Page images
PDF
EPUB

application might be partial, I cheerfully and zealously give it my support. When an objection has been made to an appropriation for clearing the snags out of the Ohio river, I have answered it with the question, "Would you not vote for an appropriation to clear the Atlantic Ocean of snags, were the navigation of your coast thus obstructed? they contribute their portion of the revenue to fortify your sea-coast, and erect piers, and harbors, and lighthouses, from which they derive a remote benefit, and why not contribute yours to improve the navigation of a river whose commerce enriches the whole country?"

It may be expected, fellow-citizens, that I should say something on a topic which agitates and distracts the public mind-the deranged state of the currency, and the general stagnation of business. In giving my opinions on this topic, I wish it to be distinctly understood, that I force them on no man. I am an independent man, speaking to independent men. I think for myself; you of course enjoy and exercise the same right. I cheerfully concede to every one the liberty of differing with me in sentiment, readily granting that he has as good a chance of being right as myself— perhaps a better. But I have some respect for my character as a public man. The present state of things has grown out of a series of measures, to which I have been in uniform opposition. In speaking of their consequences, I am doing but justice to myself in showing them in justification of my conduct. I am performing a duty to my fellow-citizens, who have a right to know the opinions of every public man. The present state of things is unparalleled in the annals of our country. The general suspension of specie payments by the banks-beginning I know not where, and ending I know not where, but comprehending the whole country - has produced wide-spread ruin and confusion through the land. To you the scene is one of apprehension as yet; to us, of deep distress. You cannot understand, my fellow-citizens, nor can I describe it so as to enable you to understand, the embarrassment and suffering which is depressing the spirit and crushing the energies of the people of the sea-girt State of the East. You are agriculturists - you produce what you consume, and always have the means of living within your reach. We depend on others for their agricultural productions we live by manufactures and commerce, of which credit is the life's blood. The destruction of credit is the destruction of our means of living. The man who cannot fulfil his daily engagements, or with whom others fail to fulfil theirs, must suffer for his daily bread. And who are those who suffer? Not the rich, for they can generally take care of themselves. Capital is ingenious and far-sighted-ready in resources and fertile in expedients to shelter itself from impending storms. Shut it out from one source of increase, and it will find other avenues of profitable investment.

P

[ocr errors]

It is the industrious, working part of the community-men whose hands have grown hard by holding the plough and pulling the oarmen who depend on their daily labor and their daily pay-who, when the operations of trade and commerce are checked and palsied, have no prospect for themselves and their families but beggary and starvation. All this has been attributed to causes as different as can be imagined; over trading-over buying-over sellingover speculating-over production-terms which I acknowledge I do not very well understand. I am at a loss to conceive how a nation can become poor by over production producing more than she can sell or consume. I do not see where there has been over trading, except in public lands; for when every thing else was up to such an enormous price, and the public land tied down to one dollar and a quarter an acre, who would not have bought it if he could?

--

-

These causes could not have produced all those consequences which have produced such general lamentation. They must have proceeded from some other source. And I now request you, my fellow-citizens, to bear witness, that here, in this good city, on the banks of the Ohio, on the first day of June, 1837, beneath the bright sun that is shining upon us, I declare my conscientious conviction that they have proceeded from the measures of the General Government in relation to the currency. I make this declaration in no spirit of enmity to its authors I follow no man with rebukes or reproaches. To reprobate the past will not alleviate the evils of the present. It is the duty of every good citizen to contribute his strength, however feeble, to diminish the burden under which a people groans. To apply the remedy successfully, however, we must first ascertain the causes, character, and extent of the evil. Let us go back, then, to its origin. Forty-eight years have elapsed since the adoption of our Constitution. For forty years of that time we had a National Bank. Its establishment originated in the imperious obligation imposed on every government to furnish its people with a circulating medium for their commerce. No matter how rich the citizen may be in flocks and herds - in houses and lands if his government does not furnish him a medium of exchange, commerce must be confined to the petty barter suggested by mutual wants and necessities, as they exist in savage life. The history of all commercial countries shows that the precious metals can constitute but a small part of this circulating medium. The extension of commerce creates a system of credit the transmission of money from one part of the country to the other gives birth to the business of exchange. To keep the value of this medium and the rates of exchange equal and certain, was imperiously required by the necessities of the times when the Bank was established. Under the old confederacy, each of the thirteen States established

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

-

and regulated its own money, which passed for its full value within
the State, and was useless the moment it crossed the State border.
The little State of Rhode Island, for instance (I hope no son of
hers present will take offence at what I say). so small that an
Indiana man might almost cover her territory with his hand, was
crowded with Banks. A man might have been rich at Providence,
but before he could travel to Boston, forty miles distant, he would
starve for want of money to pay for his breakfast.

Had this state of things continued, some of the provisions of the
Constitution would have been of no force or virtue. Of what value
to Congress would have been the right to levy taxes, imposts, and
duties to regulate commerce among different States, and of
what effect or consequence the prohibition on the different States,
of levying and collecting imposts, if each and every one of them
had possessed the right of paying her taxes and duties in a currency
of her own, which would not pass one hundred miles, perhaps, from
the bank where it was issued? The creation of the National Bank
presented the surest means of remedying these evils, and accomplish-
ing one of the principal objects of the Constitution-the establish-
ment and maintenance of a currency whose value would be uniform
in every part of the country. During the forty years it existed, we
had no general suspension of specie payments, as at present. We
got along well with it, and I am one of those who are disposed to
let well alone. I am content to travel along the good old turnpike
on which I have journeyed before with comfort and expedition,
without turning aside to try a new track. I must confess that I do
not possess that soaring self-respect-that lofty confidence in my
own political sagacity and foresight-which would induce me to
set aside the experience of forty years, and risk the ruin of the
country, for the sake of an Experiment. To this is all the distress
of the country attributable. This has caused such powerful inva-
sions of bank paper, like sudden and succeeding flights of birds of
prey and passage, and the rapid disappearance of specie at its
approach. You all know that bank notes have been almost as
plenty as the leaves of the forest in the summer. But of what
value are they to the holder, if he is compelled to pay his debts in
specie? And who can be expected to pay his debts, when the
Government has withdrawn the specie from circulation?

You have not felt the evil in its full extent. It is mostly in prospect, and you are watching its approach. While you are endeavoring to guard against it, strive to prevent its future recurAs you would hunt down, with hound and horn, the wolf who is making nightly havock of your flocks and herds, pursue and keep down those who would make havock in your business and property by experiments on our currency.

rence.

Although the country has bowed beneath the pressure, I do not

[ocr errors]

fear that it will be broken down and prostrated in the dust. press them as it may, the energy and industry of the people will enable them to rise again. We have for a long time carried a load of bad government on our shoulders, and we are still able to bear up under it. But I do not see that, for that reason, we should be willing and eager to carry it. I do not see why it should prevent us from wishing to lessen it as much as possible, if not to throw it off altogether, when we know that we can get along so much easier and faster without it. While we are exerting ourselves with renewed industry and economy to recover from its blighting effects; while we plough the land and plough the sea; let us hasten the return of things to their proper state, by such political measures as will best accomplish the desired end. Let us inform our public servants of our wishes, and pursue such a course as will compel them to obey us.

In conclusion, my fellow-citizens, I return you my thanks for the patience and attention with which you have listened to me, and pray the beneficent Giver of all good, that he may keep you under the shadow of his wing, and continue to bless you with peace and prosperity.

F

SPEECH

DELIVERED IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES, SEPTEMBER 14, 1837, ON THE BILL TO POSTPONE THE PAYMENT OF THE FOURTH INSTALMENT OF THE DEPOSIT TO THE STATES.

MR. WEBSTER rose, and said that the importance of the present crisis, and the urgency of this occasion, were such as to lead him earnestly to desire that some measures of adequate relief might come from the quarter which alone had the power to effect any thing, by the majority it commanded. Much as I differ from them, (said Mr. W.,) I would be glad to accept any measure of substantial relief which they might bring forward. I think, sir, I see such a necessity for relief as never before, within my recollection, has existed in this country; and I regret to be obliged to say, that the measures proposed by the President, in his Message to Congress, and reiterated by the Secretary of the Treasury, in his report to the same body, only regard one object, and are, in their tendency, only directed to one branch of partial relief. The evils, however, under which the community now suffers, (said Mr. W.,) though related, and of the same family, are yet capable of distinct consideration. In the first place, there are the wants of the Treasury, arising from the stoppage of payments and the falling off of the revenue. This is an exigency requiring the consideration of Congress: it is an evil threatening to suspend the functions of at least one department of the Government, unless it be remedied. Another, and a greater evil, is, the prostration of credit, the interruption brought upon all business transactions, arising from the suspension of all the local banks throughout the country, with some few and trifling exceptions. Hence have proceeded a prostration of the local currency, and a serious obstruction and difficulty thrown in the way of buying and selling. A third want is, the want of an accredited paper medium, equal to specie, having equal credit over all parts of the country, capable of serving for the payment of debts and carrying on the internal business of the country throughout and between the different and distant sections of this great Union. These three evils, though they are coëxistent and cognate in their being, cannot be met by the same measures of relief: if relief is given to the one, it does not follow that you will relieve the others; if you replenish

[blocks in formation]

185

P

« PreviousContinue »