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There are those who think that this excitement among the people will prove transitory and evanescent. I am not of that opinion. So far as I can judge, attention to public affairs among the people of the United States has increased, is increasing, and is not likely to be diminished; and this not in one part of the country, but all over it. This certainly is the fact, if we may judge from recent information. The breeze of popular excitement is blowing everywhere. It fans the air in Alabama and the Carolinas; and I am of opinion, that, when it shall cross the Potomac, and range along the Northern Alleghanies, it will grow stronger and stronger, until
, mingling with the gales of the Empire State, and the mountain blasts of New England, it will blow a perfect hurricane.
There are those, again, who think these vast popular meetings are got up by effort; but I say that no effort could get them up, and no effort can keep them down. There must, then, be some general cause that animates the whole country. What is that cause? It is upon this point I propose to give my opinion today. I have no design to offend the feelings of any, but I mean in perfect plainness to express my views to the vast multitude assembled around. I know there are among them many who from first to last supported General Jackson. I know there are many who, if conscience and patriotism permitted, would support his successor;* and I should ill repay the attention with which they may honor me by any reviling or denunciation. Again, I come to play no part of oratory before you. If there have been times and occasions in my life when I might be supposed anxious to exhibit myself in such a light, that period has passed, and this is not one of the occasions. I come to dictate and prescribe to no man. If my experience, not now short, in the affairs of government, entitle my opinions to any respect, those opinions are at the service of my fellow-citizens. What I shall state as facts, I hold myself and my character responsible for; what I shall state as opinions, all are alike at liberty to reject or to receive. I ask such consideration for them only as the fairness and sincerity with which they are uttered may claim.
What, then; has excited the whole land, from Maine to Georgia, and gives us assurance, that, while we are meeting here
Mr. Van Buren.
in New York in such vast numbers, other like meetings are holding throughout all the States? That this cause must be general is certain, for it agitates the whole country, and not parts only.
When that fluid in the human system indispensable to life becomes disordered, corrupted, or obstructed in its circulation, not the head or the heart alone suffers; but the whole body head, heart, and hand, all the members, and all the extremities is affected with debility, paralysis, numbness, and death. The analogy between the human system and the social and political system is complete; and what the lifeblood is to the former, circulation, money, currency, is to the latter; and if that be disordered or corrupted, paralysis must fall on the system.
The original, leading, main cause, then, of all our difficulties and disasters, is the disordered state of the circulation. This is, perhaps, not a perfectly obvious truth; and yet it is one susceptible of easy demonstration. In order to explain this the more readily, I wish to bring your minds to the consideration of the internal condition, and the vast domestic trade, of the United States. Our country is not a small province or canton, but an empire, extending over a large and diversified surface, with a population of various conditions and pursuits. It is in this variety that consists its prosperity; for the different parts become useful one to the other, not by identity, but by difference, of production, and thus each by interchange contributes to the interest of the other. Hence, our internal trade, that which carries on this exchange of the products and industry of the different portions of the United States, is one of our most important interests, I had almost said, the most important. Its operations are easy and silent, not always perceptible, but diffusing health and life throughout the system by the intercourse thus promoted, from neighborhood to neighborhood, and from State to State.
Let me explain this a little in detail. You are here in a graingrowing State. Your interest, then, is to have consumers, not growers, of grain. The hands that, in the broad belt which stretches across the country in which grain best succeeds, grow wheat, are interested to find mouths elsewhere to consume what they raise. The manufacturers of the North and East need the grain of the Middle States, and the cotton of the South, and
these in turn buy the manufactures of the East. Nor is this solely matter of interest, but it is in some degree brought about by the regulations of foreign governments. Our manufactures find no sale in Europe; and much of our grain is, under ordinary circumstances, excluded from its markets. In France it is never admitted, and in England in a manner so contingent and uncertain as to tantalize rather than gratify the American husbandman.
The internal trade, moreover, moves as it were in a circle, and not directly. The great imports of the country are at New York, whence they pass to the South and to the West, while our exports are not mainly from New York, but from the South. Thus the main imports are at one quarter of the Union, and the exports from another. The same thing is true of other branches of trade. The produce of Ohio, much of it, descends the river to New Orleans; but Ohio is supplied with foreign commodities and domestic fabrics chiefly through the New York canals, the Lakes, and the Ohio Canal. The live stock of Kentucky goes to the Carolinas; where, however, Kentucky buys nothing, but transmits the money to Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York, and in those cities procures what she wants, to be sent to her across the Alleghanies.
This circuit of trade, in a country of such great extent as ours, demands, more than in any country under heaven, a uniform currency for the whole people; that what is money in Carolina shall be so elsewhere; that what the Kentucky drover receives, what the planter of Alabama sells for, what the laborer in New York gets in pay for his work, and carries home to support his family, shall be of ascertained and uniform value.
This is not the time nor the occasion for an essay or dissertation on money; but I mean distinctly to express the opinion, that until the general government shall take in hand the currency of the country, until that government shall devise some means, I say not what, of raising the whole currency to the level of gold and silver, there can be no prosperity.
Let us retrace briefly the history of the currency question in this country, a most important branch of the commercial question. I appeal to all who have studied the history of the times, and of the Constitution, whether our fathers, in framing the Constitution which should unite us in common rights and a
common glory, had not also among their chief objects to provide a uniform system of commerce, including a uniform system of currency for the whole country. I especially invite the ingenuous youth of the country to go back to the history of those times, and particularly to the Virginia resolutions of 1786, and to the proceedings of the convention at Annapolis, and they will there find that the prevailing motive for forming a general government was, to secure a uniform system of commerce, of custom-house duties, and a general regulation of the trade, external and internal, of the whole country. It was no longer to be the commerce of New York, or of Massachusetts, but of the United States, to be carried on under that star-spangled banner, which was to bear to every shore, and over every sea, the glorious motto, E Pluribus Unum.
This being a chief and cherished object, when the first Congress under the Constitution assembled in New York, General Washington, in his speech, naturally drew its attention to the necessity of a uniform currency, looking, probably, at that time, to the mint first established in Philadelphia, to produce that eurrency.
What I wish to say is, that the difference in the currencies of the several States, and the want of a uniform system, both of commerce and currency, being among the chief inconveniences to be remedied by the establishment of the Constitution, the subject very naturally and properly attracted the early attention of the President, at the first session of the first Congress.
At the second session, the United States Bank was established. Without detaining you by quoting papers or speeches of that day, I will simply refer any one, curious to inquire, to the official documents of the time, and to the contemporaneous expressions of public opinion on the leading measures of that day, for proof that, while one object of incorporating a national bank was, that it might occasionally make loans to government, and take charge of the disbursement of its revenues, another object quite as prominent and important was to furnish a circulation, a paper circulation, founded on national resources, that should be current all over the country. General Washington had the sagacity to see, what, indeed, minds less sagacious than his could not fail to perceive, that the confidence reposed in the United States under the Constitution would impart to what
ever came from Congress greater authority and value than could attach to any thing emanating from any single State.
The assumption by Congress of the State debts illustrates this remark; for the moment the United States became bound for those debts, and proceeded to fund them, they rose enormously and rapidly in value.
General Washington and his advisers saw that a mixed currency, if the paper had the mark of the Union, and bore on it the spread eagle, would command universal confidence throughout the country; and the result proved the wisdom of their foresight. From the incorporation of the bank to the expiration of its charter, embracing a period of great commercial and political vicissitudes, the currency furnished by that bank was never objected to: it, indeed, surpassed the hopes and equalled the desires of every body. The charter expired in 1811; how, or why, or from what state of parties, it is not my purpose to discuss, but the charter was not renewed. War with England was declared in June, 1812. Immediately upon the declaration of war, all the banks south of New England stopped payment, and those of New England ceased to issue notes; and thus, in fact, the payment of specie in those States amounted to little or nothing. At the close of the war, the condition of the currency, which had become very much deranged, not improving, Mr. Madison brought the subject before Congress. In his messages, both in 1814 and 1815, he dwelt earnestly on the subject; and in 1816 the second Bank of the United States was incorporated, and went at once into operation. At its outset, owing possibly to mismanagement, perhaps unavoidably, the bank met with heavy losses; but it fulfilled its functions in providing a currency for the whole country; and neither during the eight years of President Monroe's administration, nor the four years of President Adams's, were any complaints on that score heard. And now I desire to call attention to a particular fact. There were several candidates for the Presidency to succeed Mr. Monroe, — General Jackson, Mr. Adams, Mr. Crawford, and Mr. Clay. None of them received a sufficient number of votes from the electors to be chosen President. General Jackson received the largest number of any; but the House of Representatives chose John Quincy Adams President. From that moment a fierce opposition was commenced against his administration. I do not propose to