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But, sir, in order that I may not misrepresent the honorable member, let me show you a little more distinctly what his opinions are respecting this Government paper.
The honorable member says, sir, that to make this sub-treasury measure successful, and to secure it against reaction, some safe and stable medium of circulation, "to take the place of bank notes in the fiscal operations of the Government, ought to be issued;" that, “ in the present condition of the world, a paper currency, in some form, if not necessary, is almost indispensable, in financial and commercial operations of civilized and extensive communities;” that “the great desideratum is to ascertain what description of paper has the requisite qualities of being free from fluctuation in value, and liability to abuse in the greatest perfection ;" that bank notes do not possess these requisites in a degree sufficiently high for this purpose.” And then he says, “I go farther. It appears to me, after bestowing the best reflection I can give the subject, that no convertible paper, that is, no paper whose credit rests upon a promise to pay, is suitable for currency." “On what, then, (he asks,) ought a paper currency to rest ?” “I would say,” he answers, “ on demand and supply simply: which regulate the value of every thing else--the constant demand which Government has for its necessary supplies." He then proceeds to observe, “that there might be a sound and safe paper currency, founded on the credit of Government exclusively.” “That such paper, only to be issued to those who had claims on the Government, would, in its habitual state, be at or above par with gold and silver ;" that “nothing but experience can determine what amount, and of what denominations, might be safely issued; but that it might be safely assumed that the country would absorb an amount greatly exceeding its annual income. Much of its exchanges, which amount to a vast sum, as well as its banking business, would revolve about it; and many millions would thus be kept in circulation beyond the demands of the Government."
By this scheme, sir, Government, in its disbursements, is not to pay money, but to issue paper. This paper is no otherwise payable or redeemable, than as it may be received at the Treasury. It is expected to be let out much faster than it comes in, so that many millions will be kept in circulation ; and its habitual character will be at or above par with gold and silver! Now, sir, if there is to be found anywhere a more plain and obvious project of paper money, in all its deformity, I should not know where to look for it.
In the first place, sir, I have suggested the complete union which it would form, if it were, in itself, practicable, between the political and the money power.
The whole commerce of the country, indeed, under such a state of law, would be little more than a sort of incident to Treasury operations --rather a collateral emanation of the revenue system, than a substantial and important branch of the public interest. I have referred also, to its probable consequences, upon that which the gentle
man regards as so great an evil, and which he denominates the centralization of commercial action."
And now I pray you to consider, Mr. President, in the next place, what an admirable contrivance this would be to secure that economy in the expenses of Government which the gentleman has so much at heart. Released from all necessity of taxation, and from the consequent responsibility to the people; not called upon to regard at all, the amount of annual income; having an authority to cause Treasury notes to issue whenever it pleases,
“In multitudes, like which the populous North
what admirable restraint would be imposed on Government, how doubly sure would assurance be made for it, that all its expenditures would be strictly limited to the absolute and indispensable wants and demands of the public service!
But, sir, fortunately, very fortunately, a scheme so wild, and which would be so mischievous, is totally impracticable. It rests on an assumption, for which there is not the least foundation, either in reason or experience. It takes for granted that which the history of every commercial state refutes, and our own, especially, in almost every page. It supposes that irredeemable Government paper can circulate in the business of society, and be kept at par. This is an impossibility. The honorable gentleman rejects convertible bank notes, which are equivalent to specie, since they will always command it, and adopts, in their stead, Government paper, with no promise to pay, but a promise only to be received for debts and taxes; and he puts forth the imagination, as I have said, so often and so long refuted, that this paper will be kept in circulation in the country, and will be able to perform the great business of currency and exchange, even though it exist in quantities exceeding, by many millions, the demands of Government.
If it be necessary, sir, at this day, to refute ideas like these, it must be because the history of all countries, our own included, is dead letter to us. Even at the very nioment in which I am speaking, the small amount of Treasury notes which has been issued by Government, hardly a fifth part of the ordinary annual revenue-though those notes bear an interest of five per centthough they are redeemable in cash at the Treasury, at the expiration of the year and though, in the mean time, they are everywhere received in Government dues, are not only of less value than specie, but of less value, also, than the notes of non-specie-paying banks; those banks whose paper is daily denounced here as “rags, filthy rags.” In my opinion, sir, the whole scheme is as visionary and impracticable as any which the genius of project ever produced.
Mr. President, toward the close of this speech of September, I find a paragraph in which several other subjects are brought together, and which I must ask permission to read.
Having commended the wise and noble bearing of the little Staterights party, of which he says it is his pride to be a member throughout the eventful period through which the country has passed since 1824, he adds :
“ In that year, as I have stated, the tariff system triumphed in the councils of the nation. We saw its disastrous political bearings ; foresaw its surpluses, and the extravagancies to which it would lead ; we rallied on the election of the late President to arrest it through the influence of the executive department of the Government. In this we failed. We then fell back upon the rights and sovereignty of the States; and, by the action of a small but gallant State, and through the potency of its interposition, we brought the system to the ground, sustained, as it was, by the opposition and the administration, and by the whole power and patronage of the Government."
Every part of this most extraordinary statement well deserves attention.
In the first place, sir, here is an open and direct avowal that the main object for rallying on General Jackson's first election, was to accomplish the overthrow of the protecting policy of the country: Indeed! Well, this is very frank. I am glad to hear the avowal made. It puts an end to all suspicions.
It was, then, to overthrow protection, was it, that the honorable gentleman took so much pains to secure General Jackson's first election? I commend his candor, in now acknowledging it. But, sir, the honorable member had allies and associates in that
rally. They thronged round him from all quarters, and followed his lead. And pray, sir, was his object, as now avowed by himself, the joint object of all the party? Did he tell Pennsylvania, honest, intelligent, straightforward Pennsylvania, that such was his purpose ? And did Pennsylvania concur in it ? Pennsylvania was first and foremost in espousing the cause of General Jackson. Everybody knows she is more of a tariff State than any other in the Union. Did he tell her that his purpose was to break the tariff entirely down? Did he state his objects, also, to New York? Did he state them to New Jersey? What say you, gentlemen from Pennsylvania ? gentlemen from New York ? and gentlemen from New Jersey? Ye who supported General Jackson's election, what say you? Was it your purpose, also, by that election, to break down the protective policy ? Or, if it were not your purpose, did you know, nevertheless-pray let us understand that did you know, nevertheless, that it was the purpose, and the main purpose, of the honorable member from Carolina? and did you, still, co-operate with him?
The present Chief Magistrate of the country was a member of this body in 1828. He and the honorable member from Carolina were, at that time, exerting their united forces, to the utmost, in order to bring about General Jackson's election. Did they work thus zealously together, for the same ultimate end and purpose ? or did they mean
merely to change the Government, and then each to look out for himself?
Mr. Van Buren voted for the tariff bill of that year, commonly called the “ bill of abominations ;” but, very luckily, and in extremely good season, instructions for that vote happened to come from Albany! The vote, therefore, could be given, and the member giving it could not possibly thereby give any offence to any gentleman of the State-rights party, with whom the doctrine of instructions is so authentic.
Sir, I will not do gentlemen injustice. Those who belonged to tariff States, as they are called, and who supported General Jackson for the Presidency, did not intend thereby to overthrow the protecting policy. They only meant to make General Jackson President, and to come into power along with him! As to ultimate objects, each had his own. All could agree, however, in the first step. It Was difficult, certainly, to give a plausible appearance to a political union, among gentlemen who differed so widely, on the great and leading question of the times the question of the protecting policy. But this difficulty was overcome by the oracular declaration that General Jackson was in favor of a “ JUDICIOUS TARIFF.”
Here, sir, was ample room and verge enough. Who could object to a judicious tariff? Tariff men and Anti-tariff men, State-rights men and Consolidationists, those who had been called prodigals and those who had been called radicals, all thronged and flocked together here, and with all their difference in regard to ultimate objects, agreed to make common cause, till they should get into power.
The ghosts, sir, which are fabled to cross the Styx, whatever different hopes or purposes they may have beyond it, still unite, in the present wish to get over, and therefore all hurry and huddle into the leaky and shattered craft of Charon, the ferryman. And this motly throng of politicians, sir, with as much difference of final object, and as little care for each other, made a boat of “ Judicious Tariff, and all rushed and scrambled into it, until they filled it, near to sinking. The authority of the master was able however, to keep them peaceable and in order, for the time, for they had the virtue of submission, and though with occasional dangers of upsetting, he succeeded in pushing them all over with his long setting-pole.
" Ratem conto subigit.” Well, sir, the honorable gentleman tells us that he expected, when Gen. Jackson should be elected, to arrest the tariff system through the influence of the Executive Department. Here is another candid consession. Arrest the tariff by Executive influence! Indeed! Why, sir, this seems like hoping, from the first, for the use of the Veto. How, but by the Veto, could the Executive arrest the tariff acts ? And is it true, sir, that, at that early day, the honorable member was looking to the Veto, not with dread, but with hope ? Did he expect it, and did he rely upon it? Did he make the rally of which he speaks,
in order that he might choose a President who would exercise it? And did he afterwards complain of it, or does he complain of it now, only because it was ill-directed--because it turned out to be a thunderbolt, which did not fall in the right place?
In this reliance on Executive influence—sir, I declare I hardly can trust myself that I read or quote correctly, when I find, in what I read, or from what I quote, the honorable member from South Carolina, by his own confession, hoping or expecting to accomplish any thing by Executive influence; yet so was it spoken, and so is it printed--in this reliance, or this hope, or expectation, founded on Executive influence, the honorable gentleman and his friends failed ; and, failing in this, he says, they fell back on the sovereignty of the States, and brought the system to the ground " through the potency of interposition;" by which he means neither more nor less than Nullification. So then, sir, according to this, that excessive fear of power which was so much cherished by the nullifiers, was only awakened to a flame in their bosoms, when they found that they could not accomplish their own ends by the Executive power of the President.
I am no authorized commentator, sir, on the doctrines or theories of nullification. Non nostrum. But, if this exposition be authentic, I must say it is not calculated to diminish my opposition to the sentiments of that school,
But the gentleman goes on to tell us that nullification, or interposition, succeeded. By means of it, he says, he did bring the protective system to the ground. And so, in his published letter of November 3d, he states that “State interposition has overthrown the protective tariff, and, with it, the American system.”
We are to understand, then, sir, first, that the compromise act of 1933 was forced upon Congress by State interposition, or nullification.
Next, that its object and design, so far as the honorable gentleman was concerned in it, was to break down and destroy, forever, the whole protective policy of the country.
And lastly, that it has accomplished that purpose, and that the last vestige of that policy is wearing away.
Now, sir, I must say, that, in 1835, I entertained no doubt at all that the design of the gentleman was exactly what he now states. On this point, I have not been deceived. It was not, certainly, the design of all who acted with him ; but, that it was his purpose, I knew then, as clearly as I know now, after his open avowal of it; and this belief governed my conduct at the time, together with that of a great majority of those in both Houses of Congress, who, after the act of 1824, felt bound to carry out the provisions of that act, and to maintain them reasonably and fairly. I opposed the compromise act with all my power. It appeared to me every way objectionable : it looked like an attempt to make a new constitution; to introduce another fundamental law, above the power of Congress, and which should control the authority and discretion of Congress, in all time to come.