« AnteriorContinuar »
can people are greatly divided in opinion as to the best mode or form of banking in this country—whether by individuals, by joint-stock companies, by banks owned by the General Government, by banks belonging exclusively to the States, or by banks jointly owned and governed by the States and the General Government in partnership. It is known that all these various plans have their advocates, numerous and powerful, in every State of the Union. Now, it is not pretended that these various plans were presented, and their relative merits passed upon by the people, in the recent election. On the contrary, it is known that the canvass was otherwise conducted. No specific plan was presented—no details were gone into. The evils of a depreciated currency, the necessity of having a great regulator to control the local institutions, constituted the theme of every orator, whose generalities were intended to embrace every one who might be in favor of any species of banking.
Nay, I will venture to record another fact, which never has been nor can be successfully controverted: that, in a very large majority of cases, the travelling rhetors of the dominant party expressly disclaimed the old United States Bank as the sample or model of the new one. They scarcely ever controverted the objections taken by General Jackson, and which they knew the American people had over and over again sustained. This was emphatically true in the State of Tennessee. There, every public man in our legislative halls, as well as in the convention which revised our constitution, had sustained and approved those objections. Our whole population, whether devoted to General Jackson or to Judge White, had condemned the old, or the Biddle Bank, as it was commonly called, everywhere and on all occasions. Hence it was that no public debator in that State, as far as I have ever known or heard, ever distinctly avowed the old bank to be his favorite model of a new one. Nor do I believe that there is now, or ever has been, one-third of that population who would say that it was their model of a national bank. They had formed a deep and fixed abhorrence of that institution; and when looking out for relief under the commercial revulsion of 1837, they looked to an institution owned by the United States, governed by the United States; its profits going to the people of the United States; with each State having, and, when able, owning a branch and applying its profits to its own State purposes. Sir, this now is, and has been for years, the plan or model of a bank which has made so many bank converts in that State.
I will adduce only one other proof to show that the people in the last election did not pronounce any such decree as is now pretended,—that the whole argument is a gross attempt to pervert, and, in fact, to falsify their proceedings. It is the authority of President Tyler himself, a party in that election.
In his message to Congress, now lying before me, he has expressly told us : “What is now to be regarded as the judg. ment of the American people on the whole subject, [the banks and the currency,] I have no accurate means of determining, but by appealing to their more immediate representatives. The late contest, which terminated in the election of General Harrison to the presidency, was decided on principles well known and openly declared; and while the sub-treasury received in the result the most decided condemnation, yet no other scheme of finance seemed to have been concurred in.”
Sir, the President was right-the nation knows he was right. The people, if they decided against the sub-treasnry, did not decide for a United States Bank; and least of all did they decide in favor of such a bank as this, modelled and fashioned as it is, with slavish exactness, after the old United States Bank. Since the election, that institution has expired, amid the groans and sufferings of those who reposed in it a too fatal confidence to the last. Its inherent defects and hideous corruptions are now lying open and bare to public inspection. The committee who reported this bill have profited nothing by its past history, and have taken no warning from its disastrous overthrow. They still hold it up, in the person of this bill, to the admiration of the American people, and challenge for it their approbation for twenty years to come!
Regarding, then, as I do, this whole subject as fairly open for debate, I shall proceed to the discussion of the bill, with that candor and impartiality which its importance deserves.
My first objection to this bank is, that it is a charter of incorporation, which I hold this Government to be incapable of granting. The constitution contains, as is admitted, no express grant of such authority. The records of the convention, now published to the world, clearly show that the power to create corporations generally was proposed, referred, reported on, debated, and the vote taken by yeas and nays, and expressly refused by the convention. Can any thing be more conclusive than this? We are now searching for some congenial spot in this constitution where we can locate this power. We must find it, or the passage of this bill will be a rank and perjured usurpation. Well, we search for it—we cannot find it in the constitution. We go back to the journals and records of those who formed it. There we find it was refused in every form and in every shape in which it could be proposed. What then? We are told to look for it by implication. Implication, sir, against the express and positive record of the convention! Ay, to implication; for we are told that the convention declined putting down this power plainly and distinctly in the constitution, lest the people-particularly those of Pennsylvania, who were very hostile to banks—might see it, and refuse to ratify the constitution.
Sir, this is the argument universally employed to overturn this important, this omnipotent fact. Let me repeat it. If the convention had given this power plainly, the people would have seen it, and would have rejected the constitution. It was therefore, designedly left, to be claimed by intendment or implication in aftertimes, when it would be too late for the people either to reject the constitution or to prevent its exercise. Now, sir, what is all this, but the imputation of a design in the framers of the constitution to practice the most reprehensible fraud on their constituents—constituents whose noble and gallant deeds in the war of independence, then just terminated, eminently entitled them to precisely such a form of government as they might freely choose, without being duped and deceived in the selection. This imputation against the venerable fathers of the republic is too foul and monstrous, and throws us back on the records of the convention, containing a clear, express, and oft-repeated rejection of the power of establishing a bank or creating a corporation. Mr. Chairman, in the absence of an express grant, there is a potency in those records second only to the constitution--a potency that outweighs a thousand-fold the opinions of individuals, however eminent-a potency which cannot be destroyed, but by the degradation and infamy of those whom America has most honored and most revered.
The location of the principal bank within the District of Columbia is but a poor evasion of this constitutional objection. A vast and mighty power-not expressly granted to Congress, as the Legislature of the whole Union, and which, when distinctly proposed, was expressly refused-is now claimed to have been conferred by that clause which gives it exclusive legislation over the little District of Columbia. Our legislation may be exclusive, as against Maryland and Virginia, by whom the Territory was ceded ; and still be limited in its objects, and restricted by the general prohibitions of that instrument. But, without insisting on this principle, and certainly without abandoning it, I assume another, about which casuistry itself cannot hesitate. If Congress have the power of exclusive legislation over the District of Columbia, it must be for as well as in the District-local in its objects, and territorial in its action. To seize on a power granted for such limited and special purposes, and expand it over a mighty continent, is a shameless perversion of the constitution-a mean and fraudulent usurpation, far more wicked than the boldest interpolation of that instrument could be. Sir, the little dwarf which you pretend now to be harmlessly planting in this District, will presently lift his giant form high above it; and, “looking abroad over this empire republic, will wave his money sceptre over crouching sovereignties and a prostrate people.” Sir, do not believe that its location here, where there is no commerce, was intended as a concession to constitutional scruples, honestly entertained in any quarter of the Union. No, sir; it was to bring the bank in sight of the White House at the other end of the avenue; not for his benefit who now inhabits it, but for his whose heart pants for its occupancy, and whose ambition even now is moving heaven and earth for its attainment. It is brought here, the vile and corrupting instrument of party, to be ever at hand, ready and willing to perpetuate the ascendency of those who gave
it existence. Heretofore, the political has been separated from the money power of the nation. Instead of a union, there has been a war between them. But henceforward there is to be peace-alliance-partnership. What before has been fiction, is now to be reality; the sword and the purse are to be joined in united potency, to strengthen the arm of executive domination. If allowed to use an illustration less warlike than the last, I would say,—this fiscal harlot, banished under the preceding administrations, now returns from her exile, leaning on the arm of her deliverer, ready and willing to pay, in adulterous gratitude, the guilty price of her ransom.
My next point of objection is, that this is a charter of incorporation of individuals, to whom the effectual control of the institution is conceded. The desire of gain is a principle so deeply engraven on the nature of man, that it cannot be eradicated. This truth is nowhere found in stronger illustration than in the business of banking. The more paper issued, the greater their profits; and from the natural propensity to which I have alluded, they are sure to overleap the feeble barriers of their charter, and to issue paper far beyond their ability of redemption. This desire for excessive profits, so subtle and insinuating, never has been, and never will be, successfully resisted. It is the real cause of all our former failures in the business of banking. It is the simple but potent principle that lies at the bottom of all the expansions and contractions of our paper currency, and consequently of the commercial revulsions and pecuniary distresses of the age. This cause must be removed before the evil can be remedied. Withdraw the business of banking from the hands of individuals-take it away from the suggestions of individual avarice—and you at once eradicate the fruitful cause of all our former failures. in this charter, the fact that the nation is to own one-third of the capital can make no possible difference. Just as sure as two-thirds are more than one-third, just so sure will individual avarice govern the institution, and cause it to run the same profligate career with its great prototype, and perish, like it, amid the stench and rottenness of its own corruption.
Mr. Chairman, I must take time here to mention another objection which I have to this bank, as well as to all others