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Mr. Clay rose, and addressed the Senate as follows: I have seen some public service, passed through many troubled times, and often addressed public assemblies, in this Capitoi and elsewhere; but never before have I risen in a deliberative body, under more oppressed feelings, or with a deeper sense of awful responsibility. Never before have I risen to express my opinions upon any public measure, fraught with such tremendous consequences to the welfare and prosperity of the country, and so perilious to the liberties of the people, as I solemnly believe the bill under consideration will be. If you knew, sir, what sleepless hours reflection upon it has cost me, if with what fervor and sincerity I have implored Divine assistance to strengthen and sustain me in my opposition to it, I should have credit with you, at least, før the sincerity of my convictions, if I shall be so unfortunate as not to have your concurrence as to the dangerous character of the measure. And I have thanked my God that he has prolonged my life until the present time, to enable me to exert myself in the service of my country, against a project far transcending in pernicious tendency any that I have ever had occasion to consider. I thank him for the health I am permitted to enjoy; I thank him for the soft and sweet repose which I experienced last night; I thank him for the bright and glorious sun which shines upon us this day.
It is not my purpose, at this time, Mr. President, to go at large into a consideration of the causes which have led to the present most disastrous state of public affairs. That daty was performed by others, and myself, at the extra session of Congress. It was then clearly shown that it sprung from the ill-advised and unfortunate measures of executive administration. I Tow will content myself with saying that, on the 4th day of March, 1829, Andrew Jackson, not by the blessing of God, was made President of these United States ; that the country then was eminently prosperous ; that its currency was as sound and safe as any that a people were ever blessed with; that
, throughout the wide extent of this whole Union, it possessed a uniform value ; and that exchanges were conducted with such regularity and persection, that funds could be transmitted from one extremity of the Union to the other, with the least possible risk or loss. In this encouraging condition of the business of the country, it remained for several years, until after the war, wantonly waged against the late Bank of the United States, was completely successful, by the overthrow of that invaluable institution. What our present situation is, it is as needless to describe as it is painful to contemplate.
First felt in our great commercial marts, distress and embarrassment have penetrated into the interior, and now pervade almost the entire Union. It has been justly remarked by one of the soundest and most practical writers that I have had occasion to consult, that "all convulsions in the circulation and commerce of every country must originate in the operations of the Government, or in the mistaken views and erroneous measures of those possessing the power of influencing credit and circulation; for they are not otherwise
susceptible of convulsion, and if left to themselves, they will find their own level, and flow nearly in one uniform streain."
Yes, Mr. President, we all have but too melancholy a consciousness of the unhappy condition of our country. We all too well know, that our noble and gallant ship lies helpless and immoveable upon breakers, dismasted, the surge beating over her venerable sides, and the crew threatened with instantaneous destruction. How came she there ? Who was the pilot at the helm when she was stranded ? The party in power! The piloi was aided by all the science and skill, by all the charts and instruments of such distinguished navigators as Washington, the Adamses, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe ; and yet he did not, or could not, save the public vessel. She was placed in her present miserable condition by his bungling navigation, or by his want of skill and judgment. It is impossible for him to escape from one or the other horn of that dilemma. I leave him at liberty to choose between them.
I shall endeavor, Mr. President, in the course of the address I am about making, to establish certain propositions, which I believe to be incontestable; and, for the sake of perspicuity, I will state them severally to the Senate. I shall contend
1st. That it was the deliberate purpose and fixed design of the late administration to establish a Government bank-a Treasury bank—to be administered and controlled by the Executive department.
2d. That, with that view, and to that end, it was its aim and intention to overthrow the whole banking system, as existing in the United States when that administration came into power, beginning with the Bank of the United States, and ending with the State banks.
3d. That the attack was first confined, from considerations of policy, to the Bank of the United States; but that, after its overthrow was accomplished, it was then directed, and has since been continued, against the State banks.
4th. That the present administration, by its acknowledgments, emanating from the highest and most authentic source, has succeeded to the principles, plans, and policy, of the preceding administracion, and stands solemnly pledged to complete and perfect them.
And, 5th. That the bill under consideration is intended to execute the pledge, by establishing, upon the ruins of the late Bank of the United States, and the State banks, a Government bank, to be managed and controlled by the Treasury Department, acting under the commands of the President of the United States.
I believe, solemnly believe, the truth of every one of these five propositions. In the support of them, I shall not rely upon any gratuitous surmises or vague conjectures, but upon proofs, clear, positive, undeniable, and demonstrative. To establish the first four, I shall adduce evidence of the highest possible authenticity, or facts admitted or undeniable, and fair reasoning founded on them. And as to the last, the measure under consideration, I think the testimony, intrinsic and extrinsic, on which I depend, stamps, beyond all doubt, its true character as a Government bank, and ought to carry to the mind of the Senate the conviction which I entertain, and in which I feel perfectly confident the whole country will share.
1. My first proposition is, that it was the deliberate purpose and fixed design of the late administration to establish a Government bank-a Treasury bank to be administered and controlled by the Executive Department. To establish its truth, the first proof which I offer is the following extract from President Jackson's annual message of December, 1829: “ The charter of the
Bank of the United States expires in 1836, and its stockholders will most probably apply for a renewal of their privileges. In order to avoid the evils resulting from precipitancy, in a measure involving such important priociples, and such deep pecuniary interests, I feel that I cannot, in justice to the parties interested, too soon present it to the consideration of the Legislature and the people. Both the constitutionality and the expediency of the law creating this bank, are well questioned by a large portion of our fellow-citizens; and it must be admitted by all that it has failed in the great end of estabJishing a uniform and sound currency.
“ Under these circumstances, if such an institution is deemed essential to the fiscal operations of the Government, I submit to the wisdom of the Legislature, whether a national one, founded upon the credit of the Government and its revenues, might not be devised, which would avoid all constitutional difficulties, and, at the same time, secure all the advantages to the Government and the country that were expected to result from the present bank."
This was the first open declaration of that implacable war against the late Bank of the United States, which was afterwards waged with so much ferocity. It was the sound of the distant bugle, to collect together the dispersed and scattered forces, and prepare for battle. The country saw with surprise the statement that the constitutionality and expediency of the law creating this bank are well questioned by a large portion of our fellow-citizens," when, in truth and in fact, it was well known that but few then doubted the constitutionality, and none the expediency of it. And the assertion excited much greater surprise, that "it must be admitted by all that it has failed in the great end of establishing a uniform and sound currency.” In this message, 100, whilst a doubt is intimated as to the utility of such an institution, President Jackson clearly first discloses his object to establish a national one, founded upon the credit of the Government and its revenues. His language is perfectly plain and unequivocal. Such a bank, founded upon the credit of the Government and its revenues, would secure all the advantages to the : Government and the country, he tells us, that were expected to result from the present bank.
In his annual message of the ensuing year, the late President says: “The importance of the principles involved in the inquiry, whether it will be proper to recharter the Bank of the United States, requires that I should again call the attention of Congress to the subject. Nothing has occurred to lessen, in any degree, the dangers which many of our citizens apprehend from that institution, as at present organized. In the spirit of improvement and compromise which distinguishes our country and its institutions, it becomes us to inquire whether it be not possible to secure the advantages afforded by the present bank, through the agency of a Bank of the United States, so modified in its principles as to obviate constitutional and other objections.
“It is thought practicable to organize such a bank, with the necessary officers, as a branch of the Treasury Department, based on the public and individual deposites, without power to make loans, or purchase property, which shall remit the funds of Government; and the expense of which may be paid, if thought advisable, by allowing its officers to sell bills of exchange, to private individuals, at a moderate premium. Not being a corporate body, having no stockholders, debtors, and property, and but few officers, it would not be obnoxious to the constitutional objections which are urged against the present bank; and having no means to operate on the hopes, fears, or interests, of large masses of the community, it would be shorn of the influence which makes that bank formidable."
In this message, President Jackson, after again adverting to the imaginary dangers of a Bank of the United States, recurs to his favorite project, and
inquires " whether it be not possible to secure the advantages afforded by the present bank, through the agency of a Bank of the United States, so niodified in its principles and structure as to obviate constitutional and other objections.” And to dispel all doubts of the timid, and to confirm the wavering, he declares that it is thought practicable to organize such a bank, with the necessary officers, as a branch of the Treasury Department. As a branch of the Treasury Department! The very scheme now under consideration. And, to defray the expenses of such an anomalous institution, he suggests that the officers of the Treasury Department may turn bankers and brokers, and sell bills of exchange to private individuals at a moderate premium !
In his annual message of the year 1831, upon this subject, he was brief and somewhat covered in his expressions. But the fixed purpose which he entertained is sufficiently disclosed to the attentive reader. He announces that, “ entertaining the opinions heretofore expressed in relation to the Bank of the United States, as at present organized, I felt it my duty, in my former messages, frankly to disclose them, in order that the attention of the Legislature and the people should be seasonably directed to that important subject, and that it might be considered, and finally disposed of, in a manner best calculated to promote the ends of the constitution, and subserve the public interests." What were the opinions " heretofore" expressed we have clearly seen. They were adverse to the Bank of the United States, as at present organized, that is to say, an organization with any independent corporate Goveroment; and in favor of a national bank which should be so constituted as to be subject to exclusive executive control.
At the session of 1831–32, the question of the recharter of the Bank of the United States came up; and although the attention of Congress and the country had been repeatedly and deliberately before invited to the consideration of it by President Jackson himself, the agitation of it was now declared by him and his partisans to be precipitate and premature. Nevertheless, the country and Congress, conscious of the value of a safe and sound uniform currency, conscious that such a currency had been eminently supplied by the Bank of the United States, and unmoved by all the outcry raised against that admirable institution, the recharter commanded large majorities in both Houses of Congress. Fatally for the interests of this country, the stern selfwill of General Jackson prompted him to risk every thing upon its overthrow. On the 10th of July, 1832, the bill was returned with his veto; from which the following extract is subm ted to the attentive consideration of the Sen ate : “A Bank of the United States is, in many respects, convenient for the Government and useful to the people. Entertaining this opinion, and deeply impressed with the belief that some of the powers and privileges possessed by the existing bank are unauthorized by the constitution, subversive of the rights of the States, and dangerous to the liberties of the people, I felt it my duty, at an early period of my administration, to call the attention of Congress to the practicability of organizing an institution, combining all its advantages, and obviating these objections. I sincerely regret that, in the act before me, I can perceive none of those modifications of the bank charier which are necessary, in my opinion, to make it compatible with justice, with sound policy, or with the constitution of our country.”
" That a Bank of the United States, competent to all the duties which may be required by Government, might be so organized as not to infringe upon our own delegated powers, or the reserved rights of the States, I do not entertain a doubt. Had the Executive been called upon to furnish the project of such an institution, the duty would have been cheerfully performed. In the absence of such a call, it is obviously proper that he should confine