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2. Do and aqueduct
In conclusion allow me to observe, that the efficient manner in which Mr. Malin has discharged the duties confided to him entitles him equally to my acknowledgments and the commendations of the Board.
D. B. DOUGLAS,
Profes. Eng. U. S. Military Academy. West Point, February 1, 1830.
BANK OF THE UNITED STATES.
APRIL 13, 1830.
Mr. McDUFFIE, from the Committee of Ways and Means, to which the
subject had been referred, made the following
The Committee of Ways and Means, to whom was referred so much of the Message of the President as relates to the Bank of the United States, beg leave to report:
That they have bestowed upon the subject all the attention demanded by its intrinsic importance, and now respectfully submit the result of their de liberations to the consideration of the House. There are few subjects, having reference to the policy of an established government, so vitally connected with the health of the body politic, or in which the pecuniary interests of society are so extensively and deeply involved. No one of the attributes of sovereignty carries with it a more solemn responsibility, or calls in requisition a higher degree of wisdom, than the power of regulating the common currency, and thus fixing the general standard of value for a great commercial community, composed of confederated States.
Such being, in the opinion of the committee, the high and delicate trust exclusively committed to Congress by the Federal Constitution, they have proceeded to discharge the duty assigned to them with a corresponding sense of its magnitude and difficulty.
The most simple and obvious analysis of the subject, as it is presented by the message of the President, exhibits the following questions for the decision of the National Legislature:
1. Has Congress the constitutional power to incorporate a bank, such as that of the United States?
2. Is it expedient to establish and maintain such an institution?
3. Is it expedient to establish “a National Bank, founded upon the credit of the Government and its revenues?"
1. If the concurrence of all the departments of the Goverement, at different periods of our history, under every administration, and during the ascendency of both the great political parties, into which the country was divided, soon after the adoption of the present Constitution, shall be regarded as having the authority ascribed to such sanctions by the common consent of all well regulated communities, the constitutional power of Congress to incorporate a bank, inay be assumed as a postulate no longer open to controversy. In little more than two years after the Government went into operation, and at a period when most of the distinguished members of the Federal Convention were either in the Executive or Legislative councils, the act, incorporating the first bank of the United States, passed both branches of Congress by large majorities, and received the deliberate sanction of President Washington, who had then recently presided over the deliberations of the Convention. The constitutional power of Congress to pass the act of incorporation, was thoroughly investigated, both in the Executive Cabinet and in Congress, under circumstances, in all respects, propitious to a dispassionate decision. There was, at that time, no organization of political parties, and the question was, therefore, decided by those, who, from their knowledge and experience, were peculiarly qualified to decide correctly; and who were entirely free from the influence of that party excitement and prejudice, which would justly impair, in the estimation of posterity, the authority of a legislative interpretation of the constitutional charter. No. persons can be more competent to give a just construction to the Constitution, than those who had a principal agency in framing it; and no administration can claim a more perfect exemption from all those influences which, sometimes, pervert the judgments, even of the most wise and patriotic, than that of the Father of his Country, during the first term of his service.
Such were the circumstances, under which all the branches of the National Legislature solemnly determined that the power of creating a National Bank was vested in Congress by the Constitution. The bank thus created, continued its operations for twenty years—the period for which its charter was granted during which time, public and private credit were raised, from a prostrate, to a very elevated condition, and the finances of the nation were placed upon the most solid foundation.
When the charter expired, in 1811, Congress refused to renewit, principally owing, as the committee believe, to the then existing state of political parties. Soon after the bank was chartered, the two great parties that have since divided the country, began to assume an organized existence. Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Madison, the former in the Executive Cabinet, and the latter in Congress, had been opposed to the establishment of the bank, on constitutional grounds, and being placed at the head of the party most unfavorable to the extension of the powers of the Government, by implication, the bank question came to be regarded as, in some degree, the test of political principle.
When Mr. Jefferson came into power, upon the strong tide of a great political revolution, the odium of the Alien and Sedition laws was, in part, communicated to the Bank of the United States; and, although he gave his official sanction to an act, creating a new branch of that institution, at New Orleans, and to another to punish the counterfeiting of its bills, yet, when the question of renewing the charter came before Congress, it was discussed as a party question. And, though some of the most distinguished republicans, including Mr. Gallatin, then Secretary of the Treasury, and Mr. Crawford, then a member of the Senate, were decidedly in favor of the renewal, sustaining the measure by able arguments, the votes in both branches of Congress were distinctly marked as party votes. At no time, since the commencement of the Government, has there existed a more violent party excitement, than that which marked the period under review. It was the period of the embargo, non-intercourse, and other commercial restrictions; when the undiscriminating opposition of the leaders of the federal party to the measures adopted by the administration, to vindicate our rights against British aggression, had caused the great majority of the American people to view these leaders as the apologists of a nation, already regarded
in the light of a public enemy. When to these circumstances we add, that the stock of the bank was principally held by British subjects, and Americans of the unpopular party, the House will readily perceive how great were the national and party prejudices, which must have bcen arrayed against the proposition to renew its charter. It was stated by Mr. Clay, in a speech delivered in the Senate, that seven-tenths of the stock belonged to British subjects, and that certain English noblemen, and a late Lord Chancellor, were among the very largest of the stockholders. With all these difficulties to encounter, the proposition for renewing the charter was lost only by the casting vote of the President of the Senate, and by a majrrity of a single vote in the House of Representatives.
In less than three years after the expiration of the charter--the war with Great Britain having taken place in the mean time-- the circulating medium became so disordered, the public finances so deranged, and the public credit so impaired, that the enlightened patriot, Mr. Dallas, who then presided over the Treasury Department, with the sanction of Mr. Madison, and, as it is believed, every member of the cabinet, recommended to Congress the establishment of a National Bank, as the only measure by which the public credit could be revived, and the fiscal resources of the Government redeemed from a ruinous, and otherwise incurable embarrassment: and, such had been the impressive lesson taught by a very brief, but fatal experience, that the very institution, which had been so recently denounced, and rejected by the republican party, being now recommended by a republican administration, was carried through both branches of Congress, as a republican measure, by an overwhelming majority of the republican party. It is true that Mr. Madison did not approve and sign the bill which passed the two Houses, because it was not such a bill as had been recommended by the Secretary of the Treasury, and because the bank it proposed to create, was not calculated, in the opinion of the President, to relieve the necessities of the country. But he premised his objections to the measure, by " waiving the question of the constitutional authority of the Legislature to establish an incorporated bank, · as being precluded, in his opinion, by repeated recognitions, under varied
circumstances, of the validity of such an institution in acts of the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial branches of the Government, accompanied by indications, in different modes, of a concurrence of the general will of the nation.” Another bill was immediately introduced, and would, in all probability, have become a law, had not the news of peace, by doing away the pressure of the emergency, induced Congress to suspend further proceedings on the subject, until the ensuing session. At the commencement of that session, Mr. Madison invited the attention of Congress to the subject, and Mr. Dallas again urged the necessity of establishing a bank, to restore the currency, and facilitate the collection and disbursement of the public revenue; and so deep and solemn was the conviction upon the minds of the public functionaries, that such an institution was the only practicable means of restoring the circulating medium to a state of soundness, that, notwithstand ing the decided opposition of all the State banks and their debtors, and, indeed, the whole debtor class of the community, the act, incorporating the present Bank of the United States, was passed by considerable majorities in both branches of Congress, and approved by Mr. Madison.
This brief history of the former and present bank, forcibly suggests a few practical reflections. It is to be remarked, in the first place, that, since the adoption of the Constitution, a bank has existed under the authority of the