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The alternative to the rejection of this bill would be to do nothing, which, in his opinion, was infinitely preferable. It would throw the responsibility from this on the opposite side. We would thus have done all we could, and if nothing be done, theirs would be the fault ; and the country would hold them responsible. But to pass this bill in its present form would be to assume, not only the responsibility of acting, but of leaving things in a worse condition than we find them ; to strike the disease deeper into the system, and render it more concealed and dangerous, while the attention of the patient would be withdrawn for a time from his danger. If, on the contrary, we stand fast on our principles and professions, and suffer the bill to be lost rather than yield our principles, the public attention would be doubly roused; the subject would be more fully and perfectly investigated and understood, and the great cause we have so nobly supported would finally and gloriously triumph. Let others do as they may, he would maintain his position, and stand where he stood in 1834, and ever since. He could not be driven from it when others came to it, and now he could not be drawn from it by their departing. To stand alone had no terrors for him. It was to him not unusual.
On the Resolution of Mr. Clay, to prohibit discrimi
nations, as to the currency or medium receivable in payment of debts due to the Government; made in the Senate, May 2d and 25th, 1838.
[May 2.-On motion of Mr. Clay of Kentucky, the following resolution, submitted by him, was taken up, and read a second time :
“ Resolved, &c., That no discrimination shall be made as to the currency or medium of payment in the several branches of the public
revenue, or in debts or dues to the Government; and that, until otherwise ordered by Congress, the notes of sound banks which are payable and paid on demand in the legal currency of the United States, under suitable restrictions, to be forth with prescribed and promulgated by the Secretary of the Treasury, shall be received in payment of the revenue, and of debts and dues to the Government, and shall be subsequently disbursed, in course of public expenditure, to all public creditors who are willing to receive them.”]
Mr. Calhoun said, he was gratified that the Senator from Kentucky had introduced this resolution. The banks were about to resume specie payment, or rather had actually resumed, -and this in the most easy manner, and in the shortest period that resumption had ever been effected, notwithstanding all the predictions to the contrary, so confidently made on the opposite side, that resumption was impossible without the aid of Government.
The movement was an important one, and demanded our immediate attention, in order to determine what relation we ought to assume in reference to the banks, in the new condition in which they are, or shortly may be. The resolution offered a favorable opportunity for the consideration of the subject, which he thought ought to be embraced.
He had turned his attention particularly to the subject, and intended to do so much more fully, before the resolution was taken up for discussion ; but with the slight consideration which he had given it, he felt a strong conviction that a reunion with the banks, as proposed by the resolution, would, at no distant day, be followed by another shock, such as that in May last, but still more terrific. He would not enter on the discussion now, but hoped an opportunity would be afforded him, in the progress of the resolution, to assign his reasons for this belief, and when, he trusted, he would be able to satisfy the Senate that it was well-founded.
In the mean time, acting under its influence, he, for one, would do no act to countenance, in any way, a reunion with
the banks. Indeed, he could not see how even those who are in favor of a reunion, could justify a vote in its favor, unless some measure should first be adopted to guard against a recurrence of a calamity which he regarded as so obviously inevitable, without some effectual remedy to prevent it. As to himself, he believed that a National Bank was totally out of the question ; and, if it were not, it would prove, if adopted under existing circumstances, one of the greatest calamities that could befall the country.
Thus thinking, it appeared to him that this resolution should undergo a full and deliberate investigation ; and, for that purpose, if the Chairman of the Committee on Finance was in his seat, he would ask him to withdraw his motion for a reference, in order to assign an early day—say Monday or Tuesday next-to take up the resolution for discussion. After the views of the Senate had been fully expressed, if it should be thought advisable, it might then be referred.
[Mr. Clay remarked, that with the exception of a few banks in New-York, and probably one or two in New Jersey, none others had admitted their readiness to resume. Some of these institutions had named the first of January as the earliest period, while others, again, thought a much longer period would be required. We all know that those of Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi, would not be ready under two years. What he (Mr. C.) meant to say was, there would be no general resumption. He had never said that an United States Bank was indispensable to a resumption of specie payments. What he had said, and what he would say now, was, that under the present deposit system, without the agency of an United States Bank, if they did resume, they could not continue for any length of time. Mr. C. said he was well aware that the discussion of the question of an United States Bank was foreign to the matter before them just then ; but he was for a Bank of the United States, and wished it so pronounced, so understood, that every man, woman, and child, should know it; and he would take some suitable occasion hereafter to present his views in relation to an United States Bank, such as he thought would be required by the exigency of the times. What his resolution
proposed was, to give the sanction of law to this measure, and not leave it to the whim and caprice of the Postmaster-General and the Secretary of the Treasury.]
Mr. Calhoun said, that in making the declaration he did, that specie payments had been resumed, he did not suppose that any Senator would understand him as affirming that all the banks had commenced paying specie. He only meant to say, that a commencement had been made, and that, in spite of the declaration so confidently made, that it could not be without the aid of the Government. He ventured little in saying, that what had been commenced, would, under the operation of the causes that had produced it, go on till there would be a general resumption ; and that an event so desired would be accomplished in the shortest time, and with the least pressure, under the action of natural causes, without the aid of quackery. Under this impression, he had, from the first, opposed all intermeddling on our part. He had always, as he expressed himself at the extra session, dreaded the doctor more than the disease.
He could not agree with the mover of this resolution, that this was an improper time to discuss the merits of a National Bank. He (the mover), as well as the Senator from Massachusetts furthest from the Chair, agreed that, unless some effectual remedy should be adopted, another bank explosion would in a few years take place. The thing is inevitable ; and how can they, or any one who thinks with them, justify their vote in favor of this resolution, which proposes to unite the Government with the banks, without applying the only remedy which, according to their conception, can prevent so great a calamity? If the application is impossible now, it would only prove, even according to their own conception, that the time for a reunion with the banks has not yet arrived.
As to himself, he agreed that there were but two measures which could possibly prevent a repetition of the ex
plosion, which it is now contended on all sides must follow, without the application of some effectual remedy ; a complete and an entire divorce from the whole system, or the establishment of a National Bank ; and of the two, he considered the former as by far the most safe and effectual. This resolution proposes an entire abandonment of the divorce, without substituting the bank, or any other preventive measure in its place, which appeared to him by far the least defensible course that could be adopted. The plainest dictates of prudence demanded that we should adhere to the remedy we have, till another could be substituted. At all events, this was the suitable moment to determine on our future course; and the opportunity which this resolution afforded for discussion and deliberation, ought not to be permitted to pass in silence. Specie is flowing in with a strong current from all quarters, just as it did previous to the late suspension; and unless some measure be adopted to prevent it, it will become the means of enlarging banking operations, instead of entering into the general circulation of the country, in the same manner as it did then. The result will inevitably be another expansion, and another explosion more calamitous than the late one, unless, as he had said, some effectual measure be adopted to prevent it. Hc, and those who thought with him, believed that the most safe and effectual was a complete and entire divorce from the banking system ; while those who differed from us, for the most part, believed that a National Bank was the only safe and effectual measure. Now was the time for a thorough examination and comparison of the two measures. Indeed, he could not see how even the friends of a reunion could vote for this measure, without previously adopting some remedy against the danger which even they admitted. The country could not stand another explosion. It would not only overthrow the banking system, but would shake our institutions to their centre.
The Senator from Massachusetts (Mr. Davis) said, as he