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Do they not manifest an unceasing and bitter hostility to the mercantile classes, and to the institutions of the States? I certainly never supposed the State banks fit agents for furnishing or regulating a national currency ; but I have thought them useful in their proper places. At any rate, the States had power to establish them, and have established them, and we have no right to endeavor to destroy them. How is it, then, that generally, every leading press, which supports the administration, joins in the general cry against these institutions of the States? How is it, if it be not that a spirit hostile to these institutions has come to pervade the administration itself?
In my opinion, the State banks, on every ground, demand other treatment, and the interest of the country requires that they should receive other treatment. The Government has used them, and why should it now not only desert, but abuse them ? That some of the selected banks have behaved very unworthily, is no doubt true. The best behavior is not always to be expected from pets. But that the banks, generally, deserved this unrestrained warfare upon them, at the hands of Government, I cannot believe. It appears to me to be both ungrateful and unjust.
The banks, sir, are now making an effort, which I hope may be successful, to resume specie payments. The process of resumption works, and must work, with severity upon the country. Yet I most earnestly hope the banks may be able to accomplish the object. But in all this effort, they get no aid from Government, no succor from Government, not even a kind word from Government. They get nothing but denunciation and abuse. They work alone, and therefore the attainment of the end is the more difficult. They hope to reach that end only, or mainly, by reduction and curtailment. If, by these means, payment in specie can be resumed and maintained, the result will prove the existence of great solidity, both of the banks and of the mercantile classes. The Bank of England did not accomplish resumption by curtailment alone. She had the direct aid of Government. And the banks of the United States, in 1816, did not rely on curtailment alone. They had the aid of the then new-created Bank of the United States, and all the countenance, assistance, and friendly support, which the Government could give them. Still, I would not discourage the efforts of the banks. I trust they will succeed, and that they will resume specie payments at the earliest practicable moment; but it is, at the same time, my full conviction, that by another and a better course of public policy, the Government might most materially assist the banks to bring about resumption; and that by Government aid, it might be brought about with infinitely less of public inconvenience and individual distress.
For an easy resumption of specie payments, there is mainly wanted a revival of trust, the restoration of confidence, and a harmonious action, between the Government and the moneyed institutions of the country. But instead of efforts to inspire trust, and create confidence, we see and hear nothing but denunciation ; instead of harmonious action, we find nothing but unrelenting hostility.
Mr. President, you and I were in Congress, in 1816, during the time of the suspension of specie payments by the banks. What was the spirit of the Government at that time, sir ? Was it hostile, acrimonious, belligerent towards the State institutions ? Did it look on them only to frown? Did it touch them only to distress? Did it put them all under the scourge? You know, sir, it was far otherwise. You know, that the Secretary of that day entered into friendly correspondence with them, and assured them that he would second their efforts for resumption, by all the means in his power. You know, sir, that in fact, he did render most essential aid. And do you see, sir, any similar effort now? Do you behold, in the bill before us, any thing of the spirit or the policy of Mr. Madison, on an occasion very like the present ? Mr. Madison was a man of such subdued self-respect, that he was willing to yield to experience and to the opinion of his country; a man, too, of so much wisdom and true patriotism, that nothing was allowed to stand between him and his clear perception of the public good. Do you see, sir, any thing of this spirit of the wisdom, of the mild, and healing, and restoring policy, of Mr. Madison, in this measure ? Another illustrious man, now numbered with the dead, was then with us, and was acting an important part, in the councils of the country. I mean Mr. Lowndes ; a man not deficient in force and genius, but still more distinguished for that large and comprehensive view of things which is more necessary to make great men, and is also much rarer than mere positive talent — and for an impartial, well-balanced judgment, which kept him free from prejudice and error, and which gave great and just influence to all his opinions. Do you see, sir, any thing of the spirit, the temper, the cool judgment, or the long-sighted policy of Mr. Lowndes, in all that is now before us? And Mr. Crawford, then at the head of the Treasury, arduously striving to restore the finances, to reëstablish both public and private credit, and to place the currency once more upon its safe and proper foundation ; do you see, sir, the marks of Mr. Crawford's hands in the measure now presented for our approbation ?
Mr. President, I have little to say of the subordinate provisions of this bill, of the receivers-general, or of the dangerous power, given to the Secretary, of investing the public money in State stocks of his own selection. My opposition to the bill, is to the whole of it. It is general, uncompromising, and decided. I oppose all its ends, objects, and purposes ; I oppose all its means, its inventions, and its contrivances. I am opposed to the separation of Government and people; I am opposed, now and at all times, to an exclusive metallic currency; I am opposed to the spirit in which the measure originates, and to all and every emanation and ebullition of that spirit. I solemnly declare, that in thus studying our own safety, and renouncing all care over the general currency, we are, in my opinion, abandoning one of the plainest and most important of our constitutional duties. If, sir, we were, at this moment, at war with a powerful enemy, and if his fleets and armies were now ravaging our shores, and it were proposed in Congress to take care of ourselves, to defend the Capitol, and abandon the country to its fate, it would be, certainly, a more striking, a more flagrant and daring, but in my judgment not a more clear and manifest dereliction of duty, than we commit in this open and professed abandonment of our constitutional power and constitutional duty, over the great interest of the national currency. I mean to maintain that constitutional power, and that constitutional duty, to the last. It shall not be with my consent, that our ancient policy shall be overturned. It shall not be with my consent, that the country shall be plunged, farther and farther, into the unfathomed depths of new expedients. It shall not be without a voice of remonstrance from me, that one great and important purpose for which this Government was framed, shall now be utterly surrendered and abandoned forever
ON THE SUB-TREASURY BILL, DELIVERED IN THE SENATE OF
THE UNITED STATES, MARCH 12, 1838.
Mr. President: Having at an early stage of the debate expressed, in a general manner, my opposition to this bill, I must find an apology for again addressing the Senate, in the acknowledged importance of the measure, the novelty of its character, and the division of opinjon respecting it which is known to exist in both Houses of Congress.
To be able, in this state of things, to give a preponderance to that side of the question which I embrace, is, perhaps, more than I ought to hope ; but I do not feel that I have done all which my duty demands, until I make another effort.
The functions of this Government, which, in time of peace, most materially affect the happiness of the people, are those which respect commerce and revenue. The bill before us touches both these great interests. It proposes to act directly on the revenue and expenditure of Government, and it is expected to act, also, indirectly, on commerce and currency ; while its friends and supporters relying solely on this, altogether abstain from other measures, deemed by a great portion of Congress, and of the country, to be indispensably demanded by the present exigency.
We have arrived, Mr. President, towards the close of a half century from the adoption of the constitution. During the progress of these years, our population has increased from three or four millions to thirteen or fourteen millions; our commerce, from little or pothing, to an export of a hundred and ninety millions, and an import of a hundred and twenty-eight and a half millions, in the year 1836. Our mercantile tonnage approaches near to two millions. We have a revenue, and an expenditure, of thirty millions a year. The manufactures of the country have attained very great importance, and, up to the commencement of the derangement of the currency, were in a prosperous and growing state.
The produce of the fisheries has become vast; and the general production of labor and capital is increasing, far beyond all example in other countries or other times, and has already reached an amount which, to those who have not investigated the subject, would seem incredible.
The commerce of the United States, sir, is spread over the globe. It pursues its object in all seas, and finds its way into every port which the laws of trade do not shut against ils approach. With all the disadvantages of more costly materials, and of higher wages, and often in despite of unequal and unfavorable commercial regulations of other States, the enterprise, vigor, and economy which distinguish our navigating interest, enable it to show our flag, in competition with the most favored and the most skilful, in the various quarters of the world. In the mean time, internal activity does not lag nor loiter. New and useful modes of intercourse and facilities of transportation are established, or are in progress, every where. Public works are projected and pushed forward, in a spirit which grasps at high and vast objects, with a bold defiance of all expense. The aggregate value of the property of the country is augmented daily. A constant demand for new capital exists, although a debt has already been contracted in Europe, for sums advanced to States, corporations, and individuals, for purposes connected with internal improvement; which debt cannot now be less than a hundred millions of dollars. Spreading over a great extent, embracing different climates, and with vast variety of products, we find an intensely excited spirit of industry and enterprise to pervade the whole country; while its external commerce, as I have already said, sweeps over all seas. We are connected with all commercial countries, and, most of all, with that which has established and sustained the most stupendous system of commerce and manufactures, and which collects and disburses an incredible amount of annual revenue ; and which uses, to this end, and as means of currency and circulation, a mixed money of metal and paper.
Such a mixed system, sir, has also prevailed with us, from the beginning. Gold and silver, and convertible bank paper, have always constituted our actual money. The people are used to this system. It has hitherto commanded their confidence, and fulfilled their expectations. We have had, in succession, two national banks ; each for a period of twenty years. Local or State banks have, at the same time, been in operation ; and no man of intelligence or candor can deny that, during these forty years, and with the operation of a national and these State institutions, the currency of the country, upon the whole, has been safe, cheap, convenient, and satisfactory. When the Government was established, it found convertible bank paper, issued by State banks, already in circulation ;