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with another it is the law of 1820; with a third it is the general superintending power of the President; and this last argument, since it resolves itself into mere power, without stopping to point out the sources of that power, is not only the shortest, but in truth the most just. He is the most sensible, as well as the most candid reasoner, in my opinion, who places this Treasury order on the ground of the pleasure of the Executive, and stops there. I regard the joint Resolution of 1816 as mandatory; as prescribing a legal rule; as putting this subject, in which all have so deep an interest, beyond the caprice, or the arbitrary pleasure, or the discretion of the Secretary of the Treasury. I believe there is not the slightest legal authority, either in that officer, or in the President, to make a distinction, and to say that paper may be received for debts at the Custom House, but that gold and silver only shall be received at the Land Offices. And now for the sequel.
At the commencement of the last session, as you know, Gentlemen, a Resolution was brought forward in the Senate, for annulling and abrogating this order, by Mr. Ewing, a gentleman of much intelligence, of sound principles, of vigorous and energetic character, whose loss from the service of the country, I regard as a public misfortune. The Whig members all supported this Resolution, and all the members, I believe, with the exception of some five or six, were very anxious, in some way, to get rid of the Treasury order. But Mr. Ewing's Resolution was too direct. It was deemed a pointed and ungracious attack on Executive policy. Therefore it must be softened, modified, qualified, made to sound less harsh to the ears of men in power, and to assume a plausible, polished, inoffensive character. It was accordingly put into the plastic hands of friends of the Executive to be moulded and fashioned, so that it might have the effect of ridding the country of the obnoxious order, and yet not appear to question Executive infallibility. All this did not answer. The late President is not a man to be satisfied with soft words; and he saw in the measure, even as it passed the two Houses, a substantial repeal of the order. He is a man of boldness and decision; and he respects boldness and decision in others. If you are his friend, he expects no flinching; and if you are his adversary, he respects you none the less, for carrying your opposition to the full limits of honorable warfare. Gentlemen, I most sincerely regret the course of the President, in regard to this bill, and certainly most highly disapprove it. But I do not suffer the mortification of having attempted to disguise and garnish it, in order to make it acceptable, and of still finding it thrown back in my face. All that was obtained by this ingenious, diplomatic, and over-courteous mode of enacting a law, was a response from the President and the Attorney General, that the Bill in question was obscure, ill-penned, and not easy to be understood. The Bill therefore was neither
approved, nor negatived. If it had been approved, the Treasury order would have been annulled, though in a clumsy and objectionable manner. If it had been negatived, and returned to Congress, no doubt it would have been passed by two thirds of both Houses, and in that way become a law, and abrogated the order. But it was not approved, it was not returned; it was retained. It had passed the Senate in season; it had been sent to the House in season; but there it was suffered to lie so long without being called up, that it was completely in the power of the President, when it finally passed that body; since he is not obliged to return Bills, which he does not approve, if not presented to him ten days before the end of the Session. The Bill was lost, therefore, and the Treasury order remains in force. Here again the Representatives of the People, in both Houses of Congress, by majorities almost unprecedented, endeavored to abolish this obnoxious order. On hardly any subject, indeed, has opinion been so unanimous, either in or out of Congress. Yet the order remains.
And now, Gentlemen, I ask you, and I ask all men who have not voluntarily surrendered all power and all right of thinking for themselves, whether, from 1832 to the present moment, the Executive authority has not effectually superseded the power of Congress, thwarted the will of the Representatives of the People, and even of the People themselves, and taken the whole subject of the currency into its own grasp? In 1832, Congress desired to continue the Bank of the United States, and a majority of the People desired it also; but the President opposed it, and his will prevailed. In 1833, Congress refused to remove the Deposits; the President resolved upon it, however, and his will prevailed. Congress has never been willing to make a Bank, founded on the money and credit of the Government, and administered, of course, by Executive hands; but this was the President's object, and he attained it, in a great measure, by the Treasury selection of Deposit Banks. In this particular, therefore, to a great extent, his will prevailed. In 1836, Congress refused to confine the receipts for public lands to gold and silver; but the President willed it, and his will prevailed. In 1837, both Houses of Congress, by more than two thirds, passed a Bill for restoring the former state of things by annulling the Treasury order; but the President willed, notwithstanding, that the order should remain in force, and his will again prevailed. I repeat the question, therefore, and I would put it earnestly to every intelligent man, to every lover of our Constitutional Liberty are we under the dominion of the Law? or has the effectual government of the Country, at least in all that regards the great interest of the currency, been in a single hand? Gentlemen, I have done with the narrative of events and meas
I have done with the history of these successive steps, in
the progress of Executive power, towards a complete control over the revenue and the currency.
The result is now all before us. These pretended reforms, these extraordinary exercises of power from an extraordinary zeal for the good of the People, - what have they brought us to ?
In 1829, the currency was declared to be neither sound nor uniform; a proposition, in my judgment, altogether at variance with the fact, because I do not believe there ever was a country, of equal extent, in which paper formed any part of the circulation, that possessed a currency so sound, so uniform, so convenient, and so perfect in all respects, as the currency of this Country, at the moment of the delivery of that message, in 1829.
But how is it now? Where has the improvement brought it? What has reform done? What has the great cry for hard money accomplished? Is the currency uniform now? Is money in New Orleans now as good, or nearly so, as money in New York? Are exchanges at par, or only at the same low rates as in 1829 and other years? Every ? Every one here knows that all the benefits of this experiment are but injury and oppression; all this reform, but aggravated distress.
And as to the soundness of the currency, how does that stand? Are the causes of alarm less now than in 1829? Is there less Bank paper in circulation? in circulation? Is there less fear of a general catastrophe? Is property more secure, or industry more certain of its reward? We all know, Gentlemen, that during all this pretended warfare against all Banks, Banks have vastly increased. Millions upon millions of Bank paper have been added to the circulation. Every where, and no where so much as where the present administration, and its measures, have been most zealously supported, Banks have multiplied under State authority, since the decree was made that the Bank of the United States should be suffered to expire. Look at Mississippi, Missouri, Louisiana, Virginia, and other States. Do we not see that Banking capital and Bank paper are enormously increasing? The opposition to Banks, therefore, so much professed, whether it be real, or whether it be but pretended, has not restrained either their number or their issues of paper. Both have vastly increased.
And now a word or two, Gentlemen, upon this hard-money scheme, and the fancies, and the delusions, to which it has given birth. Gentlemen, this is a subject of delicacy, and one which it is difficult to treat with sufficient caution, in a popular and occasional address like this. I profess to be a bullionist, in the usual and accepted sense of that word. I am for a solid specie basis for our circulation, and for specie as a part of the circulation, so far as it may be practicable and convenient. I am for giving no value to paper, merely as paper. I abhor paper; that is to say, irredeemable
paper, paper that may not be converted into gold or silver at the will of the holder. But while I hold to all this, I believe, also, that an exclusive gold and silver circulation is an utter impossibility in the present state of this country, and of the world. We shall none of us ever see it; and it is credulity and folly, in my opinion, to act under any such hope or expectation. The States will make Banks, and these will issue paper; and the longer the Government of the United States neglects its duty in regard to measures for regulating the currency, the greater will be the amount of Bank paper, overspreading the country. Of this I entertain not a particle of doubt.
While I thus hold to the absolute and indispensable necessity of gold and silver, as the foundation of our circulation, I yet think nothing more absurd and preposterous, than unnatural and strained efforts to import specie. There is but so much specie in the world, and its amount cannot be greatly or suddenly increased. Indeed there are reasons for supposing that its amount has recently diminished, by the quantity used in manufactures, and by the diminished products of the mines. The existing amount of specie, however, must support the paper circulations, and the systems of currency, not of the United States only, but of other nations also. One of its great uses is to pass from country to country, for the purpose of settling occasional balances in commercial transactions. It always finds its way, naturally and easily, to places where it is needed for these uses. But to take extraordinary pains to bring it, where the course of trade does not bring it, where the state of debt and credit does not require it to be, and then to endeavor, by unnecessary and injurious regulations, Treasury orders, accumulations at the Mint, and other contrivances, there to retain it, is a course of policy, bordering, as it appears to me, on political insanity. It is boasted that we have seventy-five or eighty millions of specie now in the country. But what more senseless, what more absurd than this boast, if there is a balance against us abroad, of which payment is desired, sooner than remittances of our own products are likely to make that payment? What more miserable than to boast of having that, which is not ours, which belongs to others, and which the convenience of others, and our own convenience also, requires that they should possess? If Boston were in debt to New York, would it be wise in Boston, instead of paying its debt, to contrive all possible means of obtaining specie from the New York Banks, and hoarding it at home? And yet this, as I think, would be precisely as sensible as the course, which the Government of the United States at present pursues. We have, without all doubt, a great amount of specie in the country, but it does not answer its accustomed end, it does not perform its proper duty. It neither goes abroad to settle
balances against us, and thereby quiet those who have demands upon us; nor is it so disposed of at home, as to sustain the circulation, to the extent which the circumstances of the times require. A great part of it is in the western Banks, in the Land Offices, on the roads through the Wilderness, on the passages over the Lakes, from the Land Offices to the Deposit Banks, and from the Deposit Banks back to the Land Offices. Another portion is in the hands of buyers and sellers of specie; of men in the West, who sell Land Office money to the new settlers for a high premium. Another portion, again, is kept in private hands, to be used when circumstances shall tempt to the purchase of lands. And, Gentlemen, I am inclined to think, so loud has been the cry about hard money, and so sweeping the denunciation of all paper, that private holding, or hoarding, prevails to some extent, in different parts of the country. These eighty millions of specie, therefore, really do us little good. We are weaker in our circulation, I have no doubt, our credit is feebler, money is scarcer with us, at this moment, than if twenty millions of this specie were shipped to Europe, and general confidence thereby restored.
Gentlemen, I will not say, that some degree of pressure might not have come upon us, if the Treasury order had not issued. will not say, that there has not been over-trading, and over-production, and a too great expansion of Bank circulation. This may all be so, and the last-mentioned evil, it was easy to foresee, was likely to happen, when the United States discontinued their own Bank. But what I do say is, that acting upon the state of things as it actually existed, and is now actually existing, the Treasury order has been, and now is, productive of great distress. It acts upon a state of things, which gives extraordinary force to its stroke, and extraordinary point to its sting. It arrests specie, when the free use and circulation of specie are most important; it cripples the Banks, at a moment when the Banks, more than ever, need all their means. It makes the merchant unable to remit, when remittance is necessary for his own credit, and for the general adjustment of commercial balances. I am not now discussing the general question, whether prices must not come down, and adjust themselves, anew, to the amount of bullion, existing, in Europe and America. I am dealing only with the measures of our own Government, on the subject of the currency, and I insist that these measures have been most unfortunate, and most ruinous on the ordinary means of our circulation, at home, and on our ability of remittance abroad.
Their effects, too, by deranging and misplacing the specie, which is in the country, are most disastrous on domestic exchanges. Let him who has lent an ear to all these promises of a more uniform currency, see how he can now sell his draft on New Orleans, or