« AnteriorContinuar »
tests and tumultuous scenes of life, armed by those good principles which her child has received from maternal care and love.
If we draw within the circle of our contemplation the mothers of a civilized nation, what do we see? We behold so many artificers working, not on frail and perishable matter, but on the immortal mind, moulding and fashioning beings who are to exist forever. We applaud the artist whose skill and genius present the mimic man upon the canvass ; we adınire and celebrate the sculptor who works out that same image in enduring marble; but how insignificant are these achievements, though the highest and the fairest in all the departments of art, in comparison with the great vocation of human mothers! They work, not upon the canvass that shall fail, or the marble that shall crumble into dust, but upon mind, upon spirit, whieb is to last forever, and which is to bear, for good or evil, throughout its duration, the impress of a mother's plastic hand.
I have already expressed the opinion, which all allow to be correct, that our security for the duration of the free institutions which bless our country depends upon the habits of virtue and the prevalence of knowledge and of education. Knowledge does not comprise all which is contained in the larger term of education. The feelings are to be disciplined; the passions are to be restrained ; true and worthy motives are to be inspired; a profound religious feeling is to be instilled, and pure morality inculcated, under all circumstances. All this is comprised in education. Mothers who are faithful to this great duty will tell their children that neither in political nor in any other concerns of life can man ever withdraw himself from the perpetual obligations of conscience and of duty ; that in every act, whether public or private, he incurs a just responsibility; and that in no condition is he warranted in trifling with important rights and obligations. They will impress upon their children the truth, that the exercise of the elective franchise is a social duty, of as solemn a nature as man can be called to perform; that a man may not innocently trifle with his vote; that every free elector is a trustee, as well for others as himself; and that every man and every measure he supports has an important bearing on the interests of others as well as on his own. It is in the inculcation of high and pure morals, such as these, that, in a free Republic, woman performs her sacred duty, and fulfils her destiny. The French, as you know, are remarkable for their fondness for sententious phrases, in which much meaning is condensed into a small space. I noticed lately, on the title-page of one of the books of popular instruction in France, this motto: “Pour instruction on the heads of the people! you owe them that baptism.” And, certainly, if there be any duty which may be described by a reference to that great institute of religion, - a duty approaching it in importance, perhaps next to it in obligation, it is this.
I know you hardly expect me to address you on the popular political topics of the day. You read enough, you hear quite enough, on those subjects. You expect me only to meet you, and to tender my profound thanks for this marked proof of your regard, and will kindly receive the assurances with which I tender to you, on parting, my affectionate respects and best wishes.
UPON THAT PART OF THE PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE WHICH RE. LATES TO THE REVENUE AND FINANCES, DELIVERED IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES, DECEMBER 16 AND 17, 1840.
The motion submitted by Mr. Wright, on Monday, 14th inst., proposing to refer so much of the President's Message as relates to the Finances, to the Committee on Finance, coming up for consideration
MR. WEBSTER rose, and addressed the Senate nearly as follows:
MR. PRESIDENT: It has not been without great reluctance that I have risen to offer any remarks on the Message of the President, especially at this early period of the session. I have no wish to cause, or to witness, a prolonged, and angry, and exciting discussion on the topics it contains. The Message is, mainly, devoted to an elaborate and plausible defence of the course of the existing Administration ; it dwells on the subjects which have been so long discussed among us — on banks and banking, on the excess of commerce and speculation, on the State debts, and the dangers arising from them, on the sub-Treasury, as it has been called, or the Independent Treasury, as others have denominated it. I propose now to deal with none of these points. So far as they may be supposed to affect the merits or character of the Administration, they have, as I understand it, been passed upon by the country; and I have no disposition to reargue any of them. Nor do I wish to enter upon an inquiry as to what, in relation to all these things, is supposed to have been approved or disapproved by the people of the United States, by their decision in the late election. It appears, however, thus far, to be the disposition of the nation to change the Administration of the Government. All I purpose at this time to do is, to present some remarks on the subject of the finances, speaking on the present state of things only, without recurring to the past, or speculating as to the future. Yet I suppose that some proper forecast, some disposition to provide for what is before us, naturally mixes itself up, in a greater or less degree, with all inquiries of this sort.
In this view, I shall submit a few thoughts upon the Message of the President; but I deem it necessary to preface what I shall say with some few preliminary remarks.
And, first, I will say a word or two on the question whether or not unfounded or erroneous impressions are communicated to the people by that document, in several respects. In this point of view I first notice what the President says in the eighth page. He there represents it as the great distinctive principle — the grand difference in the characters of our public men — that of one class of them it has been the constant object to create and to maintain a public debt, and with another to prevent and to discharge it. This I consider as an unfounded imputation on those who have conducted the Government of this country. · The President says " he has deemed this brief summary of our fiscal affairs necessary to the due performance of a duty specially enjoined upon him by the Constitution. It will serve also to illustrate more fully the principles by which he has been guided in reference to two contested points in our public policy, which were earliest in their development, and have been more important in their consequences than any that have arisen under our system of government: he alludes to a national debt and a National Bank.” About a National Bank I have nothing at present to say; but here it is officially announced to us that it has been a great contested question in the country whether there shall or shall not be a national debt, as if there were public men who wished a national debt, to be created and perpetuated for its own sake! Now, I submit it to the Senate, whether there has ever existed in the country any party, at any time, which avowed itself in favor of a national debt, per se, as a thing desirable? Does the history of the past debts contracted by the Governient lay the least foundation for any such assertion? The first national debt we have had was the loan negotiated in Holland, by John Adams. None, I presume, ever doubted the policy of such a loan, in the then existing circumstances of the country. Then there came the debt contracted for the pay of the Revolutionary army, by the Continental Congress, or rather by the country through that Congress. Next were the debts incurred during the war by the States, for the purpose of carrying on the war. Provision was made for discharging these debts as the cost of our Revolution : can any body object to a debt like this? Of the same character were the loans made by Government to carry on the late war with Great Britain. These are the principal national debts we have ever contracted, and I cannot but think it singularly unfortunate that what looks so much like an imputation on those who authorized these loans should come from the head of an Administration which, so far as I know, is the first that has ever commenced a national debt in a time of profound peace.
And now to proceed to the actual state of the finances.
The Message, though it does not call the obligations of the Government a national debt, but, on the contrary, speaks in the strongest terms against a national debt, yet admits that there are Treasury notes outstanding, and bearing interest, to the amount of four and a half millions; and I see, connected with this, other important and leading truths, very necessary to be considered by those who would look out beforehand that they may provide for the future.
Of these, the first in importance is, that the expenditures of the Government during the term of the present Administration have greatly exceeded its income. I shall not now argue the question whether these expenditures have been reasonable or unreasonable, necessary or unnecessary. I am looking at the facts in a financial view, purely — and I say that during the last four years the public expenditure has exceeded the public income at the rate of SEVEN MILLIONS OF DOLLARS PER ANNUM. This is easily demonstrated.
At the commencernent of the first year of this presidential term, in January, 1837, there was in the Treasury a balance of six millions of dollars, which was reserved from distribution by what has usually been called the Deposit Act. The intention of Congress was to reserve five millions only; but, in consequence of an uncertainty which attended the mode of effecting this result, the Secretary, in his calculations, wishing to be, at least, on the safe side, it turned out that the sum actually reserved was six millions. Here, then, was this amount in the Treasury on the first of January, 1837, Events occurred during that year which induced Congress to modify the deposit act, so as to bring back again into the Treasury the fourth instalment of the sum to be deposited with the States, which amounted to nine millions. I find, further, from the communications of the Secretary of the Treasury now submitted to the Senate, that, for the stock for the United States in the Bank of the United States for which bonds had been given to the Treasury by the Bank of the United States of Pennsylvania, which bonds are now paid, there have been received eight millions. Now, Sir, these are all items of a preë::isting fund, no part of which has accrued since January, 1837.
To these I may add the outstanding Treasury notes running on interest, (four and a half millions ;) and the whole forms an aggregate of twenty-seven and a half millions of dollars of surplus, in addition to the current revenue, which have been expended in three and a half or four years excepting, of course, what may remain in the Treasury at the end of that term. Here, then, has the Government been expending money at the rate of nearly eight millions per annum beyond its income. What state of things is that? Suppose it should go on. Does not every man see that we have a vast debt immediately before us?
But is this all? - is this all? I am inclined to think that, in one respect at least, it is not all. The Treasury, I think, has not duly distinguished, in reference to one important branch of its administration, between Treasury funds proper, and a trust fund, set apart by VOL. III. 70