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what they are. Besides real estate, loans, discount, and exchange, I beg to know what other investments banks usually make.
In my opinion, Sir, the present system now begins to develop itself. We see what a complication of private and pecuniary interests have thus wound themselves around our finances. While the present state of things continues, or as it goes on, there will be no lack of ardor in opposing the Land bill, or any other proposition for distributing or effectually using the public money.
We have certainly arrived at a very extraordinary crisis ; a crisis which we must not trifle with. The accumulation of revenue must be prevented. Every wise politician will set that down as a cardinal maxim. How can it be prevented ? Fortifications will not do it. This I am perfectly persuaded of. I shall vote for every part and parcel of the Fortification bill, reported by the Military Committee. And yet I am sure that, if that bill should pass into a law, it will not absorb the revenue, or sufficiently diminish its amount. Internal improvements cannot absorb it: these useful channels are blocked up by vetoes.
How, then, is this revenue to be disposed of? I put this question seriously to all those who are inclined to oppose the Land bill now before the Senate.
Sir, look to the future, and see what will be the state of things next autumn. The accumulation of revenue may then probably be near fifty millions; an amount equal, perhaps, to the whole amount of specie in the country. What a state of things is that! Every dollar in the country the property of Government !
Again, Sir, are gentlemen satisfied with the present condition of the public money in regard to its safety? Is that condition safe, commendable, and proper? The member from South Carolina has brought in a bill to regulate these deposit banks. I hope be will call it up, that we may at least have an opportunity of showing, for ourselves, what we think the exigency requires.
IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES, APRIL 23, 1836, ON THE
FOLLOWING RESOLUTION, SUBMITTED BY MR. BENTON :
“ Resolved, That, from and after the day of — , in the year 1836, nothing but gold and silver ought to be received in payment for the public lands; and that the Committee on Public Lands be instructed to report a bill accordingly."
MR. WEBSTER said that he and those who acted with him would be justified in taking no active course in regard to this resolution, in sitting still, suppressing their surprise and astonishment if they could, and letting these schemes and projects take the form of such laws as their projectors might propose.
We are powerless now, and can do nothing. All these measures affecting the currency of the country and the security of the public treasure we have resisted since 1832. We have done so unsuccessfully. We struggled for the re-charter of the Bank of the United States in 1832. The utility of such an institution had been proved by forty years' experience. We struggled against the removal of the deposits. That act, as we thought, was a direct usurpation of power. We strove against the experiment, and all in vain. Our opinions were disregarded, our warnings neglected, and we are now in no degree responsible for the mischiefs which are but too likely to ensue.
Who will look with the perception of an intelligent, and the candor of an honest man, upon the present condition of our finances and currency, and say that this want of credit and confidence which is so general, and which, it is possible, may, ere long, overspread the land with bankruptcies and distress, has not flowed directly from those measures, the adoption of which we so strenuously resisted, and the folly of which men of all parties, however reluctantly, will soon be brought to acknowledge? The truth of this assertion was palpable and resistless.
What, Sir, are the precise evils under which the finances of the Government, and, he believed, of the country now suffer? They are obviously two the superabundance of the Treasury, and its insecurity. We have more money than we need, and that money,
not being in custody under any law, and being in hands over which we have no control, is threatened with danger. Now, Sir, is it not manifest that these evils flow directly from measures of Government which some of us have zealously resisted ? May not each be traced to its distinct source? There would have been no surplus in the Treasury, but for the veto of the land bill, so called, of 1833. This is certain. And as to the security of the public money, it would have been, at this moment, entirely safe, but for the veto of the act continuing the Bank charter. Both these measures had received the sanction of Congress, by clear and large majorities. They were both negatived: the reign of experiments, schemes, and projects commenced, and here we are. Every thing that is now amiss in our financial concerns is the direct consequence of extraordinary exertions of Executive authority. This assertion does not rest on general reasoning. Facis prove it. One veto has deprived the Government of a safe custody for the public moneys, and another veto has caused their present augmentation.
What, Sir, are the evils which are distracting our financial operations? They are obviously two. The public money was not safe ; it was protected by no law. The treasury was overflowing. There was more money than we needed. The currency was unsound. Credit had been diminished, and confidence destroyed. And what did these two evils, the insecurity of the public money and its abundance, result from? They referred directly back to the two celebrated experiments; the veto of the bank bill, followed by the reinoval of the deposits, and the rejection of the land bill. No man doubted that the public money would have remained safe in the Bank of the United States, if the Executive veto of 1832 had not disturbed it.
It was that veto, also, which, by discontinuing the National Bank, removed the great and salutary check to the immoderate issue of paper inoney, and encouraged the creation of so many State banks. This was another of the products of that veto. This is as plain as that. The rejection of the land bill of 1833, by depriving the country of a proper, necessary, and equal distribution of the surplus fund, had produced this redundancy in the Treasury. If the wisdom of Congress had been trusted, the country would not bave been plunged into its present difficulties. They devised the only means by which the peace and prosperity of the People could have been secured. They passed the bank charter : it was negatived. They passed the land bill, and it met the same fate. This extraordinary exercise of power, in these two instances, has produced an exactly corresponding mischief in each case, upon the subjects to which it was applied. Its application to the bill providing for the re-charter of the Bank of the United States has been followed by the present insecurity of the public treasure, and a superabundance
of money not wanted has been the consequence of its application to the land bill.
The country is the victim of schemes, projects, and reckless experiments. We are wiser, or we think ourselves so, than those who have gone before us. Experience cannot teach us. We cannot let well enough alone. The experience of forty years was insufficient to settle the question whether a national bank was useful or not; and forty years' practice of the Government could not decide whether it was constitutional or not. And it is worthy of all consideration, that undue power has been claimed by the Executive, One thing is certain, and that is, there has been a constant and corresponding endeavor to diminish the constitutional power of Congress. The bank charter was negatived, because Congress had no power under the Constitution to grant it; and yet, though Congress had no authority to create a national bank, the Executive at once exercised the power to select and appoint as many banks as he pleased, and to place the public moneys in their hands on just such terms and conditions as he pleased.
There is not a more palpable evidence of the constant bias of this Government to a wrong tendency, than this continued attempt to make legislative power yield to that of the Executive. The restriction of the just authority of Congress is followed in every case by the increase of the power of the Executive. What was it that caused the destruction of the United States Bank, and put the whole moneyed power of the country into the hands of one man? Constitutional doubts of the power of Congress! What has produced this superabundance of money in the treasury ? Constitutional doubts of the power of Congress! In the whole history of this Administration, doctrines had obtained, whose direct tendency was to detract from the settled and long-practised power of Congress, and to give, in full measure, band over hand, every thing into the control of the Executive. Did gentlemen wish him to exemplify the truth of this ? Let them look at the bank bill, the land bill, and the various bills which have been negatived respecting internal improvements.
Gentlemen now speak of returning to a specie basis. Did any man suppose it practicable? The resolution, now under consideration, contemplated that, after the current year, all payments for the public lands were to be made in specie. Now, if he (Mr. W.) had brought forward a proposition like this, he 'would at once have been accused of being opposed to the settlement of the new States. It would have been urged that speculators and capitalists could easily carry gold and silver to the West, by sea or land, while the cultivator, who wished to purchase a small farm, would be compelled to give the former bis own price for the land, because he could visit large cities, or other places where it was to be found, and procure the specie. These arguments would have met him, he was sure, had he introduced a measure like this. If specie payments were to be made for public dues, he should suppose it best to begin with the customs, which were payable in large cities, where gold and silver could be more easily procured than on the frontiers. But whether from speculators, or settlers, what was the use of these specie payments? The money was dragged over the mountains to be dragged back again : that was all. The purchaser of public lands would buy gold by bills on the Eastern cities: it would go across the country in panniers or wagons: the Land Office would send it back again by the return carriage, and thus create the useless expense of transportation.
He had from the very first looked upon all these schemes as totally idle and illusory; not in accordance with the practice of other nations, or suited to our own policy, or our own active condition. But the effect of this resolution — what would it be? Let them try it. Let them go on. Let them add to the catalogue of projects. Let them cause every man in the West, who has a five dollar bank note in his pocket, to set off, post baste, to the bank, lest somebody else should get there before, and get out all the money, and then buy land. How long would the Western banks stand this ? Yet, if gentlemen please, let them go on. I shall dissent; I shall protest; I shall speak my opinions ; but I shall still say, Go on, gentlemen, and let us see the upshot of your experimental policy.
The currency of the country was, to a great degree, in the power of all the banking companies in the great cities. He was as much opposed to the increase of these institutions; but the evil had begun, and could not be resisted. What one State does, another will do also. Danger and misfortunes appear to be threatening the currency of the country; and although the Constitution gives the control over it to Congress, yet Congress is allowed to do nothing. Congress, and not the States, had the coining power; yet the States issue paper as a substitute for coin, and Congress is not supposed to be able to regulate, control, or redeem it. We have the sole power over the currency; but we possess no means of exercising that power. Congress can create no bank, regulated by law, but the Executive can appoint twenty or fifty banks, without any law whatever. A very peculiar state of things exists in this country at this moment -- a country in the highest state of prosperity ; more bountifully blest by Providence in all things than any other nation on earth, and yet in the midst of great pecuniary distress, its finances deranged, and an increasing want of confidence felt in its circulation. But the experiment was to cure all this. A few select and favorite banks were to give us a secure currency, one better and more practically beneficial than that of the United States Bank. And