Page images

ment newspapers, those ministerial vaticans whose anathemas infer political death. It despises "the voice of New York," and is reckless even of "the voice of the People." This mysterious and arrogant power can be subjected by one agent, if he be strong, wise, prudent, faithful and persevering. That agent is he who, with the requisite amount of funds and credit at his command, in all the different parts of this extended country, and with specie always in its vaults, will diligently watch the motions of the currency, and with untiring industry, faithfully, and at all times, either free of charge, or at nominal expense, transfer funds redundant in one part of the Union, to supply deficiencies elsewhere. To accomplish this purpose, the agent must have, not the favor of the executive, nor yet the ear of the ministry, before or behind the throne, nor will even popular acclamation answer his need; he must have the confidence of men of capital and enterprise in this and in foreign countries. His bonds or notes must be esteemed as secure as his vaults. Such an agent, we have had; it was the Bank of the United States. The funds it had were its capital and the deposits of the government. Its bond brought specie at its need from every part of the globe, and its notes in every section of this country were more valued than the precious metals. Sir, that agent you have dismissed; you have substituted thirty or forty of feebler and distracted power in its place. These act without concert, without responsibility, and without credit. The evil was almost instantaneously felt; you denied it at first, then confessed it, then promised it would abate; and still it goes on increasing, and will go on increasing, until your industry is paralyzed, and your commerce arrested in all your market towns on the seaboard. The reproof of your error now reaches you from every commercial city in the land. You know it will come louder and bolder, and ere you have closed your duties here, it will visit the homes of your constituents. Yes, you will return to them to witness the depreciation of farms and merchandise, and the general gloom which mutual distrust and individual apprehension can so effectually produce. Your banks having extended their discounts to their utmost limits, will close their vaults, and the application for renewals and additional loans will be answered by the visits of the sheriff to the houses of the debtors. The usurer will be abroad in the country, as he is now in your cities. You have disturbed and deranged that subtle currency, and its vibrations will shake

[ocr errors]

and unsettle all business transactions. You know it: you anticipate the complaints and the rebuke of your constituents; and you seek to deceive yourselves; and then, self-convinced, you honestly deceive them by laying the evil at the door of the United States Bank, which, during all this pressure, has been, with all the power you have left it, discounting freely to relieve the people. You may for a while deceive them and yourselves; but in the extreme of suffering, they will awake to the conviction that these evils come from the reckless sacrifice of their prospects, hopes and enjoyments in a political warfare in which they had nothing to gain, and the calamities of which were sure to fall upon themselves. Then you will have to give better reasons for your votes on these resolutions than were given in the House of Assembly, or than have yet been given in this house.

Having now, Mr. President, stated generally the grounds of my opposition to the passage of these several resolutions, it remains, of the plan I had marked out for myself in this debate, to consider briefly the reasons assigned by the President and Secretary for the removal of the deposits. I have necessarily anticipated some of them, but will carefully avoid repetition.

We are informed by the President and Secretary, that the removal of the deposits was directed because it was required "by the public convenience, and would promote the public interest." And what is assigned as the inconvenience to be remedied? It is alleged that the deposits would have been unsafe, had they been suffered to remain in the Bank of the United States. Grant me patience if I cannot suppress my astonishment at this assertion. A bank with 35,000,000 of capital actually paid in, and still remaining there unwasted, prohibited from loaning a dollar of that capital or of the deposits, a less safe place for deposits than the same bank when engaged in promiscuous and widely-extended loans, to the amount of double its capital! If there is a merchant in my hearing, let him come and learn financial wisdom from this document! When you have amassed millions by the hazards of trade, and your capital and all the funds your credit can command are afloat upon the seas, beware how you withdraw that capital and call in your debts! The career of prosperity is safe if you continue your hazards, but bankruptcy and ruin will stare you in the face when prudence shall dictate to cease acquisition, and to invest your capital and gains!

And now, sir, let us look at this act in all its magnitude. The President has thrust out of office the agent appointed by Congress, because, in his discretion, he conscientiously refused to remove the deposits. He has put into his place a man who avows that he acts, not as the agent of Congress, but of the President. He has withdrawn the revenues from the bank, and has placed them in depositories unknown to the law. He has disturbed the currency, and thus prematurely brought distress and suffering upon the nation, in the moment of its highest prosperity; and all because the President could not wait sixty days out of four years for the action of Congress.

Sir, it may be true, as has been said here, that this legislature will approve of these after-thought reasons of the President and his de bene esse Secretary; for, for aught I know, this legislature may, as the act of approval would indicate, repose more confidence in one man, than in some two hundred and fifty representatives of the people. Such opinions are not new, but they have been always less popular on this side of the Atlantic than on the other, and are less popular there than heretofore. I must be excused from becoming a convert to this monarchical creed, until Congress adopt and approve these documents. When that shall be done, I will agree with the majority of this House, that legislative bodies are an undue hindrance upon executive action. On the first attempt to reassume their constitutional prerogative, the President will enter their halls, like Cromwell, and say, "I command you to begone about your business, for the Lord hath no further need of your services."

But, sir, there are considerations appertaining to this subject, and arising from the peculiar opinions of those whom I address, which ought not to be forgotten here. The President has pronounced judgment against the bank, and this legislature has constituted itself a court to review that judgment. Let us then proceed in the investigation of the matter, with the aid of those forms of judicial proceeding so conducive to the attainment of correctness, certainty, and justice. Who is the defendant? The Bank of the United States. I will, sir, at the hazard of being denounced as a "feed advocate" of the bank, pro hac vice, offer myself as counsel, and notwithstanding what I have before said as to the impropriety of these resolutions, because they do not come within the scope of your duties, will nevertheless waive all plea to the

jurisdiction of the court. The defendant is a bank, the offence charged is, that this bank has sought to obtain power. Sir, on such a charge the President can have no hope here. My client, the bank, is sure to escape. Why, sir, it is the adjudicated law of this court that banks ought to possess political power. Your statute books, from year to year, down to this day, are full of recorded adjudications, that banks are the safest and most proper depositories of political power. We have, in this state, a system admirably contrived and adapted to increase the number and combine the energies of these purifying political agents. We take care, when a bank is to be incorporated, that the commissioners named to distribute the stock shall be men who will so distribute it as to secure a political organization of the institution. Nay, so far from discouraging these agents, we demand no bonus, but on the other hand we give a bonus of ten per cent. upon the capital stock of every bank, as a compensation for political services. From such a court as this, then, I know that my client, the Bank of the United States, can have nothing to apprehend. I appland, if your honors will permit, your wisdom in having thus settled the law. I know your impartiality and consistency, and I crave your honors' pardon for having dwelt so long on the other charges against my unfortunate client. Had I but pressed this point first, I know you would have acquitted the accused at once. But to examine briefly these charges against the bank. The first is, that preparatory to its application for a renewal of its charter, at the last session of Congress, the bank increased its loans twenty-eight millions of dollars, to induce public favor. Unfortunately it appears there is a mistake of eleven millions in this aggregate. The amount of increase was seventeen millions only; and it appears from the report of the directors of the bank, that the reason for making this increase of discounts, was an increase of available funds, to the amount of eleven millions.

Another charge against the bank is, the expenditure of moneys in the publication of documents, speeches, and reports, in vindication of itself against the relentless war waged upon it. Sir, we all recollect the virulence, the recklessness of the attack. We know that it was make by the executive of the United States, aided by all the power and influence of the government. I shall not stop here to count the number of copies of Gallatin's irrefragable essay on banking, and of the National Intelligencer, and of VOL. 1-3.

Mr. Webster's and Mr. McDuffie's speeches, which were published and circulated by the bank. I know well that the number in the region of country in which I reside, fell as far short of the cloud of vetoes, and Benton's speeches, and extra Globes, as these latter did of the former in sound practical knowledge, forcible argument, and ingenuous patriotism. Sir, it is certainly an anomaly in this government, where we boast the freedom and independence of the press, and "the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it," that it should be made a cause of complaint against the Bank of the United States, that it defended itself by means of the press against the attack made with a design to destroy it. But, sir, who is he that thus interposes between the people and the press! I remember well, and the Senate will pardon me if I call their recollection to a period so remote, that during the canvass which preceded the first elec tion of the present President, the great complaint against his predecessor was, that he had used the patronage of the government to operate upon the elections. I remember, too, that when the President took the chair, "reform" in this particular was one of the most prominent parts of that thorough reform which he saw SO conspicuously inscribed on the list of executive duties." Can it be that it is the same individual who assigns, as a justification for his violent usurpation of the power of Congress, that the bank had employed the press to inform the people upon a question which he boasts was submitted to them at his re-election!

[ocr errors]

Sir, I have differed from the majority of this Senate and this Legislature, as to the propriety of making banks the depositories of political power, and for that reason I rejoice that the Bank of the United States had the moral firmness to resist the efforts made to subject it to political control. Further than this, and further than defending itself when assailed by the administration, it has never gone. Had it gone further, I should have rejoiced that its political influence had been exercised against executive power and influence. As counteracting agents, they may, in some degree, neutralize each other; but united, the power and influence of both would be fearful indeed. You are now co-operating to produce that union. You will dismiss the Bank of the United States, which is independent, and you will expose the deposits at public auction, to be taken by those state institutions which will bid most of political support to the executive. When this shall have been

« PreviousContinue »