Page images
[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

enlightened judgments, and they are no way accountable to me for the manner in which they discharge it; but when the honorable member from New York contends that this body now accurately represents the public opinion, on the sub-Treasury system, we must look at the facts. And with all possible respect for the honorable member, I must even take leave to ask him, whether, in his judgment, he, himself, is truly reflecting the opinions and wishes of a majority of the people of New York, while he is proposing and supporting this bill? Where does he find evidence, of the favor of the people of that State, towards this measure ? Does he find it in the city? In the country? In the recently elected House of Assembly? In the recently elected members of the Senaje ? Can he name a place-can he lay a venue, for the popularity of this measure, in the whole State of New York ? Between Montauk point and Cattaraugus, and between the mountains of Pennsylvania and the north end of lake Champlain, can lie any where put his finger on the map and say, here is a spot where the sub-Treasury is popular ? Не

may find places, no doubt, thoigh they are somewhat scarco, where his friends have been able to maintain their ascendancy, notwithstanding the unpopularity of the measure; but can he find one place, one spot of

any exrent, in which this measure of relief is the choice, the favorile, of a majority of the people ?

Mr. President, the honorable member has long been in public life, and has witnessed, often, the changes and fluctuations of political parties and political opinions. And I will ask him what he thinks of the hurricane which swept over New York in the first week of last November. Did he ever know the like? Has he before ever been called on to withstand such a whirlwind ? Or had he previously any suspicion that such an outbreak in the political elements was at hand? I am persuaded, sir, that he feared such a thing much less than I hoped for it; and my own hopes, although I had hopes, and strong hopes, I must confess, fell far short of the actual result. And to me,

And to me, Mr.President, it seems perfectly plain, that the cause of this astonishing change in public opinion is to be found, mainly, in the message of September, and the sub-Treasury bill of the last session. The message, with its anti-social, anti-commercial, anti-popular doctrines and dogmas-the message which set at naught all our own manners and usages, rejected all the teachings of experience, threatened the State institutions, and, anxious only to take goo care of Government, abandoned the people to their fate--the message the message, it was, that did the great work in New York, and elsewhere.

The message was that cave of Eolus, out of which the careering winds issued :

Una Eurusque notusque ruunt, creberque procellis

“ Africus"

mingling seas and skies, dispersing the most powerful political combinations, and scattering their fragments on the rocks and shores. I might quote the poet further, sir,

" et vastos volvunt ad littora Auctus." The political deep seemed agitated, to the very bottom, and its heaving bosom moved onward and forward the “vastos fluctus," in nautical phrase, the big rollers of public opinion.

The honorable member may say, or may think, that all this was but the result of a transient impulse, a feverish ebullition, a sudden surprise, or a change superficial, and apparent only, not deep and real. Sir, I cannot say, but I must confess that if the movement in New York, last fall, was not real,

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

it looked more like reality, than any fanciful exhibition which I ever saw. If the people were not in earnest, they certainly had a very sober and earnest way of being in jest.

And, now, sir, can the honorable member, can any man, say, that in regard to this measure, even the House of Representatives is certain, at this moment, truly to reflect the public judgment? Though nearer to the people than ourselves, and more frequently chosen, yet it is known that the present members were elected, nearly all of them, before the appearance of the message of September. And will the honorable member allow me to ask, whether is a new election of members of Congress were to take place in his own State, to-morrow, and the newly elected members should take their seats immediately, he should entertain the slightest expectation of the passage of this bill through that House ?

Mr. President, in 1834, the honorable member presented to the Senate, resolutions of the Legislature of New York, approving the previous course of the administration in relation to the currency. He then urged strongly, but none too strongly, the weight due to those resolutions, because, he argued, they expressed the undoubted sense of the people, as well as that of the Legislature. He said there was not, at that time, a single member in the popular branch of the Legislature, who was not in favor of those resolutions, either from the cities of Hudson, Albany, Troy, Schenectady, Utica, or an almost endless number of incorporated trading towns and villages, or the great city of New York itself, which he justly calls the commercial emporium of the country; all these cities and villages being surrounded, as he most justly said, by an intelligent population ; and cities, villages, and country, altogether comprising near two millions of souls. All this was very well

. It was true. The facts were with the honorable member. And although I most exceedingly regretted and deplored that it was so, I could not deny it. And he was entitled to enjoy, and did enjoy, the whole benefit of this respectable support. But, sir, how stands the matter now? What say these two millions of souls to the sub-Treasury? In the first place, what says the city of New York, that great commercial emporium, worthy the gentleman's commendation in 1834, and worthy of his commendation, and my commendation, and all commendation, at all times? What sentiments, what opinions, what feelings, are proclaimed by the thousands of her merchants, traders, manufacturers, and laborers? What is the united shout of all the voices of all her classes? What is it, but that you will put down this new-fangled sub-Treasury system, alike alien to their interests and their feelings, at once, and for ever? What is it, but that in mercy to the mercanule interest, the trading interest, the shipping interest, the manufacturing interest, the laboring class, and all classes, you will give up useless and pernicious political schemes and projects, and return to the plain, straight course of wise and wholesome legislation? The sentiments of the city cannot be misunderstood. A thousand pens, and ten thousand tongues, and a spirited press, make them all known. If we have not already yet heard enough, we shall hear more, Embarrassed, vexed, pressed, and distressed, as are her citizens at this moment, yet their resolution is not shaken, their spirit is not broken; and, depend upon it, they will not see their commerce, their business, their prosperity, and their happiness, all sacrificed to preposterous schemes and political empiricism, without another, and a yet more vigorous, struggle. And Hudson, and Albany, and Troy, and Schenectady, and Utica-pray, sir, why may not the citizens of these cities have as much weight with the honorable member now, as they justly had in 1834? And does he, can he, doubt of what they think of his bill ? Ay, sir, and Rochester, and Batavia, and Buffalo, and the entire western district of the State, does the honorable member suppose that, in the whole of it, he would be able, by careful search, to do more than to find, now and then, so rare a bird, as a single approver of this system ?

Mr. President, if this system must come, let it come. If we must bow 10 it, why, then, put it upon us.

Do it. Do it by the power of Congress and the President. Congress and the President have the power.

But spare us, I beseech you, spare the people from the imputation, that it is done under clear proof and evidence of their own approbation. Let it not be said it is their choice. Save them, in all mercy, from that reproach.

Sir, I think there is a revolution in public opinion now going on, whatever may be the opinion of the member from New York, or others. I think the fall elections prove this, and that other more recent events confirm it. I think it is a revolt against the absolute dictation of party, a revolt against coercion, on the public judgment; and especially a revolt against the adoption of new mischievous expedients, on questions of deep public interest ; a revolt against the rash and unbridled spirit of change; a revolution, in short, against further revolution. I hope, most sincerely, that this revolution may go on; not, sir, for the sake of men, but for the sake of measures, and for the sake of the country. I wish it to proceed till the whole country, with an imperalive unity of voice, shall call back Congress to the true policy of the Gov. ernment.

The honorable member from New York is of opinion, sir, that there are only three courses open to us. We must, he urges, either adopt this measure, or return to a system of deposites with the State banks, or establish a national bank. Now, sir, suppose this to he as the gentleman states, then, I say, that either of the others is better than this. I would prefer doing almost any thing, and I would vastly prefer doing nothing, to taking this bill.

I need not conceal my own opinions. I am in favor of a national institution, with such provisions and securities as Congress may think proper, to guard against danger and against abuse. But the honorable member disposes of this, at once, by the declaration, that he himself can never consent 10 a bank, being utterly opposed to it, both on constitutional grounds and grounds of expediency. The gentleman's opinion, sir, always respected, is certainly of great weight and importance, from the public situation he occupies. But although these are his opinions, is it certain that a majority of the people of the country agree with him in this particular? I think not. i verily believe a majority of the people of the United States are now of the opinion, that a national bank, properly constituted, limited, and guarded, is both constitutional and expedient, and ought now to be established. So far as I can learn, three-fourths of the Western people are for it. sentatives here can form a better judgment; but such is my opinion, upon the best information which I can obtain. The South may be more divided, or may be against a national institution; but looking, again, to the centre, the North and the East, and comprehending the whole in one view, I believe the prevalent sentiment is such as I have stated.

At the last session great pains were taken to obtain a vote, of this and the other House, against a bank; for the obvious purpose of placing such an institution out of the list of remedies, and so reconciling the people to the sub-Treasury scheme. Well, sir, and did those votes produce any effect? None at all. The people did not, and do not, care a rush for them. I never have seen or heard a single man, who paid the slightest respect to those

Their repres

[ocr errors]

votes of ours. The honorable member, to-day, opposed as he is to a bank, has not even alluded to them. So entirely vain is it, sir, in this country, to attempt to forestall, commit, or coerce the public judgment. All those resolutions fell perfectly dead on the tables of the two Houses. We may resolve what we please, and resolve it when we please ; but if the people do not like il, at their own good pleasure they will rescind it; and they are not likely to continue their approbation long to any system of measures, however plausible, which terminates in deep disappointment of all their hopes for their own prosperity.

I have said, sir, that, in preference to this bill, I would try some modification of the State bank system; and I will cheerfully do so, although every body knows, that I always opposed that system. Still, I think it less objectionable than this. Mr. President, in my opinion, the real source of the evil lies in the tone, and spirit, and general feeling, which have pervaded the administration for some years past. I verily believe the origin is there. That spirit, I fully believe, has been deeply anti-commercial, and of late decidedly unfriendly to the State institutions. Do the leading presses in favor of the administration speak its own sentiments ? If you think they do, then look at the language and spirit of those presses. Do they not manifest an unceasing and bitter hostility to the mercantile classes, and to the institutions of the States ? I certainly never supposed the State banks fit agents for furnishing or regulating a national currency; but I have thought them useful in their proper places. At any rate, the States had power to establish them, and have established them, and we have no right to endeavor to destroy them. How is it, then, that generally, every leading press, which supports the administration, joins in the general cry against these institutions of the States ? How is it, if it be not that a spirit hostile to these institutions has come to pervade the administration itself?

In my opinion, the State banks, on every ground, demand other treatment; and the interest of the country requires that they should receive other treatment. The Government has used them, and why should it now not only desert, but abuse them ? That some of the selected banks have behaved very unworthily, is no doubt true. The best behaviour is not always to be expected from pets. But that the banks, generally, deserved this unrestrained warfare upon them, at the hands of Government, I cannot believe. It appears to me to be both ungrateful and unjust.

The banks, sir, are now making an effort, which I hope may be successful, to resume specie payments. The process of resumption works, and must work, with severity upon the country. Yet I most earnestly hope the banks may be able to accomplish the object. But in all this effort, they get no aid from Government, no succor from Government, not even a kind word from Government. They get nothing but denunciation and abuse. They work alone, and therefore the attainment of the end is the more difficult. They hope to reach that end only, or mainly, by reduction and curtailment. If, by these means, payment in specie can be resumed and maintained, the result will prove the existence of great solidity, both of the banks and of the mercantile classes. The Bank of England did not accomplish resumption by curtailment alone. She had the direct aid of Government. And the banks of the United States, in 1816, did not rely on curtailment alone. They had the aid of the then new-created Bank of the United States, and all the countenance, assistance, and friendly support, which the Government could give them. Still, I would not discourage the efforts of the banks. I trust they will succeed, and that they will resume specic payments at the ear


liest practicable moment; but it is, at the same time, my full conviction, that by another and a better course of public policy, the Government might most materially assist the banks to bring about resumption ; and that by Government aid, it might be brought about with infinitely less of public inconvenience and individual distress..

For an easy resumption of specie payments, there is mainly wanted a revival of trust, the restoration of confidence, and a harmonious action, between the Government and the moneyed institutions of the country. But instead of efforts to inspire trust, and create confidence, we see and hear nothing but denunciation ; instead of harmonious action, we find nothing but unrelenting hostility.

Mr. President, you and I were in Congress, in 1816, during the time of the suspension of specie payments by the banks. What was the spirit of the Government at that time, sir? Was it hostile, acrimonious, belligerant towards the State institutions ? Did it look on them only to frown? Did it touch them only to distress? Did it put them all under the scourge ? You know, sir, it was far otherwise. You know, that the Secretary of that day entered into friendly correspondence with them, and assured them that he would second their efforts for resumption, by all the means in his power. You know, sir, that in fact, he did render most essential aid. And do you see, sir, any similar effort now? Do you behold, in the bill before us, any thing of the spirit or the policy of Mr. Madison, on an occasion very like the present? Mr. Madison was a man of such subdued self-respect, that he was willing to yield to experience and to the opinion of his country; a man, too, of so much wisdom and true patriotism, that nothing was allowed to stand between him and his clear perception of the public good. Do you see, sir, any thing of this spirit-of the wisdom, of the mild, and healing, and restoring policy, of Mr. Madison, in this measure ? Another illustrious man, now numbered with the dead, was then with us, and was acting an important part, in the councils of the country. I mean Mr. Lowndes ; a man not deficient in force and genius, but still more distinguished for that large and comprehensive view of things which is more necessary to make great men, and is also much rarer, than mere positive talent and for an impartial, well-balanced judgment, which kept him free from prejudice and error, and which gave great and just influence to all his opinions. Do you see, sir, any thing of the spirit, the temper, the cool judgment, or the long-sighted policy of Mr. Lowndes, in all that is now before us? And Mr. Crawford, then at the head of the Treasury, arduously striving to restore the finances, to re-establish both public and private credit, and to place the currency once more upon its safe and proper foundation; do you see, sir, the marks of Mr. Crawford's hands in the measure now presented for our approbation ?

Mr. President, I have little to say of the subordinate provisions of this bill, of the receivers general, or of the dangerous power given to the Secretary, of investing the public money in State stocks of his own selection. My opposition to the bill, is to the whole of it. It is general, uncompromising, and decided. I oppose all its ends, objects, and purposes; I oppose all its means, its inventions, and its contrivances. I am opposed to the separation of Government and people ; I am opposed, now and at all times, to an exclusive metallic currency; I am opposed to the spirit in which the measure originates, and to all and every emanation and ebullition of that spirit. I solemnly declare, that in thus studying our own safety, and renouncing all care over the general currency, we are, in my opinion, abandoning one of the plainest and most important of our constitutional duties. If, sir, we

« PreviousContinue »