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H. OF R.]
(Oct. 6, 1837.
Mr. Speaker, I am deeply impressed with feelings of some extent; and I therefore accepted the gentleman's gratitude to the House for its kind indulgence, and still amendment as a modification of my own. more for the patient attention with which my very desullo Some gentlemen have supposed that the limitation which ry remarks upon this occasion have been heard. And my amendment contemplates, in regard to the amount to be whilst for this manifestation of the kindness of the House, borrowed, is objectionable. They apprehend that six and I return the humble tribute of my most profound acknowl. a half millions is small a sum. I am satisfied that it is edgement, I am not vain enough to take as a compliment amply sufficient. But, out of deference to the opinion of to myself what I am sure has been alone due to the impor- others, I will defer offering that part of the amendment tance and magnitude of the subject under consideration. until the House has decided on the first part of my proposi
Mr. WISE eulogized his colleague on the course he had tion. If the first part be accepted, I will then offer the just taken. He was glad to find displayed so honorable second, leaving the amount blank, so that the House may and independent an opposition to the bill. Mr. W. then fill it at its discretion. read several extracts from President Jackson's messages of In these amendments I have had no intention to embar. 1834 and 1835, to show that the sales of Government stock rass the Government. I have been actuated by a sincere in the United States Bank had been recommended by the desire to support, instead of pulling down. And I cannot President at those periods.
help wishing most ardently that the scheme I have presentMr. UNDERWOOD said, in consequence of what had ed may find favor with a majority of the House. I shall fallen from other members in the course of the debate upon feel happy, very happy, if my offered substitute is accepted his amendment, he desired to make a few explanatory re in lieu of the bill--a bill which lays the foundation for a marks. The gentleman across the way (Mr. Patton) ex Government bank and paper money, subject to the control pressed great surprise at the quarter in which the amend of the President of the United States. Sir, if the day ever ment originated ; while the member to my left (Mr. Cam. comes when the Executive of this nation shall control at BRELENG] is astonished that the gentleman from Virginia his will and pleasure a Government bank, with millions of should have felt any surprise, since the amendment had money, through such agents as he may choose to employ, been proposed by a known friend of the bank. It may be removable at his pleasure, lending it out in such sums and inferred from these statements that I have been actuated by to such persons as he pleases, that day will be signalized, some sinister motive; that I have designed to promote the in the annals of time, for the overthrow of American interest of the bank at the expense of that of the country. liberty ! [Mr. CAMBRELENG disclaimed any intention to impute an I did not rise to make an argument or to go at large into unworthy motive to Mr. U., who continued.) I have never the discussion. The whole subject has been ably debated (said Mr. U.) been connected with the late Bank of the by others, and by none more so ihan the gentleman to my United States, or the present bank of that name, in any right, (Mr. Hopkins,) a son of the Old Dominion-a namanner which could bias my judgment. I have never tive of the same county where I drew my first breath; and owned one dollar of stock in either. I have never borrow- whose speech and nativity combined bave produced in my ed one cent from either bank on any own account. I have bosom very fraternal feelings towards him. I am anxious been compelled to pay considerable suins to the late bank, that my amendment may be tested by the vote of the House as surety; and, with that exception, have had no transac without further delay. tions with these banks. At this time I am not the debtor Mr. HAYNES replied to Mr. Wise that the sale of the of the bank in any way. I know, sir, that I am wholly bank stock severed all connexion of the Government with uninfluenced in offering the amendment by partiality or the bank as a partnership concern; but that was no reahatred to the bank.
son Government ought not still to hold the bonds of that My amendment is based upon a very obvious principle. institution taken in payment for the stock. If I owe money and have it not, I am bound by law and Mr. WISE said that these bonds were a mere liquidamorals to get it. If a neighbor owes me, or I have his tion of the account of value of the stock; and, while the bond not yet due, I may and ought to raise the money upon Government held them, the connexion still continued as the debt thus owing to me, if I have no better means. If though it held the stock. I can sell my neighbor's bond, without sacrifice, to pay my Mr. McKAY would have no objection to the sale of debts, who can or will blame me? I do not injure him, these bonds, if it could be done fairly, for their full value; and I benefit myself. Now, sir, apply the case. The but this would take time, and the Treasury must have imGovernment wants money; it holds bonds on the bank; it mediate relief. He denied that the bill was deceptive ; every owes debts and must pay them; my amendment proposes man, on reading it, must perceive it was a bill for a loan; to sell the bonds without sacrifice, and apply the proceeds what else was it? in discharge of what the Governinent owes. I prefer this Mr. ROBERTSON rose and said, if the administrato the creation of a national debt, by issuing Treasury notes tion had no other object in view than to raise a suffior by borrowing money; but, to guard against the possibil- ciency of money to meet the real wants of the Treasury, ity of failing to sell the bonds for their nominal amount, I he was at a loss to comprehend the cause of these perprovide, in case the bonds cannot be sol!, that the Secre- severing efforts to raise it by the issue of Treasury notes. tary may borrow six and a half millions. I consider it my The amendment of the gentleman from Kentucky, (Mr. duty to grant all the facilities necessary to maintain the UNDERWOOD, ) as modified, proposed to give the right 10 credit of the Government, and to give vigor and health to dispose of the debt of about six millions due from the Bank its operations, and I never will be influenced by a spirit of of the United States; and that of his colleague, (Mr. Pare factious opposition to any administration.
ron,) if he understood it, to superadd the power of drawI have accepted the amendment proposed by the gentle. ing upon the State banks, which held ten or twelve milman from Virginia, (Mr. Patron, 1 because it can do no lions of public money. If these resources should prove in. harm, and it may afford some additional facilities to the sufficient, authority inight be conferred to borrow whatever Secretary of the Treasury. He now draws checks or sum might be necessary to make up the deficiency. But drafts on the deposite banks, knowing at the time they will none of these obvious and ordinary methods of replenishnot be paid. If the creditors of Government will accept ing the Treasury will now answer the purpose. Nothing such drafts hereafter, let them do it. Perhaps the banks will do but to resort to the extraordinary and dangerous remay pay some, and if they will not, then let those drafts be source of an issue of Treasury notes. In times of great received in payment for duties, taxes, or public land. This difficulty, when engaged in war with one of the most powpractice cannot make things worse. It may relieve, to erful nations of Europe, we were compelled, from sheer
Oct. 6, 1837.)
(H. OF R.
necessity, to adopt that method of raising supplies. Dur- call “print," from the first syllable of the word “printing the Revolutionary war we had issued upwards of three ing;" as the first syllable of the word “coining” gives the hundred millions in bills of credit, and at its close these name of “coin."
So that the thing may be readily bills were so depreciated that they were funded at 100 for 1. understood. When you receive hard money, you are to Such were the evils attending the system, that the framers say I was paid in coin; when you take paper, I was paid of the constitution, to guard against their recurrence, in print. His plan is given in detail, and, as you may thought it necessary to interdict the States in express terms suppose, sir, was the subject of merriment, of derision, in from emitting bills of credit. I will not, sir, (said Mr. R.,) the committee room. The committee did not deign to at this time enter into the question whether the power thus give it a serious consideration. It served only to excite their prohibited to the States rightfully belongs to this Govern risible muscles, and to create no very favorable impressions ment. There is much force, all must admit, in the refer of the state of the petitioner's understanding. Well, sir, ence made by the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. to my great surprise, here is the scheme before us--not corCushing) to the journal of the convention, showing that responding in amount, but pretty much the same in prinà proposition to clothe this Government with the power ciple--gravely proposed by the chairman of the Committee was expressly overruled. With those who rely on the of Ways and Means; the establishment of a manufactory same ground, not verified by the journal, but depending of paper money-a print mint here in Washington. We on the memory of members of the convention, as an argu- begin at length to understand what the exclusive friends ment against the power to establish a national bank, this of a hard-money Government mean by the term. They reference ought to be conclusive. Certain it is, that the are to issue bits of stamped or printed paper, and call power was not expressly granted, as were those to lay them-not "print," as Mr. Sargent honestly calls histaxes and borrow money; and the rule of interpretation, but gold and silver. Yes, sir, the gentleman from Maryas given by the constitution itself, is, that the powers notland, (Mr. McKim,) deeply versed in all moneyed condelegated to the United States, nor prohibited to the cerns, and who has been so highly complimented for his States, are reserved to the States or to the people. It is financial talents, tells us, in so many words, these ten milobvious that its exercise by the General Government is lions of Treasury notes are ten milliions of gold and silver. equally dangerous; indeed, liable to much greater abuse. When the gentleman made the remark, he forcibly remindThe States can cffect none, to any considerable extent, ed me of my Lord Peter, in the Tale of a Tub. The anexcept those within their respective limits; but we may ecdote, no doubt, is familiar to all. Beef, it had been inundate the Union with a spurious currency; and when said, contained the quintessence of partridge, and quail, the system shall be once commenced, no one can undertake and venison, and wild duck; and so, my Lord Peter into say where it is to stop. During the late war, immedi. sisted, did his wheaten loaf. In this conceit, he invited ately after it was declared, Congress again resorted to an bis brethren to dine with him. The repast consisted alone issue of Treasury notes-at first upon a moderate scale, of this wheaten loaf. He asked them if they would eat a only five millions of dollars. But from time to time, other bit of the mutton ; and, when they assented, cut his loaf, and larger issues were authorized, until, at the end of two and handed a slice to each. They supposed he was or three years, twenty-five millions were authorized at a jesting ; but, finding him in earnest, they remonstrated, dash. So it may be again. We begin now, in a period and bad the boldness to deny that bread was mutton. of profound peace-for I will not dignify the Indian hunt | Lord Peter argued the point with them for some time ; but in Florida with the name of war—with an issue of ten mil. finally cut the matter short with this unanswerable argulions for the service of this remnant of the year. Those ment: He said he would affirm it to be as good mutton as who urge the measure may mean in good faith to go no any in Leadenhall market; and, if they did not believe it, further. But who shall say, when we have once tasted they deserved to be eternally damned. So, sir, the genthe sweets of the poison, when we have indulged in the tleman from Maryland tells us his 'Treasury notes, bis practice of raising money by this pernicious process, with “print,” is gold and silver-nothing less; and all who do out incurring responsibility, to what extent it will be car not credit it are to be condemned outright as mere infidels ried ? What is now proposed as a temporary expedient and heretics. Sir, it is not gold and silver, nor their may become the settled policy of the Government. Sir, equivalent. The Government may as well issue the GerI protest against it as a dangerous practice. Obsta prin man silver cents recently coined by the man with the cipiis. Our only safely is in resisting it at the threshold. Dutch namne, (Feuchtwanger,) and tell us each is a coin
Let us for a moment, Mr. Speaker, look to our actual of pure gold, of the value of $10,000, as 10 stamp worthposition; and we cannot but be amazed at the point to less paper, and tell us it is gold and silver, or of equal which we have arrived. But a few months since, the late value with them. It will depreciate, as it has always dePresident congratulated the country on the success of his preciated. Indeed, unless I am misinformed, it is destined efforts to restore a sound, constitutional currency.
to commence its circulation considerably below par. one short month since, the present President gave his re (Mr. Wise here remarked that the fact was as his colcommendation in favor of a hard-money system, as the league had stated it. He held the document in his hand disposed to reject convertible paper, even Juring the press | MP.S ROBERTSON. Will my colleague oblige me by ent difficulty of procuring the precious metals. And now
reading the proof to which he refers ? it is gravely proposed to manufacture ten millions of paper (Mr. Wise read from the documen! a letter to the Secmoney for circulation, not only without a specie basis, but retary of the Treasury from Ward, Prime, and King, relawithout the pledge of any definite fund for its ultimate re tive to the value of Treasury notes in the market. Mr. demption. But, sir, strange as this may appear, the CAMBRELENG observed, that was a letter from the gentlescheme is not altogether a novelty. A petition was, du man's own friends ] ring the present session, referred to the committee of which Mr. ROBERTSON resumed. The gentleman from New I have the honor to be a member, (Judiciary,) from a Mr. York says this offer is from our own friends; yet I am Sargent, of South Carolina, for the establishment-not of told it is the best that has been made. I have not the a coin mint, for there is one, he says, already—but of honor of being acquainted with these friends of ours, but what he calls a general print mint at Washington, for the I am happy to learn we have such, who will give more emission of paper money to the amount, perhaps, of two for the Government paper than the friends of the gentlehundred millions of dollars, as a currency for the United man and of the administration. This, then, is the true States. The money to be manufactured he proposes to state of the case : our paper is actually dishonored in ad
H. OF R.]
(Oct. 6, 1837.
vance; and gentlemen who will not lower the dignity of bearing very small interest-two or three per cent. at the the Government, by selling the bonds due to us, or by outside--because I thought they would answer, and anborrowing money, are ready to throw our own paper into swer very effectually, the double purpose of relieving the the market at a discount of six or eight per cent. Sir, I Government, and relieving, in almost an equal degree, the cannot agree to it. These Treasury notes, if really in- great body of the people. I have no dread at all of such tended for the purpose of raising revenue, are unnecessary. an issue leading to a system of paper money, as has been There are other and ample resources at the command of said here and elsewhere. For one I go for no such systhe Government. If designed for circulation, they are I do not claim for the Government the right, under both unnecessary and unconstitutional. Why should the the constitution, of furnishing a circulating medium, as Government discredit and reject the currency of the States—such, to the community. But there is no such power inthat which our State Governments accept in payment of volved in the amendment on your table, or in that modifitaxes, and which our citizens receive from each other? It cation of it to which I have just alluded, and which I greatwould be regarded as oppressive in the State Governments, ly prefer. It is one of the simplest and most usual forms dishonorable on the part of individuals at this time to ex of borrowing money, within the very letter of the constiact gold and silver. Why should this paternal Govern- tution. That power is vested in Congress without any ment of the United States not receive what the State Gov. qualification or reserve whatever, as to the manner in ernments receive--what, indeed, our people alone can which it shall be exercised. By what authority--with procure? And whal right, permit me to ask, has this what color of plausibility, can gentlemen pretend to say to Government to create a paper currency? They have a us, you may borrow thus, but not thus-this form of loan right to coin money, and regulate the value thereof, and is legal, that an unheard of and flagrant usurpation? Can of foreign coins; but they have no right to put a stamp it be pretended that the founders of this Government, lookupon paper, and call that coining money. Tho constitu- ing forward to the infinitely diversified exigencies of a tion nowhere warrants such a process.
society intended to be perpetual, spreading over a country In every aspect, Mr. Speaker, this scheme appears to me vast, almost beyond description, in extent, exposed to all substantially the establishment of a Government bank. If the vicissitudes of peace and war, of prosperity and distress, the paper be designed as a circulating medium, the Treas- | deliberately deprived it of a means of raising money, to ury becomes a bank of issue and circulation merely. But which it has already been forced, on a meinorable occasion, the scheme goes further. It authorizes not only the pay- to resort, and which is perfectly familiar iv the practice of ment of these notes to public creditors, but the borrowing every Government in the civilized world ; and that, too, of money upon their credit. What is this in effect but a when the power is conveyed in terms as large and combanking operation ? You apply to the Secretary, who is prehensive as language can be? I say, sir, that this con. thus authorized to borrow, and propose to lend him half a venient form of loan, which consists chiefly in anticipating million or a million of dollars. He is not in immediate to meet casual exigencies, the current revenues of a counwant of the money. You offer, for a given sum in Treas. try, is to be met with everywhere in Europe. Every ury notes, to supply him with one or two hundred thou-body has heard of the distinction between floating and sand dollars monthly, in munitions of war, in rations, or in funded debt. In England there is always a large amount money, until an amount equal to the value of the notes in of exchequer bills in the market. The securities of the the market shall be furnished. There is nothing in the Bank of England consist almost exclusively of them, as law to prevent such a negotiation.
combining safety and convenience in the highest possible But how does it differ in substance from a bank loan? | degree. In the continental States, Treasury bonds are just In a negotiation with the bank, you give your note, and
In short, if we were not the only people upon usually receive the notes of the bank as money. In that earth so happy as to know only by bearsay of the expe. supposed with the Secretary of the 'Treasury, you give dients to wbich, in the conduct of difficult affairs, States your note or agreement, and receive Treasury notes-the are everywhere compelled to resort, gentlemen would notes of the Government--which are to answer all the pur- scarcely express such nuive astonishment and aların at one poses money. In form, you are the lender; in effect, of the most usual of them. ihe borrower. Call the plan by what name you will, it is But I repeat it, sir, I am not committing myself to the a bank in its essential features, or destined, il persisted in, doctrine that this Government has, under the constitution, to become one. It is now but in the egs state; and I an unlimited control over our currency, either in this or would crush it in the egg.
in any other form. You know, Mr. Speaker, what my opin-I am opposed to it, Mr. Speaker, in every form in which ions are upon that subject; from those generally entertained in it can be presented; though I shall vote in favor of the the part of the country which I have the honor to represent. amendment of the gentleman from Kentucky. It is not I have done too much in my humble way to fortify and to that I doubt the good faith of the Government, or its per- diffuse those opinions ; I know too well their importance, fect ability to redeem ten times the amount authorized by in a Government constituted as this is, to the weaker part the bill. It is because I believe the measure unnecessary, of the confederacy, and especially now that that weaker if not unconstitutional. It is because all experience has part seenis threatened with serious aggression, to abandon shown that the power of raising money in this form, eva them, nay, nor to bate one jot of their rigor and sternness, ding a direct responsibility, is fraught with mischief. It for the sake of a mere momentary relief and convenience. will be abused, as it has always been ahused. I will re I admit that when this House is called upon by the Exsort to any and every other usual method of supplying the ecutive to issue Treasury notes, as in every other case of necessary wants of the Government. I will vote for six loan, it ought to see that the Government really wants millions, or ten millions, is really needed; to be raised by money, and wants it too for bona fide federal (not nationa sale of our claims upon our debtors; by way of loan, or al, as they are called, or notional purposes. That is the ly a tax; but I will vote for no issue of Treasury notes, restrictiori, sir. Thut is the sound practical rule from for no indirect loan, nor for any sum whatever to create a which I will never consent to depart; and if I did not surplus beyond the actual wants of tho Treasury.
think that it applied to our actual situation, I should opMr. LEGARE rose and sail: If the House will indulge pose not only the bill on the table, but every other bill for me, sir, at this late hour, I will make a few remarks upon raising supplies at the present moment.
But the case prethe subject before it.
sented, and, so far as I have been able to consider the I candidly confess I have been all along favorable to the matter, made out by the Executive, is that, without pressing issuing of these (Treasury) notes, without interest, or with a most rigid and probably ruinous severity upon its
Oct. 6, 1837.]
[H. OF R.
debtors, the deposite banks and the merchants; without the convention in 1788, or that kindred idea, so often utaggravating, beyond expression, the calamitous condition tered of late, that all banking corporations in the different of the times, it must resort to you for temporary aid--for States, mere private partnerships chartered by the Legislaauthority to anticipate the fruits of our returning prosperi- tures, fall virtually within the prohibitory clause. It seems ty; without formally laying the foundation of a new nation to me nothing short of monstrous to imagine that the States, al debt, and to create a species of loans, which will not charged as they are with all the high obligations of civil only furnish you with the means you want, but, incident. society-of defence and protection, of police, of educaally, relieve the embarrassments of the community, and, tion, of justice-with almost every thing that relates to the especially, in the great and important interests of our do order and well-being of a community, could have thought, mestic exchanges.
for a moment, of depriving themselves of a resource without But, says the gentleman from Virginia before me, (Mr. which, in modern times, no free commonwealth can posWise, )you are turning the Government into a bank-you sibly manage its affairs without often falling into the most are creating a great political corporution to trade in money, perplexing and even perilous embarrassments. And what at the very moment that you decide it to be inexpedient to is the argument by which it is attempted to lay them under charter a commercial corporation for the same purpose. such a disability? Why, that Congress, having the powWhy, sir, according to this very novel definition, every er to coin money and regulate the value thereof, was indebtor is a banker- it is the borrower, not the lender, that tended to have a complete control over the currency! Now belongs to that privileged class. (A laugh.) If this is what is currency, or rather, what, in these times, is not? true, we are a nation of bankers,-[“So you are," from Where will you draw any practical line between one acMr. W188]—"over-banked," to use the common phrase, knowledgment of debt-one bill of credit, if you please with a vengeance. But on what possible ground can such and another, when in all their effects, commercial and poa proposition be advanced? The States, it is said, are for- litical, they are evidently the same? Sir, having bestowbidden to issue bills of credit. What are bills of credit ? ed much thought and research upon this most difficult and Mr. Madison, as appears from one of the documents laid important of all the subjects that now challenge the attenupon our tables, in a letter to a gentleman of some distinc- tion of a public man, with opportunities perhaps more fation in Pennsylvania, affirms, without hesitation, and as a vorable to the discovery of truth, and to the forming of corthing quite settled, that it is of the very essence of such rect conclusions for the conduct of affairs, than it has falpaper-its distinctive characteristic, its specific difference, len to the lot of most persons to enjoy, and finding, after so to speak—that it be made a legal tender.
so many nights and days of patient inquiry, the difficulties (Mr. RoberTSON, of Virginia. It has been decided which surround this subject almost as many and (to me) otherwise.
as formidable as ever, I have been filled with wonder since Mr. LEGARE. Where, when, by whom?
I came here at the confident and dogmatical tone of many Mr. Robertson. By Judge Story.] (Cries of "go persons (on all sides) whose conclusions have cost them on, go on.")
far less pains, and been adopted without any such loss of Mr. LEGARE continuing. Sir, I will examine the cor time. Among other things coolly taken for granted, is the rectness of that opinion presently. In the mean time, I meaning of this word "currency." Now, sir, if gentlebeg leave to state to the House that Mr. Madison only re men will be at the trouble of looking into the minutes of peated, in the letter alluded to, the opinions which he had evidence taken before the committee of the House of Compreviously either expressly or implicitly advanced, not cas mons charged with the question of the renewal of the bank ually, loosely, or inconsiderately, but in the most deliber- charter in 1832, they will find that, with the exception of ate manner, and on the most momentous occasions. In small sums paid away in wages, the whole circulating mehis first message to Congress in the session of 1815-'16, dium of Lancashire, Warwickshire, the West Riding of he goes even further than in that letter-further, as I hare Yorkshire, and other, if not all, of the great manufacsaid, than, as at present advised, I am quite willing to ful- turing districts of England, consisted at no remote period low him. He distinctly presents in that state paper, the exclusively of bills of exchange. The whole circulation, alternative of a national bank or a Government currency. say, in which the immense business of the most flourishNow, sir, I feel that I owe it to the House and to truth, I | ing manufacturing and commercial empire in the world is owe it to my own station here and the candor which I ever transacted—and especially that part of its trade which has feel myself obliged to practise in debate, to state that done so much to enrich both this country and England General Hamilton, in his celebrated report upon the bank is almost entirely composed of common mercantile paper, in 1791, does seem to treat such Government issues as the with which Government, according to the opinions of our very description of bills of credit, so notorious under the people and the genius of our institutions, has, by the conold order of things, and therefore interdicted forever to the fession of all men, nothing whatever to do. Sir, I shall legislation of the States. He admits, indeed, that the inter- have, I trust, some future and better opportunity of going dict does not apply to us, directly, but he very reasonably more at large into that subject, which has, for some time thinks that it at least hints a rule for the conduct of this past, so deeply engaged, and I am sorry to have to add, Goverment, which it ought not lightly to neglect. To agitated the minds of men in all parts of the United States take up the matter on principle it might well be asked, I mean the credit system, under which this nation has what harm is done by the issue of paper which nobody is grown up to be what it is.
But I could not but take this obliged to receive, and every body may profitably use, in payment of public dues? But even if you allow, as I will * No. 4206. Mr. Dyér.“ By circulation, I mean not merely local notes,
but bills of exchange." not undertake to deny, that a mere issue of currency, as No. 1274. The same. “To deny the Lancashire banks to be banks of such, comes within the prohibition—what do you mean by issue, because they issue only pust nules, is to make a distinction with currency? Is it pretended, for example, that the States,
It is stated in No. 4361, that the banks of lancashire, at that time, with their vast residuum of political power and public duty, did not issue notes, properly so called, but drafts, al ditferent dates up cannot borrow money, and give to their creditors the evi to three months, upon their agents in London. In 1525, and other times
of excitement, they were circulated w an immense amount, and did as dence of debt assignable or unassignable? And if these
much mischief by an enlarged currency of paper as was done in other evidences or acknowledgments of debt pass—as pass in parts of England by notes.
So No.5329, ibid.' “ Bills of exchange form at present (1832) the great these times of active commerce they inevitably will-from
currency of Lancashire, and they forined almost the exclusive currenhand to hand, do they become violations of the constitution cy, with the exception of small notes paid for wages, till within these for that? Sir, it is a false, wild, chimerical conceit that last seven years'!--[1825 to 1832.]
Then follows the statement that nine-tenths of all the business of the such a notion ever entered into the heads of the majority of counties mentioned above are represented by small bills.
out a difference !
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[OCT. 6, 1837.
occasion to remark how very loosely, with what a danger- acknowledged to be at their full value in reference to all ous latitude both of phrase and opinion, we are in the habit other commodities but gold and silver. of treating these matters, involving as they do all the (Here Mr. ROBERTSON said nothing was at par which fundamental interests of society, and of exemplifying the was not equivalent to gold and silver, or something to that remark in the use of one of the most familiar terms that oc effect. ) cur in our debates and declamations. We talk of bank pa Mr. LEGARE. Then why find so much fault with the per as if all the harm done by expansions of currency were Government for demanding gold and silver of its debtors ? owing to it alone. Why, sir, bank notes, even in the The gentleman is plainly in a dilemma, from which it is times of the most extravagant issues, are but a part, and not easy for him to extricate himself. even a very small part, of the circulation set in motion by [Mr. ROBERTSON said, with the permission of the genthe operation of the credit system, at a period of great ex- tleman froin South Carolina, he would make a brief explacitement, in communities advanced in civilization, and hav nation. He had not at all discussed the question of deing all the facilities of an extended commerce. They are preciation. He could not admit, however, that paper the efflorescence-s0 to express it—the flower, the blossom money was not depreciated. On the contrary, he insisted of the currency of such a country, essential, I admit, to its that it must always be regarded, in a legal sense, as depreperfection and fruitfulness, but no more the whole body ciated when below the legal standard-gold and silver, withand frame of that mighty tree, than that eastern portico is out regard to the causes, whether it be a foreign demand or to this capitol. But it is not my purpose to go, at this any other, which may have occasioned the difference. time, into the consideration of this subject in all its bear Still he denied the policy or justice of exacting gold and ings and extent, and I have said already enough to awaken silver at this time in payment of the public dues; when it the House to the danger of those loose and sweeping gen could not be procured but at a high premium), and when, eralities in which it is become so much the habit, this indeed, there was scarcely any currency at the command of country, to deal, even in the most important practical con the people than depreciated paper. He thought it was op
pressive in this Government to exact this sacrifice to reAs to the constitutional power of Congress, then, to is-ject that which the State Governments were content to resue these notes, under existing circumstances, I entertain no ceive ; and what, in the ordinary transactions between man doubt at all, at least with reference to the objections mainly and man, it would be deemed immoral and dishonorable to relied on in this discussion, and especially by the gentlemen refuse. ] over the way, (Messrs. FLETCHER, Phillips, and Cush Sir, I am charmed to hear the gentleman say so. Then ING, of Massachusetts.] But to the issuing them without why should the public creditor call upon the Government interest, or with a very small interest, for which I repeat my to do, for his benefit, an immoral and dishonorable thing ; decided preference, another difficulty has been presented by and why should he think himself wronged if we offer him my friend from Virginia near me, (Mr. ROBERTSON.] He what is at this moment four per cent. better than the paper maintained that as the constitution forbids any thing but which, according to the gentleman's own showing, ought gold and silver to be made a legal tender by the States, it to satisfy every equitable and conscientious man ? But the implicitly requires that we should pay the debts of this truth is, I apprehend no difficulty at all froin those to whom Government only in specie or in what is equivalent to it. we shall have payments to make, and through whose hands And yet, in almost the same breath, the gentleman pro these notes will, almost without exception, make their way ceeded to denounce the Executive for not being satisfied into circulation. They will receive them cheerfully, and with the bank notes of the States, which he maintained are without hesitation; and although I perfectly appreciate the really not all depreciated. Sir, on this last head I agree delicate and honorable scruples which some gentlemen seem with him entirely, at least so far as regards the state of to feel about offering, in satisfaction of the public dues, a vur paper currency in the Southern States. I maintained paper ever so little inferior to the only legal tender recogwhen I first came here, what has been since demonstrated nised in the constitution, yet I cannot myself, in a matter in a masterly argument in another part of this building, left, after all, entirely to the free will of the party, conand is strikingly corroborated by the recent fall sent to sacrifice substantial justice and the public good changes, that the price of bullion had been raised by an ex to what I must consider as a superstitious adherence to the traordinary foreigo demand, and was no proof whatever of mere letter of the law. Nobody, at all versed in these subthe redundancy of the circulation, which has been very jects, now regards the precious nietals as any thing but an much reduced within the last ten months, and is probably approximation, and often a very imperfect approximation, even inadequate to the necessary exchanges of the country, to a correct measure of value. They have been adopted in the usual course of business. But if this is true, as I from the necessity of the thing, as the two great “comhave no doubt it is, then the right of a creditor under the modities of commerce" furnishing a ready medium of exconstitution to demand specie for his debt, becomes that change for all others, and, on the whole, the best practical summum jus which, all the world over, is summa injuria. means of comparing them; but they are sti!!, like the rest, And if this is the case as between individuals, why should mere commodities, subject to a very great fluctuation in a rule so very different be applied to the transactions of value, according to the common principles which govern Government ? Nay, the news brought us from New York prices. The present state of things furnishes, in my opinthis morning is that, while gold is only at 5 per cent. pre ion, a striking example of this important truth; and now, mium, Treasury drafts are at 4: for you must remark, sir, I ask, whether any really just man ought to complain of us that the letter of Prime, Ward, & Co., received just now, if we offer him these notes, with the most perfect liberty to is dated at least a fortnight ago, and since that time a most refuse them at his own discretion, and treat us as debiors decided change has taken place in the specie market as well on his unsettled account; if, in making that offer, we hold as in foreign bills. I think, then, I am perfectly safe in af to him the frank, manly, and reasonable language dictated firming that there is no danger whatever of the contem to us by the truth of the case, and the actual situation of plated Treasury notes falling below what, by the confes the country--if we say to him “gold and silver, which is sion of the gentleman himself, ought to satisfy any man in strict law, though not in good conscience, your due, we not bent upon enforcing a contract according to the ut huve none? By an unforeseen and terrible revulsion, by most rigor of the law, in a manner inconsistent with equity contingencies beyond any human control, our debtors have and good conscience. We shall pay our creditors in what been, and are still, unable to meet their engagements with is 4 per cent. above those bank notes which are there us in the usual way. The country is in deep embarrass* By Mr. King, of Georgia.
ment and distress, and we cannot, even were we disposed