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1846. He will follow the bright example of him whom he so much commends, Mr. Polk, and whatever, in the same career of legislation, Mr. Polk has left undone, General Cass will be on hand to do. So that it brings us exactly, as practical men, as men who are not carried away by theories, as men who do not attach all degree and all manner of importance to one single idea, as men who regard the various interests of the country, now and hereafter, to this position, to give our suffrages and our support heartily and cordially to General Taylor, or to consent to the election of General Cass.
Ought these measures, to which I have thus referred, to be further prolonged or continued, or ought they now to be repudiated, — to be set aside, and to give place to other and wiser measures of government? That is the question pending. And to begin with what is called the sub-treasury system. Ought that to be continued? Is it useful? Do the business men of the community find a benefit in it? Do the laboring classes find it to protect their interests? In short, does government find it convenient for its own purposes?
But before we consider what the results of the pending election may be, it may be well to understand what is the present state of the country, in regard to the business and occupations of men.
On that point, Gentlemen, I might, with great propriety, ask for information from you. And what I have to say upon it, I say with deference to your knowledge and experience. What, then, is the present state of things? I suppose I may answer, that there is a very unusual scarcity of money, or high price of money, in the community at the present moment; that it has lasted a very unusual length of time; that it has now continued for more than twelve months, without any apparent abatement. I suppose I may say, that there is a great depression of industry and stagnation of business, and discouragement to the occupations of men. I suppose I may say, with truth, that there is a diminished demand for manufacturing labor, and a great and increasing diminution in its reward. Is this a true, though brief, presentation of the actual state of things?
There are before me hundreds of men who, with some capital, like all other men of business, have occasion also, at times, for loans and discounts. Do they find, and do they admit, and do they feel, that money is scarce and dear? Do they find, in the daily operations of affairs in their own sphere of active life, that they are embarrassed on account of this dearness of money? All that I suppose every body can answer for himself. I suppose it is too notorious to be doubted for a moment; and having put this question to the active, industrious classes of society, engaged in trade and manufactures, and expecting to receive, if they were to speak, but one answer from them all, I would, in the next place, put the question to the rich men of the country, to the capitalists, to the men who have money to lend. I would ask them whether good notes are not now to be had at what they consider a satisfactory rate of discount; and I should expect to receive from them a very cheerful and satisfied answer.
In my judgment, Gentlemen, for a whole year back, the rich have been growing richer and richer; the active and industrious classes have been more and more embarrassed; and the poor have been growing poorer and poorer, every day throughout the whole year. And in my judgment, further, so long as this sub-treasury lasts, so long as the present rate of duties and customs lasts, that is to say, so long as the tariff of 1846 continues, this state of accumulation by the rich, of distress of the industrious classes, and of the aggravated poverty of the poor, will go on from degree to degree, to an end which I shall not attempt to calculate.
In the first place, Gentlemen, as to this constitutional subtreasury, I look upon it as one of the strangest fantasies, as one of the greatest deceptions, and as one of the least plausible political delusions, ever produced by party power and party management. Is there a civilized and commercial country in the world that knows any such thing as locking up in chests and boxes, under bolts and bars, the public treasury? Is there any civilized people upon the earth, that separates the interest of the government, in respect to currency and money, from the interests of the people? Is there any such thing known in England, or France, or wherever a spirit of commerce has pervaded the people? If there is, I am ignorant of it.
And now, historically, let me ask, How did it arise, and what is its origin? It is all very plain, and soon told. General Jackson had a controversy with the Bank of the United States, in which the public moneys were deposited. He withdrew those public moneys from the Bank of the United States in the year 1833. How, then, should the public moneys be kept? He did not see fit to leave them as they were before there were banks, in the hands of collectors, to be drawn as wanted, but he adopted an "experiment," as he called it at the time, and placed them in deposit banks. That experiment failed in 1836 and 1837; and with a great explosion, these State deposit banks blew up.
By this time, Mr. Van Buren had come into office, and summoned an extra session of Congress, which assembled in September, 1837; and Mr. Van Buren and his counsellors produced on that day, as an original idea, — and it was altogether original, — as of their own invention, — and it was of their own invention, for in that respect they stole no man's thunder,— they produced this project of what they called a constitutional treasury, or sub-treasury, which was to lock up in the chests of the government every dollar which the government received, until it should be called for again by the government, thus abstracting it from the business of society, and obstructing all commercial proceedings as far as so much capital is concerned. That system prevailed. The country tried it. It lasted during Mr. Van Buren's administration; and you and I, and all other Whigs in the country, exerted ourselves to expose the bad character, the uselessness, the inconvenience, and the mischievous operation of this sub-treasury; and upon that, the Whigs of the country turned Mr. Van Buren out of office. Yes, Gentlemen, there was no question which had more to do with the overthrow of Mr. Van Buren's administration and the election of General Harrison, in November, 1840, than this very question of the sub-treasury. Do we not all know that?
And now, by the way, if it be by the way and not too far out of the way, what are we Whigs requested to do by many members of the community, and, I am sorry to say, by some of our own party? We are requested to take back Mr. Van Buren, sub-treasury and all. We are requested to pass judgment against ourselves for our decision in 1840. And I see men in this Commonwealth, individuals, — but, thank Heaven, they are not a great number, — who, at the period of that discussion, in Congress and out of Congress, with a voice as distinct as mine, and talents far greater, opposed, decried, and condemned the sub-treasury system, as the greatest evil any government could inflict upon a commercial people, such as ours; I see them now taking Mr. Van Buren, sub-treasury and all, and locking him up in their embrace as fast as they can.
Gentlemen, I see with regret, that some of those who have been with us, — been with us here, been with us in the presence of these portraits of great men which hang around us, — denouncing, as we denounced, the policy of the government of Mr. Van Buren's time, upholding, as we endeavored to uphold, the necessity of a proper medium of currency for the people as well as the government, and the necessity of a fair tariff that should protect the industry of the laboring classes, — I see with pain and grief, that some gentlemen of that class now say that these are all "bygone" questions, and "obsolete," and not fit to be revived. In my judgment, that is a position unworthy of these gentlemen. We say, on the contrary, that here the substantial issues are the same. It is this sub-treasury which we would oppose, this tariff of 1846, which we felt as a millstone tied around our necks, as it has proved itself little else; these are still the things to be got rid of.
And those gentlemen who choose to say that these questions are sunk, overwhelmed, and forgotten in the presence of the "one idea," — such gentlemen mistake the sentiments of the people of Massachusetts. Why, let us again hear the friend of Mr. Polk (Mr. Buchanan) in his recent speech at Washington, a gentleman, certainly, who has as much right to speak for his party as any other man in the country. He puts the questions to be just such as they were in 1840, or rather in 1844. He says that the issue is between the party that will uphold this noble sub-treasury, and this glorious tariff of 1846, and those who would sacrilegiously destroy both the one and the other.
But here our brethren who take leave of us say that there is no difficulty about a tariff, —that every body agrees that we must have a tariff. But what sort of a tariff? They might as well say every body agrees that we must have a form of government; but what sort of government? Every body believes it will be some sort of weather to-morrow, but what sort of weather? Fair or foul? No, Gentlemen, these questions are inherent in our different views of policy. One side of them belongs to the Whigs, because they are Whigs, and the other side to our opponents, because they are opponents to Whigs; and so long as there shall be Whigs, and opponents to Whigs, vipon questions which have lasted from the days of Washington, let me say, so long will this tariff question be important and distinctive. I say again, Mr. Buchanan is manly and fair. He does not go about now, as he or his friends did in 1844, to tell the people of Pennsylvania that they shall have a good tariff and specific duties. He does not say that their candidate is more of a tariff man than the Whig candidate. If he did not say this in 1844, his political friends said it. He says now the sub-treasury is a noble institution; and he speaks of the present existing tariff as a system that has answered all the purposes and sustained the business of the country. I am glad to say that there is no more equivocation; that the question is put fairly to us in Massachusetts, fairly to Pennsylvania, fairly to the Union, respecting the sub-treasury x and the manner of disposing of the moneys of the government, and between the tariff of 1846 and something like the tariff of 1842, that is to say, a protective tariff.
Now, Gentlemen, I may be permitted to say, before going on to other things, that this sub-treasury, the invention of Mr. Van Buren, is still his favorite. As far as I remember, it has received no rebuke at the Buffalo Convention; and I believe, with all respect, that that Buffalo platform was constructed of such slight materials, that, while it would not bear a very heavy tread, it would sustain the fox-like footsteps of Mr. Van Buren. The creed was drawn up and made such as he could sign. And now, what is in point of fact the operation of this sub-treasury system? I am quite aware that I speak here in presence of merchants, manufacturers, and men of business, who understand it a great-deal better than I do; but I shall state its actual operation, as far as I can inform myself of it. I am not now about to argue either against the sub-treasury or against the tariff of 1846. These measures have been the law of the land now for two years, and all men of business have had a taste of their effects. All I propose to-night is to bring them to the trial, to inquire into their actual operations, and see whether they have fulfilled the promises of their friends, either by doing good or averting evil.
And instead of going into general principles and statements, I