Thomas Hart Benton.

Speech of Thomas H. Benton, of Missouri. Delivered, March 14th, 1838, in the United States Senate, on the bill to separate the government from the banks online

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Online LibraryThomas Hart BentonSpeech of Thomas H. Benton, of Missouri. Delivered, March 14th, 1838, in the United States Senate, on the bill to separate the government from the banks → online text (page 1 of 9)
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Printed by John Wilbonlt,


Jfo. 2 Shoemaker Street, in Stftu below Market 8Uk




In the United Slates Senate, March 14, 1838, on the Bill to separate the Government from
the JBanks.

Mr. BENTON commenced his speech with
remarking upon the different manners in
which the discussion of the bill had been
conducted on the different sides of the
House. The chairman of the Finance
Committee, [Mr. Wright,] who had re-
ported the bill, and opened the debate, had
done it in a business-like manner : his lu-
minous and masterly exposition of princi-
ples and details being 1 entirely confined to
the subject, and never once deviating- into
extrinsic matter, or touching upon any to-
pic of pnrty, or partisan character. Not
so the s"pe2ches of the opposition Senators.
From the very beginning they launched in-
to the ocean of party politics, and made
the bill the occasion of a general attack
upon the Republican Administrations of
General Jackson and Mr. Van Buren, such
as we have been accustomed to see for a
long time on this floor. The debate has
been conducted by them as an attack upon
a party, and as a-contest for power, and not
as an inquiry into the merits of the bill.
The speeches they have delivered have
been such as might be expected at the par-
tisan encounters of the hustings, on the
stump, or at barbacue dinners, in the course
of an electioneering campaign for an elec-
tive office, ami not such as would be looked
for in the parliamentary discussion of a le-
gislative measure.

In this attack it has been assumed for
granted that the country has been ruined
by what is called the mad and wicked ad-
ministration of General Jackson; and that
Pres'dent Van Buren being pledged to car-
ry out his line of policy, is of course pledg-
ed to go on ruining the country, and there-
fore ought to be resisted and overthrown. I
propose to inquire into the truth of the as-
sumptions, and to ascertain, first, how far
it is true that the country lias, in point of
fact, been ruined ; next, how far this ruin,
.if any, has been the work of Gen >ral Jack-

son's administration ; and, after settling
these preliminary points, I shall have
something to say on the merits of the bill,
and something on the peculiar system of
party warfare of which this Senate has
been the scene for the last six years.

In making my inquiries into the ruin of
the country, 1 am not left to grapple with
vague generalities and pointless declama-
tion. Fortunately for me, the opposition
orators have descended to specificaiions,
and have shown wherein this ruin has been
perpetrated. Their specifications embrace
almost every branch of foreign and domes-
tic policy ; and taking the era of the second
Adams' administration, 'when themselves
were in power, and their cherished nation-
al bank was in its meridian taking this
period as the culminating point of our
America's prosperity, felicity and renown,
they trace a rapid descent, from that high
point of national pre-eminence, down the
road to destruction, until the entire na-
tion is landed in total perdition in the year
of our Lord, 1837. They have given us
specifications,but there they stop. No proof,
no statistics, no statements, no comparative
tables, accompany their specifications to
establish their truth. Bold assertion, -and
terrifying descriptions, occupy the place of
proof. These fierce denunciators assume
the preiogative of genius : they assume to
be independent of facts and of reasons ;
and they rely upon flights of fancy, dashes
of imagination, and fierceness of invective,
to supply the place of proof and argument.
I have no pretensions to this prerogative. I
am a plain speaker, and tell what I know,
and then prove it. Reversing then the me-
thod of our opponents, I shall discard alto-
gether the painted and gilded creations of
the imagination, and shall confine myself
to the effective facts of logic and figures.

At the head of the specifications of gen
tlemen, is the article of commerce, both


foreign and domestic, each asserted to have The commerce of the port of St. Louis
been prostrated and sacrificed by the fatal was the second test to which Mr. B. sub-
policy of General Jackson's administration, jected the domestic commerce of the coun-
We will test the truth of this hold asser- try. St. Louis was a port of entry by law,
tion : and for that purpose will have re- and a port of destination by position for
course to data which no gentleman will be nearly all the boats which entered it. It
at liberty to question. And, first, of do- was not merely a touching or stopping
mestic commerce. The great West shall point for boats bound elsewhere, but was a
be our first field of inquiry, and, casting port of destination for the delivery of car-
the eye over the broad expanse of that mag- goes, and the reception of lading. I hare
nificent region, we see two points at which the statement of its steamboat commerce
the commerce of the upper half of the for seven years, and this is the result,
valley of the Mississippi, is subjected to a Years. No. of dif- Their No. of en-

process which allows it to be annually, ferent bts. tonnage. tries,

and easily, counted and compared. These 1831 60 7,796 432

points are, the Louisville canal for the 1832 80 9,250 508

commerce of the Ohio, asd the port of St. 1833 99 12,222 573

Louis for the commerce of the Upper Mis- 1834 110 13,173 607

sissippi. Referring to the evidence obtain- 1835 121 15,470 803

ed at these two points, and we have exact 1836 144 19,447 1,355

accounts of the commerce in the two largest 1837 195 22,794 1,607

sections of the West, and data for estimat- Mr< B> remarked u on this exhibit as
ing the condition of the remainder In each C0rred p nding wonderfully with that of
instance the statement goes back seven the Louisville canal, and showing an in-
years, that is to say, to the second year of crease of nearl four . fold in the C0 6 mmerce
General Jackson s administration, and O f St. Louis, under the impracticable and
comes down to the first year of Mr Van oul l and ish administration, as it was called
ffl^V;* V A Vu U1SVllle Cand ' th of General Jackson, and a large increase return stands thus : in the year of ruin over that of any pre-

Abstractof the boats that have passed, and ceding year even the bloated year of 1836.
tolls received, en the Lfuisville and Port- The arriving and departing tonnage for the
land Canal. year 1837, was 450,821 tons, the far great-

Year. Steam Flat and Tons. Amt. re- er part of it being the growth of seven
boats. Keel bts. ceived. years, and that not without banks, but

331 4 6 76,323 $12,750 77 upon the loss of onethe loss of the Uni-

179 70,109 25,756 12 ted States Branch Bank, which wound up
710 169,885 60,736 92 after the veto of 1832: and from which
623 162,000 61,848 17 time the commerce of the city advanced
355 200,413 80,15 24 with gigantic strides, and established itself
260 182,220 88,343 23 upon foundations too solid to be overthrown
1837 1501 165 242,374 145,424 69 by any convulsion.

The foreign commerce of some of the

6,61 2,713 1,103,324 $475,025 14 principal sea ports, next claimed theatten-
Mr. B. read over this table, and then tention of Mr. B. He took the ports of
commented upon some parts of it. The Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Balti-
increase in the number of steamboats more, Charleston, and New Orleans, as
which passed the canal had increased four- presenting leading points in the different
fold in seven years; and the year of ruin sections of the Union, and compared the
1837"-had presented as large an increase imports in those cities during the adrainis-
as any preceding one had done. But the tration of Mr. Adams, when the Federal
number of steamboats was not the most party and the Federal bank were in full
correct criterion ; the tonnage is more ac- pover, with those, not of 1836, which was
curate, especially as it 'includes flats and a year of bloat and over action, but with
keel boats ; and, tested by the tonnage, it the year of ruin 1837 when the mad and
will be seen that the increase was three- wicked measures of the absurd, impracti-
fold in seven years, and that the year of cable, and outlandish measures of the ad-
-ruin presented an increase of 60,000 tons ministration of the republicans had pro-
over that of the preceding year. So much duced the full measure of (heir fatal des-
for the prostration of commerce on the Ohio truction. Hb presented a table, compiled
river, and in Kentucky itself, in this black f r hirn at the Treasury Department, ami
year of perdition and destruction ! read it.

Statement of the value of imports into the
Uhi'ed States for the years andports men-

1825 1826

Boston 15,845,000 14,349,000

New York 49,639,000 38,063,000

Philadelphia 15,041,000 13,543,000

Baltimore 4,751,000 4,917,000

Charleston 1,892,000 1,534.000

New Orleans 4,290,000 4.167,000

1827 1828 1837

Boston 11,170,000 12,674,000 17,940,000

New York 38,684,000 41,863,000 78,543,000
Philadelphia 11,212,000 12,884,000 11,680,000
Baltimore 4,400,000 5,620,000 7,857,000
Charleston 1,434.000 1,241,000 2,510,000
NewOrleana 4,531,000 6,217,000 14,020,000
Remarking upon this table, Mr. B. said
that, the year of ruin presented an increase
of business in every port except that of
Philadelphia, far exceeding the proportion-
ate increase of population. Taking the
last year of Mr. Adams' administration, as
the one most favorable to the opposition,
and it would be seen that, at Boston, the
increase of importations was five millions
of dollars in value; in New York, the in-
crease was thirty-seven millions ; in Balti-
more above two millions; in Charleston,
more than double ; in New Orleans, doub-
led, and a million and a half over. Phil-
adelphia, the seat of the great ban'.c, was
the only place that exhibited a decline : all
the rest exhibited a vast improvement, and
the further off from the Philadelphia pro-
tector the belter. The ca.<-e of Charleston
was particularly striking. The commerce
of \hat city regularly deelined from year
to year, under the wiihering influence ef
the high tariff policy, during the adminis-
tration of Mr. Adams and the presence of
a branch bank of the great regulator. It
declined for four years ; ihen rapidly re-
covered under the administration of Gen.
Jackson ; and, in the year of ruin was
double the amount of the last yc-ar of Mr.
Adams' time.

Mr. B. referred to the exports and im-
ports of sppcio, to &how the further supe-
riority of the year of ruin over the finest
year of Mr. Adams' administration, or
even the whole of it put together. His
averment then was,, that the gain on the
import of specie over the exports, was, for
the year 1837, four millions and a quarter
of dollars, while, for the whole four years
of Mr. Adams' adminstration, the gain was
but one million. On these* points he ex-
hibits t!ise tables :

Imports. Exports.

1825 $3,150,130 $8,797,955

1826 6,880,960 4,704,553

1827 8,152,130 8,014,880
1838 7,489,741 8,243,476

Making a total of about 30 millions and
a half of imports, and about 29 millions
and a half of exports. The same test for
the year of ruin, exhibited $10,964,432 for
the imports, and $6,714,000 for the ex-

Pursuing the test of the comparative
prosperity of the two periods, Mr. B.came
to the sales of the public lands, M hich stood

1825 $1,205,068

1826 1,128,617

1827 1,318,105

1828 1,221,357
1837 7,004,538

Here again the year of ruin appears, said
Mr. B. in victorious contrast with the whole
period of Mr. Adams' administration. The
sales of the single year are equal to six
years of such sales as occurred from 1825
to 1828. The sales in Indiana alone, dur-
ing this year of ruin, exceeded the sales of
the best year in Mr. Adams' time, for they
amount to $1,565,390. The same may
nearly be said cf Illinois, where the sales
for 1837 amount to $1,266,775. The whole
of these sales were for hard money ; for
the Treasury order was in full operation
during the whole year. The entire sum of
seven millions was received in specie, and
the one half of it after the banks had sus-
pended payment.

Tii is fact was the fullest vindication of
that order. It showed the error of all cal-
culations which were made up on* the effect
of that order. It showed that the farmers
had no difficulty in getting hard money to
buy lands. The quantity sold in 1837 was
bought by farmers, and not by speculators.
The Treasury order expelled the specula-
tors, with their bales of borrowed bank
notes, from the field. It operated as a pre-
emption law in favor of cultivators. It is
now operating as a pre-ennption law in their
favor, and, as such, ought to be sustained
and supported by all the friends of the set-,
tiers. The respectable Legislature of In-
diana had passed resolutions against this
order; but the resolutions were founded in
a mistake, as the land sale? of the year
and of their own State will fully prove.
All that are in favor of settlers against
speculators should be in favor of that or-
der : for hard money payment is the only
thing which can put the farmer above the
competition of the bank facility purchas-

Mr. B. then exhibited the detailed state-
ment of the sales of the public lands for
1837, to show that, under the operation of
the Treasury order, and in the year of ruin,
the prosperity of the farming interest, as

indicated by their ability to purchase, and been prosperous, and held Up for our un-
to pay for, public lands was in the ratio of ceasing admiration and gratitude 1 "There
six to one over that of Mr. Adams' time. are two of those periods, each marking the
Statement showing the amount of the sales termination of a National Bank charter,
of the public lands, during the year 1837. and each presenting us with the actual re-
States and Territories. Purchas-e money, suits of the operations of those institutions










Wisconsin Territory

Florida Territoiy


upon the general currency, and each replete
with lessons of instruction applicable to
the present day, and to the present state of
things. The first of these periods is th
year 1811, when the first National Bank
had run its career of twenty years, and
was permitted by Congress to expire upon
its own limitation. I take for my guide
the estimate of Mr. Lloyd, then a Senator
in Congress from the State of Massachu-
setts, whose dignity of character and ameni-

tjr of manners is so pleasingly remembered

$7,004,538 by those who served with him here, and

The ruin of the currency was the next whose intelligence and accuracy entitle his
topic which Mr. B. took up. No money, statements to the highest degree of credit.
was the cry, Commerce, labor, industry of That eminent Senator estimated the total
every kind, stagnant, languishing, paralyz- currency of the country, at the expiration
ed for want of money to put the wheels of of the charter of the first National Bank,
business in motion ! Such is the lamenta- at sixty millions of dollars, to wit : ten
tion which fills this chamber, and is re- millions specie, and fifty millions in bank
echoed everywhere. But is it true? Is notes. Now compare the wo quantities
it true that the country is destitute of mo- and mark the results. Our population has
ney, or only that banks and capitalists have precisely doubled itself since 1811. The
locked it up, and laid it away, to create fie- increase of our currency should, therefore,
titious scarcity, and thereby aid politicians upon the same principle of increase, b$
in promoting discontent and in accomplish- the double of what it then was : yet it is
ing a political revolution] This is the three times as great as it then was! The
question, and let authentic facts answer it. next period which challenges our attention
Wliat is the actual amount of currency is the veto session of 1832, when the se-
paper as well as specie, now in existence cond Bank of the United States, according
in our country ? The most recent, and au- to the opinion ef Us eulogists, had carried
thentic estimates, will place the amount at the currency to the ultimate point of per-
about one hundred and seventy millions of fection. What was the amount then? Ac-
dollars, namely, eighty millions of specie, cording to the estimate of a Senator from
and ninety-five millions of bank notes. Massachusetts, then and now a member of
The specie was computed at that amount a this body, [Mr. Webster,] then a member
year ago. and has been increased near five of the finance committee, and with every
millions in 1837 the year of ruin, and is access to the best information, the whole
now daily increasing; the bank notes n,ow amount of currency was then estimated at
in actual circulation are computed at nine- about 100 millions; to wit: 20 millions in
ty-five millions by the gentleman in the specie, 75 to 80 millions in bank notes.
Treasury Department, charged with col- The increase of our population since that
lcting the returns and expositions of the time is estimated at 20 per cent; so that
banks, and who has made out this state- the increase of our currency, upon the basis
ment at my special request, to be used up- of increased population, should also be 20
on this occasion. Precise accuracy he per cent. This would give an increase of
knows to be unattainable, but a close ap- 20 millions of dollars, making, in the
proximation to the true amount is easily ac- whole, 180 millions. Thus, our currency
complished where publicity of bank re- in actual existence, is nearly one third more
ports are so general as they now are. The than, either the ratio of 1811 or of 1832
quantum of one hundred and seventy mil- would give. Thus, we have actually about
lions may then be assumed as the amount 50 millions more, in this season of ruin and
of tho currency now in existence in the destitution, than we should have, if sup'
United States. How will this amount plied only in the ratio of what we possess-
compare with periods proclaimed to have ed at the two periods of what is celebrated

as the best condition of the currency, and banks, and all the treasury notes of the
most prosperous condition of the country. Government into the baroain. Look at their
So much for quantity : now for the solidity placards! not a village, not a city, not a town
of the currency at these respective periods, in the Union, in which the signboards do tno
How stands the question of solidity 1 Sir, not salute the eye of the passenger, invit-
it stands thus : in 1611, five paper dollars ing him to come in* and exchange his bank
to one of silver; in 1832, four to one; in notes, and Treasury notes for gold arid sil-
1838, one to one as near at can be! Thus, ver. And whj cannot the banks redeem,
the comparative solidity of the currency is as we;l as the brokers? Why can the}' not
infinitely preferable to what it ever redeem their own notes] Because a veto
was before: for the increase, under the sa- has issued from Philadelphia, and because
gacious policy of General Jackson, has ta- a political revolution is to be effected by
ken place precisely where it was needed injuring the country, and then charging the
at the bottom, and not the top; atthefoun- injury upon the folly and wickedness of
dation, and not in thereof; at the base, and the Republican Administrations. I'his is
not at the apex. Our paper currency has the reason, and the sole reason. The Bank
increased but little; we may say nothing, of the United States, its affiliated institu-
upon the basis of 1811 and 1832 ; our spe- tions, and its political confederates, are the
cie has increased immeasurably, no less sole obstacles to the resumption of specie
than eight fold, since 1811, and four fold payments. They alone prevent the resump-
since 1832. The whole increase is specie, tion. It is they who are now in terror lest
and of that we have 70 millions more tlun in the resumption shall begin, and to prevent
1811, and sixty millions more than in 1832. it, we hear the real shout, and feel the real
Such are the fruits of General Jackson's application of the rallying cry, so patheti-
policy ! a policy which we only have to caily uttered on the flo^r by 'the Senator
persevere in for a few years, to have our from Massachusetts, [Mr. Webster,]
country as amply supplied with gold and once more to the breach, dear friends, once
silver as France and Holland are; that more!

France and Holland in which gold is hor- Yes, Mr. President, the cause of the
rowed at 3 percent per annum, while we of- non-resumption of specie-payments is now
ten borrow paper money at 3 per ct. a month, plain and undeniable. It is as plain as the
But here is no specie. Not a nine-penc^, sun at high noon, in a clear sky. No
to be got for a servant; not a picayune for two opinions can differ about it, how much
a beggar ; not a ten cent piece for the post tongues may differ. The cause of not re-
office. Such is the assertion ; hut how far suming is known, and the cause of sus-
is it true? Go to the banks, and present pension will soon be known likewise,
their notes at their counter, and it is all too Gentlemen of the Opposition charge the
true. No gold, no silver, no copper to bs tuspension upon the folly, the wickedness,
had there in redemption of their solemn the insanity, ti e misrule, and misgovern-
promises to pay. Metaphorically, if not ment of this outland'sh Administration, as
literally speaking, a demand for specie at they classically call it; expressions which
the counter of a bank, might bring to the apply to the people whocreatea the Admin-
unfortunate applicant more kicks than cop- istration whicli have been so much vilified,
pers. But change the direction of the de- and who have sanctioned their policy by
mand ; go to the brokers ; present the bank repeated elections. The Opposition chaige
note there ; no sooner said than done ; gold the suspension to them to their policy

and silver springs forth in any quantity; the to their acts to the veto of 1832 -the

notes are cashed; you are thanked for your removal of the deposites of 1833 the
custom, invited to return again; and thus, Treasury order of 1836 and the demand
the counter of the broker, and not the coun- for specie for the Federal Treasury. This
ter of the bank, becomes the place for the is the charge of the politicians, and of all
redemption of the notes of the bank. The who follow the lead, and obey the impul-
only part of the transaction that remains sion of the denationalized Bank of the
to be told, is the per-centum which is shav- United States. But what say others whose
ed off I And, whoever will submit to that voice should be potenti..!, and even omnipo-
shaving, can have all the bank notes cashed tent, on this question] What say the New
which he can carry to them. Yes, Mr. York city banks, where the suspension be-
President, the brokers, and not the bankers, gan, and whose example was alleged as
now redeem the bank notes. There is no the sole cause of suspensien by all the rest 1 ?
dearth of specie for that purpose. They What say these banks, whose position is
have enough to cash all the notes of the at the fountain head of knowledge, and

declare they have nothing: to fear, exceptpo sites; 2. Excessive importations of for-
whose answer for themselves is an answer eign goods on credit; 3. Fall in the price
for all. Whatsay they 7 Listen, and you of cotton ; 4. Importation of wheat and
shall hear! for I hold in my hand a report flour; 5. Some unfortunate incidents of a
of a committee of these banks, made un- local nature; of which the death, by sup-
der an official injunction, by their highest posed suicide, of one of the bank presi-
officers, and deliberately approved by all dents, may be considered as the principal,
the city institutions. It is signed by These are the reasons ' and what now be-
Messrs. Albert Gallatin, Geo. Newbold, comes of the Philadelphia cry, re-echoed
C. C. Lawrence, C. Heyer, J. J. Palmer, by politicians, and subaltern banks, against
Preserved Fish, and G. A Worth ; seven the ruinous measures of the Administra-

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Online LibraryThomas Hart BentonSpeech of Thomas H. Benton, of Missouri. Delivered, March 14th, 1838, in the United States Senate, on the bill to separate the government from the banks → online text (page 1 of 9)