Thursday, September 14, 1837.
A BILL imposing additional duties as depositories, in certain cases, on public officers.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the Treasurer of the United States, the treasurers of the Mint and its branches, all collectors of the customs, and surveyors acting in that capacity, all receivers of public money, and post-masters, be, and they are hereby, required to keep safely, without loaning or using, all the public money collected by them, or otherwise at any time placed in their possession, till the same is ordered by the proper department to be transferred or paid out; in which cases, the transfers and payments shall be faithfully made by them as directed, and all other duties performed as fiscal agents, which may be imposed by this or former acts of Congress, or by any regulation of the Treasury Department made in conformity thereto.
Sec. 2. And be it further enacted, That all marshals, district attorneys and others having public money to pay over, and all patentees wishing to make payment to the United States, may make the same to the Treasurer in this city, or to the Mint and its branches, when near or convenient; and, when not, may deposite the same with such collector, receiver, or other depository, as may be more conveniently situated, and may be selected for that purpose by the Secretary of the Treasury.
Sec. 3. And be it further enacted, That whenever the public money in the possession of any depository, by collection, transfer, or payment, shall be inconveniently situated for public use, or shall accumulate so as to exceed the amount of the existing bond of any such officer, any part of it or the excess (as the case may be) shall either be drawn out for payments, or be transferred elsewhere to some other depository; or the Secretary of the Treasury shall require such additional security as may be considered proper and safe; and in the mean time, bonds, new and suitable in their terms, shall in all cases, at as early a day as possible after the passage of this act, be required of all depositories, in such sums and form as may be deemed reasonable and secure by the Solicitor of the Treasury, for the performance of all the duties required under the same or any previous laws.
Sec. 4. And be it further enacted, That the said officers, respectively may be allowed any necessary additional expenses for clerks, fire-proof chests, or vaults, or other necessary expenses of safe-keeping, transferring, and disbursing said moneys; all such expenses, of every character, to be first expressly authorized by the Secretary of the Treasury, whose directions upon all the above subjects, by way of regulation and otherwise, are to be strictly followed by all the said officers.
Sec. 5. And be it further enacted, That the Secretary of the Treasury shall be, and he is hereby, authorized to cause examinations to be made of the books, accounts, and money on hand, of the several officers charged by this act with the safe-keeping, transfer, and disbursement of the public moneys; and for that purpose to appoint special agents, as occasion may require, with such reasonable compensation as he may allow, to be fixed and declared at the time of each appointment; which said examinations, in all cases where the sum on hand usually exceeds three-fourths of the amount of the officer's bond, shall not be made less frequently than once in each year, and as much more frequently, in those and all other cases, as the Secretary, in his discretion, shall direct. The agents selected to make these examinations shall be instructed to examine as well the books, accounts, and returns of the officer, as the money on hand, and the manner of its being kept, to the end that uniformity and accuracy in the accounts, as well as safety to the public moneys, may be secured thereby.
Sec. 6. And be it further enacted, That, in addition to the examinations provided for in the last preceding section, as a further guard over the public moneys, it shall be the duty of each naval officer and surveyor, as a check upon the collector of the customs of their respective districts; of each register of a land office, as a check upon the receiver of his land office; and of the director and superintendent of each mint and branch mint, as a check upon the treasurers, respectively, of the said mints, at the close of each quarter of the year, and as much more frequently as they shall be directed to do so by the Secretary of the Treasury, to examine the books, accounts, returns, and money on hand, of the collectors, receivers, and treasurers, and to make a full, accurate, and faithful return to the Treasury Department of their condition.
Sec. 7. And be it further enacted, That the Secretary of the Treasury shall, with as much expedition as the convenience of the public business and the safety of the public funds will permit, withdraw the balances remaining with the late and present depositories of the public moneys, and confine the safe-keeping, transfer, and disbursement of those moneys to the depositories established by this act.
Sec. 8. And be it further enacted, That, for the payment of the expenses authorized by this act, a sufficient sum be, and the same is hereby, appropriated, to be paid out of any money in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated.
Sec. 9. And be it further enacted, That all officers charged by this act with the safe-keeping, transfer, and disbursement of the public money, are hereby required to keep an accurate entry of each sum received, and of the kind of money in which it is received, and of each payment or transfer, and of the kind of currency in which they are made; and that if any one of the said officers shall convert to his own use, in any way whatsoever, or shall use by way of investment in any kind of property or merchandise, or shall loan with or without interest, any portion of the public moneys entrusted to him for safe-keeping, disbursement, transfer, or for any other purpose, every such act shall be deemed and adjudged to be an embezzlement of so much of the said moneys as shall be thus taken, converted, invested, used, or loaned, which is hereby declared to be a high misdemeanor; and any officer or person convicted thereof before any court of the United States of competent jurisdiction, shall be sentenced to imprisonment for a term of not less than two, nor more than five, years, and to a fine equal to the amount of the money embezzled.
The Independent Treasury
Speech of Senator Perry Smith,
in the Senate, February 14, 1838.
Mr. Smith [(1783-1852) studied law, admitted to the bar] said, that the course pursued by those who were opposed to the bill under consideration, in execrating and denouncing it in unmeasured terms, before it had been discussed, and even before it had been presented for discussion, induced him to believe that they were conscious they could not sustain themselves by a fair investigation of the subject, and by argument, in the position they had taken in relation to the measure; or that they held in utter contempt the capacity and understanding of the people, who were, in his estimation, fully competent to judge correctly of all public measures affecting their rights and interest, and so well and so correctly had all the great disturbing and important questions affecting the Government, and the interest of the people, by which they had been agitated more or less, ever since the formation of the Government, that no one need to doubt the correctness of their decision in this case; and on whose decision alone, the measure is finally to depend. The people of the United States were early divided in opinion, as to the form of Government which would be most likely to secure to them, their persons, property, and personal rights, and the greatest degree of happiness; which is a natural consequence of a free Government; and they have been, and still are also divided in opinion, as to the administration of the Government; and it is reasonable to suppose that such divisions will always exist, while the people are left free to discuss all such questions as affect their several rights; and though many abuses grow out of the privilege of a full and free discussion, yet without it, the rights of the citizens would be so curtailed as hardly to be worth preserving.
Mr. Smith said he would ask the indulgence of the Senate to read some extracts from letters written by Mr. Jefferson, and by Colonel Hamilton, to General Washington, upon the subject of our Government then in its infancy, which were both written on the same day, the 9th of September, 1792, in which their views were expressed in relation to the form of Government, in their opinion, the best calculate to promote the general interest of the people of the United States. Those two eminent statesmen were, at that early period of our Government, arrayed against each other, each developing the principles of his favorite Government, and each endeavoring to impress upon the American people the advantages they would derive from the Government he was proposing for their adoption. Extract from Mr. Jefferson's letter.
"No man in the United States, I suppose approved of every tittle in the Constitution; no one, I believe, approved more of it than I did; and more of it was certainly disapproved of by my accuser than by me, and of its parts most vitally republican. Of this the few letters I wrote on the subject, (not half a dozen I believe,) will be a proof; and for my own satisfaction, and justification, I must tax you with the reading of them when I return to where they are. You will then see that my objection to the Constitution was, that it wanted a bill of rights, securing freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom from standing armies, trial by jury, and a constant habeas corpus act. Colonel Hamilton's was, that it wanted a King and a House of Lords. The sense of America has approved my objection, and added the bill of rights, not the King and Lords. I also thought a longer term of service, insusceptible of renewal, would have made a President more independent. My country has thought otherwise, and I have acquiesced implicitly. He wished the General Government should have power to make laws binding the States in all cases whatsoever. Our country has thought otherwise. Has he acquiesced ? .... My whole correspondence while in France, and every word, letter, and act on the subject, since my return, prove that no man is more ardently intent to see the public debt soon and sacredly paid off than I am. This mostly makes the difference between Colonel Hamilton's views and mine: that I would wish the debt paid to-morrow; he wishes it never to be paid, but always to be a thing wherewith to corrupt and manage the Legislature."
Extract from Colonel Hamilton's letter [to George Washington, Philadelphia, September 9, 1792.]:
"But when I no longer doubt that there was a formed party, deliberately bent upon the subversion of measures which, in its consequences, would subvert the Government; when I saw that the undoing of the funding system in particular, (which, whatever may be the original merits of that system, would prostrate the credit and the honor of the nation, and bring the Government into contempt with those descriptions of men, who are in every society the only firm supporters of Government,) was an avowed object of the party; and that all possible pains were taking to produce that effect, by rendering it odious to the body of the people, I considered it as a duty to endeavor to resist the torrent; and, as an effectual means to this end, to draw aside the veil from the principal actors. To this strong impulse, to this decided conviction, I have yielded. And I think events will prove that I have judged rightly."
Mr. Smith said it was in the principles of these two able statesmen, that the political parties of this day may look for their origin. The Federal party followed Colonel Hamilton, and embraced his political principles, and the Democratic party followed Mr. Jefferson, and embraced his political principles. Mr. Smith said it was in this funding system, invented by Colonel Hamilton as a part of the machinery he had designed for the operation of the Government, that the first United States Bank had its origin; and in which many of that class of men (the wealthy,) designated by Colonel Hamilton as being "the only firm supporters of Government," laid the foundation of princely fortunes, by purchasing up the securities, at two shillings and sixpence in the pound, of the soldiers who had sacrificed their property, and worn themselves out in the service of their country, and by whose labor, toil, and sacrifices, the independence of our country had been achieved. Mr. Smith said that the political principles of each of the two great contending parties had been fully developed, and were now well understood by the people, and certain known landmarks had been established and defined, by which the course of either party may be determined by all whose interest may be affected in the administration of the Government; and one very important one was in the construction of the Constitution.
The Democratic party were for giving it a rigid and strict construction, while the Federal party were for giving it a loose and latitudinous construction. Mr. Smith said that the liberty which the Federal party had taken in construing the Constitution, and paramount law of our country, to suit their own principles, had entirely changed the character and power of our Government; it was in this fruitful source of construction that the United States Bank, internal improvements, high tariff, and vested rights in corporations, had their origin, none of which would ever have come into existence under the construction put upon the Constitution by the Democratic party.
Another important subject about which the parties materially differed, was the State banking system; the Democratic party being for diminishing the number of banks, and increasing their restrictions; and the Federal party being for increasing the number, and diminishing their restrictions. Another was, on a gold circulation; the Democratic party being for it, and the Federal party against it. Another was, on the increase of the specie circulation; the Democratic party being for it, and the Federal party being against it. Another was, on the resumption of specie payments by the banks; the Democratic party were for it, and the Federal party against it.
Mr. Smith said he thought the great body of the people of the United States must be as blind, stupid, and ignorant as the Federal party had always affected to consider them, if they were not able by this time to discover their transcendent virtue, superior intellect and attainments, and noble mien, if they really possessed them; for they had declared on all occasions, in private and in public, and at all times for more than forty years, certainly not from any unkind sentiment which they entertained towards the people, but purely with a view to impress upon them the important fact that they were wholly incapable of taking care of themselves, and that, unless they submitted themselves to their care and control, they would certainly be ruined. So common are their claims of superiority to be found in newspapers, that hardly one can be taken up without being greeted with one; one of which I have taken from a Pennsylvania paper, recently made by Judge Hopkinson in the State Convention, and which I will ask the indulgence of the Senate to read:
"Much had been said concerning the Federal party, but it was the intelligence of that party which formed the Government and which understood the Government; and his opinion was, that the Government never can be administered on any other principles than the Federal principles of Washington's administration. In times of trouble the intelligence of the prostrate Federal party has been called into action, and more than once has saved the country. When the torch of civil war was almost lighted in the South, that prostrate party stepped forward, and, by their intelligence, prevented the effusion of blood. Notwithstanding all the calumnies that have been uttered against the Federal party, yet they are always at their post in the hour of danger. Their principles are always invoked to rescue that country from difficulties when it is plunged therein by the rashness of their opponents. Thus, in times of difficulty they triumph, and they are now again coming into power ! I see [said he] some honest faces present, who are not ashamed to own themselves Federalists."
Mr. Smith said that we may come to a right result in endeavoring to weigh and duly to appreciate the unrestrained denunciations of the opponents of the bill, for arguments seem not to be brought into requisition, and to put a just estimate upon the predictions and prophecies so lavishly and profusely bestowed in regard to the measure, and that some aid may be derived by instituting a comparison between their professions of love for the people and their continual predictions of disastrous results, indiscriminately, of all the measures of the Democratic party for so many years, while the administration of the Government has devolved upon it, and their act, while in power, and the actual results of the Democratic administration of the Government for nearly forty years; and with that view he would take a retrospective glance at their proceedings, commencing with the first prominent acts of the elder Adams, who administered the Government in perfect accordance with the professed principles and notions of the Federal party; and their anxiety for the welfare of the people at that time was as strongly marked, and as clearly manifested, in their unqualified asseverations of love for them as now.
One of the first important acts was to raise a standing army; and what was this for ? Had we any war that the army was necessary for the defence of the nation ? None: it was to prevent the people they so dearly loved from destroying and ruining one another, who, in their estimation, were their own worst enemies, and were not only incapable of taking care of themselves, but would destroy each other without a strong guard to protect them. The expenses of a large army the people were obliged to pay from their daily earnings, and, for that purpose, almost every article of property they possessed was taxed, and, with the rest, the collectors' fees were to be paid, consuming, with the ordinary expenses of a family, all that a laboring man could earn; and of the necessity for this, the people were not permitted to judge, because the affairs of the Government were beyond their comprehension.
Another, and one of the most odious acts passed while the Federalists were in power, was the Sedition law, enacted to guard their public functionaries against the attack of the people, who were too exalted and sacred to be approached by the vulgar people with such frightful "huge paws." The people supposed those who ministered the Government were their agents, and ought to be accountable to them for their public acts, and that they ought to be permitted, under a Government, for the establishment of which they had left their homes, and all that was dear to them, and fought their enemies, internal and external, and had sacrificed their property and spilt their blood, to examine and scrutinize their conduct as public officers; with that freedom that belongs to freemen and citizens of a Republican Government; but here, again, the same party showed to the people their paternal care over them, by erecting a legal barrier between them and those in power, that they might administer the Government unmolestedly, and more beneficially for the people, according to their notions of the Divine right which they fancied they were favored with, to govern and rule them; and any one who dared to write or say any thing against the public officers, to prejudice or excite the people against them, were to be punished by a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars, and by imprisonment not exceeding two years.
The term of Adams was on the wane, and the poor Democrats had been so showered with the blessings of his administration of the Government, that they began to look around to see if they could find some candidate for the next Presidency, under whose administration they might expect the Government to "shower its favors alike on the high and the low, the rich and the poor," and their choice fell upon Mr. Jefferson; and the Federalists, with more resolution, zeal, and activity than they had ever before manifested, came forward to the rescue of the people, who were going to be instantaneously devoured, body and soul, by such a monster. All their energies and skill were united in defence of the poor, ignorant, misguided, and abused people; they were actually frantic in their vituperation and denunciation of the infidel. The institution of marriage was to be profaned; the Christian religion was to be defiled; the Holy Bible was to be destroyed; the house of worship was to be razed; all social happiness was to be banished; and the whole land was to be stained with the polluted hand of an idolater and debauchee; and how grieved they were that the stupid and demented people could not be roused to a sense of their danger when they had sacrificed so much, with no other motive than to save the people from destruction.
Yes, said Mr. Smith, these despised creatures, who afterwards won imperishable and unfading glory under the flag of the country, were not, in their estimation, worthy of consideration, and would have remained in bondage, to pine away and waste their lives in slavery on board of British ships, and been compelled to aid the enemies of their beloved country in their battles against it, had not the Democracy of the nation determined that no American citizen, however humble his condition, should be subjected to ignominy of oppression. Strong symptoms of an approaching war with Great Britain began to make their appearance, and to secure the property of the citizens from the grasp of the enemy, which seemed to excite the cupidity of the then mistress of the sea, a foretaste of which they already had, the embargo was laid upon the vessels at our wharves, and then the sympathies of the Federalists were again awakened to the interests of the merchants. They were going to be ruined, because they were not permitted to go to sea, until the Government could get prepared to protect them against the depredations and captures of an insidious enemy; and high-sounding notes of disaster and absolute ruin to the people were raised, because there would be no market for their surplus produce; and the people were warned to take care of themselves in season, by giving them the reins of Government, lest they should be ruined by such misrule and abuse of power, which the people had improvidently confided to the unworthy and blighting Democracy of the country.
Notwithstanding the alarm and philanthropic interference of these guardians of the people, these measures were meant to save them from their own destruction, and by a timely embargo, the result of wise and prudent counsels, the property was saved, and the people were not ruined.
At length war was declared against Great Britain, on which the air rang with their wailings, followed by their bitter execrations of such a detestable band of outlaws as the Democrats were, for bringing such a crisis upon the nation: nothing, they said, but disorganization, desolation and confusion, would mark the footsteps of the demagogues: the Government would be overthrown, and all would be prostrated and crushed beneath its ruins. The pious ministers of the Gospel seized the first opportunity, after war was declared, to send forth from the hallowed desk their denunciations of the measure in the most fervid and eloquent strains, and offering up their prayers for the miserable, besotted people, who were the victims of a venal and corrupt administration.
Mr. Smith said that the great interests and welfare of the people were at the bottom of their united efforts to awaken them to their forlorn condition in those days as well as these. He would ask the indulgence of the Senate, while he would read, as evidence of it, an extract or two from a discourse delivered by the Rev. David Osgood, D.D. pastor of the church in Medford, soon after the declaration of war:
"One hope only remains, that this last stroke of perfidy may open the eyes of a besotted people, that they may awake, like a giant from his slumbers, and wreak their vengeance on their betrayers, by driving them from their stations, and placing at the helm more skilful and faithful hands."
Another extract from the same discourse:
"A civil war becomes as certain as the events that happen according to the known laws and established course of nature."
This was one public discourse, said Mr. Smith, among thousands of others delivered by the clergy on the Lord's day at the eventful period, who seemed to consider it their duty to aid the Federal party in uprooting that greatest of all evils, the odious Democracy of our otherwise happy land. The newspapers groaned with their onerous vituperations, which they were bearing with great rapidity to the door of almost every man in the Republic. All was alarm, and all was consternation. And yet the good sense and intelligence of the people, so much overlooked and despised by their self-styled guardians, the Federalists, were manifested in their steady support of the administration of their choice of the Government.
The war was closed with more honor and glory to our happy Republic, than the most sanguine friends of it could have anticipated. The honor of the nation was saved, and the most honorable rank assigned her among the nations of the earth; and "free trade and sailor's rights" established; and hew did their vaunting opponents stand ? Let the page of history answer !
The transcendent talents, patriotism, and virtue of General Jackson, which had shone with such lustre during the war, had rendered him as popular with the Democracy as they had odious with the Federalists. He was selected and brought forward as a candidate for the Presidency by his Democratic friends. No man in the nation probably could have been selected who would have struck the Federalists with such dread. Their engines were again set to work to batter down the man whom the people had selected, and all out of regard for their happiness, considering them incapable of making a choice for themselves. He was represented as a perfect cannibal. Their subtle poison found its way to the peaceful fireside of the sage and patriot, and ere its ravages could be arrested, undermined and sapped the domestic happiness of the man who had saved his country from disgrace, and perhaps from ruin, and had won for it in the field imperishable laurels, and gained for himself the admiration of the world. He was elected by the people, notwithstanding the persecutions of the Federalists; and the invaluable benefits resulting from his administration are too deeply graven in the hearts of the American people to require delineation.
In 1832, the powerful and much cherished ally of the Federal party, the Bank of the United States, came before Congress for a renewal of its charter, and, by some means or other, received the sanction of both Houses, and was sent to President Jackson for his approval. The President disapproved the bill, and returned it to the Senate, in which it originated, with his reasons for his refusal to sign it; which were, that it was unconstitutional and inexpedient, and would be unjust to the people in its operation. Again, the same party attacked the President with as much violence and ferocity as they ever had done; and the gigantic power which the party, with its ally, the bank, were capable of wielding, the people were made to feel in its full plenitude. The whole nation was thrown into convulsions, and the aggrandizement of the party, through the bank, was wholly lost sight of, in their extreme anxiety felt for the suffering people, who were to be deprived of both money and credit, if the bank could not be rechartered.
President Jackson became satisfied that the public funds were being used by the Bank of the United States to oppress and harass the people, who were the rightful owners of the moneys; and to secure the people against such abuses, he advised the removal of them from the United States Bank to other banks, and thereafter to deposite no more of the public moneys in the Bank of the United States; and such was the course pursued by the Secretary of the Treasury, who coincided with the President in the propriety of the measure; and although the removal of the public moneys from one bank to another did, nor could, not diminish the quantity, nor vary the rights of the bank --for the bank had no more right to the use of the money than any individual, nor as much, because every individual contributed something toward the public funds, while the bank contributed nothing-- yet, from this simple and just act, the memorable panic of 1834 was raised, and the whole country was agitated and thrown into commotion. Ruinous was the measure to the Government and to individuals, was proclaimed by the Federal party; prostration and ruin to all business was confidently predicted would be the consequences; and so difficult was it for the people, even the best informed, to understand, without some time for investigation, the nature of the act, and so zealously, and vehemently, and perseveringly were their bodings, that the people were, for a time, disposed to pause, and to some extent give heed to them.
But how has it eventuated ? Just in that proportion as the interests of the great body of the people were advanced, the banks, speculators, and stock-jobbers, the vampires of the country, were depressed; and from them, and their agents only, the people, upon sober investigation of the subject, were enabled to determine, came this note of alarm.
The next important act, in which the peculiar love for the people of the Federal party was manifested, was the impeachment of President Jackson in the Senate of the United States; invading the province of the House of Representatives, and usurping their constitutional authority to prefer an impeachment to the Senate, whenever such an occasion should occur, who were, with the assistance of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, constituted a tribunal to impartially, under a judicial oath, try such impeachment. So intent was that party on securing and restoring to the people their rights, which they insisted had been shamefully and wantonly invaded by the President, that they could not, nor would not, wait for the House of Representatives to make the impeachment, if they should find cause for it, whose sole province it was that the Federal part of the Senate, being then a majority, preferred the impeachment against President Jackson to themselves, and proceeded immediately to trial, refusing to admit the President to a hearing, and passed sentence of condemnation against him --finding him guilty of the vague and undefined charges which they made against him. And what was the result of this rash and wicked proceeding ? Let the black lines which environ the ex parte judgement, as recorded upon the Senate journals, give the answer.
The election of President Van Buren, said Mr. Smith, was predicted by this party to be pregnant with such evil as to overwhelm this nation with disaster, and bring upon it disgrace and ruin; and again the deluded people are to suffer ignominy and shame for their stupidity and ignorance, and want of capacity to select for themselves a suitable person for Chief Magistrate.
And so alarmed, said Mr. Smith, had this party recently become for the people, that they had employed and sent missionaries from the far West, into the Eastern States, to enlighten them in the science of Government, and to warn them of the imminent danger they were in; under the misrule of President Van Buren, whose mal-administration had already been too obvious, they thought, not to be discovered even by the besotted people, without the aid of these shining lights from the West. And where do we find the principal theatre of action of these missionaries at the East ? Why, in the city of New York, located in the most splendid hotel in the city, from whence they issued their tickets at ten dollars each. Such of the people as were able, and disposed to pay that sum for the privilege of hearing their eloquence upon the ruinous condition of the country, and their pathetic appeal to them to unite with them in their efforts to reinstate the people to their long-lost rights, could have the privilege; and all others were excluded from the boon.
As they were missionaries sent out by the Federal party, they probably considered it unprofitable to irradiate the intellects of that class of benighted and vulgar beings described by the great financier of the Federal party, Nicholas Biddle, in his oration delivered at Nassau Hall, Princeton, New Jersey, into whose merciful hands the substitute offered by the Senator from Virginia [Mr. Rives] for the bill under consideration, is calculated to, and inevitably will, consign them; and therefore were disposed to shut them out, and to admit only such of the people as were described by Alexander Hamilton, in his letter to General Washington, of the 9th September, 1792, before alluded to, as being the only class of men "who are in every society the only firm supporters of Government." And, said Mr. Smith, that the people may understand the favorable estimation in which the great financier, Mr. Biddle, held them --who is to be their future protector if the substitute succeeds and is adopted-- he would ask the permission of the Senate to read an extract from the oration alluded to, in which they will find a mirror furnished by Mr. Biddle, in which they could have a perfect view of themselves, as depicted by the head of the Federal party.
"From your quiet elevation, watch quietly this servile route, as its triumph sweeps before you. The avenging hour will at last come: it cannot be that our nation will long endure the vulgar dominion of ignorance and duplicity: you will live to see the laws established. These banditti [the people] will be scourged back to their caverns; the penitentiary will reclaim its fugitives in office, and the only remembrance which history will preserve of them, is the energy with which you resisted and defeated them."
And, said Mr. Smith, while the Federal party, under different names, covering the same principles, who early lost the power, by abuse of it, which they held but a short time, to regain it, and again ingratiate themselves into the confidence of the people, have been denouncing, villifying, and abusing the Democracy, with all the opprobrious epithets that the vocabulary could furnish, for nearly forty years, and predicting, in every prominent measure of the Administration, destruction to the Government and ruin to the people, thirteen new States have been added to the Union, and settled with a thriving, happy people; and the nation, under the guidance of the Democratic party, with the fierce and ferocious assaults of the Federalists to encounter, has prospered, and increased in population, in improvements, and grown in wealth, far beyond any example furnished either in ancient or modern history.
Mr. Smith said it was not his purpose to complain in the least of the Opposition for the course which they had thought proper to pursue. His only object was, in presenting it to view, that there might be some criterion by which the people, whose interests were apparently so near to their hearts, could ascertain how much reliance was at this time to be placed upon the illimitable denunciations, in the absence of argument to sustain them, of the measure under consideration.
At last, said Mr. Smith, the Opposition have discovered an act more ruinous than a war with the most potent nation, and more odious than the sedition law, in the recommendation of President Van Buren to the people, of a simple and safe method to keep and take care of their own money, instead of confiding it to the care of faithless corporations, who, when they had got into their possession nearly thirty millions of dollars of the public money, shut their doors against them, and laughed to scorn every attempt of the people to withdraw it from their clutches; and, moreover, boasted of their power and disposition to block the wheels of Government, and bring to their feet the Government of the people, an humble suppliant.
Mr. Smith said the general principles of the bill before the Senate, he was satisfied with, and, if adopted, would accomplish all he desired, and that was, to separate the public treasure and business from the money and business of the banks, and of all individuals, and would gradually bring the currency to be received for the dues of the Government to the constitutional provision, and standard; and this, he had good reason to believe, would be entirely satisfactory to the people, and he was satisfied it was demanded by them. The Government then would have no cause of complaint from the conflicts arising from the intermingling of private business with the public, against the banks, or individuals connected with them; and as it has no power or control over them, they would have no right or just claims upon the Government to inspire them with the vital spark, which they, by their own constitutional infirmities, weakness, or folly in their management, had extinguished. Until he could hear some argument from the opponents of the bill, which would weaken his convictions of the soundness, and, as he deemed them, unanswerable reasons and arguments of the Senator from New York, [Mr. Wright,] in support of the bill, he had no wish to go into the details of it, to substantiate what, in his opinion, had been clearly proved, and no attempt by argument had been made to refute it. And all the remarks he felt disposed to make upon this part of the subject, would be designed to know the impropriety of depositing for safe-keeping the public money in banks, and with individuals, who were not constitutional or legal officers of the Government, and amenable to the people as such; and the unfitness of the circulating medium furnished by the banks, as a general currency.
That banks, established upon sound and correct principles, may furnish a commercial credit, or circulating paper, which might be useful, and highly beneficial, not only to the mercantile, but to other classes of men whose business occasionally requires additional and temporary capital, he was not disposed to deny.
Mr. Smith said that before he proceeded to suggest some of the reasons which operated on his mind to influence his vote against the substitute proposed by the Senator from Virginia, [Mr. Rives,] he would, briefly notice some of the prominent objections to the bill made by the Senator from Massachusetts, [Mr. Webster]. The Senator asks if a hostile army should invest the Capitol, and Government were to withdraw from the same, and leave the enemy without opposition, would not the Government shrink from its duty ? Would not the public functionaries separate themselves from their duty ? I answer, yes. And I ask the honorable Senator if a hostile army should not only invest the Capitol, but should set fire to it and burn it down, and the agents of the people --members of Congress-- were to refuse their aid in furnishing the necessary means to rebuild it, would not the public functionaries separate themselves from their duty ? And he would ask again: if a hostile army was upon our coast, watching an opportunity to invade our country, and while the faithful and patriotic people had left their homes, and gone to fight the enemy, Americans could be found among us base enough to give signal to the enemy, advising them of the most vulnerable and defenceless points for assault; that if Government were called upon for supplies to sustain our soldiers, while thus in the field defending our country, and Government should withdraw, and the public functionaries should refuse the aid required, would it not be separating themselves from their duty ?
The Senator [Mr. Webster] asks why is the Government discharged from taking care of the currency --the paper currency as well as the metallic currency ? I answer: because the Government has no control over it. Can the Government punish any man for debasing or counterfeiting it? or can the Government control or interfere with the expansion, contraction, or emission of it, any more than it can with the interests or business of any individual ? No one will pretend to this. And though it would seem as if the proposition was too self-evident to need supporting by authority, nevertheless he would read an extract from the opinion of Judge Marshall, in delivering the opinion of the court in the case of McCulloch vs. State of Maryland, 4 Wharton. 424:
"After this declaration it can scarcely be necessary to say, that the existence of State banks can have no possible influence on the question. No trace is to be found in the Constitution of an intention to create a dependence of the Government of the Union on those of the States for the execution of the great powers assigned to it. The means are adequate to its ends; and on these means alone was it expected to rely for the accomplishment of its ends."
"To impose on it the necessity of resorting to means which it cannot control, which another Government may furnish or withhold, would render its course precarious, the result of its measures uncertain, and create a dependence on other Governments, which might disappoint its most important designs, and is incompatible with the language of the Constitution."
The Senator [Mr. Webster] says the bill before us is evidence of such degeneracy in the Government as to carry us back to the days of barbarism, when barbarous and piratical powers kept their money in cells, vaults, and safes. It may seem barbarous to those who are in the habit of receiving their money by tens of thousands, instead of their fifty cents a day for hard labor; but those who earn their money by the sweat of their brow, I presume, do not consider it much evidence of barbarism or piracy to keep safe their money when earned. The same may be said of every man who keeps his money safe, and especially of him who keeps it from the grasp of the banker and speculator, that he is barbarous, and degenerating into a pirate. What will the Senator say of those merchants, many of whom are his particular friends, who keep their money in vaults and safes ? And what will the Senator say of his friends, the banks, which always keep their money in cells, vaults, and safes ? Are they barbarous ? If others are disposed to call them so, he presumed he is not.
The Senator [Mr. Webster] again manifests great sympathy for the people. This bill is going to separate the people from the Government, he says. If the Senator believes, as his propagandist, Mr. Hamilton, did, that the British Government was the most perfect Government on earth, Mr. Smith said he should suppose he [Mr. Webster] would consider it his duty to separate the Government from the people, as the British Government is wholly separated from the people.
The political power in England is lodged wholly in the Government, and not in the people, as it is here. The people there are denied the right or power to reform the Government, however illy it may be adapted to their wants, and which is never done by them, but by Parliament, and by that only when the people become so clamorous that they cannot be resisted. But when the Senator is so apprehensive that the bill will separate the Government from the people, he only makes the small mistake [Mr. Smith said he apprehended] of calling the banks the people. The banks are not yet the people, he believed. That the banks and the people are opposed to each other in regard to the measure, is too evident to require confirmation. The banks are opposed to the bill because, say the gentlemen, it will be their ruin; they can never resume specie payment if the bill passes. Then, if the bill passes, it will separate the Government from the banks, but not from the people.
Mr. Smith said he desired to know how this bill could separate the Government from the people. The Government is the Government of the people, formed and constituted by them, and is wholly under their control, and may be altered, changed, or annihilated at their pleasure; and if any improper act --one which does not meet their approbation-- is done by their servants, the public officers, contrary to their will, they will displace them, and substitute others in their places, as they did when the Senate undertook to impeach the President. Mr. Smith said, if the bill is of such a character, as to dissatisfy the people, and induce them to recall their agents, and supply, their place with others of different principles, he should think it would suit the Opposition the better, as it might be the means of carrying them into power, and putting the Democrats out, who are abusing their trust so much, as to separate the people from their Government.
The Senator [Mr. Webster] asks, without the aid of Government, how can the banks resume specie payments ? If they cannot, or will not, what better evidence is wanted of their unworthiness and unfitness to be the depositories of the public money ? They clutched all the public money, shut their doors, and now tell the Government, unless it will still have confidence in them, and trust them again with the money of the Government, they cannot pay the Government what they now owe it, nor even individual creditors either. If an individual was to borrow money from his neighbor, shut himself up, and tell his friend he could not, nor never would, pay him what he already owed him, unless he would trust him more, what would be the course of his friend ? He would probably say, he would rather lose what he had already let him have, than more with it; and if his disposition was such as to cheat him out of what he had already borrowed of him, it probably would not be changed for the better by a future loan.
Mr. Smith said he would now proceed to assign such reasons as suggested themselves to his mind, why the banks should not be made the depositories of the public money. The people of the United States formed for themselves a Government, with such powers as to them seemed most likely to secure to them their social rights; and one important provision in the Constitution of their Government was, that all their officers who participated in the administration of the Government, should act under the solemnities of an oath; and this, in addition to their immediate accountability to the people for the faithful performance of their duty, was considered important, especially in taking care of the public revenue. The people, then, have a right to have their money in the hands of those who are not only officers of the Government, but to have superadded an official oath, for their faithful performance of the duties assigned them. Have the people this constitutional security from the depositories of their money ? Certainty not. So far from it, that any men, however profligate and base, may constitute the corporate body, whether citizens of the United States or of foreign Governments, and whose hostility to our free institutions may be deadly, or however corrupt and base they may be; and we are not without recent examples in bank officers of corruption and baseness of the most flagitious character. Have the people ever authorized their agents to place their money in the hands of others than officers of the Government ? Certainly not. By what authority, then, is it that their money is placed in the banks, and beyond the control of the Government, for safe keeping, if it is not with their consent ?
Mr. Smith said this he was yet to learn. To make the banks depositories of the public money is as partial and unjust between the banks, and does to that portion of them which are not depositories, as much injustice as it does to individuals who are not interested either in the deposite, or other banks not depositories; and the deposite banks will have the special benefit, first bestowed upon them by the state Legislatures, in authorizing them to loan their credit for six, ten, or fifteen per cent. and the further benefit and privilege added to that conferred by the State Government of receiving, keeping and banking upon the funds of the General Government, also conferred upon them; and thus the State give them the advantage of loaning their credit, in the shape of money, by which they receive a large per centum. The General Government gives them the use of its money, which adds several per cent. more, at the same time that portion of the people who happen not to be bankers, and who constitute a very great majority, not only receive no portion of these bounties, but are obliged to pay their neighbor bankers, not more meritories, and perhaps not as much so as themselves, for their credit, loaned to them in the shape of paper money, manufactured at their pleasure, and obliged to submit, many times, to the most degrading humiliation, even to persuade the banks so far to condescend to aid them, as to loan them their credit, by giving the most ample and undoubted security.
And, said Mr. Smith, if a bank made a depository of the public money fails --and it is now quite a common occurrence-- whether it be through dishonesty, or unwarranted hazard and speculation, what remedy has the Government except upon the bond taken for the repayment of the money ? And no person will often become surety, but such as are connected with the bank; and when that fails, they fail also; the surety may apparently be ample when taken, and entirely worthless when the failure takes place. The Government can institute no inquiry into the conduct of the bank managers; it has no power to call them to account; and however great the fraud, and however great the loss, the Government has no remedy except on the bond, or by some civil action. Conscious of the impenetrable shield afforded them, is not obliquity almost a sure consequence ? And, at least, are they not much more likely to be guilty of fraud than the public officer, who has not only his honor at stake, and that of his family, but is civilly liable to the full extent of his present property, and also to all further acquisitions; and is also liable criminally, and to be separated from his family, and all that is dear and valuable in this life, and to become the intimate of thieves, robbers, and all the outcasts and hopeless depradators upon the rights of man. The Government not only sustains the pecuniary loss, without the means of repairing it, but the public sustains infinitely greater injuries, by indirectly becoming the instrument of propagating, engendering, and inflicting crime upon the community, and which fills every social interstice with its baleful effects.
Much pains has been taken to prejudice the people against the Sub-Treasury system, by inducing them to believe that the friends of the system are disposed to break down and destroy all credit, because they propose to have the Government dues paid in the constitutional currency; but they neither make war upon any system of credit, nor upon the banks; they only require the Government to deal in such money only as is known to the Constitution; and how does this trench upon the rights of the banks ? They leave them where they found them, under the control of the States, which created them. The States alone have power to continue them, discontinue them, or new organize them, as they may find it for their interest to do; unless the banks have become an independent estate, and are beyond the reach of the Government which created them. And why should the banks complain of this ? Have they any more right to demand of the Government its countenance and support, than have individuals who are not incorporated ? If they have, upon what ground is it ? Have they a right to look to the General Government for protection ? The Government has no control over them. If they assert they issue and furnish a circulating medium for the public accommodation, it is without the authority of the Government, and for their sole benefit; they issue bills and circulate them, or withhold them, just as they find it for their interest. No one will claim that they issue or circulate their bills for the public benefit, when it militates against their own interest. If banking was free to every man, under such restrictions as would protect the public from imposition, should the Government give preference to the banks over individuals unincorporated ? If any preference was to be given to either, it ought to be given to the individuals, because they would be liable in their persons and property to pay their debts; and but few would become bankers, it is not likely, who had not visible and tangible property sufficient to pay all just demands upon them. If the Government goes to war, the individual comes to its aid; they go into the field and fight the battles; they produce the wealth, pay the taxes, and enrich the country. And will any one claim that if every man was his own banker, and issued bills at his pleasure, and when he found it for his interest, that the Government ought to make them depositaries of its money, and receive all their bills or notes in payment of the public dues ?
Mr. Smith said the officers of the Government formerly received, kept, and paid out the public money with quite as little loss as has occurred since banks became fiscal agents of the Government. Previous to the rechartering of the United States Bank in 1816, the greatest part of the public revenue was collected, kept, and paid out by the officers of the Government. And what makes them more degenerated and less capable now ? Has the influence of the banks made them degenerate, or what is it to be attributed to ? Or is it to be found only in the imagination of the bankers, whose cupidity has been sharpened by the inordinate interest they have received by means of the public deposites.
The Opposition have been more clamorous upon the subject of exchanges, than almost any thing else. Commerce, they said, must wholly fail, unless Government made some provision to aid the merchants in exchanges. Nothing would regulate them, they said, but a bank, or banks; and therefore Government was bound to take the banks under its protection, to regulate the exchanges. They were told by the friends of the bill, that exchanges were only making provision for balances, for or against the country, growing out of over-trade, and they, like all other evils, would regulate themselves, according to the laws of trade, and which appeared very simple and easy to the minds of all except the opposers of the bill, who persisted in saying that they could not be regulated without a bank. But what sound reason can be given, said Mr. Smith why the Government should transport money to pay balances due from the merchants of our country, any more than it is bound to transport their produce or merchandise for them, out of which the balances arise. But if Government is bound to transport the produce and manufactures for the merchants, who have their profit for it, why not transport it while in the hands of the producer, the farmer, mechanic, and manufacturer, and give them the benefit of it, who certainly are as much entitled to it as the merchants, who only purchase it of the producer, and transport it for a profit which it yields him, and which is so much deducted from the price of the article when purchased. But before the bill has been fully discussed, exchanges have regulated themselves; they are now in favor of this country several per cent. And how did this happen, so contrary to the predictions of the Opposition ? Why, just as they were told it would happen. The merchants have purchased less, and paid up the balances against them, and now the re is no necessity for bill to go abroad, because nothing is due here.
The Senator from Indiana, [Oliver H. Smith, Whig] with a very happy simile, has illustrated the importance of the currency of a nation, by assimilating the currency to the life blood of an organic living body. That the currency is as essential and important to the body politic, as the blood of a man is to his body, he says; and in this he [Mr. Smith of Connecticut] did not disagree with the Senator. That the one, in its proper application, was as important as the other, he was ready to admit.
He would then suppose that instead of the arterial and venous system of the Senator, the one carrying the blood out from the heart, and the other returning it, moving in harmony, and performing their part in connection with the other great functions and powers of his body, they were entrusted to the care and control of some other person, who performed and moved them, not according to the wants and wishes of the Senator, but were governed wholly by the interest, whim, or caprice of those who had the management of these important organs; or, perhaps if these functionaries should grow a little mawkish, they might so far neglect their trust as to leave him powerless; he thought the Senator, under such un-natural regulations, would be much more imperfect than he now is. If, in making some long speech, his functionaries should neglect their duty, or rather service, or by reason of an adverse interest they might have, should neglect to supply him with the life-sustaining fluid, his speech would be cut short, and he would be obliged to sit down in the midst of it; and why? because his life-blood was at the control of others, to whose interest or will he was compelled to conform. Mr. Smith said, if this be a fair comparison, it is not difficult to see that the nation, without the control of its life-blood, would be as impotent and powerless as the man who should be dependent on others for his blood.
What act would tend more directly to consolidate the Union, and break down the independence of the States, than the system of State banking, if the State Governments and General Government were compelled to have a mutual dependence on each other in their banking operations; moved by a self-acting machine, which would pervade every part of community, and would be interwoven with every interest, whether it be in individual transactions, or the concerns of the State or General Government ? No scheme was ever devised, in his opinion, which was so well calculated to corrupt and demoralize the people, and subject them to the entire control of the aristocracy of the country; not only the wealth of our country, but the concentrated and united wealth will be directly wielded, as an irresistible power, to control the people in all our elections. What class of men, or what individuals, are there, in community, who will not, to a very considerable extent, be subject to their control ? The banks thus fortified, by the aid and support of the State Governments, and guarantied by the General Government, will be vested with the power of concreting and secreting the life-blood of the body politic both of the State and General Governments. They can produce a plethora at their pleasure and will, and by that means paralyze and frustrate the functions of the Government; or they can, at their pleasure, as their interest, political desires, or caprice may dictate, cause a depletion, and thus run down and prostrate the powers of the Government. The great body of the people will be made to feel, directly or indirectly, this gigantic power, placed in the hands of that class of people pointed out in the letter of Alexander Hamilton to Mr. Washington, before alluded to, (the wealthy,) as being the only firm supporters of Government, wherein he shows his preference for a monarchical Government; and the Federal party have ever since followed in his footsteps, and which they have indicated a resolute determination to build up and support. Not only the people, in their individual capacity, and in their ordinary transactions, will be subject to the control of these soulless and bodiless creatures, but the Governments, both State and General, will be wholly at their mercy, and may be disposed of at their pleasure.
It is always said that money is the sinew of war, and that it cannot be carried on without it: if this is so, it will be quite easy to see what condition the country would be in, in case of a war, by recurring to the conduct of the Federal party during the last war with Great Britain; and ninety-five in a hundred of the banks are now in the hands and under the control of the same party, and probably will remain so.
Mr. Smith said that we may see the peculiar character of the patriotism of the Federal party, so much boasted of, and how ready they are to manifest it "by being always at their post in the hour of danger," when the country is invaded by a public enemy. He would read an extract or two from their publications during that war, when the country was compelled to draw upon all its resources to save its independence, which is a fair specimen of their patriotism at this time, as well as then. Extract from a Boston paper: "Let no man, who wishes to continue, the war by active means, by vote or lending money, dare to prostrate himself at the altar on the fast day; for they are actually as much partakers in the war as the soldier who thrusts the bayonet, and the judgment of God will await them." Extracts from the Boston Gazette, April 14, 1814:
"Will Federalists subscribe to the loan ? Will they lend money to our national rulers ? It is impossible: first, because of principle; and, secondly, because of principal and interest. If they lend money now, they make themselves parties to the violation of the Constitution, the cruelly oppressive measures in relation to commerce, and to all the crimes which have occurred in the field and in the cabinet. To what purpose have Federalists exerted themselves to show the wickedness of this war, and to raise the public sentiment against it, and to show the authors of it not only to be unworthy of public confidence, but highly criminal, if now they contribute the sums of money, without which these rulers must be compelled to stop; must be compelled to return to the policy and measures under which this country once was at peace, and in singular prosperity."
"Any Federalist who lends money to Government must go and shake hands with James Madison, and claim fellowship with Felix Grundy. Let him no more call himself a Federalist, and a friend to his country. He will be called by others infamous."
"It is very grateful to find that the universal sentiment is, that any man who lends his money to the Government at the present time will forfeit all claim to common honesty and common courtesy among all true friends to the country. God forbid that any Federalist should ever hold up his hand to pay Federalists for money lent to the present rulers; and Federalists can judge whether Democrats will tax their constituents to pay interest to Federalists."
The national honor, wealth, nay, its very existence, will be placed in the hands of these corporations, and to them, not Congress, the people will have to apply to know whether they will vindicate the honor of the nation by declaring war against a nation trampling upon her rights, perhaps by the incitement of those very incorporations, to gratify some interest of theirs, or for baser purposes; and if it shall be their pleasure to call a Congress, as they lately have done, to deliberate upon the humble petition of their loyal subjects, they will then, if they condescend to hear it, gratify their subjects or not, as it may suit the convenience or interest of the noblesse of our country. And sir, said Mr. Smith, the Senator from Virginia [Mr. Rives] has not hesitated to declare, on this floor, his surprise that the Government had not sent agents to the late bank convention held in New York, to try to negotiate a treaty of amity and peace with the banks. Has this great nation already come to this humiliating and degrading condition ?
Mr. Smith said he had hoped at least the evil day was yet further off. The siren song had been sung; but he trusted the enchantment was not yet too powerful to be resisted, while the Genius of Liberty, in her most fascinating form, was hovering over and adjuring this happy people, for her sake, to resist the lure: he would not permit himself to believe that her last and lingering hope was to be lost in a corrupt system of banking. No sir, said Mr. Smith, she had resisted successfully thus far all the allurements that had been proffered to seduce her, and he was not now prepared to believe she would sink beneath the influence of this pestiferous bank miasma.
But it is urged by the opponents of the bill, that the Government money in the hands of its public officers, will be too tempting to be resisted; that it will induce peculations; that they will become corrupted by it, and the Treasury will be robbed, and the people suffer great pecuniary losses, as well as loss of moral character; and the nation will suffer degradation and debasement, by the frauds which the Government will be privy to, in improvidently trusting to the care of their agents, selected from among them, for their probity and worth, the public money. Here, again, said Mr. Smith, you see developed Federal principles; the people are incapable of taking care of themselves; a standing army, and sedition law, were necessary to secure their person, against their worst enemies: themselves; their money can only be secured, and safely kept for them, by that class of men who were said by Colonel Hamilton to be the only firm supporters of Government, the wealthy.
But, Mr. Smith said, he desired to know what there was in banks that made men more honest, than when administering a Government of their own choice, and formed by themselves for their own benefit. If we may judge from what has lately transpired in relation to the banks, they are perfect schools of corruption; perjury is but a common occurrence with the bank officers, to cover up, and secrete their frauds committed upon the people; and in confirmation of this, Mr. Smith said he would read an extract from a Boston paper:
"We find that the banks, in every quarter of the Union, have become the subject of anxiety to their State Legislatures. In Massachusetts, the out and out bankruptcy of some six or seven of the city banks, has forced an investigation into the arcana of the corporations upon the Federal party. Rantoul, the bold and eloquent champion of Democracy in that Federal Legislature, pressed inquiry with such vigor that it could not be resisted. The opening of the charnel houses has presented a melancholy scene of mortality. It is found that the empty vaults are the mere receptacles of some defunct, worm-eaten notes of hand, which, alas! are as inconvertible as the shin-plaster then representing them in exchange, which are but so many poor ghosts 'visiting the glimpses of the moon.' But the worst is found on the books. A friend writes us from Boston: 'Among other disgraceful disclosures concerning the Franklin and Lafayette Banks before the legislative committee, still sitting, it appears that the cashier of the former declared, under oath, that the returns made by the directors to the Government, were sworn to with a knowledge that they were false, and that they kept two sets of books to carry on the deception.' "
But said Mr. Smith, if one hundred thousand dollars of money in the hands of the officers of the General Government is corrupting, will it be less so, when added to the money of the bank ? If so, upon what principle is it ? The gentleman has not condescended to tell us.
Mr. Smith said, one objection made to the bill is, that if the public dues are all collected in gold and silver it will distress the banks, because they will be required to keep on hand specie to pay their bills to the amount of the public revenue, as those who are indebted to Government will have their bills, and demand the specie to pay the Government. Well, great concern has been manifested for the people; they were going to suffer if the bill passed. But here it is not difficult to understand who are meant by the people; the banks are meant to be designated as the people. That the banks will complain, no one doubted. The reason is quite obvious: if they are obliged to keep more specie, and issue less bills, their profits, of course, will be less, and nothing but complaint would be expected of them. But will the people, who are not bankers, complain because the banks are obliged to keep, what they promise, specie to pay their bills when demanded ? If, then, by collecting the public dues in specie, it will have the effect to compel the banks to be prepared to pay their bills in specie, it is a good feature in the bill. The people will have the benefit of it, and this is what disturbs the opponents of the bill; their people are the banks.
Mr. Smith said he should trouble the Senate with but few remarks upon the currency, as it had, to a considerable extent, been involved in the preceding discussion upon the unfitness of banks as depositories of the public money. Money or currency is an attribute of sovereignty. All Governments, said Mr. Smith, as far as his knowledge extended, had not only found it necessary, but had considered it a cardinal duty, to provide and take care of it, as much, and even more so, than weights and measures. Money is the standard of value; it measures the value of all property, as much as weights ascertain the quantity; and if the standard of value is defective, those who use it suffer as much, and many times much more, than they would by the use of defective weights. Indeed, such importance is attributed to money in political economy, that it is considered the life-blood of the body politic, and the sinews of war. It would, therefore, seem to be of such importance to a nation, that it could not exist without it; and in war, the nation would be as impotent and powerless as its soldiers who were to fight its battles, would be without sinews and nerves. It is interwoven with all the business and concerns of society; every person is more or less affected by it, and feels a deep interest in it, whether rich or poor, or whether he belongs to one class of people or another; it enters into almost every transaction of life, be its character what it may.
Mr. Smith said he thought all would agree that it is important it should spring from a pure source, and be unaffected with moral taint. Is the currency furnished by banks under our present system of this character? and can it be so ? If it is not, we ought to see what its defects are, and see whether they can be remedied; and if they cannot, whether further countenance and encouragement shall be given to the system by the General Government. The moral aliment taken up by the absorbent vessels of the body politic, and which nourish and sustain a Republican Government, ought to be pure, and unalloyed with noxious mixtures, or it will surely languish, and ultimately perish under its baleful influence.
Mr. Smith said it was a fundamental principle in our Government, and intended to be fully carried out, and strictly adhered to in all our institutions and laws, that all men should be placed politically upon equal grounds, and left free to exercise their social rights; and whatever marred this equality might be looked upon as an excrescence or tumor upon the body politic, and a symptom of disease or unhealthiness in its institutions and laws. Titles of nobility, the principle of primogeniture, entailments, perpetuities, and every device to concentrate wealth by law, and make odious distinctions between men equal by nature; the pernicious and deleterious effects of which, upon a free Government, were so well understood by our ancestors, that they not only wholly discarded them, but made such provisions as they deemed effectual to prevent their introduction in future; and to the end that all might be kept equal, as far as equal laws would have the effect, laws of distribution were made, to distribute equally the property of a deceased ancestor among the heirs, in accordance with strict principles of justice, and that perpetuated wealth should not have an undue influence in making and maintaining such distinctions. And what do we find in the principles of banking ? Why, sir, two of the most odious principles that could be incorporated into the institutions of a Republican Government-- perpetuity and concentration of wealth; both are combined in banking. Although all the original parties to the corporation may be dead, yet the corporation is continued and kept alive, and perpetuated to the end of time, by new members being added. And the wealth of hundreds and thousands is brought together and concentrated, and may be wielded by one or two men, and brought to bear upon any portion of the community, in a political or any other point of view. And it is well known that they often enter the halls of the legislatures, and are brought to bear upon legislative action, and so mould it into such shape as shall suit their interest. As lamentable as this is, it is nevertheless true !
Mr. Smith said nobody ever denied the right or power of a State until the banks came into existence, nor were there any writers upon the subject learned or wise enough to discover and bring to light a different principle to regulate all such business as affected, and had a bearing on, the public interest and welfare of the people generally, however private it might be in its nature and character, in such manner as to promote the general and public good. Although markets, grist-mills, ferries, provisions, and all other articles sold in market, are private property, notwithstanding they are regulated by the Government, so as to prevent injuries accruing to purchasers by the sellers. But the banks, the illegitimate offsprings, to say the least, of improvident Legislatures, have assumed a sovereign power, which overshadows the State sovereignty with the aid of their godfather, the Supreme Court of the United States, to whose paternal sympathies, Mr. Smith said, he should ask the indulgence of the Senate hereafter, while he could give them a passing notice.
The banks now take a hostile attitude, convene their congress, hold a secret conclave, and bid defiance to the Government which gave them existence. And here, said Mr. Smith, he would read an extract from a New Orleans paper, as evidence of the defiance of the banks to the State Governments to interfere with them in any way whatever:
"The legislature of Louisiana has under way a bill to reform the banks. Its great feature is a superintending board of commissioners, appointed by the Legislature, to limit the circulation to a given amount above the cash on hand, and to report to the country the condition of the banks. Publication of this is to be made monthly. A leading bank paper in New Orleans laughs this to scorn, and says that the banks will submit to no legislative interference with their concerns. The Legislature of Indiana having appointed a committee to inspect the condition of the State bank, the board of directors responded that examinations by committees of Legislatures are authorized neither by the charter, by good policy, nor by the interests of the State."
The contest now between the banks and Governments, both State and General, is for power. It is to ascertain which has got to succumb. If the banks come off victorious, the people have got to submit to take and use their spurious money, and make it the standard of value, though it be ever so capricious, at the pleasure of the banks, and to suit their interest, without regard to the public good. If we are brought to this, it is not difficult to predict the fate of our boasted land of liberty.
Mr. Smith said the unequal and unjust operations of banking, and from which the great mania for it arises, may easily be seen by paying a little attention to its principles. The Legislature incorporates and authorizes a company of men to issue their notes, without interest, and loan them to others as cash for their notes, with nearly seven per cent. interest. The one class is empowered to loan its credit, while all others are prohibited loaning their credit, and compelled to pay the bankers for their credit. The one class gives no security for the performance of its promises to pay. The other class gives double and undoubted security for their performance. The deposites of money made in banks by individuals for safe-keeping, on which the banks pay no interest, is often much more than the whole capital of the bank. By the charters of the banks, they are allowed to issue their bills upon the strength of these deposits, to the amount of one hundred and fifty per cent. on all the money deposited, and for which the holders of the bills have not the least security whatever; the deposites being liable to be withdrawn at any time, at the will of the owner. This system of legislation has the same effect upon the whole people, as it would have upon a single family, if the same principle was introduced by the head of it, and made the rule of action in it. For instance, if a man had two sons, one he required to pay him two dollars a week for his board, and the other he paid two dollars a week for boarding with him; or one he paid ten dollars per month for his labor, and the other he required to pay him ten dollars per month for the privilege of laboring with him. How long, he would ask, would this family be kept together upon such principles; which would not be more unequal or unjust in their operations than the principle of banking.
Mr. Smith said he was more astonished at the pertinacity of the friends of the State bank system, in pressing with such zeal their claims upon the Government, to place confidence in, and give credit to, a currency furnished by the State banks, and with a professed object only of furnishing a good and sound currency for the people, when scarce a day fails to bring its intelligence of some new and base fraud committed by officers of banks, upon whom there seems to be no adequate check, and, in many instances, attempted to be concealed by perjury of the most frightful character, clearly evincive, to his mind, of the danger of the system, in swindling and defrauding the people with a worthless bank paper, and, at the best, having only one specie dollar in their vaults to pay ten or fifteen paper dollars, which have been issued and imposed upon an unsuspecting and confiding public. When bank charters are granted, they are invariably upon the application, and too often hypocritical petitions, asking for it under a pretence that the public interest requires it, when the sole object is to advance their own interest at the expense of the public; and if there was no other fraud and deception practised upon the people, who look to the banks, as by the terms of the petition they supposed they had a right to, for a sound and healthy paper currency, than the taking from the vaults of the banks, and appropriating to the use of two or three directors, who manage the bank, with little or no security, all the money belonging to it, and using it in large and hazardous speculations, and especially in provisions, by which means they are enabled to monopolise and govern the price of the most substantial articles of consumption, and which is too often the cause of a scarcity in market, it would seem to be sufficient to induce every reflecting man to pause, if his object was what he proposed, to accommodate and benefit the people, before he gave any further encouragement to a system so deceptive, and so unlikely to furnish a sound and accessible paper medium; and as evidence of such practices, he would read an extract from a Louisiana paper, and one from a Pennsylvania paper, a great many of which might be adduced:
"The Legislature of Louisiana commenced the searching operation; and it is discovered at the threshold that the immense discounts there, as at Boston, which have swallowed up the capital of the banks, have been made to little more than two dozen directors ! We clip the following from this morning's Baltimore Republican: From a long article from the New Orleans Bee, received by last night's express, and which we will give at length to-morrow, we have the startling fact adduced as an evidence of the unjust system of bank favoritism pursued in that city, that of the credits of eight banks which had made a faithful return of their affairs, seven millions of dollars had been distributed to twenty-nine commercial houses ! And what adds to the enormity of this fact is, that these twenty-nine houses were composed of bank directors. What a commentary on the principles of American banking, and the much vaunted credit system!' Extract from a Pennsylvania paper: 'The Lumberman's Bank at Warren, Pennsylvania, has broken, caused, it is believed, by three or four of the stockholders obtaining loans to two hundred thousand dollars, i.e. the whole capital!' "
Mr. Smith said he had before alluded to the frightful and unwelcome inroads which had been made upon the Constitution and primary law of our country, by the construction of the Supreme Court of the United States, given to the Constitution at different times, and made upon different parts of it; and what is very singular and worthy of consideration, all such constructions have been made in accordance with the principles of the Federal party, as laid down by Alexander Hamilton, and ever since practiced upon, and strictly adhered to, and aimed at, as far as lay in the power of the party. Mr. Smith said, if this construction is just, and such a one as to give effect and force to the Constitution, as it was originally understood by the people, for whose benefit it was made, and was now adapted to their exigencies, he perhaps ought not to complain. But it was now too evident to admit of a doubt, in his opinion, that the decisions of the Court, which have given an entirely different character to our Government, and, in its operations under such constructions, has so entirely demonstrated its unfitness and want of adaptation to the interests and condition of the people, that little hazard was run in saying that the people will submit to no such construction of their chartered liberties, however high the source from whence it emanates, or however much they may revere the expounders of the Constitution.
Mr. Smith said he proposed now to explain and give his view of the construction given to that part of the Constitution which prohibited the States from passing any law "impairing the obligation of contracts," under which construction the banks and other corporations of a congenial nature, have come into existence, coalesced, and taken a stand against the Government, and declared themselves independent of the Government, and paramount to its authority. It now remains to be seen whether the people will submit to and confirm this construction; if so, the banks have become the Government; and the Constitution, so sacred in the estimation of the people, a mere guarantee of the bank oligarchy of our country. It is a fundamental principle in every Government, where its powers are properly divided and distributed, that no Legislature by its acts, can bind subsequent Legislatures, except so far as the State may consider itself bound in good faith to carry the acts of Preceding Legislatures into effect. The importance of this principle, in a Republican Government will be readily perceived, on adverting to the fact, that the true depositaries of the political power are the people, with whom it at all times rests, and by them can at all times be moulded into such shape as to suit their wants, and give full scope to civil liberty, and to assure its enjoyment by the citizens to the full extent of its capacity.
The legislators are but the agents of the people, with power from them not to contract away, sell, and dispose of this power, but to exercise it temporarily during the existence of their agency only for the benefit of the people, whom they represent. The Parliament of Great Britain can repeal any act passed by a preceding Parliament; and whether the act is public or private, it makes no difference; it can repeal the one as well as the other, and so a franchise granted by the King, as all charters of incorporation are granted by the King, may at any time, be taken away, or repealed, by the Parliament. This is admitted by the Supreme Court of the United States, in the same case in which they decide that the Legislature which grants them, cannot take them away; a passage from which Mr. Smith said he would read, from the 4th vol. of Wheaton's reports, 643, case of Dartmouth College vs. Woodward:
"According to the theory of the British Constitution, their Parliament is omnipotent. To annul corporate rights might give a shock to public opinion, which their Government has chosen to avoid; but its power is not questioned."
A State is as sovereign and omnipotent as the British Parliament, except in so far as its power is taken away by the National Constitution.
And here two questions arise upon that part of the Constitution of the General Government which prohibits the States passing any law "impairing the obligation of contracts," which, if decided against the people, gives to the political power of the States a more limited and circumscribed operation than that of Great Britain. The first question to be decided is, is the power exercised by the Legislature, in passing an act of incorporation and granting chartered privileges to a company, political power. The second question is, whether, if it is political power, a Legislature, as such, has power to contract and grant it away absolutely, and beyond the control of the people, to whom it belongs, and for whose benefit it was reserved and kept in store, to be dealt out and applied as their necessities should require. It is admitted by the Supreme Court, in giving its opinion in the case above alluded to, that, if it is political power, and exercised as such by the Legislature in making the grant, that it is only an exercise of sovereign power of the State, which does not come within the prohibiting clause of the Constitution, and not a contract within the purview of the Constitution. And, to settle and decide this question correctly, it becomes necessary to ascertain what political power is.
The Court say, in giving their opinion in the before mentioned case, that,
"If the act of incorporation be a grant of political power --if it create a civil institution, to be employed in the administration of the Government, the subject is one in which the Legislature of the State may act, according to its own judgment, unrestrained by any limitation of its powers, imposed by the Constitution of the United States. -- 4 Wheaton, 630.
Mr. Smith said, with great deference to the opinion of the Supreme Court, he would ask, in granting a franchise, what other power than political does or can a Legislature exercise ? If it is individual or personal power, any member of community may exercise it; but a Legislature, as such, cannot. Can a Legislature grant a privilege to any individual for his sole and only benefit, and without being the means of advancing the public interest generally ! No one will be bold enough to assert this. Will any one pretend that the Legislature has power to grant to any man a privilege which others have not, and are not allowed to have, of tilling his farm in a different and more advantageous manner than others of the same class ? And why not ? Why, because the power wielded by the Legislature can only be exercised for the benefit of the public, and not for the benefit of individuals; and this would be for the benefit of an individual only. The privileges, then, which the Legislature is authorized to bestow, are for the benefit of the public, the whole people, and not for one or more, to the exclusion of the others, except so far as those upon whom it is conferred may be used as instruments or agents to promote the public interest. The public interest must be the object of it, though individuals may receive a benefit in the operation; or else the Legislature possesses no power to bestow it.
If this doctrine is correct, how can the Legislature grant a franchise to individuals to bank, and furnish a circulating medium or currency, which all admit is a sovereign attribute, without doing it for the benefit of the public ? And, if it is for the benefit of the public, it is so far a civil institution. And is not this the character given to it when the bank is granted ? And do not those who petition and ask for the bank, and the Legislature, all treat it as such ? And is it not on that ground that it is granted by the Legislature ? And are not those incorporated treated as instruments only to promote the public interest ? And, if so, is not the legislative act strictly within the principle, as laid down by the court, in defining political power ? If it is not, it is difficult to perceive what political power is.
Mr. Smith said what he understood political power to be was nothing more than a portion of individual rights and power surrendered to be exercised by the Government for the benefit of the whole, that the remaining part of their rights might be more effectually secured to them; that the legislators were agents of the people only, to conduct the Government machinery for them, which could be operated by political power alone.
In giving a construction to the Constitution, a distinction is taken between a public and a private act of the Legislature, while no one ever contended that a public act was not liable at all times to be repealed, however injuriously it might affect the interest of individuals. At the same time, it is contended that a private act, derived from the same source, conferred by the same power, and though it may affect injuriously, in a far less degree, the interest of those who receive its benefits, yet it can not be repealed unless a power for that purpose was reserved when the act was passed. And why not ? Because, say the advocates for the monopoly construction, that it is a contract of the persons incorporated by the private act with the Legislature; and, therefore, no act can be passed impairing the obligation of contracts.
Well, let us take a case for illustration, which is not of seldom occurrence in these days of vested rights, and see whether it is so. The Legislature pass an act offering a bounty to all silk-growers, of one dollar for each pound of raw silk they shall raise within twenty years. Under the inducements held out by this law, men go largely into the business, purchase suitable land, purchase and set out mulberry trees, establish expansive cocoonries, and lay out many thousands of dollars. After succeeding well, and after the lapse of a few years, the people find that the profits are so great, that it is supplanting all other kinds of business, or, at least, the profits are altogether disproportioned by means of the bounty to the profits of other business, and the Legislature which act for, and in obedience to the will of the people, repeal the law. Will any body doubt the power of the Legislature to repeal it ? At the same time, when the law was passed granting the bounty, a private act was passed by the same Legislature, incorporating a company to manufacture the raw silk into goods of various kinds; and this is found also by the profits it yields to a wealthy company, who, by their chartered rights, have monopolized and engrossed the business, so as to trench upon the rights of industrious, unincorporated individuals, in cutting down and curtailing their means of living. But this offensive monopoly or corporation cannot be reached, because it is a contract with the corporators, selling and disposing of so much of the political power as materially to affect the rights of the citizen, for whose benefit alone, and for whose private rights, the political power was created and reserved, to be used, from time to time, as their interest should require, and in the same manner as when exercised in passing a public act for the same purpose-- the benefit of the people.
We historically know that the prohibiting clause in the Constitution was intended for no other purpose than to prevent Legislatures from interfering with contracts fairly made between men and men in their private business, and annulling what individuals themselves had agreed to and consummated in a contract. And what mind is there so obtuse as not to be able to discover that by the plastic hand of the Supreme Court, this clause of the Constitution is converted into a machine to despoil the free citizens of this country of their civil liberty, for the attainment of which their ancestors sacrificed their treasure and blood, and transmitted it to them as a sacred heritage, believing it would not be parted with, but with a sacrifice equal with that made to establish it. And what is not less humiliating, it places the citizens of the United States, in the enjoyment of civil liberty, far below the subjects of the King of England; for there it is not denied but an obnoxious franchise may at any time be taken away by Parliament.
Mr. Smith said, marriage contracts are constantly, not only impaired, but abrogated and cancelled by State Legislatures, and the parties to them wholly released from their obligations to each other by virtue of the marriage contract. And nobody ever denied the right of the Legislature to dissolve the contract. No: it is not denied by the Supreme Court, but is expressly admitted to be consistent with the constitutional provision, prohibiting Legislative enactments "impairing the obligation of contracts." And that every man may put a just estimate upon the opinions of the erudite judges of the Supreme Court, in giving to our sacred Constitution such construction as to build up a formidable moneyed aristocracy, which had already confidence enough in its own strength and power to bid defiance to the Government, and whose career thus far had been marked by oppression, corruption and perjury.
Mr. Smith said he would read the opinion of the Court, so far as it regarded marriage contracts, in the case of Dartmouth College vs. Woodward, 4, Wheaton 629, where the doctrine of vested rights was fully discussed, and considered as settled against the rights of the American people. Judge Marshall says, in delivering the opinion of the Court:
"It never has been understood to restrict the general right of the Legislature to legislate on the subject of divorces. These acts enable the same tribunal not to impair a marriage contract, but to liberate one of the parties, because it has been broken by the other."
Judge Story says, page 695:
"A general law regulating divorces from the contract of marriage, like a law regulating remedies in other eases of breaches of contracts, is not necessarily a law impairing the obligations of such a contract. It may be the only effectual mode of enforcing the obligations of the contract on both sides."
Then, said Mr. Smith, we are thus enlightened by the learning and wisdom of our boasted Supreme Court. The only effectual way of enforcing a marriage contract may be to dissolve it, or to liberate one of the parties, because it has been broken by the other. This, said Mr. Smith, he must confess, was a new way of enforcing the obligations of a contract without impairing it, to cut the ligaments, absolve the parties from all obligation imposed by the marriage contract, leaving the parties where they were before the contract was made. If the true and only reason which can be given, for the exception in the case of marriage contracts, had been given by the court, it would have prostrated the entire fabric, which had been conceived in the imagination of the court, and confirmed the only reasonable construction that can be given to the Constitution; that is, that the marriage contract is of civil institution, consummated by the sovereign act of the State, and for governmental purposes; which was never intended to be interfered with, when that provision was introduced into the Constitution. And such is the character of the banks; they have their origin in the sovereign acts of the State, and for the purpose of promoting the public interest, and not that of individuals; both stand precisely upon the same ground.
The great and fundamental principle in our Government, that every Legislature should be left free to act for the benefit of the people, as the condition of society, and the circumstances of the people, may require, is founded in the fact, that all political power is vested in the people; and that it is to be used and applied as it may be wanted, but not to be disposed of or placed beyond their reach, by any bargains or contracts to be made by their agents, the legislators, is evidenced by the fact, these Legislatures cannot alter, enlarge, or contract the political power as prescribed by the Constitution; but to do this, the people are to be called upon to act in the primary capacity, who have the power to make such alteration as they may see fit.
It is said by the court in the above case, that if a salary is stipulated to be given to an officer of the Government, for a certain time, that this is a contra¢t, and may be enforced. If this is so, and the Legislature possesses the power to make the judges of the courts independent of the people, by contract with them, why make provision in the Constitution for the tenure of the judicial officer, that they shall hold it during good behavior, or for any other term of time ? And why do those favorable to this principle, hold on to it with such tenacity, when it is once incorporated in the Constitution ? If this principle is correct, it follows, that unless you have guarded against it in your Constitution, all your offices, of every character, may be disposed of for ever, and the people are bound by it, whether they have been betrayed into the hands of a set of tyrants, knaves, or fools. This would harmonise with the principles of that Government which was the idol of Colonel Hamilton, and which, with all its faults, he thought the most perfect Government on earth --that is, the British Government. There the political power is all vested in the Parliament, and none in the people: of course the Parliament can dispose of it at its pleasure. Were the people in that country ever called upon in their primary capacity to alter their Constitution, to extend or abridge their political power ? Certainly not; and why ? Because the people have nothing to do with it; it was all usurped, and taken away from them by the Government; the people, in their estimation, being incapable of using it.
We are brought to the conclusion, then, that Legislatures, as such, have no power to convert and dispose of the political power, but to use it temporarily during their agency, and so by the next Legislature succeeding them, to be used in the same manner. Their agency is of the same character, so far as it regards the political power, as that of an individual employed in the business of another to do his work on the farm, in the mechanic's shop, or in the manufacturing establishment. The employment does not give the agent the power to dispose of the property. It is said by the court in the same case, these Legislatures may dispose of land belonging to the State, and therefore may dispose of offices, franchises, etc. This does not follow. Land is tangible and transferable property, and the nature and object of it is to be sold and transferred, and Legislatures are always considered the proper agents for that purpose.
Mr. Smith said that a United States Bank was not lost sight of by the Opposition; they were cherishing the hope that one would be chartered, and became the fiscal agent of the Government. He should not at this, or any other time, take into consideration the expediency of such a measure, until Congress should admit its constitutionality, which he was not prepared to believe would take place very soon.
Mr. Smith said he was wholly satisfied, that no power either was, or intended to be, vested in Congress to establish a bank, and to maintain that position, such remarks as he should be indulged in making on the subject, would be directed. It has been said, that the constitutionality of a bank ought now to be considered no longer doubtful, inasmuch as President Washington, after the Constitution was adopted, gave his sanction to it, by confirming the act of Congress, granting the first charter of a bank. But we know historically, and a recurrence to the journals of Congress will show it, that General Washington hesitated long before he would give his assent to the charter; and we have the best of reasons for believing that it was the extreme anxiety he felt for the welfare of his country at that critical juncture, that induced him to sign the act at the time; and how far, if at all, he was influenced by the powerful and delusive reasoning of Hamilton, who was bent on taking the first opportunity to engraft new powers by construction on the Constitution, is not known. But for want of money to discharge the debts of the Government, which had been contracted in establishing our independence, he believed the people would be so far dissatisfied, under the then extreme embarrassment of the country, with the necessary taxes and burthens which they would have to bear, that the chartering of the bank would be productive of the least danger to the Government. And it was therefore a choice of evils, and not a belief in the full and perfect constitutionality of the act, that induced him to sign the act granting the charter. Mr. Madison was clear in the opinion that the bank was unconstitutional, and he ought to have known whether those who gave existence to the instrument at that time so understood it, and he did know that they understood that no power was vested in Congress to establish a bank; and we historically know the fact, as well as we know that General Washington was President of the United States.
And if there was a fact to be proved now, without looking into the Constitution to know, by construction, whether the power was to be vested in Congress, would any one say that such power was intended to be given ? No one, he was confident; and yet we are gravely set to work to ascertain whether that wise and intelligent body of men who penned the Constitution did not intend to incorporate in that instrument that power. We are well assured that Mr. Madison only yielded his opinion to what he supposed to be the voice of the people, (a cardinal principle never to be overlooked by the Democracy,) who was probably moved at that juncture by the same impulse that General Washington was when he gave his assent to it; that is, necessity or a choice of evils, and not by the consideration of its strict constitutionality. General Washington's opinion was finally in favor of the bank, Mr. Madison's opinion was once in favor of and once against it, and General Jackson's opinion was against it; two decisions were in favor of and two against it. From that source, therefore, no aid is to be derived by precedent or by force of opinion.
But Congress is not bound by precedent, or constrained to act upon it. So far from it, it is bound to respect the will of the people when it is called upon by them to act in its legislative capacity; and it is, upon every principle, at liberty to construe the Constitution as it is understood by it, independent or the opinions of preceding Congresses, which undoubtedly put such construction upon it, as it supposed was just and proper at that time. Nor is Congress bound to follow the construction given to it by the Supreme Court: they are co-ordinate branches of the Government; each branch is independent of the other in its construction of the Constitution, as it is in all other official acts; and each branch of the Government is bound by oath to construe it as it is understood by it. Although party considerations probably had no influence with the court in giving the construction to the Constitution, yet no one expects well settled political principles to slumber in the mind of any patriot, however erroneous they may be, without being awakened, when, in the exercise of an official duty, he believes one course taken by him will prejudice the interests of his country, while the other, if taken, will advance its interests; and such high and honorable motives may be ascribed to those high judicial functionaries, while those opposed to them in political principles, with the same sincerity and honorable motives, may be permitted to impugn the correctness of their construction, without doing injustice to the feelings of either, or infringing or invading their rights.
Mr. Smith said, as important as all readily admit the currency of a nation to be, there seems to be too much difficulty to determine in what part of the Constitution the power lies, to entitle it to much credit, to incorporate a banking company, with power to manufacture paper money at their pleasure, and to suit their private interest. Some have attempted to locate it in that part of the Constitution which authorizes Congress to "coin money, regulate the value thereof, and of foreign coin," etc. There is an obvious distinction between such means as are incidental to the express power which follows as a corollary from it, and such as may be arbitrarily assumed as convenient to execute the express power, or brought to its aid under a pretext of necessity.
The power of levying and collecting taxes implies the power of regulating the mode of assessment and collection, and appointing proper officers to accomplish the same; but to coin money, etc. does not imply the power of establishing a banking corporation to make paper money, which is no where recognised in he Constitution; but was expressly rejected when the Constitution was framed. Such a construction would be more forced than to say it implies a power to incorporate a company of miners; because Congress is empowered to coin money, inasmuch as the manner in which it shall be done is not expressed; and to search after the hidden treasures of the earth, and with power to coin all the money, and regulate the value thereof, and thereby to place that important power, expressly granted to Congress, and to be exercised by it alone, beyond the control of the people, and even beyond the control of Congress; to be carried on by a few individuals, as shall suit their private interests, disregarding entirely that of the people; and the entire welfare of the public, in relation to the constitutional currency, made to depend upon the whim, caprice, interest, or political plans of these few individuals, to whom this power is delegated by Congress.
Others, with more speciousness, have attempted to find an implied power to establish a bank, growing out of the express power granted to Congress "to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes."
Mr. Smith said it would, in his opinion, do much less violence to the phraseology used in constituting this power, and the general sense expressed by it, than it does to attempt to imply the power from the express power to coin money, &c. To regulate commerce, signifies to subject commerce, already in existence by the creation of others, to rules or restrictions. To create a bank, requires capital, and requires that capital to be actively engaged; and if Congress may so regulate commerce, engage actively in it, employ capital, and carry it on, where is the limit to it ? When it incorporates a banking company to furnish the capital to merchants and others engaged in business, what stretch of power beyond this does it require to enable the Government, with this same capital, to buy ships, and employ hands on board of them, and to purchase cargoes to load the ships with, and thus become competitors with individuals in all the business of our country: send our ships to the Indies, and engage in the whaling business, and all other profitable business of the world; establish manufactories, as wares are subjects of merchandise. And why not manufacture all articles from which a profit may be derived, as well as one article only, paper money, which is as much an article of trade as cloths, and varies nearly or quite as much in its value ?
But if the Government does not choose to enter actively into business itself, it can incorporate a company, and give it the benefit of the trade; the great body of the people will be no more deprived of their natural or social rights, or deprived of the profits of business which appropriately belong to them, than they are in banking, nor will the profits be larger or more valuable to the citizens. To be consistent, Mr. Smith said, he thought the Government was as much bound to do this as to incorporate a banking company. It has incorporated, or proposes tom one company to manufacture the currency, and, on the same principle, it ought to incorporate another company to merchandise, and another to manufacture the goods, another, with as much propriety and justice, to raise the produce on our farms. One is no more unreasonable and no more unauthorized that the other.
Mr. Smith said he was sure no Senator could reasonably claim, that Congress has the power to separate the incident from the principle, to separate the implied power, growing out of the express power, and dispose of those to individuals, and cheat the people and Congress of the power, and place it beyond the control of either; that Congress has not the same power to dispose of the principal, or express power, that it has to dispose of the incident, or implied power. There is nothing in the nature of an implied power, that gives Congress any more power over it, to dispose of it, than there is in an express power. If they are powers derived from the same source, it is no matter whether they are express or implied; they are to be exercised in the same way, and for the same purpose. There can be no doubt, then, said Mr. Smith, if he was correct, but if Congress has the power to incorporate a company to carry out the implied powers, it has the same right to incorporate a company to carry into effect the express powers. Well, admitting this to be correct, what would be the condition of the people and their Government ? Their agents, selected for their fidelity to manage the Government for them, have bartered it away, and transferred the power conferred on them for that purpose, and by the barter and transfer have given their new agents the character of master, instead of servant, which was the appropriate character when elected by the people. Congress, then, will have granted the power to coin money, and to a corporation; the power to regulate commerce, construed to mean to carry on commerce to another company; to declare war to another company, and to furnish materials for carrying it on, to an other company; to fix the standard of weights and measures to another company; and to build our ships etc. to another company.
If Congress possesses the same power to incorporate a company to manufacture weights and measures, that it does to incorporate a company to manufacture the currency, what more impropriety or injustice would there be to the people ? The people would not suffer as much by it, even if the weights and measures were to increase and diminish with the interest of the manufacturer, when he bought and sold as much as the bank bills do; because much more property can be disposed of, passed from hand to hand without weighing or measuring, than there can be without money. And what would the people think, and what would they say to their servants, if they were to incorporate a company of men, with the exclusive privilege of manufacturing all the weights and measures of the country, and of using them in their own way; and at their pleasure to dispose of them, or withhold them; and to make them larger when they bought, and smaller when they sold; compelling the people to depend on the company for them, and must either buy of them at their prices and on their terms, or go without ? The effect on the interest of the people, if the exclusive right being given to an incorporated company to manufacture the currency, in accordance with their own interest is the same, and more deleterious if possible.
To raise and support armies, would be necessarily implied under the power to declare war, war could not be carried on without this power, it is a means of accomplishing an end; that is to maintain war; but the means, as well as the end are here expressed. If the convention which formed the Constitution, had intended to have given such means as banking to accomplish an end, as is contended for, so remote as the end and the means are from each other, would it not have been much more likely to express the means to be employed than in some others, between which there was much more affinity, and when it must have been implied by necessity, and when the means were absolutely necessary to accomplish the end ? The power vested in Congress "to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by the Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any department or office thereof," has some times been selected, as the source from whence the authority is derived to establish a bank. This clause of the Constitution, Mr. Smith said, did not enlarge the powers already granted; it neither did, or was intended to add to their powers. Congress would have possessed this power, necessarily, as much without this clause as with it; it is declaratory merely; to make all such laws as should be necessary to give full force and effect to the Constitution would be a necessary consequence; for without the right to enjoy the benefit of the constitutional power, as they are given, the Constitution would be wholly useless. But if we do not pervert the language made use of to indicate the laws to be made under the above power, it is quite certain that no authority will be found in that part of the Constitution to establish a bank. What do we understand by the words "necessary and proper?" Why, sir, not only that the law to be made shall be adapted, fit, proper, and opposite, but that it shall be necessary, that is, the law is indispensable; that cannot be otherwise, without preventing the purpose intended; and though we may admit that the word, necessary, is sometimes, though seldom, used in a more relaxed sense, this is the general sense in which it is used. If, then, a bank is indispensable to the regulation of commerce, there might seem to be some excuse for exercising the power. But no one will pretend that commerce cannot be regulated without a bank; and, therefore, a bank is not necessary, or, in other words, indispensable; nor is it, in its nature, a regulator of commerce, but an auxiliary to commerce.
But what may be supposed to have been understood by the convention when the Constitution was framed, by "making all laws necessary," &c. what would be understood now, by all men of common sense ? Why, sir, every man would suppose that it meant a common and ordinary law; such an one, as is required to be published and placed in your statute book among the general and public laws, and such as all citizens are bound to take notice of; and which are at all times under the control of the people, subject to be altered, modified, or repealed, as their interest should require; not a private contract with one or more individuals, which derives no force or efficacy from being published, but is perfected like every other contract between two or more individuals, affecting nobody but the contracting parties, and which the public, by the construction of the court, has no interest in, or concern with; and which is designed to empower the individuals incorporated to accumulate wealth and riches, while all others are strictly prohibited and forbidden the enjoyment of the same privileges, and not only so, but compelled to contribute their proportion towards enriching these specially privileged above all the rest. Suggest to the mind of any man that a law was to be made for any purpose, and would the idea flash upon his mind that that law was to be a contract in which the public generally was not concerned ? Certainly not.
It is possible we may derive some aid in giving a correct construction to the word necessary, as used in the Constitution, by recurring to some ordinary transaction among individuals, where a right is implied, and limited by necessity. We shall then be likely to get the idea ordinarily designated by the word. We will suppose the following case, and see whether such construction as has been given in similar cases, and as probably would be again should it occur, will not shed some light on this constitutional provision: One man sells a piece of land to another, surrounded entirely and enclosed by his own land, without giving any express right in the deed to the grantee to cross his land to go there, which he had conveyed. To occupy and enjoy the land, it is necessary that the grantee should have ingress and egress; and, without it, the conveyance would be wholly nugatory, and could not be enjoyed by him, any more than it could if he did not own it. Mr. Smith said there would be an implied right to pass over the grantor's land, as being necessary to the enjoyment of the land, and to give effect to the deed. But suppose the land, when conveyed, was open and accessible on one side, but very inconvenient, and the distance to get on to it would be several miles, while to cross the grantor's land would be very convenient, and the distance but a few rods: would any one suppose the grantee could have a right to pass over the grantor's land ? Certainly not. And why not ? Because the land could be enjoyed, though imperfectly and to a great disadvantage, as it was conveyed. It will, therefore, be seen, that if this position is correct; that if means, though imperfect, are given to the enjoyment of the express power, that every means may not be resorted to as necessary to give the greatest degree of enjoyment that the subject is capable of; but it must be taken with its imperfections, and no implication necessarily arises to make it more perfect.
Mr. Smith said, he desired to learn by what principle or power it is that Congress delegates the power to others; and, independent of these, from whom, and to whom, the power to grant a bank, if such exists, emanates ? Is there any other instance, and if so, where is it, in which the power delegated by the people, to be exercised for their benefit, without express power given for that purpose, that the power so delegated can be again delegated ? He knew of none. Executive officers, under authority given for that purpose, may call to their aid others to assist them in executing the laws; but can legislative officers, or agents of the people, transfer their powers, which are personal trusts, and discharge themselves from the responsibility created by the acceptance of the trust from the people, to whose personal ability and known fitness alone, they looked for a faithful performance of it ? But for the purpose of seeing what the principle would lead to, when fully carried out in practice, admit there is no doubt but Congress has the power to incorporate a banking company, and make it independent of the people and of the Government; and this to be done by their legislative powers, received at the hands of the people. It will probably not be denied that, if the legislators can dispose of part of their power, they can upon the same principle, dispose of the whole.
Suppose, then, that some important measure is designed to be carried in Congress, and the people select their representatives with that view; but the representatives think proper to barter away their trusts to others, whom the people know nothing about, and are adverse to them in their views of the subject, to settle and legislate upon which the representatives had been particularly elected; but by that subterfuge, the people are cheated and defrauded out of their rights. And whether the business to be performed by the representatives is ordinary or extraordinary, the principle is the same, and the fraud is as great upon the people as far as it affects their interest and rights.
Suppose the judges of the courts, who are appointed to the important station for their talents, learning, and peculiar fitness for the place, delegate their powers to others, without regard to the choice or rights of the people, and create a new court at their pleasure. Is there any thing more revolting in this, or would it be more unexpected, or unjust to the people, than for the Legislatures to delegate their powers, and create an odious monopoly, and an oppressive banking institution, subverting the fundamental principles of their Government, and reducing them to the domination of a power, the people had freely spilt their blood to avert ?