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notes, I think the loss of a single day, especially the loss of a
single week, will turn out to be quite inconvenient ; that is, if
the issue of treasury-notes is considered the best and safest, if
they can be used by the treasury under authority of law, before
the money in the possession of the government is exhausted.


All I wish to say is, that I earnestly recommend to the Com
mittee on Finance to bring in a bill by itself for the issue of
treasury-notes immediately. I believe it has been as usual as
otherwise for such laws to originate in the Senate; there is no
constitutional impediment to such a course, and I hope that
these and other important measures, such as the modifying of
taxes and laying new ones, will not be suffered to lag along
through Congress in a general omnibus bill. Where the sub
jects are distinct, they should be kept separated ; and where they
are simple and plain, they should be acted on promptly.

Having said this much of those two sources of assisting the
revenue, the tax upon tea and coffee and the issue of treasury-
notes, both of which I admit to be efficient, and probably certain
in their operation, I have now to say that other matters, sug
gested and relied on in the communication I have referred to, I
consider conjectural, uncertain, and not fit to be the basis of
provisions incumbent on us to make, befo-re we leave our seats
here, to place the executive in a proper condition to carry on the
war. I suppose the calculation will be that a considerable
amount will be secured by a reduction of the duties upon articles
already taxed, upon the supposition that the importation will be
so much increased as to increase the aggregate receipts. I will
not say that this is not a well-founded opinion ; I have all
proper respect for the source from which it comes ; but I will
venture to say that it is but an opinion ; it hardly amounts to
the character of an estimate, for want of certain and positive
foundation. "We have no experience from which we can derive
a satisfactory conviction that such will be the result. If I were
responsible, I should not choose to place reliance to any extent
upon this plan.

The next increase is to come from the operation of the ware
house system. I consider this equally void of any certain foun
dation to rest upon. I do not see how a million of money, in
addition to the present income, is to be derived from admitting
goods into the country, to be carried out again without paying
any duty whatever. I really do not conceive that the facility of
carrying goods through the country, without the payment of
duty, is going to produce us a million of dollars. This is a
matter of which I should like to see minute details ; I should
like to see calculations made by which this result is expected to


be accomplished. At present I do not see the practicability
of it.

And so in regard to the public lands. It may be that the
passage of a graduation bill would so enhance the disposition to
buy by reducing the price, as considerably to increase the quan
tity sold ; but that that increase will be so great as to produce
an overplus of half a million, or any other sum, notwithstanding
the diminution of price, is, I think, a matter of opinion which
cannot be relied upon. So that these sources of income ap
pear to me rather too uncertain to be the foundation of any
satisfactory provisions ; there appears rather too much risk in
making mere opinions, not to say conjectures, the basis of legis
lation for producing revenue for the purposes of government.

The truth is, that, if this war continues, we must have a sub
stantial taxation, or we must incur a public debt. We cannot
look to treasury-notes as revenue ; if they bear interest, and are
payable at a distant day, they become of course a public debt.
There must, then, be a substantial tax, or there must be a public
debt, if the war continues. Our expenses are very great. I do
not say they are unnecessary ; I make no imputation of that
sort at present. I am not sufficiently acquainted with the par
ticulars ; but I stated here some time ago, upon the credit of
others, that of which I am perfectly convinced, that our expenses
have been half a million of dollars a day. Forty days ago we
passed an act declaring that war existed, and authorizing the
calling out of fifty thousand volunteers. Well, Sir, I have a
full conviction that the military expenditures of the government,
the expense of raising, equipping, and transporting the force
which has already been called out, will be found to amount
to twenty millions, or very nearly that sum, at this moment.
Some portions of our warlike preparations are peculiarly expen
sive, I mean the regiments of mounted volunteers. They are
necessary, I suppose, for the nature of the service ; but there
was a document published here, a communication, I think, from
the War Department, when Mr. Poinsett was Secretary, in which
it was estimated, if I mistake not, that one regiment of mounted
riflemen in regular service cost the government per annum as
much as three regiments of infantry, each composed of the
same number of men. And there is good reason to believe that
these occasional regiments of volunteers will be still more ex-


pensive. Almost every circumstance connected with this war is
calculated to increase the expense. The vast distance to be
traversed makes the cost of transportation very great ; and it be
comes the duty of Congress to provide for this extraordinary
expense. I do not say that the expense ought not to be incurred.
I only say that, from the nature of the war, the expense must
necessarily be very great. And I take this occasion to say, that
I have seen with great pleasure the alacrity with which volun
teers have rushed to the public service. A spirit of patriotism
and devotion to the country s interest has been manifested of
which we may justly be proud.

But upon these sources of revenue let me make another re
mark, though perhaps it is too obvious to require notice. For
one half the deficiency the government proposes to rely on
treasury-notes or loans. Well, if this be so, then, of course, I
suppose the idea of pressing for the present the independent
treasury, or sub-treasury, must be abandoned by every one ; for
what would be the use of treasury-notes under a sub-treasury
plan of finance ? The issue of treasury-notes would be per
fectly inconsistent with the sub-treasury system. It is quite
plain that, if the government, for its own use, is driven to the
necessity of issuing paper, it can have no occasion to make pro
vision for locking up its treasures. The sub-treasury system
makes it penal to issue or receive any thing but specie. They
are, therefore, entirely inconsistent with each other.

With respect to loans, I beseech gentlemen not to deceive
themselves. There is money enough in the country, it is true,
and the credit of the government will be good if we lay such
taxes as will produce revenue ; but if gentlemen suppose that a
loan is to be contracted in this country for the use of the gov
ernment, to be paid in specie, in the expectation that that specie
is to be locked up, they will find themselves mistaken. Those
who hold capital will consent to no such thing. If the govern
ment makes a loan, it must be made in the ordinary way, pay
able by instalments or otherwise, under circumstances that will
show that this amount of money is not to be drained from all
the operations of the business community. I take it for granted,
then, if loans are to be made, the new method of keeping the
public money must be abandoned.

And now, Sir, having said this much in relation to the ideas


communicated to us respecting the mode of raising revenue, I
desire to add, that, in my judgment, the time has come to ask
for the object, and character, and purposes for which the war is
hereafter to be conducted. The people of this country, while
they are willing to pay all needful expenses; while they are de
sirous of sustaining the glory of the American arms ; while they
are ready to defend every inch of American territory, and main
tain all the essential rights of their country ; the people, if I do
not misread their desires, now wish to know the specific objects
and purposes and ends for which this war is further to be car
ried on. There is not now a hostile foot within the limits of
the United States. Our army, at first an army of observation,
then an army of occupation, has become an army of invasion ;
I will not say unjust invasion ; but it is encamped at this mo
ment beyond the limits of the United States, and within the
acknowledged territory of Mexico; and, if we may credit the
rumors which have recently reached us, a purpose is entertained
of marching immediately and directly to the city of Mexico.

The people, as I have said, appear to me to demand, and
with great reason, a full, distinct, and comprehensible account
of the objects and purposes of this war of invasion. The Pres
ident, by two messages, one of the 13th of May, and the other
of the 16th of June, signifies that he is ready to treat with Mex
ico upon terms of peace; while it appears, at least as far as we
know now, that Mexico is not willing to treat. In regard to
this, I must say that, in my judgment, if this be the state of the
case, Mexico is acting an entirely unreasonable and senseless
part, and the government of the United States, to this extent, is
acting a proper one ; that is to say, as the war does exist, and
the American government is ready to treat, without prescribing
terms, so as to show that her terms would be unacceptable, and
Mexico declines to treat, why then so far the conduct of the
United States is reasonable, and the conduct of Mexico un
reasonable and senseless. I would desire on all such occasions,
for many reasons, and in this case for two more than the rest,
to keep our country entirely in the right, and to satisfy every
individual in the country that it is in the right, and that it de
sires nothing wrong ; and I would advise, if I were called on to
give advice, that this government should tender a formal solemn
embassy to Mexico. The two reasons which would influence

VOL. V. 14


me are, in the first place, Mexico is weak and we are strong ; it
is a war, therefore, on her part, against great odds ; and, in the
next place, Mexico is a neighbor, a weak neighbor, a republic
formed upon our own model, who, when she threw off the
dominion of old Spain, was influenced throughout mainly by
our example. We certainly wished her success ; we certainly
congratulated her upon her change from a viceroyalty to a repub
lic upon our own model. We wished her well ; and I think now
that the people of the United States have no desire, it would
give them, I think, no pleasure, to do her an injury beyond what
is necessary to maintain their own rights. The people of the
United States cannot wish to crush the republic of Mexico ; it
cannot be their desire to break down a neighboring republic ; it
cannot be their wish to drive her back again to a monarchical
form of government, and to render her a mere appanage to some
one of the thrones of Europe.

This is not a thought which can find harbor in the generous
breasts of the American people. Mexico has been unfortunate ;
she is unfortunate. I really believe the Mexican people are the
worst governed people in Christendom. They have yet to learn
the true nature of free institutions. Depressed and ruined by a
dominant military power, maintaining an army of forty thou
sand troops, how can a government, limited in its resources as
that of Mexico, flourish ? It is impossible. She has been un
happy, too, in the production, or rather the non-production, of
men to guide her counsels. I am sorry to say it of a republic,
but it is nevertheless true. Mexico has produced few or no
really enlightened, patriotic men. I verily believe, and I sadly
fear, that history will hereafter record the melancholy truth, that,
from the time of the establishment of an independent govern
ment, the people of Mexico have been worse governed a great
deal than they were under the viceroyalty. No body can wish
to see her fall ; but Mexico must hear the suggestions of reason.
She must listen to terms of peace; this she ought to know.
And if her government be not hopelessly stupid and infatuat
ed, they must be aware that this is her true interest. Nothing
can exceed, I have always thought, the obstinacy and senseless
ness manifested by Mexico in refusing for so many years to
acknowledge the independence of Texas. A correspondence
between this government and Mexico upon that subject took


place at a time when I had something to do with the adminis
tration, so that my attention was particularly directed to the
course of conduct pursued by Mexico, and it struck me as re
sembling, though it was much more senseless, the conduct of
old Spain in attempting for many years to reconquer the peo
ple of the Low Countries after they had declared their inde

Mexico must be taught that it is necessary for her to treat for
peace upon considerations which belong to the present state of
things. We have just claims against her, claims acknowledged
by herself in the most solemn form of treaty stipulations. She
ought to make provision for the payment of those claims ; in
short, she must be brought to justice. I am not one of those
who would do her an injustice ; but it does appear to me that,
if, after all that has occurred, she still persists in refusing to
receive an American minister on the ground that it was through
the fault of the United States that she lost Texas, she will be
acting a very unreasonable part.

As to her enlisting the sympathy of foreign powers, I have
not the least belief that any power stands behind Mexico. I
have not the least belief of her possessing the assurance of any
power, that, if she will hold on in the contest, foreign aid will be
sent to her. I think the whole policy of the governments of
Europe takes a different turn. I believe that they think, and
especially England, that it is for their interest to have Mexico at
peace ; in a state of active industry, cultivating her resources,
multiplying her products, and increasing her ability to purchase
from them. I believe that this will soon be the declared policy
of the British government, as it is undoubtedly the true policy
of all governments. I believe, therefore, that if Mexico rests
upon any hope that by and by aid and succor will come from
foreign sources, that hope will entirely fail.

The newspapers speak of mediation. I doubt whether there
is much truth in that ; if, however, any offer of mediation be
made by the best friend Mexico has, it must come down to this
at last, that she must treat for peace. For one, I would vote
for a suspension of hostilities to the end that negotiation might
take place ; and if I were to advise, I would say, make her an
offer of a formal embassy. I would be for keeping ourselves
entirely in the right. We can afford to do so; we can lose


nothing in dignity by it. It is not stooping on our part, be
cause all the world knows that the contest is very unequal. If
she will consent to this, I say meet her in negotiation, and in the
mean time suspend military operations. But if she will not do
this, if she persists foolishly and senselessly in carrying on the
war ; if she prefers war to peace, then, of course, she must have
war, vigorous war, until she is compelled to adopt a different
line of conduct.


MR. PRESIDENT, It will be denied by none, that this subject
is important in various respects. The bill before the Senate is
one which seriously affects, for good or for evil, the revenue of
the country, and this in time of war. It also affects the inter
ests, occupations, and pursuits of a vast number of the people
of the United States. I may add, that the great principle on
which it is founded as a revenue bill, that is to say, that here
after all duties of customs shall be levied by an assessment ad
valorem, is an entirely new and untried principle in this govern
ment. I may say, too, in respect to the principal practical meas
ure of this bill, that its rates of imposition, and its distribution
of duties upon the several articles of import, are quite new. . And
I suppose I may add, without offence to any gentleman or any
party, what I think must appear evident to all who will exam
ine the bill, that it is not drawn with remarkable care, either for
the purpose of securing a just collection of the revenue itself, or
for a proper distribution of taxes and assessments on importa
tions, according to the principle of the bill itself.

Mr. President, it appears strange, but after all we must admit
the fact, that the appearance of this bill in the Senate, with a
prospect of its passage, has struck the people generally with
surprise. It has brought about no small degree of alarm. The
public expectation was not prepared for it. I do not say that
there had not been enough of previous admonition or indica
tion. I speak of the fact, and I think it must be the conviction
of every person who hears me, who has observed the develop
ment of public sentiment since the introduction of this measure,

* A Speech delivered in the Senate, on the 25th and 27th of July, 1846, on the
Bill " to reduce the Duties on Imports, and for other Purposes."



that the country is surprised, greatly surprised, at any probabil
ity that it should receive the final sanction of Congress and the
President. Now, Sir, it seems to me that, in this state of things,
with such a measure before us, at this advanced season of the
year, when there is no pressing necessity for immediate action,
the true policy is to postpone its further consideration. If this
were a measure to raise money to carry on a war, if it were
a measure of taxation, to authorize the contracting of loans,
the issue of treasury-notes, or any other measure which had for
its object the supply of means to meet the necessities of govern
ment, why, then the exigencies of the case might be a very just
motive for proceeding to its immediate consideration. But there
is no man within the hearing of my voice, and I am happy that
there are some within its hearing who are not of this chamber,*
who will say that the treasury will not be as competent, the
ability of the government as great, its arm as well nerved to
prosecute the war in which we are engaged three months long
er, if this bill should not pass, as if it should. Therefore, it
seems to me to be a case for further consideration ; and, at the
close of the remarks which I propose to submit to the Senate,
I shall move the postponement of the measure till the next ses
sion of Congress.

As a revenue measure, I have heretofore stated shortly my
opinion of it. I think it must deceive the hopes of those who
expect to derive from it that measure of abundant revenue which
has been stated. There can be, in my judgment, no such extra
ordinary increase of importations as the executive government
seems to anticipate. It is not in the nature of things. The
treasury cannot, in my opinion, be supplied at the ratio which
has been stated, and is expected, by any probable, I will say pos
sible, augmentation of importations. But then, Sir, when I say
this, I am met by very extraordinary language. Those who are
supposed to express the sentiments of the executive say, that
that is a question with which Congress has nothing to do, noth
ing at all ! That is a question which the administration alone
is to consider! We need give ourselves no trouble; the admin
istration will take care of itself! Hear the language of the offi
cial organ of the government:

* Referring to Mr. Secretary Walker, who was present, occupying the seat
of one of the Senators.


" The opponents of the administration complain that the law cannot
be fairly administered ; and so that deficit will be enlarged by frauds.
Now, in reply to this, we urge that these are matters in which the oppo
sition may, as we think, very properly leave the administration to look
out for its own interests, and take care of itself. If the government
measure is about to injure the country, to break up the business of men,
and throw their affairs into confusion ; or if, again, the measure pro
posed by the government is in itself oppressive, or unjust, or unequal ;
or if the country want a tariff for protection, instead of a tariff for reve
nue, then it is very proper for an opposition, speaking in behalf of the
country, to demonstrate such to be the case. But our opposition seems
to have a most parental and guardian anxiety lest the administration, if
left to itself, should hereafter find itself embarrassed for want of funds."

Why, Sir, who is it that writes, who is it that dictates, who is
it that sanctions, such presumption, such arrogance, such folly
as this ? The Congress of the United States nothing to do with
the assessment and collection of the revenue, and all the inter
ests connected with revenue ? That altogether an affair of the
administration? Sir, Congress, it seems, has appropriated at
this session some fifty or sixty millions of dollars for military
and naval and other purposes ; but it is no affair of Congress
whether the treasury shall be competent to fulfil these appropri
ations! We have a public debt; we have issued treasury-notes;
but it is no affair of Congress whether the public credit shall be
sustained, its obligations redeemed, or these treasury-notes paid;
that s an affair of the administration only ! We may trust to
the administration to take care of all these things, while it takes
care of itself !

Sir, I have great respect, all degree of personal respect, and
proper official respect, for the persons composing the administra
tion ; but when I am asked, whether the great interests con
nected with the revenue of this country, the security of the pub
lic faith, the means of fulfilling the appropriations of Congress,
the means of maintaining armies and navies in time of war,
shall be properly provided for ; and when I am asked to trust all
these great and momentous interests to the responsibility of a
respectable President and a respectable- Secretary of the Treasu
ry, I pause ; I forbear from that degree of confidence and horn-
age. As a member of Congress,- constituting a very humble
part of the legislative power, but intrusted, constitutionally, with


a participation in the duty of levying taxes to pay the public
debt, maintain the army and navy, and provide for the gen
eral defence, I must be permitted not to defer my conscientious
discharge of that duty to the personal and political responsibility
of the members of the administration, one or all, however re

Sir, I have said that, in my opinion, there can be no such
augmented income from importations as is relied upon. I will
not go into this subject at large. It has been discussed satisfac
torily, ably, I will say admirably, by gentlemen on this floor who
have preceded me. I refer particularly to the incomparable speech
of my friend, a member of the Senate from the State of Maine.*

And now, Mr. President, since my attention has been thus
called to that speech, and since the honorable member has re
minded us that the period of his service within these walls is
about to expire, I take this occasion, even in the Senate, and in
his own presence, to say, that his retirement will be a serious loss
to this government and this country. He has been sixteen or
eighteen years in the public service. He has devoted himself
especially to studying and comprehending the revenue and the
finances of the country ; and he understands that subject as well
as any gentleman connected with the government since the days
of Crawford and Gallatin. Nay, as well as either of those gen
tlemen ever understood it. I hope he may yet be, I am glad to
know that he will be, with us one session more ; that \ve may
have the benefit of his advice and assistance in that financial
crisis which, in my judgment, is sure to arise if this war contin
ues, and this bill should pass. And I can only say, that, retire
when he will, he will carry with him the good wishes of every
member of this body, the general esteem and regard of the coun

Online LibraryDaniel WebsterThe works of Daniel Webster (Volume 05) → online text (page 16 of 53)