Page images

for one half, or one third, of the real values contemplated by the parties? This is called relief. In a late popular pub. lication, it is facetiously termed, “the giving every body every thing.” To secure to every body what they have honestly and fairly earned, which is the foundation of all industry and laudable enterprize, would be clearly a more explicit advantage to the whole community.

We cannot close these suggestions upon the practical effect of the operations of the late Bank, without expressing our sympathy for the unfortunate position, in the eyes of the impartial world, in which large numbers of our leading mercantile men have placed themselves, not merely by supporting proceedings so destructive to commercial stability, and the security of property, but by their strenuous exertions to procure the organization of a similar corporation, with even more extensive powers for mischievous purposes. Are these men, many of whom are highly gifted and respected, so ignorant of the first rudiments of their own profession, as not to comprehend the inevitable consequences of entrusting the control of the commercial movement of the whole nation to half a dozen speculators and politicians? Have they so willingly observed, and cheerfully upheld the proceedings of the late Bank, as to desire to see them reënacted on a larger scale? Does the system which may enabledne merchant out of a thousand to realize an overgrown fortune, while it destroys the nine hundred and ninety-nine, offer adequate inducement to the whole mercantile profession, to throw away the reasonable assurance of moderate and general prosperity, under the confident belief that each individual will secure for himself the thousandth chance? These are not the principles on which the commerce of a great, enterprising and laborious people can be successfully carried on. When politicians happen to be demagogues, they may endeavour to attain power, by holding out the delusions of wealth to be acquired through such channels. The late Bank was able, at various periods of its existence, to convulse the whole community by such means The fulsome adulation lavished upon its President, both by politicians and merchants—the one to cbtain the coöperation of the bank in their pursuit of power, and the other to procure the means of wealth,--were sufficient to turn the head of any mortal man. We can perceive no good reason, at this time, for charging on him, personally, the vices inseparable from the system of currency of which he was so long the acknowledged head and absolute dictator among us. Stimulated with the hope of enlarging and perpetuating its power over the people, the bank was exhausted by the unscrupulous exertions of its managers. It lingered three or four years after it was abandoned by Mr. Biddle, the victim of one quack experiment after another, to prolong its existence, by inducing other banks and financiers to support its credit and conceal its internal rottenness, until, at last, it voluntarily gave up all business, with twenty-five years of its charter from Pennsylvania unexpired. Such is the end of ill-gotten and abused arbitrary power. Its corrupt carcass now taints the moral atmosphere of the nation. Not only the thousands upon thousands, who have been ruined by its management, have abundant grounds for regret, that such a nuisance ever existed, but its very appellation brings daily reproach upon the American name, in every quarter of the globe.

The great cistern of relief, during the last twenty-five years, having become so perfectly broken, that it was impossible to make it hold water, the question of hewing out a new one, upon the same model, and for the same purposes, came before Congress. At the commencement of the late special session, select committees on the currency were raised by each house. The chairman of this committee appointed by the Senate (Mr. Clay, of Kentucky), reported the bill, which was subsequently returned by the President, with the first message referred to, under the title of “An Act to Incorporate the Subscribers to the Fiscal Bank of the United States.” Excepting that the bank was to be located at Washington, with a capital stock of fifty millions of dollars, and nine directors, of whom three were to be appointed by the Executive of the United States, and six by the individual stockholders, with some modifications in the details, which may, more conveniently, be referred to hereafter,—this bill was substantially the same as the charter of the late Bank.

It was passed by both houses of Congress, while several members, voting with the majorities, distinctly stated their private opinions to be, that it was .wholly impossible to carry the measure into operation, in the existing state of public opinion, should it become a law. That its provisions were inadequate, and, in fact, wholly illusory, in view of any probable expectation of restoring a sound currency to those sections of the country whence it had been expelled from circulation by cheaper substitutes, was generally conceded, even by its most earnest supporters. This disease could hardly be cured by repeating and trebling the prescriptions of paper currency which had created it. The best result which could be rationally hoped for from the operations of this panacea, was the reduction of the value of the currency of the specie paying sections, to the same level with the depreciated paper of the other sections. For this purpose, the proposed bank was authorized to issue three dollars of its paper currency, for one of its resources in specie; and it was provided, that whenever any excess of its issues should occur, beyond that proportion, “it shall be the duty of the bank to return to such proportion as speedily as shall be safe and practicable.” Whether the safety and convenience of the debtors, or of the creditors of the bank, was to be the criterion for such return to the authorized proportion, is no where disclosed in the bill.

Nothing but the inexorable application of the severest party discipline, could have carried through the two houses of Congress, in the face of general denunciation of many of the most respectable capitalists and influential presses of the party by whom it was brought forward, a measure so notoriously defective in all the essential securities against abuses. After it was sent to the President, a leading member, who had given it his zealous support, stated, with a degree of frankness and candor which did him great credit, that, “if the President should approve it, nobody else did.” The excuse assigned for passing a bill, chartering a bank of the United States, with exclusive privileges over the revenues and commerce of the country, for twenty years, with perfect assurance, on the part of its friends, that no man of common sense, who was able to pay his subscription, in good faith, would take any of the stock, was quite as extraordinary as the fact of its passage. at the seat of government, of the supporters of this bill (the National Intelligencer), stated, in its leading editorial article, on the day it was sent to the President, that “Our political friends appear to have considered it most expedient to pass VOL. I.-NO. 1.


The organ,

the bill in its present shape, and leave the desired amendments to be disposed of in a supplementary bill.” Such was the apology tendered to the publić, for the consummation, as far as concerned the action of the two houses of Congress, of a measure, admitted to be preposterous by many of its leading promoters, which had been carried through all the forms of a law, except the approval of the President, irrepealable throughout an entire generation ! It would seem impossible for human ingenuity to devise a more conclusive argument in favor of the veto power, given by the Constitution to the President of the United States, which merely authorizes him to refer a proposed law back to the house in which it originated, for further and more mature deliberation, than is furnished by the facts of this identical bill.

Immediately after this bill had been returned by the Executive, agreeably to the provisions of the Constitution, the Chairman of the select committee on the currency of the House of Representatives, (Mr. Sergeant, of Pennsylvania,) moved in that branch of Congress, the bill which afterwards became the subject of the second message of the President. This was merely the one just returned to the Senate, slightly modified to obviate one of the several points of objection made by the President, relative to the abuses encouraged by its provisions in local discounts of accommodation paper, and reducing the capital stock to twenty-one million of dollars. By the new bill brought into the House, the power of discount was restricted to bills of exchange, obviously quite as liable to the grossest abuse as promissory notes, leaving all the other objectionable features of the former bill unchanged. This measure was literally jammed through the House, in a few hours, by the force of new rules, unheard of before this special session, in any assembly professing to exercise the functions of deliberation. These unprecedented rules had been adopted on the spur of the emergency, and enabled the majority to pass the bill, without discussion or amendment. A considerable portion of the members who supported this bill, in its various stages, evidently regarded it, rather as the perpetration of an excellent practical joke upon the Executive branch of the Government, than as a measure of grave and responsible legislation; for it was obvious to all, that this bill could not receive the constitu

[ocr errors]

tional approval of the President, except by the abandonment of the main principle of his previous message to the Senate. In fact, it was brought forward, and carried through, for the avowed purpose of testing the consistency and moral courage of the President. After the vote on the final passage of the bill had been announced by the Speaker, the chairman of the committee, (Mr. Sergeant,) immediately moved to amend its title, by incorporating into it that of the Sub-Treasury Law, which had been repealed a day or two previously. This amendment was carried by acclamation, the supporters of the proposed fiscal corporation having burst forth, as appears from the autheutic report of the proceedings, contained in the Washington newspaper before referred to, into an uncontrolable shout of laughter, at this refined witticism.

Such childish hilarity seems in perfect character with the whole of their proceedings. Like a parcel of youths, assembled night after night in caucus, to devise schemes for displaying their precocious spunk, by invading the public peace and security, the majorities of Congress appear to have implicitly given themselves up to the direction of those leaders who manifested the greatest boldness in their designs, and the least regard for the consequences. Apparently conscious that their direct power was of the shortest duration, they seemed anxious to do something which might afford them a chance of personal security from the just indignation of their masters and responsible guardians, the people. By granting away, for twenty years, to a corporation of private individuals, the control of the currency and the means of livelihood of the whole community, they might hope to keep both the people, and their constituted authorities, in check. The former Bank had inflicted continual sufferings and calamities upon the productive interests of the country, for which the government was held responsible, and why might not the same course be again pursued ?

Fortunately for the country, the head of the Government, without whose constitutional concurrence these hopeful aspirations could not be realized, estimated his responsibilities by a different standard. Bred in the school of the founders of the government, he regarded the assumption of powers not granted to Congress by the Constitution, to be the

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »