« 上一頁繼續 »
the encroachments of power on the one hand, and the effervescence of popular excitement on the other. Unawed and unseduced, it should firmly maintain the constitution in its purity, and present an impregnable barrier against every attack on that sacred instrument, come it from what quarter it may. The demon of faction should find no abiding place in this chamber, but every heart and every head should be wholly occupied in advancing the general welfare, and preserving, unimpaired, the national honor. To insure success, gentlemen, in the discharge of our high duties, we must command the confidence and receive the support of the people. Calm deliberation, courtesy towards each other, order and decorum in debate, will go far, very far, to inspire that confidence and command that support. It becomes my duty, gentlemen, to banish (if practicable) from this hall all personal altercation; to check, at once, every remark of a character personally offensive; to preserve order, and promote harmony. These duties, as far as my powers will permit, I shall unhesitatingly perform. I earnestly solicit your co-operation, gentlemen, in aiding my efforts promptly to put down every species of disorder. For your kindness, gentlemen, I tender you my grateful acknowledgments. On motion of Mr. GRUNDY, it was Ordered, That the Secretary of the Senate inform the President of the United States and the House of Representatives that the Senate have elected the Hon. WILLIAM R. KIMg their President pro tem.
The bill designating and limiting the funds which shall be receivable in payment for the public revenues was taken up, being on its third reading.
Mr. SEVIER moved to postpone the further consideration of the bill until Monday, for the purpose of going on with the land bill; which motion was lost: Ayes 13, noes not counted.
Mr. WALKER then rose and said: Before replying to
the indictment preferred by the honorable Senator from Missouri, [Mr. Bentos, ) against the Committee on Public Lands, it is proper to recur to the facts and circum. stances under which this controversy originated. At an early period of the session, the Senator from Ohio, [Mr. Ewing,) introduced a resolution to rescind the Treasury order. This resolution was very fully discussed, and especially by the Senator from Missouri, [Mr. Benton,] but Mr. W. had taken no part in this discussion. In the progress of the debate upon the resolution of the Senator from Ohio, a substitute was offered, as an amendment, by the Senator from Virginia, [Mr. Rives.] This substitute was advocated by that Senator, as in consonance with the President's recommendation, to render the legislation of Congress in the collection of the federal revenue auxiliary to the suppression of all notes of a smaller denomination than twenty dollars, and a consequent enlargement of the circulation of gold and silver. The Senator from Virginia had regarded the Treasury order as a temporary measure, to meet a pressing emergency, and as having in a great degree performed its office. Mr. W. had still refrained from embarking in the discussion upon this question. Several Senators, however, had expressed their opinions, and great difficulties appeared to be presented against any satisfactory adjustment of this question. Under these circumstances, several Sen. ators, now within the sound of his voice, had proposed to him (Mr. W.) to refer both resolutions to the Committee on Public Lands. To this reference, Mr. W. said, he had at first objected, upon the grounds that the Committee on Public Lands was engaged in the laborious examination of another question, and that the subject of des.
ignating the funds receivable for the public dues belonged more appropriately to the Committee on Finance. Upon further consultation, however, with several Sena. tors friendly to the administration, Mr. W. had at length reluctantly assented to the proposed reference, which was accordingly made by the vote of the Senate, including that of the Senator from Missouri, [Mr. Bexton.] No other report than that which was made, so far as Mr. W. was concerned, could have been anticipated; for to every Senator with whom Mr. W. had conversed, he had expressed his concurrence in the provisions, substantially, of the resolution of the Senator from Virginia, [Mr. 181 v Es;] and at the last session, when the Senator from Missouri [Mr. BENTo N] introduced a resolution requiring payments of the public lands in gold and silver only, the Senate would well recollect that he (Mr. W.) had then expressed his opposition to that resolution, and so had a majority of the Senators now composing the Committee on Public Lands. When, then, the Senator from Missouri voted for this reference, he could not justly have anticipated any other report than that which was made by the committee. Why, then, did the Senator from Missouri vote for this reference, and then denounce the committee for making the only report which he could have expected, in conformity with their previously avowed opinions? Mr. W. said it became his duty, as chairman of this committee, and as their organ, to report a bill containing substantially the provisions of the resolution of the Senator from Virginia. Again, the subject had been discussed in the Senate, but Mr. W. had not participated in the debate; and the bill, by a large majority, was ordered to be engrossed for a third reading; and now, when, by the usual rules of parliamentary debate, the contest might well be considered as terminated, the Senator from Missouri, [Mr. BeNton,) before the vote on the final passage, had made a very elaborate argument against the measure. To all this Mr. W. would make no objection; but when that Senator, having exhausted the argument, or having none to offer, had indulged in violent and intemperate denunciation of the Committee on Public Lands, and of the report made by him as their organ, Mr. W. could not withhold the expression of his surprise and astonishment. Mr. W. said it was his good fortune to be upon terms of the kindest personal intercourse with every Senator, and these friendly relations should not be interrupted by any aggression upon his part. And now, Mr. W. said, he called upon the whole Senate to bear witness, as he was sure they all cheerfully would, that in this controversy he was not the aggressor, and that nothing had been done or said by him to provoke the wrath of the Senator from Missouri, unless, indeed, to differ from him in opinion upon any subject constituted an offence in the mind of that Senator. If such were the views of that gentleman, if he was prepared to immolate every Senator who would not worship the same images of gold and silver which decorated the political chapel of the honorable gentleman, Mr. W. was fearful that the Senator from Missouri would do execution upon every member of the Senate but himself, and be left here alone in his glory. Mr. W. said he recurred to the remarks of the Senator from Missouri with feelings of regret, rather than of anger or excitement; and that he could not but hope, that when the Senator from Missouri had calmly reflected upon this subject, he would himself see much to regret in the course he had pursued in relation to the Committee on Public Lands, and much to recall that he had uttered under feelings of temporary excitement. Sir, (said Mr. W.,) being deeply solicitous to preserve unbroken the ranks of the democratic party in this body, participating with the people in grateful recollection of the distinguished services rendered by the Senator from Missouri to the democracy of the Union, he would påss
JAN. 28, 1837.] Treasury
by many of the remarks made by that Senator on this subject. [Mr. BeN'ron here rose from his chair, and demanded, with much warmth, that Mr. WALKER should not pass by one of them. Mr. W. asked, What one? Mr. B. replied, in an angry tone, Not one, sir. Then Mr. W. said he would examine them all, and in a spirit of perfect freedom; that he would endeavor to return blow for blow; and that, if the Senator from Missouri desired, as it appeared he did, an angry controversy with him, in all its consequences, in and out of this House, he could be gratified.] Sir, (said Mr. W.,) why has the Senator from Missouri assailed the Committee on Public Lands, and himself, as its humble organ? He was not the author of this measure, so much denounced by the Senator from Missouri, nor had he said one word upon the subject. The measure originated with the Senator from Virginia, [Mr. Rives.] He was the author of the measure, and had been, and still was, its able, zealous, and successful advocate. Why, then, had the Senator from Missouri assailed him, (Mr. W.,) and permitted the author of the measure to escape unpunished? Sir, are the arrows which appear to be aimed by the Senator from Missouri at the humble organ of the Committee on Public lands, who reported this bill, intended to inflict a wound in another quarter? Is one Senator the apparent object of assault, when another is designed as the real victim? Sir, when the Senator from Missouri, without any provocation, like a thunderbolt from an unclouded sky, broke upon the Senate in a perfect tempest of wrath and fury, bursting upon his poor head like a tropical tornado, did he intend to sweep before the avenging storm another individual more obnoxious to his censure? Sir, (said Mr. W.,) the Senator from Missouri has thrice repeated the prayer, “God save the country from the Committee on Public Lands;” but Mr. W. fully believed that if the prayer of the country could be heard within these walls, it would be, God save us from the wild, visionary, ruinous, and impracticable schemes of the Senator of Missouri, for exclusive gold and silver currency; and such is not only the prayer of the country, but of the Senate, with scarcely a dissenting voice. Sir, if the Senator from Missouri could, by his mandate, in direct opposition to the views of the President, heretofore expressed, sweep from existence all the banks of the States, and establish his exclusive constitutional currency of gold and silver, he would bring upon this country scenes of ruin and distress without a parallel—an immediate bankruptcy of nearly every debtor, and of almost every creditor to whom large amounts were due, a prodigious depreciation in the price of all property and all products, and an immediate cessation by States and individuals of nearly every work of private enterprise or public improvement. The country would be involved in one universal bankruptcy, and near the grave of the nation's prosperity would perhaps repose the scattered fragments of those great and glorious institutions which give happiness to millions here, and hopes to millions more of disenthralment from Jespotic power. Sir, in resistance to the power of the Bank of the United States, in opposition to the re-establishment of any similar institution, the Senator from Mis*ouri would find Mr. W. with him; but he could not oist as a recruit in this new crusade against the banks 9" his own and every other state in the Union. These ostitutions, whether for good or evil, are created by the States, cherished and sustained by them, in many cases **med in whole or in part by the States, and closely united with their prosperity; and what right have we to destroy them? What right had he, a humble servant of the Pople of Mississippi, to say to his own, or any other State, your state legislation is wrong—your State insti
tutions, your State banks, must be annihilated, and we will legislate here to effect this object. Are we the masters or servants of the sovereign States, that we dare speak to them in language like this—that we dare attempt to prostrate here those institutions which are created and maintained by those very States which we represent on this floor? These may be the opinions entertained by some Senators of their duty to the States they represent, but they were not his (Mr. W’s) views or his opinions. He was sincerely desirous to co-operate with his State in limiting any dangerous powers of the banks, in enlarging the circulation of gold and silver, and in suppressing the small-note currency, so as to avoid that explosion which was to be apprehended from excessive issues of bank paper. But a total annihilation of all the banks of his own State, now possessing a chartered capital of near forty millions of dollars, would, Mr. W. knew, produce almost universal bankruptcy, and was not, he believed, anticipated by any one of his constitents. But the Senator from Missouri tells us that this measure of the committee is a repeal of the constitution, by authorizing the receipt of paper money in revenue payments. If so, then the constitution never has had an existence; for the period cannot be designated when paper money was not so receivable by the Federal Government. This species of money was expressly made receivable for the public dues by an act of Congress, passed immediately after the adoption of the constitution, and which remained in force until eighteen hundred and eleven. It was so received, as a matter of practice, from eighteen hundred and eleven until eighteen hundred and sixteen, when, again, by an act of Congress then passed, and which has just expired, it was so authorized to be received during all that period. Now, although these acts have expired, there is that which is equivalent to a law still in force, expressly authorizing the notes of the specie-paying banks of the States to be received in revenue payments. It is the joint resolution of eighteen hundred and sixteen, adopted by both Houses of Congress, and approved by President Madison. That joint resolution is in these words: “That the Secretary of the Treasury be, and he hercby is, required and directed to adopt such measures as he may deem necessary to cause, as soon as may be, all duties, taxes, debts, or sums of money, accruing or becoming payable to the United States, to be collected and paid in the legal currency of the United States, or Treasury notes, or notes of the Bank of the United States, as by law provided and declared, or in notes of banks which are payable and paid on demand in the said legal currency of the United States; and that, from and after the 20th day of February next, no such duties, taxes, debts, or sums of money, accruing or becoming payable to the United States as aforesaid, ought to be collected or received otherwise than in the legal currency of the United States, or Treasury notes, or notcs of the Bank of the United States, or in notes of banks which are payable and paid on demand in the said legal currency of the United States. Commenting upon this resolution, the Senator from Missouri, in his speech of December last, declared: “This is the law, continued Mr. Benton, and nothing can be plainer than the right of selection which it gives to the Secretary of the Treasury.” “The words of the law are clear; the practice under it has been uniform and uninterrupted from the date of its passage to the present day. For twenty years, and under three Presidents, all the Secretaries of the Treasury have acted alike. Each has made selections, permitting the notes of some specie-paying banks to be received, and forbidding others.” Here this joint resolution is admitted by the Senator SENATE.]
from Missouri to be “the law,” and that the practice under it has been uniform to receive the notes of speciepaying banks. If, then, to authorize the reception of the notes of specie-paying banks in payment of the public dues be a violation of the constitution, it is obvious that the constitution never has had any existence, except in the golden visions of the honorable Senator from Missouri. Sir, what more is done by the bill reported from the Committee on Public Lands, and now ordered to be engrossed by the Senate, than had been already accomplished by the joint resolution of 1816? This bill, as thus engrossed, is as follows:
“An act designating and limiting the funds receivable for the revenues of the United States.
“Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representa. tives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the Secretary of the Treasury be, and hereby is, required to adopt such measures as he may deem necessary to effect a collection of the public revenue of the United States, whether arising from duties, taxes, debts, or sales of lands, in the manner and on the principles herein provided: that is, that no such duties, taxes, debts, or sums of money, payable for lands, shall be collected or received otherwise than in the legal currency of the United States, or in notes of banks which are payable and paid on demand in the said legal currency of the United States, under the following restrictions and conditions in regard to such notes, to wit: from and after the passage of this act, the notes of no bank which shall issue or circulate bills or notes of a less denomination than five dollars shall be received on account of the public dues; and from and after the thirtieth day of December, eighteen hundred and thirtynine, the notes of no bank which shall issue or circulate bills or notes of a less denomination than ten dollars shall be so receivable; and from and after the thirtieth day of December, one thousand eight hundred and forty-one, the like prohibition shall be extended to the notes of all banks issuing bills or notes of a less denomination than twenty dollars.
“Sec. 2. And be it further enacted, That no notes shall be received by the collectors or receivers of the public money which the banks in which they are to be deposited shall not, under the supervision and control of the Secretary of the Treasury, agree to pass to the credit of the United States as cash: Provided, That if any deposite bank shall refuse to receive and pass to the credit of the United States, as cash, any notes receivable under the provisions of this act, which said bank, in the ordinary course of business, receives on general deposite, the Secretary of the Treasury is hereby authorized to withdraw the public deposites from said bank.”
Now, the principal difference between the provisions of this bill and the joint resolution of 1816 consists in the exclusion by the bill of notes of small denominations from revenue payments. Yet the Senator from Missouri would leave the resolution of 1816 in full force, unrepealed, unmodified, and yet objects to the measure now before us. The Senator from Missouri would have remain in force a resolution of Congress, by which the Secretary of the Treasury may, at his discretion, receive for the public dues bank notes, even of one dollar; and yet he objects to a measure by which that discretion is limited to the receipt of notes of the higher denominations. By the resolution, as it stands, the Secretary of the Treasury may collect the whole public revenue in bank paper; by the bill, as proposed, a portion of the public dues must be collected in gold and silver; and yet the Senator from Missouri objects, and denounces the neasure as a repeal of the constitution, by authorizing the payment of the public dues in bank paper, as if it were not authorized already by the joint resolution of
1816, which, as regards the customs, is untouched even by the Treasury order. Strange inconsistency! singu. lar delusion! But has it come to this: that Congress has surrendered an unlimited discretion, as regards the funds receivable for the public dues, into the hands of the Secretary of the Treasury, and must not now interfere? That, in the opinion of the Senator from Missouri, it is all right that the Secretary of the Treasury should pos. sess the discretionary power of receiving or rejecting bank paper in payment of the public dues; of discrimina. ting between different individuals and different branches of the public revenue; of putting up and putting down bank paper at his pleasure—but that for Congress to inter. pose and define or limit that discretion is a violation of the constitution. That for the Secretary of the Treasury to regulate the currency at his pleasure, and put up and put down State banks and their paper, is all right; but that for Congress to limit and define his power, in these respects, is unconstitutional. The Secretary of the Treas. ury, then, must be above Congress, and above the constitution, possessing an omnipotent, unchangeable, irreversible power on this subject. Is not the Senate astounded by the avowal and advocacy of such doctrines upon this floor—doctrines worthy of the Polignacs of France, and of the Stuarts of England, but wholly incompatible with the genius of our institutions, and directly contradictory, as shall be shown hereafter, to the opinions upon this subject of our patriotic President? Are the American people prepared to sustain these doctrines--doctrines which are essentially monarchical, which take srom Congress all power over this subject; which deny their authority, the authority of the representatives of the people and of the States, and erect the Secretary of the Treasury into a dictator, whose mandates we may not control or alter? Sir, if the Secretary of the Treasury may thus abolish our power on this subject, and render it unconstitutional for us to interfere with his orders, why may not every other Secretary of every other Department claim similar power and the same exemption from our control? Such doctrines are the very essence of despotism, and now for the first time have they been openly avowed upon this floor and in this country. Tell me not, then, that the Secretary of the Treasury may receive or reject bank paper at his pleasure; may receive it, as he now does, for customs, and reject it in payment of the public lands; and that it is unconstitutional for Congress to regulate, define, and limit, that discretion. Standing upon the broad basis of the constitution, he would resist such doctrines; for they can only be maintained by a total overthrow of free government, and the establishment of arbitrary and despotic power. But the Senator from Missouri tells us that he objects to the bill of the committee as an act of Congress, when it should have been a resolution. Sir, does that Senator contend that in directions given by Congress to the Secretary of the Treasury, as regards the funds receivable for the public dues, there is any distinction between a be it enacted, and a be it resolved, by the Congress of the United States? The constitution prescribes no such form, and recognises no such distinction. It requires joint resolutions, except for adjournment, as well as laws, to be approved by the President; and when this is done, they have the same obligatory energy in limiting and directing the acts of our public agents. , Sir, when the Senator from Missouri urged this new objection, he seemed to have forgotten his speech of December last, in which, when commenting upon the joint resolution of 1816, he declared “this is the law;” but now that Senator would have us believe that a joint resolution is not equivalent to a law of Congress. But if there be this distinction between a law and a joint resolution, in support of this plea of abatement, upon JAN. 28, 1837.)
which the Senator from Missouri now relies, it shall be shown, before the close of this address, that the Senator from Missouri has himself, within the last twelve months, proposed laws, and amendments to laws, expressly authorizing the receipt of bank paper in payment of the public dues; and, consequently, if his own argument be true, has proposed a repeal of the constitution. Before, however, proceeding to this branch of the subject, let me ask, if the reception of bank paper in payment of the public dues be a violation of the constitution, then not only have Congress, but this administration, and every one that preceded it, uniformly violated the constitution. Down to the period of the Treasury order of July last, this administration has constantly received bank paper in payment of the federal revenue, and is still receiving it, even under the Treasury order, in payment of customs. The argument, then, of the Sen. ator from Missouri, is a bitter denunciation of the whole course of the President on this subject preceding the Treasury order, and it is also a denunciation of the principles of that order, so far as it does not exclude bank paper in payment of customs. The administration is
now receiving bank paper in payment of customs, and
no change on this subject is proposed by the President; and yet the Senator from Missouri tells us, that for Congress to authorize the reception of bank paper in payment of the public dues is to repeal the constitution. Here is conclusive evidence that the Senator from Mis. souri goes far beyond the views of the President upon this subject. But the Senator from Missouri objects to the proviso of the bill introduced by the Committee on Public Lands, authorizing the Secretary of the Treasury to withdraw the deposites from any bank which resuses to pass to the credit of the United States, as cash, the notes of such specie-paying banks, receivable under this bill, as the bank receives on general deposite. This proviso is a wholesome restriction upon the abuse of power by the deposite banks. It will curtail, and was intended to curtail, the power of the deposite banks.
it will arrest an odious monopoly, by preventing the deposite banks from making their notes the only paper the bill of the committee, as regards the exclusion from
receivable for the public dues; thus rendering, for all practical purposes, the paper of these banks the only currency of the Federal Government, to the manifest inconvenience of the people, and the severe oppression of other State banks qually as solvent as these institutions. It will prevent an oligarchy of deposite banks from controlling the currency, and exercising a power over the prosperity of the country quite as despotic as that possessed by the Bank of the United States. If we reject this proviso, we shall only have disenthralled the American people srom the Bank of the United States; one master, to substitute eighty masters; a combination of which, uncontrolled by this proviso, might hold in their power the prosperity of this nation. This same power was confided, in relation to the removal of the deposites, to the Secretary of the Treasury, as regards the Bank of the United States; and the existence, as well as the exercise, of this power, by that officer, was deemed, by the Senator from Missouri, most wise and salutary. Yet the Senator from Missouri now objects to this power, and says he would not intrust it even to the administration of the President or of his successor. Indeed! The Senator from Missouri would not confide to the Secretary of the Treasury the necessary power to remove the public moneys from any deposite bank, thus abusing its authority, and oppressing the people, in the contingency referred to in the proviso; and yet he would permit the joint resolution of 1816 to remain unrepealed and unmodified, by which the Secretary of the Treasury might, at his discretion, regulate the whole currency of the country, receive or reject bank paper at his option, change and rechange his orders upon this subject, in
troduce or exclude the currency of gold and silver, and exercise over this whole subject powers unregulated and uncontrolled. Sir, the Senator from Missouri stops at the molehill of this proviso, whilst he surmounts the mountain which rises to our view, upon a survey of the enormous powers which that Senator would intrust, without any regulation, into the hands of the Secretary of the Treasury. Mr. W. said he would now proceed to prove that the Senator from Missouri had himself originally proposed something similar to the provisions of the bill which he now denounces as a violation of the constitution; and especially that he had directly proposed, by resolution as well as laws, to authorize the receipt of bank paper in payment of the public dues; and, until very recently, limited himself to the exclusion of notes under twenty dollars, as proposed by the bill of the committee. And, first, Mr. W, read from the journals of the Senate, under date of the 9th April, 1834, as follows: “The following motion, submitted by Mr. Benton, was considered: “Resolved, That a committee be appointed on the part of the Senate, jointly with such committee as may be appointed on the part of the House of Representatives, to consider and report to the Senate and to the House, respectively, what alterations, if any, are necessary to be made • * * * * * 3. In the joint resolution of 1816, (for the better collection of the revenue,) so as to exclude all bank notes under twenty dollars from revenue payments after a given period, and to make the revenue system of the United States instrumental in the gradual suppression of the small-note circulation, and the introduction of gold and silver for the common currency of the country.” Here it will be perceived that the Senator from Missouri then considered the joint resolution of 1816 as requiring alterations by Congress, so as “to exclude all bank notes under twenty dollars from revenue payments after a given period.” Here, then, was a direct proposition, by that Senator, to do precisely what is dene by
revenue payments of notes only “under twenty dollars.” Why, then, does the Senator now denounce what was then his own project as a repeal of the constitution? His project then was, not as it now is, to exclude all but goid and silver from revenue payments, and cut loose the Federal Government from the paper system, but the very reverse, namely: to authorize bank notes not under twenty dollars to be received in revenue, payments. And how received? Why, by regulations then proposed by him, to be made by Congress—by alterations of the joint resolution of 1816. The honorable Senator then also proposed to make “the revenue system of the United States instrumental in the gradual suppression of the small-note circulation, and the introduction of gold and silver for the common currency of the coun: try.” The terms “common currency,” as distinguished from exclusive currency, are italicized in the resolution of the Senator from Missouri, and the suppression confined to “the small-note circulation.” This suppression of “the small-note circulation,” of notes under twenty dollars, was to be effected by the instrumentality of the revenue system of the United States. Now, is not all this precisely what is proposed in the bill of the committee And are not that bill and this resolution of the honorable Senator substantially the same? Since this period, a great revolution appears to have taken place in the opinion of the honorable Senator, both as regards questions relating to the currency and to constitutional law. Then, that Senator was satisfied to encourage the circulation of bank notes not under twenty dollars, and SENAT e.)
to receive them in revenue payments. Now, nothing will answer his purpose but gold and silver; and, to authorize any thing else to be received in revenue payments is denounced as a repeal of the constitution! If this doctrine be true, then the Senator from Missouri stands upon the Senate journals self-convicted of an attempt to repeal the constitution. But the Senator from Missouri has imbodied the twenty-dollar principle, as connected with the federal revenue, in an act of Congress, not a resolution. Mr. W. here read from the journals of the Senate, under date of the 6th of April, 1836, as follows: “The Senate resumed the consideration of a bill entitled ‘An ct making appropriations for the payment of the revolutionary and other pensioners,’ &c. The following amendment, proposed by Mr. Benton, being under consideration: SEc. —. And be it further enacted, That no bank note of less denomination then twenty dollars shall hereafter be offered in payment, in any case whatsoever, in which money is to be paid by the United States or the Post Of. fice Department; nor shall any bank note of any denomination be so offered, unless the same shall be payable and paid on demand, in gold or silver coin, at the place where issued, and which shall not be equivalent to specie at the place where offered, and convertible into gold or silver upon the spot, at the will of the holder, and without delay or loss to him.” This section was, on the motion of the Senator from Missouri, imbodied in the act of Congress referred to,
and is now the law of the land, having passed both Houses
of Congress, and received the sanction of the President. This provision, it is true, is confined to payments by the United States. But if the United States, under this law, are to pay out bank notes not under twenty dollars, how can this be done if they are not authorized to receive such notes? What could be more contradictory than a bill, the first section of which should authorize notes not under twenty dollars to be paid by the United States, and the second section of which should prohibit the United States from receiving in payment any thing but gold and silver? How could the United States, by law, in all time to come, pay out that which by law they were debarred from receiving? The Senator from Missouri, then, has, by law, connected the Federal Government with the paper system. This section, adopted on the motion of the Senator from Missouri, would come in very properly as an additional clause in the bill now before us; but as an additional proviso to the bill, which shall be quoted hereafter, proposed by that Senator, to re-establish a currency of gold and silver for the Federal Government, it would be ridiculous and contradictory. Mr. W. stated that the Senator from Missouri had still further committed himself on this subject. He had not only directly countenanced the payment of the federal revenue in bank notes, but had himself proposed, at the last session, the creation by Congress, in this District, of new banks, authorized to issue notes not less than twenty dollars. Mr. W. here read from the journals of the Sénate, under date of the 4th June, 1836, as follows: “The Senate resumed the consideration of the bill to
extend the charters of certain banks in the District of
Columbia. “on motion of Mr. Benton to recommit the bill, with instructions to report separate bills for the incorpo. ration of new banks, with small capitals, adapted to the capacity of the District to sustain specie banks, and strictly limited to the business of the place; the said incorporations to contain, among other provisions, the fol. lowing principles: 4. The banks to issue no notes of less denomination than twenty dollars; and all notes of less denomination than twenty dollars, by other banks, to be prohibited from circulation within the District, 5. All
the notes and paper currency issued by said banks to be paid in gold and silver; one half of either at the option of the demander, the other half at the option of the bank.”
Now, Mr. W. would ask, if Congress could by law establish even in this District a certain number of banks authorized to issue notes of a certain denomination, could it not exercise the smaller power of authorizing the reception of bank notes in revenue payments? But (Mr. W. said) he quoted this to show that even at this late period the Senator from Missouri was not prepared to do execution on all banks and all bank paper. There were some curious matters connected with these propositions of the Senator from Missouri. His fifth proposition required “all notes and paper currency issued by said banks to be paid in gold and silver; one half of either at the option of the demander, the other half at the option of the bank;” and this same provision the honorable Senator also proposed to apply to “the deposite banks,” : “in consideration of being made or continued depositories of the public moneys.” Sir, the honorable Scnator from Missouri would have the banks pay in a currency better than that required by the constitution. By that instrument, gold or silver is a legal tender in payment ef debts, and a bank note is only an evidence of a debt due by the bank to the holder of the note; but the honorable senator would require the banks to pay their notes in gold and silver, one half of each metal. When a note of a thousand dollars shall be presented to a bank for re| demption in specie, it is hoped the honorable, Senator will not require those of less personal prowess than himself to carry away five hundred dollars in silver, when the bank otherwise might pay the whole amount in gold. Such equal division of the precious metals, however beautiful in theory, would be most inconvenient in practice; and if the honorable Senator is so equally attached to gold and silver as to be resolved on having a precisely equal circulation of each, there is one way which, if it were not presumptuous, Mr. W. could recommend to his serious consideration. It was this. That Senator took great delight in exhibiting a new and favor: ite coin of his, which he called billon. Mr. W. hoped he pronounced the word correctly; he was sure the Senator srom Missouri did. This coin was composed partly of copper, and partly of silver, though not peecisely one half of each; the Senator having suffered great injustice to be done to the silver, by permitting a great preponderance of copper, a very inferior metal, not recognised by the constitution as a tender. Now, Mr. W. would suggest, that if the Senator from Missouri would have coincil a new species of billon, composed of gold and silver, precisely one half of each in value, would it not answer his purpose? Mr. W. would not warrant that it would. answer, but would only suggest it to the consideration of the Senator from Missouri, as a substitute for his proposed entire equalisation of the circulation of gold and silver, by compelling the banks to redeem their notes in one half of each metal, especially as these banks might not find it very convenient to comply with these requi. sitions, and as a greater quantity of one metal than of the other might find its way, from time to time, out of the country, and thus destroy this metallic equilibrium of the honorable Senator.
Thus far the Senator from Missouri seemed to have confined his views to the exclusion of notes under twenty dollars in revenue payments. But, on the 10th of Junc last, he changed his position, and introduced into the Senate the following bill:
“A bill to re-establish the currency of the constitution for the l’ederal Government.
“Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representa.
tives of the United States of America in Congress assem.