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to many, I thought the best that could possibly have been made, and learned that it was fast gaining the approbation of all who thought with me; and above all, when I beheld the warm enthusiasm and the heartfelt union which soon animated their ranks and concentrated their movements, I then began to entertain a confidence that the hi>ur of deliverance was at hand, and that my long-suffering country would yet relieve herself from the disastrous condition to which she had been reduced.
I hope, Gentlemen, you will not be alarmed, if I take from my notes one more paper. I will detain you but a few moments in briefly expressing the opinions I entertain in regard to the sub-treasury. It appears to me to be a scheme entirely new to our history, and foreign to our habits, and to be the last of a series erf baffled experiments, into which the representatives of the people have been lashed and driven by the continued exercise of executive power, through four mortal sessions of Congress.
I will say a word or two in relation to the system, under the various aspects in which its friends have supported it. What are the arguments in its favor? The leading argument was that of safety to the government. This was a plan to keep the public money where rogues could not run away with it. Now I think there is a way to prevent that, which would be much more effectual; and that is, not to trust rogues with the keeping of the public money. But as to the notion of vaults better and more secure than those of the banks, is it not the most ridiculous of all humbugs? I do not know in which of the bank vaults around me the receiver-general keeps his funds. If they are in a vault different from that which belongs to the bank, I will venture to say it is no better and no safer. It is said, however, that by this means government is to keep its own money. What does this mean? Who is that government? Who is that individual " I," who is to keep our money in his own pocket? Is not government a mere collection of agencies? Is not every dollar it possesses placed in trust with somebody? It may be put in vaults under a key, but the key is given to somebody to keep. Government is not a person with pockets.
The only question is, whether the government agents under the sub-treasury are any safer than the government agents before it was adopted? Mr. Wright, indeed, has assured us, that the agents under the sub-treasury are made responsible to the people. But how? In what respect? The receiver-general gives bonds; but how is he more responsible on that account than the collector in another street, who, like him, receives the public money, and like him gives bonds for its safe-keeping? It is just the same thing. One of these officers is just as far from the people, and just as near to the people, as the other. How, then, is the receiver-general more directly responsible? There is not a particle of truth or reason in the whole matter. If the vaults are not better, is the security better? I have no manner of doubt that the receiver-general in this city is a highly respect able man; but where is the proof that the government money is any safer in his vault than in the bank where he has his office? Suppose Mr. Allen had a private office of his own, at a distance from the bank, and should give the same bonds he now does for the safe-keeping of all moneys intrusted to him; how many of you would deposit your private funds in his office, rather than in a bank having half a million or a million of dollars capital, under the government of directors whose own fortunes were deposited in its vaults? Try the experiment, and see how many would resort to Mr. Allen, and how many to the banks.
So far from being safer, I maintain, on the contrary, that this sub-treasury scheme jeopards the public money, because it multiplies the hands through which it is to pass, and thereby multiplies the chances of corruption or of loss. Your collector, Mr. Hoyt, receives the money on duty bonds. He holds it subject to the draft or order of the Secretary of the Treasury, or else is to pay it over to Mr. Allen. If Mr. Hoyt were dishonest, might he not have shared the money before the receiver-general could get at it? The scheme doubles the chances of loss, by doubling the hands which are to keep the money.
But this scheme is to encourage the circulation of specie. I certainly shall not detain you on a matter with which you are more familiar than I am; but let me ask you a few questions. By one clause of the sub-treasury law, one fourth of all the duties bonded is to be paid in specie, and the residue according to the resolution of 1816. Now I want to know one thing: if one of you has a custom-house bond to pay, you go to the collector with a certified check, purporting to be payable in specie, for one fourth of the amount, and another check, in common form, for the other three fourths. Does not the collector receive these checks? That is the question I ask you. (Loud cries of "Yes! yes!" "He does! he does!") Well, then, is not all that part of the law which requires the payment of one fourth in specie a mere sham? If you go to him with a draft and demand specie, he will, no doubt, give it to you if you request it; but if not, he gives you good notes. Where, then, is all this marching and countermarching of specie, which was to gladden our eyes? Is it not all humbug? What does the collector do with the money when he gets it? Does he not deposit it in a bank of a very unsavory name? I do not certainly know, but I believe he deposits it in the Bank of the United States. He afterwards pays it over to the receiver-general, and gives him all the specie he wants; and yet, after all, there is no general use of specie in the matter.
They speak about a divorce between bank and state; and what does it amount to? I ask you, Is not the great amount of government funds at this moment in safe keeping in some bank? I believe it is. Then there is no separation. The government gives the money to individuals to keep, and they, like sensible men, put it into bank. Is this separation? If any change is made in the connection, it is to render it more close; and, like other illicit connections, the closer it is, the more secret it is kept.
It is called the "Independent Treasury," and some of its friends have called it "a second Declaration of Independence." Independence! how? of what? It is dependent on individuals, who immediately go to the bank; and is it to be tolerated that there should be this outcry about the use of specie, when here, in the heart of the commercial community, you see and know that there is no such thing?
But though at present this is all sham, yet that power to demand specie which the law contains, when its requirements shall cover the whole revenue of the government, and when that revenue shall be large, may, in its exercise, become a most dangerous instrument. When government shall have in the banks of this city from twelve to fifteen millions of dollars on deposit, as it has had, it will be in the power of the government to break down, at its pleasure, one, if not all, of these institutions. And when you go to the West, where the money is received for the public lands, every specie-paying bank in the country may, at the mere pleasure of the government, be compelled to shut up its doors.
But this independent treasury is to be independent of the banks! Well, if the sub-treasury law is to be called the second Declaration of Independence, then there is a third Declaration of Independence, and that is the treasury-note law. How marvellously free does that make us of banks! While two millions of these notes, bearing interest, are deposited there, — and there, — and there, — in all these banks around me! Deposited? How deposited? They are sold. And how sold? They are deposited in these banks, carrying interest, while the bank gives the government authority to draw for money when needed. Now, I say the bank may make, not a very unreasonable, but a very reasonable, amount by the interest in these notes, before it is called on to pay out any of its own money. One of these accounts between bank and government was examined by a friend of mine; I had not myself time to look at it. The bank received treasury-notes bearing interest; it passed these to the credit of government, at the nominal amount; the government was then to draw for money as it wanted it; and, on that single transaction, the bank realized between eighty and a hundred thousand dollars in interest. Now, this is what I call a third Declaration of Independence! You know, by the Secretary's report, that the government has already issued nearly the whole of the five millions authorized by Congress. Two millions lie in the banks, drawing interest, the banks paying government drafts as they come in. And this is setting up for independence of the banks!
Again, the fashion now is, since Mr. Calhoun has forced the administration to insert in the law the specie clause, for government to discredit the use of bank paper whenever it can. That is the general tone of the government communications. They avow such to be their object, and I believe them. But who can tell the consequence of discrediting bank paper, if our revenues should ever again become what they have been in times past? It is a power by which government can break the solvent banks, but can never make the insolvent return to their duty.
But then, it is said, all this cannot be any great matter, because Mr. Wright tells us, that, in ordinary times, five millions of dollars will perform all the operations of receipt and expenditure. Now, that proposition depends upon Mr. Wright's estimate of what the expenditure will be. Does he expect to reduce it to the standard of Mr. Adams's administration, once denounced as so extravagant? Does he expect to reduce the thirtynine millions to thirteen millions? or will he go below that? He does not tell us. For my own part, I believe five or five and a half millions would be a moiety of the average amount of specie in all the banks in the city. You can judge for yourselves what must be the effect of withdrawing one half of all the specie in these banks, and of locking it up in the subtreasury vaults.
But how does all this stand with Mr. Wright's main argument? He says that the great object to be effected by the subtreasury law is to prevent fluctuations, by preventing the banks from discounting upon the public money. But if five millions of dollars only are needed for the ordinary treasury operations, can such a sum as this have produced all the fluctuations in the commercial community? Surely not. In his printed speech, he says that the chief practical difference produced by the law is, that the money is now kept by Mr. Allen, which used to be kept by the Bank of America. But is that all? What, then, becomes of the specie clause? I suppose he knows that was all a sham.
Gentlemen, I will not detain you longer on the practical operation of this sub-treasury scheme. So far as relates to the receipts and disbursements of the public treasure, you know better than I. A great part of these operations take place in your own city. But permit me now to go, for a moment, into the political objection to this sub-treasury scheme; I mean Us utter omission of all concern with the general currency of the country. This objection is cardinal and decisive. It is this which has roused the country, and which is to decide the fate of the present administration. But the question is so general, it has so long been before the country, and so frequently discussed in all quarters, that I will not farther extend my remarks in regard to it. I believe that the mind of the people is now thoroughly awakened, and that the day rapidly approaches when their final judgment will be pronounced.