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large majorities, "That the Committee for the District of Columbia be instructed to take into consideration the laws within the District in respect to slavery; that they inquire into the slave trade as it exists in, and is carried on through, the District; and that they report to the House such amendments to the existing laws as shall seem to them to be just."
And it resolved also, "That the committee be further instructed to inquire into the expediency of providing by law for the gradual *abolition of slavery within the District, in such manner that the interest of no individual shall be injured thereby."
As early as March, 1816, the same House, on the motion of Mr. Randolph, of Virginia, resolved, "That a committee be appointed to inquire into the existence of an inhuman and illegal traffic of slaves carried on in and through the District of Columbia, and to report whether any, and what measures are necessary for putting a stop to the same.
It is known, also, Sir, that the Legislature of Pennsylvania has within a very few years urged upon Congress the propriety of providing for the abolition of slavery in the District. The House of Assembly of New York, about the same time, I think, passed a similar vote. After these proceedings, Mr. President, which were generally known, I think, the country was not at all prepared to find that these petitions would be objected to, on the ground that they asked for the exercise of an authority on the part of Congress, which Congress cannot constitutionally exercise; or that, having been formally received, the prayer of them, in regard to both objects, would be immediately rejected, without reference to the committee, and without any inquiry.
Now, Sir, the propriety, justice, and fitness of any interference of Congress, for either of the purposes stated in the petitions, are the points on which, as it seems to me, it is highly proper for a committee to make a report. The well-disposed and patriotic among these petitioners are entitled to be respectfully answered; and if there be among them others whose motives are less praiseworthy, it is not the part of prudence to give them the advantage which they would derive from a right of complaint that the Senate had acted hastily or summarily on their petitions, without inquiry or consideration.
Let the committee set forth their own views on these points, dispassionately, fully, and candidly. Let the argument be seen and heard; let the People be trusted with it; and I have no doubt that a fair discussion of the subject will produce its proper effect, both in and out of the Senate.
This, Sir, would have been, and is the course of proceeding, which appears to me to be prudent and just. The Senate, however, having decided otherwise, by a very large majority, I only
say so much, on the present occasion, as may suffice to make my own opinions known.
In reply to Mr. KING, of Alabama,
MR. WEBSTER said, that he was not aware of having said any thing which could justify the remarks of the honorable member. By what authority does the gentleman say (said Mr. W.) that I have placed myself at the head of these petitioners? The gentleman cannot be allowed, Sir, to assign to me any place or any character, which I do not choose to take to myself. I have only expressed my opinion as to the course which it is prudent and wise in us all to adopt, in disposing of these petitions.
It is true that, while the question on the reception of the petitions was pending, I observed that I should hold back these petitions till that question was decided. It is decided. The Senate has decided to receive the petitions; and being received, the manner of treating them necessarily arises. The origin of the authority of Congress over this District, the views and objects of the States in ceding the territory, the little interest which this Government has in the general question of slavery, and the great magnitude which individual States have in it, the great danger, to the Government itself, of agitating the question here, while things remain in their present posture, in the States around us - these, Sir, are considerations all intimately belonging to the question, as I think, and which à competent committee would naturally present to the Senate and to the public.
Mr. President, I feel bound to make one further remark. Whatever gentlemen may think of it, I assure them that these petitions, at least in many cases, have no factious origin, no political or party origin. Such may be the origin of some of them. I am quite sure it is not of all. Many of them arise from a sense of religious duty; and that is a feeling which should be reasoned with, but cannot be suppressed by a mere summary exercise of authority. I wish that all reasonable men may be satisfied with our proceedings; that we may so act in regard to the whole matter as shall promote harmony, strengthen the bonds of our Union, and increase the confidence, both of the North and the South, in this Government.
IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES, ON THE DEPOSIT BANKS. MARCH 17, 1836.
MR. WEBSTER rose to move for the printing of 3,000 extra copies of the statement of the affairs of the deposit banks, transmitted by the Secretary of the Treasury.
In making this motion, Mr. Webster called the attention of the Senate to the document from the Treasury, showing the state of the deposit banks at the latest dates. He quoted from the tabular statement some of the leading facts. The immediate liabilities of the banks amounted, it appeared, to nearly seventy-two millions of dollars, viz. the public deposits, $30,678,879 91; the private deposits, $15,043,033 64; the bills in circulation, $26,243,688 36.
The amount of specie held by these banks, it further appeared, was $10,198,659 24; that is to say, there is less than one dollar specie for six dollars debt; and there is due to the Government by those banks more than three times the amount of all the specie.
There are other items which swell the amounts on each side, such as debts due to banks, and debts due from banks. But these are only equalling quantities, and of no moment in the view I am taking of the question.
Among the means of these deposit banks I see an item of "other investments," of no less amount than $8,777,228 79. What is meant by these "other investments," I am not informed. I wish for light. I have my suspicions, but I have no proofs. Sir, look at the reported state of the Farmers' and Mechanics' Bank of Michigan, the last in the list. The capital of that bank is only $150,000. Its portion of the public deposits is no less a sum than $784,764 75. Now, Sir, where is this money? It is not in specie in the bank itself. All its specie is only $51,011 95; all its discounts, loans, &c., are only $500,000, or thereabouts; where is the residue? Why, we see where it is; it is included in the item "due from banks, $678,766 37." What banks have got this? On what terms do they take it? Do they give interest for it? Is it in the deposit banks in the great cities? and does this make a part of the other liabilities of these deposit banks in the cities? Now, this is one question: what are these other liabilities? But, as to these "other investments," I say again, I wish to know
what they are. Besides real estate, loans, discount, and exchange, I beg to know what other investments banks usually make.
In my opinion, Sir, the present system now begins to develop itself. We see what a complication of private and pecuniary interests have thus wound themselves around our finances. While the present state of things continues, or as it goes on, there will be no lack of ardor in opposing the Land bill, or any other proposition for distributing or effectually using the public money.
We have certainly arrived at a very extraordinary crisis; a crisis which we must not trifle with. The accumulation of revenue must be prevented. Every wise politician will set that down as a cardinal maxim. How can it be prevented? Fortifications will not do it. This I am perfectly persuaded of. I shall vote for every part and parcel of the Fortification bill, reported by the Military Committee. And yet I am sure that, if that bill should pass into a law, it will not absorb the revenue, or sufficiently diminish its amount. Internal improvements cannot absorb it: these useful channels are blocked up by vetoes.
How, then, is this revenue to be disposed of? I put this question seriously to all those who are inclined to oppose the Land bill now before the Senate.
Sir, look to the future, and see what will be the state of things The accumulation of revenue may then probably be near fifty millions; an amount equal, perhaps, to the whole amount of specie in the country. What a state of things is that! Every dollar in the country the property of Government!
Again, Sir, are gentlemen satisfied with the present condition of the public money in regard to its safety? Is that condition safe, commendable, and proper? The member from South Carolina has brought in a bill to regulate these deposit banks. I hope he will call it up, that we may at least have an opportunity of showing, for ourselves, what we think the exigency requires.
IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES, APRIL 23, 1836, ON THE FOLLOWING RESOLUTION, SUBMITTED BY MR. BENTON :
"Resolved, That, from and after the day of, in the year 1836, nothing but gold and silver ought to be received in payment for the public lands; and that the Committee on Public Lands be instructed to report a bill
MR. WEBSTER said that he and those who acted with him would be justified in taking no active course in regard to this resolution, in sitting still, suppressing their surprise and astonishment if they could, and letting these schemes and projects take the form of such laws as their projectors might propose.
We are powerless now, and can do nothing. All these measures affecting the currency of the country and the security of the public treasure we have resisted since 1832. We have done so unsuccessfully. We struggled for the re-charter of the Bank of the United States in 1832. The utility of such an institution had been proved by forty years' experience. We struggled against the removal of the deposits. That act, as we thought, was a direct usurpation of power. We strove against the experiment, and all in vain. Our opinions were disregarded, our warnings neglected, and we are now in no degree responsible for the mischiefs which are but too likely to ensue.
Who will look with the perception of an intelligent, and the candor of an honest man, upon the present condition of our finances and currency, and say that this want of credit and confidence which is so general, and which, it is possible, may, ere long, overspread the land with bankruptcies and distress, has not flowed directly from those measures, the adoption of which we so strenuously resisted, and the folly of which men of all parties, however reluctantly, will soon be brought to acknowledge? The truth of this assertion was palpable and resistless.
What, Sir, are the precise evils under which the finances of the Government, and, he believed, of the country now suffer? They are obviously two-the superabundance of the Treasury, and its insecurity. We have more money than we need, and that money,