Page images
PDF
EPUB

hope it is that they may be borne along on the tide of circumstances and favorable occurrences, and who repose in the denial of their own pow. ers and their own responsibility—let all such, look well to the end.

For one, I intend to clear myself from all blame. I intend, this day, to free myself of the responsibility of consequences, by warning you of the danger into which you are conducting our public affairs, by urging and entreating you, as I do now urge and entreat you, by invoking you, as I do invoke you, by your love of country, and your fidelity to the constitution, to abandon all untried expedients; to put no trust in ingenuity and contrivance; to have done with projects which alarm and agitate the people; to seek no shelter from obligation and duty ; but with manliness, directness, and true wisdom, to apply to the evils of the times their proper remedy. That Providence may guide the counsels of the country to this end, before even greater disasters and calamities overtake us, is my most fervent prayer !

Mr. President, on the subject of the power of Congress, as well as on other important topics, connected with the bill, the honorable gentleman from South Carolina has advanced opinions, of which I feel bound to take some notice.

That honorable gentleman, in: his recent speech, attempted to exhibit a contrast between the course of conduct which I, and other gentlemen who act with me, at present pursue, and that which we have heretofore followed. In presenting this contrast, he said, he intended nothing personal ; his only object was truth. To this I could not object. The occasion requires, sir, that I should now examine his opinions; and I can truly say, with him, that I meay nothing personally injurious, and that my object, also, is truth, and nothing else. Here I might stop; but I will even say something more.

It is now five and twenty years, sir, since I became acquainted with the honorable gentleman, in the House of Representatives, in which he had held a seat, I think, about a year and a half before I entered it. From that period, sir, down to the year 1824, I can say, with great sincerity, there was not, among my political contemporaries, any man for whom I entertained a higher respect, or warmer esteem. When we first met, we were both young men. I beheld in him a generous character, a liberal and comprehensive mind, engrossed by great objects, distinguished talent, and, particularly, great originality and vigor of thought. That he was ambitious, I did not doubt; but that there was any thing in his ambition low or sordid, any thing approaching to a love of the mere loaves and fishes of office, I did not then beliere, and do not now believe. If, from that moment down to the time I have already mentioned, I differed with him on any great constitutional question, I do not know it.

But in 1824, events well known to the Senate separated us; and that separation remained, wide and broad, until the end of the memorable session which terminated in March, 1833. With the events of that session, our occasions of difference had ceased ; certainly for the time, and, as I sincerely hoped, forever. Before the next meeting of Congress, the public deposites had been removed from their lawful custody by the President. Respecting this exercise of the Executive power, the honorable gentleman and myself entertained the same opinions; and, in regard to subsequent transactions connected with that, and growing out of it, there was not, so far as I know, any difference of sentiment between us. We looked u; on all these proceedings but as so many efforts to give to the Executive an unconstitutional control over the public moneys. We thought we saw, everywhere, proofs of a design to extend Executive authority, not only in derogation of the just powers of Congress, but to the danger of the public liberty. We acted together, to check these designs, and to arrest the march of Executive prerogative and dominion. In all this, we were but co-operating with many other gentlemen here, and with a large and intelligent portion of the whole country.

The unfortunate results of these Executive interferences with the currency had made an impression on the public mind. A revolution seemed in progress, and the people were coming in their strength, as we began to think, to support us and our principles.

In this state of things, sir, we met here at the commencement of the September session : but we met, not as we had done; we met, not as we had parted. The events of May, the policy of the President in reference to those events, the doctrines of the message of September, dhe principles and opinions which the honorable gentleman, both to my surprise and to my infinite regret, came forward then to support, rendered it quite impossible for us to act together, for a single moment longer. To the leading doctrines of that message, and to the policy which it recommended, I felt, and still feel, a deep, conscienkious, and irreconcilable opposition. The honorable gentleman supported, and still supports, both. Here, then, we part. On these questions of constitutional power and duty, and on these momentous questions of national policy, we separate. And so broad and ample is the space which divides us, and so deep does the division run, touching even the very foundations of the Government, that, considering the time of life to which we both have arrived, it is not probable that we are to meet again. I say this with unfeigned and deep regret. Believe me, sir, I would most gladly act with the honorable gentleman. If he would but come back, now, to what I consider his former principles and sentiments; if he would place himself on those constitutional doctrines which he has sustained through a long series of years; and if, thus standing, he would exert his acknowledged ability to restore the prosperity of the country, and put an end to the mischiefs of reckless experiments and dangerous innovation,,I would mot only willingly act with him, I would act under him; I would follow him, I would support him, I would back him, at every step, to the utmost of my power and ability. Such is not to be our destiny. That destiny is, that we here part : and all I can say further is, that he carries with him the same feeling of personal kindness on my part, the same hearty good-will which have heretofore inspired me.

There have been three principal occasions, sir, on which the honorable gentleman has expressed his opinions upon the questions now under discussion. They are, his speech of the 15th September, his published letter of the 3d November, and his leading speech at the present session. These productions are all marked with his characteristic ability; they are ingenious, able, condensed, and striking. They deserve an answer. To some of the observations in the speech of September, I made a reply on the day of its delivery; there are other parts of it, however, which require a more deliberate examination.

Mr. President, the honorable gentleman declares in that speech, " that he belongs to the State Rights party; that that party, from the beginning of the Government, has been opposed to a national bank as unconstitutional, inexpedient, and dangerous; that it has ever dreaded the union of the political and moneyed power, and the central action of the Government, to which it so strongly tends; that the connexion of the Government with the banks, whether it be with a combination of State banks, or with a national institution, will necessarily centralize the action of the system at the principal point of collection and disbursement, and at which the mother bank, or the head of the league of State banks, must be located. From that point, the whole system, through the connexion with the Government, will be enabled to control the exchanges both at home and abroad, and, with it, the commerce, foreign and domestic, including exports and imports."

Now, sir, this connexion between Government and the banks, to which he imputes such mischievous consequences, he describes to be " the receiving and paying away their notes as cash ; and the use of the public money, from the time of the collection to the disburse. ment."

Sir, if I clearly comprehend the honorable gentleman, he means no more, after all, than this: that, while the public revenues are collected, as heretofore, through the banks, they will lie in the banks between the time of collection and the time of disbursement; that, during that period, they will be regarded as one part of the means of business and of discount possessed by the banks; and that, as a greater portion of the revenue is collected in large cities than in small ones, these large cities will, of course, derive greater benefit than the small ones from these deposites in the banks. In other words, that, as the importing merchants in a great city pay more duties to Government than those in a small one, so they enjoy an advantage to be derived from any use which the banks may make of these moneys, while on deposite with them. Now, sir, I would be very glad to know, supposing all this to be true, what there is in it either unequal or unjust ? The benefit is exactly in proportion to the amount of business, and to the sums paid. If individuals in large cities enjoy the incidental use of more money, it is simply because they pay more money. It is like the case of credit on duty bonds. Whoever imports goods with the benefit of giving bond for duties, instead of making present payment, enjoys a certain benefit; and this benefit, in a direct sense, is in proportion to the amount of goods imported—the large importer having credit for a large sum, the small importer having credit for a smaller sum. But the advantage, the benefit, or the indulgence, or whatever we call it, is, nevertheless, entirely equal and impartial.

How, then, does the collection of revenue through the banks “ centralize the action of the commercial system? It seems to me, sir, the cause is mistaken for the effect. The greatest amount of revenue is collected in the greatest city, because it is already the greatest city; because its local advantages, its population, its capital and enterprise, draw business towards it, constitute it a central point in commercial operations, and have made it the greatest city. It is the centralization of commerce by these just and proper causescauses which must always exist in every country which produce a large collection of revenue in the favored spot. The amount of capital is one very important cause, no doubt; and leaving public moneys in the banks till wanted, allows to merchants, in places of large import, a degree of incidental benefit, in just proportion to the amount of capital by them employed in trade, and no more.

I suppose, sir, it is the natural course of things in every commercial country, that some place, or a few places, should go ahead of others in commercial business importance. This must ever be so, until all places possess precisely equal natural advantages. And I suppose, too, that, instead of being mischievous, it is rather for the common good of all, that there should be some commercial emporium, some central point, for the exchanges of trade. Government, certainly, should not seek to produce this result by the bestowal of unequal privileges; but surely, sir, it would be a very strange and indefensible policy which should lead the Government to withhold any portion of the capital of the country from useful employment, merely because that, if employed, while all enjoyed the benefit proportionately, all would not enjoy it with the same absolute mathematical equality.

So much, sir, for concentration, arising from depositing the revenues in banks. Let us now look to the other part of the connexion, viz : the receiving of banknotes for duties. How in the world does this “centralize” the commercial system? The whole tendency and effect, as it seems to me, is directly the other way. It counteracts centralization. It gives all possible advantage to local currency and local payments, and thereby encourages both imports and exports. It tends to make local money good everywhere. If goods be imported into Charleston, the duties are paid in Charleston notes. New York notes are not demanded. Nothing, certainly, can be fairer or more equal than this, and nothing more favorable to the Charleston importers.

But how would that system work, which the gentleman himself proposes ?

If his plan could prevail, he would have the duties collected either in specie, or in a Government paper to be issued from the Treasury. He would reject all bank notes whatever. If the gentleman, sir, fears centralization, I am astonished that he does not see centralization in all its terrors in this very proposition of his own. Pray allow me to ask, sir, where will this Government paper, in the course of its issue and circulation, naturally centre? To what points will it tend ? Certainly, most certainly, to the greatest points of collection and expenditure; to the very heart of the metropolitan city, wherever that city may be. This is as inevitable as the fall of water or the results of attraction. If two-thirds of the duties be collected in New York, it will follow, of course, that two-thirds of any Government paper received for duties will be there received ; and it will be more valuable there than elsewhere. The value of such paper would consist in its receivability, and nothing else. It would always tend, therefore, directly to the spot where the greatest demand should exist for it for that purpose. Is it not so at this moment with the outstanding Treasury notes ? Are they abundant in Georgia, in Mississippi in Illinois, or in New Hampshire ? No sooner issued, than they commence their march toward the place where they are most valued and most in demand : that is, to the place of the greatest public receipt. If you want concentration, sir, and enough of it-if

you desire to dry up the small streams of commerce, and fill more full the deep and already swollen great channels, you will act very wisely to: that end, if you keep out of the receipt of the Treasury all money but such paper as the Government may furnish, and which shall be no otherwise redeemable than in receipt for debts to Government while at the same time you depress the character of the local circulation.

Such is the scheme of the honcrable member in its probable commercial effect. Let us look at it in a political point of view.

The honorable member says he belongs to the State-rights party; that party professes something of an uncommon love of liberty ; an extraordinary sensibility to all its dangers; and of those dangers, it most dreads the union of the political and money power. This we learn from the authentic declaration of the gentleman himself. And now, oh, transcendental consistency! oh, most wonderful conformity of means and ends! oh, exquisite mode of gratifying high desires ! behold, the honorable member proposes that the political power of the State shall take to itself the whole function of supplying the entire paper circulation of the country, by notes or bills of its own, issued at its own discretion, to be paid out or advanced to whomsoever it pleases, in discharging the obligations of Government, bearing no promise to pay, and to be kept in circulation merely by being made receivable at the Treasury! The whole circulation of the country, excepting only that which is metallic, and which must always be small, will thus be made up of mere Government paper, issued for Government purposes, and redeemable only in payment of Government debts. In other words, the entire means of carrying on the whole commerce of the country will be held by Government in its own hands, and made commensurate, exactly, with its own wants, purposes, and opinions; the whole commercial business of the country being thus made a mere appendage to revenue.

« PreviousContinue »