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not; and he would not agree to do any thing by which the least share of the responsibility would attach to him. He was free from all blame, and was determined, as he now is, to avoid any acts by which the disaster that has befallen, or may hereafter, might be imputed to him. He intended, when the measure was on its passage, to have stated at large his views on the subject, and his reasons for voting against it, but was accidentally prevented ; and as he did not choose to vote against it without presenting his reasons, he declined answering when his name was called.
He not only agreed with the Senator, that the resolution of 1816 conferred no discretionary power on the Executive, but that its object was simply to prevent the receipt of the notes of banks that refused to pay on demand. During the late war, the treasury had been compelled to receive such notes ; and the practice, illegal and pernicious as it was, could not be arrested immediately on the return of peace, or without the intervention or the authority of Congress. Having performed the function for which it had been adopted, the resolution itself ought to be considered defunct.
He could not agree with those on the one hand, who considered it mandatory, or on the other, as conferring discretionary power on the Executive. It was a simple recognition of the long-continued practice of the treasury to receive the notes of banks that were paid on demand, while it overruled the more recent practice of receiving those that were not ; and it may fairly be considered as a sanction of the former, and a condemnation of the latter. It is well known how the practice originated. The act of Congress, passed in 1789, directed all the dues of the Government to be paid in gold and silver coins. The then Secretary of the Treasury, in the face of this positive law, acting under the dangerous and delusive idea still entertained by the Senator from Massachusetts, that bank-notes were identical with gold and silver, ordered them, contrary both to law and the
constitution, to be received at the treasury as specie. Congress acquiesced, and thus gave its implied sanction to this dangerous order, which has been productive of so much mischief. Thus things stood when the general suspension took place this time twelve months, when the Government became disconnected entirely from the banks. That event ought to be fairly considered as putting an end to a practice that ought never to have existed, and restoring the ascendency to the laws, which are still on the statute books unrepealed, and which direct nothing but the legal coins of the Government to be received in the public dues. He regretted that the Executive did not seize the occasion, and rescind, as it might fairly have done, the original order of General Hamilton, and thus restore the currency to what the constitution intended. It would have been, in his opinion, the proper course ; and one in which the country would have sustained it triumphantly.
His object in making these remarks was not to influence the Senate, but to place himself on the ground on which he desired to stand in reference to this question. He saw what was coming, and experience had taught him the necessity, in discharging his duty, to guard against misrepresentation. No opportunity had been omitted, for years past, to distort and misrepresent all he said, or did—which he had been able to baffle only by a rigid adherence to what he believed to be right, accompanied by a faithful exposition of his views on all trying questions. He did not doubt but that another explosion would follow at no distant day; and he believed the Senate was moving precipitately and thoughtlessly in the direction that would produce it.
The Senator tells us that the present crisis is very like that of 1816. He could not agree with him. The two were in his opinion wholly unlike, both in the causes which led to them and the consequences likely to follow. The former occurred in a period of war, and grew out of circumstances
connected with it; and as the only other general suspension that had ever occurred before took place under similar circumstances (he meant the one in England), the impression was that the suspension was the mere incident of war, and belonging exclusively to such periods. The only thing then thought to be necessary was to cause a resumption, when it was believed the system would move on steadily and successfully, without the hazard of a shock, till another war. We were all, in fact, at that time, very ignorant of the real character of the banking system, and the dangers to which it was exposed. But what is the fact now?
The stoppage has taken place in time of profound peace and universal prosperity. The system has sunk down, and stopped on a dead level. It is in vain we again call on an United States Bank to put it in motion. The establishment of one would crush half of the existing institutions, and cause a derangement and distress greater than what followed in 1818, 1819 and 1820, after the establishment of the former.
The only safe remedy is the total and entire separation of the Government from the banks. The evil lies in the union, and the remedy in disconnection. That has already partially restored the system to a healthy condition, and, if persisted in, would effect a permanent cure. Had it not been for the separation, the disease, instead of being arrested in a great degree, as it is, would have been greatly aggravated, if not wholly incurable. Instead of resumption, bank paper would have gone on rapidly depreciating ; all of the cities along the coast would have been interested in depreciating their bank paper. The more they depreciated it, the less duty, in point of fact, they would have had to pay, and the city that depreciated most would have drawn all the trade. The separation prevented this state of things, and threw the inducement into the opposite scale—that of resuming, instead of depreciating the paper. Continue the remedy, and a complete restoration would follow ; but instead of that, our daily
study is to get clear of it, and to return to that very state of things which caused it.
It is time we should reflect and understand the laws that govern the disease that now afflicts the country. When a suspension takes place, there are but two modes by which a cure can be effected : the one is to leave it to the gentle operation of time, without coercion, under the simple application that has been made in this case ; and the other is to resort to an United States Bank, or some other instrument of coercion. The former has the advantage of effecting a cure without destroying the public institutions, and oppressing the debtor class, but leaves the patient subject to relapse.
It simply brings the system back to where it stood prior to the attack, and leaves it exposed to another. To guard against a relapse, the tonic which stopped the disease must be continued. It must not be discontinued on the first intermission of the disease. Such is the present case.
The tonic which has arrested the disease, as he had stated, is the withdrawal of the Government from a connection with the banks. It has brought the banking system back to where it was before the suspension, and, if continued, will restore it to health ; but, if discontinued, will be sure to be followed by a relapse.
The other remedy is to establish a National Bank, and to keep the system right by its controlling influence ; and those who are in favor of it are impatient to lay aside the remedy that has already proved to be so efficacious, and at the same time so gentle. They may succeed in this, but unless he was wholly deceived, they will be entirely deceived in their favorite remedy. It will be, in his opinion, impossible to establish a bank. All the powerful existing institutions, and those that are contemplated, will be opposed to it, which, added to those who are opposed to it on the higher grounds of the constitution and liberty, will interpose an obstacle not to be overcome. But if it should be established, it would prove but a temporary remedy. It would crush, as he had
stated, half of the existing institutions, leaving an open space for its own operation; and during this state of things, the currency would be comparatively sound, and safe from the hazard of revulsion. But a new crop of banks would spring up in the course of ten or fifteen years, which would again encumber and crowd each other, and cause another struggle for existence, just as was the case before the expiration of the charter of the late bank, to be followed by similar, but more disastrous consequences.
He would say to those with whom he had been acting on this occasion, you have a good cause, and all that is wanting is firmness and fidelity to it.
Be careful to avoid every act which will leave the people doubtful as to your sincerity. Nothing will prove so fatal to the cause. What has been done already has caused great mischief in unsettling the public mind. Nothing was so fatal to a good cause as art and management. He had some experience in political affairs, and had never yet known a good cause, honestly and manfully maintained, fail to succeed.
On the Amendment to Mr. Webster's Bill in regard to
the Public Deposits, made in the Senate, June 28th, 1838.
MR. Calhoun said : I shall vote against the amendment of the Senator from Pennsylvania (Mr. Buchanan) in the first instance; and, if that should fail, vote against the bill itself. I am opposed to both, and prefer things as they are, to either ;—but, if one or the other must prevail, I would rather see the bill succeed than the amendment. I prefer the bill,