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understood him, that the late explosion was caused by the Independent Treasury scheme. Such he conceived not to be the fact. Instead of being the cause it was but the consequence. The existing laws provided that on the banks ceasing to pay specie, they 'should cease to be the fiscal agents of the Government, and have their notes received in the public dues. The Independent Treasury was the result of this provision, and has, in fact, been in existence ever since the explosion. Under its operation, the banks are gradually resuming specie payments, and the currency returning comparatively to a sound condition. But for that, it would have become daily more and more bloated, till the disease would have been utterly incurable. Every State would have had a direct interest in enlarging its circulation; for, the more expanded the circulation, the greater would have been the depreciation and the greater the depreciation at any point, the more certainly would the commerce of the country have been attracted to it, just as was the case after the late war. The reason is obvious. The greater the depreciation, the less in reality would be the amount of duty paid. It was thus that the divorce had not only checked the increase of the evil, but had, in a great measure, counteracted it; and it was a safe conclusion, that a remedy which had proved so efficacious in removing the disease, should prove not less so, if persisted in, to prevent its recurrence.
The mover of the resolution thinks very differently. He believes a National Bank to be the only effectual remedy, and promises to suggest a project for one during the present session. He was glad to hear him say so. Now was the time, and he hoped that he would be prepared to suggest his plan when his resolution should be taken up for discussion.
Mr. C. said, that as the Chairman of the Committee on Finance was now in his place, he would renew the expression of his hope that he would not insist on a reference. He thought the better course would be for the discussion to pre
cede the reference ; but he would, notwithstanding, vote for it, if insisted on, as he did not wish to embarrass any arrangement the committee may have made.
[Mr. Clay said, the banks in New-York were to resume, he was aware, but there was an immense difference between a nominal issue and a safe issue. Under the present state of things, the banks could not lend ; they did not know how long it might be the pleasure of those officers—the Postmaster-General and the Secretary of the Treasury—to sustain them. They might come down upon the banks at their pleasure, demand the dues of Government in specie, and cripple those institutions in their business.]
Mr. Calhoun said, he certainly did not think that the Senator from Kentucky " was so silly” as to introduce a bill to charter a Bank of the United States, after the sense of the Senate had been so unequivocally expressed against any such institution. He even considered him not a little indiscreet in promising to present the outlines of a bank, considering the object which he has in view. It was manifestly his intention to turn the public attention as strongly as possible towards a bank, as the only measure of relief. What he (Mr. Calhoun) wanted, on the other hand, was some definite plan of such an institution to be proposed by his friends, in order to have something tangible, between which and the Sub-Treasury a comparison might be drawn. He felt very confident, whenever it was presented, that it would not be difficult to demonstrate the superiority of the latter to the former. He might be mistaken, but he could not but feel, after much reflection, that the establishment of a National Bank, under existing circumstances, for the purpose of regulating the currency, would prove a curse to the country. If made sufficiently powerful to effect that object, it would be too strong for our liberty ; but, if not strong enough, it would be too weak to effect the object proposed, and, of course, would not prevent the explosion in the cur
rency which, it is conceded on all sides, must again take place, if the Sub-Treasury be surrendered, and no effectual remedy be applied to prevent it.
Under this impression, he thought it highly desirable that the Senator should present his project now.
He saw no reason for the delay ; but on the contrary, he regarded the present occasion, when we were called upon by the mover of the resolution to abandon the measure which has thus far proved effectual, and again reunite the Government to the banks, as the most suitable of any to bring forward his plan.
[May 25.—Mr. Webster (Mr. Clay assenting) offered the following amendment:
Strike out the first clause of the resolution after the enacting clause, and insert
** That it shall not be lawful for the Secretary of the Treasury to make, or to continue in force, any general order which shall create any difference between the different branches of revenue, as to the money or medium of payment, in which debts or dues, accruing to the United States, may be paid."]
Mr. Calhoun said, that he agreed with the Senator from Massachusetts (Mr. Webster), that the resolution of 1816 conferred no discretionary power on the Executive, and that the specie circular was illegal and unconstitutional. Such was the unanimous opinion of the opposition at the last session, and it was accordingly opposed, not only as having been issued without authority, but also on the ground that it was an assumption of power calculated to give vast influence to the Executive, and, as such, was of a most dangerous character,in which he understood the Senator concurred. Entertaining these views, it was impossible for him to vote for this resolution. It indeed superseded the portion of the circular that made a discrimination between the medium in which the public lands and the customs should be paid ; but in doing that, it abandoned to the Executive the right to designate at its pleasure in what the public dues should be paid, with the
single exception that he should make no discrimination between one branch of the revenue and another. He could never agree to confer such power on the Executive, or any other department of the Government. It would give a great and dangerous influence to that branch of the Government; and he must say that, after what he had heard from the Senator and his political friends in opposition to the Executive power and influence for the last few years, he was at a loss to reconcile their votes on the present occasion with what they had so often avowed to be the principle on which they acted. Nor was his surprise diminished by the reason which he had assigned as a justification of his course.
He (Mr. W.) admits that this resolution surrenders the power in question to the Executive, and that he may, under the authority which it implies, direct the revenue, at his option, to be collected in gold and silver or bank-notes ; but alleges, in justification, that the power was in reality surrendered at the last session by the Senate, in voting for the measure introduced by the Senator from Virginia (Mr. Rives). He would admit that that measure, like this, yielded the power; but he could not agree that those who voted for it believed that the Executive had the power to issue the circular. On the contrary, it is well known that the great body of the opposition who voted for it, regarded the exercise of the power as a plain and dangerous act of usurpation; but then, as now, were willing to yield it to get clear of a present inconvenience. The measure failed then to become a law, by the President withholding his approval ; and now the Senator, on so frail a foundation, abandons a power to the Executive, which he, and those who act with him, denounced as illegal, unconstitutional, and dangerous ! He regards a mere vote of the body as sufficient to establish a most obnoxious principle without further struggle ; and, for the purpose of getting clear of a temporary inconvenience, is willing to confer discretionary power too high to be intrusted to a
Washington, on that department of the Government which he has so often held up to our jealousy and fear.
He admitted that where there was no principle involved, and where the subject was one of slight importance, we might regard a vote of the body as deciding the question ; but, in a case like this, where the power and principle involved are of great importance, nothing could be more feeble and unwise than to surrender our ground on the first trial of strength, and that under such doubtful circumstances. As connected with the subject, he would avail himself of the opportunity to state what was his course in reference to the circular at the last session. A Senator from Ohio, now no longer a member of the body (Mr. Ewing), moved a resolution to repeal it. Though decidedly opposed to the circular, he hesitated to vote for his resolution, on the ground that he doubted the right of Congress to repeal an Executive order ; though we might supersede it by passing an act inconsistent with it, as is now proposed by this resolution. He expressed his doubts to the mover, and the apprehension that a direct repeal might bring the Senate into a conflict with the Executive, in which it would be difficult to maintain our ground. It was, however, soon ascertained that the supporters of the administration, who were opposed to the circular, would not vote for the repeal, on the ground that it denied the authority of the Executive to issue the circular, which they maintained. The consequence was, a compromise between the opposition and that portion of the friends of the administration,-and the measure of the Senator from Virginia was the result. Though urged to assent to it, he refused, on the ground on which he now opposes this resolution, that it abandoned the right to the Executive to issue the circular, to which he could not bring his mind to assent, either then or now.
He had another reason. He then foresaw what was coming. He clearly perceived that the explosion would take place, whether the circular was repealed or