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was no advocate for refined arguments on the constitution. The instrument was not intended as a thesis for the logician to exercise his ingenuity on. It ought to be construed with plain good sense.” This is all very just, I think, sir ; and he said much more. He quoted many instances of laws, passed, as he contended, on similar principles, and then added, that “he introduced these instances to prove the uniform sense of Congress, and of the country, (for they had not been objected to,) as to our powers; and surely,” said he, “they furnish better evidence of the true interpretation of the constitution, than the most refined and subtile arguments.”
Here you see, Mr. President, how little original I am. You have heard me, again and again, contending in my place here for the stability of that which has been long settled; you have heard me, till I dare say you have been tired, insisting that the sense of Congress, so often expressed, and the sense of the country, so fully known, and so firmly established, ought to be regarded as having decided, finally, certain constitutional questions. You see now, sir, what authority I have for this mode of argument. But while the scholar is learning, the teacher renounces. Will he apply his old doctrine, now-I sincerely wish he would—to the question of the bank, to the question of the receiving of bank notes by Government, to the power of Congress over the paper currency ? Will he, sir, will he admit that these ought to be regarded as decided, by the settled sense of Congress and of the country? Oh! no. Far otherwise. From these rules of judgment,
. and from the influence of all considerations of this practical nature, the honorable member now takes these questions with him into the upper heights of metaphysics, into the regions of those refinements, and subtile arguments, which he rejected, with so much decision in 1817, as appears by this speech. He quits his old ground of common sense, experience, and the general understanding of the country, for a flight among theories and abstractions.
And now, sir, let me ask, when did the honorable member relinquish these early opinions and principles of his? When did he make known his adhesion to the doctrines of the State-rights party? We have been speaking of transactions in 1816 and 1817. What the gentleman's opinions then were, we have seen. But when did he announce himself a State-rights man? I have already said, sir, that nobody knew of his claiming that character until after the commencement of 1825; and I have said so, because I have before me an address of his to his neighbors at Abbeville, in May of that year, in which he recounts, very properly, the principal incidents in his career, as a member of Congress, and as head of a Department ; and in which he says that, as a member of Congress, he had given his zealous efforts in favor of a restoration of specie currency; of a due protection of those manufactures which had taken root during the war, and, finally, of a system for connecting the various parts of the country by a judicious system of internal improvement.
And he adds, that it afterwards became his duty, as a meniber of the Administration, to aid in sustaining, against the boldest assaults,
those very measures, which, as a member of Congress, he had contributed to establish.
And now, sir, since the honorable gentleman says he differed from me on constitutional questions, will he be pleased to say what constitutional opinion I have ever expressed, for which I have not his express authority? Is it on the bank power? the tariff power ? the power of internal improvement ? I have shown his votes, his speeches, and his conduct, on all these subjects, up to the time when General Jackson became a candidate for the Presidency. From that time, sir, I know we have differed; but if there was any difference before that time, I call upon him to point it out—what was the occasion, what the question, and what the difference? And if, before that period, sir, by any speech, any vote, any public proceeding, or by any other mode of announcement whatever, he gave the world to know that he belonged to the States-right party, I hope he will now be kind enough to produce it, or to refer to it, or to tell us where we may look for it.
Sir, I will pursue this topic no farther. I would not have pursued it so far-I would not have entered upon it at all—had it not been for the astonishment I felt, mingled, I confess, with something of warmer feeling, when the honorable gentleman declared that he had always differed from me on constitutional questions.
Sir, the honorable member read a quotation or two from a speech of mine in 1816, on the currency or bank question. With what intent, or to what end? What inconsistency does he show? Speaking of the legal currency of the country, that is, the coin, I then said it was in a good state. Was not that true ? I was speaking of the legal currency; of that which the law made a tender. And how is that inconsistent with any thing said by me now, or ever said by me?
I declared then, he says, that the framers of this Government were hard-money men. Certainly they were. But, are not the friends of a convertible paper hard-money men, in every practical and sensible meaning of the term? Did I, in that speech, or any other, insist on excluding all convertible paper from the uses of society? Most assuredly I did not. I never quite so far lost my wits, I think. There is but a single sentence in that speech which I should qualify if I were to deliver it again and that the honorable member has not noticed. It is a paragraph respecting the power of Congress over the circulation of State banks, which might perhaps need explanation or correction. Understanding it as applicable to the case then before Congress, all the rest is perfectly accordant with my present opinions. It is well known that I never doubted the power of Congress to create a bank; that I was always in favor of a bank, constituted on proper principles; that I voted for the bank bill of 1815, and opposed that of 1816 only on account of one or two of its provisions, which I and others hoped to be able to strike out. I am a hard-money man, and always have been, and always shall be. But I know the great use of such bank paper as is convertible into hard money, on demand; which may be called specie paper, and which is equivalent to specie in value, and much more convenient and useful.
On the other hand, I abhor all irredeemable paper; all old-fashioned paper money; all deceptive promises; every thing, indeed, in the shape of paper issued for circulation, whether by Government or individuals, which may not be turned into specie at the will of the holder.
But, sir, I have insisted that Government is bound to protect and regulate the means of commerce, to see that there is a sound currency, for the use of the people.
The honorable gentleman asks, what then is the limit? Must Congress also furnish all means of commerce ? Must it furnish weights and scales, and steelyards ? Most undoubtedly, sir, it must regulate weights and measures, and it does so. But the answer to the general question is very obvious. Government must furnish all that which none but Government can furnish. Government must do that for individuals which individuals cannot do for themselves. That is the very end of Government. Why, else, have we a Government? And can individuals make a currency? Can individuals regulate money? The distinction is as broad and plain as the Pennsylvania avenue. No man can mistake it, or well blunder out of it.' The gentleman asks if Government must furnish for the people ships, and boats, and wagons. Certainly not. The gentleman here only recites the President's message of September. These things, and all such things, the people can furnish for themselves; but they cannot make a currency; they cannot, individually, decide what shall be the money of the country. That, every body knows, is one of the prerogatives and one of the duties of Government; and a duty which I think we are most unwisely neglecting. We may as well leave the people to make war and to make peace, each man for himself, as to leave to individuals the regulation of commerce and currency.
Mr. President, there are other remarks of the gentleman of which I might take notice. But, should I do so, I could only repeat what I have already said, either now or heretofore. I shall, therefore, not now allude to them.
My principal purpose, in what I have said, has been : first, to defend myself—that was my first object; and next, as the honorable member has attempted to take to himself the character of a strict constructionist, and a State-rights man, and on that basis to show a difference, not favorable to me, between his constitutional opinions and my own, heretofore, it has been my intention to show that the power to create a bank, the power to regulate the currency by other and direct means, the power to lay a protecting tariff, and the power of internal improvement, in its broadest sense, are all powers which the honorable gentleman himself has supported, has acted on, and in the exercise of which, indeed, he has taken an active and distinguished lead in the councils of Congress.
If this has been done, my purpose is answered. I do not wish to prolong the discussion, nor to spin it out into a colloqny. If the honorable member has any thing new to bring forward; if he has any charge to make—any proof, or any specification; if he has any thing to advance against my opinions or my conduct, my honor or patriotism, I am still at home. I am here. If not, then, so far as I am concerned, this discussion will here terminate.
I will say a few words, before I resume my seat, on the motion now pending. That motion is, to strike out the specie-paying part of the bill. I have a suspicion, sir, that the motion will prevail. If it should, it will leave a great vacuum; and how shall that vacuum be filled ?
The part proposed to be struck out, is that which requires all debts to Government to be paid in specie. It makes a good provision for Government, and for public men, through all classes. The Secretary of the 'Treasury, in his letter, at the last session, was still more watchful of the interests of the holders of office. He assured us, bad as the times were, ard notwithstanding the floods of bad paper which deluged the country, members of Congress should get specie.
In my opinion, sir, this is beginning the use of good money, in payments, at the wrong end of the list. If there be bad money in the country, I think that Secretaries and other executive officers, and especially members of Congress, should be the last to receive any good money; because they have the power, if they will do their duty, and exercise the power, of making the money of the country good for all. I think, sir, it was a leading feature in Mr. Burke's famous bill for economical reform, that he provided, first of all, for those who are least able to secure themselves. Every body else was to be well paid all they were entitled to, before the ministers of the Crown, and other political characters, should have any thing. This seems to me very right.
But we have a precedent, sir, in our own country, more directly to the purpose; and as that which we now hope to strike out is the part of the bill furnished, or penned, by the honorable member from South Carolina, it will naturally devolve on him to supply its place. I wish therefore to draw his particular attention to this precedent, which I am now about to produce.
Most members of the Senate will remember, that, before the establishment of this Government, and before, or about the time, that the territory which now constitutes the State oi' Tennessee was ceded to Congress, the inhabitants of the eastern part of that territory established a government for themselves, and called it the State of Franklin. They adopted a very good constitution, divided into the usual branches of legislative, executive, and judicial power. They laid and collected taxes, and performed other usual acts of legislation. They had, for the present, it is true, no maritime possessions, yet they fol. lowed the common forms in constituting high officers; and their governor was not only captain-general and commander-in-chief, but admiral also, so that the navy might have a commander when there should be a navy.
Well, sir, the currency in this State of Franklin became very much deranged. Specie was scarce, and equally scarce were the notes of specie-paying banks. But the legislature did not propose any divorce of government and people; they did not seek to establish two currencies, one for men in office, and one for the rest of the community. They were content with neighbor's fare. It became necessary to pass what we should call, now-a-days, the civil-list appropriation-bill
. They passed such a bill; and when we shall have made a void in the bill now before us, by striking out specie payments, for Government, I recommend to its friends to fill the gap, by inserting, if not the same provisions as were in the law of the State of Franklin, at least something in the same spirit.
The preamble of that law, sir, begins by reciting, that the collection of taxes, in specie, had become very oppressive to the good people of the commonwealth, for the want of a circulating medium. A parallel case to ours, sir, exactly. It recites further, sir, that it is the duty of the legislature to hear, at all times, the prayer of their constituents, and apply as speedy a remedy as lies in their power. These sentiments are very just, sir, and I sincerely wish there was a thorough disposition here, to adopt the like.
Acting under the influence of these sound opinions, sir, the legislature of Franklin passed a law, for the support of the civil list, which, as it is short, I will beg permission to read:
" Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Franklin, and it is hereby enucted by the authority of the same, That, from the first day of January, A. D. 1789, the salaries of the civil officers of this commonwealth be as follow, to wit:
“ His excellency the governor, per annum, one thousand deer skins; his honor, the chief justice, five hundred do. do ; the attorney general, five hundred do. do. ; secretary to his excellency the governor, five hundred racoon do.; the treasurer of the State, four hundred and fifty otter do.; each county clerk, three hundred beaver do. ; clerk of the house of commons, two hundred racoon do. ; members of assembly, per diem, three do. do.; justice's fee for signing a warrant, one muskrat do. ; to the constable, for serving a warrant, one mink do.
“ Enacted into a law this 18th day of October, 1788, under the great seal of the State. “ Witness his excellency, &c.
“ Governor, captain-general, commander-in-chief,
" and admiral in and over said State." This, sir, is the law, the spirit of which I commend to gentlemen. I will not speak of the appropriateness of these several allowances for the civil list. But the example is good, and I am of opinion,
, that until Congress shall perform its duty, by seeing that the country enjoys a good currency, the same medium which the people are obliged to use, whether it be skins or rags, is good enough for its own members.