Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

Immediately after which (June twentyninth, Friday,) Mr. Wright gave notice that he would the next day introduce a bill to modify the last clause of the fifth section of the Deposite Act of 1836.

vorce, than to mar it by any present case it would have had his cheerful supexpedients or compromises. Some ani- port;) but there remained the intermedimated debating ensued, the principal ate acts of the resolution of 1816, authorspeakers in favor of the bill, and against izing the reception of bank notes, and also the substitute, being Messrs. Webster, the repeal of the specie circular at the Clay of Kentucky, Rives, and Tallmadge. present session. That these authorizing After several amendments had been the use of and connection with banks, he unsuccessfully offered, the vote being ta- thought it wrong to cast upon the Execuken as between the bill and the substitute, tive the responsibility of determining the the latter was adopted by Yeas 26, Nays system to be adopted. If, in accordance 24. (See Table of Yeas and Nays, No. with the principles of his messages, he 26.) But on taking the question upon should take the responsibility of re-estathe passage of the Bill, thus amended, it blishing the Independent Constitutional was rejected by Yeas 21, Nays 29. (See Treasury contemplated by the law of Table of Yeas and Nays, No. 27.) 1789, he should have his cordial support and admiration; but he thought it wrong, and contrary to one of his fixed principles to impose such a responsibility. He feared that it was a question between a deposite bank system with law, and a deposite bank system without law; and therefore, however reluctant to differ so often from the friends with whom he had acted in relation to this great question of the Independent Treasury, he felt obliged to oppose the bill. It was however, passed by the vote of Yeas 27, Nays 22, (See Table of Yeas and Nays, No. 28,) and sent to the other House for concurrence. The action had upon it, and the amendments adopted in that body, will be related in its proper place. On the return of the Bill to the Senate, the amendments of the House were concurred in by Yeas 29, Nays 17. ( (See Table of Yeas and Nays, No. 29.)

2. Mr. Wright's Bill.

On the following day, accordingly, Mr. Wright introduced a bill to modify the last clause of the fifth section of the Deposite Act of 1836, which prohibits the reception, by the Government, of the notes of such banks as may have issued notes of less denomination than $5; which gave rise to some spirited debating, and to some nice parliamentary manœuvring.

Mr. Webster moved to amend the bill by adding to it the following clause as a second section:

"That it shall be lawful for the Secretary of the Treasury hereafter to select and employ as depositories of the public money, according to the provisions of said act, any bank which shall redeem its notes and bills on demand in specie, notwithstanding it may have, since the fourth of July, 1836, issued or paid out notes or bills of a less denomination than five dollars; provided, however, that this provision shall not extend to any bank which shall issue or pay out any note or bill of less denomination than five dollars, after the time mentioned in the last clause of the preceding section of this act."

THE BANKS AND CURRENCY OF THE DISTRICT
OF COLUMBIA.

1. Small Note Bill.

The earliest action had in the Senate bearing on the subject which most of all interested and engaged the public attention, was on a bill introduced on the 13th December, by Mr. Wright, from the Committee on Finance, to restrain the isWhich was advocated by Messrs. Clay, suing of small notes within the District of of Kentucky, Rives and Tallmadge, and Colembia. The bill was identical with opposed by Mr. Strange. This move- the one which had passed the Senate at ment Mr. Wright met by offering, as a the late Extra Session, but which had substitute for this amendment, a clause to not been acted upon by the House of repeal entirely the first twelve sections of Representatives. the Deposite Act of June twenty-third, 1836; which, after a warm debate, was adopted by Yeas 26, Nays 21. And the bill thus amended, was ordered to be engrossed. On coming up for its third reading (July second) the debate was renewed, Messrs. Webster, Preston, Smith, of Indiana, and Calhoun, opposing it. The opposition of Mr. Calhoun was upon this ground: that, by repealing the Deposite Act, we were not thrown directly and solely back upon the law of 1789, which established the Independent Treasury, to be administered through the constitutional currency of gold and silver (in which

It was not taken up for consideration till the 20th, when it was debated with much animation by Messrs. Wright, Benton, Niles, Hubbard, Grundy and Buchanan, in favor of, and by Messrs. Clay, of Kentucky, Tipton, Smith, of Indiana, and Preston in opposition to it.

It was argued by those in favor of the bill, that the District Banks were never authorized by their charters to issue notes of a less denomination than five dollars. It had, however, became common for them to issue notes from 25 to 64 cents, "shin plasters," occasioned by the suspension of specie payments by the banks. It was

carried to a greater extent here than any Finance reported a bill to revoke the where else. It was insisted that the Banks charters of such banks in the District of should be compelled to resume specie pay- Columbia as shall not resume specie-payment by the 1st of the coming May, or be ments by the 1st May, 1838. After varimade to suspend altogether; that there ous postponements, however, it was on was no reason why a resumption should the 7th of May, on motion of Mr. Wright, be longer deferred. A postponement was laid upon the table, on the ground that objected to, it being the object of the bill the charters of these banks would expire to coerce the Banks of the District to their within a very short time, and that the subduty, to stimulate public opinion, and to ject would come up on the question of set an example. their renewal.

3d. Bill for the Recharter of the Banks.

It was held that there was no necessity for these spurious issues-that the Senate received alone more hard money for com- The charters of all the banks in the pensation, than the District required for District expiring on the 4th of July, Mr. change-that the Senate and House re- Roane, the Chairman of the Committee ceived two-thirds of their pay in specie on the District of Columbia, reported a and one-third in Treasury notes-that bill as early as the 14th of March for their the expenditures of Congress were $3,000 renewal, which was conditional on their per day, which caused $2,000 per day in resumption simultaneously with the banks hard coin to be circulated in the District; of Baltimore and Richmond. The rebut that this specie was bought up by newal was for twenty years, with capiagents for exportation, while the District tals not to exceed $500,000 each, and on was flooded with their miserable rags. terms of which the details need not be The prohibition of this pestiferous cir- stated here, but can be learned on referculation would be eminently beneficial to ence to the bill. Col. Benton opposed the poorer classes of citizens of the Dis- strenuously the renewal of the charters of trict, while it would enable the Banks of these banks. The bill, which was not the District to resume specie payments taken up till May 10th, (Thursday,) met the sooner. Congress should act at once with a strenuous opposition from the outin this matter, on account of the moral effect it would have in setting a good example to the States. There was no disposition to oppress the banks of the District, but they in common with others had forfeited all claim to public favor.

On the other hand, it was considered inexpedient to force the District banks to resume at a period of such uncertainty. It was idle for the District banks to attempt such a resumption when those so intimately connected with them did not do so; that the whole matter should be postponed until early in January, when ther might be a similar movement on the part of the banks of Richmond and Baltimore. If the small bills were suppressed, it was said that there would be no small change for the thousand daily conveniences of life, to supply the vacuum.

An ineffectual attempt was made by Mr. Clay, of Kentucky, to postpone the bill until the second week in January, which was defeated by the vote of Yeas 14, Nays 27, (see Table of Yeas and Nays, No. 30) The bill was amended in some of its details, the summary application of its penalties, and the requisition of an oath of self-crimination, being modified. The time at which it was to be operative was fixed on the " 10th April next;" and the bill was finally passed, after having been made the opportunity for a great deal of miscellaneous party attack and defence, by the vote of 37 to one (Mr. Swift.)

2d. Bill for revoking the Bank Charters. On December 19th, the Committee on

set; it being maintained that Congress ought not, by such a recharter, give a virtual sanction to the illegal state of suspension, in which they were at the very time of their application for a long renewal of their legal existence. The debates, which arose out of the bill and the several amendments introduced, being rather of a miscellaneous character, deemed unnecessary to give here a particular account of them. The principal subject of interest, in relation to the bill, consists in the different amendments proposed, with the action of the Senate thereon.

[ocr errors]

Mr. Benton moved a substitute for the bill, extending the charters of the several banks for two years on the following conditions:

First. To cease receiving or paying out all paper currency of less denomination than five dollars, on or before the day of the promulgation of this act.

Second. To cease paying out the notes of non-specie-paying banks, bankers or corporations, on or before the fourth day of July in the present year.

Third. To redeem all their notes of the denomination of five dollars in gold or silver, from and after the fourth day of July, in the present year.

Fourth. To resume specie payments in full, on or before the first Monday in December, of the present year.

These conditions he afterwards modified, in the dates to which they referred, as follows:

1. That they should cease receiving or

paying out all paper for currency of a less denomination than five dollars, on or before the promulgation of this act.

2. That they should cease paying out the notes of other banks from and after the 1st of October next.

3. That they should redeem in specie all their notes of five dollars and under, from and after the 1st of August next.

4. That they should redeem all their notes in full, in specie, from and after the 1st of January, 1839, or sooner, if the principal banks of Richmond and Baltimore should sooner resume.

Another amendment was a substitute offered by Mr. Hubbard, extending their present charters, during the pleasure of Congress, provided that they should resume specie payments for their circulation and other liabilities, on or before the first day of January next, or simultaneously with the banks of the cities of Baltimore and Richmond, should those banks resume at an earlier day.

This principle of indefinite recharter was so strongly opposed by Mr. Hubbard's friends, and by both the friends and the enemies of the bill, that towards the close of the debates on the subject he withdrew it. It was regarded as equivalent to a perpetual recharter, and as opening a very improper and dangerous relation between members of Congress and

the banks.

Mr. Buchanan moved two amendments

ties to all the bill holders and depositors; and in case of inability of said corporation, or expiration of its charter, or in case its charter shall be annulled, the said president and directors shall be liable in their individual capacities to each and every creditor of said corporation." The amendment was, however, lost without a division.

Mr. Allen opposed himself strenuously to the renewal of the charters, without a very rigid inquiry into the business and conduct of the banks. For that purpose he introduced the following resolution:

Resolved, That the Committee for the District of Columbia procure and report to the Senate statements of the condition of the several banks in the District of Columbia that have applied for an extension of their charters, in regard to the following particulars:

1. The names of the officers and directors of the banks, the amount of stock owned by each, and the debts due from each to the banks respectively, discriminating between the executive, legislative, and judicial officers of the Government among them, and also between residents and non-residents.

2. The stockholders of the banks re

spectively, the amount of stock owned by each, and of debts due from each, discriminating as above.

3. The debtors to the banks respectively, and the amount due from each, discriminating as above.

4. The number of suits that the banks

respectively have instituted against their debtors since the suspension of specie payments, and the amount due from each, discriminating as above.

-the first, to restrict the capitals to $335,000, instead of allowing them to be increased to $500,000, as proposed by the bill, which amendment prevailed, by yeas 29, nays 12, (see Table of Yeas and Nays, No. 31.); and the other, to insert, in the section which required them to keep on hand an amount of specie equal to oneThis resolution was opposed, as unfourth of their circulation, the words " and justly harsh and severe-as contrary to private deposites," so as to require specie the views and wishes of the people of the to the amount of one-fourth of their aggre- District-as calculated to cause a delay, gate circulation and private deposites, and at the same time an excitement, inju(excluding special deposites.) rious to the public and to all the interests This amendment was advocated by involved-and as an improper inquisition Messrs. Buchanan, Clay of Alabama, Benton, Hubbard and Niles, and opposed by Messrs. Rives, Crittenden and Davis. It was not successful, being rejected by the vote of yeas 19, nays 22, (see Table of Yeas and Nays, No. 32.)

Mr. Hubbard then moved to amend the same section by substituting one-third instead of one-fourth, as the proportion of specie to circulation to be kept on hand; which prevailed by yeas 32, nays 10, (see Table of Yeas and Ñays, No. 33.)

Mr. Niles moved a further amendment, by striking out in the same section, all after the word "circulation,” and inserting "and should the amount in any one quarter fall short of that proportion, the president and directors for the time being shall be responsible in their individual capaci

into private affairs; and it was laid on the table by the vote of yeas 31, nays 10, (see Table of Yeas and Nays, No. 34.)

The question was finally taken on Mr. Benton's substitute, as given above, on Monday, May 21st-the bill having been about a week under discussion, though more than once interrupted by the intervention of other business. The substitute was adopted (the second clause of the proviso, relating to the notes of other banks, having been striken out on the motion of Mr. Buchanan) by the vote of yeas 24, nays 16 (see Table of Yeas and Nays, No. 35)—the original bill of the committee being thus rejected; and the bill thus amended was passed and sent to the other House, by which it was concurred in.

THE ANTI-DUELLING BILL.~

had operated favorably against duels, and This Bill, which was introduced by that a similar enactment in the District of Mr. Prentiss, of Vermont, on the second Columbia would produce a similar effect. of March, grew out of the excitement to That the sentiments of the people in the which the death of Mr. Cilley, of the District were in unison with the tenor of House of Representatives, gave rise. Its the bill, judging from their actions during object was to prevent and punish, not only the past melancholy month. It was furduelling within the limits of the District ther contended that this bill secured the of Columbia, but also any evasion of its independence of Congress, without which provisions by going beyond the limits of the confidence of the nation could not the District to fight a duel, or send a chal- much longer be preserved; that the late lenge, on a quarrel originating within lamented death of Mr. Cilley gave birth them. The Judiciary Committe to which to the bill, and that the public feeling of it was referred reported it back to the Senate on the sixth, with several amendments, the most important of which was, the substitution of imprisonment in the penitentiary for a term of from ten to twenty years, for the original penalty of

death.

The Bill (which was taken up on the thirtieth of March, and engaged the attention of the Senate, for the most part, till the sixth of April) was supported principally by Messrs. Prentiss, Smith, of Connecticut, Grundy, Niles, Smith, of Indiana, Hubbard, Clayton and Clay, of Kentucky, and was opposed in whole or in part by Messrs. Preston, Sevier and Linn, but at the final vote Mr. Sevier was the only one whose vote stood recorded against it.

the country would not be satisfied without the passage of such an enactment. cited against the bill, proved nothing, for That the examples of other countries, in England-which had been quoted as a country where the laws against duelling had produced no good effect-there were many other crimes among the higher orders, which were equally atrocious and equally prevalent; but the existence of crimes was no argument against the laws of the country which forbade them, although it spoke but little in favor of the manner in which those laws were executed. It was held that to punish the duellist who should leave the District for the purpose of challenging was right and proper, and had no tendency to interfere with the jurisdiction of any State. It was argued by the supporters of the The crime consisted in leaving the District Bill, that the practice of duelling was con- for the purpose of challenging and fighting demned by all laws, human and divine, an individual elsewhere. To fight a duel that it was regarded as a crime by every being morally wrong, to leave the District government in Christendom, was subver- for the purpose of fighting was morally sive of the great principles of the Christian religion, and ought not to be tolerated by any civilized people. It was stated that as much was to be expected from the moral power of this law, if it passed, as from its penal enactments, and that no man of honor could fight a duel after the passage of such an act; that the people demanded and expected some prohibition of this odious and sinful practice.

wrong also, and might be made equally wrong by prohibition of statute, and, especially when in concert between more individuals than one, constituted a conspiracy, of which the District was the

scene.

It was averred, that if Congress did its duty, the law would not be violated with impunity; that the privileges touching the freedom of debate, secured to that body by the Constitution, were for the wisest It was contended that all enactments against crime had grown out of some acted; and that no man, directly or indiand should sacredly be observpurposes, of villany, and that no distinction could be drawn between a murder in a duel and rectly, should become the instrument of their violation. a murder out of it, the effects being the same in either case; and that a punishment of the severest dye should be meted out to the criminal.

measures best calculated to suppress duelIn conclusion it was argued, that the ling were, of course, the most proper; that the seconds and surgeons might be It was further contended that the peo- exempted from punishment, upon their ple who sent their Representatives to Con- becoming witnesses in the case; that this gress would have to accompany them Bill left the Common Law in full force, with a body guard for their personal pro- neither interfering with its offence or puntection, unless there was some barrier'placed ishment; it punished all the preliminaries between them and the liability to the to a duel, and left the remainder to the formal murder of the duel for words Common Law. spoken in debate.

It was further proposed to render per

It was argued that duelling had no ad- sons offending under the act incapable vocates in the abstract, and if any diffi- ever after of holding any office or apculty should arise in carrying this law pointment under the authority of the Uniinto effect it would be in obtaining proof ted States. But this was rejected. to convict. That the State enactments

[TO BE CONTINUED

« AnteriorContinuar »