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were, at this moment, at war with a powerful enemy, and if his fleets and armies were now ravaging our shores, and it were proposed in Congress to take care of ourselves, to defend the Capitol, and abandon the country to its fate, it would be, certainly, a more striking, a more lagrant and daring, but in my judgment not a more clear and manifest dereliction of duty, than we commit in this open and professed abandonment of our constitutional power and constitutional duty, over the great interest of the national currency. I mean to maintain that constitutional power, and that constitutional duty, to the last. It shall not be with my consent, that our ancient policy shall be overturned. It shall not be with my consent, that the country shall be plunged, further and further, into the unfathomed depths of new expedients. It shall not be without voice of remonstrance from me, that one great and important purpose for which this Governinent was framed, shall now be utterly surrendered and abandoned forever.
THE SUB-TREASURY BILL.
DELIVERED MARCH 12, 1838.
PRINTED BY GALES AND SEATON.
MR. WEBSTER'S SECOND SPEECH
THE SUB-TREASURY BILL.
Having at an early stage of the debate expressed, in a general manner, my opposition to this bill, I must find an apology for again addressing the Senate, in the acknowledged importance of the measure, the novelty of its character, and the division of opinion respecting it which is known to exist in both Houses of Congress.
To be able, in this state of things, to give a preponderance to that side of the question which I embrace, is, perhaps, more than I ought to hope ; but I do not feel that I have done all which my duty demands, until I make another effort.
The functions of this Government which, in time of peace, most materially affect the happiness of the people, are those which respect commerce and revenue. The bill before us touches both these great interests. It proposes to act directly on the revenue and expenditure of Government, and it is expected to act, also, indirectly, on commerce and currency; while its friends and supporters altogether abstain from other measures, deemed by a great portion of Congress and of the country, to be indispensably demanded by the present exigency.
We have arrived, Mr. President, towards the close of a half century from the adoption of the constitution. During the progress of
years, our population has increased from three or four millions to thirteen or fourteen millions; our commerce, from little or nothing, to an export of a hundred and ninety millions, and an import of a hundred and twenty-eight and a half millions, in the year 1836. Our mercantile tonnage approaches near to two millions. We have a revenue, and an expenditure, of thirty millions a year. The manufactures of the country have attained very great importance, and, up to the commencement of the derangement of the currency, were in a prosperous and growing state. The produce of the fisheries has become vast; and the general production of the labor and capital of the country is increasing, far beyond all example in other countries, or other times, and has already reached an amount which, to those who have not investigated the subject, would seem incredible.
The commerce of the United States, sir, is spread over the globe. It pursues its objects in all seas, and finds its way into every port which the laws of trade do not shut against its approach. With all the disadvantages of more costly materials, and of higher wages, and often in despite of unequal and unfavorable commercial regulations of other States, the enterprise, vigor, and economy which distinguish our navigating interest, enable it to show our flag, in competition with the most favored and the most. skilful, in the various quarters of the world. In the mean time, internal activity does not lag nor loiter. New and useful modes of intercourse and facilities of transportation are established, or are in progress, everywhere. Public works are projected and pushed forward, in a spirit, which grasps at high and vast objects, with a bold defiance of all expense. The aggregate value of the property of the country is augmented daily. A constant demand for new capital exists, although a debt has already been contracted in Europe, for sums advanced to States, corporations, and individuals, for purposes connected with internal improvement; which debt cannot now be less than a hundred millions of dollars. Spreading over a great extent, embracing different climates, and with vast variety of products, we find an intensely excited spirit of industry and enterprise to pervade the whole country; while its external commerce, as I have already said, sweeps over all seas.
We are connected with all commercial countries, and, most of all, with that which has established and sustained the most stupendous system of commerce and manufactures, and which collects and disburses an incredible amount of annual revenue ; and which uses, to this end, and as means of currency and circulation, a mixed money of metal and paper.
Such a mixed system, sir, has also prevailed with us, from the beginning. Gold and silver, and convertible bank paper, have always constituted our actual money. The people are used to this system. It has hitherto commanded their confidence, and fulfilled their expectations. We have had, in succession, two national banks; each for a period of twenty years. Local or State banks have, at the same time, been in operation; and no man of intelligence or candor can deny that, during these forty years, and with the operation of a national and these State institutions, the currency of the country, upon the whole, has been safe, cheap, convenient, and satisfactory. When the Government was established, it found convertible bank paper, issued by State banks, already in circulation, and with this circulation it did not interfere. The United States, indeed, had themselves established a bank, under the old Confederation, with authority to issue paper. A system of mixed circulation, therefore, was exactly that system which this constitution, at its adoption, found already in existence. There is not the slightest evidence of any intention, in establishing the constitu