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not admitted, then the absurdity is adopted of maintaining that this provision of the Constitution is fulfilled by merely preserving the yeas and nays on the journal, after having expunged and obliterated the very resolution, or the very question, on which they were given, and to which alone they refer; leaving the yeas and nays thus a mere list of names, connected with no subject, no question, no vote. We put it to the impartial judgment of mankind, if this proceeding be not, in this respect, also, directly and palpably inconsistent with the Constitution.
We protest, in the most solemn manner, that other Senators have no authority to deprive us of our personal rights, secured to us by the Constitution, either by expunging, or obliterating, or mutilating, or defacing, the record of our votes, duly entered by yeas and nays; or by expunging and obliterating the resolutions or questions on "which those votes were given and recorded.
We have seen, with deep and sincere pain, the Legislatures of respectable States instructing the Senators of those States to vote for and support this violation of the journal of the Senate; and this pain is infinitely increased by our full belief, and entire conviction, that most, if not all these proceedings of States had their origin in promptings from Washington ; that they have been urgently requested and insisted on, as being necessary to the accomplishment of the intended purpose ; and that it is nothing else but the influence and power of the Executive branch of this Government which has brought the Legislatures of so many of the free States of this Union to quit the sphere of their ordinary duties, for the purpose of coöperating to accomplish a measure, in our judgment, so unconstitutional, so derogatory to the character of the Senate, and marked with so broad an impression of compliance with power.
But this resolution is to pass. We expect it. That cause, which has been powerful enough to influence so many State Legislatures, will show itself powerful enough, especially with such aids, to secure the passage of the resolution here.
We make up our minds to behold the spectacle which is to ensue.
We collect ourselves to look on in silence, while a scene is exhibited, which, if we did not regard it as ruthless violation of a sacred instrument, would appear to us to be little elevated above the character of a contemptible farce.
This scene we shall behold, and hundreds of American citizens, as many as may crowd into these lobbies and galleries, will behold it also, with what feelings I do not undertake to say.
But we PROTEST, we most solemnly PROTEST, against the substance and against the manner of this proceeding ; against its object, against its form, and against its effect. We tell you that you have no right to mar or mutilate the record of our votes given here, and recorded according to the Constitution ; we tell you that we may as well erase the yeas and nays on any other question or resolution, or on all questions and resolutions, as on this; we tell you that you have just as much right to falsify the record, by so altering it as to make us appear to have voted on any question as we did not vote, as you have to erase a record, and make that page a blank, in which our votes, as they were actually given and recorded, now stand. The one proceeding, as it appears to us, is as much a falsification of the record as the other.
Having made this PROTEST, our duty is performed. We rescue our own names, character, and honor, from all participation in this matter; and whatever the wayward character of the times, the headlong and plunging spirit of party devotion, or the fear or the love of power, may have been able to bring about elsewhere, we desire to thank God that they have not, as yet, overcome the love of liberty, fidelity to true republican principles, and a sacred regard for the Constitution, in that State whose soil was drenched, to a mire, by the first and best blood of the Revolution. Massachusetts, as yet, has not been conquered; and while we have the honor to hold seats here as her Senators, we shall never consent to a sacrifice either of her rights or our own; we shall never fail to oppose what we regard as a plain and open violation of the Constitution of the country; and we should have thought ourselves wholly unworthy of her, if we had not, with all the solemnity and earnestness in our power, PROTESTED against the adoption of the resolution now before the Senate.
IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES, ON PRESENTING A
PETITION OF MERCHANTS OF NEW YORK, FOR THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A NATIONAL BANK. FEBRUARY 8, 1837.
Mr. Webster addressed the Chair nearly as follows:
I RISE, Mr. President, for the purpose of presenting to the Senate a petition signed by fourteen or fifteen hundred mercantile houses in the city of New York, praying the establishment of a National Bank in that city. These petitioners, sir, set forth that, in their opinion, a National Bank is the only remedy, of a permanent character, for the correction of the evils now affecting the currency of the country and the commercial exchanges. The petition is accompanied by a short communication from the committee raised for the purpose of preparing the petition, in which they state, what I believe to be true, from some knowledge of my own, that the petition is subscribed without reference to political distinction; and They inform us, on the authority of their own observation and knowledge, that, in their opinion, on no subject did the mercantile community of New York ever address Congress with more entire unanimity than they now approach it, in favor of a National Bank.
Mr. President, (said Mr. W.,) my own opinions on this subject have long been known; and they remain now as they always have been. The constitutional power of Congress to create a bank is made more apparent by the acknowledged necessity which the Government is under to use some sort of banks as fiscal agents.
The argument stated the other day by the member from Ohio, opposite to me, (Mr. MORRIS,) and which I have suggested often, heretofore, appears to me unanswerable; and that is, that, if the Government has the power to use corporations in the fiscal concerns of the country, it must have the power to create such corporations. I have always thought that, when, by law, both Houses of Congress declared the use of State banks necessary to the administration of the revenue, every argument against the constitutional power of Congress to create a Bank of the United States was thereby surrendered; that it is plain that, if Congress has the power to adopt banks for the particular use of the Government, it has the power to create such institutions also, if it deem that mode the best. No Government creates corporations for the mere purpose of giving capacity to an artificial body. It is the end designed, the use to which it is to be applied, that decides the question, in general, whether the power exists to create such bodies. If such a corporation as a bank be necessary to Government; if its use be indispensable, and if, on that ground, Congress may take into its service banks created by States, over which it has no control, and which are but poorly fitted for its purposes, how can it be maintained that Congress may not create a bank, by its own authority, responsible to itself, and well suited to promote the ends designed by it?
Mr. President, when the subject was last before the Senate, I expressed my own resolution not to make any movement towards the establishment of a National Bank, till public opinion should call for it. In that resolution I still remain. But it gives me pleasure to have the opportunity of presenting this petition, out of respect to the signers; and I have no objection certainly to meet with a proper opportunity of renewing the expression of my opinions on the subject, although I know that so general has become the impression hostile to such an institution, that any movement here would be vain till there is a change in public opinion. That there will be such a change I fully believe; it will be brought about, I think, by experience, and sober reflection among the People; and when it shall come, then will be the proper time for a movement on the subject in the public councils. Not only in New York, but from here to Maine, I believe it is now the opinion of five sixths of the whole mercantile community, that a national bank is indispensable to the steady regulation of the currency, and the facility and cheapness of exchanges. The board of trade at New York presented a memorial in favor of the same object some time ago. The Committee on Finance reported against the prayer of the petitioners, as was to have been expected from the known sentiments of a majority of that committee. In presenting this petition now to the consideration of the Senate, I have done all that I purpose on this occasion, except to move that the petition be laid on the table and printed.
Sir, on the subjects of currency and of the exchanges of commerce, experience is likely to make us wiser than we now are. These highly interesting subjects — interesting to the property, the business, and the means of support of all classes — ought not to be connected with mere party questions and temporary politics. In the business and transactions of life, men need security, steadiness, and a permanent system. This is the very last field for the exhibition of experiments, and I fervently hope that intelligent men, in and out of Congress, will coöperate in measures which may be reasonably expected to accomplish these desirable objects — desirable and important alike to all classes and descriptions of people.