Imagens das páginas
PDF

Armil 28, 1836.]

And the question was taken on the several amendments, with the above exceptions, and they were carried without a division.

The question was then taken on the clause of the amendment proposing to deduct the amount of annuities paid to Indians for the purchase of lands; which amendment was rejected: Yeas 18, nays 27, as follows:

YEAs—Messrs. Benton, Brown, Cuthbert, Ewing of Illinois, Grundy, Hill, Hubbard, King of Alabama, King of Georgia, Linn, Morris, Niles, Rives, Ruggles, Shepley, Tallmadge, Walker, Wright—18.

Nars—Messrs. Black, Buchanan, Calhoun, Clay, Clayton, Crittenden, Davis, Ewing of Ohio, Goldsborough, Hendricks, Kent, Knight, Leigh, McKean, Mangum, Moore, Naudain, Nicholas, Porter, Prentiss, Preston, Rob. bins, Southard, Swift, Tomlinson, Webster, White--27.

The question was then taken on the clause of the amendment deducting the expenses of holding Indian treaties for the purchase of lands; which was lost; Yeas 18, nays 26, as follows:

Yeas—Messrs. Benton, Brown, Cuthbert, Ewing of Illinois, Grundy, Hill, Hubbard, King of Alabama, King 9f Georgia, Linn, Morris, Niles, Rives, Ruggles, Shepley, Tallmadge, Walker, Wright—18.

Navs-Messrs. Black, Buchanan, Clay, Clayton, Crittenden, Davis, Ewing of Ohio, Goldsborough, Hendricks, Kent, Knight, Leigh, McKean, Mangum, Moore, Naudain, Nicholas, Porter, Prentiss, Freston, Robbins, Southard, Swift, Tomlinson, Webster, White—26.

The next clause of the amendment, deducting the amount paid to Indians for the purchase of lands, was also rejected: Yeas 18, nays 26, as follows:

Yeas-Messrs. Benton, Brown, Cuthbert, Ewing of Illinois, Grundy, Hill, Hubbard, King of Alabama, King of Georgia, Linn, Morris, Niles, Rives, Robinson, Ruggles, Shepley, Tallmadge, Walker, Wright--18.

Nays—Messrs. Black, Buchanan, Clay, Clayton, Crittenden, Davis, Ewing of Ohio, Goldsborough, Hendricks, Kent, Knight, Leigh, McKean, Mangum, Moore, Naudain, Nicholas, Porter, Prentiss, Preston, Robbins, Southard, Swift, Tomlinson, Webster, White—26.

The last clause of the amendment, deducting the amount expended in the removal of the Indians from the lands purchased, was also rejected; as follows:

Yeas-Messrs. Benton, Brown, Cuthbert, Ewing of Illinois, Grundy, Hill, Hubbard, King of Georgia, Linn, Morris, Niles, Robinson, Ruggles, Shepley, Tallmadge, Walker, Wright—17.

Nars-Messrs. Black, Buchanan, Clay, Clayton, Crittenden, Davis, Ewing of Ohio, Goldsborough, Hendricks, Kent, King of Alabama, Knight, Leigh, McKean, Mangum, Moore, Naudain, Nicholas, Porter, Prentiss, Preston, Rives, Robbins, Southard, Swift, Tomlinson, Webster, White--28.

The bill was then ordered to be engrossed for a third reading: Yeas 25, nays 21, as follows:

Yeas--Messrs. Black, Buchanan, Clay, Clayton, Crittenden, Davis, Ewing of Ohio, Goldsborough, Hendricks, Kent, Knight, Leigh, McKean, Mangum, Naudain, Nicholas, Porter, Prentiss, Preston, Robbins, Southard, Swift, Tomlinsen, Webster, White—25.

Nars-Messrs. Benton, Brown, Calhoun, Cuthbert, Ewing of Illinois, Grundy, Hill, Hubbard, King of Alabama, King of Georgia, Linn, Moore, Morris, Niles, Rives, Robinson, Ruggles, Shepley, Tallmadge, Walker, Wright—21.

The Senate then adjourned.

Thursdar, APRIL 28. Statu Ary. Mr. BUCHANAN moved that the resolution directing the Committee of Finance to inquire into the expediVol. XII.-83

[blocks in formation]

ency of contracting with Luigi Persico for two groups of statues to complete the ornaments of the east front of the Capitol, be taken up for consideration. Mr. PRESTON said he doubted the propriety of referring this matter to the Committee on the Library, or, indeed, to any committee of the Senate. Independent of our being occupied with other and more urgent business, few of us have had an opportunity of seeing the master works of art, or have a cultivated taste and judgment in reference to them. The resolution before us authorizes the President to contract, and I (said Mr. P.) am of opinion that the whole matter had better be lest to his decision. The groups which it is proposed to execute should correspond with those already completed. The appropriation, if any is to be made, should be a liberal one: comporting with a building which cost three millions of money, and with the wealth, intelligence, and resources of the country. The statuary should be a lasting monument of our taste and judgment--not intended merely for the present day, but for all time. There was a degree of responsibility in this inatter. We should have time for deliberation: models, designs, drawings, modes of embellishment, should be laid before us. We should decide with great caution. I express no opinion of Mr. Persico. He is, no doubt, a clever artist; but we have a native one (Mr. Greenough) about to return to this country--a man of unquestioned genius; one calculated to do honor to his country, and whom his country should delight to honor. Some of his works we have seen, and we know how beautifully they were executed. I should be glad to see Mr. Per: sico employed; he deserves to be so for his ability and industry, but, in employing him, I am unwilling that the talents of an accomplished citizen of our own country should be thrown in the back ground. At any rate, let propositions be made, plans submitted, and comparisons instituted. As to some of the specimens of the fine arts, paintings, &c., which have disgraced our halls, they are absolutely, both in design and execution, shocking. And whatever, therefore, is to be done, let us take care that it is done in the best manner. The expense is of no consequence. Mr. MANGUM said the Committee on the Library invariably had the charge of the expenses and selection of ornaments for the Capitol. As to the question of ex: pense in matters of that kind, it was not a matter of much consequence, and not necessary to place it under the direction of the Committee on Finance. He would, therefore, move to strike out the Committee on Finance, and insert the Committee on the Library. This inquiry was very proper, and, he thought, properly belonged to the Committee on the Library. The ornaments to be selected would not only be valued for this, but for all future ages. Mr. CALHOUN said that, when this resolution was first introduced, his attention was called to it, and he really did think that they ought to reserve objects of this description for native artists; one of whom was, at that time, in Europe, at the head of his profession. At the solicitation of the mover, he would not make any opposition to the resolution now. Let it go (said Mr. c.) to the committee, and let them report, on it, and should the report be unfavorable, he would then have an opportunity of expressing his views further on the subject. Mr. Persico was a gentleman of talents, and would no doubt do justice to the subject; but the Government had but little patronage of the kind, and he thought they owed it to native artists to reserve it for them. Mr BUCHANAN did not intend at that time to enter into a discussion of the question raised by the Senator from south Carolina, [Mr. Calhous,) though on a SENATE.]

Statuary.

[April 28, 1836.

proper occasion he should have something to say with regard to it. He would assure the junior Senator from South Carolina [Mr. Prestos) that, if he had had the selection of an individual in the Senate, whose judgment and taste in matters relating to the fine arts, qualified him to decide as to the merits of the proposed pieces of statuary, he should have selected him. But he knew that a bill had come there from the House of Representatives, containing appropriations for statuary which had been referred to the Committee on Finance, and he had, therefore, no choice, but to send his resolution to that committee, or incur the risk of its not being acted on during this session. Mr. MANGUM said there could be no difficulty in this matter. As to the question of taste, he should have as much confidence in the taste of the Chairman of the Committee on Finance, as in that of any other gentleman; but he thought it would be more appropriate to send it to the Library Committee. Mr. PRESTON doubted the propriety of the suggestion of the Senator from North Carolina. The Committee on the Library were not more qualified to decide in such matters than any other members of the Senate; and indeed few of them had had opportunities of making themselves so. It had been usual to refer matters of this description to the Committee on the Library, on the natural supposition that there was some connexion between literature and the fine arts; but he should think the Committee on Finance as well qualified as any other commitee, and he would suggest that they should be instructed to inquire whether an appropriation, and to what amount, should be made to ornament the east front of the Capitol, leaving the selection both of the subject and the artist to some proper department of the Government, say the President of the United States. The resolution contemplated two groups of statues for the east front of the Capitol. Now whether groups of statues were proper for that place, or what groups, or whether the subject chosen was consistent with good taste, were all questions of great importance, which the Senate was not competent to determine; and a degree of responsibility should be thrown upon the proper department of the Government for the selection both of the subject to be executed and the artist to execute it, so as to ensure a work worthy of the building whose cost was $3,000,000, of the wealth and greatness of the nation, and of the admiration of posterity. He had the highest opinions of the talents and excellence of Mr. Persico as an artist; but some of our own artists had obtained, very deservedly, great celebrity. One of them, Mr. Grenough, was soon expected home, and it might be deemed proper to give him an opportunity of exercising his talents on the contemplated work. He thought that some competition might be advantageously excited; that some little collision of mind among men of genius and taste might result in the adoption of a design more appropriate than that suggested by Mr. Persico; but of this he could not pretend to judge. The reference of such matters to persons of competent skill and acknowledged taste was necessary, to prevent their being burdened with works unworthy of the nation. Their public halls had been disgraced with exhibitions purporting to be of the fine arts, utterly offensive to the public tase, absurd in design, and wretched in the execution. He would vote against the motion of his friend from North Carolina, and would move to amend the resolution, so as to authorize the President of the United States to contract for suitable ornaments to complete the east front of the Capitol, instead of directing the Committee on Finance to inquire, &c. Mr. BUCHANAN said he had not anticipated so much discussion on a mere question of inquiry. Some years' ago I (said Mr. B.) submitted a similar resolution to the

House of Representatives, and I thought I could not do wrong in asking a committee of the Senate to inquire into the expediency of making an appropriation. I feel it to be my duty, however, after what has taken place, to reply to some of the remarks which have fallen from the Senators from South Carolina, and particularly those of the junior member. No man living, sir, is willing to extend more encouragement to native talent than 1 am. Wherever it can fairly be brought into competition with that of foreign growth, it ought to be preferred. I am no connoisseur in sculpture, but I know that it requires immense labor, intimate knowledge of drawing, and years of experience, to execute a classical or historical figure. There is as much difference between the artist who forms a bust, and he who executes a group of statuary, as there is between a mere portrait painter and a Michael Angelo. It is the very lowest grade of the art, the commencement of the study of the profession. No gentleman, whatever may be his natural genius, who has proceeded no further than the execution of a bust, and the taking of a striking likeness, is fit to be employed in ornamenting the eastern front of our Capitol. It may be asked, and I answer the question now, why I feel this interest in Mr. Persico? It is from motives of private friendship, in consistence with the public good. He came to the town in which l reside in 1819, merely as a portrait painter, and for the purpose of acquiring a knowledge of the English language. His genius and taste were soon discovered, and in his society I have passed many agreeable and instructive hours. He left us without a single enemy. He is not a native, but he intends to spend his days among us, for he loves liberty with all the enthusiasm of genius. He is devoted to the institutions of this country. When I next saw him, it was in New York, where his talents as a sculptor had begun to attract much attention. I asked him why he had concealed his knowledge of sculpture from his friends in Lancaster, and he replied, evincing the modesty which always accompanies true merit, that there were so many foreigners in this country who pretended to what they were not entitled, that he had determined not to speak of his knowledge of this art until he should have an opportunity of displaying it by his works. He was subsequently employed by this Government, at a salary of $1,500 a year, to ornament the tympanum of the eastern front of the Capitol. How he succeeded, let the universal approbation which his efforts have received, decide. After he had completed this work, I presented a resolution to the House of Representatives, of which I was then a member, similar to the one I have now offered. He was employed; and though I pretend to no taste in the fine arts, yet I know that others, who are competent judges, as well as myself, have been delighted with the results of his labors, and admired the industry and genius with which they were accomplished. The hope of identifying his talents with the Capitol of the Union, has been the subject of his thoughts by day, and his dreams by night. Most keenly and deeply, therefore, would he feel, if the Senate of the United States should refuse to entertain a mere resolution of inquiry. Any one, whether a man of taste or not, cannot but be struck with the model of one of the groups which he has completed. It represents the great discoverer when he first bounded with ecstacy upon the shore, all his toils and perils past, presenting a hemisphere to the astonished world, with the name of America inscribed upon it. Whilst he is thus standing upon the shore, a female savage, with awe and wonder depicted in her countenance, is gazing upon him. This is one of the happiest, noblest, grandest, conceptions of genius. It is worthy of the subject. I hope every Senator will examine the models for himself. I hazard the assertion that, if ever Ar Ril 28, 1836.]

this work shall be finished according to the model, it

would command in Europe five times the amount which it will cost in this country. I believe, however, from the enthusiasm of the artist, that he would rather have this work of his placed on the blocking of the Capitol, is he should receive from Government no more than a mere subsistence whilst engaged in its execution, than to realize a fortune from it in Europe. If the Senator from South Carolina desires it, let him offer a separate resolution in favor of any other artist. He shall receive my vote. I should feel indebted to him, however, if he would suffer mine to take the usual direction without any amendment. Mr. PRESTON said the gentleman from Pennsylvania was mistaken if he imagined for a moment that what he said was in reference to a special competition between Mr. Persico and any other artist. He should very much regret if Mr. Persico himself thought he had said any thing invidious to him. That body was not fitted to discuss these matters, as was evident from the manner in which the names of individual artists had been brought forward. He knew that he himself was not competent to decide on them. There was, to be sure, as the gentleman from Pennsylvania observed, every difference between the execution of a correct likeness, and the execution of a grand historical or allegorical subject; but he would observe, en passant, that he who copied nature most correctly in the execution of a likeness, would be the most apt to succeed in the execution of a work of greater importance. By referring the decision of this matter to the President, he would most probably, before deciding, consult with gentlemen upon whose taste and judgment every one would be willing to rely. Washington Alliston, of Boston, was one on whom he would entirely rely, and if he would say that the design of Mr. Persico was worthy of the object for which it was intend. ed, he would be satisfied that after generations would speak of the work with the same admiration that we speak of the works of Michael Angelo. Mr. P., after referring in terms of disapprobation to the works in the Rotundo of the Capitol, and particularly to the statue of Mr. Jefferson, which had got there by some means or other, perfas aut nefas, said that he concurred with his colleague in wishing to reserve such works for native artists, if competent ones could he found; but if not, as expense should be no object, he would be willing to send to Thorswaldon for a suitable work. He would rather, he said, have one such statue as that of Washington by Canova, which had been destroyed in the conflagration of the State House at Raleigh, North Carolina, than all the trash that cumbered and disgraced the walls of the Rotundo. He wished it to be distinctly understood that, in all, he said nothing disparaging to Mr. Persico, whose talents were acknowledged on all hands; all he wished was that the decision of this matter should be left to the proper department of the Government, without saying that this particular design should be executed, or this particular artist employed, to the exclusion of all others. He therefore renewed his motion. Mr. CLAY said the Senator from South Carolina regarded this as a more serious matter than he could. When he heard the remarks of the Senator, from the manner in which he had exhibited his taste and knowledge of the art of sculpture, he felt as if he wished the whole matter submitted to him exclusively. Mr. Persico was well known as a superior artist, and Mr. Greenough was already employed by the Government to do an important work. To refer it to the President was a mere shifting of the responsibility from Congress to the President. If a good painter could be a good judge of sculpture, they would have enough to counsel with. Or if a good orator was a good judge of sculpture, he believed there were several of them on the Committee on

[blocks in formation]

Finance. But really he thought there was too much

importance attached to this matter, and if the President should refuse to take the responsibility of contracting for these groups, it would then be time enough for them to take it upon themselves. Mr. CALHOUN was of opinion that they should reserve such matters for native artists, many of whom were highly distinguished. The very fact being known that they had such works in reservation for native talent, would have a powerful influence in stimulating their exertions to attain excellence in their professions. After a few remarks from Mr. DAVIS, Mr. CLAYTON said that whenever Mr. Greenough, or any native artist, should present himself with such a design as that presented by Mr. Persico, he would most cheerfully vote to send it to a committee for consideration. He did not consider the voting for this resolution as voting to contract for the group of statues; it was only a resolution of inquiry, and he would therefore vote for it. The question was then taken on Mr. PREston's amendment, and it was rejected; after which, Mr. Bucha NAN's resolution was agreed to.

LAND BILL.

The bill to distribute, for a limited time, the nett proceeds of the sales of the public lands among the States, and to grant lands to certain States, came up on its third reading; when Mr. NILES rose and addressed the Chair as follows: Mr. President, it was my intention to submit to the Senate some remarks on this bill, which, in any view that can be taken of it, I regard as one of the highest importance; and it was my purpose to have done this before the bill was ordered to its third reading; but indisposition has for several days prevented me from speaking, and, at this time, I scarcely feel able to proceed; but as the bill has reached its last stage, and the Senate has refused to postpone it, I am compelled to deliver my sentiments at this time, or not at all. Before entering into the consideration of the several questions which this bill presents, I will beg to notice some few of the extraneous remarks of the Senator from Kentucky, [Mr. Clay,) which had no particular bearing on the merits of the pending question. What may have been the object of the honorable Senator in attempting to alarm the country as to the security of the public revenues in the deposite banks, I will not undertake to say. It appeared to me that, from the associations of place and other circumstances, his inagination had carried him back two years; and that, without perhaps being aware of it, he was engaged in making a real panic speech, calculated to alarm the country, on account of the revenue and the currency. Whatever may be the pressure for money at this time, I hardly think the honorable Senator, with all his skill and experience in that way, will be able to produce another factitious panic. The evils of that which prevailed two years since are too fresh in the recollections of the people for them to be drawn into a similar excitement at this time. it is certainly a very strange argument in favor of the passage of a bill, wheh appropriates nearly all the mohey now in the Treasury, to attempt to prove that this very money is insecure, and would not be available should this bill become a law... If the deposite banks cannot pay the money, there will be none to distributethere will be no surplus on which the law can operate. But what grounds are there for alarm as to the security of the public revenues? They are now deposited in thirty-six banks, and in comparatively small sums; no one bank having more than about three millions, and averaging less than one million. Has the Senator stated any facts tending to show that these banks, or any of

SENATE.]

them, are not perfectly solvent and safe depositories of the public funds? What are the grounds on which confidence is reposed in any banking institution? Is it not its capital, and its reputation for being prudently and correctly conducted? Whatever objections, then, there may be to the present system of selecting banks for public deposites, it certainly has some advantages. The Secretary of the Treasury has an opportunity of selecting for places of deposite, such banks as have acquired an established reputation, and as are known to be conducted on safe principles; he also can select as large a number as he pleases, by which means the aggregate capital is increased, and the risk divided. Is it not apparent that the public revenues are safer deposited in thirty-six banks than they would be in one bank having the same capital? Experience proves that a bank with a large capital may as likely become embarrassed as one with a small capital, as their business is on a corresponding scale. Interest prompts all banks to extend their business to the utmost limit their capital will allow. If the public treasure was deposited all in one bank, as was the case some years since, and that, by an improper extension of its business, or by speculation, should become embarrassed, the whole revenues of the country would be in jeopardy; but if they are in numerous institutions, the danger is greatly diminished, as it is not to be apprehended that several of the deposite banks will become involved in difficulties at the same time. They are independent of each other, and their operations no way connected. The history of the Bank of England, as well as the Bank of the United States, justifies what is here stated. It is well known that the former was compelled to suspend specie payments, and to call in the aid of the Government to sustain it from total ruin. And the Bank of the United States, by a system of profligate and fraudulent speculations, unparalleled, brought itself to the very verge of bankruptcy whilst it was the depository of the public revenue. For three months, from February to May, in 1819, that bank was in the most critical situation, and daily exposed to be compelled to stop payment. To save itself, it drained the State banks of their specie—broke the banks of Kentucky, and made such forced and rapid curtailments of its loans to individuals, as greatly contributed to the severe money pressure and distress which prevailed at that period. Such was the situation of the public funds in the Bank of the United States in 1819. But the Senator told us that the deposite banks have only eleven millions of specie, and endeavored to make an impression that this was all their resources with which to refund to the Government nearly thirty-two millions. If this was a true test of the ability of banks, what has been the situation of the Bank of the United States, which the Senator has regarded as so safe a depository of the public treasure? In 1831, that bank had but $8,198,682 in specie, when the Government deposites were $7,252,249, and private deposites $9,115,836, and its circulation was $22,399,447; making in the whole, to say nothing of other debts, $38,768,532, to be paid from a specie fund of little more than eight millions. At some periods, the specie of the Bank of the United States has been less, and, if I recollect right, the President of that bank has stated, in some of his reports, that six millions in specie was all that was required for the safety of the bank and the public. Would the Senator require one rule for the Bank of the United States, and another for the State banks? The latter was regarded as perfectly safe, and as furnishing the best national currency for the country, without regard to the specie in its vaults; it was sufficient to rely on its general means and solvency; but the State banks must have specie equal to their indebtedness. In any view which can be taken of this subject, the

[blocks in formation]

public funds must be considered as safer, so far as re; gards any considerable loss, than when in the Bank of the United States. As respects capital, that bank had, exclusive of what belonged to the United States, but twenty-eight millions; that of the deposite banks is more than forty-three millions of dollars.

The condition of these deposite banks, on the thirtyfirst day of March last, according to a report of the Secretary of the Treasury, of the 23d day of April, was as follows:

Loans and discounts, - - - $68,850,287 67 Domestic exchange, - - - 32,775,529 42 Real estate, - - - - 1,929,056 68 Due from banks, - - - 15,931,916 22 Notes of other banks, - - 11,107,447 78 Specie, - - - - 10,885,996 92 Foreign exchange, - - - 532,450 96 Expenses, - - - - 184,901 22 Other investments, - - - 10,651,759 92

$152,849,346 79 Capital, - - - - $43,690,980 28 Treasurer of the United States, - 33,294,024 08 Public officers, - - 3,477,252 42 Due to banks, - - - 15,366,674. 49 Contingent fund, - - 1,103,763 15 Profit and loss, &c., - - - 4,094,358 12 Circulation, - - - - 28,796, 18698 Private deposites, - - - 15,453,092 11 Other liabilities, - - - 7,574,015 16

[ocr errors]

I have made these statements, not from any partiality to the deposite banks, as I am not their advocate, and consider all banks as conducted essentially on the same principlesto make the greatest profit, without regard to the public or private interests of the community. . do not approve of their having so large an amount of the public funds, and especially without paying any interest for the same; but this is an unusual and unexpected state of things, and, I trust, will soon be remedied. My object has not been to defend these banks, but to show that the public funds are safe.

In addition to the security afforded by the capital and other property of the banks, the Secretary of the Treas: ury has in some cases required collateral and personal security for the public deposites. These contracts, the Senator from Kentucky informs us, are totally void, because there is no law expressly authorizing them. He asks, with apparent triumph, by what authority, and under what law, these contracts are made? This objection, if valid for any purpose, is applicable to the contract itself, for there is no act expressly authorizing the Secretary to employ agents for the safe keeping of the public revenues. If the argument proves any thing, it proves that the contracts with the banks are illegal and void, and that the money can never be reclaimed. If the contracts are valid, then the stipulation for personal security is binding, as that is a part of the contract. The argument proves too much, and therefore proves nothing at all.

The Senator also says, that the regulation of the Sec; retary requiring the deposite banks not to issue bills of less denomination than ten dollars, is an alarming assumption of power; a species of executive legislation designed to regulate the currency. He says, he will not inquire whether the regulation is a wise one or not; whether it is calculated to have a beneficial or an injurious influence; but asks where the Secretary gets his power to control the State banks, and regulate the currency of the country? He had supposed this power beArail 28, 1836.]

longed to Congress. Why, the Senator must know full well that neither Congress nor the Secretary have any power over the State banks. This, like the requirement of personal security, is only a part of the contract. The Secretary, in employing the fiscal agents of the Treasury, can prescribe such conditions as he sees fit, not inconsistent with law, but the agent is not bound to agree to them, nor has the Secretary any means to force him to comply with his conditions. All that he can do is, to decline to employ the agent who will not comply with the conditions he may prescribe. This is the alarming usurpation which the Senator has discovered. But he will not inquire whether the object is a good one or a bad one, which, it appears to me, is the essential point. Are we to understand that he is opposed to restraining the circulation of small bills issued by the State banks? If not, why this complaint of an attempt to stop their circulation by contract with those banks, which are employed as the receivers of the public revenues? It is said that the present surplus in the Treasury, and which is deposited in the State banks, is unprecedented and dangerous. An overflowing Treasury seems to be a subject of as much alarm now, as an exhausted one did two years ago, which was then so confidently predicted. The large amount of money in the Treasury has arisen from two causes: the unprecedented sales of public lands, which, during the year 1835 and the first quarter of 1836, have exceeded twenty millions; and the delay to pass the appropriation bills, whereby money that ought to have been paid out is still retained in the Treasury. But, from the remarks which have just been made on this subject, it might be supposed that there had never before been a balance in the Treasury. But there have usually been balances, and at times very large balances, which have been deposited either in State banks, or the Bank of the United States. The balance in the Treasury, at the close of the year 1815, and deposited in State banks, was $13,000,000; in 1816, $22,033,519, more than two thirds the present amount; in 1817, when the Bank of the United States was encouraging speculations in stocks, and using the funds of the Government for that purpose, the balance was $14,989,465; in 1823, it was $9,463,922; in 1826, $6,358,586; in 1827, $6,668,000; in 1828, $5,972,000; in 1829, $5,668,000. From the last period, to the time the connexion of the Treasury with the Bank of the United States was terminated, there was a balance of from five to ten millions.

The honorable Senator from Kentucky [Mr. CLAY] has alluded to the State banks, and apparently with the purpose of creating a panic, on account of the rapid increase of these institutions, and the alarming extension of the paper system. In his apprehensions on this subject I can fully participate; but can by no means concur in what he assigns as the cause of the increase of the State banks. He attributes it to the measures of the Government in hostility to the Bank of the United States, or to the overthrow of that bank. This cause rests on an assumption of a fact which is not true; the Bank of the United States has not been destroyed, nor have its operations ceased. It is true, some of its branches have been discontinued, and this circumstance, with other causes, may have had some influence on the establishment of State banks in some of the western States; but, if the withdrawal of the capital of this bank is to be regarded as occasioning the incorporation of State institutions, it is a cause that could operate only so far as to supply, by State banks, the amount of capital withdrawn by the Bank of the United States, and this would be no increase of the aggregate banking capital in the Union.

Nothing can be more unfounded, and even preposterous, than the pretension that the Bank of the United States prevented the establishment of State banks, and restrained their operations. This position, so often and

[blocks in formation]

constantly asserted, is not only unsustained, but is opposed both to facts and principle. In point of fact, the State banks have increased more rapidly since the establishment of the Bank of the United States in 1816, than they ever did previous to that period. And in respect of principle, it is absurd to contend that banking is to be limited and restricted by superadding the legislation of the Union to that of the States, in granting bank charters. The cause of the alarming multiplication of banks and increase of bank capital lies much deeper; it is to be found in the spirit of traffic and speculation which prevails so extensively in our country, and which the Bank of the United States has been, in an eminent degree, instrumental in engendering and sustaining. Shall the champions of the Bank of the United States, who maintained that its notes were the only sound national currency, reproach those who were opposed to that corporation, and to the present banking system generally, for the consequences and evils of the unprecedented increase of banks in the States? Sir, such taunts come with a bad grace from the Senator from Kentucky. Who are the advocates of State banks, and the petitioners and applicants for their charters? Are they not the supporters of the Bank, or a Bank, of the United States? In some of the States it is true that many who were, or professed to be, opposed to the national bank, are the zealous supporters of the State institutions. But there are a large portion of those opposed to the Bank of the United States, who disapprove the whole banking system, or desire to reform it by withdrawing a large portion of the paper circulation, and substituting a hard money currency in its place. In my own State, this is almost universally true; all who are opposed to the Bank of the United States are opposed to the multiplication of State corporations, and in favor of restricting the circulation of the existing institutions. The iucrease of State banks, the last two or three years, is truly alarming; and if this spirit be not checked, an explosion of the entire paper sytsem will be inevitable. In an able work by Mr. Gallatin, formerly Secretary of the Treasury, he states that, in 1830, there were two hundred and eighty-one banks in the United States, with a capital of ninety-five millions; and it is now estimated that there are about seven hundred and fifty banks, posses. sing an aggregate capital of nearly three hundred millions. Mr. Gallatin’s statement was not entirely correct, and probably fell short of the true number; it was five short of the number in Connecticut. But the increase of banks and banking capital has been sufficiently rapid and alarming; it cannot have been less than one hundred per cent, the last three years. If this spirit of speculation and gambling continues, and instead of being checked, is encouraged by the improvident and reckless legislation of the States, a fatal and ruinous explosion of the whole paper system must be the consequence. This is as inevitable as those results which follow from natural causes. And will no effort be made to arrest these evils? Will the prudent, the wise, and the honest, calmly witness, and without an effort to arrest an evil of such magnitude, the gathering elements fraught with such incalculable calamities to their country? The Senator from Kentucky says that the surplus in the Treasury has already engendered a spirit of extravagance and wastefulness; that, instead of the old republican practice of inquiring what is the lowest rate of appropriations with which the service can be carried on, the inquiry now is, what is the highest rate, and how we can spend the most. On what authority was this remark made, applied, as it was, to the appropriations generally? It is wholly gratuitous and unsupported. 'The only inquiries of the kind which have been made of the head of any Department have been confined to forti

« AnteriorContinuar »