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Abridgment of the Debates of Congress, from 1789 to 1856. From Gales and Seatons' Annals of Congress; from their Register of debates; and from the official reported debates, by John C. Rives online

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Online LibraryUnited States. CongressAbridgment of the Debates of Congress, from 1789 to 1856. From Gales and Seatons' Annals of Congress; from their Register of debates; and from the official reported debates, by John C. Rives → online text (page 99 of 199)
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acts of tyranny, of demanding particular kinds
of money for the purposes of extortion. Here,
11,000 specie gatherers, demanding a currency
not furnished the people by their own States,




Sub-Treasury Bill.

[September, 1837.

or "by the ordinary circulation, will give them
more trouble than all their other pecuniary
transactions, and, being diiferent to the de-
mands made upon them for State taxes, will
give to the Federal Government an alien char-
acter of tyranny and oppression. He could
not conceive, he said, of a measure better cal-
culated to give to the Government of the Union
the appearance of $, foreign Government, and
alienate the affections of the people from it,
than the measure proposed.

Mr. Rives rose, and said he would ask leave
of the Senate to say a few words which he
meant to say yesterday, but was prevented hy
the speaking of another Senator, (Mr. Benton.)
Mr. R. said he rose to protest against the man-
ner in which thi§ question had been, and con-
tinued to be, treated by the Senator from South
Carolina. That gentleman argued as if there
were some proposition before the Senate to re-
estabhsh the Bank of the United States, or to
eonfer upon the existing Pennsylvania Bank of
the United States some special and important
privilege. But, sir, is there any question of
that sort really before the Senate 1 The ques-
tion presented by the proposition on your table
is, whether the notes of banks generally, when
they shall have resumed specie payments, ought
not, under certain limitations, to be received in
payment of the public dues, as they heretofore
have been from the origin of the Government
down to the present time, or whether they
shall be altogether excluded in future, and
nothing be received in payment of the public
revenue hut gold and silver? The question,
then, is one which involves alike the whole
eight hundred State banks in the Union, con-
stituting that system of credit under which,
whatever may have been its occasional excesses,
the country has heretofore attained an unparal-
leled height of prosperity, and has no special
reference whatever to the Bank of the United

It does seem to me, Mr. President, that this
perpetual and gratuitous introduction of the
Bank of the United States into this debate,
with which it has no connection, as if to alarm
the imaginations of grave Senators, is but a
poor evidence of the intrinsic strength of the
gentleman's cause. Much has been said of
argument ad captandum in the course of this
discussion. I have heard none that can com-
pare with this solemn stalking of the ghost of
the Bank of the United States through this
hall to "frighten Senators from their propriety."
I am as much opposed to that institution as
the gentleman or any one else is or can be. I
think I may say I have given some proofs of
it. The gentleman himeslf acquits me of any
design to favor the interest of that institution,
while he says such is the necessary consequence
of my proposition. The suggestion is advanced
for effect, and then retracted in form. What-
ever be the new-born zeal of the Senator from
South Carolina against the Bank of the United
States, I flatter myself that I stand in a posi- 1

tion that places me, at least, as much above
suspicion of an undue leaning in favor of that
institution as the honorable gentleman. If I
mistake not, it was the Senator from South
Carolina who introduced and supported the
bill for the charter of the United States Bank
in 1816 ; it was he, also, who brought in a biU
in 1834, to extend the charter of that institu-
tion for a term of twelve years; and none
were more conspicuous than he in the weU-
remembered scenes of that day, in nrging the
restoration of the Government deposits to this
same institution. In every situation of public
trust in which I have been placed I have been
the constant and unvarying opponent of that
institution; and in this body, in 1834, while
the Senator from South Carolina, with his
accustomed ability, was urging the restoration
of the public deposits to it, (a triumph, indeed,
over the Government of the country, which
the honorable Senator now so bitterly depre-
cates,) I stood up here and resisted that meas-
ure with every faculty I possessed, and sacri-
ficed, as is well known, my political existence
to the force of my convictions on the subject ;
convictions which, I take leave to say, have
strengthened with every day's observation and
reflection since. "When I recollect these things,
it seems to me " strange, passing strange," that
the Senator from South Carolina should now
appear as the especial and sworn adversary of
the Bank of the United States, while I am held
up in the attitude of promoting the views and
favoring the interests of that institution.

"While I am up, (said Mr. R.,) I beg leave to
say a word in answer to an observation of the
Senator from Missouri, (Mr. Bekton.) That
gentleman said, if I wished to imderstand the
true character of my proposition, I had only to
look over my right shoulder, and see who were
likely to support it. [Mr. Clay, Mr. "Webster,
and other gentlemen of the Opposition, sit in
that direction from Mr. Rivks.] I thank God,
Mr. President, that I have a higher rule of
action on this floor than any consideration of
who is, or who is not, to vote with me. I look
at the merits of the proposition itself; and if it
be for the good of the country, I go for it,
whoever may vote with me or against me. If
the Senator knows that I am to derive support
to my proposition from gentlemen over my
right shoulder, he knows more than I do. I
have had no communication with any of those
gentlemen, which authorizes me to expect their
support. Many of them voted, during the last
session, for the same proposition, in common
with five-sixths of the friends of the adminis-
tration, and they may do so again. I occupy
the same position now that I did then. If
other gentlemen have seen cause to change
their views, I have not. On the contrary, the
present condition of the country furnishes, in
my estimation, new motives to bring forward
the proposition, which then received nearly the
unanimous sanction of both Houses of Con-
gress. It is impossible that the btoking insti-



Septembek, 1837.]

Svb-Treasury BUI.


tutions of the conntry, on whose speedy return
to specie payment the soundness of the currency
and every other interest of society now depend,
can rise np from their prostrate condition,
without some measure of this sort. The peo-
ple wish to see an end of this paper money,
(properly so called when inconvertible into
specie,) which the gentleman from Missouri so
much deprecated. No one has a stronger sense
of its evils and dangers than I have. But we
shall in vain attempt to get rid of it, in my
humble judgment, without some measure of the
character I have proposed. I am unwilling to
go back to my constituents without having first
done something for the relief of the people,
as well as the Government. I am unwilling
that the American people shall witness an ad-
journment of this body without the passage
of some measure of a healing and salutary char-
acter, in relation to the currency of the country.

"When the sub-Treasury scheme was intro-
duced into the House of Representatives in
1834:, out of the meagre number of 33 votes it
then received, there was but one friend of the
administration who voted in favor of it. It
was then denounced, under the auspices and in
the name of the administration, as revolution-
ary, disorganizing, anti-republican, and tending
to enlarge Executive power, and place in its
hands the means of corruption. Believing
now, as I did then, that such is the true char-
acter and tendency of the measure, I adhere to
the ground taken by the republican party in
1834; and I will use every weapon which
reason and agument can furnish in opposition
to it. I, for one, will not be afraid to act with
any individual, or any party, in resisting a
scheme which, however it may be viewed by
others, I firmly believe to be fraught with
danger to the best interests of my country ;
and in doing so, so far from abandoning, I but
maintain the more closely, my republican faith.

Mr. OALnoTJN said this attack of the Senator
is very extraordinary. Yesterday, in the course
of my argument, I endeavored to show that
his proposition would inure to the benefit of
the Pennsylvania Bank of the United States,
and I stated my reasons. I believed he did
not contemplate it in that light, but I did ; and
I said to the Senator, you hold out a powerful
temptation to the banks. I stated that the
strong banks, and they alone, would take the
benefit of this measure, with the United States
Bank at their head. Their predominating in-
fluence over every other bank was inevitable ;
and if they got it, they would hold it in per-
petuo. They would make the necessary sacri-
fice in the resumption of specie payments, and
this bill would serve as the motive ; and, if
Mr. Biddle tried, he woiild get it. And now,
twenty-four hours afterwards, I am surprised
at this storm of passion and personal attack,
when I acquitted the gentleman of all improper

The gentleman says that in 1834 I was in
favor of restoring the deposits. I was so ; and

I now, as then, think they were unnecessarily
and illegally removed, and that it was one of
the accelerating causes of the catastrophe which
he so much laments. New zeal ! A new con-
vert! I never made stronger declarations in
my life of the banking system than at that
time. I said the whole system was hostile to
liberty. I was then in favor of the Bank of
the United States ; but not so as to qualify my
position relative to banking. I went farther,
and told the Senator and others, your system
will fail if you retain a connection with the
hanks ; there must be a Bank of the United
States. With me the question of bank or no
bank had reference to the whole banking
system. Has he any foundation on which he
can now call me a convert ? No, sir, I have
seen, not for four, but fourteen years, that the
issue must be that the banks will be the Gov-
ernment, or the Government the banks ; that,
by the constant tendency to increase the issues
of paper, the banks or the Government must
be prostrated. I hardly expected to see that
issue in my day ; but come I knew and declared
it would, sooner or later ; and when the ques-
tion should arise, it would be the greatest of
modern times. I would lay a hundred to one,
if the Senator's bill should pass, the United
States Bank will monopolize its benefits. Of
his remarks I will only say that they were
unworthy of him, and the State from which he

Mr. Benton. TJie Senator from Virginia
(Mr. EivEs) repeats what has been often told,
and answered, that the friends of the adminis-
tration voted in a body against Mr. Goedon's
sub-Treasury proposition in 1834. They did
so, and for a reason both notorious and good at
that time, but not good now. The administra-
tion could not cut loose from the local banks
then ; they were allies against the Bank of the
United States, and, as such, had to be saved.
They were the '■'■Ealf-way House " in getting
from the National bank to the sub-Treasury ;
and, as such, had to be maintained. They are
no longer allies, or a half-way station, but foes
and deserters. They have cut loose from the
government, and are weight in favor of a
national bank ; and as such the government is
now done with them. It was expedient to
maintain the connection in 1834 : it is expedient
to let it remain dissolved now.

Monday, September 25.
Sub- Treasury Bill.

The Senate resumed the consideration of the
bill imposing additional duties, as depositories
of the public moneys, on certain officers of the
General Government ; together with Mr. Oal-
eotjn's and Mr. Benton's amendments.

Mr. Olat commenced by observing that,
feeling an anxious desire to see some effectual
plan presented to correct the disorders in the
currency, and to restore the prosperity of the
country, he had avoided precipitating himself




Sub-Treasury Bill.

[Septembek, 1837.

into the debate now in progress, that he might
attentively examine every remedy that should
be proposed, and impartially weigh every con-
sideration urged in its support. No period had
ever existed in this country, in which the future
was covered by a darker, denser, or more im-
penetrable gloom. None, in which the duty
was so imperative to discard all passion and
prejudice, all party ties, and previous bias, and
look exclusively to the good of our afflicted
country. In one respect— and he thought it a
fortunate one — ^our present difficulties are dis-
tinguishable from former domestic troubles, and
that is their universality. They are felt, it is
true, in different degrees, but they reach every
section, every State, every interest, almost every
man in the Union. All feel, see, hear, know
their existence. As they do not array, like onr
former divisions, one portion of the confederacy
against another, it is to be hoped that common
sufferings may lead to common sympathies and
common counsels, and that we shall, at no
distant day, be able to see a clear way of
deliverance. If the present state of the conn-
try were produced by the fault of the people ;
If it proceeded from their wasteful extrava-
gance and their indulgence of a reckless spirit
of ruinous speculation ; if public measures had
no agency whatever in bringing it about, it
would nevertheless be the duty of Government
to exert all its energies and to employ all its
legitimate powers to devise an efficacious reme-
dy. But if our present deplorable condition
has sprung from our rulers ; if it is to be
clearly traced to their acts and operations, that
duty becomes infinitely more obligatory ; and
Government would be faithless to the highest
and most solemn of human trusts should it
neglect to perform it. And is it not too true
that the evils which surround us are to be
ascribed to those who have had the conduct of
our public affairs ?

In glancing at the past, (continued Mr. C.,)
nothing can be further from my intention than
to excite angry feelings, or to find grounds of
reproach. It would be far more congenial to
my wishes that, on this occasion, we should
forget all former unhappy divisions and ani-
mosities. But, in order to discover how to get
out of our difficulties, we must ascertain, if we
can, how we got into them.

Prior to that series of unfortunate measures
which had for its object the overthrow of the
Bank of the United States, and the discon-
tinuance of its fiscal agency for the Govern-
ment, no people upon earth ever enjoyed a
better currency, or had exchanges better regu-
lated, than the people of the United States.
Our monetary system appeared to have attained
as great perfection as any thing human can
possibly reach. The combination of United
States and local banks presented a true image
of our system of General and State Govern-
ments, and worked quite as well. Not only
within the country had we a local and a general
currency, perfectly sound; but, in whatever

quarter of the globe American commerce had
penetrated, there also did the bills of the Bank
of the United States command unbounded
credit and confidence. Now we are in danger
of having fixed upon us, indefinitely as to time,
that medium — an irredeemable paper currency,
which, by the universal consent of the com-
mercial world, is regarded as the worst. How
has this reverse come upon us? Can it he
doubted that it is the result of those measures
to which I have adverted ? When at the very
moment of adopting them, the very conse-
quences which have happened were foretold as
inevitable, is it necessary to look elsewhere for
their cause ? Never was prediction more dis-
tinctly made ; never was fulfilment more literal
and exact.

Let us suppose that those measures had not
been adopted; that the Bank of the United
States had been rechartered; that the public
deposits had remained undisturbed; and that
the Treasury order had never issued : is there
not every reason to believe that we should he
now in the enjoyment of a sound currency;
that the public deposits would be now safe and
forthcoming ; and that the suspension of specie
payments in May last would not have haj)-
pened ?

The Message, to reconcile us to our misfor-
tunes, and to exonerate the measures of our
own Government from all blame in producing
the present state of things, refers to the condi-
tion of Europe, and especially to that of Great
Britain. It alleges, that " in both countries
we have witnessed the same redundancy of
paper money, and other facilities of credit ; the
same spirit of speculation ; the same partial suc-
cesses ; the same difficulties and reverses ; and,
at length, nearly the same overwhelming catas-

AVhatever of embarrassment Europe has
recently experienced may be satisfactorily ex-
plained by its trade and connection with the
United States. The degree of embarrassment
has been marked, in the commercial countries
there, by the degree of their connection with
the United States. All, or almost all, the great
failures in Europe have been of houses engaged
in the American trade. Great Britain, which,
as the Message justly observes, maintains the
closest relations with us, has suffered most;
France next, and so on, in the order of their
greater or less commercial intercourse with us.
Most truly was it said by the Senator from
Georgia, that the recent embarrassments of
Europe were the embarrassments of a creditor,
from whom payment was withheld by the
debtor, and from whom the precious metals
have been unnecessarily withdrawn by the
policy of the same debtor.

Since the intensity of suffering, and the dis-
astrous state of things in this country, have far
transcended any thing that has occurred in
Europe, we must look here for some peculiar
and more potent causes than any which have
been in operation there. They are to be found



September, 1837.]

Suh-Treasuri/ Bill.


in that series of measures to ■whicli I have
already adverted.

1st. The veto of the hank.

2d. The removal of the deposits, with the
urgent injunction of Secretary Taney upon the
hanks to enlarge their accommodations.

3d. The gold hill, and the demand of gold
for the foreign indemnities.

4;th. The clumsy execution of the deposit
law ; and

5th. The Treasury order of July, 1836.

[Here Mr. Clat went into an examination
of these measures to show that the inflated
condition of the country, the wOd speculations,
which had risen to their height when they
began to be checked by the preparations of the
local hanks necessary to meet the deposit law
of June, 1836, the final suspension of specie
payments, and the consequent disorders in the
currency, commerce, and general business of
the country, were all to he traced to the in-
fluence of the measures enumerated. All these
causes operated immediately, directly, and
powerfully upon us, and their effects were
indirectly felt in Europe.]

The Message imputes to the deposit law an
agency in producing the existing embarrass-
ments. This is a charge frequently made by
the friends of the administration against that
law. It is true, that the banks having in-
creased their accommodations, in conformity
with the orders of Secretary Taney, it might
not have been convenient to recall and pay
them over for public use. It is true, also, that
the manner in which the law was executed by
the Treasury Department, transferring large
sums from creditor to debtor portions of the
country, without regard to the commerce or
business of the country, might have aggravated
the inconvenience. Bat what do those who
object to the law think ought to have been
done with the surpluses which had accumulat-
ed, and were daily augmenting to such an enor-
mous amount ia the hands of the deposit banks ?
Were they to be incorporated with their capi-
tals, and remain there for the benefit of the
stockholders ? Was it not proper and just that
they should be applied to the uses of the people
from whom they were collected ? And when-
ever and however taken from the deposit banks,
would not inconvenience necessarily happen ?

The great evil under which the country la-
bors is the suspension of the banks to pay
specie, the total derangement in all domestic
exchanges, and the paralysis which has come
over the whole business of the country. In
regard to the currency, it is not that a given
amount of bank notes will not now command
as much as the same amount of specie would
have done prior to the suspension ; but it is the
future, the danger of an inconvertible paper
money being indefinitely or permanently fixed
upon the people, that fills them with appre-
hensions. Our great object should be to re-es-
tablish a sound currency, and thereby to restore

the exchanges and revive the business of the

The first impression which the measures
brought forward by the administration make,
is, that they consist of temporary expedients,
looking to the supply of the necessities of the
Treasury ; for so far as any of them possess a
permanent character, its tendency is rather to
aggravate than alleviate the sufferings of the
people. None of them purpose to rectify the
disorders in the actual currency of the country ;
but the people, the States, and their banks, are
left to shift for themselves as they may or can.
The administration, after having intervened
between the States and their banks, and taken
them into the federal service, without the con-
sent of the States; after having puffed and
praised them ; after having brought them, or
contributed to bring them, into their present
situation, now suddenly turns its back upon
them, leaving them to their fate ! It is not
content with that ; it must absolutely discredit
their issues. And the very people who were
told by the administration that these banks
would supply them with a better currency, are
now left to struggle as they can with the very
currency which the Government recommended
to them, but which it now refuses itself to re-
ceive !

The professed object of the administration is
to establish what it terms the currrency of the
constitution, which it proposes to accomplish
by restricting the Federal Government, in all
receipts and payments, to the exclusive use of
specie, and by refusing all bank paper, whether
convertible or not. It disclaims all purposes of
crippling or putting down the banks of the
States ; but we shall better determine the de-
sign or the effect of the measures recommended,
by considering them together as one system.

1. The first is the sub-Treasuries, which are
to be made the depositories of all the specie
collected and paid out for the service of the
General Government, discrediting and refusing
all the notes of the States, although payable
and paid in specie.

2. A bankrupt law f«r the United States,
levelled at all the State banks, and authorizing
the seizure of the effects of any of them that
stop payment, and the administration of their
effects under the federal authority exclusively.

_ 8. A particular law for the District of Colum-
bia, by which all the corporations and people
of the District, under severe pains and penalties,
are prohibited from circulating, sixty days after
the passage of the law, any paper whatever,
not convertible into specie on demand, and are
made liable to prosecution by indictment.

4. And lastly, the bill to suspend the pay-
ment of the fourth instalment to the States, by
the provisions of which the deposit banks in-
debted to the Government are placed at the
discretion of the Secretary of the Treasury.

It is impossible to consider this system with-
out perceiving that it is aimed at, and, if carried




Sub-Treasury Bill.

[Septembee, 1837.

out, must terminate in the total subversion of
the State banks; and that they will be all
placed at the mercy of the Federal Government.
It is in vain to protest that there exists no de-
sign against them. The effect of these meas-
ures cannot be misunderstood.

And why this new experiment or untried ex-
pedient ? The people of this country are tired
of experiments. Ought not the administration
itself to cease with them. Ought it not to
take warning from the events of recent elec-
tions ? Above all, should not the Senate, con-

Online LibraryUnited States. CongressAbridgment of the Debates of Congress, from 1789 to 1856. From Gales and Seatons' Annals of Congress; from their Register of debates; and from the official reported debates, by John C. Rives → online text (page 99 of 199)