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in the first trial, he has been compensated by securing the support of those who were then opposed to him. They are now his zealous supporters. In contrasting their course, then and now, I intend nothing personal. I make no charge of inconsistency, nor do I intend to imply it. My object is truth, and not to wound the feelings of any one, or any party. I know that, to make out a charge of inconsistency, not only the question, but all the material circumstances must be the
A change in either, may make a change of vote necessary; and with a material variation in circumstances, we are often compelled to vary our course, in order to preserve our principles. In this case, I conceive, that circumstances, as far as the present allies of the Senator are concerned, have materially changed. Then the option was between a recharter of the late bank, and a league of State banks ; but now the former is out of the question, and the option is between such a league and a total separation from the banks. This being the alternative, they may well take that, which they rejected in 1834, without subjecting themselves to the charge of inconsistency, or justly exposing themselves to the imputation of change of principle or opinion. I acquit them, then, of all such charges. They doubtless think now, as they formerly did, of the measure, which they then denounced and rejected, but which a change of circumstances now compels them to support.
But in thus acquitting them of the charge of inconsistency, they must excuse me, if I should avail myself of the factthat their opinion remains unchanged—as an argument in favor of the bill, and against the substitute. The choice is between them. They are in the opposite scales. To take from the one is, in effect, to add to the other; and any objection against the one, is an argument equally strong in favor of the other. I then avail myself of their many powerful objections in 1834 against the measure, which this substitute proposes now to revive. I call to my aid, and press. into my service every denunciation they then uttered, and every argument they then so successfully urged against it. They—no, we (for I was then, as now, irreconcilably opposed to the measure) charged against it, and proved what we charged, that it placed the purse and the sword in the same hands; that it would be the source of boundless patronage and corruption, and fatal in its consequences to the currency of the country ; and I now avail myself of these, and all other objections, then urged by us, in as full force against this substitute, as if they were again to rise in their places and repeat them now; and of course, as so many arguments, in effect, in favor of the bill; and on their strength I claim their votes in its favor, unless, indeed, still stronger objections can be urged against it. I say stronger, because time has proved the truth of all that was then said against the measure now proposed to be revived by this substitute. What was then prediction is now fact. But whatever objections have been, or may be urged against the bill, however strong® they may appear in argument, remain yet to be tried by the unerring test of time and experience. Whether they shall ever be realized must be admitted, even by those who may have the greatest confidence in them, to be, at least, uncertain ; and it is the part of wisdom and prudence, where objections are equally strong against two measures, to prefer that which is yet untried, to that which has been tried and failed. Against this conclusion, there is but one escape.
It may be said, that we are sometimes compelled, in the midst of the many extraordinary circumstances in which we may be placed, to prefer that, which is of itself the more objectionable, to that which is less so; because the former may more probably lead, in the end, to some desired result, than the latter. To apply the principle to this case. It may be said that the substitute; though of itself objectionable, is to be preferred, because it would more probably lead to the establishment of a National Bank, than the bill which
is believed to be the only certain remedy for all the disorders that affect the currency. I admit the position to be sound in principle; but it is one exceedingly bold and full of danger in practice, and ought never to be acted on but in extreme cases, and where there is a rational prospect of accomplishing the object ultimately aimed at. The application, in this case, I must think, would be rashness itself. It may be safely assumed, that the success of either, whichever may be adopted—the bill or the substitute—would be fatal to the establishment of a National Bank. It can never put down a successful measure to take its place; and, of course, that which is most likely to fail, and re-plunge the country into all the disasters of a disordered currency, is that which would most probably lead to the restoration of a National Bank ; and to prefer the substitute on that account, is, in fact, to prefer it because it is the worst of the two. But is it certain that another explosion would be followed by a bank? We have already had two; and it is far more probable, that the third would impress, universally and indelibly, on the public mind, that there was something radically and incurably wrong in the system which would blow up the whole concern-National Bank and all.
If I might be permitted to express an opinion, I would say to those in favor of a National Bank-you have pursued a course on this subject unfortunate both for yourselves and the country. You are opposed both to the league of banks, and the Sub-Treasury. You prefer a National Bank; and regard it as the only safe and certain regulator of the currency, but consider it, for the present, out of the question, and are therefore compelled to choose between the other two. By supporting the substitute, you will be held responsible for all the mischief and disasters that may follow the revival of the pet bank system, as it has been called, with the almost certain defeat of your first and cherished choice ; and those you oppose will reap all the benefits of the power, patronage, and influence, which it may place in their hands, without incurring any portion of the responsibility. But this is not all. The success of the substitute would be the defeat of the bill, which would, in like manner, place on you the responsibility of its defeat, and give those you oppose all the advantage of having supported it, without any of the responsibility that would have attached to it, had it been adopted. Had a different course been taken-had you joined in aiding to extend the custody of the laws over the public revenues in the hands of the Executive, where your own acts have placed it, and for which you, of course, are responsible— throwing, at the same time, on those to whom you attribute the present disordered state of the currency, the burden of the responsibility-you would have stood ready to profit by events. If the Sub-Treasury, contrary to your anticipation, suceeeded, as patriots, you would have cause to rejoice in the unexpected good. If it failed, you would have the credit of having anticipated the result, and might then, after a double triumph of sagacity and foresight, have brought forward your favorite measure, with a fair prospect of success, when every other had failed. By not taking this course, you have lost the only prospect of establishing a National Bank.
Nor has your course, in my opinion, been fortunate for the country. Had it been different, the currency question would have been decided at the called session, and had it been decided then, the country would this day have been in a much better condition : at least the manufacturing and commercial section of the North, where the derangement of the currency is felt the most severely. The South is comparatively in an easy condition.
Such are the difficulties that stand in the way of the substitute at the very threshold. Those beyond are vastly greater, as I shall now proceed to show. Its object, as I have stated, is to revive the league of State banks, and the first question presented for consideration is—How is this to be
done ? how is the league to be formed ? how stimulated into life when formed ? and what, after it has been revived, will be the true character of the league or combination ? Tc answer these questions we must turn to its provisions.
It provides, that the Secretary of the Treasury shall select twenty-five specie paying banks as the fiscal agents of the Government-all to be respectable and substantial ; and that the selection shall be confirmed by the joint vote of the two Houses. It also provides, that they shall be made the depositories of the public money, and that their notes shall be receivable in the dues of the Government; and that in turn, for these advantages, they shall stipulate to perform certain duties, and comply with various conditions, the object of which is, to give to the Secretary of the Treasury full knowledge of their condition and business, with the view to supervise and control their acts, as far as the interest of the Government is concerned. In addition to these, it contains other and important provisions, which I shall not enumerate, because they do not fall within the scope of the objections that I propose to urge against the measure.
Now I ask what does all this amount to? What but a proposal on the part of the Government to enter into a contract, or bargain, with certain selected State banks, on the terms and conditions specified ? Have we the right to make such a bargain ? is the first question; and to that, I give a decided negative, which I hope to place on constitutional grounds, that cannot be shaken. I intend to discuss it, with other questions growing out of the connection of the Government with the banks, as a new question, for the first time presented for consideration and decision. Strange as it may seem, the questions growing out of it, long as it has existed, have never yet been presented nor investigated in reference to their constitutionality. How this has happened, I shall now proceed to explain, preparatory to the examination of the question, which I have proposed.