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Oct. 11, 1837.]
right to do this none will question: they have a deep interest in their respective banking institutions. The State represented by myself and colleagues has invested in them her funds for education and internal improvement. Under these circumstances, it is not in our place to read homilies to the State governments on the impolicy of banks, nor to do any thing here in our representative character, with the view of crippling or destroying thein. On the contrary, within our constitutional power, we should rather endeavor to restore their credit and stability. As for that part of the bill which directs in what currency the public dues shall be paid in all time to come, it seems to me unnecessary and premature. We need not legislate in this matter for posterity; nor even for the next three or four years. The present state of the currency is such, that we should act more wisely to leave this question to those who will come after us, and content ourselves with providing for the present emergency. But, sir, I waive the subject of currency, as one in regard to
which the Government has already settled its policy, and s
pass on to the other very interesting question presented by the bill—that relating to the custody of the public money. The plan which I have had the honor of suggesting— by no means, however, of originating—that of specially depositing the public funds in the local banks, is essentially different, not only from the bill, but also from the amendment of my colleague, [Mr. GARLAND..] It maintains the principle of separating this Government, both in its pecuniary and political concerns, from banking corporations, which my colleague's annendment, providing for a general deposite, does not, and at the same time secures the public treasure from the risk to which the bill subjects it, by leaving it in the custody of individuals. We have already experienced the ruinous consequences of leaving the vast revenues of the Government in the banks as a basis for banking operations. The plan of special deposites, if adopted, will prevent their recurrence for the future; and prevent, too, the no less serious evils which may be anticipated from suffering these immense treasures to remain in the hands of our revenue officers. There is every reason to fear that those officers will themselves use the money, as the deposite banks have done, by way of loan and discount, or be tempted to employ it in private speculations. The instances of such abuses are, unfortunately, but too frequent. I must say, however, that those alluded to by my colleague, [Mr. GARLAN p,) as having occurred in Virginia, do not justify the use he has made of them to show that his plan of general deposite in bank is exempt from danger; for they occurred under that very system, and not, as he seems to have supposed, under a system resembling what is called the sub-Treasury. The same may be said of the almost innumerable defaults in the Post Office. Still, they poove the difficulty of resisting temptation, and the danger to which the public treasure must be always exposed under the most guarded regulation ; and, it must be acknowledged, apply with increased force to the scheme contained in the bill. There are but three modes suggested of providing for
the custody of the public money; by placing it in bank as
a general deposite, or as a special deposite; or leaving it in the hands of individuals. I prefer the plan of special deposite; but if compelled to select between the bill upon your table, and the amendment, imperfect and exceptionable as it is, I must say, unequivocally, I will take that which insures a separation rather than that which perpetuates the union between the Government and the banks— between political power and moneyed capital. I hope, sir, the measure in its present shape will not be forced upon us. It is because I wish the principle to be successfully carried into practice, that I object to a plan almost certain,
by its failure, to give a triumph to its enemies, and pave
the way for a national bank.
All agree, Mr. Chairman, that a national bank, at this time, is inexpedient and unattainable. Yet no one can be so blind as not to see that the friends of such an institution have it in full prospect. The whole course of the debate during the present session, proves that they by no means despair of its ultimate establishment. Elaborate arguments have been urged with a view to forestal public opinion. I must, therefore, sir, ask the indulgence of the committee, not to enter at length into the examination of a subject so thoroughly investigated by the ablest statesmen, that an idea can scarcely be presented that has not been repeatedly presented before; but to glance at the grounds upon which it is urged, and the reasons which render it the object with me of apprehension and aversion.
The power to establish a national bank is deduced from various clauses in the constitution. No one pretends that it is granted in express terms; and the variety of sources from whence it is inferred, is a strong argument against the pretension. We are referred to the clause which authorizes Congress to regulate commerce with foreign nations and among the several States. The term regulate, is expounded as synonymous with facilitate, and then the grant of power is made out without difficulty ; for banks, none will deny, facilitate commerce; and so, it may be asserted with equal truth, do ships, and canals, and roads; and the conclusion to which we arrive that Congress may incorporate a bank, is equally strong in favor of the right to build ships or incorporate companies for constructing roads and canals; and this conclusion, accordingly, Mr. Hamilton and the federalists have always adopted. It leads us still farther: for it would justify, as indeed Mr. Hamilton asserts, the power to incorporate companies to carry on a foreign trade, and, as may upon the same principles be maintained, to incorporate companies to carry on agricultural pursuits—for commerce is essentially dependent upon agriculture, and, indeed, cannot exist without it. The argument that proves all this, proves too much; and, proving too much, proves nothing.
But Congress may coin money and regulate its value, and, therefore, may establish a bank. Making bank notes is not, in the sense of the constitution, or in any sense, “coining money.” It would be a reflection upon the understanding of those who framed the constitution, to suppose they did not know the meaning of the terms they used. If to issue paper be to coin money, then every State bank has exercised this high prerogative of sovereignty, and usurped the power exclusively conferred upon Congress. Printing or stamping paper is not coining, more than a bit of worthless paper so printed or stamped, is really what the gentleman from Maryland terms it, gold and silver. I will not admit, sir, that bank paper or Treasury paper is a coinage; but I fear that in establishing this manufactory of paper money the friends of State rights have done the very act which they denounce. They have established a bank— the worst of all banks—a Government bank. Let gentlemen turn to the able argument of Mr. Hamilton—for able it unquestionably is—and they will find that one of his strongest reasons in favor of the right to incorporate a national bank is deduced from the power, which he contends they possess, to establish just such a manufactory of Treasury notes as that which we have recently created. Assuming that power, which he considers in essence the power to engage in banking operations, he readily and plausibly at least contends, that if to create a bank be lawful, it cannot be unlawful to incorporate it. Sir, I will not say that ; but I will say, if it be lawful to create a bank, it is wholly immaterial whether the power to incorporate it exist or not. It is the banking principle to which I am opposed, not the mode in which it shall be carried into practice; or rather, I would say, this power to engage in banking operations, is more odious when exercised directly by the Government, than when exercised through the in
strumentality of a corporate body. Ono man may be a banker, as well as a corporate body; a Government as well as an individual. Gentlemen war against the power of incorporation; but the real danger is in the power of banking; and of all the modes of which that power can be exercised, the most odious, I repeat, and the most dangerous, is that by its own direct agency; in other words, a Government or Treasury bank, such as we have just created. Gentlemen tell us again, that all duties must be uniform, and that this provision presupposes the right to establish a national bank. No, sir, it requires nothing more than to exert the power vested in Congress to coin money and regulate its value. When this is done, all duties are easily made uniform by requiring them to be paid in the same currency, or in other equivalents. It requires no bank to do that. There is yet another ground: the plea which justifies every usurpation—the plea of necessity. make all laws necessary and proper to carry into effect its granted powers; and we are told that a bank is necessary to enable the Government to collect and disburse its revenue. I deny the necessity or propriety of such an institution for such a purpose. That institution cannot be regarded as necessary or proper, in the contemplation of the constitution, which did not exist for years after it was adopted; without which we conducted our fiscal operations from 1811 to 1816, and from 1832 to the present moment. We have the authority, too, of Mr. Madison, recently after its adoption, uncontradicted, that the power to grant corporations was applied for, and refused. It would be a reflection upon the understanding of the sages who framed that instrument, to hold that the incorporation of a bank was necessary and proper, and yet that all power of incorporating such an institution was denied. Sir, to assert the necessity of such an institution is to fly in the face of facts, and to endow Congress with a discretionary power to do whatever they may choose to declare necessary. It is to assume absolute and unlimited power. If the constitutional right of Congress, however, sir, were undisputed, I should still oppose a national bank as inexpedient. I concur, sir, most fully, with my colleague, [Mr. Hu NTER,) that the credit system needs no artificial stimulus; or, if it does, that it has no claim to derive its aliment from the public treasure. I am no enemy to the credit system within its legitimate bounds: that credit which rests upon anticipated returns of capital or labor will deserve aid and encouragement; but a credit having no such solid foundations leads to far different results. The facilities afforded by an undue increase of banking capital, often tempt those who rest solely on borrowed means to engage in wild and reckless adventures; speculations in fancy stocks, in lands yielding no produce, in cities without a house, harbors without a ship. If the gambler in these lotteries should fail, the loss falls on the laborer or the capitalist. If he succeed, it is often at their expense. His palaces rise like exhalations, and he lolls in his magnificent coach, while the farmer or the nechanic, often with ten times his substantial capital, can scarcely afford an humble dwelling or a pne-horse chaise. But the gentleinan from Ncw York [Mr. Hoff MAN] informs us that the credit system works well ; not, I believe, sir, just at present. Doubtless it has worked well, through the aid of the Bank of the United States; at least in the North, and so it may again. But what has been its effects at the South ! Upon this subject, my friend from South Carolina [Mr. Pick Ex's] has given us some interesting details. Look back, sir, to the condition of the South before and since the establishment of the first national bank, and you will not fail to be struck with the rapid advance of the Northern States compared with the Southern. It may be that other causes have conspired to increase the
relative prosperity of the North, and depress the South. But the result is most striking. Virginia, with one of the finest harbors in the Union—with three large rivers leading to the interior; rich as she is in vegetable and mineral wealth—is tributary to the North for most of the foreign goods she consumes. And is it not reasonable to suppose that much of this may be attributable to the cause I have mentioned 4 Would not the necessary effect of such an institution be to afford superior facilities to those among whom its capital was principally divided, and render it impossible that the Southern merchant could come in competition with the Northern ? There is another and obvious injury which a national bank may inflict upon the South. The able man who pre
sided over the last, has boasted, it is said, of his power,
whenever he pleased, to crush the banking institutions of the States. This power—the power materially to affect our prosperity, by sudden expansions or contractions of its
loans—may never be exerted. But it is one too dangerous
to be entrusted with those whose interests are not indentified with our own. Money, sir, it has been often and well said, is power. We should not be satisfied to look at the mere expediency of the moment? We should look to the future, as well as to the past. In all free States, collisions may be expected to arise. An oppressive tariff has once, already, nearly shaken our confederacy to its centre, and brought us to the very verge of civil war. A restless band at the North are even now plotting the destruction of our domestic institutions. We have heard of a Pennsylvania legion of ten thousand ready to draw the sword at the command of the Executive. Such threats should not disturb us; but for one, sir, I frankly declare that I should be unwilling the South should contribute the means which may be employed for her own destruction. A national bank was never a favorite measure in Virginia. Even in 1816, though many yielded to the pressure of the times, a majority of her delegation voted against it, and in 1791, when the original sin was committed, it rcceived the support of but three members of the entire representation from the south side of the Potomac. I trust the attempt will never again succeed.
free institutions should wish to see successfully adopted. .
It is not, as my colleague [Mr. Wise] supposes, a novel one, originating in an agrarian spirit. It claims a much loftier origin. It received the sanction, many years ago, of Mr. Jefferson. Sir, it is my habit to lean upon the authority of great names; but it may be regarded as among the evil auguries of the times, that the opinions of Mr. Jefferson are made the theme of ridicule, while the ultra federal doctrines of Mr. Hamilton are quoted with approbation in this hall. No man was ever more ardently devoted to the cause of liberty than Mr. Jefferson; few ever possessed a more vigorous or original mind, or more independentiy expressed the opinions he entertained. It is to him, as much at least as to any of the great statesmen of his day, that we are indebted for what is most valuable in the free institutions under which we live.
But, sir, we need not the aid of his name to vindicate the principle we maintain. Our own history gives us proofs that it is neither a new idea, nor had its birth in a factious spirit. We need only go back to the session of 1834 to find it supported by men whose patriotism and sound republican principles will not be questioned. Early in that session, Mr. Gamble, of Georgia, moved an inquiry into the practicability of disponsing with banks in our fiscal operations. Subsequently, when the deposite bill was before the House, General Gordon, then my colleague, proposed his plan for what is now called the sub-Treasury. Approving the principle, but believing it imperfect in details, I had the honor of submitting a motion to recommit the bill, with instructions to amend it so as to dispense with bank agency. On this motion the yeas and nays were called : ninety-one members, including General Gordon himself, and the opposition party almost to a man, voted in favor of the motion; one hundred and fifteen, almost exclusively the friends of the administration, voted against it. Were those who sustained it agrarians, or actuated by a spirit of factious opposition 1 None will assert it. For myself, I can truly say the motion was made in good faith. It was placed upon the ground of the insecurity and danger, both in a pecuniary and political view, of a connexion between this Government and banking corporations. On the contrary, the administration party derided the proposition; those particularly who have since occupied conspicuous stations in the House. The present Speaker, then chairman of the Committee of Ways and Means, warmly commended the State banks as every way competent, and worthy of all confidence. The present chairman of the Committee of Ways and Means [Mr. CAMBRELENG) also opposed it. He has reminded us of his speech, in which he said he concurred with me in the principle, but did not think that the proper time to assert it. Yes, sir, I remember it well. He approved the principle, but refused to carry it into practice. He spoke in favor of the proposition, and voted against it. The bill providing for a general deposite of public money in the State banks was passed. It was the favorite measure of the party in power. But, sir, strange to say, those who, seemingly at least, favored the principle of separation, now denounce it as factious and chimerical; and its opponents have become its warmest advocates. It is not for me to question the sincerity of either party. That is between them and their consciences. We have to do here with measures, not motives. I think now, as I thought then ; and will not change my course, because the administration party, or the opposition party, may think fit to change theirs. I have never so far enlisted under thc banners of either, as to give up the exercise of my own judgment, nor consented to submit to the dictation of any party, or of any man in this House, or in the other House, or in the White House. Still less will I yield up the convictions of my own mind, because my political adversaries have acknowledged their truth. The experience of the last two years has been enough to open their eyes; and I will hope, sir, they have seen their error. To adhere to an opinion, when reason and experience show it to be erroneous, is to be a bigot or a hypocrite. It is equally true that those who desert their own principles, and act in opposition to their own judginent, are slaves, mere puppets, moved by the will of another. Maelzel could construct a House of Representatives as fit to exercise the functions of legislators—yes, sir, speaker, orators, and all, down to the previous question.
But it is asked, why legislate upon the subject now ! The separation has taken place, and the sub-Treasury scheme is in full operation. True, sir, but how has this been effected By the simple mandate of the Executive.
Is it not obvious, too, that this plan itself, as now practised,
is insecure, and stands in need of legislative provisions ! It is the duty of Congress to provide for the safety of the
public treasure. We cannot justisy ourselves if we abandon it to the control of the Executive. It is a power never safely entrusted to any but the immediate representatives of the people. Yet our legislation is almost wholly shaped, so far as concerns the revenue, by the other House, or by the Executive. We have even received bills for raising supplies from the Senate almost without a murmur. The bill for depositing the surplus with the States, it has been said, was amended at the White House, so as to meet the views of the President. Look, sir, to the history of the Treasury circular—a measure adopted in known opposition to the will of Congress, and the act repealing it pocketed by the President, and, for aught we know, now at the Hermitage. Look to the course pursued for years past, in regard to the custody of the public money—removed from the place where you had appointed it to be kept, to places you had never authorized to receive it. Yes, sir, you had ordained a union between the Government and the national bank; not, perhaps, strictly in the bonds of lawful matrimony. This union lasted for years; it was severed by the Executive fiat ; our Chief Magistrate cut the knot with as little ceremony as Henry VIII, and then took up with almost as many wives as surrounded King Solomon— forty or more—eighty, sir, it is said around me. The State banks came into favor. It was an illicit connexion; the banns had never been celebrated. We were called upon to sanction both acts—the divorce, and the new union, and we complied most obediently. The State banks, in turn, have given offence, by too faithfully obeying the orders of their lord and master; and now the royal edict has gone forth, and the cry is “off with their heads.” The chamber of Blue Beard never exhibited a more bloody spectacle. Yes, sir, in little more than two years, these new favorites are discarded; and, after the flattering picture drawn of the entire security of the State banks, we now behold upon our table a bill to settle up our accounts with the late depositories of the public money. The Executive has again taken the public treasure into its keeping, or, rather, has scattered it throughout the land, without the authority of . law, in the hands of thousands of individuals. I repeat, sir, it does not become us to leave it in that condition. We may avoid the danger to which it is exposed, in my humble judgment, by placing it as a special deposite in the local banks, and, in making that deposite preserve, substantially, the principle which the sub-Treasury scheme is designed to assert. Special deposites no more imply any pecuniary or political union between the Government and the banks, than such a union would spring from employing a railroad or steamboat company to transport the mail or munitions of war. I trust, therefore, sir, we shall have the aid of the chairman of the Committee of Ways and Means to amend the bill in the way I have had the honor to suggest. It would be the most effectual means of rendering the measure successful, and putting an end to the hopes of those who look to its failure as resulting in the cstablishment of a national bank. Mr. GARLAND, of Virginia, thought it his duty to make some remarks on the amendment he had proposed. After replying to some arguments of his colleague in relation to the Virginia banks, he adverted to the present bill. He was sure the Government would never prosper when divorced from the banks, between whom and the people there still existed a matrimonial connexion. It was his opinion that, in less than cighteen months after the passage of this measure, the Government would seek to reunite itself with the banks. The relief now proposed to the people in lieu of the State banks, reminded him of a certain criminal, who, when on his way to the gallows, was offered a reprieve on condition of his marrying an ugly, wrinkled old woman. The man, after a moment's reflection, exclaiined,
“A sentence hard you do impart;
And thus preferred hanging to a wedding on such terms. So the sentence was more preferable to the people than the system now proposed. The object of the divorce bill was to take the money from banks and to deposite it with subagents. But, in his opinion, taking into consideration the frailties of human nature, it would be a dangerous scheme. He did not mean to say that the officers of Government had less integrity than other men; but when the lamentable instances were called to mind where individuals of high standing had sacrificed an unblemished character for a mere paltry amount, it ought to teach a lesson to guide them in the present instance. He would repeat the words of his colleague this morning, who had said even the words of our Saviour were, “lead us not into temptation.” He advocated the plan of keeping the money in the vaults of the banks, as more secure, and particularly if the amendment last offered were adopted, which provides that the banks shall receive the money as a special deposite, and without using it in any way whatever. He denied that the banks were insolvent, as had been stated. He had been informed on unquestionable authority, that they were as sound now as before they suspended specie payment. As regarded the proposed separation, he had always understood that our system of Government, although necessarily divided into many branches, was all one. But now they talked of a separation from those institutions of which the States had laid the foundation, and which they had cherished to this time. How fearful would be that time, should it ever occur, when this Government should consider it as its duty to make its action independent of the States! He did not say that gentlemen designed this, but he would entreat them to reflect whether the present measure would not pave the way for such a state of things. The true policy of Government was to cement itself more closely with the States, and he had no doubt but that the issue of Treasury notes would speedily afford relief, and enable the banks to resume specie payments. It had been said that these notes would lay the foundation of a Treasury bank, but he had no apprehension of that kind, for the restrictions to that bill would render such a result impossible. He contended that the bank note system had not had a fair trial, and referred to the Bank of France, and other institutions, in support of his position. At the conclusion of his remarks, On motion of Mr. HAYNES, the committee rose and reported the bill to the House, without coming to any resolution thereon ; when, On motion of Mr. BRIGGS, the House adjourned.
Thun's DAY, Octo BER 12. FLORIDA WAR.
The House proceeded to the unfinished business of yesterday morning, which was the motion of Mr. McKay to postpone the consideration of the resolution of Mr. Wise for a committee of inquiry on the Florida war till the first Monday in December next.
Mr. McKAY made a brief explanation, stating, in substance, that he had moved the postponement because all the important points in the resolution were already within the province of different standing committees, or had been investigated before courts martial or of inquiry. As to the expenses of the war, he had no objection to a strict investigation of them; but this could be prosecuted through the standing Committee on Expenditures in the Department of War, whose duty it was to report on that subject at the next session.
Mr. ADAMS said he was happy to hear the explanation, and to learn that the gentleman from North Carolina (to whose vigilance he paid a compliment) was not, as Mr. A. had before understood him, of opinion that no investigation was necessary. Mr. A. made some remarks going
to show that the committees to which the several subjects of investigation had been formerly referred, were not likely to prosecute the inquiry with any practical efficiency. Indeed, he was of opinion that no standing committee of the House ever would conduct a scrutiny of this nature with effect, and insisted that none but a select committee, and that appointed by ballot, would be likely to do any thing to the purpose in the matter. In reply to remarks of Mr. McKay, on the composition of committees, and especially of the Committee on Manufactures, Mr. A. went into a history of that committee, from the time when he had entered Congress, and had, contrary to his own earnest remonstrance, been placed at its head. He gave an account of the circumstances which had attended the report by that committee of the tariff bill of 1832; went into a history of the manner in which the celebrated compromise bill had been introduced into the House, and passed without debate by force of the previous question. He made some general observations on the practice of appointing, on all the important committees of the House, a majority of members in favor of the administration; to which he did not object; but stated that, until the late era of reform, the opposite practice had prevailed. He objected to the postponement, as the committce would want all its time, and much useful progress might be made during the recess. - Mr. WILLIAMS, of North Carolina, demanded the yeas and nays on the question of postponement, and they were ordered by the House. Some conversation took place between Messrs. BOND, McKAY, and REED, as to the necessity of the investigation proposed, and as to the abuses which exist in the Jndian relations of the country. Mr. BOND took occasion to introduce a statement of appropriations, within the last two years, for the suppres. sion of Indian hostilities, all these expenditures being so much in addition to the ordinary expenses of the military establishment. Mr. WHITTLESEY, of Ohio, hoped if the motion for postponement prevailed, one good result would follow : that the Committee on Expenditures would discharge the duties assigned them. He animadverted with much particularity upon the neglect of duty which characterizes so many of the standing committees of the House, and the difficulty even of procuring meetings for the performance of their duties. Mr. A. H. SHEPPERD, of North Carolina, made some remarks to a similar purpose, and gave an account of the manner in which he had performed his duty as chairman of the Committee on Expenditures in the Department of State; stating some facts going to show the necessity of vigilance in the discharge of their duty by the Commit; tees on Expenditures in the the several Departments.
The House then proceeded to the orders of the day, and went again into Committee of the Whole on the state of the Union, (Mr. F. O. J. SM1th in the chair,) on the Senate's sub-Treasury bill. Mr. RICE GARLAND made an ineffectual attempt to have the bill laid aside, to take up the bill to settle with the deposite banks. Mr. HAYNES, who was entitled to the floor, addressthe committee as follows: Mr. Chairman: At an early stage of this discussion, while the Committee of the Whole on the state of the Union was engaged in the consideration of the bill to postpone the fourth instalment of deposite with the States, so extraordinary were some of the statements of fact, inferences, and arguments, presented by some gentlemen who took part in it, more especially the remarks made by my honorable friend from South Carolina, [Mr. Thompson, J
that nothing but the position occupied by me could have prevented my endeavoring to offer an immediate reply. That honorable gentleman, in his zeal to throw upon the late and present administrations the burden of the present difficulties and embarrassments of this country, was pleased to institute a comparison between the course pursued by the monarchies of Great Britain and France, in periods of commercial distress in those countries, for the purpose of contrasting their paternal solicitude for their subjects, and the grievous oppression of the American Government towards its citizens. Among the extraordinary statements sometimes ventured in this House, I was not prepared to hear an honorable gentleman speak in terms of eulogy of the conduct of the French Government in the memorable explosion which terminated the Mississippi bubble. The honorable gentleman from South Carolina surely has not lately revived his historical recollections, or he would have held very different language in reference to the conduct of the French Government at the period to which he referred. What, Mr. Chairman, is the history of the Mississippi bubble? A foreign adventurer established a bank in Paris in the year 1716 or '17, which, having been managed to apparent advantage for a few months, was purchased in the name of the King in the course of the following year. Banking was then a novelty in France, and the scheme seened to work so successfully, that an emission of paper sufficient to redeen the public debt was issued shortly af. ter the bank became the property of the King. It would be a waste of time to recapitulate the measures which were adopted to enable this bank to monopolize the whole external commerce of France. By what means it is unnecessary to inquire, the shares, originally of the value of 500 livres, were raised, by a series of speculations, to the enormous advance of 10,000. The Government having become alarmed by the wild and reckless spirit of speculation produced by an immense issue of bank notes without a specie fund for their redemption, and fearing there might be a run upon the bank, issued an edict, under severe penalties, that no individual should have in his possession, in coin, more than the sum of 500 livres. To aid the bank in sustaining its credit, the livre, in coin, was reduced or debased to one-half its original value; and, to cover the difference between the livre in coin and the livre in paper, the latter was made to undergo such successive reductions in value as should, in the course of a few months, bring it down to the standard of the debased coin of that denomination. All would not do to sustain the credit of the bank; and, in the course of three or four years from its establishment, having afloat the enormous sum of four or five hundred millions of dollars of irredeemable paper, the notable scheme was wound up by issuing an edict reducing the price of shares to 5,000 livres; which was shortly followed by another, compelling its holders to fund the bills for the miserable pittance of an annuity for fifty years' purchase, and that, so far as I can ascertain, without interest. This, sir, is a statement of what the honorable gentleman from South Carolina has been pleased to eulogize, as showing the paternal care of the French Government for its subjects. How far it tallies with the history of the late and present administrations of this Government, the committee can judge. Of the parallel the honorable gentleman was pleased to institute between the course of the British and American Governments towards their subjects and citizens, in periods of pressure and alarm, I shall speak hereafter. Flat, stale, and unprofitable as it would seem to be, I was not particularly surprised to hear the American Government charged, by almost every gentleman opposed to the system of measures under consideration, with having produced the extraordinary state of things which has existed for the last few months in this country. Such is the infirmity of our nature, that what is often repeated may
sometimes come to be believed as truth, when at its original promulgation it was known to contain no one single element of truth whatsoever. And in what manner has this grave charge been supported . If it would not be disrespectful to those who have made it, I would say, we have had “declamation without argument, and assertion without proof.” That the late President should have come in for a full measure of condemnation is not wonderful, considering the tone in which the opposition have spoken of him ever since the commencement of his administration. But, sir, I will not imitate the example of those who have ascribed the late commercial revulsion to Executive usurpation, by relying on a mere contradiction of their charge, although, in all fairness, I might do so. The first specification against General Jackson is, that, by refusing to sanction the recharter of the United States Bank, he opened the field for the creation and operation of State banks without limitation or control; and, as a consequence, that the country has been flooded with irredeemable paper. And here it may be proper to remark, that the opponents of the late and present administrations are not agreed whether the paper currency has, or has not, been extended to an unreasonable amount. If I did not greatly misunderstand the honorable gentleman from South Carolina, a considerable portion of his remarks was intended to show that the local bank issues had, at no period, gone beyond their proper and healthful proportion to the specie in this country. If this argument be true—and for the present I shall pass it by without further examination— this grave charge of Executive influence in producing an unsafe increase of bank capital and circulation, must fall to the ground. That the veto upon the bill to recharter the United States Bank in 1832, may have had some influence in increasing the establishment of local banks, and their consequent issues, I might be disposed to admit, if the testimony of a distinguished financer, high in the confidence of my honorable friend from South Carolina, together with considerations connected with it, did not go to establish the contrary. It is well known that the advocates of a national bank base their support of that measure on the ground that it can and will so regulate and control the issues of the local banks, as to keep them in a sound and healthy condition. For the purpose of the present argument, it is sufficient that I admit it. It is equally well known, that after a charter had been granted to the stockholders of the late United States bank by the State of Pennsylvania, its president congratulated them upon its severance of the connexion which had existed between the Government and the old bank, because it was better for both, and the bank was stronger without it than with it. Put this testimony together, and how dare any gentleman to say that the circulation of the local banks has been unsound or excessive 1 They shall not discredit their own witness, Mr. Biddle, for the purpose of extricating themselves from the contradictions by which they are environed. What then is the result Either that there has been no excess of local bank paper in circulation, or a national bank is impotent to restrain it. I care not which horn of the dilemma gentlemen may select—either is fatal to their favorite scheme of a national bank. If I understood the honorable gentleman from South Carolina, he argued, or, if he did not so argue, it is a fair inference from his re. marks upon the currency, that there had been no overtrading in this country. And here, too, if I am correct in my recollection of what was said by that gentleman, he is sustained by the testimony of Mr. Biddle, given in a letter addressed to the distinguished member from Massachusetts [Mr. An Ams] about the time Congress convened in 1836, in which he showed by the state of foreign exchange that this country had not overtraded. It is true, that in a subsequent letter, addressed by him to the same distinguished individual, he did say that we had