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Perhaps two or three members of the legislature have purchased a track of worthless land at their own price; they say it cost us but a few cents an acre, but, if we could get the State to make a canal, or a rail-road through it, we shall, in the excitement occasioned by such a measure, perhaps, make one or two hundred dollars an acre of it. These " legislatures” meet from all parts of the State, and they have their various schemes; some want a charter for a bank, others for the sole right of navigating a river, others for a rail-road; in short, their modes of robbing are by far more numerous, as well as more irigenious, than are those of the common thieves that infest London or Paris. They then, in their private capacity, make known their projects to each other, and the bargain is made. “I will help you roll your log through the forms of legislation if you will help me roll mine;" and in this manner is the whole session consumed. Then there are the lobbymembers, a race very little if any inferior to the real members. Your friend M'Ilwain, at that time the recorder of the city and county of Philadelphia, you know, Sir, was a lobby member, in the case of obtaining a charter for the bank. It is the business of a lobby member to bribe the real members, in any way that seemeth to them best. The following account of one of these members I take from a New York paper of last year.
A case is reported in the Journal of Commerce, tried before - Judge Ulchoeffer, New York, which was brought by the plaintiff to recover of the defendant compensation for work and labour done: amount claimed, 2000 dollars. The services rendered, and for which pay was claimed, were for "lobbying," as it is usually called, or endeavouring to procure the passage of the Bergen Port Company bill, by the legislature of New Jersey, in 1837. The bill in question was passed, and the defendant became president of the company.
A witness stated that one of the means which the plaintiff used to facilitate the passage of the bill was by treating the members to champagne and suppers, and that he gave a supper on the 22d of February while the bill was pending. Another, J. C. Zabriskte, of New Brunswick, said the defendant tried to engage him to assist in getting the bill through, and told him he might dictate his own terms, and if he wanted means to operate at Trenton, any reasonable amount would be furnished him.
“What would be a reasonable amount to operate with at Trenton, in such a case ?-I should have required 500 dollars to operate with.
“ Cross examined.- When you say you would require 500 dollars to operate with in such a case, what do you mean by that?-I mean I should have applied it in paying for wine and terrapin suppers, as that is about as efficient a mode of operating as I know of.
“Do you mean, by that answer, 'wine and terrapin suppers for the members of the legislature ?-Yes, Sir.
“What was the general character of Mr. Hillyer's service ?-He operated among the members generally and particularly. Mr. Hillyer was esteemed one of the best Lobby members that ever appeared at Trenton for the last eight years. I do not know what Mr. Hillyer's particular mode of operation was in this case. I know the efficient mode of operation was the same in every case, by calling on the members and impressing on them favourably in regard to the measure before them ; sometimes making the worst appear the better reason, and giving the members EXPLANATORY SUPPERS. Such was Mr. Hillyer's general mode of operations.
“The court charged the jury, and, among other things, remarked that,
566 A legislator selected by the people to discharge a public trust ought to discharge it independently and honestly, but the legislator who votes from private influence acts dishonestly and corruptly. And every effort to obtain votes through private influence is adverse to public policy and legislative purity, and at variance with every sense of propriety.
"It is, therefore, scarcely necessary to observe, that to procure votes by means of suppers, or harassing legislators by making application to them, is dishonest in the extreme, and that no person can recover compensation for it.'
“The jury retired for nearly four hours, and brought in a verdict for the defendant.”
So much for lobbying, log-rolling, and dividing the spoil of the people. “And what has all this to do with the foreigners," you will shrewdly remark, “who have the State for their security ?” Sir, do you seriously think that any State in the world can, without becoming bankrupt, endure proceedings like these ? You know that Pennsylvania has been on the very brink of bankruptcy half a dozen times within these few years, and has only been saved for a short time from that calamity by subterfuges such as no other nation in the world would ever think of resorting to. We are told by the biographer of the banker Girard, that Girard saved the State several times from bankruptcy by the timely loan of a few bank-notes, when nobody else on earth could be found to trust it with a cent. And Biddle is continually boasting of having " saved the State.” The shattered fragments of the old United States? Bank having been got together, and chartered as a State bank, under the imposing name of “The Bank of the United States," did wonders, he says, for the State, and, to use his own words, “probably, saved that city (Philadelphia) and the whole State, from general bankruptcy, which would have followed the winding up of its affairs."
That bank was then bankrupt itself; he knew it at the time he was speaking ; the very next year closed its doors, as far as regarded paying its notes and its debts, and it bid defiance to the whole of its creditors! On such a paltry and rotten thread did hang this "great republican nation!”
Your banks have since attempted a sort of resumption of payment, after first blinding the ignorant by every falsity that a suborned and subservient press could circulate, and by threatening to ruin all those that are within your power, if they dare show the remotest desire to possess a single dollar in specie. But all this will not do. If they have not, while I am now writing, again“ suspended,” it will be but a very short time before they do so. And Biddle, it seems, is of my opinion, for he recommended that they should keep in the trenches, trust to “ the cotton
pay nobody. Ah! well, when the worst comes to the worst, you can “ virtually repeal the laws," and do as you did before. You had the gracious compliments of the late Whig Governor, Ritner, in his message, for that act, and doubtless you will receive the same from the present Democratic Governor, who is one of the right stamp; for report says, and the committee that your party appointed to investigate as to the truth of that report say, that he is a fraudulent, as well as an insolvent debtor; both of which have been sworn to before magistrates, and by witnesses of respectability, as I have elsewhere shown. He, therefore, may be reasonably expected to favour birds of the same feather.
I now come to your remarks on the late Stephen Girard's bank, and I cannot but think it very surprising to see a man of your reputation so alarmed at substantial things. You ask the Convention to "permit you to state a fact, strongly illustrative of the inestimable value of confidence and credit,” and you state the fact as follows:~" At the first meeting of the trustees of the late Stephen Girard's bank, of which I was one, and which meeting was held immediately after his decease, we found, to our amazement, that the whole amount of specie in his bank was 15,673 dollars and 80 cents, one half of which sum was in uncurrent coin. I mention this to show how much may be accomplished where, as in the case of Stephen Girard, confidence and credit were neither suspected nor impaired.”-Yes, Sir, much has been accomplished by that miserable old man, who, from nothing, in a few years amassed ten millions of dollars ! A greater robber never infested the earth than Stephen Girard, if what his biographer says of him be true, or, indeed, if what common report says of him be true; both of which are corroborated by the fact of his having left all this money, which such a creature as he never could have got together by any fair means. It was right, was it, for that vile usurer to cause it to be believed that he had gold and silver in his bank to represent and to pay, if required, the hundreds of thou
sands of dollars of promises that he had lent upon interest, and that enabled him, towards his last, to steal from the industrious, perhaps half a million of dollars annually of their earnings? It was right, was it, that the democratic-republican government should allow him to do so, while there was a place for solitary confinement at hard labour, subject to the discipline of a tyrant (which, harely to think of, fills one's soul with horror), and while such a place was gaping to receive a poor, plundered, and friendless man for a mere trifling offence ? All this, Sir, in your estimation, is right; and you (but I trust without having considered what it is that you do) hold up the proceedings of this Girard as an illustrious example for your children to imitate. I think otherwise; and I have written, and do intend to publish, a letter on this subject, addressed to my children, which, if you are not better employed, I wish you to read, and to see that your children read it, for it will give them a chance to judge how far the life of Girard was consistent with the doctrines of Fox, Penn, and Barclay.
I will now, Sir, conclude with refreshing your memory as to what was said in the State Convention, May 23rd, 1837, by the committee on currency, corporations, “ eminent domain,” &c. There were nine on that committee, and the majority, consisting of five, reported as follows:
“ That they have had these subjects under consideration, and that, in the opinion of the committee, it is unnecessary and inexpedient to make any alteration, addition, or amendment to the constitution therein, other than those embraced in the report heretofore submitted by the chairman, and ask to be discharged," &c.
The minority, consisting of four, made a long report, from which I take the following extracts :
“Preposterous luxury, insolvency, and crime, are the certain followers of the bank mania---a system of stupendous gambling supersedes and derides regular occupation. Plethora brings on want, unnatural plenty, unnatural scarcity, prices so high that the working classes were pinched for food, then all at once so low that nothing but a bad currency, speculation, and monopoly can account for such vicissitudes; the most devouring usury, controversy, and litigation, panic, clamour, convulsion, and at last the unlawful refusal of the banks, in a time of profound peace, to redeem their notes in good money--these have been the rapid events of the last few months : with eighty millions of gold and silver, and abun, dauce of everything needful for prosperity and content, large portions of our people are in a revolutionary state of disquiet and excitement, are reduced to want and maddened with disappointed hope. Vicious speculation should be restrained by vigorous and independent legislation. Whereas, uuhappily and dishonourably, it is legislation that authorises speculation and gambling to supplant the precious metals by
paper, and has inflicted that degradation by which the country is now suffering the disasters of a currency not much better than that of the Revolution, against which all our early institutions so sedulously guarded.
“The whole theory and practice of American banks' are false and pernicious. Their first act being to lend trust-money, left with them to keep; their next misconduct is to issue mere promissory notes, instead of gold and silver money, which notes do not represent such money. Then they make loans of fictitious credit, by secret and arbitrary discounts, increased or decreased with no regard to public good. The holders of their unpayable notes calling on them for money, the banks oblige their debtors to pay what they have borrowed ; thus, without any system, at one time gorging the community with false plenty, at another straitening it with supposed want, (as six months ago there was actually no want of food, though prices indicated dearth, and at present, when in the midst of plenty of money, there is none,) distressing all with either too much or too little of the means of livelihood. Again, bank loans, such as they are, are not made to those who want; to the industrious mechanical classes, but to the speculating and extravagant; often by bank directors to themselves, with which to grind the needy, by usurious lending again, or to other unworthy favourites. The laborious and frugal are rarely assisted, but those who are stimulated to live beyond their income, and pursue a course of folly, luxury, and insolvency. Nine-tenths of them become insolvent, for there is not one prize to a thousand blanks in the bank lottery, and by their assignments almost always secure the bank, leaving other creditors, friends, and even their own families, to destitution and ruin. It is mainly through bank influence that courts of justice have been brought to sanction those unjust preferences which have now become part of the established law, although condemned by a whole class of our people as dishonest. Banking and other corporations have the best means to fortify themselves with the first professional talents, so that laws are both made and administered to their advantage; and, by a sort of priority in the payment of debts, equal to government prerogative, they take rank of all other creditors. The last has been a terrible year for this country, more so than any one that has preceded it since the independence of these United States; distressing at home, and disgraceful abroad. It will require many years of prosperous production to repair the banking ravages of the two last years at home, and a long tract of time to recover the American character lost abroad.
“ Should no check be put on the present facilities and habits of incorporating individuals. for lucrative purposes, that system of extensive and provident legislation, which guarded against the accumulation and perpetuity of property by primogeniture and entail, will be completely