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ernment should be so constructed, as to Secretary of the Treasury to report to the possess all the energy reconcilable with House, at the next session, a plan for plathe republican theory upon wbich it was cing the public credit on a footing conto be founded ; not with a view of facili- sistent with the national honor and prostating usurpation by its head, but for the perity. This resolution was in accordance purpose of avoiding those anarchical ten- with the suggestion of the President, in dencies, the development of which ren- his Inaugural Address, that the foundaders first necessary, and finally palatable, tions of our national policy should be laid the exercise of dictatorial authority. A in the pure and immutable principles of more signal example, therefore, of the private morality, and was referred to in base ingratitude of men, when under the terms of approbation, in his Speech to dominion of the spirit of political party, Congress, at the commencement of its can hardly be found, than this sedulous second session. The invention, however, keeping alive, on the one hand, the mem- of the system of measures recommended ory of Hamilton's theoretical preference in the Report of the Secretary, and subseof monarchy, which was never declared quently adopted, with few alterations, by on any responsible occasion, and never al Congress, is due entirely to the genius of lowed to control any public act, and, on Hamilton, whose mind, even during the the other, the studied forgetting of the war, had been anxiously turned to the great services rendered to republican lib- financial embarrassments of the country, erty by one, who was among the forehost and had suggested several measures of to take up his pen in opposition to British great importance for their relief. Now, tyranny, among the most faithful in fight the condition of the finances, if less desing the battles of American independence, perate, was still more involved than when among the wisest in framing the federal under the superintendence of the financier Constitution, the most influential in ob- of the Revolution, Robert Morris.
For taining for it the popular approval, and the government of the Confederation had the most zealous in carrying it into oper- utterly failed to pay its debts. It had ation—by one, who after having long solemly pledged the faith of the nation ; served under Washington, as a member but it had not kept it. The army bad of his military family, during the war, and been disbanded, without being paid; the of his civil council, under the Constitution, citizens who had trusted the State, had retired from both stations with the testi- found its promises false; the claims of the monial of his chief, that he had deserved French government on the Union were well of his country—by one, finally, re- set down in the Comple Rendu of M. specting whom the impartial voice of a Necker, as of doubtful character; and the foreign historian and statesman has said, needy French officers, who had shed their “ There is not in the Constitution of the blood in the cause of American independa United States an element of order, of ence, begged at the doors of its official force, of duration, which he did not pow- representative in Paris, and were denied. erfully assist in introducing and causing to Chaos, was the expression commonly, and predominate.”*
That such a man should fitly, used to designate the state of the have wished to overthrow, or to impair finances, during the last years of the rule the work of his whole life, by bringing of the Confederation, which, by a suicidal into republican America a "king, lords, construction of the terms of its authority,
a and commons," as was alleged by his had failed to assume the power of enforenemies, is a folly too great to be credited cing its resolves for raising a revenue. by the wise, though a calumny too effec- Accordingly at the commencement of the tive to be forgotten by the unprincipled. new government, there was an empty
The first session of the first Congress treasury and thirty-nine millions of debts, having been spent, chiefly, in framing including those due by the Union, and by laws for putting the government into ope- the several States, on account of the ration, the House of Representatives, near Union. The foreign debt was twelve mil
. its close, passed a resolution directing the lions, the debt of the Union to individual
citizens about two, that of the several * Guizot's Washington.
States about twenty-five.
Hamilton, taking his stand, we will not can army supplies of clothing, provisions say, on the highest moral ground, but on and munitions, advancing pay and bounthe level of common honesty, proposed to ties to the troops, and constructing works Congress to pay these debts, one and all. of defense against the common enemy, it The principle of his plan was as simple, was declared to be unconstitutional to pay as the plainest maxims of equity; its de- this part of the “price of liberty.” But tails were as complicated, as the difficul- as the separate States, in adopting the ties to be resolved, and the interests to be Constitution, had relinquished the most promoted by it. Of these, we can only available means of paying these debts say, that he proposed, in the first place, themselves, by giving up the power of to discharge the foreign debt, according laying imposts, as well as by their previto the letter of the contracts. In the sec- ous liberal cession of western lands to the ond place, he proposed that the debts of Union, it was well known that if Congress, the particular States, incurred in defense which had been expressly authorized to of the country against the common enemy, “pay the debts” of the United States, should be assumed as the debt of the should refuse to provide for these securiUnited States. In the third place, he ties, their value would be greatly impairproposed that all these liabilities assumed ed, and their ultimate liquidation, at least by the Union, both those of the old Con- in some States, be rendered extremely imgress and those of the separate States, probable. Instead, therefore, of seconding should be funded, and liquidated on such the Administration in its endeavors to imjust terms, as should be satisfactory to the prove and establish the credit of the creditors. For carrying this plan into country, in the only way practicable, this effect, adequate and permanent revenues opposition tended direcily to dishonor it, were to be provided by means of imposts, to spot the national name with bad faith excises, the proceeds of the sales of public indelibly, and to perpetuate all the evils lands, and loans.
which hindered the general prosperity This plan of paying the debts of the under the bankrupt Confederation. It country, which was finally adopted only was a shoot from the diseased root of forby small majorities in both houses of Con- mer repudiation, of the old dislike of debtgress, furnished the enemies of the new paying and tax-gathering. government with an opportunity for mus- The opposition, which was made to this tering their forces in open field, and com- system for establishing national justice mencing the campaign of opposition. In and national credit, naturally pursued all passing them in review, it will be neces- the measures recommended by the Secresary to bear in mind that the party, which tary of the Treasury, for its execution. had opposed the adoption of the federal Among the most important of these, was Constitution, still continued, (though not the creation of a bank partly owned and without a considerable change of leaders,) directed by the government. Such an inin existence under it, and now directed its stitution having been approved by all the efforts towards rendering ineffectual the principal commercial nations of that day, operation of the instrument, of which it and having, under the Confederation, renhad not been able to prevent the estab- dered valuable aid to the cause of indelishment. And as this party had origina- pendence, it was now looked to as an inted, under the Confederation, in a wide- dispensable instrument for providing funds spread disposition to escape from the ob- to meet the large and frequently recurring ligations of individual indebtedness, it was payments to the public creditors. bsenot strange that it should make its reap- quent events proved that its necessity was pearance, under the Constitution, in an not overrated, for so heavy had been effort to disavow the liabilities of the the charges of eight years of war, and so State. The opposition was directed loud was the outcry, both in Congress, against several points of the proposed and out of it, against the raising of adesystem, but turned chiefly on the assump-quate revenues to defray them, that the tion of the debts of the separate State Administration, throughout its whole dugovernments. Notwithstanding these had ration, had to strain every nerve, and use been incurred in furnishing to the Ameri- all lawful expedients, in order to pay punctually and honorably the debts of the object before alluded_to as never lost country as they fell due. That it was a sight of by the first President, viz: the legitimate, as it then was a necessary, in- forming “a more perfect union” of the strument for facilitating the financial opera- people of the country under the federal tions of the government, cannot reasona- government. The assumption and fundbly be denied by those, who fairly inter- ing of the claims of all the public creditpret the sense of the Constitution, and ors rendered this large and influential class who give due weight to the sanction of citizens more directly interested in the which the banking system had already maintenance of the Union. The founding received in the country, and which it. of the credit of the government on the continued to receive through a succession joint basis of public and private resources, of the earlier federal administrations. by means of a national bank, bound the
As, however, the unconstitutionality of fortunes of a large number of capitalists the act for establishing the bank was in all the States to the fortunes of the vehemently urged by the minority in both republic. The permanent character, also, houses of Congress, and maintained, like of this financial system established in opwise, by the half of his cabinet, Washing- position to the loose scheme of temporary ton took time to give the subject a most expedients advocated by the opposition, careful examination. After due delibera- gave to the Union the strength and the tion, he approved of it. He approved of dignity resulting from a settled, as well as all the financial recommendations of Hamil- a sound policy of legislation. Thus, the ton—the funding system and the whole greater proportion of the men of property train of measures for carrying it into and influence throughout the country were operation. He not only sanctioned them, rallied around a government, which ache adhered to them. Amid opposition so knowledged the justness of their claims,
, constant, so violent that it led in the end which established American credit, which to treasonable resistance to the revenue furnished by its negotiable securities aids laws, Washington never wavered in his to private enterprise, and which encoursupport of the policy he had adopted of aged permanent investments of capital, by establishing justice in the land, and main-persevering in a steady and upright course taining the plighted faith of the nation of legislation. The bands of interest were before the world. Thus, was secured, welded to those of patriotism, in order to throughout his Administration, a unity of bind indissolubly together many in one purpose, as remarkable as the attacks people. upon it were manifold, and the events of But if the strengthening of the new inthe period were discordant. And here stitutions of the nation by the support of it may be added, that it has always those classes of the people whose influence been common, among the opposers of was strongest, and whose principles were the principles of the Washington Ad: the most to be relied upon, was an addiministration, to stigmatize the financial tional motive with Washington, in
approvmeasures thus firmly adhered to, as the ing the plans of his Secretary, it was measures of a party, of which Hamilton viewed as another ground of opposition, was the founder. But, without insisting by the advocates of a weak central, and a upon the impropriety of designating such strong sectional authority. Open eneplans for securing impartial justice and mies, or lukewarm friends, of the federal the general welfare, as party plans, we government, from the beginning, as likely must, at least, be allowed to affirm that to absorb the powers of the local governthe policy recommended by the Secretary ments, they eagerly attacked the financial was deliberately, cordially approved by policy of the Administration, on the ground his responsible chief, and that whoever that it tended directly to the realization characterizes it as party policy, character of their apprehensions. To arouse the izes Washington as a partisan.
fears and the jealousies of the mass of The financial policy of the Administra- the people, also, they loudly declared that tion of Washington had also a secondary it was the intention of the government to object to accomplish, not inferior in im- purchase, by the favors of an overgrown portance to the leading one. It was that I treasury, the support of a host of cor
rupt speculators, and thus surround itself mored among the same anxious patriots, by a privileged class of society, with the in “à coach and six.” view of paving the way to the recognition These fictions of the false prophets, in of an aristocracy by law, and the saddling the days of Washington, can now be of the good people of the country with mon- little consequence, except as a foil to the archical institutions, modeled after those of truth, that the Executive then acted on their old enemies, the British. Mr. Jef- the principle of fully exercising all the ferson, at a later period, described Hamil- powers conferred on it by the Constituton's system as “a machine for the cor- tion, yet usurping none. Notwithstanding ruption of the legislature." And how all the abstractions with which the leadadmirably, in his opinion, it answered the ers of opposition in Congress .discussed purpose of the inventor, may be learned the relative powers of the general and the from his division of the patriots who com- State governments, and the jealousy of posed the House of Representatives, in delegated authority declared to exist in the second Congress, into “1, bank di- the minds of the people of this country, rectors; 2, holders of bank stock; 3, Washington was of opinion that the great stock-jobbers ; 4, blind devotees ; 5, ig- body of American citizens were in favor norant persons, who did not comprehend of such a liberal construction of the terms them (Giles' Resolutions,) 6, lazy and good of the new Constitution, as was necessary humored persons. These were the men,
to remove the difficulties which had hinthe people were told, by whose venal votes, dered the prosperity of the country under aided by the “ irresistible influence and the Confederation. For this very purpose popularity of General Washington, played had they made the change in their frame off by the cunning of Hamilton,” an'at- of federal institutions. It was, indeed, tempt was to be made to draw over the the only sound, practical view to take of country the substance, as it had already government at that time, or at any time. done the forms, of the British government. And it has always been, we believe, the
They,” (the British,) said the same high sense of the better part of the people of authority,“ had their paper system, stock this Union, that, in any great national jobbing, speculations, public debt, monied emergency, its government was justified in interest, &c., and all this was contrived using all power absolutely necessary to
They raised their cry against meet existing difficulties, provided such jacobinism and revolutionists, we against power had not been expressly denied to democratic societies and anti-federalists.” | it, or expressly given to the local authoriAnd if any further evidence of the near ties by the Constitution. The more rigid advent of monarchy were required, the interpretation of constitutional powers, lovers of liberty were reminded that the rendering our system of government intitle of His Excellency had been bestowed elastic and inefficient, would take from it upon the President—that His Excellency, the ability not only to remedy the evils, or as a Virginia senator preferred to call but also to withstand the shocks of time him, His Limpid Highness, opened the and change. But the executive branch sessions of Congress with speeches like a of the federal government, during this king—that he held morning levees, stand- Administration, great as was its influence, ing in regal state, with cocked hat, sword never overstepped its lawful limits. So and gloves—that Mrs. Washington, too, far was Washington from improperly ingave levees—that both of them, at the terfering with the action of the co-ordinate birth-night balls, sat upon a seat raised branches of government, that, for examhigh enough for a throne—that it was ple, while Congress was engaged in disproposed to place the head of George cussing the measures of the proposed sysWashington on the national coin—and, tem of finance, he strictly abstained from finally, that the Vice-President walked the any expression of opinion respecting them. streets with his hat under his arm, pre- Wherever precedents may be found for ceded (as the story ran in the Old Do- buying congressional votes with Executive minion,) by four men bearing naked promises, or making the support of Exswords, and aired himself in a carriage ecutive measures by legislators the ground drawn by a pair of horses, or as was ru- / for rewarding them with lucrative and
honorable offices, or for bringing any sort | incompetent to devise a better one ; and of illegitimate influence into the halls of its opponents, while they seemed disposed legislation, the first President, no less pure to force the government to resort to the in mind than firm in authority, set none of unpopular policy of direct taxation, never them. Never was Mr. Jefferson farther ventured to take the responsibility of from the truth, than when, in 1792, he actually proposing this, or any other set declared that the Executive “had swal- of financial measures. If Congress shaped lowed up the legislative branch.” Perhaps its course of legislation, generally, in acthe error, however, ought to be set down cordance with Executive recommendation, to the fondness of the then Secretary of it was because the counsels of Washington State for this particular figure of speech. were dictated by such a sagacious knowlFor he also said, a short time before, that edge, and such an impartial care of all the Department of the Treasury had so the great interests of the country, as deincreased in influence as to “swallow up servedly won its approbation. It could the whole Executive powers.” And a originate no higher wisdom. Not even few years later, he averred it to be “a the Jacobin Clubs, otherwise called Demosingular phenomenon, that while our State cratic Societies, which were instituted by governments are the very best in the the opposition party for the express pur world, without exception or comparison, pose of looking after the public interests, our General government has, in the rapid had any better counsels to offer. course of nine or ten years, become more The disastrous consequences of the arbitrary, and has swallowed more of the course of opposition, which we have now public liberty than even that of England.” described, were not fully developed until More singular still is it, miraculous even, during the second term of the Administrathat this monster of a Treasury depart- tion, which was occupied almost exclument, which had swallowed up the Ex- sively with the foreign relations of the ecutive branch, which itself had swallowed country. It then led to the whiskey inup the legislative branch, which again had surrection in Pennsylvania; but as the swallowed up its bellyfull of the public suppression of this was the concluding liberty, should ever have vomited out one act of the domestic policy of Washington, and all, Executive, legislature, liberty, our review of his first term may fitly be safely upon the dry land! The great pre- closed by a notice of it. ponderating influence of the Executive, After as high duties had been laid upon during the first Administration, we do not imports as they could reasonably be subby any means deny. On the contrary, jected to, the government still had need we declare our belief, that, from the com- of additional revenues, in order to pay the mencement of the federal union to the debts of the war of independence, together present day, there has been no adminis- with its own expenses; and was comtration under which the legislation of Con- pelled to resort to an excise on homegress, the entire governmental action, has made spirits. The burden of this tax fell, been so much controlled by the President of course, on the consumers of liquors and his cabinet on the one hand, and so throughout the country ; but the distillers, little guided by occasional, local, irregular viewing it a discouragement of their trade, expressions of public opinion on the other, joined with their natural allies, the lovers as was the case under the first. Yet is of it, in no very soft-voiced resistance. To this but half the truth. The other half allay, as far as possible, this popular disis, that this guiding, controlling force pro- satisfaction, Congress several times introceeded legitimately from the commanding duced such modifications into the excise talents, the superior wisdom, the overaw- laws, as were calculated to render their ing character of those illustrious men who operation as little unpleasant as tax-payfilled the executive departments, and es- ing could be. Consequently, the distilpecially of their chief, as great a governor lers were gradually falling into habits of of men as was ever called by the name of more or less contented obedience to the king. If the legislature adopted the sys. laws, when the rising French party in this tem proposed by the Secretary of the country, which found its interest in seekTreasury, it was because it found itself | ing out the oppressed in all the earth for