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own interests. A twenty dollar limit would not give a substratum of half specie, even if our banks were compelled to pay all gold; but there is no compulsion on them to pay any part; and the efforts to bring them to half payments in gold would be long and bitterly resisted. Gold is the enemy of paper; it keeps it down when the holder of the paper has a right to demand gold; and thus a paper currency founded upon gold, as it is in England, will always be kept more within bounds than a paper currency founded upon silver. Silver is too cumbrous to hold paper in check. A person would not wish to change even a twenty dollar note into silver to carry in his pocket, but would gladly change it into gold; and so of fifty and hundred dollar notes. The next improvement on the paper currency which Mr. B proposed, was contained in his fifth proposition, namely, that all the notes and paper currency issued by the banks should be payable, not in gold or silver, but in gold and silver; one half of either at the option of the demander, the other half at the option of the bank. This, Mr. B. said, would be perfectly equitable; it would ensure an equal supply of each metal in the country, without requiring the banks to keep enough of both metals to meet their whole circulation. It was also in accordance with the constitution of the United States— with the recent law of Congress for the re-establishment of the gold currency—with the nature of the mines in our own country—and with the rights and interests of the people. The constitution intended that gold and silver should continue to be what it was at the time of the framing of that instrument—a concurrent currency in the country. This intention, made clear in all the debates upon the subject, is expressly declared in article 12, section 10, Gold and silver are there joined together. They are joined by the conjunctive particle “ and,” not separated by the disjunctive particle “or.” The act of Congress of 1834, for the re-establishment of the gold currency, and the subsequent act for the establishment of three branch mints, all show that it is the intention of the Government, approved by the voice of the people, to have gold as weli as silver. The nature of our mines leads to it. We have gold mines, but no silver ones. Gold is, therefore, a domestic production, and should become a national currency. The rights *nd interests of the people require a gold currency; they have a right to it under the constitution of the country and under the laws of the land; their interest requires it for checking the paper system, regulating exchanges, preventing counterfeiting, furnishing con: venient money for travelling, and preserving the most oniform and universal standard of value. Thus stands the Constitution, the laws, the products of the country, and,the rights and interest of the country in relation to gold. But the banks have a contrary interest! The whole Paper system is adverse to gold! Exceptions of particular banks may be found; but the instinct of the Paper system is against it; and a bank will pay in the least valuable and most cumbrous metal which it is permitted to offer. Between gold and silver, it will pay in silver; between silver and copper, it will pay in copper; between copper and iron, it will pay in iron. This is the instinct of the system; and now, in these United States, after all that has been done to revive the gold currency, that coin will be withheld from circulation, and sold for exportation, the moment the present ex. Sitement is over, and the aid of Jackson is withdrawn. This would be the case even without the impulse of a political motive, and without the instigation of party spirit, and without the regulation of party discipline; but, unfortunately, a powerful political party is opposed to gold in our country! The bank-whig party is opposed to it; and the whole political power and party machinery of these whigs, as they style themselves, will be exerted Vol. XII.-108
to suppress gold, and encourage small paper, that out of the evils incident to such a state of things, a depreciated currency may ensue, and the Bank of the United States may be called for to remedy the disorder. Law, then, is necessary to compel the banks to pay gold; and no measure more equitable could be devised than that of half payments in either metal; the demander having the first choice, and the bank the next. The equity of this principle being clear, the next consideration is, as to its practicability. On this point facts and reasons are equally explicit. The banks can pay half their currency in gold in one year from this time, if they please. They could have done it this summer if they had pleased. The Federal Government could have had all its surplus now in gold, if Congress had given the President authority to supply the mint with gold bullion and foreign coins. The state of the foreign exchanges is, and has been for months, decidedly in favor of the United States, and the importation has been, and continues to be, a profitable business. It is a money-making business to import gold, and the cuistom-house returns show that it is coming of itself, in the course of commerce, independent of the purchases and importations effected by some banking institutions. . A few of the deposite banks, as he had understood, had ordered importations to the amount of four or five millions. The Government had ordered home the French and Neapolitan indemnities in gold, the total of which will be seven millions. An equal sum of seven millions had been coined at our mint under the new law; and the native southern mines were promising a good product. There could be no doubt, with the slightest exertion on the part of the banks, that one half of the specie currency of the Union might be gold in the course of the ensuing year. It must be nearly twenty millions when President Jackson goes out of service. The whole specie currency was computed by the Secretary of the Treasury at 64,000,000 at the end of the last year. It is probably increased to 70,000,000, and ought to be increased to 100,000,000. The limitation of twenty dollars in the size of notes, and the compulsory obligation on the banks to pay one half in gold, would certainly and quickly augment our specie currency to 100,000,000. We have already doubled it in two years; for it was computed at about 30,000,000 at the time of the panic in 1834. War upon small notes and the introduction of gold has made this great increase. A vigorods prosecution of that war, and further measures for the protection of gold, will certainly add thirty millions more in a short time. Mr. B. said he here wished to fix the attention of those who were in favor of a respectable paper currency—a currency of respectable sized notes of twenty dollars and upwards—on the great fact, that the larger the specie basis, the larger and safer would be the superstructure of paper which rested upon it; the smaller that specie basis, the smaller and more unsafe must be the paper which rested on it. The currency of England is $300,000,000, to wit: £8,000,000 sterling (near $40,000,000) in silver; £22,000,000 sterling (above $100,000,000) in gold; and about £30,000,000 sterling (near $150,000,000) in bank notes. The currency of the United States is difficult to be ascertained, from the multitude of banks, and the incessant ebb and flow of their issues: calculations vary; but all put the paper cir: culation at less than 100,000,000; and the proportion of specie and paper, at more than one half paper. This i; agreed upon all hands, and is sufficient for the practical result, that an increase of our specie to 100,000,000, and the suppression of small notes, will give a larger total circulation than we now have, and a safer one. The total circulation may then be 200,000,000, in the proportions of half paper and half species and the speSENATE.]
[JUNE 7, 1836.
cie, half gold and half silver. This would be an immense improvement upon our present condition, both in quantity and in quality; the paper part would become respectable from the suppression of notes under twenty dollars, which are of no profit except to the banks which issue them, and the counterfeiters who imitate them; the specie part would be equally improved by becoming one half gold. Mr. B. could not quit this important point, namely, the practicability of soon obtaining a specie currency of 100,000,000, and the one half gold, without giving other proofs to show the facility with which it has been every where done when attempted. He referred to our own history immediately after the Revolution, when the disappearance of paper money was instantly followed, as if by magic, by the appearance of gold and silver; to France, where the energy of the great Napoleon, then first consul, restored an abundant supply of gold and silver in one year; to England, where the acquisition of gold was at the rate of $24,000,000 per annum for four years after the notes under five pounds were ordered to be suppressed; and he referred with triumph to our own present history, when, in defiance of an immense and powerful political and moneyed combination against gold, we will have acquired about 20,000,000 of that metal in the two concluding years of President Jackson's administration. Resting upon the general notoriety of the facts which he had stated relative to the rapid and easy acquisition of gold in all the instances referred to, he would economize time, and adduce proof in one instance only, that of England in 1819, after the suppression of the one and two pound notes, and the resumption of gold payments. Of many authors at hand, he would use, for its brevity and precision, the statement of Mr. Gallatin (Dec. 1830) in his Essay upon Banks and Currency: “For the same reasons, any accidental inequality in the distribution of the precious metals amongst the several countries, in proportion to their respective wants, is promptly and easily repaired; and any extraordinary demand from a particular country met without difficulty, or sensibly affecting the price of the metal required. The general supply or stock on hand is always sufficient to meet such demand, and the expenses and charges of transportation are, on account of the greater value of an equal bulk, far less than those of any other commodity— hardly ever exceeding, in time of peace, one per cent. on the value, even when brought from the most distant countries of the civilized world. During the four years which immediately followed the resumption of specie payments in England, that occurrence occasioned an extraordinary demand of more than £20,000,000 sterling in gold, (about $100,000,000, to be supplied in four years,) or about $24,000,000 per annum; being three times as much as the annual supply of that metal; and this demand was met without any difficulty, or sensibly affecting the price of gold.” Mr. B. held this testimony to be entirely conclusive of the perfect facility and extreme promptitude with which any commercial nation can supply itself with a gold currency. He would quote from the same author a paragraph on the means of increasing the specie circulation of the United States: “We perceive but two means of enlarging the circulating metallic currency: 1. The suppression of small notes. 2: The measures necessary to bring gold again into circulation.” “The first measure is that which, aster long experience, a most deliberate investigation, and notwithstanding a strenuous opposition by the parties interested, has been finally adopted and persevered in by the Government of Great Britain. By the suppression of all notes of a denomination less than five pounds sterling (twenty
four dollars) in England, Wales, and Ireland, the amount of the circulating metallic currency has become equal to that of bank notes of every description. The metallic currency consists of eight millions sterling in silver, (which is not a tender in any payment exceeding forty shillings,) and in twenty-two millions sterling in gold. This measure (suppression of notes under five pounds) has given a better security against fluctuations in the currency, and a renewal of the suspension of specie payments, than had been enjoyed during the thirty preceding years. In France, where the Bank of France is alone authorized to issue bank notes, and none of a denomination less than 500 francs, its circulation of notes hardly ever reaches £10,000,000 sterling, or about one tenth part of the currency of the country.” Mr. B. having read this paragraph from Mr. Gallatin, relative to the suppression of small notes, to show the eflect of the first step towards enlarging the specie basis of the currency, also referred to other passages relative to the next step, that of bringing back gold into circulation. The only measure for restoring this metal, in addition to the suppression of small notes mentioned by Mr. Gallatin, was that of correcting the erroneous standard of our gold, that of 15 to 1 of silver. That has been done, and the standard raised higher than proposed by Mr. Gallatin; but the effect desired is not yet produced; gold is not yet in common and general use. An additional measure is therefore necessary, and that is a compulsory obligation on all the banks to pay their notes in gold and silver, one half each—the demander to have the first choice, the bank the second. At the time that Mr. Gallatin wrote (1830) three measures were necessary to bring back gold into circulation: 1st. Suppression of notes under twenty dollars; 2d. Correction of the erroneous standard of gold; and, 3d. Compulsory obligation on banks to pay gold. One of these measures, a correction of the standard, has been adopted, and has partially restored gold; but its effect will be transient and inadequate unless the other two are added. Mr. B. took leave of this important and all-essential point, (the suppression of bank notes below twenty dollars,) with bringing to the memory of the Senate two most pertinent and weighty recollections—one founded upon the action of the Senate itself, the other on the recommendation of President Jackson. Four years ago, at the veto session, and when a modified recharter passed both Houses in favor of the Bank of the United States, the sum of twenty dollars was agreed upon as the minimum size of the notes to be issued under the renewed charter. The proceedings of the Senate on this point appear thus in Gales & Seaton's Register of Debates for Monday, the 28th of May, 1832: “The Senate then again proceeded to consider the bill to modify and continue the charter of the Bank of the United States. The question being on the amendments proposed by Mr. Webster, being in substance: “1st. That the Secretary of the Treasury, when directed by the President, have the power to purchase additional stock in the bank to an amount not exceeding three millions; and, “2d. That it should not be lawful for the bank, after the 4th day of March, 1836, to issue any notes of a less value than dollars. “Mr. Websten said a few words in defence of his second amendment, which imposed no restriction until after the expiration of the present charter. The effect of his proposition would be to introduce more specie into circulation, and to banish the small notes with which the country is inundated. He moved to fill the blank with ten dollars, but expressed his willingness to vote for a higher restriction if any Senater should move it.” “Mr. BENTon would propose twenty dollars. He June 7, 1836.]
wished the basis of circulation throughout the country to be in hard money. Farmers, laborers, and market people, ought to receive their payments in hard money. They ought not to be put to the risk of receiving bank notes in all their small dealings. They are no judges of good or bad notes. Counterfeits are sure to fall upon their hands; and the whole business of counterfeiting was mainly directed to such notes as they handle—those under twenty dollars.” “After a few remarks from Mr. Foot and Mr. CHAM. hens, the question was taken on filling the blank with twenty dollars; when it was agreed to, and the amendment, thus shaped, was concurred in.” This was one of the recollections which Mr. B. wished to bring to the mind of the Senate; the other was, that President Jackson, in his last annual message to Congress, had fixed upon twenty dollars as the minimum size of bank notes which ought to be tolerated. Mr. B, took this occasion to express his regret that the true idea of banks seemed to be lost in this country, and that here we had but little conception of a bank, except as an issuer of currency. A bank of discount and deposite, in contradistinction to a bank of circulation, is hardly thought of in the United States; and it may be news to some bank projectors, who suppose that nothing can be done without banks to issue milions of paper, to learn that the great bankers in London and Paris, and other capitals of Europe, issue no paper; and, still more, it may be news to them to learn that Liverpool and Manchester, two cities which happen to do about as much business as a myriad of such cities as this our Washington put together, also happen to have no banks to issue currency for them. They use money and bills of exchange, and have banks of discount and tleposite, but no banks of circulation. Mr. Gallatin, in his Essay upon Currency, thus speaks of them: “There are, however, even in England, where incorporated country banks issuing paper are as numerous, and have been attended with the same advantages, and the same evils, as our country banks, some extensive districts, highly industrious and prosperous, where no such bank does exist, and where that want is supplied by bills of exchange drawn on London. This is the case in Lancashire, which includes Liverpool and Manchester, and where such bills, drawn at ninety days after date, are endorsed by each successive holder, and circulate through numerous persons before they reach their ultimate destination, and are paid by the drawee.” Mr. B. greatly regretted that such banks as those in Liverpool and Manchester were not in vogue in the United States. They were the right kind of banks. They did great good, and were wholly free from mischief. They lent money; they kept money; they transferred credits on books; they bought and sold bills of exchange; and these bills, circulating through many hands, and endorsed by each, answered the purpose of large bank notes, without their dangers, and became stronger every time they were passed. To the banks it was a profitable business to self them, because they got both exchange and interest. To the commercial community they were convenient, both as a remittance and as funds in hand. To the community they were entirely safe. Banks of discount and deposite in the Uni. ted States, issuing no currency, and issuing no bank note except of $100 and upwards, and dealing in exchange, would be entitled to the favor and confidence of the people and of the Federal Government. Such banks only should be the depositories of the public monews. It is the faculty of issuing paper currency which makes banks dangerous to the country, and the height to which this danger has risen in the United States, and the progress which it is making, should rouse and alarm
the whole community. It is destroying all standard of value. It is subjecting the country to demoralizing and ruinous fluctuations of price. It is making a lottery of property, and making merchandise of money, which has to be bought by the ticket holders in the great lottery at two and three per cent, a month. It is equivalent to the destruction of weights and measures, and like buying and selling, without counting, weighing, or measuring. It is the realization, in a different form, of the debasement and arbitrary alteration of the value of coins practised by the Kings of Europe in former ages, and now by the Sultan of Turkey. It is extinguishing the idea of fixed, moderate, annual interest. Great duties are thus imposed upon the legislator; and the first of these duties is to revive and favor the class of banks of discount and deposite; banks to make loans, keep money, transfer credits on books, buy and sell exchange, deal in bullion, but to issue no paper. This class of banks should be revived and favored; and the United States could easily revive them by confiding to them the public deposites. The next great duty of the legislator is to limit the issues of banks of circulation, and make them indemnify the community in some little degree, by refunding, in annual taxes, some part of their undue gains. The progress of the banking business is alarming and deplorable in the United States. It is now computed that there are 750 banks and their branches in operation, all having authority to issue currency, and, what is worse, all that currency is receivable by the Federal Government. The quantity of chartered bank capital, as it is called, is estimated at near $800,000,000; the amount of this capital reported by the banks to have been paid in is about $300,000,000; and the quantity of paper money which they are authorized by their charters to issue is about $750,000,000. How much of this is actually issued can never be known with any precision; for such are the fluctuations in the amount of a paper currency, flowing from 750 fountains, that the calculation of one day cannot be relied upon for the next. The amount of capital, reported to be paid in, is, however, well ascertained, and that is fixed at $300,000,000. This, upon its face, and without recourse to any other evidence, is proof that our banking system, as a whole, is unsolid and delusive, and a frightful imposition upon the people. Nothing but specie can form the capital of a bank; there are not above sixty or seventy millions of specie in the country, and, of that, the banks have not the one half. Thirty millions in specie is the extent; the remainder of the capital must have been made up of that undefinable material called “specie funds,” or “funds equivalent to specie,” the fallacy of which is established by the facts already stated, and which show that all the specie in the country put together is not sufficient to meet the one fifth part of these “specific funds,” or “funds equivalent to specie.” The equivalent, then, does not exist! credit alone exists; and any general attempt to realize these “specie funds,” and turn them into specie, would explode the whole banking system, and cover the country with ruin. There may be some solid and substantial banks in the country, and undoubtedly there are better and worse among them; but as a whole—and it is in that point of view the community is interested—as a whole, the system is unsolid and delusive! and there is no safety for the country until great and radical reforms are effected. The burdens which these 750 banks impose upon the people were then briefly touched by Mr. B. . It was a great field, which he had not time to explore, but which could not, in justice, be entirely passed by. First, there were the salaries and fees of 750 sets of bank of. ficers: presidents, cashiers, clerks, messengers, notaries
[Just 8, 1836.
public to protest notes, and attorneys to sue on them; all these had salaries, and good salaries, paid by the people, though the people had no hand in fixing these salaries; next, the profits to the stockholders, which, at an average of ten per centum gross, would give thirty millions of dollars, all levied upon the people; then came the profits to the brokers, first cousins to the bankers, for changing notes for money, or for other notes at par; then the gain to the banks and their friends on speculations in property, merchandise, produce, and stocks, during the periodical visitations of the expansions and contractions of the currency; then the gain from the wear and tear of notes, which is so much loss to the people; and, finally, the great chapter of counterfeiting, which, without being profitable to the bank, is a great burden to the people, on whose hands all the counterfeits sink. The amount of these burdens he could not compute; but there was one item about which there was no dispute—the salaries to the officers and the profits to the stockholders--and this presented an array of names more numerous, and an amount of money more excessive, than was to be found in the “Blue Book,” with the Army and Navy Register inclusive. Mr. B. said this was a saint sketch of the burdens of the banking system as carried on in the United States, where every bank is a coiner of paper currency, and where every town, in some States, must have its banks of circulation, while such cities as Liverpool and Manchester have no such banks, and where the paper money of all these machines receive wings to fly over the whole continent, and to infest the whole land, from their universal receivability by the Federal Government in payment of all dues at their custom-houses, land offices, post offices, and by all the district attorneys, marshals, and clerks, employed under the federal Judiciary. The improvidence of the States, in chartering such institutions, is great and deplorable; but their error was trifling, compared to the improvidence of the Federal Government in taking the paper coinage of all these banks for the currency of the Federal Government, maugre that clause in the constitution which recognises nothing but gold and silver for currency, and which was intended forever to defend and preserve this Union from the evils of paper money. Mr. B. averred, with a perfect knowledge of the fact, that the banking system of the United States was on a worse footing than it was in any country upon the face of the earth; and that, in addition to its deep and dangerous defects, it was also the most expensive and burdensome, and gave the most undue advantages to one part of the community over another. He had no doubt but that this banking system was more burdensome to the free citizens of the United States than ever the feudal system was to the villeins, and serfs, and peasants of Europe. And what did they get in return for this vast burden? A pestiferous currency of small paper! when they might have a gold currency without paying inter. est, or suffering losses, if their banks, like those in Liverpool and Manchester, issued no currency except as bills of exchange; or, like the Bank of France, issued no notes but those of 500 and 1,000 francs, (say $100 and $500;) or, even like the Bank of England, issued no note under £5 sterling, and payable in gold. And with how much real capital is this banking system, so burdensome to the people of the United States, carried on About $30,000,000! Yes; on about 30,000,000 of specie rest the 300,000,000 paidin, and on which the community are paying interest, and giving profits to bank. ers, and blindly yielding their faith and confidence, as if the whole 300,000,000 was a solid bed of gold and silver, instead of being, as it is, one tenth part specie, and nine tenths paper credit!
Mr. B. said the reform of the banking system was a task as difficult as indispensable. The number and power of the banks was the first great impediment; the quantity of independent legislation was the next; but it had been shown that the whole was under the power of Congress, and that the Federal Government could, by the collection of its own revenues, regulate the State currencies, and bring them all to the touchstone of gold. The States themselves could effect the regulation by direct legislation. It is no answer to say, “we will if the rest will.” Let one begin, and let it exclude from its borders all the descriptions of notes which its own banks are forbidden to issue; that State will immediately realize the full benefit of its legislation, and others will soon follow the example. If they do not, the benefits to the reformed States will be none the less, but the greater; they will be to the rest of the States what France was to England during the reign of the one and two pound notes; the absorbent of their gold! Above all, Mr. B. said, the Congress of the United States should begin first; that Congress to whose guardian care is committed the constitution, which recognises nothing but gold and silver for money; and here, in this District, where Congress sits, and has exclusive jurisdiction, is the place to begin; and now the time, when seven banks in company have knocked all at once at our doors, and demanded, twice and thrice, renewed charters, without having undergone the investigations which their past conduct requires. Here is the place, this the authority, and now the time, to begin; and as we now act, so will be the influence of our example, for good or for evil, throughout the entire extent of the Union. When Mr. BEN to N had concluded— Mr. KING, of Alabama, again vindicated the bill and the banks, and urged especially the distressing results to the District of the failure of the bill, or of any great and sudden change in the currency of the District. After some farther remarks from Mr. WALKFR, The question was then taken on the passage of the bill, and decided as follows: YEAs—Messrs. Black, Buchanan, Calhoun, Clay, Crittenden, Cuthbert, Davis, Ewing of Ohio, Goldsborough, Hendricks, Hubbard, Kent, King of Alabama, Knight, Leigh, Naudain, Nicholas, Porter, Prentiss, Rives, South, ard, Swift, Tallmadge, Tomlinson, Walker, Webster–26NA vs—Messrs. Benton, Ewing of Illinois, King of Georgia, Linn, McKean, Mangum, Morris, Niles, Robinson, Ruggles, Shepley, Wall, White, Wright—14. After transacting some other business, The Senate adjourned.
WEDN Esm A Y, JUNE 8. INDIAN APPROPRIATIONS.
Mr. WHITE, from the Committee on Indian Affairs, reported the amendments of the House to the bill making appropriations for the expenses of the Indian Department, for Indian annuities, &c. Several of the amendments of the House were concurred in.
One of the amendments of the House was an increase of the appropriation for the removal of the Creeks, so as to embrace the whole of them, being about twenty-one thousand, at thirty dollars a head. The first estimate was for twelve thousand, at a lower rate. It was asked of the chairman of the committee if it was possible to effect this operation of removing the Creeks during the present year, and the reply was, that if they could be got into the humor, their removal might be effected before the next meeting of Congress.
while this amendment was pending, on motion of Mr. CALHOUN, the further consideration of the subject was arrested, by a motion made by Mr. CALhou N to lay the whole matter on the table; which was agreed to.
June 8, 1836.)
On motion of Mr. CALHOUN, the Senate then proceeded to consider the bill to prohibit deputy postmasters from receiving and transmitting certain papers described therein, in the States in which they are, or may be, prohibited by law. [The following is a copy of the bill: Be it enacted, &c., That it shall not be lawful for any deputy postmaster, in any State, Territory, or District of the United States, knowingly to deliver to any person whatever, any pamphlet, newspaper, handbill, or other printed paper or pictorial representation, touching the subject of slavery, where, by the laws of the said State, Territory, or District, their circulation is prohibited; and any deputy postmaster who shall be guilty thereof shall be forth with removed from office. Sec. 2. And be it further enacted, That nothing in the acts of Congress to establish and regulate the Post Office Department shall be construed to protect any deputy postmaster, mail carrier, or other officer or agent of said Department, who shall knowingly circulate, in any State, Territory, or District, as aforesaid, any such pamphlet, newspaper, handbill, or other printed paper or pictorial representation, forbidden by the laws of such State, Territory, or District. Sec. 3. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That the deputy postmasters of the offices where the pamphlets, newspapers, handbills, or other printed papers or pictorial representations asoresaid, may arrive for delivery, shall, under the instructions of the Postmaster General, from time to time give notice of the same, so that they may be withdrawn by the person who deposited them originally to be mailed; and if the same shall not be withdrawn in one month thereafter, shall be burnt or otherwise destroyed.] The question being on the passage of the bill— Mr. WEBSTER addressed the Senate at length in opposition to the bill, commencing his argument against what he contended was its vagueness and obscurity, in not sufficiently defining what were the publications the circulation of which it intended to proliibit. The bill provided that it should not be lawful for any deputy postmaster, in any State, Territory, or District of the United States, knowingly to deliver to any person whatever, any pamphlet, newspaper, handbill, or other printed paper or pictorial representation, touching the subject of slavery, where, by the laws of the said State, District, or Territory, their circulation was prohibited. Under this provision, Mr. W. contended that it was impossible to say what publications might not be prohibited from circulation. No matter what was the publication, whether for or against slavery, if it touched the subject in any shape or form, it would fall under the prohibition. Even the constitution of the United States might be prohibited; and the person who was clothed with the power to judge in this delicate matter was one of the deputy postmasters, who, notwithstanding the difficulties with which he was encompassed in coming to a correct decision, must decide correctly, under pain of being removed from office. It would be necessary, also, he said, for the deputy postmasters referred to in this bill to make themselves acquainted with all the various laws passed by the States, touching the subject of slavery, and to decide on them, no matter how variant they might be with each other. Mr. W. also contended that the bill conflicted with that provision in the constitution which prohibited Congress from passing any law to abridge the freedom of speech or of the press. What was the liberty of the press? he asked. It was the liberty of printing as well as the liberty of publishing, in all the ordinary modes of publication; and was not the circulation of papers through the mails an ordinary mode of publication? He was afraid
Incendiary Publications. i
that they were in some danger of taking a step in this matter that they might hereafter have cause to regret, by its being contended that whatever in this bill applies to publications touching slavery, applies to other publications that the States might think proper to prohibit; and Congress might, under this example, be called upon to pass laws to suppress the circulation of political, religious, or any other description of publications which produced excitement in the States. Was this bill in accordance with the general force and temper of the constitution and its amendments? It was not in accordance with that provision of the instrument under which the freedom of speech and of the press was secured. Whatever laws the State Legislatures might pass on the subject, Congress was restrained from legislating in any manner whatever, with regard to the press. It would be admitted, that if a newspaper came directed to him, he had a property in it; and how could any man, then, take that property and burn it without due form of law? and he did not know how this newspaper could be pronounced an unlawful publication, and having no property in it, without a legal trial. Mr. W. argued against the right to examine into the nature of publications sent to the post office, and said that the right of an individual in his papers was secured to him in every free country in the world. In England, it was expressly provided that the papers of the subject shall be free from all unreasonable searches and seizures —language, he said, to be found in our constitution. This principle established in England, so essential to liberty, had been followed out in France, where the right of printing and publishing was secured in the fullest extent; the individual publishing being amenable to the laws for what he published; and every man printed and published what he pleased, at his peril. Mr. W. went on at some length to show that the bill was contrary to that provision of the constitution which prohibits Congress to pass any law abridging the freedom of speech or of the press. Mr. BUCH ANAN said that, as he had voted for the engrossment of this bill, and should vote for its final passage, he felt himself bound to defend and justify his vote against the argument of the Senator from Massachusetts, [Mr. Webster.] In doing so, he would imitate that Senator, is in no other respect, at least in being brief. It is indispensable to the clear and distinct understanding of any argument, to know precisely what is the question under discussion. Without this knowledge, we cannot tell whether in any or in what degree the argument is applicable to the subject. What, then, is the naked question now under discussion, stripped of all the mist which has been cast around it? This bill embraced but a single principle, though this principle was carried out through three sections. It provides that deputy postmasters, within the limits of such slaveholding states as have found it necessary for their own safety to pass laws making it penal to circulate inflamma: tory publications and pictorial representations, calculated to excite the slaves to insurrection, shall not be protected by the laws of the United States, in violating these State laws. Postmasters within these States, who shall knowingly distribute such publications, are liable to be removed from office. The bill also provides that the post office laws of the United States shall not protect postmasters, mail carriers, or other officers or agents of the Department, who shall knowingly circulate such in: cendiary publications, from the penalties, denounced against this offence under the laws of the States. This is the spirit and principle of the bill. . It does no more than to withdraw the protection of the laws of the United states, establishing the Post Office Department, from postmasters and other agents of this Government who