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would be merely nominal. Besides, no State is to be bound to lay this tax, as it taxes its own Banks. It has an option to tax it in that manner, or as other property is taxed. What other property? It may be as lottery tickets, gaming tables, or other things, which may be deemed fit to be discouraged or suppressed, are taxed. The Bank may be classed with other nuisances, and driven out or put down by taxation. All this is perfectly within the scope of the amendment. The license is broad enough to authorize any thing which may be designed or wished.
Now, Sir, in the first place, I doubt exceedingly our power to adopt this amendment, and I pray the deliberate consideration of the Senate, in regard to this point. In the first place, let me ask, What is the Constitutional ground on which Congress created this corporation, and on which we now propose to continue it? There is no express authority to create a Bank, or any other corporation, given to us by the Constitution. The power is derived by implication. It has been exercised, and can be exercised, only on the ground of a just necessity. It is to be maintained, if at all, on the allegation, that the establishment of a National Bank is a just and necessary means of carrying on the Government, and of executing the powers conferred on Congress by the Constitution. On this ground Congress has established this Bank, and on this it is now proposed to be continued. And it has already been judicially decided, that, Congress having established a Bank for these purposes, the Constitution of the United States prohibits the . States from taxing it. Observe, Sir, it is the Constitution, not the Law, which lays this prohibition on the States. The charter of the Bank does not declare that the States shall not tax it. It says not one word on that subject. The restraint is imposed, not by Congress, but by a higher authority, the Constitution. Now, Sir, I ask how we can relieve the States from this Constitutional prohibition. It is true, that this prohibition is not imposed in express terms; but it results from the general provisions of the Constitution, and has been judicially decided to exist in full force. This is a protection, then, which the Constitution of the United States, by its own force, holds over this instrument, which Congress has deemed necessary to be created, in order to carry on the Government, so soon as Congress, exercising its own judgment, has chosen to create it. Can we throw off from this Government this Constitutional protection ? I think it clear we cannot. We cannot repeal the Constitution. We cannot say that every power, every branch, every institution, and every law of this Government, shall not have all the force, all the sanction, and all the protection, which the Constitution gives it. By the Constitution every law of Congress is finally to be considered, and its construction ultimately settled by the Supreme Court of the United States. These
strength of the mere circumstance that a Branch, or an Office, is established in a State. Such Office, or Branch, is but an agency. It is no body politic or corporate. It has no legal existence of itself. It is but an agent of the general corporation. That these agents have their residence, or place of business, in a particular State, is not of itself the foundation of any claim. But, according to the language of the amendment, the ground of this claim to tax is evidently the loans and issues; and these loans and issues, properly speaking, are the loans and discounts of the Bank. The Office, as an agent, conducts the arrangements, it is true; but the notes which are issued are notes of the Bank, and the debts created are debts due to the Bank. The circulation is the circulation of the Bank. Now, the truth is, what the States claim, or what this amendment proposes to give them, is a right to tar the circulation of the Bank. It is on this right that the argument rests. The common way of stating it is, that since State Banks pay a tax to the State, these Branch Banks, coming among them, ought to pay a similar tax. But the State Banks pay the tax to the State for the privilege of circulation; and the proposition is, therefore, neither more nor less than that the United States' Bank shall pay the States for the same privilege. The circulation of the bills is the substance. The locality of the Office is but an incident. An Office is created, for example, on Connecticut River, either in Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, or New Hampshire. The notes of the Bank are loaned at this Office, and put into circulation in all these States. Now, no one will say that the State where the Office happens to be placed should have a right to lay this tax, and the other States have no such right. This would be a merely arbitrary distinction. It would be founded on no real or substantial difference; and no man could seriously contend for it, as it seems to me. Under this very amendment, Pennsylvania would be authorized to collect a large tax, and New Jersey no tax at all, although the State circulation of New Jersey is as much infringed and diminished as that of Pennsylvania by the circulation of the Bank of the United States. The States which have the benefit of Branches (if it be a benefit) are to have the further advantage of taxation ; wbile other States are to have neither the one nor the other. Founding the claim on the State right to derive benefit from the paper circulation which exists within it, the advocates of the claim are clearly not consistent with themselves, when they maintain a measure which professes to protect that right in some States, and to leave it unprotected in others.
But the inequality of the operation of this amendment is not the only, nor the main, objection to it. It proceeds on a principle not to be admitted. It asserts, or it takes for granted, that the power of authorizing and regulating the paper currency of the country, is an exclusive State right. The ground assumed can be no less broad than this; because, the Bank of the United States having the grant of a power from Congress to issue notes for circulation, its right is perfect, if Congress could make such grant. It owes nothing to the States, if Congress could give what it has undertaken to give; that is to say, if Congress, of its own authority, may confer a right to issue paper for circulation. Now, Sir, whosoever denies this right, in Congress, denies, of course, its power to create such a Bank as now exists; at least, so it strikes me. The Bank of the United States is quite unconstitutional, if the whole paper circulation belongs to the States ; because the Bank of the United States is a Bank of circulation, and was so intended to be by Congress, which expressly authorized the circulation of notes and bills. The power of issuing notes for circulation is not an indispensable ingredient in the constitution of a Bank, merely as a Bank. The earlier Banks did not possess it, and many good ones have existed without it. A Bank with no such power might yet very well collect the public revenue (provided there was a proper medium in which it could be paid), could tolerably well remit the revenue to the treasury, and could deal usefully, to some extent, in the business of exchange.
On what ground is it, then, that Congress possesses the power, not only to create a Bank, but a Bank of circulation ? Simply, as I suppose, because Congress possesses a Constitutional control over the currency of the country, and has power to provide a safe medium of circulation, as well for other purposes as for the collection of its own debts and revenue. The Bank, therefore, already possesses unconstitutional power, if the paper circulation be the subject, exclusively, of State right or State regulation. Indeed, Sir, it is not a little startling that such exclusive right should now be asserted. I observed, the other day, that, in my opinion, it was very difficult to maintain, on the face of the Constitution itself, and independent of long-continued practice, the doctrine that the States could authorize the circulation of Bank paper at all. They cannot coin money ; can they, then, coin that which becomes the actual and almost the universal substitute for money? Is not the right of issuing paper, intended for circulation, in the place and as the representative of metallic currency, derived merely from the power of coining and regulating that metallic currency? As bringing this matter to a just test, let me ask whether Congress, if it had not the power of coining money, and of regulating the value of foreign coins, could create a Bank, with the power to circulate bills. For one, I think it would be difficult to make that out. Where, then, do the States, to whom all control over the metallic currency is altogether prohibited, get this power? It is true that, in other countries, private bankers, having no legal authority over the coin, issue notes for circulation. But this they do always with the consent of Government, express or implied, and Government restrains and regulates all their operations at its pleasure. It would be a startling proposition, in any other part of the world, that the prerogative of coining money, held by Government, was liable to be defeated, counteracted, or impeded, by another prerogative, held in other hands, of authorizing a paper circulation.
It is further to be observed, that the States cannot issue bills of credit ; not that they cannot make them a legal tender, but that they cannot issue them at all. Is not this a clear indication of the intent of the Constitution to restrain the States, as well from establishing a paper circulation, as from interfering with the metallic circulation Banks have been created by States with no capital whatever; their notes being put into circulation simply on the credit of the State, or the State law. What are the issues of such Banks but bills of credit, issued by the State?
I confess, Mr. President, that, the more I reflect on this subject, the more clearly does my mind approach the conclusion, that the creation of State Banks, for the purpose and with the power of circulating paper, is not consistent with the grants and prohibitions of the Constitution. But, Sir, this is not now the question. The question is, not whether the States have the exclusive power; it is, whether they alone have the power. May they rightfully exclude the United States from all interference with the paper currency? Are we interlopers, when we create a Bank of circulation? Do we owe them a seignorage for the circulation of bills, by a corporation created by Congress ? Up to the present time, the States have been content with a concurrent power. They have, indeed, controlled vastly the larger portion of the circulation ; but they have not claimed exclusive authority over the whole. They have demanded no tax or tribute from a Bank issuing paper under the authority of Congress. Nor do I know that any State or States now insist upon it. It may be, that individual States have put forth such claims, in their legislative capacity; but, at present, I recollect no instance. The amendment, however, which is now proposed, asserts the claim, and I cannot consent to yield to it. We seem to be making the last struggle for the authority of Congress to interfere at all with the actual currency of the country. I shall never agree to surrender that authority ; I would as soon yield the coinage power itself; nor do I think there would be much greater danger, nor a much clearer departure from Constitutional principle, in a consenting to such surrender, than in acquiescing in what is now proposed.