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great questions, separated from those with whom I usually acted ; and if I am really so defective in sound and practical judgment as the Senator represents, the proof, if to be found any where, must be found in such instances, or where I have acted on my sole responsibility. Now, I ask, in which of the many instances of the kind is such proof to be found ? It is not my intention to call to the recollection of the Senate all such ; but that you, Senators, may judge for yourselves, it is due, in justice to myself, that I should suggest a few of the most prominent, which at the time were regarded as the Senator now considers the present; and then, as now, because, where duty is involved, I would not submit to party trammels.
back to the commencement of my public life, the war session, as it was usually called, of 1812, when I first took my seat in the other House, a young man without experience to guide me, and I shall select, as the first instance, the navy. At that time, the administration and the party to which I was strongly attached were decidedly opposed to this important arm of service. It was considered anti-republican to support it; but acting with my then distinguished colleague, Mr. Cheves, who led the way, I did not hesitate to give it my hearty support, regardless of party ties. Does this instance sustain the charge of the Senator ?
The next I shall select is, the restrictive system of that day; the Embargo, the Non-Importation and Non-Intercourse Acts. This, too, was a party measure, which had been long and warmly contested, and, of course, the lines of party well drawn. Young and inexperienced as I was, I saw its defects, and resolutely opposed it, almost alone of my party. The second or third speech I made, after I took my seat, was in open denunciation of the system ; and I may refer to the grounds I then assumed, the truth of which has been confirmed by time and experience, with pride and confidence. This will scarcely be selected by the Senator to make good his charge.
I pass over other instances, and come to Mr. Dallas's bank of 1814–15. That, too, was a party measure.
Banking was then comparatively but little understood, and it may seem astonishing, at this time, that such a project should ever have received any countenance or support. It proposed to create a bank of $50,000,000, to consist almost entirely of what was then called the war stocks; that is, the public debt created in carrying on the then war. It was provided that the bank should not pay specie during the war, and for three years after its termination,-for carrying on which it was to lend the Government the funds. In plain language, the Government was to borrow back its own credit from the bank, and pay to the institution six per cent. for its use. I had scarcely ever before seriously thought of banks or banking, but I clearly saw through the operation, and the danger to the Government and country ; and, regardless of party ties or denunciations, I opposed and defeated it in the manner I explained at the extra session. I then subjected myself to the very charge which the Senator now makes ; but time has done me justice, as it will in the present instance.
Passing the intervening instances, I come down to my administration of the War Department, where I acted on my own judgment and responsibility. It is known to all that the department, at the time, was perfectly disorganized, with not much less than $50,000,000 of outstanding and unsettled accounts—and the greatest confusion in every branch of service. Though without experience, I prepared, shortly after I went in, the bill for its organization, and on its passage I drew up the body of rules for carrying the act into execution, both of which remain substantially unchanged to this day. After reducing the outstanding accounts to a few millions, and introducing order and accountability in every branch of service, and bringing down the expenditure of the army from four to two and a half millions annually, without subtracting a single comfort from either officer or soldier, I left the department in a condition that might well be compared to the best in any country. If I am deficient in the qualities which the Senator attributes to me, here, in this mass of details and business, it ought to be discovered. Will he look to this to make good his charge ?
From the War Department I was transferred to the chair, which you now occupy. How I acquitted myself in the discharge of its duties, I leave it to the body to decide, without adding a word. The station, from its leisure, gave me a good opportunity to study the genius of the prominent measure of the day, called then the American System, of which I profited. I soon perceived where its errors lay, and how it would operate. I clearly saw its desolating effects in one section, and corrupting influence in the other; and when I saw that it could not be arrested here, I fell back on my own State, and a blow was given to a system, destined to destroy our institutions if not overthrown, which brought it to the ground. This brings me down to the present time, and where passions and prejudices are yet too strong to make an appeal with any prospect of a fair and impartial verdict. I then transfer this, and all my subsequent acts, including the present, to the tribunal of posterity, with a perfect confidence that nothing will be found, in what I have said or done, to impeach my integrity or understanding.
I have now, Senators, repelled the attacks on me. I have settled the account and cancelled the debt between me and my accuser. I have not sought this controversy, nor have I shunned it when forced on me. I have acted on the defensive, and if it is to continue (which rests with the Senator), I shall throughout continue so to act. I know too well the advantage of my position to surrender it. The Senator commenced the controversy, and it is but right that he should be responsible for the direction it shall hereafter take. Be his determination what it may, I stand prepared to meet him.
On the Independent Treasury Bill, in reply to Mr.
Webster, delivered in the Senate, March 22d, 1838.
MR. PRESIDENT : After having addressed the Senate twice, I should owe an apology, under ordinary circumstances, for again intruding myself on its patience. But, after all that fell from the Senator from Massachusetts nearest to me (Mr. Webster), the other day, the greater part of which was not only directed against my arguments, but at me personally, I feel that my silence, and not my notice of his remarks, would require an apology. And yet, notwithstanding I am thus constrained again to address the Senate, I fear it will be impossible to avoid exciting some impatience, fatigued and exhausted as it must be by so long a discussion ; to prevent which as far as practicable, I shall aim at as much brevity as possible, consistently with justice to myself and the side I support.
The Senator's speech was long and multifarious—consisting of many parts, which had little or no connection with the question under consideration. For the sake of brevity and distinctness, I propose to consider it under four heads. First, his preliminary discourse—which treated at large of credits and banks, with very little reference to the subject. Next, his arguments on the question at issue,—to be followed by his reply to my arguments at this and the extra session—and finally, his conclusion ;—which was appropriated wholly to
personal remarks, and a comparison between his and my public course, without having the slightest relation either to the subject, or to any thing I had said in the debate, but which the Senator obviously considered as the most important portion of his speech. He devoted one day almost wholly to it ; and delivered himself with an earnestness and vehemence which clearly manifested the importance which he had attached to it. I shall, as in duty bound, pay my respects first to that which so manifestly occupied the highest place in his estimation, though standing at the bottom in the order of his remarks.
The Senator opened this portion of his speech with much courtesy, accompanied by many remarks of respect and regard,—which I understood as an intimation that he desired the attack he was about to make, to be attributed to political and not personal motives. I accept the intimation, and shall meet him in the sense he intended. Indeed, there never has been between the Senator and myself the least personal difference ; nor has a word, having a personal bearing, ever passed between us in debate prior to the present occasion, within my recollection, during the long period we have been in public life,-except on the discussion of the Force Bill and Proclamation ; which, considering how often we have stood opposed on deep and exciting questions, may be regarded as not a little remarkable. But our political relations have not been on as good a footing as our personal. He seems to think that we had harmonized pretty well till 1824, when, according to his version, I became too sectional for him to act any longer with me; but which, I shall hereafter show, originated in a very different cause. My impression, I must say, is different, very different from that of the Senator. From the commencement of our public life to the present time, we have differed on almost all questions involving all the principles of the Government and its permanent policy, with the exception of a short interval, while I was in the War Depart