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deterred by exaggerated calculations of their cost — go on, open your wilderness to the sun — turn up the soil — and in the widespread and highly-cultivated fields, the smiling villages, and the busy towns that will spring up from the bosom of the desert, you will reap a rich reward for your investment and industry.
Another of the paramount objects of government, to which I rejoice to see that you have turned your attention, is education. I speak not of college education, nor of academy education, though they are of great importance; I speak of free school education — common school education.
Among the planets in the sky of New England — the burning lights, which throw intelligence and happiness on her people — the first and most brilliant is her system of common schools. I congratulate myself that my first speech on entering public life was in their behalf. Education, to accomplish the ends of good government, should be universally diffused. Open the doors of the schoolhouse to all the children in the land. Let no man have the excuse of poverty for not educating his own offspring. Place the means of education within his reach, and if they remain in ignorance, be it his own reproach. If one object of the expenditure of your revenue be protection against crime, you could not devise a better or cheaper means of obtaining it. Other nations spend their money in providing means for its detection and punishment, but it is for the principles of our government to provide for its never occurring. The one acts by coercion, the other by prevention. On the diffusion of education among the people rests the preservation and perpetuation of our free institutions. I apprehend no danger to our country from a foreign foe. The prospect of a war with any powerful nation is too remote to be a matter of calculation. Besides, there is no nation on earth powerful enough to accomplish our overthrow. Our destruction, should it come at all, will be from another quarter. From the inattention of the people to the concerns of their government — from their carelessness and negligence — I must confess that I dp apprehend some- danger. I fear that they may place too implicit a confidence in their public servants, and fail properly to scrutinize their conduct, — that in this way they may be made the dupes of designing men, and become the instruments of their own undoing. Make them intelligent, and they will be vigilant — give them the means of detecting the wrong, and they will apply the remedy.
The gentleman who has just addressed me in such flattering but unmerited terms, has been pleased to make kind mention of my attention to the Constitution, and my humble efforts in its support. I claim no merit on that account. It results from my sense of its surpassing excellences, which must strike every man who attentively and impartially examines it. I regard it as the work of the purest patriots and wisest statesmen that ever existed, aided by the smiles of a benignant Providence — for when we regard it as a system of government growing out of the discordant opinions and conflicting interests of thirteen independent States, it almost appears a divine interposition in our behalf. I have always, with the utmost zeal and moderate abilities I possess, striven to prevent its infraction in the slightest particular. I believed if that bond of union were broken, we would never again be a united people. Where, among all the political tinkers, the constitution-makers and the constitution-menders of the day, could we find a man to make us another? Who would even venture to proposo a re-union? Where would be the starting point, and what the plan? I do not expect miracles to follow each other. None could be proposed that would be adopted; the hand that destroys the Constitution rends our Union asunder forever.
My friend has been pleased to remember, in his address, my humble support of the Constitutional right of Congress to improve the navigation of our great internal rivers, and to construct roads through the different States. It is well known that my opinions on this subject are stronger than most men's. Believing that the object of the Union was to secure the general safety and promote the general welfare, and that the Constitution was designed to point out the means of accomplishing these ends, I have always been in favor of such measures as I deemed for the general benefit, under the restrictions and limitations prescribed by the Constitution itself. I supported them with my voice, and my vote, not because they were for the benefit of the West, but because they were for the benefit of the whole country. That they are local in their advantages, as well as in their construction, is an objection that has been and will be urged against every measure of the kind. In a country so widely extended as ours, so diversified in its interests and in the character of its people, it is impossible that the operation of any measure should affect all alike. Each has its own peculiar interest, whose advancement it seeks: we have the sea-coast, and you the noble river that flows at your feet. So it must ever be. Go to the smallest government in the world — the Republic of San Marino, in Italy, possessing a territory of but ten miles square —and vou will find its citizens, separated but by a few miles, having some interests which, on account of local situation, are separate and distinct. There is not on the face of the earth a plain, five miles in extent, whose inhabitants arc the same in their pursuits and pleasures. Some will live on a creek, others near a hill, which, when any measure is proposed for the general benefit, will give rise to jarring claims and opposing interests. In such cases, it has always appeared to me that the point to be examined was, whether the principle was general; if the principle were general, although the application might be partial, I cheerfully and zealously give it my support. When an objection has been made to an appropriation for clearing the snags out of the Ohio river, I have answered it with the question, " Would you not vote for an appropriation to clear the Atlantic Ocean of snags, were the navigation of your coast thus obstructed? they contribute their portion of the revenue to fortify your sea-coast, and erect piers, and harbors, and lighthouses, from which they derive a remote benefit, and why not contribute yours to improve the navigation of a river whose commerce enriches the whole country?"
It may be expected, fellow-citizens, that I should say something on a topic which agitates and distracts the public mind — the deranged state of the currency, and the general stagnation of business. In giving my opinions on this topic, I wish it to be distinctly understood, that I force them on no man. I am an independent man, speaking to independent men. I think for myself; you of course enjoy and exercise the same right. I cheerfully concede to every one the liberty of differing with me in sentiment, readily granting that he has as good a chance of being right as myself— perhaps a better. But I have some respect for my character as a public man. The present state of things has grown out of a series of measures, to which I have been in uniform opposition. In speaking of their consequences, I am doing but justice to myself in showing them in justification of my conduct. I am performing a duty to my fellow-citizens, who have a right to know the opinions of every public man. The present state of things is unparalleled in the annals of our country. The general suspension of specie payments by the banks — beginning I know not where, and ending I know not where, but comprehending the whole country — has produced wide-spread ruin and confusion through the land. To you the scene is one of apprehension as yet; to us, of deep distress. You cannot understand, my fellow-citizens, nor can I describe it so as to enable you to understand, the embarrassment and suffering which is depressing the spirit and crushing the energies of the people of the sea-girt State of the East. You are agriculturists — you produce what you consume, and always have the means of living within your reach. We depend on others for their agricultural productions — we live by manufactures and commerce, of which credit is the life's blood. The destruction of credit is the destruction of our means of living. The man who cannot fulfil his daily engagements, or with whom others fail to fulfil theirs, must suffer for his daily bread. And who are those who suffer? Not the rich, for they can generally take care of themselves. Capital is ingenious and far-sighted — ready in resources and fertile in expedients to shelter itself from impending storms. Shut it out from one source of increase, and it will find other avenues of profitable investment.
It is the industrious, working part of the community — men whose hands have grown hard by holding the plough and pulling the oar — men who depend on their daily labor and their daily pay — who, when the operations of trade and commerce are checked and palsied, have no prospect for themselves and their families but beggary and starvation. All this has been attributed to causes as different as can be imagined; overtrading—overbuying—overselling — over speculating — over production — terms which I acknowledge I do not very well understand. I am at a loss to conceive how a nation can become poor by over production — producing more than she can sell or consume. I do not see where there has been over trading, except in public lands; for when every thing else was up to such an enormous price, and the public land tied down to one dollar and a quarter an acre, who would not have bought it if he could?
These causes could not have produced all those consequences which have produced such general lamentation. They must have proceeded from some other source. And I now request you, my fellow-citizens, to bear witness, that here, in this good city, on the banks of the Ohio, on the first day of June, 1837, beneath the bright sun that is shining upon us, I declare my conscientious conviction that they have proceeded from the measures of the General Government in relation to the currency. I make this declaration in no spirit of enmity to its authors — I follow no man with rebukes or reproaches. To reprobate the past will not alleviate the evils of the present. It is the duty of every good citizen to contribute his strength, however feeble, to diminish the burden under which a people groans. To apply the remedy successfully, however, we must first ascertain the causes, character, and extent of the evil. Let us go back, then, to its origin. Forty-eight years have elapsed since the adoption of our Constitution. For forty years of that time we had a National Bank. Its establishment originated in the imperious obligation imposed on every government to furnish its people with a circulating medium for their commerce. No matter how rich the citizen may be in flocks and herds — in houses and lands — if his government does not furnish him a medium of exchange, commerce must be confined to the petty barter suggested by mutual wants and necessities, as they exist in savage life. The history of all commercial countries shows that the precious metals can constitute but a small part of this circulating medium. The extension of commerce creates a system of credit — the transmission of money from one part of the country to the other gives birth to the business of exchange. To keep the value of this medium and the rates of exchange equal and certain, was imperiously required by the necessities of the times when the Bank was established. Under the old confederacy, each of the thirteen States established and regulated its own money, which passed for its full value within the State, and was useless the moment it crossed the State border. The little State of Rhode Island, for instance— (I hope no son of hers present will take offence at what I say) — so small that an Indiana man might almost cover ber territory with his hand, was crowded with Banks. A man might have been rich at Providence, but before he could travel to Boston, forty miles distant, he would starve for want of money to pay for his breakfast.
Had this state of things continued, some of the provisions of the Constitution would have been of no force or virtue. Of what value to Congress would have been the right to levy taxes, imposts, and duties — to regulate commerce among different States, — and of what effect or consequence the prohibition on the different States, of levying and collecting imposts, if each and every one of them had possessed the right of paying her taxes and duties in a currency of her own, which would not pass one hundred miles, perhaps, from the bank where it was issued? The creation of the National Bank presented the surest means of remedying these evils, and accomplishing one of the principal objects of the Constitution — the establishment and maintenance of a currency whose value would be uniform in every part of the country. During the forty years it existed, we had no general suspension of specie payments, as at present. We got along well with it, and I am one of those who are disposed to let toeU alone. I am content to travel along the good old turnpike on which I have journeyed before with comfort and expedition, without turning aside to try a new track. I must confess that I do not possess that soaring self-respect — that lofty confidence in my own political sagacity and foresight — which would induce me to set aside the experience of forty years, and risk the ruin of the country, for the sake of an Experiment. To this is all the distress of the country attributable. This has caused such powerful invasions of bank paper, like sudden and succeeding flights of birds of prey and passage, and the rapid disappearance of specie at its approach. You all know that bank notes have been almost as plenty as the leaves of the forest in the summer. But of what value are they to the holder, if he is compelled to pay his debts in specie? And who can be expected to pay his debts, when the Government has withdrawn the specie from circulation?
You have not felt the evil in its full extent. It is mostly in prospect, and you are watching its approach. While you are endeavoring to guard against it, strive to prevent its future recurrence. As you would hunt down, with hound and horn, the wolf who is making nightly havock of your flocks and herds, pursue and keep down those who would make havock in your business and property by experiments on our currency.
Although the country has bowed beneath the pressure, I do not