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the usual relation between creditor and debtor, inasmuch as it results not from an ordinary and voluntary contract, as between buyer and seller, but from a legislative exaction, which creates the debt without furnishing to the debtor an immediate, but only a contingent, equivalent. Let me endeavor to illustrate my meaning upon this point, confining the illustration to the case of duties secured by bonds. Immediately upon the arrival of a ship in port, before the cargo can be landed, the importer is required to execute his bond, with sureties, for the amount of duties on the goods consigned to him; and, from that moment, except that he is entitled to an allowance for damage ascertained to have been incurred during the voyage of importation, he is responsible to the Government for the amount of his bond, whatever losses he may incur in landing and storing the goods, or while they remain in store, before he has had an opportunity of disposing of them for consumption or export. Should the goods be exported, he is entitled to a drawback of the duty; if they are sold for consumption, the duty becomes an increment of value, and is received back by the importer in the price which the consumer pays; but while they remain in the warehouse of the importer, even, as in many cases, under the lock and key of the custom-house, the Government holds him responsible for the duties, against all risks; and, should the goods be destroyed or lost, will still exact the payment of his bond. Now, it is obviously of no advantage to the importer that a duty is thus levied upon his goods, and it is as obviously not the design of the revenue laws that he shall be a loser, by reason of his being held subject to the payment of the duty; but the design is, that the payment of the duty shall devolve ultimately upon the consumer, and the Government employs the importer as its agent for collecting the duty from the consumer. When the importer has sold the goods to the consumer, (though he is obliged to take upon himself the risk of bad debts, without any guarantee from the Government,) he has realized a consideration for his bond, and acquired the means of paying it; but, until that contingency has occurred, he remains in the situa. tion of an agent who, upon the receipt of goods on consignment, has made an advance in cash, or given an acceptance to his principal, without being able to avail himself of the legal privilege of the agent in such cases, of recovering from the principal the amount of the advance or acceptance, if the goods should be lost or loyed, in landing or in store, before they can be sold. The disadvantage and injury to which the importer is thus exposed may be attributed to a prominent defect in our revenue laws—the want of a warehousing system. In England, where that system, after many gradual efforts to establish it, has been in full operation since 1826, the evil does not exist. It is there provided that the importer, upon landing his goods, may deposite them, under the inspection of officers of the custons, in a “warehouse of special security,” as it is termed, which may be a private store or quay, duly licensed for the purpose, under prescribed regulations; and the goods are allowed to remain in such warehouse for a term of three years, subject only to the standing bond of the proprietor or occupier of the warehouse, or the special bond of the importer, “for the payment of the full duties of importation, or for the due exportation of the goods. If within three years the goods are exported, the bond is discharged; if they are taken “ for home use,” the duties are payable in cash upon delivery from the warehouse. While the goods are warehoused, the duty does not accrue; if they are lost or destroyed by unavoidable accident in the warehouse, the duty is not held to be payable; or if they are lost or destroyed “in landing or shipping,” or “in the receiv
ing into or delivery from the warehouse,” the duly, “payable or paid,” is remitted or returned. While the goods remain in the warehouse, sales may be made by one party to another, (the law prescribing a mode of transfer, ) and the purchaser succeeds to all the privileges of the importer; or, rather, the privilege attaches to the goods, so long as they remain in the warehouse, what. ever may be the changes of ownership in the meanwhile. It is not until they are about to pass into immediate consumption that the duty is payable; and thus the importer has the opportunity of collecting the duty from the consumer before he is required to pay it to the Government; and it is only after the goods have passed into the consumer's hands that the Government is released from the risk of losing the duty, in consequence of any unavoidable accident (by fire or otherwise) that may befall the goods. Such, Mr. Chairman, is the design of the English warehousing system; and the gentleman from South Carolina [Mr. Pickens] will perceive that, in a case like the present, it would save harmless (in respect to liability for duties) most of the importers for whose partial and temporary relief this bill makes provision. Had the English system been in operation at New York, a large proportion of the imported goods destroyed by the fire would have been warehoused; the duty would not have accrued, and would not have been payable; and the Government could not have been a gainer by the calamity, as it now may be, since it has secured the duty upon all goods which, if not burned, would have been exported, and will derive an increase of revenue from the importation of goods required to supply the place of those (also burned) which were intended for consumption. I regret, sir, that the warehousing system could not; long since, have been introduced here. As perfected in England, it affords innumerable advantages to the commerce of the country, and has not proved liable to abuse. I perceive no sufficient obstable to its introduc. tion here. The principle was partially recognised in the sixtieth section of the act of congress of the 2d of March, 1799, providing for the landing, storing, and relading, of the cargoes of ships ariving from foreign ports in distress, without requiring the consignee, in such cases, to enter the goods and secure the duty. The allowance of drawback upon goods imported is also a partial recognition of the principle; but it is only by adopting the system in its entire extent that we can so cure to our citizens the same advantages of foreign trade that are now enjoyed in England, as well also as at most of the principal ports of the continent of Europe. The fire at New York furnishes striking proofs of the injury and injustice to which merchants are exposed, from the want of the system; and I shall consider it as the strongest indication of friendly regard for the mercan: tile interest, whenever Congress shall see fit to enter. tain a suitable proposition in reference to this object. I shall cheerfully vote for this bill, because I consider it founded in the most equitable principles, and because it provides for a case of suffering of appalling magn. tude; and yet I am not unaware that it furnishes some foundation for the charge of partial legislation, inasmuch as there have been other cases, similar in all important respects to this, in which importers, from unavoidable accident, have been subjected to the loss of goods up" which they had secured the duties, and have received no relief from the Government. It is impossible to res. to any single case which exhibits an amount of loss at all approaching to what has been sustained at New York; but I am safe in saying that the aggregate of loose." such cases as the Government has failed to provide for, if it could be ascertained, would prove that impo". ers have been hitherto great sufferers from the unj"
operation of laws which are still in force, and from the want of a system which might easily be established.
The gentleman from South Carolina, [Mr. Pickens,] misapprehending, as I conceive, the relation between the Government and the importer, upon which the provisions of this bill are founded, has illustrated his view by the assertion that the claim upon the Government is the same, or that there is equally no ground for a claim, whether the sufferer by fire is an importer at New York, or a purchaser of imported goods at Cincinnati. The Government is clearly under no obligations to the dealer at Cincinnati. It has subjected him to no legislative exactions; it holds him under no peculiar responsibilities; it sustains towards him no other than the ordinary relation of Government to a citizen. It is, more especially, in no sense his creditor; it has no demand against him as a debtor; and, most of all, it cannot regard him as a debtor of whom it is requiring the payment of a debt for which it has given him no equivalent, and in regard to whom the contingency, upon which alone depended the opportunity of his realizing an equivalent, through unavoidable accident, cannot occur. This, then, is the distinction between the two cases, resulting from the widely different relations which the supposed sufferers sustain' towards the Government. When the foreign goods pass from the importer to the consumer, (or to the consumer's agent, the purchaser for consumption,) I agree that the duty becomes an increment of value; that the importer then realizes the equivalent for what he has paid or owes the Government; that from that time the importer can have no claim upon the Government, growing out of the peculiar relation which he had assumed; and that, of course, he cannot transfer to the consumer, or his agent, an equitable right which was peculiar to himself as an importer, and has ceased to exist. The purchaser for consumption buys the foreign goods of the importer, as he would buy any other goods, for a fair consideration, and afterwards holds them, as he would hold any other goods, at his own risk. His contract with the importer does not involve any assumption of responsibility to the Government; he cannot therefore prefer a claim against the Government, as resulting from that contract; and there is no other ground upon which he can rest a claim. Whenever the Government shall return to a system of which its experience has been too unfortunate again to recommend the adoption, and shall levy an excise upon whiskey before it has been removed from the vats, or, at least, from the warehouse of the distiller at Cincinnati; and when that distiller can state the fact to Congress, that, as one of the sufferers by an awful conflagration which has reduced to ashes an extensive section of the thriving emporium of the West, he has been deprived, by the destruction of his property, of the means of recovering from the consumer the amount of the excise which he has paid or owes the Government, there may be a case at Cincinnati resembling, in some of its features, and in its equitable claims to the consideration of Congress, the present case at New York.
I have thus far confined myself to a statement of some of the reasons which induce me to regard it as an act of justice, to make provision for those debtors of the Government who have been immediate sufferers by the fire--the first class designated in this bill. My convic. tions lead me to the conclusion that the most reasonable objection to the first section of the bill is, that it falls short of its proper object; and that it should have provided, not simply for an extension of the time of payment, but, under suitable regulations, to prevent fraud, for the absolute remission of the duties upon all goods subject to duty which were destroyed by the fire. And, sir, if any argument applicable to this case is to be Vol. XII.-160
drawn from that clause of the constitution which re.” quires duties to be “uniform,” I submit to the gentle. man who has quoted it, [Mr. PreKENs, whether it is not virtually a palpable disregard of uniformity to require of the importer, whose goods perished in the fire on the day of their landing, or on the day preceding that on which (the outward entry, perhaps, having been lodged at the custom-house) they were to have been exported, or on any intermediate day, so long as they remained in his hands undisposed of for consumption or export, the same duty which has been paid by another importer, who has received the duty from the consumer, and has thereby been enabled to act, as the law intended he should act, merely as the agent of the Government in collecting the duty which is thus actually paid by the consumer? Upon a proper construction of the clause, however, I do not consider it as furnishing any argument applicable to this case; and I suppose it only designed to prescribe that the general revenue laws shall operate equally and alike throughout the country, without restraining the power of Congress to make suitable provisions for extraordinary cases arising under those laws, as necessity, justice, or the public interest, may require. I will barely submit, in this connexion, that, to ensure the most salutary effect to this and every part of the constitution relating to the collection of revenue from imports, and to the regulation of commerce incident thereto, there is no legal provision so practicable, so simple, and certain in its operation, and so well adapted to exclude cases of special legislation, as a warehousing system. It is my deliberate opinion, for the reasons which I have stated, that the importers of “dutiable” goods destroyed by the fire, and upon which the bonds are in the course of collection, may justly claim a remission of duties. If the bonds have been collected, or if the duties were paid in cash, I hold, for the same reasons, that the amount of duty in such cases should be refunded. But, at this point, the gentleman from Pennsylvania [Mr. Chawn ens] encounters a difficulty which, it appears to me, may be easily removed. Confining himself to the case of bonds which have been paid, he says, that as soon as they are paid, the relation of creditor and debtor ceases; and that thereupon the claim of the importer upon the Government expires. Allow me to suggest to him, that though the bond has been paid, if good cause shall subsequently appear why it should not have been paid; or if it can be shown that the consideration for which the bond was given has not been and could not be realized; or if, where the duty was paid in cash at the time of entry, the exportation of the goods has entitled the importer to drawback; that, in all these cases, the fact of payment has not settled the account; and that, it may be, the relation of creditor and debtor, instead of having ceased, has in effect been reversed—the Govern: ment having become the debtor for the amount pai", and the importer, as a creditor, being entitled to reclaim it. The English law, in the cases to which I have referred, authorizes the commissioners of customs to “remit or return” the duties “payable or paid;” and the gentleman, in justice, must acknowledge that, when he can agree that the duty cannot equitably be claimed by the Government, he should be equally ready to refund the money if it has been paid, or to give up the bond if it has been secured. He surely will not attempt to screen the Government from the obligation to do equal justice to two claimants, similarly situated in respect to the merit of their claims, merely because one claimant had been obliged or had chosen to advance the amount which he claims in cash, and the other had been suffered to substitute his bond; or between two claimants similarly situated in all respects, except that both having given their bonds, the bond of one should happen to fall due the
day before, and that of the other the day after, the occurrence of an event which it is admitted annuls the consideration for which both bonds were given. Instead of providing for the remission of duties on goods destroyed by the fire, and for refunding the money in such cases when the duties have been paid, the bill simply provides (with the single exception of the first proviso in the first section) for an extension of credit to the importers, to allow them, time to recover from the necessary embarrassment of their present situation; and to afford them some advantage in the saving of interest upon the amount of their bonds. The gentleman from Vermont, [Mr. Even Err, regarding this extension in the nature of a loan, would charge them with the full rate of interest. Had these debtors actually received the principal of their debts from the Government, the charge of interest might not be deemed unreasonable, were it not that their unprecedented misfortunes entitle them to the most liberal indulgence usually or ever granted under extreme circumstances; but I submit to the gentleman that the principal of the debts, that is to say, the amount of the bonds, has not been received by the debtors, when the goods, upon which the duties have accrued, have been destroyed in their hands before they have been enabled to dispose of them. With this understanding of the case, I am sure he will agree with me that, if the Government is not bound in equity to release the debtors altogether, it will have been sufficiently rigorous in prosecuting its legal claims against them if it should allow a short season of delay before insisting upon payment. I have already suggested that, by the existing Treasury arrangements, if the bonds were promptly paid, the Government would suffer the money to lie, without interest, in the deposite banks; and that, therefore, the Government cannot be a loser by allowing the proposed extension. The gentleman says that the arrangements with the deposite banks have not been made, and will not be continued, with his consent; and that he would not permit the use of the Government funds, either to importers or banks, without requiring interest. I agree with the gentleman in all his general views in respect to the management of the public money; but I presume he has as little faith as myself in the practicability of changing the present system; and that he cannot be disposed, (yet such would be the virtual operation of his amendment,) to restrict the demand of interest to such sufferers as this bill provides for. It is undeniable, as has been suggested by the gentleman from Vermont and others, that the proposed extension of payments to the immediate sufferers will afford relief unequally, and, in some instances, in striking dis. proportion to the losses actually incurred. Any provision which comes short of remitting the duties upon all dutiable goods destroyed by the fire must operate unequally; and if this consideration should lead the committee to determine that it is more equal as well as more strict jus. tice—in other words, that it is the only mode of doing justice—to authorize such remission, I shall be entirely prepared to acquiesce in the decision. Still I cannot abandon the bill in its present shape, from an apprehension that its beneficial effects will not precisely correspond to its design in all the cases to which it may be applied. We can pass but few laws not liable to this ob. jection; and, in respect to this bill, I content myself with the conviction, that it will produce much general benefit, and can furnish but few causes of complaint. I would prefer, as a substitute for the first section, the provision in favor of which I have argued; but the bill comes to us from the Senate; the committee who have it particularly in their charge do not propose to amend it; and I am willing, under such circumstances, to take it as I find it. I do so the less reluctantly, as we have had an intimation that the provision I desire may yet be proposed 'n a separate bill.
The second section of the bill proposes to relieve all the debtors of the Government in the city of New York, by allowing an extension of the time of payment of “all bonds given prior to the fire.” This section, in my view, is imperfect, in not providing for a similar indulgence in regard to the payment of cash duties; but still, so far as it goes, I am disposed to advocate it upon the ground of public policy, and to regard the measure it proposes as at least an act of wise liberality. To judge of the expediency of this measure, all the peculiar circumstances of the case deserve to be considered. The fire at New York has been justly represented as a most desolating calamity, unprecedented upon this continent, and with only one or two parallels in the history of the work!. This is a just, but, for our purpose, too general a description. It becomes us to consider it in its necessary consequences as a commercial embarrassment, and, by inquiring into the nature and extent of these consequences, to satisfy ourselves how far it has affected the debtors of the Government, who constitute a large portion of the merchants of the city of New York. What is the city of New York, and who are its merchants? The city of New York is, far more distinctly than any other city, the commercial emporium of the United States. The advantages which it derives from its central position, and from its unrivalled facilities of communication with every section of the country and every quarter of the globe, have made it the grand depot of imports and exports, the principal resort of merchants and traders, and a scene of unparalleled enterprise, industry, and improvement. To use an expression which can hardly be considered as far-fetched here, it is the seat of the commercial congress of the western hemisphere, in which every State of the Union, and all foreign nations, are more or less numerously represented by resident agents, and where negotiations are yearly effected, of sufficient magnitude to constitute a leading item of the business of the world. I speak of the city of New York as a commercial emporium; and, regarding it as such, who can behold its situation, or trace its rise, or contemplate its destiny, without emotions of admiration, astonishment, and pride? It is already called the London of America; and it has ceased to be extravagant to suppose that the time may come when this appellation will insufficiently represent, if not the number of its inhabitants, at least the extent of its commerce and the magnitude of its resources. And who are the merchants of New York? They are, as I have said, resident agents from every foreign nation, and each State of the Union can number among them the choicest specimens of one of the best classes of its population. So intimately are they connected with every State, that perhaps there is scarcely a gen. tleman upon this floor who would not recognise among them some of his personal acquaintances, and constant or occasional correspondents, or, at least, many of whose constituents could not sail thus to recognise them. Known, therefore, as they are, personally or by their general reputation, I must presume that the gentleman from Kentucky [Mr. HARDIN) does them unintentional injustice, when he alludes to them in terms which, if not conveying a direct reproach, are adapted to excite an unfounded prejudice. But, whatever may be his object, he cannot succeed in combating the public sentiment of the country. The merchants of New York have an established character for intelligence, enterprise, and probity, which, while it has been the brightest ornament of their prosperity, will prove to them the guarantee of universal sympathy and confidence in the season of their adversity. They occupy the front rank of the merchants of the country; and throughout the country they are respected, honored, and will be sustained, Feb. 16, 1836.]
as eminent contributors to the national welfare, as indispensable agents in the accumulation and diffusion of the national wealth, and as worthy representatives of the national character in the wide extent of their commercial relations. The merchants of New York are and always have been the principal debtors of the Government, or its principal agents in the collection of its revenue. At the custom-house in that city, and from the hands of its merchants, there have already been collected between two and three hundred millions of dollars for the use of the country; more than one half of the imposts regularly accrue there; and upon the ability and integrity of the merchants of New York, therefore, the Government must mainly depend for its available resources. The facts which are upon the records of the Treasury Department attest that, while the Government has always been a strict, and sometimes an inexorable, creditor, it has sustained only the most inconsiderable loss from the insolvency or fraud of its debtors in New York. Hitherto, they have rarely as individuals, and never collectively, urged claims to its indulgence, but have promptly and scrupulously fulfilled their engagements; occasionally, too, during periods of serious embarrassments. Even now, when overwhelmed with distress, they adhere strictly to their obligations, and not a bond, except by the voluntary permission of the collector, remains unpaid. Since the fire, the collector, in the use of a sound discretion, although in the exercise of an authority not strictly conferred by law, has permitted bonds to lie over, conformably to a suggestion of the Secretary of the Treasury that some seasonable measure of relief might be expected from Congress. The present bill is designed to satisfy that expectation. ** Having said thus much in justice to the city of New York, to the character of its merchants, and to their relation to the Government, I will ask the attention of the committee to some of the circumstances of the case which have determined my own judgment in regard to the expediency of the provision contained in the second section. The fire laid waste a section of the city occupied by the merchants as a place of business. When i visited the scene a few days after the sad event, I beheld an area of fifty acres covered with smoking ruins, and strewed with fragments of damaged goods partially res. cued from the flames. I perceived at once that the immense mass of buildings which had been thus laid prostrate consisted almost entirely of warehouses, the occupants of which I recollected to have been chiefly importing merchants, commission houses, or grocers, such as were always the holders of heavy stocks of goods, the aggregate value of which must have usually exceeded the largest estimate of the loss which is supposed to have been sustained. I was told that the work of destruction had been so rapid that, in addition to the loss of buildings and goods, many of the merchants had not been able to save their books, notes, and papers. Now, Mr. Chairman, viewing this fire as a commercial embarrassment, I wish to remark that no ordinary estimate of the value of buildings and goods destroyed can convey a sufficient idea of the actual suffering which has been produced, nor even of the positive pecuniary loss which has been and is yet to be sustained. These sufferers are almost exclusively merchants, who were holding a large amount of property, enjoying an extensive credit, and engaged in profitable business. In consequence of this fire, not only is their property destroyed, but, to a greater or less extent, their credit must be impaired, and their business, for a time at least, is stopped. All their previous engagements, nevertheless, remain to be sulfilled. The fire, while it has destroyed their property, has left the debts which they owe untouched,
While it has burned their books, it has not finally balanced them. Their notes and bonds will still be produced against them, although they have lost the record of their amount. They had used every precaution to guard against such a calamity. Their buildings were properly secured—some supposed to be fire proof. Whatever was the origin of the fire, none of them, at most with but one exception, are chargeable with carelessness; and they had insured their property for its full value. But the insurers were not insured! It is an incident of this case, which distinguishes it above all others in the aggravation of misfortune, that the first names inscribed upon the list of bankruptcies, attributable to the fire, were those of one half of the fire insurance companies, who, perhaps, will not be able to pay upon an average above fifty per cent. of the demands against them, and may be compelled by the state of their affairs to post; pone the payment of this meager dividend to a period too late to afford seasonable relief. without going into further details, Mr. Chairman, I leave you to judge, from this strictly accurate description, of the actual condition of the merchants who were immediate sufferers by the fire. Estimate if you can the necessary effect of these combined causes of suffering: destruction of property, diminution of credit, suspension of business, overhanging debts, failure of insurancefollow them out in their remote consequences, and contingent results, and tell me what sum of money will sufficiently denote the real extent of the deplorable calamity? set down the loss of buildings and goods at $25,000,000, and consider this as only the first item in the account. Estimate the value of the credit which such a capital in the hands of merchants in active busi: ness would usually command, and make that the second item. Calculate the accruing profits of the business in which all these merchants were engaged, and also determine what the privilege is worth to so many merchants of being well established in business; let this be the third item. 'conjecture (for it can only be conjectural) the amount of the sacrifices of property which the pressure of debts, under such circumstances, and the suspension of demands against insurers, must occasion; and stop here: what is the aggregate? Could the figures be cast and the sum stated, i think it would be sufficient to convince the most incredulous that the immediate sufferers are entitled, at least, to the scanty indulgence which the first section of the bill provides for them. I think it would also be a convincing and alarming proof that such an overwhelming calamity cannot be confined to the immediate sufferers, but must, in its consequences, extend far beyond them. I think it would satisfy the gentleman from Kentucky that such an amount of loss may have given “a shock” to the business and credit of the whole city; and I am sure it must compel him, if he will undertake to estimate it, to carry his conceptions far beyond his ordinary standard of magnitude in money matters, and quite as much beyond the range of his previous acquaintance with the nature and extent of commercial transactions. when the ravages of the fire had ceased, and the inhabitants began to recover from the bewildering sensations of terror and alarm which at the instant overcame them, how did they regard their general situation?, They saw, as they were collected on the spot, that thqugh only a section of the city had been destroyed, the whole community was doomed to suffer by the calamity; that, though the wound was local, the stroke of the destroyer had been aimed at the heart; that, though it was an easy matter to complete the list of immediate sufferers, it was difficult to know where to begin or where to end in enumerating the many and many others who could not escape uninjured. The merchants, more especially, instantly perceived that not one of their number was a disinterested spectator of such a scene of ruin; but that, connected as they were by mutual interests, and bound together by reciprocal obligations, the consequences which would result from such a destruction of property, and a corresponding prostration of credit, and consequent suspension of business, must affect them all. The dense cloud of smoke, ascending from the spot to which the fire was confined, had overshadowed the whole city, intercepting for a time the bright beams of the returning sun; and these merchants felt that a heavier cloud of distrust and embarrassment, produced by the misfortunes of the immediate sufferers, was fast gathering over them all, threatening to blast the gilded prospect of the near future, and the precursor of events which might involve them all in temporary distress. They felt at once that it was their common duty to prepare for the worst. The impulse of sympathy with their neighbors was blended with the instinct of self-preservation. In the manifestation of mutual confidence, in the readiness of each to sustain every other, in that spirit of accommodation to circumstances which belongs to the mercantile character, they proceeded to provide for the emergency. To guard against the unavoidable scarcity of money, and the consequent difficulty of meeting such of their debts as were approaching maturity, they appealed to the banks to co-operate in all practicable measures of relief, and they imparted the force of public opinion to the obligation of creditors to grant indulgence to their debtors, by the extension of payments. They called upon the Bank of the United States to apply all the means within its disposal for their accommodation; they called upon the city government to create stock which might be made available capital; they invoked the State Government for its prompt and liberal interposition in various acts of legislation; and they appealed to the General Government to assume its just share of loss, to postpone the collection of its superfluous revenue, and to give such a direction to its finances that they might be rendered more contributory to their immediate benefit. I am convinced, Mr. Chairman, that none who have made due inquiry into all the circumstances of their situation can suppose that the merchants of New York have acted with a greater degree of foresight or vigor than the occasion required. Fortunately for them the fire occurred at a season of the year which affords almost their only respite from the pressure of business, and they were enabled to avail themselves of a brief leisure to concert and attempt to execute their plans. The efforts which they have made are memorable proofs of manly fortitude and dauntless perseverance, which deserve, if they should not achieve, success. They illustrate a public character which is entitled to universal admiration. . They indicate a determined purpose, which, if anything can, will sustain them, in their most unequal struggle with adversity, and enable them to start forward with redoubled energy upon a prosperous career. The crisis of their fate is still impending, the extent of the calamity is not yet developed in its results, and a period is approaching which must put to the severest test their ability to support themselves. Independently of their own fruitful sources of embarrassment, the signs of the times indicate a fearful tendency of events to aggravate and multiply the dangers of their situation. What is the state of things in the country at large? Greatly brightened, I delight to acknowledge, by the cheering intelligence which we have this day received, but still sufficiently perplexed to deserve anxious con. sideration. A year of unexampled prosperity has closed, and another year has commenced, of which they who survive its termination may be obliged to render a dif. ferent account. A year has commenced fraught with results which must leave a durable impression upon the political and financial condition of the country. Never
Sufferers by Fire in New York.
were men of business more unprepared for sudden reverses and severe pressure, and yet never, perhaps, has there been more signal occasion to apprehend both. The overtrading of the past year, the rage for wild spec. ulation, the abused spirit of enterprise, have led, as it would seem, to almost every conceivable misapplication of capital, in whatever formit exists, and to an extension of the system of credit to so dangerous an extreme that it is difficult to imagine any mode of rescue from the evils which it must produce. The present state of the money market affords some indication of what may yet be expected; and let any member, who has the means of forming a correct judgment, turn his attention to the general situation, at the present moment, of men of business, and of the many who, in the use of the most unheard-of expedients, and under the impulse of the maddest passion for adventure, have forced their pro: jeets and extended their transactions so vastly beyond the views and purposes of men of business, properly so called; let him endeavor to form some idea of the unprecedented financial demands of the coming year, o the engagements to be met, the contracts to be fulfilled, the notes and bonds to be paid; let him consider the strained condition of the State banks, and the necessary effects of the approaching dissolution of the Bank of the United States, unless, indeed, they are to be obviated by a modified resuscitation of that important institution; let him anticipate the various vicissitudes which usually precede and follow a diminution of the value of the leading staples of the country and a general depreciation of real and personal property; let him notice the consequences already experienced at New Orleans of a suspension of the trade with Mexico; let him bear in mind the contingencies to which all branches of our foreign trade are constantly liable; and then let him judge of the influence—the combined influence, as it may prove—of all these causes of commercial embarrassment upon the straitened condition of the merchants of New York. Let him then decide whether the circumstances are not, or may not be, such as to justify this Government in extend: ing to its debtors, and all its debtors, in that distressed city, the same measure of indulgence which, amongst themselves, no creditor is sufficiently regardless of his honor or his interest deliberately to refuse. Let him decide whether, when all their other applications for assistance have been freely granted, their resort to the General Government shall be coldly, and sternly, and harshly repulsed. Let him consider whether, when the stroke which has fallen so heavily upon that city is unt. versally regarded as a national calamity, and when all that can be done for her relief must be alike regarded as a national benefit, he will assume the responsibility of deciding that this Government may safely, and wisely; and honorably, postpone the claims of its debtors, and refuse to listen to the united and urgent appeals of so many of its citizens. I have already noticed some of the objections that have been urged against this bill: there are others which may be supposed to deserve consideration. The gentleman from Kentucky, [Mr. Hanois,) with his characteristic prompt: ness, commenced an attack upon the bill before, as it proved, he had become acquainted with its provisions: and, in the use of his accustomed weapons of sarcasm and invective, endeavored to array against it the untimely influence of sectional and political prejudice. In glamcing at his objections, let me respectfully suggest to him, that, if it be the misfortune of these debtors, it surely is not their fault, that the city in which they reside has become the principal depository of the public revenue; and that the Government does not make the most profitable use of its funds which are there collected. If it be their misfortune, it surely is not their fault, that the state of which they are citizens possesses, under the constitution,
[Fen. 16, 1836.