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here is the result, or, rather, to use the expression of Monsieur Talleyrand, here is the beginning of the end."
We were told that these banks would do as well, if not a great deal better, for all the purposes of exchange, than the United States Bank; that they could negotiate as cheaply and with as much safety; and yet the rate is now one and a half, if not two per cent. between Cincinnati and New York. Indeed, exchanges are all deranged, and in confusion. Sometimes they are at high rates, both ways, between two points. Looking, then, to the state of the currency, the insecurity of the public money, and the rates of exchange, let me ask any honest and intelligent man, of whatever party, what has been the result of these experiments? Does any gentleman still doubt? Let him look to the disclosures made by the circular of one of the deposit banks of Ohio, which was read by an honorable Senator here a day or two since. That bank would not receive the notes of the specie-paying banks of that State from the Land Office, as I understand the circular, or, at any rate, it tells the Land Office that it will not. Here are thirty or forty specie-paying banks in Ohio, all of good credit, and out of the whole number three were to be selected, entitled to no more confidence than the others, whose notes were to be taken for public lands. If gentlemen from the West and South-west are satisfied with this arrangenient, I certainly commend greatly their quiescent temperament.
As he said in the commencement of his remarks, he knew of nothing he could do in regard to the resolution, except to sit still and see how far gentlemen would go, and what this state of things would end in. Here was this vast surplus revenue under no control whatever, and, from appearances, though the session was nearly over, likely to remain so. Two measures of the highest importance had been proposed — one to diminish this fund; another to secure its safety. He wished to understand, and the country to know, whether any thing was to be done with either of these propositions. For his own part, he believed that a national bank was the only security for the national treasure; but, as there was no such institution, a more extended use should be made of this treasure, and in its distribution no preference should be given, as was the fact in the instance of the banks of Ohio, to which he had just alluded. In some way or other this fund must be distributed. It is absolutely necessary. The provisions of the land bill seemed to him eminently calculated to effect this object; but if that measure should not be adopted, he would give his vote to any proper and equitable measure which might be brought forward, let it come from what quarter it might. In all probability, there would be a diminution in the amount of land sales for some time to come. The purchases of the last year, he supposed, had exceeded the demands of emigra
tion. They were made by speculators for the purpose of holding up lands for increased prices. The spirit of speculation, indeed, seemed to be very much directed to the acquisition of the public lands. He could not say what would be the further progress, or where the end, of these things; but he thought one thing quite clear, and that was, that the existing surplus ought to be distributed.
He repeated, that he intended no detailed opposition to the measure now before the Senate ; and had he been in his seat, he should not have opposed the amendment to the pension bill. Let the experiments, one and all, have their course. He should do nothing except to vote against all these visionary projects, until the country should become convinced that a sound currency, and with it a general security for property, and the earnings of honest labor, were things of too much importance to be sacrificed to mere projects, whether political or financial.
After remarks by Mr. Niles of Connecticut, and Mr. Benton of Missouri,
Mr. Webster said the gentleman from Missouri had referred to the resolution of 1816; and he would beg leave to make a brief explanation in reference to the part he bore in it. The events of the war had greatly deranged the currency of the country, and a great pecuniary pressure was felt from one end of the continent to the other. The war took place in 1812, and not two months of it had passed before there was a cessation of specie payments by at least two thirds of all the banks of the country. So strong was the pressure, that although the enemy blockaded the Chesapeake, so that not a barrel of pork or flour could be sent to market, yet the prices of these articles rose fifty per cent. This state of things continued; the collectors of the customs every where received the notes of their own local banks for duties payable at their own places, but would not receive the bills of the banks of the other cities. And what was the consequence? Why, at the close of the session of Congress, a member, if he had been fortunate enough to preserve any of his pay, had to give twenty-five per cent. to get the money received here exchanged for money that he could carry home. Another effect of this state of the currency was this — the Constitution provided that, in the regulation of commerce or revenue, no preference should be given to the ports of one State over those of another. Yet Baltimore, for instance, which had the exchange against her, had an advantage, by the payment of her duties in the bills of her banks, and had the advantage of at least twenty-five per cent. over some Northern cities. The resolution then introduced by him was to provide that the revenue should be equally paid in all parts of the United States; and what was the effect of it? The bank bill had just passed, and the resolution was, that all debts due
the Government should be paid in the legal coin, in notes of the Bank of the United States, or in notes of banks that paid coin on demand. That was the operation of the law of 1816, rendered absolutely necessaryby the existing state of things.
The gentleman from Connecticut inquired whether the omission to use the powers of Congress necessarily increased that of the Executive. He would put a poser to the gentleman. The President himself admitted that it was the appropriate duty of Congress to take the public treasure into its hands, and appoint agents to take care of it. The gentleman himself must admit this, for he supposed that he did not go the lengths of the Senator from Tennessee in being willing that things should remain as they were. Then, if it was their duty to take care of the national treasure, and they did not do it, it would go into the hands of the Executive. Was not the custody of the national treasure power? and if they neglected to use this power, did they not augment the power of the Executive ?
Nothing could be more appropriate for a historian, than to review the doctrines which had been advanced with regard to Executive power, and the means by which it was sought to increase it. The President himself first advanced the doctrine, and it had been repeated there, that the President of the United States was the sole representative of the People of the United States. Did the Constitution make him so ? Did the Constitution acknowledge any other representative of the People than the members of the other House ? But it had been found extremely convenient to those who wished to increase the President's power to give him this title. This claim of the President reminded him of a remark he heard made many years ago by a member of the House of Representatives. That gentleman had voted against the first Bank of the United States, and had changed his mind, and was about to vote for the second. If, said the gentleman, the People have given us the power to make a bank, we can do it; and if they have not, we are the representalives of the People, and can take the power. And this was the doctrine applied to the President as the peculiar representative of the People. The Constitution gave him a modicum of power, and he, claiming the lion's part, took all the rest. This was the result of that overwhelming personal popularity which led men to disregard all the ancient maxims of the founders of this Government, and to yield up all power into the hands of one man. They could not now even quote the doctrines of Mr. Jefferson without being scouted, and they could not resist any power claimed by the Executive, however arbitrary, but must yield up every thing to him by one universal confidence, because he was the representative of the People.
After further remarks by Mr. Niles,
Mr. WEBSTER observed that it was the best course, when a gentleman replied to another, to use his very words as far as bis recollection permitted him. He had noticed, on other occasions, that the Senator from Connecticut gave his own language as that of the gentleman he was replying to, put his own construction upon it, and then replied to this man of straw. He hoped that the gentleman would, when be quoted him in future, use his exact language, and not put into his mouth words that he did not use. The gentleman, in speaking of the President, used the term representative of the People, precisely in the meaning of the term as applied to a member of the House of Representatives. Now, it was impossible to believe in any idea of power pertaining to the President in this character. But he would remind the Senator that the President himself in more than one communication had claimed this character and power. It would be found in the protest that he is the only single representative of the People. Sir, this is the very essence of consolidation, and in the worst of hands. Do we not all know that the People have not one representative? Do we not know that the States are divided into congressional districts, each of which elects a representative, and that the States themselves are represented by two members on that floor? Do we not all know that it was carefully avoided by the framers of the Constitution to give him any such power at all ? He admitted that the President, in reference to his popularity merely, was called, with great propriety, the representative of the People; but in other respects, he was no more so than was the President of the old Congress. There was another false doctrine that was worth noticing, and that was, that every thing that had been done by the President had been approved of by the People, because they reëlected him.
IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES, ON THE BILL TO AU
THORIZE THE PURCHASE, ON THE PART OF THE UNITED STATES, OP THE PRIVATE STOCK IN THE LOUISVILLE AND PORTLAND CANAL. MAY 25, 1836.
Mr. WEBSTER addressed the Senate as follows:
MR. PRESIDENT: I regret the warmth with which my friend from Ohio, (Mr. Ewing, and my friend from Louisiana, (Mr. PORTER,) have spoken on this occasion. But while I regret it, I can hardly say I blame it. They have expressed disappointment, and, I think, they may well feel disappointment. I confess, Sir, I feel disappointment, also. Looking to the magnitude of this object; looking to its highly interesting character to the West; looking to the great concern which our Western friends have manifested for its success, I feel, myself, not only disappointment, but, in some degree, mortification at the result of the vote which has now been taken.
That vote, if it stands, must be decisive of the success of the measure.
No doubt, Sir, it is altogether vain to pass this bill, unless it contain such provisions as will induce the stockholders in the corporation to part with their interests.
In the first place, Sir, why do we hear so much reproach and denunciation against the members of this corporation ? Have they not hazarded their property in an undertaking of great importance and utility to the country? Has not Congress itself encouraged their enterprise, by taking a part of the stock on account of the Government? Are we not ourselves shareholders in this company ?
Their tolls, it is said, are large; that is true; but, then, not only did they run all the risks usually attending such enterprises, but, even with their large tolls, all their receipts, up to this hour, by no means give an increase on their capital equal to the ordinary interest of money in that part of the country.
There appears to me very great injustice in speaking of their tolls as “fines” and “penalties,” and unjust impositions; or of their charter, as an odious monopoly. Who called it so, or who so thought of it, when it was granted to them? Who, but they, were willing to undertake the work to advance the money, and to run the
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