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Captain Marryat makes many shrewd and very pointed remarks relative to the United States, but his work, as a whole, is as much a romance as any of those numerous amusing books of his which are avowedly so.
I will now return to American banking, and exhibit to you some of the consequences that flow from sources like the making of banks, as they wind their way through the republic. I have before me a Philadelphia newspaper, “The Democratic Herald,” edited by a cashier of a bank, to whom great credit is given for his knowledge in the affairs of banking. In this paper, dated Oct. 26, 1836, he states, that the paper currency of the United States, at that time, was eight hundred million dollars! That the specie capital was sixty million dollars, leaving a deficency of specie of seven hundred and forty million dollars !
This is the highest statement that I have seen, for there is no correct statement to be got; and when the statesmen, in their speeches, or in their public documents, speak on this subject, there are no two that make the amount anything like the same. They frequently confess, which you will see in the Appendix, that there is no possibility of knowing what is the amount; and their situation appears to me to be similar to that of France, in the days of assignats and the reign of terror. Since the above statement, there has been added to the circulation millions upon millions of trash, called thin plästers, that are worse, if possible, than those notes that we before had to complain of; and, when we consider this, I think we need not hesitate to take eight hundred millions as the amount of paper money, or what they call money, afloat in the United States. You will observe that the interest of this seven hundred and forty millions of nothing-for in this paper there is no value, any more than there would be if issued by the beggars in the street, except what it gains from the credulity of the people--is forty-four millions four hundred thousand dollars !!
We must not, however, suppose that this is all; that villains like them can be kept to lawful interest: they are not satisfied with their grant; they are above the law and do just as they please: the question with them is, how much can be wrung out of the industry of the country ?—they therefore have gone from six, to ten, twenty, thirty, and, to my own knowledge, forty per cent. per annum usury! So that the true amount paid to these tyrants at that time, if we were to take it for granted that they let all their trash out to good customers, at the latter rate, would be two hundred and sixty millions four hundred thousand dollars per year. A tax of upwards of twenty dollars each, for every man, woman, and child in the union to pay, besides the expenses of the government, which is another matter. I know that you will think that I must be wrong
about the exorbitant interest, but I assure you, Sir, that everybody knows it is quite common for what is termed the best paper to be done at forty
or fifcy per cent. per annum. And in a newspaper that now. lies before me, called “The Pennsylvanian,” there is the following case of usury in 1837:
“ KEEN SHAVING.-In a trial recently had in New York, it came out in evidence, according to the New York Times,' that one Temple Fay, a broker, in Wall-street, advanced a mechanic, in his business of stonecutter, seven thousand dollars in seventeen months, and that his charges for guarantee and commission amounted to six thousand six hundred and ninety-four dollars and forty-nine cents !”
But we must not stop even here; we must bear in mind that those who borrow these notes, or at least those who borrow for the purpose of speculation and monopoly, are full as greedy as the lenders, and they again tax the people quite as unmercifully; part we know of their gains goes to make up the ankers' tax, but still more remains in their hands. For instance, we who have lived in America know that, if it had not been for these two taxes, we should not have had to pay, in the year 1837, more than five dollars per barrel for flour, instead of which we had to pay twelve dollars! The flour was soon in the hands of the speculators, and was laid in hy them at low and fair prices : their profits, on an average, could not have been less than seven dollars the barrel : we will suppose that they borrowed the money for one year, to carry this villany into effect; they would then, for every barrel (say that it cost five dollars), have to give to the bankers and shavers, or brokers, for their share of the booty, one hundred and eighty, and five hundred and twenty would remain for themselves.
If we further suppose that the whole of the seven hundred and forty millions of paper-dollars were at work in this way, then we approach to an amount of bank-taxation that cannot be credited ; as it would make, in the whole, one thousand eight hundred millions of dollars for that year: and which, be it more or less, is as direct a tax as if it had been levied at once by the house of representatives, where the swindlers have the honour to form such a respectable majority.
This tax the second, then, has increased individual taxation to about one hundred and thirty-five dollars, each. But, that we may not be accused of exaggeration, we will take the half of that sum (sixty-seven dollars and fifty cents), which please to add to the government-tax, city-tax, townships', county, and other taxes, and then tell me which has the best of it, the republicans, or the grievously-taxed people of England.
“ Each person in England,” says one of these statistic accountmakers, pays, or somebody pays for him, fourteen dollars and fortyfour cents annually for the support of the government; in the United States, but one dollar and fifty cents !”
The following are the prices of provisions at the time I am speaking of (1837), which I take from a New York paper :
" TERRIBLE PRICES.—The price of a moderate pair of ducks, yesterday, was 2 dollars 50 cents; a little pair of chickens, 1 dollar 50 cents.; beef, 12 to 16 cents per lb. ; veal, 14 cents; eggs, 6 cents each; apples, 1 dollar 30 cents per bushel."-Journal of Com.
“ LIFE IN NEW YORK. It is easier to write about living in this city than to find the means of living. Rents have universally gone up from 20 to 30 per cent. ; flour is at 15 dollars per barrel. The prices in market this day were as follows:-Beef, 121 to 15 cents; mutton, 17 to 19 cents ; veal, 18 cents; turkeys, 25 cents per lb. (equal to from 2 to 3 dollars a-piece); a goose, 2 dollars ; a pair of chickens, 2 dollars."
Eighteen years ago that country had just passed through an ordeal similar to the one it is now struggling to pass through. The property had, nearly all of it, changed hands, and the prices were then as follows:
“ The following is extracted from Niles' Register, and was taken from a Cincinnati Price Current of December 21, 1821. “Pork is now selling at 14 cent per lb.; flour, 27 dollars per
barrel; fine beef, hind quarters, 2 cents; veal, 2 cents; eggs, 8 cents per dozen ; butter, 10 cents per lb.; partridges, 25 cents per dozen; turkeys, very fine, 25 cents each ; lard, 3.1 ; hams, 5 cents per lb.; vegetables equally cheap. Society excellent.'”
It was in the year 1824, in those happy times, that I arrived in Philadelphia, where I soon found that the city was under the control of ten establishments of bank-note usurers (which have now increased to nearly double); and, until I found out the cause, I was much surprised that, under them, things should appear so prosperous. But you see, Sir, they and their customers had been regenerated, were fresh and full of vigour, and did, indeed, for a time, work admirably; but, in the fourth
caucus," which resulted in their once more trying how the people would bear a little extra pressing. Accordingly, with great rapidity, they found it
expedient” to curtail their then reasonable discounts, by which means they had things at the lowest possible price. They then set their speculators to work, and they, quietly, bought up everything they could lay their hands on. This done, they put out accounts of scarcity, and, what was still better, some“ very respectable character” had just returned from Europe, where he had learnt, from high authority, that the probabilities of war there were very great, in the event of which it would be impossible to tell how high the prices of provisions would go. The bankers, then, became more “liberal ;" indeed, they lent their notes
in great profusion to the“ business-men," alias “enterprising men,” who were soon seen, helter-skelter, in every direction, purchasing all kinds of goods of the bankers' speculators, at their high prices. Flour, in a few days, rose from four to eight dollars the barrel ; and, before the harvest of the same year, it was down again to its original price. By this juggle, quick as it was done, the people were tricked out of millions of dollars. One cashier of a bank, who carries his head as high as any man in the city of Philadelphia, took the liberty of making use of a little of the paper of his bank, without the knowledge or leave of the rest concerned; for which he underwent an examination, when, in the course of the evidence, it came out that he had been speculating, and that he had made a thousand dollars per day for ninety successive days!
As to the high prices, of late, being occasioned by over-issue of papermoney, that is too clearly established for any honest man to attempt to deny. The bankers, however, used every endeavour to make the people believe that there was a scarcity, although they knew that in the city of Philadelphia alone, in the winter of 1837, there were thirty thousand barrels of flour spoiled by keeping, and tons of hams and cheese that were entirely wasted. Such proceedings are, indeed, the way to make a scarcity, and will eventually bring about a famine in the country, if it be continued, and if the people are for the most part to be employed in all sorts of roguish and foolish things, instead of tilling their lands; but at that time there was no scarcity, as acknowledged by the Governor of the State, who was a farmer himself. He said, and in his message, too, that “the season, on the whole, had been a plentiful and profitable one for the farmer.” And the President, the same year, in his message, makes use of these words :-" It is a source of the most heartfelt satisfaction to be able to congratulate you on the high state of prosperity which our beloved country has obtained ;” meaning, of course, that there was plenty to eat and to wear, for, without such things, a nation cannot be said to be prosperous. God blessed his people, and said, “ the seed shall be prosperous, the vine shall give her fruit, and the earth shall give her increase," and so on. It would be the height of nonsense to talk of prosperity in the absence of these things, therefore we have the testimony of the President of the Union, as well as that of the Governor of the State, to show that the intense sufferings were not owing to scarcity. And then we have the proceedings of a “great city and county meeting," whose committee reported that it had corresponded on the subject with more than forty members of the legislature, and with many members of congress; and, among many other senseless things, we have the following: 1
“ In conclusion, your committee conceive that the imposing evil we
have diligently sought for is not found in a scarcity of crops, or in the unjust demands of the labourer for the price of his hire, but fairly attributable to the issues and influence of an unparalleled number of monopolies granted at the last session of the legislature; they therefore submit the following resolutions :
“Resolved, That in the opinion of the citizens of Philadelphia, the present high prices of provisions and fuel ought, of common right, to be immediately reduced ; because it is now clearly shown, by a committee appointed to report thereon, that the grain-crop of the last year has been in a majority of the counties of the State equal to an average crop, and that the produce of the coal-mines has exceeded former years two hundred thousand tons; and that the scarcity, if any, has been produced by speculators, and they alone should pay the costs of such reduction.
Resolved, That the sub-committee of finance be authorised, and they are hereby requested, to prepare printed memorials to submit to the citizens of the State for their approval, recommending the passage of a law for the erection of one or more public granaries and coal-yards, to be owned by and kept by the State, with such regulations as shall at all times afford the farmer and the miner a fair cash-price for wood, coal, and grain ; and provide each citizen, who may demand it, a sufficient quantity for his own consumption at cost.”
The want and wretchedness is, they say, fairly attributable to monopolies granted at the last session of the legislature. This, in part, is
but only think of the idiotic meeting recommending, as a cure, public granaries and coal-yards! One of the crack-skulled orators had been informed of the happy condition of China, which he attributed to her public granaries; and he thought, if he thought of anything besides humbugging the gaping creatures by whom he was surrounded, that such a system might be established in his republic; forgetting, if he ever knew, that China is not cursed with "assignats," and that nothing good can ever take root where there exists that blasting mildew.
When we look at the proceedings at this meeting of “sovereigns,” wë are obliged to come to one of two conclusions, to wit—that they were fools or knaves; and either leaves us without hope that anything can be done to improve the political condition of their country. They railed bitterly against the bankers and speculators, and then, on the spot, chose sixty of them as a committee to beg for the poor, “then,” as they said, “dying for want.” Even the king of the bankers and speculators, Biddle, himself, who boasts of his power to crush them all at his pleasure, and, like the potter, to “make one vessel to honour and another to dishonour,"_even he was chosen one of this committee. Would he agree with those who appointed him, that the speculators, or the sixty, should