網頁圖片
PDF
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

ject of commerce which appropriately followed it; and of the wars and treaties with the Indians. It next requested "legislative aid" in "the execution of the act for fixing the military peace establishment;" and thence passed to the satisfactory "revival of the public credit;" although, it must be confessed, the financial statement was sufficiently disheartening.

During the first nine months of the current year, $12,500,000 were received at the treasury from all branches of the revenue; $14,000,000 of treasury notes were issued; and a loan of $9,000,000 (six in cash, and three in treasury paper) was subscribed. In addition to all which, there were $1,500,000 in the treasury to begin with. There had been paid in the same period, "exclusively of the amount of treasury notes subscribed to the loan, and of the amount redeemed in the payment of duties and taxes," $33,500,000; so that there were $3,000,000 in hand. It was also estimated, that " existing ways and means" would sufficiently provide for certain arrearages, interest on the debt, and other expenditures needful before the end of the year. The amount of the debt,—consisting of the unredeemed balance of the former debt, $39,000,000, the funded debt arising from the recent war, $64,000,000, and the unfunded and floating debt, $17,000,000,—might be set down as $120,000,000; which might perhaps be a little increased; but the floating part of which was in process of payment. This would, as the president suggested, point out the chief subject for the deliberation of the session;

and "the probable operation of a national bank" was mentioned as one expedient to be considered.

The national defences, the militia, and the navy, were spoken of as requiring the attention of Congress. And "reciprocity" and "protection" were urged as the principles which ought to determine the legislation regarding the tariff. Internal improvement and a national university were also recommended; and the goodness and mercy of God's providence were properly, and in a Christian-like manner, urged upon the notice of Congress and the country at large.

The financial statement of Mr. Dallas, the secretary of the treasury, went over the same ground as the president's message, but more fully and distinctly; recommending definite measures, where the message had only indicated

• • 1815.

topics for consideration. Espe-' cially it counselled the reduction of the direct tax by one half, and the retention of the duty on stamps, and of that on refined sugars; whilst other taxes were marked for abolition or for reduction. Above all, it proposed the establishment of a national bank.

The able financier, who was at the head of the treasury department, was of opinion, that, whilst inconvenient and unproductive taxes should be repealed, and every impediment removed which might retard the progress of domestic manufactures, a permanent system of internal duties should be set up; and he calculated that an increasing income might be obtained from that source, which at the outset could not be less than some $7,000,000. From in> ports he reckoned upon receiving nearly $20,000,000 yearly.

Mr. Lowndes, who was chairman of the committee of ways and means, reported strongly in favor of such an arrangement of the revenue system as would provide for the rapid extinction of the public debt. In respect to the sources, the report advised that duties on imports should be principally, but not exclusively, relied on; and that the scale should be regulated so as to discourage no branch of national productiveness, and not to make evasion of payment desirable. Mr. Clay contended, that "in time of peace, we should look to foreign importations as the chief source of revenue; and that in war, when they were cut off, it was time enough to draw deeply on our internal resources." Mr. Calhoun was of opinion, that "the financial resources of the nation would daily become weaker and weaker, instead of growing with its growth, if we did not resort to other objects than our foreign commerce for taxation." The result of the discussion was, the adoption substantially of Mr. Dallas's plan of a moderately productive tariff.

In regard to the proposed national bank, we cannot do better than quote the passage referring to that subject in the secretary's report. "The establishment of a national bank," said Mr. Dallas, "is regarded as the best, and perhaps the only adequate resource, to relieve the country and the government from the present embarrassment. Authorized to issue notes which will be received in all payments to the United States, the circulation of its issues will be co-extensive with the Union; and

there will exist a constant demand, leaving a just proportion to the annual amount of the duties and taxes to be collected, independent of the general circulation for commercial and social purposes. A national bank will, therefore, possess the means and the opportunity of supplying a circulating medium, of equal use and value in every state, and in every district of every state. Established by the authority of the United States; accredited by the government to the whole amount of its notes in circulation; and intrusted, as the depository of the government, with all the accumulations of the public treasure; the national bank, independently of its immediate capital, will enjoy every recommendation which can merit and secure the confidence of the public. Organized upon principles of responsibility, but of independence, the national bank will be retained within its legitimate sphere of action, without just apprehension from the misconduct of its directors, or from the encroachments of the government. Eminent in its resources, and in its exam ple, the national bank will conciliate and lead the state banks in all that is necessary for the restoration of credit, public and private. And acting upon a compound capital, partly stock and partly of gold and silver, the national bank will be the ready instrument to enhance the value of the public securi1jes, and to restore the currency of the national coin."

The proposition of Mr. Dallas was referred to a committee on the currency, of which Mr. Calhoun was chairman; and soon afterwards, early in January. Ch. I.]

the scheme of the secretary, as contained in an elaborate letter to the committee, was reported by its chairman without change, to the House. The federalists, singularly enough as it seems, opposed the bank scheme, and such men as Pickering and Webster were among its sturdiest opponents. Henry Clay, who, some years before, (see p. 128,) had distinguished himself as an opponent of the bank, now became an advocate for its establishment; and he and John C. Calhoun exerted themselves, with great energy, towards obtaining the approbation of Congress for this important measure.

Our limits do not admit of details in respect to the earnest and able debates on this litigated topic; we must refer the reader to Mr. Benton's carefully prepared volumes, containing an abridgment of the debates in Congress. The various and weighty reasons urged on either and both sides of this question, are well worthy of study, especially in view of what has occurred at a later date in connection with the financial condition and arrangements of the government of our country.

On the 14th of March, the bill passed the House of Representatives, by a vote of eighty to seventy-one; and on the 3d of April, was approved by the Senate, by a vote of twenty-two to twelve. The president, notwithstanding his course on a previous occasion, (see p. 261,) gave his approval to the bill, on the 10th of April; and the Bank of the United States thenceforward entered upon its career, whether for good or evil remains to be seen.

The principal features of the new

301

bank were as follows. Its charter was extended to twenty years. Its capital was fixed at $35,000,000, one fifth of which the government was to subscribe; the rest, in $100 shares, was to consist of gold and silver to the extent of a quarter, and the other three quarters of funded debt. The subscriptions of every kind were made payable in four instalments, and as soon as the first instalment was paid, the bank was to be organized and operations were to be commenced. The location of the bank was to be at Philadelphia, but branches might be established in the states by the directors, to be under the control of thirteen persons appointed by the directors. The management of the institution was vested in a board of twenty-five directors, one fifth appointed by the government, the rest elected yearly by the stockholders, some being changed at each election, on the principle of rotation. The directors were to choose one of their number as president, annually; but resident citizens alone were eligible as directors. Its notes were made receivable in all payments to the United States; and it was to hold the public money^ and in return, to transmit and pay the public money without any kind of charge. Specie payments were not to be suspended, unless by the authority of Congress, or of the president of the United States; and $1,500,000 were to be paid in instalments at the end of two, three, and four years, as a bonus for the charter of the bank.

A bill, altering the mode of paying the members of Congress, was passed near the close of the session, and excited not only unusual interest, tut a considerable amount of popular clamor. Instead of the six dollars per day, which they had been receiving, they now voted themselves a salary of $1,500 per annum, whether the session was long or short. We may mention here, that so much dissatisfaction was manifested in the community on account of this proceeding, that at the next session, the law was repealed by a large majority, and eight dollars per day was substituted, as, on the whole, most equitable, and likely to be productive of the best result.

NATIONAL BANK ESTABLISHED.

In addition to what we have stated above, respecting the action of Congress during the present session, there were also large appropriations voted for the increase and efficiency of the army and navy, and for coast and harbor defences; for the purchase of custom houses at some of the great ports; for the repair of the Capitol

IS 1.6

and public buildings at Washington; for the reward of the crews of some vessels which had fought well in the late war; for the pensioning of invalid soldiers, and the families of those who had fallen in battle, etc. The question of ratifying the commercial convention with England came up, early in the session, and the old dispute was revived, of which we have spoken in giving an account of Mr. Jay's treaty. (See vol. ii., p. 372.) Considerable difference of opinion prevailed between the Senate and the House as to the proper method of giving effect to the reciprocity clause of the convention; the debate was conducted with great ability on both sides; and the matter

was finally compromised by passing an act, simply declaring that the discriminating duties were repealed. At the end of December, 1815, the president sent in the long and important correspondence between the Spanish minister and Mr. Monroe, the secretary of state; a month later, papers were com municated respecting the Dartmoor massacre (p. 295); in March, Mr. Randolph obtained the passage of a resolution intended to free the District of Columbia from the disgrace of being a depot for the slave trade of the neighboring states; and on the 30th of April, Congress adjourned.

Before the adjournment of Congress, a caucus of the republican members was held, for the purpose of agreeing upon a candidate for president, it being understood, that Mr. Madison purposed following the example of his predecessor, and retiring to private life. The predominance of Virginia was still evident, and there was no serious opposition to James Monroe being put in nomination for the highest office in the people's gift.* A portion of the democracy, it is true, was desirous of elevating a New York man, Daniel D. Tompkins, to the presidential chair, but, wisely for his interests, withdrew his name, when it was offered to make him the candidate for vice-president. Others of the party, who disliked the rule of the Old Dominion, named Wil

* Aaron Burr, writing to his son-in law, Allston, in November, 1815, urged him to anticipate the dictation of Virginia, and to free the states from her tyranny, by securing a nomination for Andrew Jackson, a scheme which Burr regarded as certain of success.

Ch. I.J

liam H. Crawford, of Georgia, and Simon Snyder, of Pennsylvania, as candidates, in place of Monroe and Tompkins, and the caucus balloted on their respective claims, in spite of a motion to declare such nomination of members of Congress inexpedient. Sixty-five voted for Monroe, and for Crawford only fifty-four; Tompkins received eighty-five votes, Snyder only thirty; Monroe and Tompkins were, therefore, the accredited candidates of the party. The federalists, although there was no hope of their being able to elect their candidate, named Rufus King again, for president, and left the electors to fix upon whom they pleased for vice-president.

The election was held in the autumn, and resulted as follows:—for Monroe and Tompkins, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia, Louisiana, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana, voted entire; and each received a hundred and eighty-three votes. Rufus King received all the votes of Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Delaware —thirty-four. Massachusetts bestowed its twenty-two votes on John E. Howard for the vice-presidency; Connecticut, five of its votes on James Ross, and four on John Marshall; and Delaware, its three upon R. G. Harper. And there were three vacancies in the electoral college of Maryland, and one in that of Delaware.

One of the principal objects of those who favored the establishment of a national bank was, to compel the state banks to resume specie payments,

803

which, it will be remembered, all south of New York had suspended; and a resolution was passed by Congress, directing the secretary of the treasury to adopt such measures as, in his judgment, were necessary to secure the important qnd had in view. He was to cause all payments to the United States to be made ;n specie, in treasury notes, or in notes of specie paying banks; and it was declared, that, after the 20th of February, 1817, no payments to the United States ought to be made in any other currency. In July, the secretary of the treasury gave notice, that, after the first day of October, no bills of any bank which did not pay specie for all notes of five dollars and under, would be received in discharge of government dues; and that, after the 20th of February next, no bills of any bank would be received, which did not pay all its notes in specie on demand. The banks resisted this regulation, and endeavored to put off the resumption of specie payments for another year; but the secretary of the treasury urged forward as rapidly aa possible, the putting the United States Bank into operation, so as to furnish a sound circulating medium, and a safe place of deposit for the national treasure.

The books of subscription to the capital stock had been opened early in the spring, and it was found, by the returns received in August, that shares amounting to more than $3,000,000 had not been taken. Stephen Girard, of Philadelphia, immediately filled up the deficient subscription, and it was determined to commence operations, if possible, on the 1st of January, 1817. For

JAMES MONROE ELECTED PRESIDENT.

« 上一頁繼續 »