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3. Resolved, That as the trade and business of the country and the fiscal concerns of the United States have been for a great length of time conducted by means of banks, and as any great and sudden change in the channels of business may tend to injure the most important interests of society, it is the opinion of this Legislature that the dues of the general government, or a portion thereof, ought to be received and paid away in the notes of specie-paying banks, until sufficient time should be allowed for the course of trade to accommodate itself to the separation proposed.
4. Resolved, That this Legislature considers it essential to a proper administration of this policy that the government should accumulate in the Treasury no moneys beyond its actual immediate wants, and that the gold and silver which may be collected for dues shall immediately return by payments into the circulation of the country.
5. Resolved, That a bank of the United States, chartered by and conducted under the auspices of the government, is unconstitutional and inexpedient.
These resolutions were, in fact, a minority report, Mr. Memminger presenting and alone advocating them before the committee, in lieu of those heretofore referred to as the majority report.
The debate on these resolutions as a substitute was protracted through several days of the session. Mr. Petigru, who was not alone in theory but in conviction an unqualified Federalist of the Hamilton school, led the opposition to the resolution and the substitute, and was ably seconded by Messrs. Perry, Yeadon, Toomer, Irby, Means, Adams, Thompson and Strobhart. The substitute was finally defeated and the debate renewed on the original resolutions as reported by the committee. It was in this debate that Mr. Davie of Chester, Messrs. Seymour, Porcher and Laborde, in advocacy of the resolutions, made themselves distinguished and began a career that justly associates them with the great Carolinians of that day. The resolutions were passed by a very large majority vote, but not without decided opposition, as I have heretofore shown. Men of great ability and sincere convictions championed the National Bank cause from motives which were undoubtedly
free from even a suspicion of corruption. A few were Federalists, as decidedly and as sincerely so as was ever John Knox or Alexander Hamilton. This measure was the chief concern of Mr. Memminger at this session, and in its discussion he at once moved into the orbit of great minds that have made the galaxy of our intellectual firmament in Carolina resplendent for the past century. There were other matters of minor importance with which I find him interested, especially with regard to the public and private interests of the city and the constituency he so well represented. Indeed, there is scarcely a page of the Journal of the House of Representatives that does not bear witness to the earnest spirit with which Mr. Memminger discharged the duties entrusted to him as a legislator. I select from among the many measures he brought forward only such as, because of their importance and bearing upon public interests, make them not only illustrative of the philosophic cast of Mr. Memminger's mind, but historic and of general interest to the reader. It was at this session of the Legislature that Mr. Memminger was elected one of the trustees of the South Carolina College, a position of honor and of responsibility, which he continued to fill with great benefit to his almamater for many succeeding years.
Upon the organization of the House of Representatives in 1838, Mr. Memminger was made chairman of the Committee of Ways and Means, and also of a special committee to revise the rules of the House. It was at this session that he succeeded in having enacted a bill prepared by himself to amend the act previously passed for rebuilding the city of Charleston. The great fire of this year swept as a besom of destruction over the devoted city, laying in ashes many hundred houses and reducing to comparative poverty hundreds of citizens. Without the means of rebuilding, and without a credit upon which to secure the means, these
unfortunate people were in almost a helpless condition. South Carolina has always sustained a maternal relation to her children, and was ever ready in the golden era of her history to aid those who were by such calamities reduced to a necessitous condition. This amendment to the original bill enabled the unfortunate owners of lots in the burned district to obtain a loan from the Bank of the State on such easy terms as greatly facilitated the work of rebuilding their houses and restoring the city with even more attractiveness than it possessed before the great fire of April.
As chairman of a special committee to whom was referred so much of the message of Governor Butler as related to the resumption of specie payment, Mr. Memminger reported a series of resolutions similar in substance to those reported by him at the previous session of the Legislature. The resolutions provoked a long debate-one calling out the highest expressions of forensic effort on the part of Messrs. Memminger, Wardlaw, Colcock, Bellinger, and Philips in support of the resolutions, and Messrs. Perry, Irby, J. P. Read, Thompson, and Petigru in opposition. The discussion continued through several days, when finally the question was ordered and a vote taken, which indicated 103 for the resolutions and 10 opposed. These proceedings were but making more emphatic those of the preceding Legislature, and clearly indicated the increased opposition to the United States Bank and the methods adopted by the general government of depositing the federal revenues with the State banks. I have singled out the legislation had at this particular time on the subject of banks and banking, not because Mr. Memminger confined his energies of mind as a legislator exclusively to this important branch of the public service, but that I may prepare the way for the reader to fully comprehend all of the circumstances, both Federal and State, which led to the institution of proceedings in the
courts against the Bank of the State by the State of South Carolina a celebrated suit, which, while it forms a part of the history of this period, will present the great legal abili ties and knowledge of Mr. Memminger, as the Journals of the House of Representatives preserve the record of his sagacity as a legislator. As heretofore stated, there are but few pages of the Journals of the House of Representatives that do not record his name in some way connected with the legislation of that body upon almost every question of any importance brought before it. For two decades, as chairman of the Committee of Ways and Means, there was no bill reported for providing the revenues of the State that did not pass the scrutiny of his investigation; while as the chairman, or a member of many standing and special committees, he appears among the most active and earnest of the sons of Carolina in the unselfish service of his fellowcitizens. It is apparent that Mr. Memminger was opposed to a National Bank, as it existed in that day, and for reasons so clearly stated in the resolutions presented by him to the House of Representatives, that I do not deem it necessary to add a word to their significance.
He did not oppose the maintenance of a State Bank under proper restrictions, and for the uses of the whole people, under such legitimate relations of commercial exchange as the experience of all reputable political economy would sanction, but he opposed any and all deviation from well established principles that would set up an artificial standard of values or limit the bank's privileges to comparatively a few persons. He believed that banks were public institutions, and were not to be recognised by the law-making power as mere agencies for speculation; that they were designed for the convenience of the people, and not authorized for mere money-making purposes; that as public institutions they had never been invested with the right or
the authority to take advantage of circumstances, and advance the interests of stockholders to the damage of the general community. Hence he sought in every way possible to guard the funds of depositors, and to make and to keep the banks solvent by limiting their powers and guarding their issues of bills and other liabilities against the possibility of an improper and illegitimate relation to a universally recognised and normal standard of values.
His wisdom and integrity of purpose was recognized by the constituency, who honored him with their confidence and by the legislative body in which he held a seat, the active, able and earnest exponent of sound financial philosophy.
In 1840 Mr. Memminger prepared and introduced a bill entitled "An act to provide against the suspension of specie payments by the banks of South Carolina." It was under the provisions of this bill that proceedings were instituted by the State against the Bank of South Carolina to vacate the charter of the bank on the ground of its having suspended specie payment, and the payment of deposits on demand. I desire to present this case in full, as with a few others I may select, it will be the best evidence I can lay before the reader of the ability of Mr. Memminger as a lawyer, and of his sagacity as a statesman.
"The Bank Case," as it is known among the lawyers, but more properly the case of the State versus the Bank of South Carolina, was an issue joined on a scire facias sued out of the Court of Common Pleas for the District of Charleston, to vacate the charter of the bank on the ground that the bank had suspended specie payments of its bills and of deposits. The declaration recites the writ, then sets forth and alleges that the persons named therein, and their successors, were incorporated by an act of the General Assembly of the State of South Carolina, ratified on the 19th of December, 1801,