« 上一頁繼續 »
notes of the Bank of the United States must necessarily in a short time be withdrawn from circulation. That the principal currency of the country, for many years to come, will be bank notes, there is no reason to doubt; and it is certainly good policy to foster the State banks, which furnish them, in measures tending to give them as general credit as has been heretofore attached to the notes of the United States Bank and branches, That the natural and ascertained course of trade, circulation, and exchange connected with the interests of banking institutions, will ultimately produce this result in relation to the notes of the principal State banks, there is every reason to anticipate; but their employment in the business of the Government, by awakening them to their capacities and interests, is calculated to hasten the consummation of so desirable an event. It was a matter of no small moment to encourage and hasten the State banks in maturing their system of circulation and exchange, so that, at the termination of the charter of the Bank of the United States, the trade of the country might not encounter at the same time the loss of a general currency, and the entire breaking up of the domestic exchanges, a partial interruption of which by that bank is now producing such serious inconveni. ence. By the latest returns of the banks employed by the Government, it appears that they are already rapidly taking the place of the Bank of the United States in the exchange operations. Upon all the points hitherto considered, there is room for a difference of opinion as to the time when the public deposites should have been shifted to the State banks. It is evident that it would have required one, two, or years, to realize the result which the public good required should be brought about before the termination of the bank's charter; but, whether the greatest or least of those periods, men may differ according to their views of their several operations. But there was another consideration connected with the public good, which, in the opinion of the committee, made it the imperative duty of the Secretary to act without delay. Without waiting for the final decision of the Secretary, the Bank of the United States, early in August last, although then in possession of specie to an amount exceeding ten millions of dollars, and receiving a rapid accession to the public deposites, commenced a system of severe curtailment, and, before the end of that month, took large sums in specie from the State banks. Before the 1st of October, there was a pressure upon the money market, and serious apprehensions for the future. The board hoarded up the deposites it received, and, at the same time, made a rapid curtailment of its loans. The Secretary has accurately set forth the accession of public deposites and the curtailment of loans during the months of August and September; the former amounting to $4,066,146 21, and the latter to $2,268,504 11; showing the whole amount abstracted from the use of the mercantile community, chiefly in the commercial cities, during these two months, to have been no less than $6,334,650 32. In consequence of the change in the tariff, which threw into the latter part of the last year the payment of two sets of duties, the old credit and the new cash duties, the public depos. ites were accumulating in the Atlantic cities with unprecedented rapidity, and it was apparent that the business of the cities could not long bear the double drain of bank calls and public revenue, without some return. As the bank had commenced this course in anticipation of a removal of the deposites, it could not be expected to change it until all idea of that measure should be abandoned. Had it been postponed until the 1st of January, it is not to be imagined that the bank would have relaxed its rigid policy upon any other consideration than a disposition in the Executive to abandon the measure, or in the Legis. lature to overrule him. It cannot be doubted that the
Government would have been forced from its position, or that a scene of ruin and distress would have been produced by the unfeeling cupidity of the bank, and its determination to force a recharter. If, under the circumstances, the Secretary of the Treas. ury had delayed the execution of his order for the change of the deposites to the 1st of December or January, he would, in the opinion of the committee, have been culpably regardless of the great public interests intrusted to his superintendence. But, independent of these considerations, it was the undoubted duty of the Secretary of the Treasury to order and direct the transfer of the deposites, whenever, in his opinion, it was required by the public interests. It is proper to observe, that, in expressing the opinion that it is the duty of the Secretary to change the place of deposite whenever the public interest or convenience requires it, the committee have no reference to interests which are not immediately connected with the financial concerns of the country, or the conduct of the bank as the fiscal agent of the Government. Beyond these limits the Secretary of the Treasury does not, and has not, claimed the right to interfere. The reasons upon which he appears to have acted are fiscal merely, an are confined entirely to the condition in which the Government and people would be placed by the state of the currency on the termination of the charter of the bank, and to the misconduct of the bank in its character of fiscal agent of the Government. He does not claim for himself, nor do the committee claim for him, the right to regulate the currency, nor to influence, by his power over the deposites, any political movements affecting either our internal concerns or for. eign relations; but it is unquestionably his duty to look forward to the condition in which the currency will in a short time be placed, by the existing laws, when the charter of the bank expires; and it is clearly his duty to examine also into the conduct of the agent which has been placed by law under his supervision, and to inquire whether its money or corporate powers are used in good faith, for the purposes for which they were given. As the presiding officer of the Treasury Departmen", these subjects were legally under his supervision, and came directly within the range of his official duties. In acting upon these reasons, it is not the theory of our system, nor has it been the practice, to consult the legislative power in relation to acts which are intrusted to the discretion of the Executive; and to ask the sanction of Congress beforehand to acts which a sense of duty requires him to perform, would be to shrink from his constitutional responsibility, and throw it upon another department of the Government. With the removal of the deposites, and the reasons for it, Congress, according to the charter of the bank, have clearly no concern, even if they be in session, when, in the opinion of the Secretary of the Treas. ury, a removal becomes necessary or proper, until the act be done, and the reasons be reported to them. The committee come next to examine such of the Secretary’s reasons for the removal of the deposites as relate to the conduct of the bank. The United States are the owners of seven millions of the capital stock of the bank, and, by the charter, are entitled to be represented at the board by five directors. The charter provides that “not less than seven directors shall constitute a board for the transaction of business.” Although the charter of the bank declares, in express terms, that it shall require the atte dance of seven members of the board of directors to constitute a quorum for doing business, the Government directors state, and the fact also appears from the evidence aecompanying the report of the committee of investigation in 1832, and that of the Committee of Ways and Means at the last session, that, for some time past, all the most important
business of the board has been done by committees of less than seven, selected by the president, of which he is eac officio a member; that these committees seldom report, and many of their most important transactions are secret, and remain, for a long time, unknown to the board. - This delegation of power to committees of the bank, the committee consider to be a direct and palpable violation of the charter of the bank. From all these committees, the Government directors, who are appointed to represent the stock, and watch over the interest of the United States in the bank, state in their memorial that they are entirely excluded. They state that, at the commencement of the last year, not one of their number was placed on any one of these committees; and although, at a subsequent day, two of them were assigned to stations on committees, they were again, in a short time, excluded from them altogether. Thus were they cut off from all participation in the most important business of the bank, and know nothing of what is done,...except by accident or results. They state that all important negoti. ations are carried on by the committee of exchange, who grant discounts to printers, politicians, and others, almost without limi", often upon securities wholly inadmissible, according to the rules of the board—on extraordinary terms, and for unusual times. They state that, in one instance, when they discovered that certain debtors had been permitted largely to overdraw, and that their paper remained unprotested when due, and unpaid, they procured the appointment of a committee to investigate the account, but, before that committee could act, the committee of exchange, in violation of the rules of the bank, discounted to the same men certain notes and drafts (sotne of which on security of the most unusual kind) sufficient to pay the overdrafts, and take up the unprotested paper, although they were then, many times, protested on other paper; and the board, to consummate the transaction, rescinded the order under which the select committee was appointed, three days after it was adopted. To contorm the practice of the bank to the charter, the Government directors state that they proposed to restore the business of discounts to the board of directors, but this was overruled. To enable them to participate in some degree in the business of the bank, they propos-d that the members of the whole board should be selected in rotation to form the committees, in conformity with former practice, and an unrescinded rule; but this also was refused. Finally, instead of reforming the practices of the bank, so as to make then conform to the charter and the rules, the majority of the board of directors changed the rules, and made them conform to the practices. Thus, rules made by themselves are taken as authority for disregarding the restrictions of the charter, and of the regulations prescribed by the stockholders; and from the statement of these directors, it appears that almost all the business of the bank is done by committees of three or five, to which the president is attached ex of
, jicio. The board of directors remain ignorant of the move.
ment of the corporation which has been put under their management; and by an entire exclusion of the Government directors from the committees, they are rendered useless for all the purposes which induced their being placed in the direction. Under such management, could the interest of the Government be considered secure in their hands? The committee think not; and that this, with other abuses connected with its management, which will be noticed in the subsequent part of this report, was a sufficient reason to justify the Secretary in the removal of the deposites. The conduct of the bank in 1832, in secretly interfering, through the agency of its president, and one of its secret committees, with the policy of the Governmen', whereby they sought, without the knowledge or consent Vol. X. —W
of the Government, to postpone the payment of a large portion of the public debt denominated the three per cent. stocks, for a long period beyond the time fixed by the Government for its reimbursement, was, in the opinion of the committee, not only without warrant of law, but highly reprehensible. The conduct of the bank, in this transaction, was fully examined by a committee of the House at the last session of Congress, and resulted in a report from the majority, and a counter report from the minority of that committee. To these reports, hereto appended, the committee refer for all the facts connected with this illegal and unwarrantable act on the part of the bank. In neither of these reports is the conduct of the bank approved. In the report of the majority it is admitted that “it is due, however, to the Government to express the opinion that, in the arrangement made by the agent in England for the purchase of the three per cent. stock, and the detention of the certificates, (which measures were subsequently disclaimed by the bank,) the institution exceeded its legitimate authority, and had no warrant in the correspondence of the Secretary of the Treasury.” The minority of that committee, in their report, present all the facts in detail, derived from official correspondence and documents, and from the personal examination on oath of a part of the directors of the bank. Referring to these official reports of a former committee of the House, the committee deem it unnecessary to do more than to call the attention of the House to them as developing all the facts and circumstances connected with this transaction. But it has been urged that the conduct of the bank in regard to the three per cent. stocks shouli have constituted no part of the reasons which should have influenced the Secretary of the Treasury in the removal of the deposites, because a majority of the House of Representatives had at the last session expressed an opinion, by the adoption of a resolution, that the deposites may be “s fely continued in the Bank of the United States.” To determine what consideration ought to be given to such an expression of the opinion of the Ilouse, it is necessary to look to the circumstances under which it was given. By the journals, it appears that the committee reported to the House on the 1st of March, and on the next day (the 2d March) the minority made a further supplemental report. The resolution in question was adopted on the 2d of March, being the last day but one of the session. The reports of the majority and minority of the committee were very long, and were accompanied by a mass of testimony, upon which they were based, and which it had occupied the committee many weeks to col. lect. The reports had not been printed, and could not have been examined or read by any member of the House except the committee themselves. The House by this vote did not approve the conduct of the bank in regard to the three per cents. They expressed no opinion that other causes than the insecurity of the public deposites in the bank would or would not be sufficient to justify the Secretary in removing them. Tuese points were not presented for their consideration or decision. The vote, in fact, amounted to nothing more than a simple expression of the opinion of a majority of the House, that as the deposites had been heretofore kept in the bank, for aught that appeared, (the reports of the committee not having been printed or examined by the House,) they might be safely continued there. This expression of opinion, given under the circumstances stated, aught not, in the opinion of the committee, to have restrained the Secretary from the performance of his duty, is, in his opinion, the bank had become faithless to its trust, or the public interests made it necessary for him to act. The next reason assigned by the Secretary for the removal of the deposites, is the unjust and unconscientious
demand on the part of the bank for damages to the amount of $158,842 77, upon the protested bill drawn by the United States on the French Government. A bare statement of the facts connected with this transaction will show the true character of this demand on the part of the bank. The bank is the fiscal agent of the Government, and, during the whole period of its existence, has held on deposite very large amounts of the public money, which it has used (without the payment of interest to the Government) in loans to the community, and has been thus enabled largely to increase its profits. From an official statement appended to this report, it appears that the average amount of deposite of the public money in the Bank of the United States and its offices for each month, from the year 1818 to the year 1833, both inclusive, (being a pe. sicd of sixteen years,) was $6,717,253 67. The annual interest accruing to the bank upon this amount of public deposites, at six per cent. per annum, would be $403,035 22; and for a period of sixteen years, would be $6,448,563 52. During the month of February, 1833, the Government were desirous to have remitted from Paris to the United States the amount of the first ins'alment due to the United States from France, under the French treaty of the 4th of July, 1831. For the purpose of effecting the remittance in the most convenient and least expensive form, the Government of the United States drew, on the 7th of February, 1833, a bill on the French Government for $903,565 89, and sold the bill to the Bank of the United States. The bill was paid for by the bank, not by cash advanced and paid out of bank, but by simply entering the amount to the credit of the Treasurer on the books of the bank, and thus increasing, by that amount, the public deposite in the bank—the bank continuing in the possession and use of the money as before the purchase, with this difference only, that the amount paid for the bill was subject, with the other public moneys on deposite, to be drawn for by the Government, as the public service might require. The bill was sold by the bank in London, and forwarded by the purchaser to Paris for collection, where it was protested, because the French Chambers had failed to make provision for its payment; and was afterwards taken up, for the honor of the bank, by its agent. The Government immediately paid back to the bank the principal of the bill; but the Secretary of the Treasury declined paying the damages which the bank claimed. In the monthly statement from the bank of the 3d of June following, and in all the monthly statements since that time, (in each of which is contained, amongst other things, the bank’s account with the Treasury,) the following item is charged by the bank, to wit: “Due by the United States for protested bill of exchange on France, $158,842 77.” What makes this demand the more unconscientious, is, that, during the whole period, from the 7th of February, (the day the bill was drawn.) until it was repaid to the bank, the public deposites in bank, and which it held and used without interest, greatly exceeded the amount of the bill. The bank then did not, in fact, suffer any damages or losses, other than the interest, cost of protest, and re. exchange, which the Government promptly, and without hesitation, avowed its willingness to repay, together with the principal of the bill. But the bank claims more than this: it claims $158,842 77 as damages, not on the ground that any damages were in fact sustained, but upon a technical claim of a legal right to damages. Under such circumstances, the committee consider it to have been the duty of the Secretary of the Treasury not only to decline making the payment, but to discontinue the fiscal agency of an institution capable of asserting so unjust a demand, and seeking to enrich itself, at the loss of its principal. Here was a bank which, for upwards of sixteen years, had had the use of an average deposite of public money of
near seven millions of dollars, without the payment of in
terest; deriving a profit from the use of the public money, during that period, of upwards of six millions; and at the very moment when it has in use millions of the public money, is taking advantage of the disappointment of the Government which employs it, and that disappointment, too, growing out of an unforeseen contingency, against which the Government could not guard, and seeking, upon what it is pleased to regard as the strict law of the case, without even color of justice, to make the Government, in whose employ it is, pay in damages the large amount already stated. No prudent individual who had any regard to his own interests or rights, would continue an agent who would manifest such an utter disregard of his interests. An individual would have taken his business out of the hands of such an agent. The Secretary of the Treasury, as the only authorized agent of the Government competent to do so, has done nothing more, by the removal of the deposites, than discontinue the fiscal agency of the Bank of the United States. In the view which they have here presented, the com: mittee have proceeded upon the supposition that, by the strict law, the might demand the damages in question. If that were the case, the demand would be most unconscientious and unjust. The committee do not, however, concede that the bank has even a legal right to the damages claimed. In geoeral, the drawer of a foreign bill returned protested is liable sor the amount on the face of the bill, for interest, for costs of protest, for re-exchange, and for the reasonable expenses which have been incurred by the dishonor of the bill; and, according to the general usages which regulate foreign bills of exchange, he is liable for nothing more. There is no general commercial usage which gives damages of fifteen per cent., or at any other rate, on the return of a protested foreign bill of exchange. Damages of that description, whenever they are allowed against the drawer, are either given by statute, or depend upon
the established local usages of particular places, and not ,
upon the general usages of trade. In the United States, the amount of damages recoverable upon a foreign bill returned protested, varies according to the local usages or statutory provisions of the different States respectively. In Massachusetts, the damages are ten per cent., in addition to interest and costs of protest; in Pennsylvania, the damages are twenty per cent, on bills drawn on Europe and returned protested; in Maryland, fifteen per cent.: the amount of damages in the respective States being regulated by statute. There is no general usage pervading all the States which can regulate the amount of damages. This bill was drawn and sold to the bank at the Treasury, in the District of Columbia, and in that portion of the District which was, before the cession to the United States, a part of the Suate of Maryland. The right of the bank to recover the damages claimed, most defend upon the laws of Maryland still in force in this District, Congress never having passed any law on the subj-ct since the cession of the territory, and the exclusive jurisdiction over it to the United States. The only statute of the State of Maryland in force in that part of the District formerly held by Maryland, is an act passed in 1785, chapter 38, section 1, by which it is provided “that, upon all bills of exchange hereafter drawn in this State, on any person, corporation, company, or society, in
any foreign country, and regularly protested, the owner
or holder of such bill, or the person or persons, company, society, or corporation, entitled to the same, shall have a right to receive and recover so much current money as will purchase a good bill of exchange of the same time
of payment, and upon the same place, at the current exchange of such bills, and also fifteen per cent. damages
upon the value of the principal sum mentioned in such bill, and costs of protest, together with a legal interest upon the value of the principal sum mentioned in such
bill, from the time of protest until the principal and damages are paid and satisfied.” The account rendered by the bank (see letter of cashier of the 13uh of May, 1833, hereto annexed) appears to have been made out according to the provision, of this act, and the question is whether this bill is embraced by the act of 1785. The committee are of opinion that a bill of exchange drawn by the United States is not embraced by this act. The State is never construed to be included in the gen. eral provisions of a statute, unless it is expressly named, or the language of the law or the nature of its provisions plainly imply that its enactments were designed to bind the State as well as individuals. A bill of exchange drawn by the State would not have been embraced by the act of 1785, already referred to, because the State is not named in the act, and the whole scope and language of the law show that its object was to provide for the dealings of individuals, corporations, companies, and societies, and not to regulate the action of the Government by which it was enacted. The large damages mentioned in the law are evidently intended for the benefit and convenience of commerce, and to prevent persons from drawing bills on foreign countries, where the drawer had reason to believe they would not be honored. The reason could not apply to the State; and there can be no ground to suppose that the State, in passing this law, intended to inflict upon herself a penalty, if a bill drawn by her should be unexpectedly returned protested. If a bill then, drawn by the State of Maryland on a foreign country, and protested, would not have entitled the holder to the fifteen per cent, damages against the State under this law, neither can those damages be claimed against the United States, who now stand in the place of Maryland, in that part of the District of Columbia where this bill was drawn. But this bill is not embraced by this law, because a bill drawn by an individual on a foreign Government would not be included by the terms of the law. The language of the law confines its operation to bills drawn on “any person, corporation, company, or society, in any foreign country,” and these words cannot, by any fair rule of interpretation, be construed to mean a foreign nation, or to embrace a bill drawn on a foreign Government. Neither the drawer nor drawee then, in this case, seem to be embraced within the purview of this law, but if they were, yet this transaction does not seem to be one of the description for which it intended to provide. A bill of exchange, as known in commerce, is of itself a sufficient authority to the drawee to pay the money, and a proper endorsement on it transfers the right to the endorsee; and the bill and its endorsements do not require the aid of any other instrument to give them force and authority. The endorsement of the bill by the payee, in blank, is of itself sufficient to warrant the payment to the holder. The bill in question is not an instrument of this description; standing by itself, it was of no value, and gave no right to the payee, or the holder to whom he might endorse it, to receive the money. It was deemed necessary by the parties to this transaction that there should be other and higher authority, in order to enable the bank to receive the money: and this authority accompanied the bill. This authority was executed by the President of the United States on the same day that the bill was drawn by the Secretary of the Treasury, under the seal of the United States, and countersigned by the Secretary of State, whereby the bill was recognised, and the cashier of the bank, (who was the payee,) or his assignee of the bill, was authorized to receive the money, and to give an acquittance to the French Government; and the bill, sustained by this authority, was sold to the bank at the Treasury, and the proceeds placed to the credit of the United States on their books. The act of the President, under the seal of the United States which accom.
panied the bill, was the only instrument which conferred on the bank the right to receive the money, and the only instrument which enabled them to assign their right to receive it. The Government and the bank both acted with a full knowledge that the bill itself would be unavailing to accomplish the object in view; and the proper authority in another shape, and by another instrument, was executed for that purpose. This was a transaction between Governments; and the authority given by the Government of the United States to the bank to receive the money from the French Government, cannot be regarded in the commercial sense as an ordinary bill of exchange. By the treaty the money was to be paid by the French Government at Paris “into the hands of such person or persons as shall be authorized by the Government of the United States to receive it.” In order, therefore, to obtain the money, it was necessary that a person should present himself at Paris, with the usual testimonials from the Government of the United States, of his authority to receive it. And the evidence of his authority, according to the laws which regulate the intercourse between nations, must be furnished by the President of the United States, through the department charged with our foreign relations. This was done in the power executed by the President before referred to. It was this power, and not the bill, which authorized the demand upon the French Government for payment. The bill, without this power, would have been insufficient; but the power, without the bill, would have been sufficient. If the bill had been presented alone, the French Government might have refused to pay, without any violation of its engagements. It was necessary that the person demanding the money from the French Government should have authority, accompanied with the customary testimonials in the intercourse between nations, to receive it. This authority the instrument executed by the President gave, but none such was conferred by the bill alone. In truth, the bill of exchange and the endorsement contributed in no degree to the authority of the holder to demand or receive the money. His right to demand depended upon the former power executed by the President; and the bank, or its assignee of the bill, became entitled to demand it by virtue of this power, and not by virtue of the bill or the endorsement on it. The bill itself, and the endorsement on it, did nothing more than designate the person whom the Government of the United States, by the instrument executed by the President according to the treaty, had authorized to receive it. The Government and the bank show, from the instruments executed, that neither of them regarded the bill of the Secretary of the Treasury as sufficient to authorize the bank or its endorsee to receive the money; for the bill standing alone had no authentication which would entitle it to be regarded by the French Government as sufficient evidence of the authority of the holder to receive the money. The question then is, did the act of Maryland of 1785 (under which these damages are claimed) intend to give fifteen per centum damages on an instrument in the form of a bill of exchange which the parties to it knew had none of its substance and qualities, and upon the authority of which the payee himself did not rely. Or did the act mean to give damages on those instruments only which are recognised and known in the commercial world as bills of exchange, and possessing all the qualities of such instrumen's The act obviously alludes to the instruments known and understood in commerce, when the bill itself, and the endorsements on it, are sufficient of themselves to convey the right to the holder, and not to instruments in the form of bills, which give no authority, and are merely useful in designating the person on whom another instrument has devolved the power to receive the money. If the power had been given by the President to the cashier of the bank, or his assignee, of that instru.
ment, as the person authorized to receive the amount due
information in regard to the nature and operations of the
So far as communicated by the Government directors,
the documents and pāpers printed and distributed with this money appear to have been chiefly reports of committees in Congress, and speeches of members friendly to the bank, and generally opposed to the President; extra newspapers containing similar matter, and other electioneering matter calculated to defeat the election of the President; reviews of speeches, and of the veto, prepared with the same object; addresses to State Legislatures, and editorial articles in favor of the bank.