Imagens das páginas
PDF
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

he believed it would find its proof in the change which the original resolution had undergone, and the form it was now assuming of statute law, and especially with the proviso which was added at the end of the scCond section. Mr. B. then took up the bill reported by the commit. tee, and remarked, first, upon its phraseology, not in the spirit of verbal criticism, but in the spirit of candid objection and fair argument. There were cases in which words were things, and this was one of those cases. Money was a thing, and the only words in the constitution for that thing were, “gold and silver coin.” The bill of the committee was systematically exclusive of the words which meant this thing, and used words which included things which were not money. These words were, then, a fair subject of objection and argument, because they went to set aside the money of the constitution, and to admit the public revenues to be paid in something which was not money. The title of the bill uses the word “funds.” It professes to designate the funds receivable for the revenues of the United States. Upon this word Mr. B. had remarked before, as being one of the most indefinite in the English language; and, so far from signifying money only, even paper money only, that it comprehended every variety of paper security, public or private, individual or corporate, out of which money could be raised. The retention of this word by the committee, after the objections made to it, were indicative of their intentions to lay open the federal Treasury to the reception of something which was not constitutional money; and this intention, thus disclosed in the title to the bill, was fully

carried out in its enactments. The words “legal cur.

rency of the United States” are twice used in the first section, when the words “gold and silver” would have been more appropriate and more definite, if hard money was intended. Mr. B. admitted that, in the eye of a regular bred constitutional lawyer, legal currency might imply constitutional currency; but certain it was that the common and popular meaning of the phrase was not limited to constitutional money, but included every currency that the statute law made receivable for debts. Thus, the notes of the Bank of the United States were generally considered as legal currency, because receivable by law in payment of public dues; and in like manner the notes of all specie-paying banks would, under the committee's bill, rise to the dignity of legal currency. The second section of the bill twice used the word “cash;” a word which, however understood at the Bank of England, where it always means ready money, and where ready money signifies gold coin in hand, yet with the banks with which we have to deal it has no such meaning, but includes all sorts of current paper money on hand, as well as gold and silver on hand. Mr. B. verified this statement by reading from the sworn return of the Clinton Bank of Columbus, one of the deposite bank", made to the Legislature of Ohio at their present session, and where the available means of thc bank, among other items, has one thus stated: “Cash on hand, viz: Eastern bank notes, $34,521; Western do. $65,700; gold and silver, $136,389.” This return is sworn to by Wm. Neil, president, and J. Delafield, jr., cashier, before 'Squire Jenkins, justice of the peace; and it is certified and declared by ten directors of the bank to be correct and accurate; so that no doubt can be entertained that, in the vocabulary of the Clinton Bank of Columbus, the word “cash” signifies Eastern and Western paper, as well as gold and silver; and in this case the vocabulary of that bank is superior to all the dictionaries, for it is a deposite bank, and will have ... ."... o.o.o.o. what is and what is not cash.

Treasury Circular.

- - --- -

[JAN. 27, 1837. Having shown from this authentic statement that a deposite bank in the West construed cash on hand to be bank notes on hand, Mr. B. would now show the same construction made by 130 banks in a lump, and that in a part of the Union where correctness of phraseology was as much or more attended to than in any other part. He spoke of Massachusetts, and of the official return made by all the banks in that State to the Legislature of the State, now in session at Boston. In the consolidated returns of these 130 banks, he found the following items: “Cash deposited, not on interest, $8,784,516; cash deposited, on interest, $6,447,928; gold, silver, and other coin, $1,455,230.” Here (said Mr. B.) is the highest evidence that this word “cash,” in the vocabulary of our banks, comprehends paper money; and he had no doubt but that proofs to the same effect might be accumulated to any amount. He had not looked out for such proofs; what he had used had fallen into his hands in the common current of his reading, since this bill had been re. ported. But why look abroad for proofs? Let every gentleman look to his own knowledge. Does he not every day hear the word “cash” used to include paper money? Does he not daily see sales of property advertised, and the terms stated to be cash; and under these terms is it nut understood, by all parties, that ready pay in bank notes, as well as in hard money, are the terms intended? And has the instance ever been heard of, that a bidder going to one of these cash sales thought it necessary to supply himself with gold and silver, under the belief that current bank notes would not be received as cash? Certainly, said Mr. B., the original idea of cash, as used at the Bank of England, where it means British gold coin on hand, in contradistinction to foreign gold coin on hand, which is always called bullion, is now lost in this country; and that paper money is just as fully comprehended now, throughout our country, under the term “cash,” as hard money is. But why argue, or look to proofs, or even refer to our own knowledge? Look to the proviso to the second section to the committee's bill, and it will be seen that it is not only the intention of that bill that paper money may be, but that paper money shall be, included under the term “cash.” These are the words: “Provided, That if any deposite bank shall refuse to receive, and pass to the credit of the United States, as cash, any notes, receivable under the provisions of this act, which the said bank, in the ordinary course of its business, receives on general deposite, the Secretary of the Treasury is hereby authorized to with: draw the public deposites from said bank.” These are the words, and they are not only declaratory of the com: mittee's meaning that paper money is to be considered as cash, but is clearly expressive of their purpose, that it shall be received as such. The point to which such an enactment would soon bring the federal finances, Mr. B. said, might be seen in a certificate of general de; posite granted by the Clinton Bank of Columbus, of which he would read a copy: “No. 276. Clinton Bank of Columbus, 31st December, 1836,--B. S. Brown has deposited twelve hundred dollars, subject to the order of himself, payable in currency, and return of this certificate. Signed, &c.” Yes, said Mr. B., currency, payable in currency! such will quickly be the revenues of the Federal Government under this enactment to compel deposite banks to credit current paper as cash. Mr. B. said it would be suspicient, he should think, to point out the meaning of the words used in the commit. tee's bill, to show that they were susceptible of a consruction by which this hard-money Federal Government, as it was intended to be by its framers, may be changed into a paper-money Government. It would be sufficient to excite apprehension to see the systematic use of these terms, even after objection made to them, and the systemJAN, 27, 1837.]

Treasury Circular.

[SENATE.

atic exclusion of the terms used in the constitution, even after their insertion is solicited; but all room for mistake vanishes when we come to look to this proviso, and to see that the deposite banks are not only required to credit paper as cash, but are to be punished by a loss of the public deposites if they do not so credit it! Having remarked upon the phraseology of the bill, and shown that a paper currency, composed of the notes of a thousand local banks, not only might become the currency of the Federal Government, but was evidently intended to be made its currency; and that, in the face of all the protestations of the friends of the administration in favor of re-establishing the national gold currency, Mr. B. would now take up the bill of the committee under two or three other aspects, and show it to be as mistaken in its design as it would be impotent in its effect. In the first place, it transferred the business of suppressing the small-note circulation from the deposite branch to the collecting branch of the public revenue. At present, this business was in a course of progress through the deposite banks, as a condition of holding the public moneys, and, as such, had a place in the deposite act of the last session, and also had a place in the President's message of the last session, where the suppression of paper currency under twenty dollars was expressly referred to the action of the deposite banks, and as a condition of their retaining the public deposites. It was through the depositebanks, and not through the reception of local bank paper, that the suppression of small notes should be effected. In the next place, he objected to the committee's bill, because it proposed to make a bargain with each of the thousand banks now in the United States, and the hundreds more which will soon be born, and to give them a right—a right by law--to have their notes received at the federal Treasury. He was against such a bargain. He had no idea of making a contract with these thousand banks for the reception of their notes. He had no idea of contracting with them, and giving them a right to plead the constitution of the United States against us, if, at any time, aster having agreed to receive their notes, upon condition that they would give up their small circulation, they should choose to say we had impaired the contract by not continuing to receive them; and so either relapse into the issue of this small trash, or have recourse to the judicial process to compel the United States to abide the contract, and continue the reception of all their notes. Mr. B. had no idea of letting down this Federal Government to such petty and inconvenient bargains with a thousand moneyed corpora.

tions. The Government of the United States ought to act as a Government, and not as a contractor. It should Prescribe conditions, and not make bargains. It should

give the law. He was against these bargains, even if they were good ones; but they were bad bargains, Wretchedly bad, and ought to be rejected as such, even if all higher and nobler considerations were out of the question. What is the consideration that the United States is to receive? A mere individual agreement with each bank by itself, that in three years it will cease to issue notes under ten dollars, and in five years it will cease to issue notes under twenty dollars. What is the price which she pays for this consideration? In the first place, it receives the notes of such bank as gold and silver at all the land offices, custom-houses, and post offices, of the United States, and, of course, pays them out again as gold and silver to all her debtors. in the next place, it oompels the deposite banks to credit them as cash. in the third place, it accredits the whole circulation of the banks, and makes it current all over the United States, in consequence of universal receivability for all federal dues. In other words, it endorses, so far as credit is concerned, the whole circulation of every bank that comes into the bargain thus proposed. This is certainly

a most wretched bargain on the part of the United States—a bargain in which what she receives is ruinous to her; for the more local paper she receives in payment of her revenues, the worse for her, and the sooner will her Treasury be filled with unavailable funds. But what is worse is, that in order to make this ruinous bargain—a bargain by which the Treasury would be immediately filled with many ten millions of unavailable funds——we shall have to reject the proper, cheap, speedy, and effectual mode of suppressing these small notes which is now in our power, and not only in our power, but offered and pressed upon us. Mr. B. alluded to the propositions of the deposite banks to effect this suppression, not only for themselves, but on other banks also, which were now in the Treasury Department, and waiting the action of the Government. He himself had communicated with a great number of these banks, both personally and by letter, and knew that many of the most respectable deposite banks were not only willing, but ready and anxious to enter into arrangements with the Treasury Department for the effectual and speedy accomplishment of this purpose. Two years ago, he said, the Secretary of the Treasury had addressed a circular letter to the deposite banks, to know if they were wil; ling to give up their small-note circulation, as a part of the conditions on which they were to retain the public deposites. He held a copy of that circular in his hand, and knew that many favorable answers had been received, and was certain that they presented the ready and far preferable mode of suppressing this small-note circulation. Mr. B. repeated, it was not in Congress only that he had worked at this object; he had communicated with many banks; and, from those of large business and high character, he had invariably received the strongest assurances, not only of a readiness, but of a wish to cooperate with the Government in this good work. He would read from one communication, a letter srom Mr. Campbell P. white, president of the Manhattan Bank, New York, and would show the resolutions which that gentleman had drawn up and sent to him (Mr. B.) at the commencement of this session, to accomplish this ob. ject. This is the extract: “I submit to you two resolutions that I think shoul! be passed by a concurrent vote of the two Houses of Congress. The large amount of specie, above seventy millions of dollars, now in the United States, makes it a favorable moment, if not an imperative duty, to repres” the circulation of all bank notes under the denomination of twenty dollars. As some persons question the constitutional power, and others the expediency, of resorting to taxation for this purpose, none can objeot 10 making it a condition for retaining the public deposito", that the deposite banks shall check and repress the emission of paper, so as to secure to us that portion of the money in circulation in the world, which our of changeable products bear to the whole exchangeable products of the world, and which we should ever enjoy, were it not driven out by the substitution of the shadow for the substance--the substitution of paper for gold and silver.” this is the extract of the letter, (said Mr. B.,) and the sentiments in it are worthy of the gentleman who, as a former member of Congress, was one of those most instrumental in reviving the gold circulation, by taking a lead in correcting the erroneous standard of our gold. The following are the two resolutions communicated at the same time: “ Resolved, That from and after the 4th day of July, 1837, no bank shall be employed, or continued in the employment of the Treasury of the United States as a deposite bank, unless they shall previously engage, in writing, under their corporate seal, to issue and put in SENATE.]

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

Treasury Circular.

[JAN. 27, 1837.

circulation no bank note or bank check of a less denomination than ten dollars; and, also, that they will not receive on deposite, or in payment, any bank note or bank check of a less denomination; nor the bank notes or bank checks of any bank, of any denomination, on deposite or in payment, after such period, that issues or puts in circulation bank notes or bank checks of a less amount than ten dollars, as aforesaid.” Resolved, That from and after the 4th day of July, 1838, no bank shall be employed, or continued in the employment of the Treasury of the United States as a deposite bank, unless they shall previously engage in writing, under their corporate seal, to issue and put in circulation no bank note or bank check of a less denomination than twenty dollars; and, also, that they will not receive on deposite or in payment any bank note or bank check of a less denomination; nor the bank notes or bank checks of any bank, of any denomination, on deposite or payment, after such period, that issues or puts in circulation bank notes or bank checks of a less amount than twenty dollars, as aforesaid.” These (said Mr. B.) are the propositions now made to us by a bank of the highest character; and he knew many others which were ready to agree to the same propositions. Compare them with this bill, if it is pos. sible to institute a comparison between two such objects, and observe the immeasurable difference between them. First, in the nature of the process: here there is no bargain, no contract; but Congress is reques'ed to act as a Government, not to deal like a contractor, and to prescribe the conditions on which the deposite banks are to accomplish our purpose. In the next place, so far from making a contract for the receivability of their notes in exchange for the suppression of the small ones, there is not even a wish expressed for such reception. In the third place, as to the promptness and efficiency of their action in suppressing the small notes. Instead of waiting three years for putting down those under ten dollars, it is proposed to be done in four months; so far from waiting five years for putting down those under twenty dollars, it is to be done in less than one year and a half. Next, as to the efficiency of the action of the two modes: the bill of the committee acts upon but one bank at a time, and upon the notes only of that one bank, leaving the door open to checks, and the use of the notes of other banks; the proposition of the Manhattan Bank, and which may be considered as a sample of those from all the banks of high character, operates in three different ways, and upon multitudes of banks at the same time. 1. The deposite bank is to bind itself, under its corporate seal, neither to issue nor to put in circulation any bank note or bank check under the denomination of ten dollars, after the 4th of July next, or of twenty dollars after the 4 h of July, 1833. 2. It binds itself, in like manner, not to receive on deposite or in payment any bank note or bank check of less denominations, after the said terms. 3. It binds itself, in like manner, not to receive the notes or checks, of any denomination whatever, of any bank whatever which continues after those dates to issue or circulate notes or checks under the respective amounts of ten and twenty dollars. This (said Mr. B.) is what the respectable banks are ready to submit to, if Congress will only act as a Government, and prescribe conditions for all the deposite banks; which, in their turn, are to operate upon all other banks, instead of entering into petty bargains with each bank by itself. One acts effectually, and upon **sses; the other acts ineffectually, and upon units. One demands no price; the other is to have the incalculable price of having their paper made legal currency, and R" "Pon a footing, in the receipts and expenditures of the Federal Government, with the gold and silver of the constitution! By one mode, our work will be done

speedily and effectually; by the other, tardily and inef. fectually. Why grant these three and five years? The only object of delay is to give the banks time to gather specie from abroad to supply the place of the small bills. But that is done to their hand. The Government has done it. The specie is here, and will go away if we do not create a home demand for it. Instead of beginning to suppress their notes, the local banks will put it off to the last moment of the three and five years, and double their small issues in the mean time, to make profit while they can. There is specie enough now, and it is increasing every day. Arrivals from abroad are daily announced. Five hundred thousand dollars arrived at New Orleans on two days only of this month, the 9th and 10th of January. If our hard-money measures are continued, specie will continue to increase for years to come as it has for four years past—at the average rate of more than ten millions per annum. The delay proposed by this bill is not only unnecessary, but injurious to its own object; the mode of acting is either ineffectual or ruinous. There are now a thousand banks in the United States, and the distributions of the surplus are breeding multitudes more. If all those banks accept the terms, then our Treasury is ruined by becoming the receptacle--the tomb--of all their paper; if hals or a quarter refuse, or even a hundred, then the bill will be ineffectual; for these refusing banks will turn all their strength upon the issue of small paper. Mr. B. said here was a terrible dilemma. If the majority of the banks accept the terms, then they ruin the Treasury; if they do not, then they continue to injure the country; and he quoted, to sustain his opinion of the inefficiency of this mode of acting, the following sentiments expressed, when the United States Bank charter was under consideration, in 1832, by a Senator from Massachusetts, [Mr. W Epsten:] “It may, perhaps, strike some gentlemen that the circulation of small notes might be effectually discouraged by refusing to receive not only all such notes, but all notes of such banks as issued them, at the customhouses, land offices, post offices, and other places of public receipt, and by causing them to be refused also, either in payment or deposite, at the Bank of the United States. But the effect of such refusal may be doubtful. It would certainly, in some degree, discredit such notes, but in all probability it would not drive them out altogether; and, if it should not do this, it might, very probably, increase their circulation. If in some degree they become discredited, to that degree they would become cheaper than other notes; and universal experience proves that, of two things which may be current, the cheaper will always expel the other.” Mr. B. had been at work for five years to procure the suppression of paper money under twenty dollars. His exertions, on that point, had brought him into communication with the officers of many banks; and it was due to them to say, that all the banks of high character, with which he had communicated, were in favor of the suppression of small notes; and he was fully persuaded that many of them, and as a mere condition of retaining the public deposites, if the deposite banks were reduced to the proper number, would give up their circulation entirely, and introduce into our country the example of banks of discount, deposite, and exchange, alone, as they exist in Europe, and where they give all the real benefits of banks, without the dangers and mischiefs of issuing paper money. In his opinion, about thirty deposite banks were enough; they were more places of deposite than existed during the time of the Bank of the United States, which had but twenty-four branches; and if the deposites were confined to about thirty banks of good capital and high character, these banks would immediately, that is to say, within one or two years, and now while we have the specie to justify the operation, enter

[merged small][ocr errors]

heartily into the measure of putting down the circulation of notes under twenty dollars. With the additional inducement of relinquishing the interest which they now pay on deposites, he felt certain they would quickly accomplish this great work for the country. Now is the time, as Mr. C. P. White says in his letter, now is the time to do it, when our specie is between seventy and eighty millions of dollars. Certainly this is the time, while forty-five millions of that specie is locked up in the vaults of banks—and while our paper circulation is so redundant as to have undergone a depreciation which is heavily felt in the price of every article of consumption by all persons who live upon wages and fixed income. This is the time to effect the suppression; and it was af. flicting to see it lost; for to postpone it five years was to lose the golden opportunity. And at whose instance was this to be done? At the instance of the small banks— the two-and-sixpenny concerns—to which it was an ob. ject to put out small notes, for the sake of the gain to the bank upon the loss to the community, in the wear and tear of small notes. Mr. B. said it was the small banks which cling to the small notes, and some of them since they became deposite banks, and in violation of the deposite law. He would give an instance; it was from that same Clinton Bank of Columbus, from which he had before read. In the statement of its condition made to the Legislature of Ohio on the 9th day of January of the present year, the circulation of the bank is thus stated: One-dollar bills, $6,226; two-dollar do. $4,916; three-dollar do. $6,669; five do. $60,085, ten do. $10,910; twenty do. $12,140; fifty do. $13,400; one hunded do. $300. Now, here is a bank whose total circulation is $115,000, and of which the whole, except about $25,000, is under twenty dollars; and yet this bank, on this question, and in this chamber, is to outweigh the Manhattan, and the other great banks of the country! Mr. B. said it was curious to observe that the small country banks in England had governed the legislation of the British Parliament in the suppression of the small notes, precisely in the manner now going on in this country, and with the same disastrous results there which may be expected to ensue here. He would, to show "i"...read an extract from the testimony of the governor of the Bank of England, Mr. Horsley Palmer, before Lord Althorp's committee, in 1832. He says: “By the resolution of the House of Commons of 1819, the Bank of England was required, within four years, to pay off in gold the amount of their one-pound notes then in circulation, (about £7,500,000;) further, to provide the coin for paying off the country small notes in 1825, (about #7,800,000 more;) in addition to which, the ***y was imposed of providing the requisite surplus bullion for insuring the convertibility of all their liabili*** which addition of bullion to their stock could not be estimated at less than £5,000,000; making in the ag#"S*'s £20,000,000 of gold as necessary to be procured from foreign countries within the space of four years from !819. The bank cancelled their own small notes in 188!, (two years before the time limited by parlia. **) In 1822, being three years prior to the time fixed by Parliament, they were in a situation to furnish the gold for paying off the country small notes, (that is, they had procured the whole 20 millions in gold, near 100 millions of dollars, from foreign countries in three ***) when, without any communication with the bank, the Government thought proper to authorize a continui. of the circulation of the country small notes until J. Mr. B. said it was here se Bank of England complaine England had procured tw in three years, (equal to

en that the governor of the d that, when the Bank of enty millions sterling in gold near one hundred millions of

[blocks in formation]

dollars,) and had suppressed its own small notes, and had gold enough to supply the place of all the country banks' small notes, that these country banks got the time extended for the suppression of theirs—got it done in Parliament, without consultation with the Bank of England—and extended up to the year 1833. This is the testimony of the governor of the bank, and the point of it is this: that the Parliament lost the golden moment of doing the great work, and lost it by conforming to the interest of the small country banks, whose friends were numerous and powerful in Parliament, in opposition to the interest of the empire, and against the wishes of the Bank of England. The rest is matter of history. That history is, that these country banks never enjoyed the seven years which Parliament granted them. Having seven years to go upon, they resolved to make hay while the sun was shining. So to work they went, and put out more small notes than ever. . The consequeuce was, the vast and disastrous explosion of the paper system which took place in 1825, an explosion which covered all England with the wrecks of broken fortunes, and in which so many families who thought themselves affluent were suddenly sunk, without any fault of their own, and, as if by magic and enchantment, from the enjoyment of wealth and happiness, to the sus. ferings of poverty, misery, and despair. History, said Mr. B., is said to be plailosophy teaching by example. But how many of her lessons are lost upon the world! Here is a great lesson given to usin our own time, and by the nation from whom we have borrowed our whole system of banking. Yet this lesson is lost upon us; and we must go through her susterings, and learn it ourselves, as she did, besore we can know it. Our circumstances are the same; we have accumulated upwards of 70 millions of gold and silver; it is increasing every day; we are ready for the operation of drawing in small notes, and putting out hard money; the strong and respectable banks wish us to do it; the public interest requires it to be done; the policy of President Jackson's administration prescribes it; yet we lose the golden opportunity; we put it off for five years! and instead of adopting an efficient course to act upon masses of banks, and upon every variety of their circulation under twenty dollars, we take an impotent, inefficient course, and to act upon units, and upon the notes which they issue only, and by way of bargain, which either party may terminate when it pleases, a bargain which must be fatal to our Treasury is the banks accept it! -

Mr. B. having gone over these objections to the committee's bill, would now ascend to a class of objections of a higher and graver character. He had already remarked that the committee had carried out a resolution, and had brought back a bill; that the committee proposed a statutory enactment, where the Senator from Ohio, [Mr. Ewing,) and the Senator from Virginia, [Mr. Rives, l had only proposed a joint resolution; and he had already further remarked, that in addition to this total change in the mode of action, the committee had added what neither of these Senators had proposed, a clause, under a proviso, to enact paper money. into cash--to pass paper money to the credit of the United States, as cash--and to punish, by the loss of the deposites, any deposite bank which should refuse so to receive, so to credit, and so to pass, the notes “receivable” under the provisions of their bill. These two changes make entirely a new measure--one of wholly a different character from the resolutions of the two Senators—a measure which openly and in terms, and under penalties, undertakes to make local State paper a legal tender to the Federal Government, and to compel the reception of all its revenues in the notes “receivable” under the provisions of the committee's bill. After this gigantic step--this colossal movement--in favor of paper money, there was but one

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

SENATE.]

step more for the committee to take, and that was to make these notes a legal tender in all payments from the Federal Government. But that step was unnecessary to be taken in words, for it is taken in fact, when the other great step becomes law. For it is incontestable that what the Government receives, it must pay out; and what it pays out becomes the currency of the country. So that when this bill passes, the paper money of the local banks will be a tender by law to the Federal Government, and a tender by duresse from the Government to its creditors and the people. This is the state to which the committee's bill will bring us! and now, let us pause and contemplate, for a moment, the position we occupy, and the vast ocean of paper on which we are proposed to to be embarked. We stand upon a constitution which recognises nothing but gold and silver for money; we stand upon a legislation of near fifty years, which recognises nothing but gold and silver for money. Now, for the first time, we have a statutory enactment proposed to recognise the paper of a wilderness of local banks for money, and in so doing to repeal all prior legislation by law, and the constitution by fact. This is an era in our legislation. It is statute law to control all other law, and is not a resolution to aid other laws, and to express the opinions of Congress. On this point he must be permitted to refer to what he had said in a former part of this debate, when he dwelt upon the disference between an act of Congress and a resolution of Congress, and congratulated himself that no act of the national Legislature had ever attacked the great fundamental acts for the collection of the revenues in the gold and silver money of the constitution. This is what he then said: “The exclusion of paper money was as carefully enforced by the constitution as the adoption of gold and silver was sedulously guarded. The words of the constitution and the history of the times, and especially the 44th No. of the Federalist, written by Mr. Madison, all prove this. The early legislation of Congress conformed to the words and spirit of the constitution, and adopted the plainest and strongest language to guard the currency which it had adopted. The two acts fundamental sor the collection of the two great branches of the reveuue--lands and customs: that of 1789 for the latter, and 1800 for the former—were express that gold and

silver coin only should be received for the customs, and

specie and evidences of the public debt only, for the public lands. These two great acts, being faithful interpreters of the constitution, have never been openly attacked in either IIouse of Congress. In all the changes which subsequent legislation has made in the laws, of which the hard-money enactments are part, these clauses have been retained in the same, or equivalent, ex. pressions; so that a hard-money currency still remains the constitutional and the statutory currency of the Federal Government. Temporary enactments in favor of Treasury notes, and United States Bank notes, have ceased; and the joint resolution of 1816 neither does nor can repeal a law. Resolutions, whether joint or several, are not the mode of national legislation. They are only declaratory of facts or principles, or expressive of the opinions and purposes of the House or Houses from which they emanate. The joint resolution differs from the single in nothing but in being the declaration, the opin!on, or the purpose, of both Houses, instead of one. This being the case, and the two fundamental enactments of 1789 and 1800 being still in force, as retained in subse. quent alterations of the laws to which they belong, the ‘!"eo.” how comes it that they have been treated as dead letter, on the statute book, and paper money received in place of the hard money which they imperatively. “losed’. The answer to this question.”’. This is what was said four or five weeks *go, said Mr.

[blocks in formation]

B.; and strong as he felt in the correctness of what he then said, he would yet now reinforce it with authority— authority drawn from different sources—but both entitled to deference in this debate. The first was from Mr. Jefferson's Manual, and to show the nature of a resolution, and wherein it differed from a statute. Mr. Jefferson says, of the two Houses of Congress: “Facts, principles, their own opinions and purposes, are expressed in the form of resolutions.” Here, them, is the of. fice and nature of a resolution: it is to declare a fact, or a principle, or to express an opinion or purpose of the House or Houses. In these senses innumerable resolutions have been passed by Congress, and in the third of these senses, that of expressing an opinion, the joint resolution for the better collection of the revenues was passed in 1816. It was a resolution in aid of the constitution and the hard-money statutes, and not in derogation, or repeal, of them. On the next point, that no open attack had ever been made, in the legislation of Congress, on the hard-money statutes, he would quote the Senator from Massachusetts, [Mr. Websten,) whose speeches on this subject he had often read with satisfaction and profit. He quoted from a speech of 1816, on the bill to charter the late Bank of the United States: “No nation had a better currency than the United States. There was no nation which had guarded its currency with more care; for the framers of the constitution, and those who enacted the early statutes on this subject, were hard-money men; they had felt, and therefore duly appreciated, the evils of a paper medium; they therefore sedulously guarded the currency of the United States from debasement. The legal currency of the United States was gold and silver coin; this was a subject in regard to which Congress had run into no folly.” This (said Mr. B.) settles the question up to 1816. It shows that up to that time Congress had run into no folly on this subject; it had passed no act to impair the constitutional currency—done nothing to derogate from the early hard-money statutes, and the hard-money clauses of the constitution. All was safe on the statute book up to 1816; and the joint resolution of that year, as he had often said, was in aid, and not in derogation, of these early statutes. The legislation since 1816 is within our own knowledge. Leaving out temporary enactments in favor of scrip, Treasury notes, &c., and the term used is always the same, or the equivalent, of what is sound in the constitution. The act of 1820, for reducing the price of the public lands, directs them to be sold for “cash.” The word “cash” is there used as ready money, and that the hard money of the constitution. The framers of that act were also hard-money men, for they had just got a tremendous lesson from the paper system. They had just gone through the paper agonies of the late war. Hard money, then, by our constitution, and by all our statute laws, is still on the statute book the only legal currency of the Federal Government; and now, for the first time in near fifty years, is a statute proposed to repeal all these hard-money statutes, and to make the paper of a myriad of banks, known and unknown, born and to be born, the legal currency of the Federal Government. And, at what a time is this proposition made? At the time when the country contains more specie than it ever saw before; when banks of the highest character are sor checking paper money; and while that President is still alive, and in power, who has made it the pride and glory of his administration to revive and extend the gold and sil. ver currency. Mr. B. said, the effects of this statute would be, to make a paper government—to insure the exportation of our specie—to leave the State banks without foundations to rest upon—to produce a certain catastrophe in the whole paper system—to revive the pretensions of

« AnteriorContinuar »