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been so loudly denounced as flagitious and criminal, treacherous to the Government, and fraudulent towards the People. All these schemes and contrivances are but the consequences of the general doctrine which the Administration has advanced, and attempied to recommend to the Country; that is, that Congress has nothing to do with the currency, beyond the mere matter of coinage, except to provide for itself. How such a notion should come to be entertained, at this day, may well be a matter of wonder for the wise; since it is a truth capable of the clearest demonstration, that from the first day of the existence of the Constitution, from the moment when a practical Administration of Government drew a first breath under its provisions, the superintendence and care over the currency of the country have been admitted to be among the clear and unquestioned powers and duties of Congress. This was the opinion in Washington's time, and his administration acted upon it, vigorously and successfully. And in Mr. Madison's time, when the peculiar circumstances of the Country again brought up the subject, and gave it new importance, it was held to be the exclusive, or at least the paramount and unquestioned right of Congress to take care of the currency; to restore it when depreciated; to see that there was a sound, convertible paper circulation, suited to the circumstances of the country, and having equal value, and the same credit, in all parts of it. This was Mr. Madison's judgment. He acted upon it; and both Houses of Congress concurred with him. But if we now quote Mr. Madison's sentiments, we get no reply at all. We may read his Messages of 1815 and 1816 as often as we please. No man answers them, and yet the party of the Administration acts upon directly opposite principles.
Now, what has brought about this state of things? What has caused this attempt, now made, at the end of half a century, to change a great principle of administration, and to surrender a most important power of the Government? Gentlemen, it has been a crisis of party, not of the Country, which has given birth to these new sentiments. The tortuous windings of party policy have conducted us, and nothing else could well have conducted us, to such a point. Nothing but party pledges, nothing but courses of political conduct, entered upon for party purposes, and pursued, from necessary regard to personal and party consistency, could so far have pushed the Government out of its clear and well-trodden path of Constitutional duty. From General Washington's Presidency to the last hour of the late President's, both the Government and the Country have supposed Congress to be clothed with the general duty of protecting the currency, either as an inference from the coinage power, or from the obvious and incontestable truth, that the regulation of the currency is naturally and plainly a branch of the commercial power. General Jackson himself was behind no one of his predecessors in asserting this power, and in acknowledging the corresponding duty. We all know that his very first complaint against the late Bank of the United States was, that it had not fulfilled the expectation of the Country, by furnishing for the use of the People a sound and uniform currency. There were many persons, certainly, who did not agree with him in his opinions respecting the Bank and the effects of its agency on the country ; but it was expressly on the ground of this alleged failure of the Bank, that he undertook what was called the great reform. There are those, again, who think that, of this attempted reform, he made a very poor and sorry business; but still the truth is, that he undertook this reform, for the very professed and avowed purpose, that he might fulfil better than it had been yet fulfilled, the duty of Government in furnishing the people with a good currency. The President thought that the currency, in 1832 and 1833, was not good enough; that the People had a right to expect a better; and to meet this expectation, he began, what he himself called his Experiment. He said the currency was not so sound, and so uniform, as it was the duty of Government to make it; and he therefore undertook to give us a currency more sound and more uniform. And now, Gentlemen, let us recur, shortly, to what followed; for there we shall find the origin of the present Constitutional notions and dogmas. Let us see what has changed the Constitution, in this particular.
In 1833, the public Deposits were removed, by an act of the President himself, from the Bank of the United States, and placed in certain State Banks, under regulations prescribed by the Executive alone. This was the Experiment. The utmost confidence, indeed, — an arrogant and intolerant confidence,—was entertained and expressed of its success ; and all were regarded as blind bigots to a National Bank, who doubted. And when the Experiment was put into operation, it was proclaimed that its success was found to be complete. Down to the very close of General Jackson's Administration, we heard of nothing but the wonderful success of the Experiment. It was declared, from the highest official sources, that the State Banks, used as Banks of Deposit, had not only shown themselves perfectly competent to fulfil the duties of fiscal agents to Government, but also that they had sustained the currency, and facilitated the great business of internal Exchanges, with the most singular and gratifying success, and better than the same thing had been done before. In all this glow and fervor of self-commendation, the late Administration went out of office, having bequeathed the Experiment, with all its blushing honors and rising glories, to its successor. But a frost, a nipping frost, was at hand. Two months after General Jackson had retired, the banks suspended specie payments, Deposit Banks and all; a universal embarrassment smote
down the business and industry of the Country; the Treasury was left without a dollar, and the brilliant glory of the Experiment disappeared in gloom and thick darkness! And now, Gentlemen, came the change of sentiments; now came the new reading of the Constitution. A National Bank had already been declared by the party to be unconstitutional, the State Bank system had failed, and what more could be done? What other plan was to be devised? How could the duty of Government over the currency be now performed? The Administration had decried a National Bank, and it now felt bound to denounce all State institutions; and what, therefore, could it do? The whole party had laid out its entire strength, in an effort to render (he late Bank of the United States, and any Bank of the United States, unpopular and odious. It had pronounced all such institutions to be dangerous, anti-republican, and monarchical. It had, especially, declared a National Bank to be plainly and clearly unconstitutional. Now, Gentlemen, I have nothing to say of the diffidence and modesty of men, who, without hesitation or blushing, set up their own favorite opinions, on a question of this kind, against the judgment of the Government and the judgment of the Country, maintained for fifty years. I will only remark, that if we were to find men acting thus, in their own affairs, if we should find them disposing of their own interests, or making arrangements for their own property, in contempt of rules which they knew the Legislative and the Judicial authorities had all sanctioned for half a century, we should be very likely to think them out of their heads. Yet this ground had been taken against the late Bank, and against all National Banks; and it could not be surrendered without apparent and gross inconsistency. What, then, 1 ask again, was the Administration to do? You may say, it should have retracted its error, it should have seen the necessity of a National Institution, and yielded to the general judgment of the Country.
But that would have required an effort of candor and magnanimity, of which all men are not capable. Besides, there were open, solemn, public pledges in the way. This commitment of the party against a National Bank, and the disastrous results of its Experiment on the State Institutions, brought the party into the dilemma, from which it seemed to have no escape, but in shifting off, altogether, the duty of taking care of the currency. I was at Wheeling, in Virginia, in May of last year, when the Banks suspended payment; and at the risk of some imputation of bad taste, I will refer to observations of mine, made then, to the citizens of that town, and published, in regard to the questions which that event would necessarily bring before the Country. I saw, at once, that we were at the commencement of a new era, and (hat a controversy must arise, which would greatly excite the community.
No sooner had the State Banks suspended, and among the rest those which were depositories of the Government, than a cry of fraud and treachery was raised against them, with no better reason, perhaps, than existed for that loud, and boisterous, and boastful confidence, with which the late Administration had spoken of their capacity of usefulness, and had assured the Country that its Experiment could not fail. But whether the suspension by the Banks was a matter of necessity with them, or not, the Administration, after it had happened, seeing itself now shut out from the use of all Banks, by its own declared opinions, and the results of its own policy, and seeing no means at hand for making another attempt at reforming the currency, turned a short comer, and in all due form abandoned the whole duty. From the time of the Veto to the Bank Charter, in 1832, the Administration had been like a man who had voluntarily abandoned a safe bottom, on deep waters, and, having in vain sought to support himself by laying hold on one and another piece of floating timber, chooses rather to go down, than to seek safety in returning to what he has abandoned.
Seeing that it had deprived itself of the common means of regulating the currency, it now denied its obligation to do so; declared it had nothing to do with the currency beyond coinage; that it would take care of the revenues of Government, and, as for the rest, the People must look out for themselves. This decision thus evidently grew out of party necessity. Having deprived themselves of the ordinary and Constitutional means of performing their duty, they sought to avoid the responsibility by declaring that there was no such duty to perform. They have looked further into the Constitution, and examined it by daylight and by moonlight, and cannot find any such duty or obligation. Though General Jackson saw it, very plainly, during the whole course of his Presidency, it has now vanished, and the new Commentators can nowhere discern a vestige of it. The present Administration, indeed, stood pledged to tread in the steps of its predecessor; but here was one loot-print which it could not, or would not, occupy, or one stride too long for it to take. The Message, I had almost said the fatal Message, communicated to Congress in September, contained a formal disavowal, by the Administration, of all power under the Constitution to regulate the general actual currency of the Country.
The President says, in that Message, that if he refrains from suggesting to Congress any specific plan for regulating the exchanges, relieving mercantile embarrassments, or interfering with the ordinary operations of foreign or domestic Commerce, it is from the conviction that such measures are not within the Constitutional provision of Government.
How this could all be said, when the Constitution expressly gives to Congress the power to regulate Commerce, both foreign and doroestic, I cannot conceive. But the Constitution was not to be trifled with, and the People are not to be trifled with. The Country, 1 believe, by a great majority, is of opinion that this duty does belong to Government, and ought to be exercised. All the new Expounders have not been able to erase this general power over Commerce, and all that belongs to Commerce. Their fate, in this respect, is like that of him in ancient story. While endeavoring to tear up, and rend asunder the Constitution, its strong fibres have recoiled, and caught them in the cleft. They experience
"Mite's fearful end— Wedged in the timber which they strove to rend."
Geotlemen, this Constitutional power can never be surrendered. We may as well give up the whole Commercial power at once, and throw every thing connected with it back upon the States. If Congress surrender the power, to whom shall it pass, or where shall it be lodged? Shall it be left to six-and-twenty different Legislatures? To eight hundred or a thousand unconnected Banks? No, Gentlemen, to allow that authority to be surrendered, would be to abandon the vessel of State, without pilot or helm, and to suffer her to roll, darkling, down the current of her fate.
For the sake of avoiding all misapprehensions, on this most important subject, I wish to state my own opinion, clearly, and in few words. I have never said, that it is an indispensable duty, in Congress, under all circumstances, to establish a National Bank. No such duty, certainly, is created by the Constitution, in express terms. I do not say what particular measure* are enjoined by the Constitution, in this respect. Congress has its discretion, and is left to its own judgment, as to the means most proper to be employed. But I say the general duty does exist.
I maintain that Congress is bound to take care, by some proper means, to secure a good currency for the People; and that, while this duty remains unperformed, one great object of the Constitution is not attained. If we are to have as many different currencies as there are States, and these currencies are to be liable to perpetual fluctuation, it would be folly to say that we had reached that security and uniformity in Commercial regulation, which we know it was the purpose of the Constitution to establish.
The Banks may all resume to-morrow — I hope they will; but how much will this resumption accomplish? It will doubtless afford good local currencies; but will it give the Country any proper and safe paper currency, of equal and universal value? Certainly it cannot, and will not. Will it bring back, for any length of time, exchanges to the state they were in, when there was a National Currency in existence? Certainly, in my opinion, it will not We