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owned by individuals, and conducted by them for their own benefit. I regard banking, or the making of paper-money, as the most enormous speculation of modern times. I allude not simply to the rate of interest, but to all the advantages, direct and collateral, which those enjoy who have ready access to the funds, and who have control over the banks. These enormous profits, accumulating in the coffers of individuals, introduce a proud and bloated aristocracy in our land, and thereby destroy that plain republican equality of rights and of fortune which I have ardently desired might be long preserved in our country. I would join in no crusade against that wealth which may be acquired by honest industry and sagacious enterprise; but I will forever protest against those special privileges which give to one favored class exclusive advantages over all others, and which must introduce into our young and rising country all the aristocratic distinctions of the old world. Other objections exist to individual or joint-stock banking, which do not fall within the range of the present debate, and which time will not allow me to enumerate. Repudiating, as I have done, all individual and joint-stock banking as banks of issues, there remain only two other modes of making paper-money in this country. These are, either by the nation in the aggregate, or by the several States of the Union, excluding individuals from all participation whatsoever. Neither of these forms of banking is now before us; and the few precious moments of the brief hour which your rule allows, will not admit of their discussion. I leave them, therefore, with this declaration,-that I reject every plan of banking by the General Government, and infinitely prefer seeing a paper currency emanating, if at all, from the respective States of the Union;-not from corporations of individuals created by them; but from banks, owned exclusively by the States; governed by them; and all the profits made by them received and enjoyed by all the people of the States. As a member of Congress, I have nothing to say or do for or against such a system of banking by the States: the question belongs exclusively to themselves; but, as an American citizen, I am free to declare that, of all the different modes of banking which have been heretofore tried or proposed, I prefer such a
system by the States as I have mentioned. But I return from this digression to further objections to this bill.
The creation of this corporation is the introduction of a new power into our form of government, more potent than any other known to the constitution. The legislative, judicial, and executive departments constitute the three great powers of the government. But here is a power more potent than any— I had almost said than all of them put together. Neither the Executive nor Judiciary can directly reach one in ten thousand of our population. In reference to currency, the Legislature only is authorized to coin and regulate the value of gold and silver, which the industry of individuals has dug out of the earth, or procured in the course of lawful commerce. But here is a power that can make and circulate a currency many times greater in amount than all the gold and silver on this continent. By doing so, they are enabled to take the real money of the country out of circulation; lock it up, and substitute their own manufacture for it; and thus bring their powers to bear upon almost every individual of our seventeen millions of population. This new artificial person, making and then wielding the capital of a whole continent, regulates and controls the value of all the property, real and personal, and of all the labor, mechanical, agricultural, and commercial, of a mighty people. It is made to regulate the currency; that is, to set up and pull down other institutions; to make money plenty or scarce; to make property high or low, according to its own good pleasure. On every discount day, nine men are to assemble in this city, on whose fiat hang the fortunes and destinies of this whole people. They send forth their high commands, east, west, north, and south, to their subordinates in the branches; and in twenty days a whole continent lies prostrate at their bidding. The friends of this bill tell us that these orders may go forth bearing the blessings of prosperity and plenty on their wings. If this be true, is it not necessarily true, also, that they may be laden with curses-with blight, and mildew, and death to the hopes and business of the country? A power so mighty, either for evil or for good, is now to be sprung into existence; and no other power is to stay, or check, or control its tremendous action, for twenty years to come.
I pause, to demand if the people of this country would be willing to confer so great a power even on the Executive of their own choice? Would they bestow it on any nine members within these walls? or on any nine men who ever lived in this country, however illustrious their names or eminent their services? If they would not, can they be willing that a number of capitalists,-living at great distances from them, and who never had any sympathy with them in their wants, their sufferings, and their labors,-shall get together and appoint nine agents for themselves, not for the country-for their own benefit, not that of the people-to regulate the currency, which is to control the price of all the property and all the labor of the country? Sir, it cannot be so. It cannot be that the American people, so jealous of their rights, are prepared to surrender them to a mercenary oligarchy-the more odious, because owing no responsibility to the people whom they plunder and destroy. Sir, if it be the duty of Congress to regulate the currency, (which I deny,) let Congress do so itself, by its own officers, appointed by and responsible to them, as they in their turn are responsible to the people: but do not, I pray you, make an assignment of your duties to this avaricious, mercenary, soulless corporation, which will have its high interest and large dividends, although the people were starving for the bread of life. I pray you perpetrate no such wicked and horrid thing in this land. Make your own bank; found it on your own resources; govern it by officers of your own selection, if you can do so under the constitution. Let all the profits of the operation enure to the benefit of all the people of the United States. Do this, bad as it would be, rather than form a corporation in which you are to be a subordinate partner, impotent for all purposes of control; and in which you will be compelled by your stock-jobbing partners to inflict the most heart-rending exactions and oppressions on the people you represent. Sir, the accumulated aversion of many years to a degraded and degrading partnership like this, induces me to repeat the imploration, that, if it be your duty to regulate the currency, do it yourself, without the agency and partnership of this corporation.
What necessity is there, let me ask, for this amazing and
dangerous delegation of power? Is it the too great scarcity of gold and silver to meet the demands of the growing commerce of this country? This bank with its thirty millions will not permanently add one solitary dollar to the specie on this continent-not one solitary dollar. Is it to make paper-money more abundant? Why, sir, that is the very disease of which this country has been dying for years. The excessive paper issues of 1834, '35, and '36, are known to have produced the revulsion of 1837. The veriest quacks and impostors now admit this. The process of diminution has been going on ever since 1837, with slow and painful but invaluable success. It was the universal prescription for the disease, that we should lessen the amount of paper, and bring it down to a fair and reasonable proportion to the precious metals. We have followed that prescription, until the country is evidently emerging from that state of indebtedness induced by extravagance and speculation, from which at one period we awfully feared it never could be rescued. But, after all, and in spite of all, we have rode out the storm; we have neared the port; we have gained sight of the land. And shall we be again thrown back on the same wide ocean of paper-money, from which we vainly hoped soon to be rescued? Look to the hundreds of millions of papermoney now in circulation; then look to the beggarly amount of specie provided for its redemption; and say if there be not gross quackery, if not something worse, in the present proposition to increase the amount some sixty or seventy millions. Let me employ another illustration of our present condition. We have been for years drunken by extravagance and excess in every thing; and now that the care of sincere and kind friends has nearly restored us from the vile debauch, one of our old bottle companions intrudes his prescription upon us, and insists that we shall run the same round of guilty dissipation as before. And, sir, it is astonishing to see with what ready and even eager willingness the infatuated patient, breaking away from the custody of his best friends, will follow the counsels of those who will but delude and destroy him.
But, Mr. Chairman, I turn away from this bank, as the means of relief to the people, and as an institution to regulate the currency and general business of the country. I wish now to
consider it as "the Fiscal Bank of the United States,"-a bank, as its name imports, necessary and proper, for the Government, in some way or other, in the collection, safekeeping, and disbursements of the public revenue.
The eighth section of the first article of the constitution is an enumeration of the powers of Congress; amongst which, that of collecting taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, is one of them. At the close of the same section, it is declared that "Congress may make all laws necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof." This is the congenial spot on which the bank has ever delighted to locate itself. The false pretence that it is necessary to the Government in the collection of its taxes and duties, is seized upon to give it existence; whilst in truth and in fact it is solely intended for the benefit of the commercial business of the country, and to subserve the interest of stock jobbers, speculators, and all others who live by their wits, instead of the honest labor of their hands. I repeat that it is a false pretense, for the experiment has been now repeated-which was first made in the earliest and purest days of the republic-of collecting, keeping, and disbursing the public revenue, without the agency of any bank whatsoever;-an experiment which Washington first adopted; which Jefferson subsequently recommended should be again adopted; which Judge White maintained to be entirely practicable; and which Mr. Bell declared could do no great good or harm to any of the great interests of this country. That experiment has been actually tried, tested, proved, for more than one entire year, with eminent and complete success. The much abused sub-treasury has demonstrated that a bank is not necessary to carry on the financial concerns of this nation. Although condemned, as the President says it has been, it retires full of honor, carrying with it a proud justification of its friends, and casting back upon its enemies a triumphant refutation of all their predictions of its entire failure.
But, Mr. Chairman, not even the pretense of such a necessity is sustained by the provisions of this bill. The bank is not