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companies. If it cannot collect its revenues in a better manner than this, it must cease to be a government. This thing therefore is to be done; at any rate it is to be attempted. That it will be accomplished by the treasury department, without the interference of congress, I have no belief. If from that source no reformation came, when reformation was easy, it is not now to be expected. Especially after the vote of yesterday, those whose interest it is to continue the present state of things, will arm themselves with the authority of Congress. They will justify themselves by the decision of this House. They will say, and say truly, that this House, having taken up the subject and discussed it, has not thought fit so much as to declare, that it is expedient ever to relieve the country or its revenues from a paper money system. Whoever believes that the treasury department will oppose this tide, aided, as it will be, by strong feeling and great interest, has more faith in that department than has fallen to my lot. It is the duty of this House to interfere with its own authority. Having taxed the people with no light hand, it is now its duty to take care that the people do not sustain these burdens in vain. The taxes are not borne without feeling. They will not be borne without complaint, if, by mismanagement in collection, their utility to government should be lost, and they should get into the treasury at last only in discredited and useless paper.
A bank of thirty-five millions has been created for the professed purpose of correcting the evils of our circulation, and facilitating the receipts and expenditures of government. I am not so sanguine in the hope of great benefit from this measure as others are. But the treasury is also authorised to issue twenty-five millions of treasury notes, eighteen or twenty millions of which remain yet to be issued, and which are also allowed by law to be received on duties and taxes. In addition to these is the coin which is in the country, and which is sure to come forth into circulation whenever there is a demand for it. These means, if wisely and skilfully administered, are sufficient to prevent any particular pressure or great inconvenience, in returning to the legal mode of collecting the revenue. It is true, it may be easier for the people in the states in which the depreciated paper exists to pay their taxes in such paper, than in the legal currency of treasury notes, because they can get it cheaper. But this is only saying that it is easier to pay a small tax, than to pay a large one: or that money costs more than that which is less valuable than money: a proposition not to be disputed. But a medium of payment, convenient for the people and safe for the government will be furnished, and may everywhere be obtained for a reasonable price. This is all that can justly be expected of congress. Having provided this, they ought to require all parts of the country to conform to the same measure of justice. If taxes be not necessary they should not be laid. If laid, they ought to be collected without preference or partiality.
But while some gentlemen oppose the resolutions because they fix a day too near, others think they fix a day too distant. In my own judgment, it is not so material what the time is, as it is to fix a time. The great object is to settle the question, that our legal currency is to be preserved, and that we are not about to embark on the
ocean of paper money. The state banks, if they consult their own interest, or the interest of the community, will dispose of their government stocks, and prepare themselves to redeem their paper and fulfil their contracts. If they should not adopt this course, there will be time for the people to be informed that the paper of such institutions will not answer the demands of government, and that duties and taxes must be paid in the manner provided by law.
I cannot say, indeed, that this measure will certainly produce the desired effect. It may fail. Its success, as is obvious, must essentially depend on the course pursued by the treasury department. But its tendency, I think, will be to produce good. It will, I hope, be a proof that congress is not regardless of its duty. It will be evidence that this great subject has not passed without notice. It will record our determination to resist the introduction of a most destructive and miserable policy into our system; and if there be any sanction or authority in the constitution and the law; if there be any regard for justice and equality: if there be any care for the national revenue, or any concern for the public interest, let gentlemen consider whether they will relinquish their seat here, before this or some other measure be adopted.
ON THE GREEK REVOLUTION, DELIVERED IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE UNITED STATES, JAN. 19, 1823.
On the 8th of December, 1823, Mr. Webster presented, in the House of Representatives, the following resolution:
"Resolved, That provision ought to be made, by law, for defraying the expense incident to the appointment of an Agent or Commissioner to Greece, whenever the President shall deem it expedient to make such appointment."
The House having, on the 19th of January, resolved itself into a Committee of the Whole, and this resolution being taken into consideration, Mr. Webster spoke to the following effect:
I AM afraid, Mr. Chairman, that, so far as my part in this discussion is concerned, those expectations which the public excitement, existing on the subject, and certain associations, easily suggested by it, have conspired to raise, may be disappointed. An occasion which calls the attention to a spot, so distinguished, so connected with interesting recollections, as Greece, may naturally create something of warmth and enthusiasm. In a grave, political discussion, however, it is necessary that that feeling should be chastised. I shall endeavour properly to repress it, although it is impossible that it should be altogether extinguished. We must, indeed, fly beyond the civilized world, we must pass the dominion of law, and the boundaries of knowledge; we must, more especially, withdraw ourselves from this place, and the scenes and objects which here surround us, if we would separate ourselves, entirely, from the influence of all those memorials of herself which ancient Greece has transmitted for the admiration, and the benefit, of mankind. This free form of government, this popular assembly, the common council, held for the common good, where have we contemplated its earliest models? This practice of free debate, and public discussion, the contest of mind with mind, and that popular eloquence, which, if it were now here, on a subject like this, would move the stones of the Capitol,-whose was the language in which all these were first exhibited? Even the Edifice in which we assemble, these proportioned columns, this ornamented architecture, all remind us that Greece has existed, and that we, like the rest of mankind, are greatly her debtors. But I have not introduced this motion in the vain hope of discharging anything of this accumulated debt of centuries. I have not acted upon the expectation, that we, who have inherited this obligation from
our ancestors, should now attempt to pay it, to those who may seem to have inherited, from their ancestors, a right to receive payment. My object is nearer and more immediate. I wish to take occasion of the struggle of an interesting and gallant people, in the cause of liberty and Christianity, to draw the attention of the House to the circumstances which have accompanied that struggle, and to the principles which appear to have governed the conduct of the great States of Europe, in regard to it; and to the effects and consequences of these principles, upon the independence of nations, and especially upon the institutions of free governments. What I have to say of Greece, therefore, concerns the modern, not the ancient; the living, and not the dead. It regards her, not as she exists in history, triumphant over time, and tyranny, and ignorance; but as she now is, contending, against fearful odds, for being, and for the common privilege of human nature.
As it is never difficult to recite commonplace remarks, and trite aphorisms; so it may be easy, I am aware, on this occasion, to remind me of the wisdom which dictates to men a care of their own affairs, and admonishes them, instead of searching for adventures abroad, to leave other men's concerns in their own hands. It may be easy to call this resolution Quixotic, the emanation of a crusading or propagandist spirit. All this, and more, may be readily said; but all this, and more, will not be allowed to fix a character upon this proceeding, until that is proved, which it takes for granted. Let it first be shown, that, in this question, there is nothing which can affect the interest, the character, or the duty of this country. Let it be proved, that we are not called upon, by either of these considerations, to express an opinion on the subject to which the resolution relates. Let this be proved, and then it will, indeed, be made out, that neither ought this resolution to pass, nor ought the subject of it to have been mentioned in the communication of the President to
us. But, in my opinion, this cannot be shown. In my judgment, the subject is interesting to the people and the government of this country, and we are called upon, by considerations of great weight and moment, to express our opinions upon it. These considerations, I think, spring from a sense of our own duty, our character, and our own interest. I wish to treat the subject on such grounds, exclusively, as are truly American; but then, in considering it as an American question, I cannot forget the age in which we live, the prevailing spirit of the age, the interesting questions which agitate it, and our own peculiar relation, in regard to these interesting questions. Let this be, then, and as far as I am concerned, I hope it will be, purely an American discussion; but let it embrace, nevertheless, everything that fairly concerns America; let it comprehend, not merely her present advantage, but her permanent interest, her elevated character, as one of the free states of the world, and her duty towards those great principles, which have hitherto maintained the relative independence of nations, and which have, more especially, made her what she is.
At the commencement of the session, the President, in the discharge of the high duties of his office, called our attention to the subject, to which this resolution refers. "A strong hope," says
that communication, "has been long entertained, founded on the heroic struggle of the Greeks, that they would succeed in their contest, and resume their equal station among the nations of the earth. It is believed that the whole civilized world takes a deep interest in their welfare. Although no power has declared in their favor, yet none, according to our information, has taken part against them. Their cause and their name, have protected them from dangers, which might, ere this, have overwhelmed any other people. The ordinary calculations of interest, and of acquisition with a view to aggrandizement, which mingle so much in the transactions of nations, seem to have had no effect in regard to them. From the facts which have come to our knowledge, there is good cause to believe that their enemy has lost, forever, all dominion over them: that Greece will become again an independent nation."
It has appeared to me, that the House should adopt some resolution, reciprocating these sentiments, so far as it should approve them. More than twenty years have elapsed, since Congress first ceased to receive such a communication from the President, as could properly be made the subject of a general answer. I do not mean to find fault with this relinquishment of a former, and an ancient practice. It may have been attended with inconveniences which justified its abolition. But, certainly, there was one advantage belonging to it; and that is, that it furnished a fit opportunity for the expression of the opinion of the Houses of Congress, upon those topics in the Executive communication, which were not expected to be made the immediate subjects of direct legislation. Since, therefore, the President's message does not now receive a general answer, it has seemed to me to be proper, that in some mode, agreeable to our own usual form of proceeding, we should express our sentiments upon the important and interesting topics on which it treats.
If the sentiments of the message in respect to Greece be proper, it is equally proper that this House should reciprocate those sentiments. The present resolution is designed to have that extent, and no more. If it pass, it will leave any future proceeding where it now is, in the discretion of the Executive Government. It is but an expression, under those forms in which the House is accustomed to act, of the satisfaction of the House with the general sentiments expressed in regard to this subject in the message, and of its readiness to defray the expense incident to any inquiry for the purpose of further information, or any other agency which the President, in his discretion, shall see fit, in whatever manner, and at whatever time, to institute. The whole matter is still left in his judgment, and this resolution can in no way restrain its unlimited exercise.
I might well, Mr. Chairman, avoid the responsibility of this measure, if it had, in my judgment, any tendency to change the policy of the country. With the general course of that policy, I am quite satisfied. The nation is prosperous, peaceful, and happy; and I should very reluctantly put its peace, prosperity, or happiness, at risk. It appears to me, however, that this resolution is strictly conformable to our general policy, and not only consistent with our interests, but even demanded by a large and liberal view of those interests.