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the holders, and may be kept out just as long as they please.
There is an unrestricted circulation of this treasury draft, and
it is transferable without any further indorsement. But here,
under this bill, it is made the duty of the Secretary of the Treas
ury to hasten the presentation of all such drafts, and to prescribe
a time within which they shall be presented and paid. If the
place of payment be near at hand, then they are to be presented
immediately, and not to be kept or left outstanding. The
amendment made here is just the reverse of the bill. The
House bill goes to restrain the circulation of the drafts ; our
proposition gives it greater facilities. The purposes of the two
are in open hostility with each other. It is clear that, if the bill
shall stand as it now is, instead of being of any use to the treas
ury, it will operate as a downright restraint on facilities which it
would otherwise enjoy.

Confining my remarks altogether to the character of this bill,
considered as an administration measure, I proceed, on the other
hand, to consider what will be the disadvantages to the govern
ment from its becoming a law. I go on the supposition that
the bill is to be executed, not evaded ; and I say that, if the


specie payments which it enjoins are required bond fide, it will
operate as a great embarrassment to the government should
it be placed in a condition in which it would be necessary to
negotiate a loan. There is authority for a loan now, and the
government has its option between such a measure and the
issue of treasury-notes. But if this law shall be carried out, no
loan will be possible. And why not ? Because the law will
demand that eight or ten millions of dollars in hard specie shall
be withdrawn from active circulation, some four or five mil
lions of it being locked up in government chests and vaults,
and some four or five millions more being constantly in transitu,
as the payments of the government may require. Then, if the
government wants a loan, how is it to be got ? The practical
mode at present pursued is this. Some large banker takes,
for example, two millions of the government loan. But this
man cannot furnish the cash unless he finds banks who are
willing to take the United States stock and advance him a tem
porary loan upon it, until, to use the business phrase, he shall
be able to "place the money"; that is, shall be able to find
persons who will take the stock with the view of holding it and
receiving interest upon it. This is the mode now pursued.
But what will be the condition of the banks who may be asked
by him to advance money upon stock after this bill shall have
become a law ? How can they possibly do it ? The sum they
agree to advance must be paid in gold and silver, taken on the
instant out of their own vaults and carried across the street to
be locked up in the vaults of some government depository. If
the bullion remained with the banks, and a credit on their books
was all that was required, they might do it; but the specie
is instantly called for, and is so much deducted from the basis
of their circulation. Their customers will not agree to it, their
directors will not aTee to it, their stockholders will not asree to

O / o

it. I say, therefore, if this law is not evaded, but is obeyed
bond fide, any negotiation of a government loan must be out of
the question. I put that fact to any man acquainted with busi
ness, and ask if he can gainsay it.

I do not mean to go at any length into the embarrassments
which this bill must inflict on the mercantile community ; but
there is one so obvious and prominent that I cannot forbear
mentioning it, in connection with another bill which we have


recently passed. Those who expect an adequate revenue under
the new tariff law look of course for largely augmented importa
tions, and they expect that the duties on these importations are
to be paid. This bill says they are to be paid in gold and
silver ; and I ask, Where is the importer to get his money ? The
ordinary way is to go to a bank, and say to the directors or the
president, I have five thousand dollars of duties to pay to-day.
The bank, knowing that he is about to enter his goods, and
that it will immediately get the money back from the custom
house, makes no difficulty ; but if it knew that the money, in
stead of coming back into its vaults, was to be lugged off in
specie and locked up in a government vault, and that so much
was to be taken from the basis of its circulation, it would not be
quite so ready to accommodate him ; and even the apprehen
sion of a difficulty of this kind is, in the matter of credit and ad
vances, more than half as bad as the thing itself. The appre
hended evil creates as great an unwillingness in the banks to
advance as the evil itself.

I agree, indeed, that the severity of the pressure will be miti
gated by the use of treasury-notes, so long as those treasury-
notes remain in circulation ; and therefore I say that gentle
men may be assured of one thing : if this sub-treasury system
is to be adopted, the system of treasury-notes will be coeval with
it in duration. As long as the one stands, the other must be re
sorted to, for the law would be altogether intolerable without
such a relief. And here I say again, what I recently said on the
subject of treasury-notes, that I see no reason why treasury-notes
should not be issued at once. There seems to prevail an idea
at the treasury, that the government should not issue its notes
as long as it has a dollar in the treasury, and that they must
spend the six millions, or whatever other balance there may be
there, before any treasury-note is issued. It was my idea that
the government should issue notes while it had money under its
keeping, and thereby the government might sustain its credit.
But it seems that other notions have prevailed. Now I think
that, for the same reason that this bill will create embarrassment
in regard to a loan, it will create the same embarrassment in re
lation to treasury-notes, because it will cast discredit generally
upon all securities issued by the government.

And now I will call the attention of the Senate to the condi-


tion of tilings as they at present exist, and as they will be. I
suppose the warehousing bill is destined to pass into a law.
The new tariff has become a law, and it has reduced the duties
to be imposed on foreign goods. Of course the imports for this
and for the next quarter will be very limited. Men will either
not bring in goods at all now, or only for the purpose of taking
them out to get the benefit of the drawback, and not to enter
them for payment of duty. The receipts, therefore, must be
very small. There is another reason why they will fall below
the ordinary amount. There is in the country a large quantity
of goods which have been brought in, but not consumed. These
will be reexported for drawback, and stored in some neighboring
port until the tariff law goes into effect, and then they will be
reimported. All this must create a serious loss to the treasury.
After the 1st of December a large amount of warehoused goods
will be entered for duty ; and as the articles exported for deben
ture will also be returning, the probable receipts of the quarter
commencing on the 1st of January must be very large. Yet, as
this is the very time when this law begins to demand that all
duties shall be paid in specie, just at the time when the
amount of importation is at the highest point in the whole year,
this demand for gold and silver will look the importing mer
chant in the face. Do not gentlemen see how serious an incon
venience must be inflicted by such a concurrence of circum
stances ? It is plain that the government can get no loan at
such a time. It will be as much as the banks can do to stand
the call that will be made upon them for specie by their own
customers, especially if the importations shall be any thing like
what is calculated by the Secretary of the Treasury. The pros
pect of such a demand, and the knowledge beforehand that it
may come, will act as strongly against the possibility of a loan
as the fact itself. The certain prospect that their specie will be
called for, to be locked up in government vaults even for a short
time, will induce the banks to curtail their discounts, and must
be productive of very great embarrassment, both public and

I say, in all seriousness, that this should be entitled " A bill
to embarrass the treasury in the disbursement of the public
money." Here will be both the tariff and the sub-treasury com
ing into practical operation at one time. Is not one of them


enough to cope with at once ? Then we are under the pressure
of a public war, a war of which none can see the end ; and it is
under these circumstances that we have ventured upon an entire
change in the collection of revenue, and adopted a system
wholly untried. Is it necessary, on the top of this, to intro
duce another new and untried system in the disbursement of
our revenue? Must we have more experiments? a new sys
tem of collection and a new system of disbursement ? Is this

But as I promised when I rose to detain the Senate but for a
few minutes, I will do no more than put a question or two to
gentlemen on the other side.

Will any man say that the public moneys are now unsafe ?
Does any man apprehend that they are likely to be lost? [A
pause.] Nobody will say so.

I put to gentlemen another question. Is there any gentle
man here who will say that he believes this law will give any
new facilities to the government? [Mr. W. here paused again.]
If there is, I should like to hear his voice. I shall be greatly
obliged to him to say so now, and not to answer the interroga
tory only by crying " Ay " on the passage of this bill. I great
ly fear that I shall not hear any other affirmative reply. I doubt
if there is one gentleman who will or can answer either of these
questions in the affirmative. On the contrary, I leave it to gentle
men who are connected with the administration, and who, from
their position, live in habits of daily intercourse with those who
conduct the government, to say whether it is not their own can
did opinion that this bill, administration bill though it be, will
not prove a help, but rather a hinderance, to them in the admin
istration of our fiscal concerns ?

The operation of this law on the commercial community, its
strange, un-American character, have been so fully exposed by
the honorable Senators from Maine and Connecticut* that I
will not now enter on that part of the subject. I frankly con
fess that I did not expect that this sub-treasury scheme would
ever be revived. I had heard of " Polk, Dallas, and the tariff of
1842," but I really never did expect to hear of " Polk, Dallas,
and the old dead sub-treasury."

* Mr. Evans and Mr. Huntington.


I would move to postpone the further consideration of this
bill to the next Congress, but that I do not wish to be voted
down. I will therefore simply throw out the suggestion, that
it will be for the advantage both of the government and the
people that it should be so postponed.


MR. PRESIDENT, If my health had been better, and more
time had remained to us, it was my purpose to address the
Senate on the bill before us, and also on several topics with which
it is connected. This purpose, under existing circumstances, I
must necessarily forego. The true origin of the war with Mex
ico, and the motives and purposes for which it was originally
commenced, however ably discussed already, are subjects not
yet exhausted. I have been particularly desirous of examining
them. I am greatly deceived, Mr. President, if we shall not
ere long see facts coming to the light, and circumstances found
coinciding and concurring, which will fix on the executive gov
ernment a more definite and distinct purpose, intended to be
effected by the cooperation of others, in bringing on hostilities
with Mexico, than has as yet been clearly developed or fully

At present, I should hardly have risen but to lay before the
Senate the resolutions of the House of Representatives of Mas
sachusetts, adopted on Thursday last. We have a great deal
of commentary and criticism on State resolutions brought here.
Those of Michigan particularly have been very sharply and nar
rowly looked into, to see whether they really mean what they
seem to mean. These resolutions of Massachusetts, I hope, are
sufficiently distinct and decided. They admit of neither doubt
nor cavil, even if doubt or cavil were permissible in such a case.

What the legislature of Massachusetts thinks, it has said,

* Remarks in the Senate of the United States, on the 1st of March, 1847,
on the Bill commonly called the " Three Million Bill," by which that sum of
money \vas appropriated for the purpose of discharging any extraordinary ex
penses which might be incurred in bringing the war to a conclusion.
VOL. V. 22


and said plainly and directly. Mr. President, I have not, before
any tribunal, tried my ingenuity at what the lawyers call a spe
cial demurrer for many years ; and I never tried it here in the
Senate. In the business of legislation, and especially in consid
ering State resolutions and the proceedings of public assemblies,
it is our duty, of course, to understand every thing according to
the common meaning of the words used. Of all occasions, these
are the last in which one should stick in the bark, or seek for
loopholes, or means of escape; or, in the language of an emi
nent judge of former times, " hitch and hang on pins and parti
cles." We must take the substance fairly, and as it is, and not
hesitate about forms and phrases. When public bodies address
us, whether we comply with their wishes or not, we are at least
bound to understand them as they mean to be understood ; to
seek for no subterfuges, and to rely on no far-fetched and sub
tile difficulties or exceptions. All such attempts will be justly
regarded only as so many contrivances resorted to in order to
get rid of the responsibility of meeting the public voice di
rectly and manfully, and looking our constituents boldly in the

Sir, we are in the midst of a war, not waged at home in de
fence of our soil, but waged a thousand miles off, and in the
heart of the territories of another government. Of that war no
one yet sees the end, and no one counts the cost. It is not de
nied that this war is now prosecuted for the acquisition of ter
ritory; at least, if any deny it, others admit it, and all know it
to be true.

Under these circumstances, and plainly seeing this purpose to
exist, seven or eight of the free States, comprising some of the
largest, have remonstrated against the prosecution of the war
for such a purpose, in language suited to express their meaning.
These remonstrances come here with the distinct and precise
object of dissuading us from the further prosecution of the war,
for the acquisition of territory by conquest. Before territory is
actually obtained, and its future character fixed, they beseech us
to give up an object so full of danger. One and all, they pro
test against the extension of slave territory ; one and all, they re
gard it as the solemn duty of the representatives of the free
States to take security, in advance, that no more slave States
shall be added to the Union. They demand of us this pledge,


this assurance, before the purchase-money is paid, or the bargain
concluded. And yet, Mr. President, ingenuity has been taxed
to its utmost; criticisms both deep and shallow, and hypercrit-
icisms quite incomprehensible, have all been resorted to, in the
hope of showing that we do not understand the people ; that
their resolutions are not what they seem to be ; that they do
not require any immediate movement or present opposition;
that they only look to some distant future, some emergencies
yet to arise ; that they only refer to a disposition in regard to
territory, after it shall have been acquired and settled ; and in
one instance, I think, it was said that it did not appear that
any thing was required of us for fifty years to come.

Mr. President, I understand all these things very differently.
Such is not the voice of the free States, and of other States, as
I receive it. Their trumpet gives forth no uncertain sound. Its
tones are clear and distinct. I understand that a loud and im
perative call is made upon us to act now ; to take securities
now; to make it certain, now, that no more slave States shall
ever be added to this Union.

I will read, Sir, the Massachusetts resolutions :

" Resolved unanimously, That the legislature of Massachusetts views
the existence of human slavery within the limits of the United States as
a great calamity, an immense moral and political evil, which ought to
be abolished as soon as that end can be properly and constitutionally
attained ; and that its extension should be uniformly and earnestly op
posed by all good and patriotic men throughout the Union.

" Resolved unanimously, That the people of Massachusetts will stren
uously resist the annexation of any new territory to this Union, in which
the institution of slavery is to be tolerated or established ; and the legis
lature, in behalf of the people of this Commonwealth, do hereby sol
emnly protest against the acquisition of any additional territory, without
an express provision by Congress that there shall be neither slavery nor
involuntary servitude in such territory, otherwise than for the punish
ment of crime."

Sir, is there any possibility of misunderstanding this ? Is
there any escape from the meaning of this language ? And
yet they are hardly more explicit than the resolutions of other
legislatures, Michigan, New York, Vermont, and all the rest.

The House of Representatives of Massachusetts is, I believe,
the most numerous legislative body in the country. On this


occasion it was not full ; but among those present there was an
entire unanimity. For the resolutions there were two hundred
and thirty-two votes ; against them, none. Not one man stood
up to justify the war upon such grounds as those upon which it
has been, from day to day, defended here. Massachusetts, with
out one dissenting voice, and I thank her for it, and am proud
of her for it, has denounced the whole object for which our ar
mies are now traversing the plains of Mexico, or about to plunge
into the pestilence of her coasts. The people of Massachusetts
are as unanimous as the members of their legislature, and so are
her representatives here. I have heard no man in the State, in
public or in private life, express a different opinion. If any
thing is certain, it is certain that the sentiment of the whole
North is utterly opposed to the acquisition of territory, to be
formed into new slave-holding States, and, as such, admitted into
the Union.

But here, Sir, I cannot but pause. I am arrested by occur
rences of this night, which, I confess, fill me with alarm. They
are ominous, portentous. Votes which have been just passed
by majorities here cannot fail to awaken public attention.
Every patriotic American, every man who wishes to preserve
the Constitution, ought to ponder them well. I heard, Sir,
the honorable member from New York,* and with a great part
of his remarks I agreed; I thought they must lead to some use
ful result. But then what does he come to, after all ? He is
for acquiring territory under the Wilmot Proviso ; but, at any
rate, he is for acquiring territory. He \vill not vote against all
territory to form new States, though he is willing to say they
ought not to be slave States. Other gentlemen of his party
from the Northern and Eastern States vote in the same way,
and with the same view. This is called "the policy of the
Northern Democracy." I so denominate the party only because
it so denominates itself. A gentleman from South Carolina,!
if I understood him rightly, said he wanted no new territory; all
he desired was equality, and no exclusion ; he wished the South
to be saved from any thing derogatory ; and yet he does not
vote against the acquisition of territory. Nor do other Senators
from Southern States. They are therefore, in general, in favor

* Mr. Dix. f Mr. Butler.


of new territory and new States, being slave States. This is
the policy of the Southern Democracy. Both parties agree,
therefore, to carry on the war for territory, though it be not de
cided now whether the character of newly acquired territory shall
be that of freedom or of slavery. This point they are willing
to leave for future agitation and future controversy. Gentlemen
who are in favor of the Wilmot Proviso are ready, nevertheless,
to vote for this bill, though that proviso be struck out. The
gentleman from New York is ready to take that course, and his
Northern and Eastern friends, who sit round him here in the
Senate, are as ready as he is. They all demand acquisition,
and maintain the war for that purpose. On the other hand, the
other branch of the party votes eagerly and unitedly for territory,
the Wilmot Proviso being rejected, because these gentlemen
take it for granted that, that proviso being rejected, States formed
out of Mexico will necessarily be slave States, and added to this
Union as such.

Now, Sir, it has appeared to me from the beginning, that the
proposition contained in the amendment which was submitted
some days ago by my friend, the honorable member from Geor
gia,* was the true and the only true policy for us to pursue.
That proposition was in these words :

" Provided, always, And it is hereby declared to be the true intent
and meaning of Congress in making this appropriation, that the war with
Mexico ought not to be prosecuted by this government with any view to
the dismemberment of that republic, or to the acquisition by conquest
of any portion of her territory ; that this government ever desires to
maintain and preserve peaceful and friendly relations w r ith all nations ;
and, particularly with the neighboring republic of Mexico, will always
be ready to enter into negotiations, with a view to terminate the present
unhappy conflict on terms which shall secure the just rights and pre
serve inviolate the national honor of the United States and of Mexico ;
that it is especially desirable, in order to maintain and preserve those
amicable relations which ought always to exist between neighboring
republics, that the boundary of the State of Texas should be definitively
settled, and that provision be made by the republic of Mexico for the
prompt and equitable settlement of the just claims of our citizens on
that republic."

* Mr. Berrien.


This amendment rejects all desire for the dismemberment of
Mexico; it rejects acquisition of territory by conquest; it signi
fies a wish for the restoration of peace, and a readiness on our
part to enter into negotiations, and to trea| a not only for peace,
but also for boundaries and indemnities. This amendment has
been rejected, and now I come to the point: "Who has rejected
it? By whose votes has this amendment, this very evening,
been lost ? Sir, it has been lost by the votes of the honorable
member from New York and his Northern and Eastern friends.
It has been voted down by the " Northern Democracy." If this
" Northern Democracy " had supported this amendment, it would
have prevailed, and we should then have had no new territory
at all, and of course no new slave territory ; no new States at
all, and of course no new slave States. This is certain and in
disputable. If the Senate had said what that resolution pro
poses, the danger would have been over. But these gentlemen
would not vote for it. To a man, they voted against it. Every
member of the Senate belonging to the Democratic party, in
the Northern States, however warmly he might have declared
himself against new slave States, yet refused to vote against all
territorial acquisition, a measure proposed and offered as a
perfect security against more slave States. They are for ac
quiring territory ; they are for more States ; and, for the sake of
this, they are willing to run the risk of these new States being
slave States, and to meet all the convulsions which the discus
sion of that momentous question may hereafter produce. Sir,
if there be wisdom, or prudence, or consistency, or sound policy,
or comprehensive foresight in all this, I cannot see it.

Online LibraryDaniel WebsterThe works of Daniel Webster (Volume 05) → online text (page 25 of 53)