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still animated his bosom. I thought it seemed cruel, though it was just, when he required the Clerk, with his strong voice, to read out the names of those who had voted for and against General Gordon's proposition a few years ago. I thought that that was, to his new allies, “the most unkindest cut of all.” I was then seated in the chair on the Clerk's platform, which is now occupied by the honorable Senator from Massachusetts, Mr. Webster, [Mr. J. pointed in the direction of the Clerk's seat, philosophizing and surveying the effect it would produce on many countenances, and perceived, as some names were pronounced, their faces would crimson; others would blanch; some twisted in their chairs, whilst others left the hall, as old Proteus once quitted an unpleasant theatrical hall; whilst in some old and hardened sinners, who had long and often offended, not an eye would wink, or a muscle move, or a single feature change. They seemed to look as if they were conscious that they were past all forgiveness, and had made up their minds to look with more composure upon their past acts, than upon the enormity of those which they fully expected to perpetrate; whilst I heard, or thought I heard, several voices involuntarily exclaim, “expunge the journal.” That gentleman, [Mr. Pickess, whilst he is advocating, in his able speeches, State rights, is at the same time, supporting a measure which is the very definition of consolidation. The whole reasoning amounts to this: because Congress has not the power to establish a bank, therefore Congress must surrender into the hands of the Executive all power over the public money. Whilst I regard a Virginian or South Carolinian, who will act upon the principles of his ancestors, and dare think for himself, as one of the noblest beings in creation, I regard that different Lilliputian race, who are seven-month's children, always talking about the constitution, and never reading it, who ride about with saddlebags and the Revised Code, and spout “Constitution and Jefferson” at every court-house and cross-road, as the unsafest guides in the world; and if they should happen to be such lawyers as “rare Ben Jonson” describes, I would warn the people to beware of them who “Give forked counsel: take provoking gold On either hand, and put it up, So wise, so grave, of so perilexed a tongue, And loud withal, that would not wag, nor scarce Lie still without a fee.” There may be one other class of Southern politicians who are worse constitutional advisers. They are those of more standing at the bar, and who are called great special pleaders—the true green-bag gentry—who know all the arts of filmg a declaration, or framing a demurrer—who can at once analyze in their minds all the dry maxims of the black letter and the lignum-vitae terms of the law—who know how to inake thin distinctions, and can quibble on the point of a cambric needle. Such men I would counsel with upon a contingent remainder or executory devise; but they are not such men as I would select as my guides to expound the constitution on this floor, or to make them my archetypes as philosophical statesmen. Hair-split distinctions prove, they think, superior wisdom; and they will beautify them with rich diction and elegant manner, and leave you in a perfect paradise of ecstacy, figures, and flowers. Mr. Chairman, there are safer and better guides. Let those who wish to understand the constitution read the debates of the convention which framed that instrument— read the debates in the State conventions which adopted it—read the Federalist and Chief Justice Marshall's decisions upon it: let him do this, and then he will dare to think for himself, and will know something about it. And in this reading he may learn that Mr. Jefferson was not in this country at the time of the formation of the constitution, but was minister in France. As a politician, Mr. Jefferson was superior to Mr. Madison; as an expounder of the constitution, I regard him as inferior.
Can any one doubt that, had Mr. Van Buren recommended the establishment of a United States Bank, chartered with cautious and well guarded restraints, it would have been passed by this Congress, and that in less than six months every solvent bank would resume specie payments, and the overwhelming misery and distresses of the people would have changed into a brighter and more prosperous aspect 1 I do not doubt it. Had Mr. Van Buren said that he had been disappointed in the new experiment, as all of his friends had been ; that it was the part of wisdom now to adopt the old and well-tried policy of his predecessors, a policy which had acted well: if then some of his friends here had opposed it, he could have held up the example of Madison, and been sustained by the nation. Madison's name would have outweighed a host of modern politicians. When Mr. Madison stood alone in his vote in the last Virginia convention, against all the rest, an able American writer, aid that he would sooner have taken Mr. Madison to be right than all the rest put together. As much as I admired his wisdom, I could not say that much. But Mr. Van Buren's course has been called a firm one ; and a distinguished Senator now in my eye, [Mr. Wehst ER, ) said, in a speech which I heard with great pleasure, in another quarter of this Capitol, that after reading Mr. Van Buren's message, and finding that he was really tracking the footsteps of the late President, he would not charge him with a want of firmness. I differ with that distinguished gentleman, and many others who have used the same language in this and the other end of the Capitol. I will not call it, at the same time, timidity, but I will call it rashness. The brave Roman who sent his gallant son at the head of an army, cautioned him as much against rashness as he did against cowardice. “The mean of true courage,” said he, “lies between the extremes of cowardice and rashness.” It is a proof of an absence of moral courage for any man to persist in wrong because his friends urge him to do so. Mr. Van Buren had an opportunity of showing moral fortitude in an eminent degree; for it does require no small degree of moral courage for a man to gently chide, softly to rebuke, a ruinous career of his friend. Had Mr. Van Buren said to his friends that he had believed in the experiment as they had done, but he and they had been disappointed; it had overwhelmed the whole land in misery and distress; his supporters as well as his opponents were beggared by it; that he felt it his duty to abandon the scheme which had so signally failed, and he had determined, for the good of the nation, to go back to the well-beaten path in which Washington and Madison, and all the other Presidents, trod—he might have lost here and there a friend, but he would have gained a hundred for one; he would have proved himself worthy of the office which he holds, proved himself of true and generous courage, and would have then been placed by the side of the amiable and patriotic Madison. But what does he do? When the popular phrensy was highest against a bank, Mr. Van Buren, in an evil hour, committed himself against the bank, supposing the pet bank system would succeed; because General Jackson had sworn, in his wrath, that it should succeed. But failed—exploded—blowing up the Treasury as well as the banks; and the people were ruined. Mr. Van Buren was in a dilemma, and could not go for a United States bank, and preserve his consistency; and had magnanimity of feeling to confess error, repent, and ask forgivness of the thousands and tens of thousands whom he had helped to ruin. What was he to do in this emergency, as Congress had been called in the panic of the moment 1 He was pledged to go in the footsteps of the late President, and there were no footsteps. Mr. Van Buren was at fault, sadly at fault. A fast runner was posted to the Hermitage, two letters are quickly written by General Jackson, published in the Globe, and thus footsteps are made where none were before. Never did Ti
berius reign with as much awful terror as when he retired from Rome and went to his gloomy and secluded hermitage, and sent his authoritative and bloody edicts to a slavish and affrighted Senate. One or two gentleinen have thrown out, during the discussion on this bill, or the one which was acted on a few days ago, a delicate intimation that the expediency of the bank might be more clear to their minds if the constitution were altered so as to express distinctly that Congress should have power to establish a bank. Of such allusions I think as Lowndes did, in 1816, when he was requested by a member to move an amendment to the constitution to authorize Congress to establish a bank. Lowndes said that ho had two objections to doing so: one was, that he thought such an amendment would not be adopted ; and the second was, that he thought the power already existed in the constitution. Mr. Chairman, I do not profess to be a constitutional lawyer. I have read some law, it is true, but have never practised in the courts. I have been admitted to practise in the court at the base of this Capitol, as a great many other unworthy lawyers have been admitted. I studied law in Virginia, under the most distinguished jurist of that State—a personal and political friend of Mr. Jefferson. I was taught to believe that it was the duty of a lawyer to respect the constitution and the laws; that the constitution had authorized courts armed with power to decidc litigated questions ; that from the inferior courts there was a right to appeal to the higher, and that the decision of the Supreine Court of the United States was final; and its powers were broadly and clearly written in the constitution : that if the Supreme Court were to decide a question or principle, which did not suit the popular taste, the decision still was final; but the people had a remedy in two ways, pointed out by the constitution, by which Congress and the States should not alter the decision, but could alter the constitution, as they have on some occasions altered that instrument. This was the doctrine which I was taught; this is the doctrine which all my reading and reflection have since confirmed. The Supreme Court has said that it will not decide political questions; but that same court has twice said that the constitutionality of the bank was a legal question, and has twice decided it to be constitutional. The decisions of that court have, in every casc, been acquiesced in by the people of the whole nation. General Washington, who presided over the convention which framed the constitution ; Mr. Madison, who was most prominent in framing it; Alexander Hamilton, who, in intellect was second to no man in the nation; have given their sanction to a bank. The Congress of 1791, which chartered the first United States Bank, voted two to one in favor of it—ayes 39, noes 20. The greater portion of the members of that Congress, who were in the convention which framed the constitution, voted for it. Every President has given it his sanction: Washington, J. Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, J. Q. Adams, Jackson—for the latter, in one of his messages said he would condescend to write a charter, if Congress would meanly ask him to do so; every President, save Martin Van Buren; and even he signed a memorial to have a branch established at Albany. The man who would raise his voice against this overwhelming authority, I would respect more for his pertinacity and obduracy of opinion than for his dispassionate judgment. We are told by metaphysicians that nothing is so dificult to prove as self-evident propositions. And I regard the right of Congress to establish a bank as being so decidedly clear as to remove all necessity for other argument on that subject. The President says that against a United States bank the sentiments of the people are “deliberately fixed.” How does he know that What spirit of divination does he pos. sess, to know whether the people always think with him
He has changed against the pet bank system ; he was for it three months ago; his message contains his palinodia. May not the people, who changed against the bank in hopes of bettering their condition, change for it now, to bring themselves where they were, rather than be beggared and miserable If they should be convinced that it will improve their present distressed situation, they will very quickly change. Self-interest is a powerful lever; and the President and his friends, by their acts, have induced the people to look to it. The people will not ruin themselves because Mr. Van Buren has held out false hopes, false lights, by which they have been wrecked ; they will come back, and denounce and quit all crude experiments. But when the committee of New York merchants told Mr. Van Buren of the dreadful distress in that city, he did not believe it; he thought it all panic. The recent elections ought to be a gentle warning. But no man is so blind as he who will not see; and I am half disposed to believe that some politicians do not yet know that the gold experiment has failed. The expediency of a bank presents a very different proposition. We can often, Mr. Chairman, look into the future by the lights of the past. And the past furnishes to my mind the most conclusive evidence that a United States bank is highly, almost indispensably, necessary to promote the rapid and uniform prosperity of the nation. Without money, no business can prosper; and without a convertible currency, and a near uniformity of exchanges, the prosperity of all business is in a great degree paralyzed. Whilst the inequality of exchanges in a depreciated currency will secure wealth to the brokers and money exchangers, in the same degree will it diminish the profits of the farmer and the mechanic, of the merchant and the man of useful enterprise. Whcnever we have had a United States bank, we have had every where a convertible, redeemable currency, by which she value of property could be clearly estimated ; whenever we have not had a bank of the United States, we have had a stoppage of specic payments, distress, and individual ruin. If we are to judge of effects by causes, what can be more convincing and conclusive When the Bank of the United States was in existence, exchanges from New Orleans to New York were never more than one per cent.; often at par; and sometimes, from one city to the other, above par. There was then but a reasonable and useful number of State banks. How are the exchanges now ! We can sometimes judge of great things by small. A friend sent me a hundred dollar note, a few days ago, on a bank in Florida, which he had been trying to pass off, but could not. I went to a broker, and he offered me seventy-five dollars in District paper for the hundred dollars on the Florida bank. I of fered him the note for eighty-five dollars, and he refused it. I called on the delegate from Florida, to know whether the bank was good. He informed me that it was perfectly solvent, and as sound as any bank in the world; that its paper passed freely in Florida. Then, a man who owes a debt of seventy-five dollars in this city, who may reside in Florida, will have to pay one hundred dollars in paper, which he takes at par at home, to liquidate his liability in this city. Such is the discount, at but one-half of the extent of our nation. If my mind had ever doubted on the subject of the expediency of a United States bank, this single circumstance would have removed every doubt. The Government has disconnected itself from the currency, and all things are in confusion, and I fear will remain so until we have, what was appropriately called yesterday, by my eloquent friend from New York, [Mr. Hoff MAN, the buiance wheel of a United States bank. I have travelled almost in every part of the Union with United States Bank paper, and never met with an individual in my life who did
not prefer receiving it to specic. But the condition of our exchanges has been enlarged upon by several gentleinen, and with great force by the able member who preceded me; and I will not consume the tine of the committee on that branch of the subject. I had intended to offer some considerations upon, first, the right of the Government to create and establish a good and sound currency for the people, and a safe and salutary mode of exchange; and, secondly, the duty of the Federal Government to exercise that power: but I have been anticipated by the able member from Winchester, [Mr. MAsos, ) who made an argument upon this subject, clear and lucid; one which has been unanswered, because it is unanswerable. He showed the evils which would be inflicted on the people by establishing one currency for the Government and another for the people. He proved the closc affinity of both, and their relative duties and responsibilities. I will only ask, in addition, Mr. Chairman, that if the Government will not exercise any control over, and feel no obligation to regulate, the currency and the medium of exchanges, for what purpose was this federal alliance formed ! Why was it that the States gave up to the General Government the whole control over commerce, if that Government will not adopt means for carrying on that commerce with a currency uniform, or as nearly so as human wisdom can devise Why have they made the sacrifice of so large and surrender of so great a portion of their sovereignty, as to be denied the right to regulate commerce between neighboring States and foreign nations, if the Gencral Government will take no step to promote this interchange 3 What other consideration could they receive for this immense surrender of State sovereignty, but that the Government would extend its paternal care to effect a good currency and safe and easy exchanges? But the President, with a profound ignorance of both the spirit and the intention of the constitution, has told us that the people might as well expect the Government to aid in the transportation of their inerchandise, as to cause or establish a good system of exchanges. It is the first time that an American President has uttered such a sentiment of disregard to an injured people; and I trust that their indignation will make it the last. If this is to be the established doctrine and policy of the Government, each State will, or might as well, stand in the relation of separate and distinct nations; for each will bear the same relation to the other, so far as currency is concerned, as Canada does to the United States, or the different nations of Europe do to each other. And the quicker they reassume the power
over commerce, the better will it be for their interest and
The miserable bunglers of the Executive, who have attempted to regulate and improve the currency, have not yet discovered that they are totally ignorant of the subject, and have failed in their experiments; and even now feel disposed, like a bewildered pilot, to let the ship of State float at the mercy of the winds and the waves, in hopes of reaching a safe point which their pretended skill could not attain, or leap into the long-boat, and desert the crew.
The President, after writing us a long message containing many maxims of sound policy, many long sentences of sophisms, much plausibility, and more bad reasoning, finally hands us over, by way of recommendation, to his Sceretary of the Treasury, for the details of his new schemes and untricid experiment. I will use this occasion to express my utter abhorrence of the long essays which are annually given by our Executive to the representatives of the people and the States. The Executive seems to think it his duty to send us a long lecture upon our public duties, and assumes as much importance as if he were a professor lecturing a class of sophomores upon the princi. of philosophy, and schooling us in the line of our uty.
The King (or now the Queen) of England and the King of France send their messages or speeches to the Parliament or the Chamber of Deputies, of about a span's length, simply saying that the nation is at peace with the world, the King is thankful for the supplies granted, and that he will take pleasure in carrying out such measures as the Parliament or Chambers may think proper to promote the interest of the nation. If either the King of England or the King of France were to threaten a veto, neither would hold his crown a month, if he would escape with his head. I think it ought to be an impeachable oftence for any executive officer of Government to send a message or communication to Congress longer than a column of an ordinary newspaper, unless, after that space, statistics and tabular exhibits should require more. The Secretary of the Treasury has sent us a volume of cighty-eight large pages, laying off his subject, like the monster in grave history, into “seven heads and ten horns.” I have read it by candlelight and by daylight; and in groping through it for a clear idea, I could not find one Now and then you will find a beggarly thought enshrouded in a whole mist and cloud of words. But his thoughts and ideas are like the arts of the cuttle-fish, which, naturalists inform us, when pursued, throws out, as quick as magic, a dark liquid which embarrasses and bewilders its pursuers, whilst it escapes from pursuit amid its own self-created darkness. You pursue his thoughts, but in the pursuit you are left in darkness. If the Secretary of the Treasury is a man of delicate and refined feelings, I would not have suffered the perturbation of mind which he must have endured, whilst he was thinking of and writing that report, for all the public money which he has handled for the last four years. I could never fully realize to my mind the description which Milton has given of one of his heroes, who was confused and disappointed, until I read the Secretary of the Treasury's report. Milton describes a personage who attempted a great reform—not, perhaps, in currency, but in civil government—(and in quoting Milton I do not wish to interfere with the criticisms of my eloquent friend from New York, [Mr. HoFFMAN,) and my no less able friend from South Carolina, [Mr. Pickens, who have rendered him, by their able review, of such questionable authority.) This reformer was disappointed, as the Secretary has been, and was humbled from his high estate; and “nine times the space which measures day and night to mortal man,” he lay “counsounded, though immortal.” And if that immortal personage could not recover his faculties for nine days, amidst the ruin around him, why should we be surprised that it should take Mr. Woodbury, who is only mortal, nine times nine days to regain his, amid the distress and ruin which he has created . In good sooth, I have no doubt that he was confounded whilst writing. Indeed, I am satisfied that he had not regained any of his faculties, save his “modest assurance,” when he asked Congress to give him these powers, and to make him, according to his will and judgment, the sole receiver and disburser of the public moneys. And here, Mr. Chairman, I will claim the kind attention of the committee whilst I say a few words in relation to the Treasury Department, and the bill under consideration granting it additional (I might say unlimited) powers. I feel conscious, Mr. Chairman, that whatever I may say can have but little weight in this House or with the nation; but I should be happy if I could slatter myself that any thought which I may express would awaken retlection in the mind of any member of this House, or any citizen not a member. The day was, Mr. Chairman, when a public officer thought himself an officer of the country and responsible to the laws. Things have changed. Now, every officer, however important or insignificant, considers himself an executive officer, and responsible to Oct. 12, 1837.]
the Executive. This modern doctrine has obtained, and therefore I must consider the bill in relation to modern usage and construction. Still, I will offer my protest against the construction. It might be more curious than profitable to account for this transition of custom and construction. Perhaps it may be found in the fact, that, as General Jackson had overwhelming popularity, and rewarded most liberally his partisan friends, each who felt anxious to be promoted thought that, by placing himself under the executive wing and will, he would sooner be rewarded for his servility; and Congress, under the zeal of party feeling, thought that their friend and chief could not err–that the President “could do no wrong"—and therefore acquiesced. Whilst I know this to be the prevailing construction in this House and out of it, still I will venture, perhaps with temerity, to express my disagreement. The Secretary of the Treasury is an officer not known in the constitution. Then, under the constitution he can claim no powers. He has been created by law, and to that law he should look for not only his existence as an officer of Government, but for the powers and duties which have been assigned to him. And he should look to all the laws (and not to the Executive) which assign him duties, for the quantity and discretion of duty which may be imposed upon hini to discharge. He is not to look to the nominating power for his authority of action, but to the creating power. The law brings him into being, and the law alone rightfully prescribes his power of action. The Executive might have exercised the constitutional negative at the time of his creation; but it gave its sanction to the law, and in that sanction it yielded its acquiescence to all the powers of the Secretary of the Treasury which run with and are contained in the law of his creation, and to the subsequent laws which enlarge or restrain his sphere of duty. A question of great interest might here naturally arise, whether the powers granted by the constitution and those granted by the laws should be decided by a common rule of interpretation. I have not the time now, if I possessed the ability, to make an argument upon the true rules of construction of both the constitution and the laws. I will content myself for the present by quoting a rule laid down by Mr. Madison, in a letter to Mr. Ingersoll, in 1831. “A constitution, (says Mr. Madison,) being derived from a superior authority, [to the laws,) is to be expounded and obeyed, not controlled or varied, by the subordinate authority of a legislature. A law, on the other hand, resting on no higher authority than that possessed by every successive legislature, its expediency as well as its meaning is within the scope of the latter.” If this rule is correct, the Secretary of the Treasury should direct his eye to Congress in the discharge of his officia! duties, and not make himself, as he has made himself, or allowed himself to be made, the supple instrument in the executive hands. Those who urge that the President has entire control over the ScCretary of the Treasury, because he has the power under the constitution to nominate to office, run into error; and, in order to make their construction more plausible, assume (what is not the fact) that the Secretary is a mere subordinate auxiliary officer of the Executive department; that the President is not only responsible for his own acts, but is responsible for the acts of all officers of Government whom he may nominate; and being responsible, they maintain, for the acts of the Secretary of the Treasury, he has a right to control the actions of the Secretary, and to assume, in the Secretary's stead, the entire responsibility of the Secretary's acts. The President, I humbly conceive, has the mere right to nominate (or he may suspend) a person to discharge the duties of the office of Secretary of the Treasury; the Senate, a co-ordinate branch of the Executive, quoad the appointing power, have a right to confirm or to reject the nominee. This gives no power to either to control the actions of the Secretary. But
it is the law that throws dignity and duties around the Secretary, and the law assigns his powers and his obligations. For the fidelity of discharging his duties, he becomes responsible neither to the nominating nor the appointing power, but he becomes only responsible himself to the law; and for an infraction of the law or malfeasance in office he is amenable to the law, and answerable before tribunals adequate to pronounce decision of acquittal or condemnation for all of his official acts. The President may nominate— Congress can abolish. If the modern doctrine is correct, as has been assumed, that the right of the President to nominate to office carries with it a right to control the acts of a Secretary, then the President, who has legislative power as well as executive duties to perform, (for no law can be passed without the signature of the President,) can, by a parity of reasoning, not only interpret and control, and arrest the operation of the law which he has signed, (as has been done,) but he can set the constitution at defiance, and find his justification, not in the sanctions of that instrument, or in the written law of the land, but by assuming the responsibility of outraging both—seek his justification in making an appeal, not to the tribunals of the country, but to the American people, to countenance his attack upon the institutions of the country, upon the co-ordinate departments of Government—for assuming sole executive and legislative power—and for arrogating uncontrolled power over the Secretary of the Treasury and the currency and money of the Government. When the representatives of the people of the several States framed the constitution, they assigned the President his duties, and required him, in the discharge of those official duties, to make his conduct quadrate with that instrument; nowhere recognising his right to control a public officer in the discharge of his legal duties; nowhere recognising his right, in justification of an infraction of the constitution and the laws, to appeal to the people, in order to gain their sympathy or contempt, their forgiveness or their censure. Every usurper appeals to the people; Caesar appealed to the people; so did Cromwell and Bonaparte; all deceived the confidence of the pcople, and each trampled upon their liberties. A candidate for of fice may appeal to the people—a public officer should appeal to the law; and if the law will not suit the people, they can order their representatives to alter it. Whether these views are correct or not, they are still the sentiments I entertain; and, holding them, I am free to give them utterance; for I believe this to be a time when every representative of the people should think audibly. The law of September 11, 1798, entitled “An act to establish the Treasury Department,” declares, in the first section, “That there shall be a Department of the Treasury, a Secretary of the Treasury, a Comptroller, an Auditor, a Treasurer, a Register,” &c. “Sec. 3. It shall be the duty of the Comptroller to superintend the adjustment and preservation of the public accounts: to examine all accounts settled by the Auditor, and certify the balances arising thereon to the Register ; to countersign all warrants drawn by the Secretary of the Treasury, which shall be warranted by law; to report to the Secretary the official forms of all papers to be issued in the different offices for collecting the public revenue, and the manner and form of keeping and stating the accounts of the several persons employed therein. He shall, moreover, provide for the regular and punctual payment of all moneys which may be collected,” &c. “Sec. 4. That it shall be the duty of the Treasurer to receive and keep the moneys of the United States, and to disburse the same upon warrants drawn by the Secretary of the Treasury, countersigned by the Comptroller, recorded by the Register, and not otherwise. He shall take receipts for all moneys paid by him, and all receipts for mon: eys received by him shall be endorsed upon warrants signed
by the Secretary of the Treasury; without which warrant, so signed, no acknowledgment of money received into the public Treasury shall be valid. And the said Treasurer shall render his account to the Comptroller quarterly, (or oftener, if required,) and shall transmit a copy thereof, when settled, to the Secretary of the Treasury. He shall, moreover, on the third day of every session of Congress, lay before the Senate and House of Representatives fair and accurate copies of all accounts by him, from time to time, rendered to and settled with the Comptroller, as aforesaid; as also a true and perfect account of the state of the Treasury. He shall at all times submit to the Secretary of the Treasury and the Comptroller, or either of them, the inspection of the moneys in his hands; and shall, prior to the entering upon the duties of his office, give bond, with sufficient security, to be approved by the Secretary of the Treasury and Comptroller, in the sum of one hundred and fifty thousand dollars, payable to the United States, with condition for the faithful performance of the duties of his office, and for the fidelity of the persons to be by him employed; which bond shall be lodged in the office of the Comptroller of the Treasury of the United States.” Section 5 assigns the duties of the Auditor. Section 6, of the Register. “Sec. 8. That no person appointed to any office instituted by this act shall, directly or indirectly, be concerned or interested in carrying on the business of trade or commerce; or be owner, in whole or in part, of any sea vessel; or purchase, by himself, or another in trust for him, any public lands or other public property; or be concerned in the purchase or disposal of any public securities of any State or of the United States; or take or apply to his own use any emolument or gain for negotiating or transacting any business with the said Department, other than shall be allowed by law. And if any person shall offend against any of the prohibitions of this act, he shall be deemed guilty of a high crine and misdemeanor, and forseit to the United States the penalty of three thousand dollars; and shall, upon conviction, be removed from office, and forever thereafter be incapable of holding any office under the United States,” &c. In 1817, March 3, four Auditors were created, and one Comptroller, additional ; but the restraints upon each officer are as great as in the law of 1798. I cannot, Mr. Chairman, but pause here for a moment to admire the great wisdom and foresight of the wise framers of these statutes in guarding the public moneys of the people, by the variety of officers which they have created to be guards and checks upon each other. They knew the frailty of human nature, and its impotency to resist the seductive influence of temptation. By these statutes, we find that even the Secretary of the Treasury could not touch one dollar of the public money; that he had as little control over it as any other officer of thc Government. By the extracts of the statutes which I have road, it will be perceived that the same law which created the Secretary of the 'I'reasury, created co-ordinate, and I maintain coequal, officers of that Department, who are as independent of the Secretary of the Treasury as they are independent of the Secretary of War; who are as independent of the President as they are independent of each other. They are not to look to any power but the law, and that they are to obey. The Treasurer is required to give a large bond. To whom 3 to the Secretary of the Treasury | No, sir, to the nation. Then he is responsible to the nation, and not to the Secretary. The coordinate officers, the Comptrollers, the Auditors, the Treasurer, and the Register, hold no responsibility to the Secretary ; Congress have appointed them guards upon the public money and upon the Secretary of the Treasury; and I fondly hope that
they will so regard themselves. Rumor has reached my ear, upon the wings of the wind, that some officers have been considered too honestly faithful to the law, and would not bend to advice from a particular direction. It will be understood where I wish it to be, when I say to them, he firm and faithful to the law and your duty. I will say to those officers in Washington and out of it, whether I know them or not, whether they are Conservatives, Whigs, or Van Buren men, as long as they are faithful to the laws, and firmly resolved to do their duty, I beg them to consider me as their friend. Let them do their duty to the people and the laws, and, if persecution should assail them, I care not how dark the cloud, how fearful the storm, as long as I have a place on this floor I will raise my humble voice in their defence. But, to examine for a moment the bill on your table. What does the Committee of Ways and Means propose by that bill In a bill of ten little sections, to blot out from your statute book all the many laws which created, regulated, restricted, and restraincd the Secretary of the Treasury; and to destroy the enactments of our forefathers, which so cautiously guarded the public moneys of the people. To destroy the power, or to surrender it, of the Congress of the United States over the revenues of the nation, and to place it all in the hands and under the control of the Secretary of the Treasury. This is not all; the bill proposes more : it proposes to give to thc Secretary, singly and alone, not only power over the money of the nation, but it also invests him with legislative powers. It proposes, in the very first section, after saying that “the collectors of the customs,” “postmasters,” &c., shall be “receivers” and “fiscal agents,” that they shall be govcrned “by any regulation of the Treasury Department” “which, in its wisdom, it may think necessary,” &c. In the fourth section, after saying that the receiving officers of the revenues “may be allowed any necessary additional expenses for clerks, fire-proof chests or vaults, (as if the keeper of the key of a vault could not have the same ready access to it as he would have to his own private bureau,) 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 direction upon all the above subjects, by way of regulation and otherwise, are to be strictly followed by all the said officers.” In the fifth scction, he has the power “to appoint special agents, as occasion may require, with such reasonable compensation as he may allow;” “and reports are to be made in all cases, as the Secretary in his discretion shall direct.” I ask any candid mind is it is in the power of language to give more absolute and unqualifica power over the money of the nation, and over every officer who is to receive or pay it, than is given by this bill to the Secretary of the Treasury | Can such a measure ever receive thc sanction of a majority of the representatives of freemen? That such a bill should be received in this House, without cxciting the strongest feelings of indignation, surprises inc. That this House should patiently allow any committee to ask them, without prompt resentinent, to surrender their rights, and the rights of those whom they represent, into the hands of one single individual, excites iny distrust for the spirit of its independence. Even the slavish members of a Turkish divan would rebel against such a measurc. If the representatives of the people abandon their interests on this floor, I have greatly mistaken the genius and character of my countrymen, if they will not quickly abandon them. I use this language in no spirit of censure or threat, but in prophecy. We have wandered beyond our reckoning; we have been floating in an unknown sea and our pilots are ignorant of the seas, the winds, and the stars. This they have proved;