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siduous arts of the agitators, that they withstanding that there was much foul were burned and hanged in effigy in play and treachery practised against many parts of the country.
him, he was successful. His certifiAt the general election in November, cate, however, was refused him, and he 1824, the democracy was utterly de- was compelled to contend for his seat feated. Upon the causes that combin- before the House of Representatives, ed to produce this effect, it is unneces- where .a decision was made in his fasary here to pause. The candidate of vor. the opposition for the Executive chair Early in February, 1829, whilst Mr. received a majority of seventeen thou- Wright was employed in the discharge sand votes. General James Tallmage, of bis duties at Washington, he receivwho had belonged to, and been a leader ed from the Legislature of New York in, the republican ranks, went over to the appointment of Comptroller, whose the enemy. He was elected Lieute- services, with regard to the financial nant-Governor by a majority of thirty- affairs of that state, correspond prefour thousand.
cisely with those of the Secretary gi A large number of the seventeen re- the Treasury with regard to the finanmained in the Senate during the session cial concerns of the Union. This ofof 1825. The “victors” quarreled and fice is held for three years. Mr. fell into distraction. In this condition Wright served out his first term to the of affairs these seventeen exercised a entire satisfaction of the public, and controlling power over the acts of the was re-elected in 1832. In this year, Legislature. A vacancy was about to William L. Marcy, who was a Senaoccur in the Senate of the United tor in Congress from New York, was States. An individual who had be- chosen Governor, and was sworn into longed to the democratic party, but office on the first day of January, 1833. who had deserted and gone over to the Mr. Wright was elected to succeed federalists, was presented to the Senate, him, and forthwith took his seat. His a majority of whom declared that they first term expired on the third day of would not vote for this individual, nor March, 1837, but on the first Tuesday would they accept of his nomioation. of the preceding February, he was reThe House refused to designate any elected for the constitutional period of one else, and there was, precisely as six years. has been again recently witnessed, no Opportunity to display his eminent election. At the ensuing general elec- abilities was all that Mr. Wright retion in 1826, the republicans again car. quired to secure his rapid advancement ried the state, and one of their friends Within twelve years the “ village juswas chosen the Senator.
tice" had become one of the represenIt was at this election that Mr. tatives of the sovereignty of the - EmWright was nominated to represent pire State," containing nearly two milthe district in which he resided in the lions of people. In October, 1833, ocCongress of the United States. He curred the famous removal of the dehad acquired a high reputation for posites. The opposition, who held the ability and independence in the dis- majority in the Senate, determined to charge of his official duty. This was attack this bold measure there, and to the first occasion on which any one of pass a direct and disgraceful censure the seventeen had come before the peo- upon the executive. It is unnecessary ple since the memorable events already here to advert to the extensive prepardetailed had occurred. The contestations that were made to render this was bitter beyond all former example, premeditated assault fatal to the Admjo. yet Mr. Wright beat his competitor by istration, the history of that stormy and five hundred votes. In December, 1827, eventful period being doubtless still fresh he took his seat. This was the year in the memory of most of our readers. before the second contest between It was at this period that it became Jackson and Adams. The republican the duty of Mr. Wright, Mr. Forsyth party in New York had rallied, and and others, to repel the charges which espoused the cause of the former. At
were thus preferred with a united elothe election of 1828 Mr. Wright was quence and ferocity never surpassed in again a candidate for Congress in what the annals of parliamentary debate, was called a double district; and not- against the administration which they
supported, and to defend the course It will be asked if Mr. Wright is an which had been pursued towards the orator. In the common sense of the Bank. This was the first occasion on term, he is not. We have never which Mr. Wright had enjoyed an known him excited beyond his usual opportunity to act a distinguished part level of cool equanimity. He never in the deliberations of the Senate, since declaims, he never addresses the pashe had become a member of it. It is sions, nor attempts to charm the imaalmost superfluous to say that he even gination with the figures or embellishexceeded the expectations of his friends. ments of rhetoric. His voice is not
There is in all the movements of melodious, though after listening to it Mr. Wright an air of quietness and for a short time it becomes not unpleasresolution, of modesty and mildness, ing. His enunciation is slow, but diswhich is generally found in a public tinct and Auent. The same accurate speaker who feels an unshaken confi- logical precision characterises his landence in his intellectual strength and guage and his thoughts. He is the in the justice of his cause. When he most perfectly calm, methodical and rose, the opposition became profoundly logical speaker, that we have ever lisattentive, because they knew that he tened to. His opinions are habitually possessed the entire confidence of the marked by moderation-by a constant Executive, and therefore that whatever regard to the results of actual experirevelations he might make were to be ence, as well as the dictates of an enregarded as authentic and conclusive. larged reason—by a fixed determinaIt was evident, in a few moments after tion to be practical, at the same time he had risen, that he had prepared that he is giving scope to the broadest himself fully, and that he would be able general views. to present the truth with simplicity In the course of Mr. Wright's senawithout hesitation or the least affectation. torial career, the sessions of the 27th -Whilst his adversaries had spoken Congress afford evidence of the highest to the throng within and without the efforts of intellect, and of what may
be Senate, the young Senator spoke to effected against great odds, by a fearit, and through it to the whole nation. less adherence to principle. The des-It was curious to observe with what perute battle fought for its special pricoolness, energy and effect, combin- vileges by the moneyed power, under ed with the most unruffled courtesy, the United States Bank, aided by conthe orator dispelled, one after another, current events throughout the comthe delusions under which the oppo- mercial world, resulted in 1840 in great sition had been laboring; and when he national distress. The United States at last announced that the Executive Bank had failed utterly under diswas content to appeal from any sentence graceful circumstances, and dragged which they might pronounce, back to down with it nine sovereign states of the people from whoin he and they the Union, that became insolvent alike derived their respective powers, amidst a host of broken_banks and the effect was wholly irresistible. It bankrupt individuals. Trade was forewarned the federal members, and paralysed by the general loss of credit, truly too, that the tempestuous passions and prices of alls products of labor fell of the Senate chamber would soon be on the hands of the producers. The quelled by the solemn judgment of great struggle of the inanufacturers for their constituents. Mr. Wright passed protection, in 1828 and 1832, had rethrough this memorable contest as be- sulted in a compromise tariff which, came one of his rare gifts. Even bis under a descending scale, biennially opponents confessed with admiration reduced duties, and caused thein all to the skill and ingenuity of the speaker's approximate a general 20 per cent. logic, and placed him at once in the very duty in 1842. The general distress front rank of the friends of the Admin- growing out of financial causes, tempted istration, side by side with the best and the manufacturing interest, in 1840, to foremost; while many have been ac- renew their clamor for “ protection," customed to assign him the first place, or for the levy of duties for other puras the Administration " Jeader” in the poses than the only constituent one of Senate, for weight, soundness, discre- meeting the economical expenses of tion, and eloquence.
the government. All these elements 2
VOL. XIX-NO. CI.
combined to favor that cry of " change," the hollowness of the allegations and which was the watch-word of the hard- the gross inconsistencies of those, who, cider party, and which undertook to while making them, were needlessly remedy all evils, no matter from what contracting greater debts. The great source they might have originated. To movement of that extra session, was bankrupt individuals they promised a doubtless to gratify the foreign holders loan to expunge their debts.
This of American bonds, whose agents were was supposed to bring, at least, in attendance at Washington, by taking 150,000 votes to the hard-cider flag. out of the Treasury the proceeds of Some estimates were as high as 500,000; the public land sales, and making them an official statement, however, of the over to the states as a fuod for the disoperations under the bankrupt law, charge of those dishonored bonds.shows the applications for its relief to The tariff question was made part have been but 33,739. Their liabili and parcel of this scheme. Inasties, however, were $440,934,615, and much as that the increased expenditheir assets $43,697,307, a remarkable ture of the federal government was a instance of the abuse of credit. The pretext for those high taxes, which several States had issued $200,000,000 were coveted by manufacturers, as beof stock, and of these $100,000,000 neficial to their interests, so a diminuwere dishonored. To the holders of these tion of the legitimate revenues of the the hope of assumption was held out, government led to the same resultand distribution of the proceeds of the The defeat of that iniquity may mainpublic lands among the states was prom ly be attributed to the exertions of Mr. ised to discharge their claims. Thema- Wright. The terms of the compromise nufacturers were tempted by a higher ta- act stated, that after 1842: riff to supply an alleged deficit in the
“Such duties shall be laid for the purrevenues; to the cramped merchants,
pose of raising such revenue as may be and traders, a National Bank to supply
necessary to an economical administration them with large loans, was offered ; and of the government." high prices to producers, with enhanced wages to laborers, were guaranteed. When the bill, in August, 1841, was This combination of events and skillful brought forward for distributing the promises resulted in the revolution of land revenues,' Mr. Clay quoted this 1840, and the election of the remarka- passage with matchless effrontery, as a ble 27th Congress. When the new positive stipulation, that from that time government came into power in March, the land revenues should be abandoned, 1841, the needy speculators who help- and the customs alone depended upon ed to place them there were impatient for revenue. Mr. Wright quickly defor relief, and the new Congress was nounced this perversion of meaning, summoned for the first of June. A showing that the passage quoted was large majority, under the dictatorship merely an additional restriction. When of Mr. Clay, proceeded eagerly to the Mr. Člay boldly announced that the work. The Independent Treasury object of squandering the land revenues Law was repealed; a National Bank was to cause a necessity for high taxes, chartered, and vetoed by the hard-cider and as a means of protection, Mr. Congress and Executive. The same Wright exposed the nefarious tendency fate overtook the provisional tariff. The of the scheme with a degree of clearBankrupt Act was passed, August 12, ness and force seldom equalled. Not 1841, and repealed, March 3, 1843, by only did he denounce the unconstituthe same Congress, which also passed tionality of collecting money to give the Distribution Bill, and repcaled it away, not in support of government or after six months' operation. In all these the defence of the country, but showed changes and vacillations, the part sus- that it was an attempt to remove a tax tained by Mr. Wright was singularly from the shoulders of property-holders important. As chairman of the Com- and lay it upon the poor. The debts mittee of Finunce, under the former of the states were contracted to be paid, Administration, he most effectuully if paid at all, by direct taxes on the crushed the charges of extravagance taxable property of the states. By reand wasteful expenditure that had moving that liability from property, and been so freely made. He pointed out collecting money through taxes on con
sumable goods, to be paid over to the among speculators was matter that states, the men of wealth are released at could not be recalled, but the people the expense of the poor and the opera- always held the right, which they subtions of commerce. He said, with sequently exercised, of reducing the great force :
tariff. Among the iniquities of that 1 The states are to be brihed to wink at
extraordinary session, which Mr. taking money out of the Treasury, that Wright strongly combated, and subsethe people may be taxed to put it back quent events showed the sagacity of again into the Treasury, and then the his views, was the loan bill of April, states bribed over again, that the people 1842. The law authorized the govmay be taxed over again.”
ernment to sell a stock at any price in So apparent did this great injustice the market: an unheard-of innovation, become under his luminous exposition, ruinous to credit; and the spectacle that, powerful as was the dictatorship was soon after exhibited of the governof Mr. Clay, backed by a large nujor: ment sending an agent to hawk the ity, the bill could not pass without the stock all over Europe, at any price, following clause :
while it expected Treasury notes to
float at par at home. The result of " That if, at anv time, during the exist- this financiering was, that when trade ence of this act, there shall be an imposi- revived in the following year from the tion of duties on imports inconsistent with unnatural depression that then hung the provisions of the act of March 2d, over it, a surplus of $10,000,000 accu1833, and beyond a rate of duty fixed by mulated in the Treasury, which was that act, to wi:; 20 per cent. on the value of snch imports
, or any of them, then the loaned to the banks without interest, distribution provided for in this act shall while the government was at the same be suspended."
time paying interest on an equal
amount of debt. A tariff bill was passed at the same After the close of the 27th session session, imposing 20 per cent. duties on of Congress, Mr. Wright was called to goods before free, in order to enhance preside over the state of New York, the revenues. The general decay of and at the election of November, 1844, business, arising from financial causes, received the largest number of votes had diminished commerce and lessened ever cast in the state for one individual. revenues. The whole duties accrued At the first session of the Legislature for the fiscal year 1842, reached do after the election, the financial policy more than $16,510,217, a sum inade- of the state reached a crisis which quate to the wants of the government. eminently called for that unswerving In June, 1842, on the expiration of the integrity and soundness of judgment compromise act, a bill was passed ex for which the people had frequently tending temporarily the laws for col- relied on Silas Wright, and never in lecting the revenues, and was vetoed vain. His single-hearted confidence by the Executive. With infinite diffi- in the ultimate success of sound princiculty a general tarifi bill was then pas- ples when submitted to the people for sed; not, however, without embracing judgment, was well expressed, when a clause making inoperative the above on the occasion of his vote in the Senprovision of the distribution act; that ate against the provisional tariff, embrais, the law levying high taxes to supply cing the distribution clause, Mr. Clay a deficit revenue, contained in itselt a taunted him with the displeasure of his clause to make that deficit greater. This constituents for voting against supplies was vetoed. The session was approach- to the government, he replied: ing its close, and amid the intense excitement there was great danger that “ As to the honorable Senator's commenno revenue law would be passed. At tary upon the vote he was about to give length the tariff bill of 1842 was pre. against this tax bill, he had but a single sented and passed, Mr. Wright de- remark to make. The Senator bad told nouncing it as wrong in principle, and him to go home and meet those constitu. unjust in its operation, voted for it asents, if he could. That he was most the only revenue bill that could be pas- inestimable privilege, at an early day, he
anxious to do, and to be permitted that sed under existing circumstances, and had consented to meet this great and grave as repealing the odious distribution law. question at this late honr, and in this The squnndering of the land revenues summary manner. He had, upon repeate
ed occasions, met the rebukes of those in- lations of interest, will, if rigidly persetelligent and patriotic constituents, and vered in, suffice to extinguish the debt. never, he was bound to presume, when he The law also suspended the prosecu. did not richly deserve them; and he had tion of the public works; authorized sometimes enjoyed their approbation.He was anxious to meet them now, and specific loans to defray outstanding would cheerfully abide their verdict upon engagements, and levied a direct tax to this vote."
make good the deficiency in the revenues
to meet the annual liabilities of the state. In those disastrous years following The results to be obtained by this the election of 1838, the sound policy law, were the total extinguishment of of the government of the state of New- the debt of the state, a removal of the York, in relation to its public works, direct tax imposed to preserve the pubunderwent a great change. Instead of lic faith, and to leave the surplus canal adhering to the original plan of enlarge- revenues, after these objects were atment of the Erie canal, viz. to spend tained, at liberty to be applied to the only the surplus revenues in its prose- prosecution of the public works. The cution, it was resolved to borrow successful operation of the law, and its money for that purpose, as well as to good effects upon the credit of the construct other works upon credit, and state, partially aided a relaxation of also to loan the credit of the state to joint vigilance on the part of the Legislature, stock companies for the construction and a bill was passed appropriating of railroads. In pursuance of these money for the resumption of the state views, the debt of the state was rapidly works. Perhaps, by a misunderstandincreased. Large amounts of stock's ing of the law of 1842, it was supposed were issued to companies on their that the surplus contemplated by it as demand, and thrown at any price upon applicable to such objects, already exthe market, in a time of pressure. Not isted. This bill was promptly vetoed, only was the supply of stock already May 13, 1845, in a message of great large, but the system pursued was such clearness and force, giving a most lumias to indicate no limit to the amount yet nous exposition of the state finances, to be issued. The credit of the state and of that sound policy in which it is was rapidly sinking, and New-York necessary to persevere, in order to resix per cent. stocks fresh from the lieve the state from the effects of the Comptroller, were sold at 20 per cent. disastrous legislation of 1838–40. discount. Many states had failed. In all the positions which Mr. Wright Pennsylvania was dishonored; the has occupied before the people, we alliabilities of the state of New York ways discover that firm adherence to were already beyond its means, and sound principle, which never bends to insolvency seemed inevitable. Fortu- circumstances or yields to expediennately at that moment a change took cy. In private life, he is as simple place, and the law of 1842 gave a new and frugal in his habits as he is dignified direction to affairs, and saved the honor and generous in pub.ic. While his of the state. The luw of 1842 con- untiring and laborious industry comtemplated the final extinguishment of mands the admiration of the observer, the state debt in 224 years from the his affable and courteous manners wins passage of the act. To do this, a sink- the regard of all. Devoted to his prining fund was established. Thus the ciples, his party and his friends, because amount of the debt was then $20,710,- iu them he sees the true highest inter335, on which the annual interest was ests of his country, he is, as we firmly $1,127,728, and the law required that a believe, the most perfectly free from all sum equal to one-third this interest, or personal ambition or interestedness, of $375,909 should annually be set apart all the public men of the day. from the canal revenues, for the re It will be seen from the above that demption of the principal of the debt, Mr. Wright is yet in the flower of his and if the canal revenues in any one age. being only in his fifty-first year. year did not yield enough to set apart We look forward to a glorious continthat sum, the deficit should be added uance and eventual consummation, of to the amount set apart in the next the high political career, along which year of larger revenues. These con we have thus slightly traced his strong tributions, improved by annual accumu- and steady footsteps.