« ПредишнаНапред »
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 firstestablished in Philadelphia, to produce that currency.
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 whatever 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 discuss the character or conduct of this opposition. The fact of its existence is all that I have to do with now, together with the fact, that, from the inauguration, in March, 1825, to March, 1829, an opposition, distinguished for its remarkable ability, perseverance, and ultimate success, was carried on under the name and flag of General Jackson.
All other candidates had disappeared. General Jackson was the sole opponent; and four years of active, angry, political controversy ensued, during which every topic of complaint that could be drawn into the vortex was drawn in; and yet — I beg special attention to this fact — not once during this four years' controversy did General Jackson himself, or any press in his interest, or any of his friends in Congress or elsewhere, raise a single voice against the condition of the currency, or propose any change therein. Of the hundreds here, possibly, who supported General Jackson, not one dreamed that he was elected to put down established institutions and overthrow the currency of the country. Who, among all those that, in the honest convictions of their hearts, cried, Hurrah for Jackson! believed or expected or desired thai he would interfere with the Bank of the United States, or destroy the circulating medium of the country? [Here there arose a cry from the crowd, "None! None!"] I stand here upon the fact, and defy contradiction from any quarter, that there was no complaint then, anywhere, of the bank. There never before was a country, of equal extent, where exchanges and circulation were carried on so cheaply, so conveniently, and so securely. General Jackson was inaugurated in March, 1829, and pronounced an address upon that occasion, which I heard, as I did the oath which he took to support the Constitution. In that address were enumerated various objects, requiring, as he said, reform; but among them was not the Bank of the United States, nor the currency. This was in March, 1829. In December, 1829, General Jackson came out with the declaration (than which none I have ever heard surprised me more), that "the constitutionality of the Bank of the United States might be well questioned," and that it had failed to furnish a sound and uniform currency to the country.
What produced this change of views? Down to March of the same year, nothing of this sort was indicated or threatened. What, then, induced the change? [A voice from the crowd said, "Martin Van Buren."] If that be so, it was the production of mighty consequences by a cause not at all proportioned. I will state, in connection with, and in elucidation of, this subject, certain transactions, which constitute one of those contingencies in human affairs, in which casual circumstances, acting upon the peculiar temper and character of a man of very decided temper and character, affect the fate of nations. A movement was made in the summer of 1829, for the purpose of effecting a change of certain officers of the branch of the Bank of the United States in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Mr. Woodbury, then a Senator from New Hampshire, transmitted to the president of the bank at Philadelphia a request, purporting to proceed from merchants and men of business of all parties, asking the removal of the president of that branch, not on political grounds, but as acceptable and advantageous to the business community. At the same time, Mr. Woodbury addressed a letter to the then Secretary of the Treasury, Mr. Ingham, suggesting that his department should, on political grounds, obtain from the mother bank the removal of the branch president. This letter was transmitted to the president of the mother bank, and reached him about the same time with the other; so that, looking upon this picture and upon that, upon one letter, which urged the removal on political grounds, and upon the other, which denied that political considerations entered into the matter at all, he concluded to let things remain as they were. Appeals were then artfully made to the President of the United States. His feelings were enlisted, and it is well known that, when he had an object in view, his character was to go ahead. I mean to speak no evil nor disrespect of General Jackson. He has passed off the stage to his retirement at the Hermitage, which it would be as well, perhaps, that friends should not disturb, and where I sincerely wish he may, in tranquillity, pass the residue of his days. But General Jackson's character was imperious; he took the back track never; and however his friends might differ, or whether they concurred or dissented, they were fain always to submit. General Jackson put forth the pretension, that appointments by the bank should have regard to the wishes of the treasury; the matter was formally submitted to the directors of the bank, and they as formally determined that the treasury could not rightly or properly have any thing to say in the matter. A long and somewhat angry correspondence ensued; for General Jackson found in the president of the bank a man who had something of his own quality. The result was that the bank resisted, and refused the required acquiescence in the dictation of the treasury.
This happened in the summer and autumn of 1829, and in December we had the message in which, for the first time, the bank was arraigned and denounced. Then came the application of the bank for re-incorporation, the passage of a bill for that purpose through both houses, and the Presidential veto. The Bank of the United States being thus put down, a multitude of new State banks sprang up; and next came a law, adopting some of these as deposit banks. Now, what I have to say in regard to General Jackson in this matter is this: he said he could establish a better currency; and, whether successful or not in this, it is at least to be said in his favor and praise, that he never did renounce the obligation of the federal government to take care of the currency, paper as well as metallic, of the people. It was in furtherance of this duty, which he felt called on to discharge, of "providing a better currency," that he recommended the prohibition of small bills. Why? Because, as it was argued, it would improve the general mixed currency of the country; and although he did not as distinctly as Mr. Madison admit and urge the duty of the federal government to provide a currency for the people, he never renounced it, but, on the contrary, in his message of December, 1835, held this explicit language:—
"By the use of the State banks, which do not derive their charters from the general government, and are not controlled by its authority, it is ascertained that the moneys of the United States can be collected and distributed without loss or inconvenience, and that all the wants of the community, in relation to exchange and currency, are supplied as well as they have ever been before." *
It is not here a question whether these banks did, or did not, effect the purpose which General Jackson takes so much praise to himself for accomplishing through their agency, that of supplying the country with as good a currency as it ever enjoyed.
* Message, December 2, 1835. VOL. II. 2