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here to defend banks or other incorporations, or to justify the States in granting charters. No; my object is far different. I have risen to defend the constitution, and to resist the inroads on the rights of the States. In the discharge of that duty I ask, can the abuse of the right of granting bank or other charters, give you the right to destroy or regulate them ? Are you ready to admit the same rule, as applied to your own powers ? Have the State legislatures abused their powers more than Congress has its powers ? Has it not abused, and grossly abused, its powers of laying taxes and appropriating money? And what assurance is there, with these examples before us, that Congress would not equally abuse the right of controlling State corporations, which is so eagerly sought to be vested in it by some ? But we are also told that bank paper-worthless, irredeemable bank paper -has deranged the currency, and ought to be suppressed. I admit the fact. I acknowledge the mischief, but object to the remedy, and the right of applying it. I go further. If the evil could give us the right to apply any of our powers to remedy it, regardless of the constitution, the taxing power would be far more simple, efficient, and less mischievous in its application. It would be applied to the specific evil. That which has deranged the currency, and defeated the object of the constitution in relation to it, is the circulation of bank-notes. There lies the evil ; and to divest the banks of the right of circulation, is to eradicate it. For that pose, what remedy could be more simple, safe, and efficacious, than the taxing power, were it constitutional ? By its means, bank-notes might be gradually and quietly suppressed, and the banks left in full possession of all their other functions unimpaired. There is but one objection to it, but that a decisive one—its unconstitutionality. It would be a perversion of the taxing power, given to raise revenue. To apply it to suppress or regulate the circulation of bank-notes, would be to change its nature entirely, from a taxing to a penal
power, and is therefore unconstitutional; but not more so than to include banks and other corporations in an act of bankruptcy, as proposed by the amendment, while in every other respect, it would be greatly preferable.
One other ground still remains to be considered. The authority of influential names has been resorted to, in order to supply the defect of argument. The names of two distinguished individuals, who formerly filled the Treasury Department, have been introduced—Mr. Dallas, and Mr. Crawford—in favor of the right of including banks. If this was a question to be decided by authority, it would be easy to show that their opinions, able as they were, would be entitled to little weight in this case. They were casually and incidentally given in a report on another subject, and that calculated to lead them to an erroneous view in reference to this power. Such an opinion given, under such circumstances, by the ablest judge, would have little weight in a private case, even in a court of justice, and ought to have none in this body, on a great constitutional question. Besides, it is well known that the opinion of both was in favor of the constitutionality of a National Bank,—and that, too, after a full and deliberate consideration of the subject. Now, Sir, I put the question to the Senators who have quoted their casual opinion, in favor of the constitutionality of including banks in a bankrupt law, are they willing to adopt their well considered and solemnly delivered opinion in favor of the right to incorporate a bank ? And if not, how, on the ground of precedent, can they adopt the one and reject the other? The names of other distinguished individuals have been quoted -Randolph, Macon, White, Smith, and others—but, in my opinion, unfairly quoted. It is true, they voted, in 1827, when the Bankrupt Bill was then before the Senate, in favor of an amendment to include banks; but it is equally so, that the amendment was moved at the end of a long debate, when the Senate was exhausted, and that it was but slightly
discussed. But, what is of more importance, they were opposed to the bill ; and, as the amendment came from a hostile quarter, and was clearly intended to embarrass the bill, it is not improbable that it received the votes of many with the view of destroying the bill, without thinking whether it was constitutional or not ; just as some, no doubt will vote against the opposite amendment, to strike the banks out, now under consideration, from the belief that it is the most effectual means of destroying this bill. But if the question is to be decided by weight of names, and the vote on the occasion to be the test, the weight is clearly on the opposite side. The vote stood, 12 to include the banks, and 35 against ; and among the latter will be found names not less influential—those of Tazewell, Rowan, Hayne, Berrien, the present Secretary of the Treasury, and finally that of the present Chief Magistrate. But why attempt to decide this question by the weight of names, however distinguished ? Do we not know that all those referred to belonged to the political school which utterly repudiates the authority of precedents in construing the constitution, and who, if they were now all alive, and here present as members of the Senate, would not regard the name of any man in deciding this important constitutional question ?
I have now presented the result of my reflections on this important measure. To sum up the whole in a few words, I am of the opinion that the whole project, including the bill and the amendment, is unconstitutional, except the provisions embracing compulsory bankruptcy, as it is called, as far as it relates to individuals; and that, under existing circumstances, is highly inexpedient. Thus thinking, I shall vote, in the first instance, against striking out the bill, and inserting the amendment, and if that succeeds, against the bill itself.
On the Prospective Pre-emption Bill, delivered in
the Senate, January 12th, 1841.
[The Bill to establish a permanent prospective pre-emption system in favor of settlers on the public lands, who shall inhabit and cultivate the same, and raise a log cabin thereon, being the special order of the day, was taken up, the question being on the proposition by Mr. Crittenden to recommit the Bill, with instructions to report a Bill to distribute the proceeds of the sales of the public lands among the States; which Mr. Calhoun offered to amend, by substituting a Bill to cede the public lands to the States in which they lie, upon certain conditions.
MR. Calhoun said : I regard the question of the public lands, next to that of the currency, as the most dangerous and difficult of all which demand the attention of the country and the Government, at this important juncture of our affairs. I do not except a protective tariff ; for I cannot believe, after what we have experienced, that such a measure can again be adopted,-a measure which has done more to corrupt the morals of the country, public and private, to disorder its currency, derange its business, and to weaken and endanger its free institutions, than any other except the paper system, with which it is so intimately allied.
In offering the amendment I propose, I do not intend to controvert the justice of the eulogium which has been so often pronounced on our land system in the course of this discussion. On the contrary, I believe that it was admirably adjusted to effect its object, when first adopted ; but it must be borne in mind that a measure, to be perfect, must be adapted to circumstances, and that great changes have taken place, in the lapse of fifty years, since the adoption of our land system. . At that time, the vast region now covered by
the new States, which have grown up on the public domain, belonged to foreign powers, or was occupied by numerous Indian tribes, with the exception of a few sparse settlements on the inconsiderable tracts to which the title of the Indians was at that time extinguished. Since then a mighty change has taken place. Nine States have sprung up as if by magic, with a population not less, probably, than that of two-fifths of the old States, and destined to surpass them in a few years in numbers, power, and influence. That a change so mighty should so derange a system intended for an entirely different condition of things as to render important changes necessary to adapt it to present circumstances, is no more than might have been anticipated. į It would, indeed, have been a miracle had it been otherwise ; and we ought not, therefore, to be surprised that the operation of the system should afford daily evidence that it not only deranged, but deeply deranged ; and that its derangement is followed by a train of evils that threaten disaster, unless a timely and efficient remedy should be applied. , I would ask those who think differently, and who believe the system still continues to work well, Was it no evil, that session after session, for the last ten or twelve years, Congress should be engaged in angry and deeply agitating discussions, growing out of the public lands, in which one side is denounced as the friends, and the other as the enemies, of the new States ? Was the increasing violence of this agitation from year to year, and threatening ultimately, not only the loss of the public domain, but the tranquillity and peace of the country, no evil ? Is it well that one-third of the time of Congress should be consumed in legislating on subjects directly or indirectly connected with the public lands, thereby prolonging the sessions proportionally, and adding to the expense upward of $200,000 annually ? Is it no evil that the Government should own half the lands within the limits of nine members of this Union, and over which they can exercise no authority