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on the expunging resolution was twenty-four to nineteen*
A vigorous attempt was made to rescind the treasury circular respecting specie payments for land sales. A resolution to this effect having been referred to the committee on public lands, a bill was reported, purporting the designation and limitation of the funds receivable for the revenues of the United States, and, in fact, providing for the reception of the notes of specie-paying banks, in certain cases. Mr. Benton, the "hard money" man, vehemently opposed it, but it passed by an overwhelming majority—forty-one against five. In the House an attempt was made to amend it, so as to save the specie circular, but it failed; a hundred and forty-three Representatives voted for the bill as it came from the Senate, and only fifty-nine against it. On the last day but one of the session it was sent to the president, who retained it
* "The gratification of General Jackson was extreme. He gave a grand dinner to the expungers (as they were called) and their wires; and being too weak to sit at the table, he only met the company, placed the 'head expunger* in his chair, and withdrew to his Bick-chamber. That expurgation! it was the 'crowning mercy* of his civil, as New Orleans had been of his military life."--Benton's "Thirty Yeari View," voL i., p. 731.
in his possession, thus preventing its becoming a law. His reasons were published in the M Globe" a few days afterwards.
Few acts of general interest having been passed during the session, the twenty-fourth Congress reached its termination on the 3d of March, 1837. At the same time General Jackson finished his eight years of public service; and gave way to his successor. The events of these years .are too near the day on which we are writing to be impartially viewed, and calmly judged, as they will be by the future historian of our country. Hence we do not attempt any review of Jackson's administration, being conscious that it would be of no avail. The ardent admirers and partizans of the hero of New Orleans would be satisfied with nothing less than an unqualified laudation; and on the other hand, his political enemies would receive as justly due no sentence short of condemnation of his acts and his principles. Let the reader of these pages judge, from the narrative of facts now before him, and let him meditate upon the life and career of the man whom so many thousands of Americans have regarded with an enthusiastic admiration, unequalled in the annals of oit country.
Inauguration of Martin Van Buren — His Inaugural address — Condition of the country at this date — Failures and distreB3—Deputation of merchants goes to Washington — Extra session of Congress — The recommendations of the president — The sub-treasury plan proposed — Congress meet in December—The sub-treasury discussed — Acts of the session—The Seminole war in Florida—Resolutions in favor of annexing Texas—Attempted revolution in Canada — Burning of the Caroline — The president's proclamation againBt the insurgents — Proceedings of the last session of the twenty-fifth Congress — The opposition gain strength — Opening of the twenty-sixth Congress — The case of the New Jersey members — Whig convention at Harrisburg—General Harrison nominated for president—Van Buren nominated by the democratic convention—The president's message on the financial state of affairs—Good advice—The independent treasury established—Its chief provisions—The sixth census — The presidential election— Exciting canvass — Harrison elected — End of Van Buren's administration.
Having reached a point in the history of the United States which is too nearly contemporaneous to authorize our treating public affairs with any fulness or critical examination, we shall not undertake more than to present a concise summary of events during the last fifteen or twenty years; leaving the just historical estimate of our era to the historian of a later day, when time shall have set its seal upon the past, and when history can exercise its proper office in describing the progress of our national career.
The inauguration of Martin Van Buren, as the eighth president of the United States, took place on the 4th of March, 1837, with the usual ceremonies; and, after he had delivered his Inaugural address, the oath of office was administered to him by Chief-Jus'tice Tanev. His address was a well-written paper, and set forth the views and principles by which
he expected to be governed in the discharge of his duties. He renewed the pledge which he had given before his election, viz., "I must go into the presidential chair the inflexible and uncompromising opponent of every attempt, on the part of Congress, to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia, against the wishes of the slave-holding states; and also with a determination equally decided to resist the slightest interference with it in the states where it exists." And he closed his address with invoking the choicest of blessings upon our beloved country.
The condition of commercial and business affairs, at the beginning of Mr. Van Buren's presidency, was critical and alarming. The removal of the deposits, the specie circular, and the distribution of the surplus revenue, had, it was believed, brought about this distressing state of things; and mercantile men, in general, gave expression to the opinion, that the only effectual remedy for the evils affecting the currency and commercial exchanges was to be found in the establishment of a national bank. Failures began to occur in every quarter. During the first three weeks in April, two hundred and fifty houses stopped payment in New York. In New Orleans, during two days' time, houses stopped payment, owing an aggate of $27,000,000; and in other cities similar evidences were given of the storm that had burst over the country. The demands upon the banks increased rapidly; they could not keep their notes in circulation; the alarm grew into a panic; and a general run was made upon the banks. On the 10th of May, all the banks in New York stopped specie payments; and on the 16th, the legislature authorized this step on the part of the banks, to last for one year. The banks of other states speedily followed the example of those of New York; and all classes of the community gloomily anticipated widespread ruin and beggary as the result of this distressing state of commercial affairs.
On the 3d of May, a numerous meeting of merchants and bankers in New York, appointed a deputation to proceed to Washington and request the president to rescind the specie circular, to defer commencing suits upon unpaid bonds, and to call an extra session of Congress; and the committee
stated, that, "under a deep impression of the propriety of confining our declarations within moderate limits, we affirm, that the value of our real estate has within €he las4 six months de
preciated more than $40,000,000 ;* ... that within the same period a decline of $20,000,000, has occurred in our local stocks; . . . that within a few weeks not less than twenty thousand individuals, depending upon their daily labor for their daily bread, have been discharged by their employers because the means of retaining them were exhausted; and that a complete blight has fallen upon a community heretofore so active, enterprising and prosperous."
Other towns and cities followed the lead of New York, and sought relief at the hands of the executive; but Mr. Van Buren declined acting upon their petitions, and only consented, with reluctance, to the calling an extra session of Congress. His proclamation to this effect was issued on the 15th of May, and Congress was summoned to meet on the first Monday in September, on account of " great and weighty matters claiming their consideration." The interval was largely occupied in criminations and recriminations, by the opponents and upholders of the administration, as to where the blame rightly rested for the deplorable state into which the currency and business of the country had fallen.
The extra session was begun on the 4th of September, and it became evident at once, from the tone of the president's message, that no relief was to be looked for from the government. He ascribed the state of things to overtrading speculation, fostered and stim
* A great and destructive fire occurred in New York in December, 1835, when five hundred and twentynine buildings were consumed, and property was destroyed to the amount of more than $20,000,000.