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ing privileges, over and above a fair compensation for the capital invested, which somebody must pay, and which must ultimately fall on the industry and business of the country. But this enormous expansion of the system is not astonishing ; so great is the stimulus applied to its growth. Ingenious men of other ages, devoted themselves in vain to discover the art of converting the baser metals into gold and silver ; but we have conferred on a portion of the community an art still higher,—of converting paper, to all intents and purposes, into the precious metals; and ought we to be surprised, that an article so cheap to the manufacturers, and so dear to the rest of the community, should be so greatly over supplied, and without any reference to the interest, or to the wants of the community ?
If we are to believe the Senator from Virginia, and others on the same side, we owe almost all our improvements and prosperity to the banking system ;—and if it should fail, the age of barbarism would again return. I had supposed that the bases of our prosperity were our free institutions ; the wide-spread and fertile region we occupy, and the hereditary intelligence and energy of the stock, from which we are descended ; but it seems, that all these go for nothing, and that the banks are every thing. I make no war on them. All I insist on is, that the Government shall separate from them ; which I believe to be indispensable, for the reasons I. have assigned, both now and formerly. But I cannot concur in attributing to them our improvements and prosperity. That they contributed to give a strong impulse to industry and enterprise in the early stages of their operation, I doubt not. Nothing is more stimulating than an expanding and depreciating currency.
It creates a delusive appearance of prosperity, which puts every thing in motion. Every one feels as if he was growing richer, as prices rise ; and that he has it in his power, by foresight and exertion, to make his fortune. But it is the nature of stimulus, moral as well as physical, to excite at first, and to depress afterwards. The draught, which at first causes unnatural excitement and energy, is sure to terminate in corresponding depression and weakness; nor is it less certain that the stimulus of a currency, expanding beyond its proper limits, follows the same law. We have the exhilaration—and the depression has succeeded. We have had the pleasure of getting drunk, and now experience the pain of becoming sober. The good is gone and the evil has succeeded ; and on a fair calculation, the latter will be found to be greater than the former. Whatever impulse the banking system was calculated to give to our improvement and prosperity, has already been given ; and the reverse effects will hereafter follow, unless the system should undergo great and radical changes ; the first step towards which, would be the adoption of the measure proposed by this bill.
I have, Mr. President, finished what I intended to say. I have long anticipated the present crisis, but did not until 1837 expect its arrival in my time. When I saw its approach, I resolved to do my duty, be the consequences to me what they might, and I offer my thanks to the Author of my being, that he has given me the resolution and opportunity to discharge, what I honestly believe to be that duty on this great subject.
How the question will be decided, is acknowledged to be doubtful—so nearly are the two Houses supposed to be divided; but whatever may be its fate now, I have the most perfect confidence in its final triumph. The public attention is roused. The subject will be thoroughly investigated, and I have no fears but the side I support, will prove to be the side of truth, justice, liberty, civilization, and moral and intellectual excellence.
On the Independent Treasury Bill, in reply to Mr.
Clay, delivered in the Senate, March 10th, 1838.
I RISE to fulfil a promise I made some time since, to notice, at my leisure, the reply of the Senator from Kentucky furthest from me (Mr. Clay) to my remarks when I first addressed the Senate on the subject now under discussion.
On comparing with care the reply with the remarks, I am at a loss to determine whether it is most remarkable for its omissions or misstatements. Instead of leaving not a hair on the head of my arguments, as the Senator threatened (to use his not very dignified expression), he has not even attempted to answer a large, and not the least weighty portion; and of such as he has noticed, there is not one fairly stated or fairly answered. I speak literally, and without exaggeration ; nor would it be difficult to make good to the letter what I assert, if I could reconcile it to myself to consume the time of the Senate in establishing a long series of negative propositions, in which they could take but little interest, however important they may be regarded by the Senator and myself. To avoid so idle a consumption of time, I propose to present a few instances of his misstatements, from which the rest may be inferred ; and, that I may not be suspected of having selected them, I shall take them in the order in which they stand in his reply.
The Senate will recollect, that when the Senator from Virginia furthest from me (Mr. Rives) introduced his substitute, he accompanied it with the remark that it was his first choice, and the second choice of those who are allied with him on this occasion. In noticing this remark, I stated, that if I might judge from appearances, which could scarcely
deceive any one, the Senator might have said not only the second, but, under existing circumstances, it was their first choice; and that, despairing of a bank for the present, they would support his substitute. Assuming this inference to be correct; I stated that the question was narrowed down, in fact, to the bill and substitute, of which one or the other must be selected. The Senator from Kentucky, in his reply, omitted all these qualifications, and represented me as making the absolute assertion that, in the nature of the case, there was no other alternative but the bill or the substitute, and then gravely pointed out two others—to do nothing, or adopt a National Bank—as if I could possibly be ignorant of what was so obvious. After he had thus replied, not to what I really said, but his own misstatement of it, as if to make compensation, he proceeded in the same breath to confirm the truth of what I did say, by giving his support to the substitute, which he called a "half-way house," where he could spend some pleasant hours. Nothing is more easy than to win such victories.
Having inferred, as has turned out to be the fact, that there was no other alternative, at present, but the bill and substitute, I next showed the embarrassment to which the gentlemen opposite to me would be involved from having, four years ago, on the question of the removal of the deposits, denounced a league of State banks similar to that proposed to be revived by the substitute. After enlarging on this point, I remarked, that if I might be permitted to state my opinion, the gentlemen had taken a course on this subject unfortunate for themselves and the country—unfortunate for them—for, let what would come, they would be responsible. If the bill was lost, theirs would be the responsibility; if the substitute was carried, on them the responsibility would fall ; and if nothing was done, it would be at their door :—and unfortunate for the country, because it had prevented the decision of the question at the extra session, which would
not have failed to put an early termination to the present commercial and pecuniary embarrassments. This the Senator, in his reply, met by stating that I had called on him and his friends to follow my lead ; and thus regarding it, he made it the pretext of some ill-natured personal remarks, which I shall notice hereafter. I never dreamed of making such a call; and what I said cannot be tortured, by the force of construction, to bear a meaning having the least resemblance to it.
After making these preliminary remarks, I took up the substitute, and showed that it proposed to make a bargain with the banks. I then stated the particulars and the conditions of the proposed bargain ; that its object was to enable the banks to pay their debts—and for that purpose it proposed to confer important privileges ; to give them the use of the public funds from the time of deposit to disbursement, and to have their notes received as cash in the dues of the Government. I then asked if we had a right to make such a bargain. The Senator, leaving out all these particulars, represented me as saying that the Government had no right to make a bargain with the banks; and then undertakes to involve me in an inconsistency in supporting the bill, because it proposes to bargain with the banks for the use of their vaults as a place of safe-keeping for the public money ; as if there was a possible analogy between the two cases. Nothing is more easy than to refute the most demonstrative argument in this way. Drop an essential part of the premises, and the most irresistible conclusion, of course, fails.
In the same summary and easy mode of replying to my arguments, the Senator perverted my denial that the Government had a right to receive bank-notes as cash, into the assertion that it had no right to receive any thing but cash ; and then accuses me of inconsistency, because I voted, at the extra session, for the bill authorizing the receipt of treasury notes in the dues of the Government; as if any one