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authority is much relied on, as not generally favoring liberal constructions of constitutional powers. If not convinced in his own private judgment, he said, as any reasonable man would say, that the Constitution had thus been long interpreted, that its meaning was fixed and must not be disturbed. That was right. We have had a bank for forty years; some say now it is unconstitutional. Will they say so forty years hence? Will they then think that what was thought right by our fathers and grandfathers, who formed the Constitution and established the government, was wholly wrong? I suspect not. We must take the meaning of the Constitution as it has been solemnly fixed, — fixed by practice, fixed by successive acts of Congress, fixed by solemn judicial decision, — or we never shall have any settled meaning at all. It is absurd to say, that no precedent, no practice, no judicial decision, no assent of successive legislators, nor all these together, can fix the meaning of an article in the fundamental law.
I am well aware, Gentlemen, that at the present moment, and in the commercial States, the evils of a disordered currency are partially remedied, and not so severely felt. But in some parts of the country they are as great as ever. In the South and West, there is no money which deserves the name. The people trade almost wholly by barter. What they do call money is entirely without a fixed or general value; and the great depreciation and fluctuation in the currency is the cause of much demoralization in the community, and a fruitful source of other evils. Of all bad systems this is the worst. And though we in this part of the country, just now, feel no particular harm from this source, yet the evil day will come.
There are certain laws of trade which will always operate, so long as man is man, and which cannot be violated with impunity; and just as surely as this is the case, just so sure shall we again feel the effects of a disordered currency. There is now, in the mercantile phrase, a better feeling in the community, at least in the Atlantic States. There is an appearance of returning prosperity and a revival of business; but there are a thousand banks in the country, ready to lend money to good customers, under the doctrine, to which I cannot wholly agree, that all safe business paper may be discounted without danger. A plenty of money will raise prices, prosperity will beget excess, and excess must result in revulsion. And these alternations will be our lot and our history so long as we have no general regulator of the currency.
Now, I will not say, I never have said, that a Bank of the United States is absolutely necessary; but I have said that it has been tried for forty years with success, and is therefore entitled to respectful consideration. Some eight years ago, in the Senate of the United States, I said that a national bank had done much good to the country, yet it was not worth my while to propose its reestablishment while there was no general call of the people for such a measure. I remain of that opinion. I have said, more recently, that a national bank whose capital should be derived from private subscriptions, and with the power of private discounts, is out of the question. I think so still, though it may be I am mistaken. My reason is, that State institutions for these purposes have become so much multiplied, and that many States derive large portions of their revenue from taxes upon the capital of such banks. Nevertheless, I am quite willing to agree that a Bank of the United States, upon the old model, is perfectly constitutional; and if, in the opinion of a ftiture Congress and in the judgment of the country, such an institution should be deemed expedient, it shall have my hearty support. But my opinion is, that the country much more needs some institution under national authority, with power to restrain in some just mode the amount of paper issues, than it needs a bank which may itself make large discounts to individuals.
I have thus spoken upon commerce and the currency. These lead directly to the tariff, or the policy of encouraging domestic industry by laying discriminating duties on foreign importations.
I wish to state my opinions on this topic with some degree of precision, because I believe there is a sort of ultraism prevailing with regard to it, characteristic of the age. People run into extremes, not only in politics, but in all other matters. They are either on the Ganges, or at the extremity of the West. There are men who would carry a tariff to prohibition. Again, there are those who assert it to be perfectly unconstitutional to lay duties with the least regard to favoring or encouraging the products of our own country. My opinion is, that the power of favoring or encouraging productions of our own, by just discriminations in imposing duties for revenue on imports, does belong to Congress, and ought to be exercised in all proper cases.
This, Gentlemen, is my opinion, and I should be perfectly willing to discuss the matter with any candid man in the Commonwealth.
There are two propositions to which I invite your attention ; —
1st. Congress has the power to lay duties of impost. No State has this power. This is a most important consideration.
2d. Before the adoption of the Constitution, and while the States could lay impost duties, several of them laid such duties, with discriminations avowedly intended to foster their own products. They now can do no such thing. It must accordingly be done by Congress, or not at all.
Now the power of Congress is to regulate commerce. And in all English history, and all our own history, down to the Revolution, and to the time of the adoption of the Constitution, importation of some articles was encouraged, and of others discouraged or prohibited, by regulations of trade. The regulation of trade, therefore, was a term of well-known meaning, and did comprehend the duty or object of discriminating, with a view to favor home productions. We find this to have been so in England, from the time of her Tudors and Stuarts down; and in America, the opinion I have stated was held by Otis, Adams, and the other great and eminent men of the Revolution. But upon this point I need not dwell, for the whole doctrine has been placed upon immutable foundations by a son of your own county, a most distinguished member of the Senate of the United States (Hon. Rufus Choatc), in his speech of March, 1842
The amount of the whole matter is this. History instructs us, that, before the Constitution was formed, the States laid duties of imposts; but each only for itself, and therefore the duties were very different and unequal; and the States which laid duties for the protection of their own manufactures were immediately exposed to competition from others that had no manufactures, who would open their ports freely to the goods taxed by their neighbors. We see at once how vain it would be for one State to look only to her own interests, while all the others were looking only to theirs. Take a supposed instance, for example, in the case of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Massachusetts had manufactures, Rhode Island had not. Massachusetts laid duties on imported goods, Rhode Island did not. The consequence would be, that the goods taxed by Massachusetts in her seaport towns would be brought free into Newport or Providence, and it would only be by a cordon of custom-houses throughout the whole extent of her border, that Massachusetts could prevent the introduction of those goods into her territories.
The case is suppositions, but I speak to Massachusetts men who understand the effect of such a system, whose fathers experienced it, and I tell them that this obvious effect produced in Massachusetts, as much as any thing, the disposition to come under a general government, and to ratify the Constitution. It was, in fact, the full belief of the people, that this power of laying discriminating duties was granted to Congress, as part of the revenue power, and that it would be exercised. They had a right to expect, and did expect, that it would be used beneficially for their interests.
The whole history of the country from 1783 to 1788 proves this. That history is as important as that of any period of our national existence. We see in it the then infant States struggling under a load of debt incurred in the sacred cause of the Revolution, struggling under the extinction of commerce and prostration of manufactures, and struggling all in vain. These things produced that strong disposition which prevailed from 1784 to 1788, to establish a uniform system of commercial regulations, and extend also all proper encouragement to manufactures.
Gentlemen, a native of Massachusetts, certainly inferior to none in sagacity, and whose name confers honor upon the whole country, Dr. Benjamin Franklin, in 1787, indicated his sentiments upon these points in a very remarkable manner. The convention to deliberate upon the formation of the Constitution was held in Philadelphia, in May, 1787. Dr. Franklin was, if I remember aright, the President, as the office was then called, of Pennsylvania, and was chosen also as a member of the convention. As the delegates were assembling, he invited them to a meeting at his house, on which occasion a paper on this subject was read, which was subsequently printed, and to extracts from which I would call your attention.* They will show you what were the sentiments of Dr. Franklin. They prove that far-sighted sagacity, which could discern what was then visible to so few eyes; and that wisdom, which pointed out a course so greatly beneficial.
Let me now revert to the opinions of Massachusetts in this respect; to this good old Bay State, whose citizens we arc proud to be, and whose early espousal of the cause of a national government is so well known. I will observe, first, that at the time these opinions were sanctioned by Dr. Franklin, and, indeed, till a very recent period, the manufacturers of the country were shop-workmen; tailors, hatters, smiths, shoemakers, and others, who wrought in their own shops; but still the principle is the same as if they were banded into corporations. He who denies to Congress the power to protect manufactures, as now carried on, denies protection as much to every individual workman as to Andover or Lowell. Let all classes of artisans; in the cities and villages, think well of this.
Now, Gentlemen, it so happened, that, in the years of severe disaster between the peace and the formation of the Constitution, the merchants and mechanics of Boston had their attention called to the subject, and their proceedings, only a little earlier than the paper just referred to, sprang from the same sense of necessity. I will trouble you to listen to some of them, which I gather from the publications of that day.
At a numerous and respectable meeting of "the merchants, traders, and others, convened at Faneuil Hall," on Saturday, the 16th of April, 1785, the following, among other resolutions, were adopted: —
"Whereas no commercial treaty is at present established between these United States and Great Britain, and whereas certain British merchants, factors, and agents from England are now residing in this town, who have received large quantities of English goods, and are in expectation of receiving further supplies, imported in British bottoms, or otherwise, greatly to the hinderance of freight in all American vessels ; and as many more such persons are daily expected to arrive among us, which threatens an entire monopoly of all British importations in the hands of such
* See Appendix, No. I.