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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 61 of 199)
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industry, of equality of public burdens. And
for these great results, we are indebted to the
firmness, the vigor, the patriotism, of the indi-
vidual who now presides over the administra-
tion of the Government, sustained by the vir-
tuous confidence of a free people;

A, profound thinker, sir, with whom I have
had the ^ood fortune to serve in the public

councils, but who is now in private life, and to
whom it affords me^incere gratification to have
this opportunity of paying the tribute of a cor-
dial and respectful remembrance, (Mr. S. 0.
Allen, of Massachusetts,) has beautifully and
philosophically said, that " associated wealth is
the dynasty of modem States." Sir, it is so.
This modem dynasty is now seeking to estab-
lish its sway over us in the worst of all forms
— that of a great legal corporation, ramified
and extended through the Union, directed by
irresponsible authority, controlling the fortunes
and the hopes of individuals and communities,
influencing the public press, dictating to the
organs of the public will.

I may be permitted, Mr. President, to recall
to the recollection of the Senate the solenm
language of a great patriot and statesman of
another country on an occasion not unlike the
present. It was on the memorable impeach-
ment of Warren Hastings, sir, that Edmund
Burke, with the profound sagacity which be-
longed to his genius, held the following im-
pressive language to the highest judicial and
legislative body of his country :

"To-day, the Commons of Great Britain pros-
ecute the delinquents of India. To-morrow, the
delinquents of India may be the Commons of Great
Britain. We all know and feel the force of money,
and we now call upon you for justice in this cause
of money. We call upon you for the preservation
of our manners — of our virtues. We call upon
you for our national character. We call upon you
for our liberties."

Sir, an American Senator, applying to his
own times and country the solemn appeal of
the British patriot, might well say : To-day the
Congress of the United States sits in judgment
on the monopolists of the bank. To-morrow
the monopolists of the bank may be the Con-
gress of the United States. AH history hath
taught us the dangerous power of moneyed
corporations, and we now see and feel that
power exerted in the most dangerous of all
forms, in assailing the purity of our republican
manners, undermining the stability of our in-
stitutions, and awing the deliberations of our
public councils. Sir, the American people —
yes, sir, the people— when their true voice
shall be' heard, call upon us for justice in this
great cause of money, violating and trampling
upon the guarantees of freedom. They call
upon us for the preservation of the public mor-
als, exposed to a new and daring corruption.
They call upon us for the vindication of our
national character from the scandal of practices
before unknown in our history. They call
upon us for the rescue of their liberties from
the grasp of a selfish and unrelenting moneyed
despotism. They call upon us, sir, for the per-
formance of these high duties, and worthily, I
trust, will the call be answered by the firnmess,
the constancy, and the patriotism of their rep-



Janttabt, 1834.]

Public Distress.


MoNDAT, January 20.

Public Distress — Removal of the Deposits.

Mr. "Webstbk presented to the Senate a series
of resolutions, adopted at a numerous meeting
of tlie citizens of Boston, without distinction
of party, held at Faneuil Hall, to consider the
state of the currency and finances of the country.

The resolutions having been read —

Mr. Webstbk said he wished to bear un-
equivocal and decided testimony to the respect-
abihty, intelligence, and disinterestedness, of
the long list of gentlemen at whose instance
this meeting was assembled. The meeting, said
Mr. W., was connected with no party purpose
whatever. It had an object more sober, more
cogent, more interesting to the whole commu-
nity, than mere party questions. The Senate
wiU perceive, in the tone of these resolutions,
no intention to exaggerate or inflame ; no dis-
position to get up excitement or to spread alarm.
I hope the restrained and serious manner, the
moderation of temper, and the exemplary can-
dor, of these resolutions, in connection with
the plain truths which they contain, will give
them just weight with the Senate. I assure
you, sir, the members composing this meeting
were neither capitalists, nor speculators, nor
alarmists. They are merchants, traders, me-
chanics, artisans, and others engaged in the
active business of life. They are of the muscu-
lar portion of society ; and they desire to lay
before Congress an evil, which they feel to
press sorely on their occupations, their earn-
ings, their labor, and their property; and to
express their conscientious conviction of the
causes of that eviL K intelligence, if pure in-
tention, if deep and widespread connection
with businiess, in its various branches, if thor-
ough practical knowledge and experience — if
inseparable union between their own prosperity
and the prosperity of the whole country, au-
thorize men to speak, and give them a right to
be heard, the sentiments of this meeting ought
to make an impression. For one, sir, I en-
tirely concur in all their opinions. I adopt
their first fourteen resolutions, without altera-
tion or qualification, as setting forth truly the
present state of things, stating truly its causes,
and pointing to the true remedy.

Mr._ President, said Mr. W., now that I am
speaking, I will use the opportunity to say a
few words, which I intended to say, in the
course of the morning, on the coming up of the
resolution which now lies on the table; but
which are as applicable to this occasion as to

An opportunity may, perhaps, be hereafter
afforded me, of discussing the reasons given by
the Secretary, for the very important measure,
adopted by him, in removing the deposits. But,
as I know not how near that time may be, I
desire, m the meanwhile, to make my opinions
known, without reserve, on the present state
of the country. Without intending to discuss
any thing at present, I feel it my duty, never-

theless, to let my sentiments and my convic-
tions be understood. In the first place, then,
sir, I agree with those who think that there is
a severe pressure in the money market, and
very serious embarrassment felt in all branches
of the national industry. I think this is not
local, but general ; general, at least, over every
part of the country, where the cause has yet
begun to operate, and sure to become, not only
general, but universal, as the operation of the
cause shall spread. If evidence were wanted,
in addition to all that is told us by those who
know, the high rate of interest, now at 12 per
cent, or higher, where it was hardly 6, last
September — the depression of all stocks, some
ten, some twenty, some thirty per cent. — and
the low prices of commodities, are proofs abun-
dantly suflScient, to show the existence of the
pressure. But, sir, labor — that most extensive
of all interests — American manual labor — feels,
or will feel, the shock more sensibly, far more
sensibly, than capital or property of any kind.
Public works have stopped, or must stop ; great
private undertakings, employing many hands,
have ceased, and others must cease. A great
lowering of the rates of wages, as well as a
depreciation of property, is the inevitable con-
sequence of causes now in full operation. Se-
rious embarrassments in all branches of busi-
ness do certainly exist.

I am of opinion, therefore, that there is, un-
doubtedly, a very severe pressure on the com-
munity, which Congress ought to relieve if it
can ; and that this pressure is not an instance
of the ordinary reaction, or the ebbing and
flowing of commercial affairs ; but is an extraor-
dinary case, produced by an extraordinary cause.

In the next place, sir, I agree entirely with
the 11th Boston resolution, as to the causes
of this embarrassment. We were in a state
of high prosperity, commercial and agricultu-
ral. Every branch of business pushed far, and
the credit, as well as the capital of the coun-
try, employed to near its utmost limits. In this
state of things, some degree of overtrading
doubtless took place, which, however, if noth-
ing else had occurred, would have been season-
ably corrected by the ordinary and necessary
operation of things. But, on this palmy state
of things, the late measure of the Secretary
fell, and has acted on it with powerful and
lamentable effect. And I think, sir, that such
a cause is entirely adequate to produce the
effect ; that it is wholly natural ; and that it
ought to have been foreseen that it would pro-
duce exactly such consequences. Those must
have looked at the surface of things only, as it
seems to me, who thought otherwise, and who
expected that such an operation could be gone
through with, without producing a very serious

[Mr. W. considered the restoration of the de-
posits, and the recbarter of the present Bank of
the United States, as the adequate remedy for the
present distress.]




Hemoval of the Deposits.

[Jaitoart, 1834.

Mr. EwiNG said : The removal of the Secre-
tary of the Treasury from office I admit to be
within the legal power of the President ; but
the object which was effected by that removal,
the control thus taken and exercised over the
public treasure, I hold to be an infraction of
the constitution; and I shall now, by such
arguments and authority as are in my mind
conclusive, attempt to make good the position.
Those who maintain the power of the Presi-
dent over the Treasury, rest it upon an argu-
ment like this : The executive power is vested
in the President — the custody of the public
treasure is a portion of executive power ; there-
fore, the custody of the public treasure is vest-
ed in the President ; or, in this particular in-
stance, they hold that, as the right to remove
the deposits was vested by the bank chax'ter in
the Secretary of the Treasury, and as the
Secretary of the Treasury is an executive
officer, this special duty, which is assigned to
him by law, falls under the general cognizance
Of the Executive head of the nation. These
are the forms in which, if I understand them
right, the arguments on the other side are pre-

The fatal error in their whole process of rea-
soning arises from this — that they give to cer-
tain general expressions in the constitution a
power and extent which, as limited by the
other special powers in that instrument, they
do not possess. The two provisions, that " the
executive power shall be vested in a President
of the United States," and " he shall see that
the laws are faithfully executed," are the basis
of all the illimitable powers with which gentle-
men seek to clothe the Chief Magistrate.

It should be observed, that the separation of
powers in the Constitution of the United States
is by no means perfect, especially between the
legislative and executive departments. The
first section of the first article of the constitu-
tion declares, that " all legislative power herein
granted shall be vested in a Congress of the
United States ;" and yet, when we descend to
the special distribution of the powers which
follow, we find that all the legislative power
therein granted is not vested in the Congress,
but that a most important portion of it is vest-
ed in the President, namely, a veto power — a
power which touches legislation nearly, vitally
— a power which has grown up to great im-
portance in the present day, and which threat-
ens to absorb or paralyze all the powers of

By the first section of the second article of
the constitution, " the executive power is vest-
ed in a President of the United States." The
word " all " used in the section granting the
legislative power to Congress, is omitted in
this. I do not lay much stress upon the omis-
sion, but I am certainly warranted in saying
that the grant of executive power is not in
terms more comprehensive than is the grant of
legislative power, to the universality of which
I have shown one strong exception. Indeed,

sir, without referring to the special designation
of the several powers which is found in the
articles of the constitution containing the gen-
eral grants of the legislative power, it would
be difficult, if not impossible, to determine
what was intended to be included in each, es-
pecially in the latter ; for judicial power is
more distinct in its character, and more capa-
ble of a precise designation.

What is executive power? I never saw a
definition from which a distinct conception of
its essence or qualities could be gathered. In-
deed, it is not susceptible of any, varying as it
does in its properties and extent, in every form
and modification of government. M. Necker,
an author respectable, but not of high author-
ity, assimilates it to that mysterious principle
which, in the human frame, unites action to
the will ; the legislative power being the wiU.
This would be intelligible enough, and practi-
cal also, if all power, as had been the case in
France, centred in a single individual: there
would be no clashing of those great separate
powers, the one contravening or absorbing the
other ; it would be reduced to the same simple
principle as that of human will and human
action ; the wiU dictating, and the active prin-
ciple moving in exact accordance with it. But
when the will and the active principle exist in
different bodies, and the active principle, as in
the case of our executive, has a will alio of his
own, if it extend to and penetrate every por-
tion of the body politic, that wiU, which is ac-
companied with efficient action, must, as a
necessary consequence, overturn or absorb all
the powers of the legislative wiU, which is des-
titute of action. This notion of executive
power wUl not do in a Government which,
being free, intends to preserve its freedom;
and it wUl be seen, by and by, that it is not the
kind of executive power created by the framers
of our constitution. It wiU not do to draw
precedent from monarchical Governments to
settle the extent of that power, unless we agree
with them to admit the divine right of kings,
and let our Executive become, as theirs, su-
preme and irresponsible. We must, then, ex-
amine the constitution itself minutely, and see
if we can discover the meaning affixed to this
important term, " executive power," and what
subjects properly fall within the scope of its

The second section of the second article of
the constitution contains a general enumeration
of the powers and duties of the President ; it
makes him commander-in-chief of the army
and navy, and of the militia, when called into
actual service ; it gives him the power of ap-
pointment, by and with the advice and consent
of the Senate ; and directs him to receive am-
bassadors and other public ministers; but it
gives him no power over the Treasury, or the
collection or disbursement of the revenue. But
mark, sir, the duties specially assigned to Con-
gress by the eighth section of the first article :
•'to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and



jAtTOAKT, 183i.]

Removal of the Deposits.


excises ; to pay the debts, and provide for the
common defence." Congress not only lays,
but collects duties and imposts. Why collect ?
The Senator from Virginia (Mr. Kites) pro-
nounces the collection of the revenue an_ act
appropriate to the Executive ; and it might
weU be so, if the constitution had not vested
the duty in another department of the Govern-
ment ; and there is no accidental misuse of lan-
guage here, for it is carried through in all the
provisions of the constitution whenever the
fiscal concerns of the nation are the subject of
provision ; and not only the laying and collect-
ing of taxes, but the disbursement of those
taxes. Congress, not the President, has power
to "pay the national debt;" but, in the same
sentence vesting these powers, Congress is au-
thorized to " provide for the common defence,"
not to defend, for that is one of the powers
granted to the Executive. Again : in the ninth
section of the same article, which relates to the
power of Congress, is a provision that "no
money shall be drawn from the Treasury hut in
consequence of appropriations made by law,"
and that " a regular statement of receipts and
expenditm-es of all public money shall be pub-
lished from time to time ;" clearly evidencing
that the whole control of the public funds, the
levying, collecting, keeping, and disbursing, is
intrusted fully to Congress, and not at all to
the President. I might refer to numerous pro-
visions of this instrument, showing the accu-
rate manner in which the powers and duties of
each of the gi'eat departments of Government
were limited and defined in the particular enu-
meration of the powers of each. For exam-
ple. Congress is " to provide and maintain a
navy," not to command or control it ; for that
power is vested in the President ; but, as the
purse is in the hands of Congress, they alone
can provide and maintain. " To provide for
calling forth the militia," not to call them
forth ; for that is the duty of the President.
" To provide for organizing, arming, and dis-
ciplining the militia," not to organize, or arm
them ; for those are portions of the Executive
duty. I have, sir, pursued this analysis far
enough to show, (if, indeed, a doubt could ever
seriously exist of the fact,) that, in all things
relating to the public treasure, its levy, collec-
tion, safe-keeping, and disbursement, Executive
interference has been carefully excluded by the
framers of the constitution ; and that the power
of Congress extends to it throughout, in all its
minutest details ; but, on all subjects in which
power is intended to be reposed in the Execu-
tive, Congress is merely required to provide the
means by which that power may be exercised.
This review of the provisions of the constitu-
tion was deemed necessary to give a full and
distinct comprehension of the several acts cre-
ating the three (subsequently four) subordinate
departments, whose duties and responsibilities
are the more immediate subject of inquiry.
The first Congress, which mot in 1789, enacted
the laws creating these departments ; the sub-

jects relating to them were referred to the same
committee, and they, after much consideration
and lengthened debate, passed the several laws
in their present forms. Two of them, that of
War and of Foreign Affairs, are, in their titles,
called " Executive Departments," the other is
simply styled "the Treasury Department."
But it is said, sir, that the title of an act proves
nothing ; that it cannot be used in giving it a
construction. This, I admit, is true in the
main ; but taking into view the circumstances
under which these acts were passed, and the
high importance attached to them by the Con-
gress and the people of that day, it could hardly
be by accident that the title of these laws, re-
ported by the same committee, and under con-
sideration by the same Congress, at the same
time, should differ in so important a feature.
But we may, on the strictest legal principles,
refer to the body of the act, and insist that
that shall fix its construction, and be taken as
the index of the sense of the legislature which
enacted it.

The first section of the act establishing what
is now called the Department of State, provides,
" that there shall be an Executive Department,
to he denominated the Department of Foreign
Aflfairs," and the chief officer of that depart-
ment is required to " perform and execute such
duties as shall, from time to time, be enjoined
on, or intrusted to him by the President of the
United States, agreeably to the constitution,
relative to correspondences, commissions, or
instructions to or with public ministers," &c. ;
and, by reference to the act it will be seen that
no single duty is annexed to his office, or a sin-
gle trust reposed in him, which is not part and
parcel of the duty of the President, as enjoined
by the constitution in the special enumeration
of his powers. This, then, is properly called
an Executive Department, both in the title and
the body of the act; and the officer at the head
of this department is properly made obedient
to the President within the sphere of his con-
stitutional duties.

Next in order is the Department of War.
The first section of the act creating it denom-
inates it also Executive : " That there shall be
an Executive Department, to be denominated
the Department of War," and the principal
officer therein is likewise charged with duties
which the constitution had assigned to the Ex-
ecutive ; and he is required to conduct the bus-
iness of his department in such manner as the
President of the United States shall, from time
to time, order and direct.

The act creating the Treasury Department
does not, either in the title or body of the act,
style it Executive. The first section provides
" that there shall be a Department of the Treas-
ury," and directs the appointment of a Secre-
tary, who shall be head of the department.
His duties, also, coincide in all respects with)
those which arise out of the powers granted to 1
Congress by the constitution ; none of them '
touch the prescribed functions of the Chief




Removal of the Deposits.

[Janitabt, 1834.

Magistrate. He " shall digest and prepare plans
for the improvement and management of the
revenue, and for the support of public credit ;
prepare and report estimates of public revenue
and expenditures ; superintend the collection
of the revenue," &c. — all duties especially de-
volved upon the Congress by the constitution,
as I have already shown ; and that his charac-
ter may be more distinctly marked as the officer
of Congress, and not of the President, he alone,
of all the heads of Departments, is specially re-
quired to " make report and give information
to either branch of the Legislature, in person
or in writing, as he may be required, respecting
all matters which may be referred to him by
the Senate or House of Representatives, or
which shall appertain to his office." The mark-
ed distinction in the character and duties of
these departments, designated by the law — ^the
fact that, while the Secretary of State and the
Secretary of War are made directly responsible
to the President, and required to perform their
several duties in obedience to his instructions
and commands, the Secretary of the Treasury
is made subservient to no commands except
those of the Houses of Congress, and is charged
with no duties except such as the constitution
enjoins upon them, would seem, according to
all acknowledged principles of interpretation, to
carry with it a strong negative of the claim of
power which the President has assumed to ex-
ercise over the prescribed duties of the Secre-
tary of the Treasury. That Secretary is not an
executive officer, and the President has no more
right to order and direct how he shall perform
any of his appropriate duties, or take their per-
formance out of his hands, than either House
of Congress has to interfere with the discharge
of the appropriate duties of the Secretary of
State or of "War.

But the Senator from Virginia (Mr. Eives)
says that the duties of the Secretary of the
Treasury are executive in their charactei", and
he instanced the duty of digesting and prepar-
ing plans for the improvement of the revenue.
Now, sir, with all due deference to the superior
political knowledge and acumen of the honor-
able Senator, I am constrained to differ from
him wholly and absolutely. There is nothing
more executive in its nature, in devising, and
preparing, a plan for the improvement of the
revenue, than there is in devising, and prepar-
ing, and enacting a law for the same purpose.
Both require the intellect, the mind, and judg-
ment, rather than the mere active principle, to
bring them to pass. The duty enjoined on this
Secretary is not that executive act which fol-
lows legislation, and carries into effect the law,
but it is legislation in its incipient stage, or
rather a gathering together, and arranging the
elements out of which legislation is to arise.
Now, it is obvious that this must be done by
those who bear the burden of legislation, and

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 61 of 199)