mean, therefore, that to give the office holders specie, and the people redeemable bank notes, is to give the former a better currency than is enjoyed by the latter. What then do they mean by this catch-word ? Do they mean, that the people are forever to have no other currency than irredeemable bank notes and miserable shin-plasters ? Is it to make the people forget their constitutional and legal rights, and be forever content to take for a currency, whatever paper may be thrown out by broken banks and bankrupts of all sorts, that these men wish to force the Government to receive this abominable trash ? Having crammed it down the throats of the people, do they wish to make them content with their situation, by cramming it down the throat of the Government also ? We have forced the people to submit to a violation of the Constitution and laws, sound policy and moral honesty --why should not the Government submit also ? See! the people will submit forever to have a depreciated and fraudulent currency --why should not the Government submit also ? This is in substance the language of certain politicians.
If this cry be not wholly insincere and hypocritical, those who utter it are striving to impose on the people forever, or at least for an indefinite period, a depreciated paper currency, and to force the Government into their policy. Instead of making the Government and people equal, by restoring a currency of specie or its equivalent, they would make them equally the recipients of irredeemable and fraudulent paper. Which platform of equality will the people stand upon ? Will they have a currency of specie or its equivalent? or, will they be content with irredeemable bank notes and shin-plasters, and compel the Government to receive and pay them out also ? They will answer these questions at the polls.---[the people did answer that question at the next election, in 1840, and voted for themselves a federalist majority in the House, in the Senate, and a Whig President, too. So much for the people and their ability to recognize what is good for them.]
Objects of the Opposition.
Both the Independent Treasury and special deposites are condemned by the entire Federal party; but not more strongly than by certain individuals who claim to belong to the Republican party. The true object is disclosed with sufficient clearness in some of the resolutions adopted at a recent assemblage of some of these individuals in New York. Of the Independent Treasury and a special deposite, they say "both contemplate the same odious principle of hoarding the precious metals and shutting them out from circulation among the community to whom they rightfully belong," &c. The meaning of this can not be misunderstood. The Government must not keep its own money on hand although it has no use for it ! The Constitution says, "no money shall be drawn from the Treasury but in pursuance of appropriations made by law." These gentlemen say, that to keep the public money in the Treasury is "hoarding the precious metals," and out it must come, appropriation or no appropriation ! Out it must come, because it "belongs" to the "community." One would suppose that its belonging to the community would be a conclusive reason why it should not come out until wanted for public purposes. It is for no such purposes that these men insist that it shall come out, nor is it for the benefit of any other community than that of banks and borrowers. Translated into plain English, this declaration means that the Government should lend out the public money for private uses, and lest it should be too shameless an operation to do it directly, they insist that it shall be put into banks for that purpose. It would be a crime for the Secretary of the Treasury or the Treasurer to lend out the public money; but the banks may loan precisely the same money without impropriety or censure ! Public officers cannot draw it from the Treasury without an appropriation, but the banks may give it out to whom they please !!
On this point the whole controversy turns. The struggle of the peculiar advocates of the banks is, to get the public money for private uses ! This, and nothing else, when stripped of all disguises, is what they want. The banks want it to lend out, and their friends want to borrow it ! This is the substance of the whole controversy. All other considerations, so constantly introduced, and so zealously urged, are mere make-weights, to aid in arriving at the main object. The banks are not content to lend their own capital two or three times over, but they want the public money to lend also. The speculators are not content to borrow all the capital of the banks, all their private deposites, and all their credit, but they want the money in the United States Treasury also ! To deny it to them, they call
an attack on State institutions;
hostility to banks;
experimenting upon the currency;
the destruction of the credit system;
abominable, intolerable, and diabolical !!!
Just give them the use of the public money, and all is sunshine, freedom, prosperity, and happiness ! I beg every dispassionate man to consider, whether this is not the only principle for which certain Conservative Democrats in New York and elsewhere appear to be contending.
With the Federal party it is otherwise. Amidst their shouts of triumph after the late New York elections, some of them had the honesty and the boldness to denounce our free institutions, and advocate a hereditary Chief Magistrate and a restricted suffrage. To wrest the controlling power from the people by direct means, is impossible; but it may be possible by circumvention. We see that the power which controls the currency sits enthroned in Philadelphia and New York. Give the banks the public moneys, and that power has hold of the sinews of the Government, and can control the destinies of the country. If they be given to a national bank, then some Nicholas Biddle becomes, like Cæsar, emperor or sole monarch of the land, with the pageant of a Republic at his heels; if to the State banks, then the supreme dominion is in the leading men of those institutions in Philadelphia and New York. The objects of the ancient Federalists will then have been accomplished in devising a plan to take the control of the Government out of the hands of the people, and place it in the hands of a few rich men, bankers and brokers. A Federal monarchy, in the shape of a National Bank, a conservative oligarchy in the shape of State banks, and both dependent on a foreign power; or a representative Republic, in the shape of an Independent Treasury, controlled by public officers responsible to the people, are the alternatives which are now presented for adoption.
On the choice now to be made may depend the character of our Government, if not its existence, the progress of liberal principles, and freedom itself.
There never was an Administration, the members of which devoted themselves more industriously and honestly to the discharge of their public duties, and yet none has ever been more violently or incessantly assailed.
Usurpation! violation of law! disregard of the Constitution! have been rung through the land. By whom ? By men who are applauding and supporting banks, for openly and notoriously setting the Constitution and laws at defiance, and abusing the members of the Administration for sternly refusing to become their coadjutors !
Corruption! corruption! has been a continual cry. Whence does it arise ? From presses and men who have received their thousands and tens of thousands from the Bank of the United States and other banks, to secure their personal service and legislative assistance. If corruption could have reached General Jackson, do you think we should ever have heard of the veto ? If the friends who stood by him in the removal of the deposites could have been bought by bank accommodations and gratuities, do you think that step would ever have been taken ? If mercenary considerations could reach the present Administration, do you believe we should ever hear of an Independent Treasury ? The means of corruption, the disposition to corrupt, and the actual corruption, are all on the other side. Signal instances have been exhibited to the community, and the recipients of the vile bribes are the loudest in charging the Administration with corruption !
Inconsistency! inconsistency! is another war-cry. Because the friends of the Administration were in favor of depositing the public funds in State banks when they were in good credit, and were believed competent to the public duties they undertook, and are opposed to it now when they they have proved their utter incompetency --have violated all their legal and contract obligations --have stopped payment in mass in a time of profound peace, and thrown upon the country a depreciated paper currency, and one after another are acknowledging their inability to pay their promises even in the promises of their neighbors --after all this it is, that the friends of the Administration are charged with inconsistency ! The ground on which they stood has been swept away by a flood, and yet they are charged with inconsistency because they do not stand upon it ! The house in which they took shelter, has been overthrown by an earthquake; yet they are stigmatized because they abandon it ! The boat in which they embarked, has burst her boilers; yet they are taunted with inconsistency, because they decline another trip in the same boat with the same boilers ! There was no hostility to the banks in the Administration. It never asked or expected their political support, nor deprecated their political hostility. It looked upon them as public agents, to be encouraged and sustained as long as they faithfully performed their public duties, and to be discountenanced and discharged when they failed. Their failure has been general, complete, and overwhelming.
The friends of the Administration propose to let them go their way in peace, and try the only remaining alternative short of a Bank of the United States. Although they may once have preferred the State banks to an Independent Treasury, is there any inconsistency in preferring the latter to a Bank of the United States ? If they once preferred sound State banks to an Independent Treasury, is there any inconsistency in preferring the latter to broken State banks ? Every honest Democrat who joins in this imputation of inconsistency, is unwittingly promoting the cause of the Bank of the United States. A moment's reflection will show him, that the Administration did not abandon the State banks until they had made it impossible longer to employ them, by suspending specie payments. They are guilty of the same inconsistency as when they employ an individual in the public business, thinking him well qualified and honest, and discharge him when proved, by experiment, to be totally unfit for the service.
There are many other allegations against the Administration, which are equally destitute of candor and truth; but I have not time to expose them. We are told that they have greatly increased the public expenditures, when millions upon millions have been appropriated by Congress and required to be expended by law, which the Executive never asked for or wanted. The increase of the ordinary expenditures within the last nine years has not kept pace with the increase of population, and the extension of our settlements. Nearly the whole real increase has been in the unsolicited appropriations, and certain unusual incidents, such as the Florida war and the removal of the Indian tribes. But if the Administration is to be charged with the whole expenditure, ought it not to have credit for the whole income ? Ought it not to have credit for the immense augmentation of revenue which enabled it to pay off the public debt, meet the extraordinary appropriations, and deposite thirty-seven millions with the States ? The Federalists make no entries on the credit side of the amount.
In fine, there never was a time when more wanton and atrocious misrepresentation was resorted to, for the purpose of destroying the Republican party, and bringing Federalism into power. The best men are most abused, and the purest actions are the most strongly condemned. It is the whole study of a powerful party in Congress, not to do the public business, but to break down the Administration, and put up another in league with the money power, and then to organize that power in the charter of a mammoth National Bank. If they shall succeed, and shall thus bring the control of the whole money and credit system into an alliance with the Executive of the United States, then indeed may the States begin to tremble for their independence, and the people for their liberties. Consolidated into one great empire, and groaning under the galling chains of unmitigated despotism, practised under the forms of a republic, the people of the States will look in vain for another Andrew Jackson of incorruptible integrity, fearless intrepidity, and unbending devotion to liberty, to break the fatal alliance, and set his country free. When the banks of New York stopped payment, troops were called out to awe the people, lest one lawless act should be avenged by another; and after the late Federal triumph was achieved in that State, it was celebrated by feastings, rejoicings, and a million of guns ! This is a shadowing forth of what may be expected, when all the powers of the Government shall be made subservient to banks, speculators and stockjobbers, who consider the people as the farmer does his horses or his oxen, the mere instruments and means by which they are to get rich.
Republicans! a severe conflict is impending. Ultra Federalism, the ancient enemy of Democracy, after creeping stealthily along for almost forty years, and assuming numberless disguises, is again in the field, bold, confident and mendacious. It is not to be conquered but by industry, firmness and perseverance. Let every Republican, however high or humble, devote himself, in the most appropriate and efficient manner, to the cause of truth, justice and liberty; the cause for which Washington toiled and Montgomery bled. Let each aid in promoting free discussion, in disseminating information within his own circle, in enabling the people to understand the principles in contest, to arrive at just conclusions, and give them effect at the polls. So shall the present outbreaking of Federalism be repressed, and the blessings of a pure representative Government secured to another generation.