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five weeks ago. That resolution, in my opinion, was the most impor. tant act which has been done by this convention. I allude to the resolution introduced by the gentleman from the city of Philadelphia, (Mr. Meredith) declaring the inviolability of bank charters. Now, gentlemen were well aware that they could not, by any direct means, accomplish the purpose they had in view—of destroying that resolution, and here is an ingenious mode of doing it in an indirect manner. If the amendment prohibiting the issue of notes of a less denomination than ten dollars, is decided in the way they desire that it should be decided, of course the resolution you have adopted, is a nullity. Adopt this amendment and you at once, by a constitutional provision, take away from these banking institutions one of the most important rights derived under their charters—that is to say, the right of issuing notes of the denomination of five dollars. This is a most important and a most useful part of their rights. I do not know whether such is the design, but it is manifest that, if this amendment succeeds, the certain result will be to destroyếto blot out of existence, to all practical intent and purpose, the resolution adopted at Harrisburg. Sir, it is gone-absolutely annihilated. We all know that, in the general bank law, there is a reservation that charters of banks may be altered, reformed, or even annulled if the public interests should require it. Here is a reservation on the part of the legislature ; and although the legislature may alter, reform, or even annul those charters, if the interests of the people should require it, yet no other body can exercise that power, no more than any corporation of any borough town can exercise it. We have the constitution of the United States, which protects contracts of this kind, and here would be an answer to it. I trust, therefore, that gentlemen will see at once, that the direct operation of this amendment would be such as I state.
Let every man refer to the benefits which these banking institutions have every where diffused. Let him look to the state of Pennsylvania ! Let him reflect on the high eminence which she has attained among her sister states of the Union. And to what is all this to be traced ? I answer to no other source than to the aid which she has received from the banks. Your public works have depended almost entirely on the co-operation and assistance of the banks; from the loans granted by the banks from year to year, and although individuals have contributed a portion, still we are mainly indebted to the loans of the banks for the progress of our public improvements. A few years ago, when the credit of the commonwealth was such that loans could scarcely be obtained, requisitions were made upon the banks, which were complied with, and our public works were continued for another year. But we can go still further back. We can go to the improvements connecting the eastern with the western part of our state. I refer to the turnpike roads between Pittsburg and Philadelphia. Without the aid of the banks, even these roads could not have been made.
But we can go even further. Our commonwealth has, in fact, subsisted on the revenues derived from the banks. At an early day a part of the funds of our government were placed in certain banks of the commonwealth, and for a period of twenty-five years,
government was supported by the dividends arising from those funds.
But look to the effects of these institutions upon common life. The mass of our citizens are operatives throughont the commonwealth, and almost every man depends npon his daily occupation for the means of support in life. The mechanic and the manufacturer and the merchant receive their returns for their labor not at the time the work is done, but at a certain future and stated period. What are the people to do in the mean time, for the necessaries of life, or for such comforts or luxuries as their circumstances may justify, unless the means are obtained in this way.
The mechanic obtains all necessaries from the merchant in the district upon credit, founded on the returns of his industry which he is yet to receive. Where does the merchant obtain his cridit? From the merchant in the city. And where does the merchant in the city obtain his credit? From the banks. So that, the accommodation effected by the banks, comes thus imperceptibly, almost to every man's home and fireside; and, although it is not obtained, yet its influence is extended to almost every man in the community. I am, therefore, opposed, upon every principle, to the amendment of the gentleman from Fayette, and also to the amendment originally offered by the gentleman from Lancaster, and I shall vote against both.
Permit me, Mr. President, before I take my seat, to offer a few remarks in reply to what fell from the delegate from the city, on Saturday, in reference to our meeting here. Coming, as it did, from that timehonored source, and with his peculiar feelings and eloquence, it produced an impresion with every member, not soon to be forgotten; and, I am sure, that in expressing my own feelings, I express the feelings of my fellow members from the interior, when I say, that whatever may be the results of our official deliberations, we shall carry with us to our homes, and to our constituents, a deep and abiding sense of the liberal spirit, the kindness, the hospitality of this city.
Sir, its noble institutions of every character-benevolent, literary, scientific and useful, have all been thrown open to us, in a manner most gratifying to our feelings; and more than this, the hearts of the citizens have been thrown open to us in all that kindness and hospitality could offer, to alleviate the privations of the stranger-separated from his family, his friends and his home. Besides, sir, we have had the gratifying opportunity of witnessing the industry, the great works, the vast business concern and the great progress in the useful arts of life, which so eminently adorn and distinguish this, our own great metropolis.
Sir, if no other result should be derived from our adjournment to this place, I trust, and I say so with peculiar pleasure, coming from the dis. trict I represent, I trust it will tend to confirm and to perpetuate that liberal and enlightened sentiment of policy, that the interests, the prosperity, the happiness of the fair portion of our great and growing commonwealth, is essentially and intimately connected with the interest, the prosperity and the happiness of every other part.
Mr. Cope, of Philadelphia, said :
I shall doubtless incur the charge of tenerity, by engaging in a debate already exhausted, and before an audience whose patience must be worn out; and were I to consult my own feelings only, I should certainly not make the attempt. I will, however, proceed at once to the discussion of the subject before the committee.
That branch of the resolution before us which proposes to restrict the banks from issuing notes of a smaller denomination than ten dollars, is, I presume, a matter of comparative indifference to the traders of Phila. delphia. Our inerchants receive and pay mostly in checks on the banks.
To another, and a very respectable portion of our citizens, our manufacturers and mechanics, it is of more consequence. Some of these pay weekly, in wages to their workmen, from five hundred to three thou. sand dollars. Supposing a man's wages to be less than ten dollars a week, notes of that amount would be much more inconvenient, both to the payer and receiver, than notes of a smaller denomination ; and if the parties prefer five dollar notes, what good reason can be assigned for refusing to gratify them? Five dollar bills are more convenient to the market people, to travellers, and to the country population generally.
It has been stated by a delegate from the county, that originally the Bank of North America did not issue notes of a less denomination than ten dollars. Assume it to be so, for the sake of argument, and what fol. lows? Why, that the public convenience demanded notes of a smaller denomination-for most certainly that bank, like all others, has for many years issued five dollar notes.
But I have it in my power to furnish some curious and authentic information for the member from the county, (C. J. Ingersoll,) on this subject, derived from an examination of the minutes of the board of directors of the Bank of North America, which I will take the liberty of reading,
“ BANK OF NORTH AMERICA,
August 6th, 1789. “Mr. Richard Bache moved, upon the recommendation of Dr. Benjamin Franklin, that this bank should now issue small tickets or notes, to supply the call of the public for change, during the present interruption to the circulation of copper coin; and presented a sheet of paper of a very peculiar fabric, as most suitable for the purpose-of which paper the Doctor had only two reams, which he would spare the bank for this partic
Wherepuon the board resolved that Benjamin F. Bache print a num. ber of tickets of the denomination of three ninetieths of a dollar, equal to three pence specie, and also a number of tickets of the denomination of one ninetieth of a dollar, equal to one penny specie.”
The minutes of October 1, 1789, contain the copy of a letter from Thomas Willing, Esq. president of the bank, to Alexander Hamilton, secretary of the treasury, from which I have taken the following extract:
“We find, and daily experience convinces us, that there is much less risk of imposition by the counterfeiting of our paper, than of gold and silver now current in America; of which there are so many base pieces well made, and current, that it is hardly possible for a person to receive it without loss, though ever so well informed. It is a truth, that we have destroyed, the last three years, to the full amount of twenty thousand dollars, offered to us in payment as gold and silver."
These extracts furnish us with the experience of our forefathers on the subject of paper and specie, which it will be well for us to remem. ber in the course of this discussion.
The resolution before the committee, if intended as a measure of hostility to the banks, will prove abortive; the arrow will fall short of its mark. The banks will not issue one dollar less on that account, since. all who borrow of them, if they cannot obtain five dollar notes, will be glad to get ten dollar notes.
When the Bank of England was chartered in 1694, the same cry of monopoly was urged against its creation. This cry was raised, not by the people, but by the proud barons, whg foresaw, in the measure, an abridgement of their overwhelming power. They perceived that its tendency was to elevate the commoners in wealth and influence to a level with themselves. They were right. The commerce of the country, which they were too slothful, or too aristocratic to cultivate, was then at a low ebb'; but by the stimulus to industry, which the link-soon diffused over the whole nation, manufactures began to flourish, and the canvass of Great Britain to whiten every ocean, in every quarter of the globe. From that period to this, the wealth, the power and the greatness of the British empire, has been constantly on the increase, until they have attained an eminence surpassed by no nation on earth.
A bank, in its simple elements, is but an association of individuals, for the purpose of lending money - A charter guaranties to the stockholder, that he shall not be made liable for more than the stock he subscribes; and is as much a matter of convenience to the public, as to himself, since claimants on the bank can, with greater facility and certainty, assert their claims, by suing an unit, which a corporation is, than by pursuing individuals difficult to be designated.
A bank is invaluable to young traders of fair reputation. It enables them to enter into competition with their more wealthy neighbors, for fortune and for fame. Were it not for the facility thus afforded to merit and enterprise, the business of the country would be confined to a few capitalists, who would purchase on their own terms, and sell only for extravagant profits. The farmer would receive less for his produce, and pay higher for those necessaries he wants in return.
Banks prevent robberies. It is no doubt within the recollection of others beside myself, on this floor, that for some years before the estab. lishment of the old Bank of the United States, in 1791, robberies were of such frequent occurrence, that two or three burglaries in a single night, were not uncommon. Our highways were infested by thieves, and our farm houses frequently despoiled. The Bank of North America was then the only one in existence, and as it was but little understood,
peo. ple were not in the habit of depositing their money in its vaults for safe keeping
When that bank was re-chartered in 1787, the late Judge Breckenridge was a representative from Allegheny in the legislature, whose ses.
sions were then held in Philadelphia. He left home a determined enemy of the bank. He and his constituents had formed those horrible ideas of its wickedness, which many now think, or affect to entertain, of the banks of the present day. Some imagined that it was composed of a band of banditti, who inhabited caves on the banks of the Delaware, from whence they sallied forth to rob hen roosts, and to perpetrate other depredations on the lives and property of their quiet neighbors. From their supposed residence on the margin of the Delaware, was derived, in the conception of these honest country people, the name of banks. The representative I have named, pursued his slow and cautious course towards the city, inquiring, as he advanced into the doings of this young monster. But Breckenridge was not a man to be long imposed upon; he remained but a short time in the infected city, when maugre the instructions and fears of his constituents, a became one of the most powerful advocates for re-chartering the bank and it was accordingly re-chartered.
The banks have been coarteously called robbers, by members of this convention. If after having i id for their privileges, and they do not transcend their powers, they sh d be forcibly deprived of their charters, who are then the robbers ? Tap or those who despoil them of their rights ? But, say them Tuante e don't want to destroy, but only to regulate the banks. That is
a pose, only to cut off their arms and legs, and then let them run,
But we have other proposemns than the one now under consideration, placed on ou enes, for future action, and emanating from the same quarier, from the “ woods of Susquehanna!"—We are to have, it seems, but ten banks in the state, with a capital of three millions each ; thus cutting off nearly one half of our present circhation, Now, have gentlemen reflected on the effects of this measure ? On the misery and loss to individuals, and to the public, which must result from calling out of circulation so many millions of our currency? It is scarcely possible to believe that the advocates of this ruinous project can be serious. But where are the ten banks to be located ? One will doubtless be allotted to Susquehanna county, and it may be convenient for the delegate from that county, (A. Read) to be its cashier. Another will doubtless go to Indiana county; and one may find its way to Wilkesbarre, to gladden the heart of the delegate from Luzerne. But where will you plant the remaining seven? None can be expected to domesticate in this city of abominations—this " bank bound city of speculators and robbers”—this “gang” of foul spirits—this city of “ merchants, whose counting houses are their churches, whose money is their God, and whose legers,—defaced legers of course, the delegate from Indiana will understand me, whose legers are their Bibles.' Allow me once for all, to observe, that the inhabitants of this same wicked city, have thirty millions of dollars invested in your internal improvements—your turnpikes, rail roads, canals, &c. &c.—and no small portion of the revenue of the state, is drawn from the same source. I could name an individual, now on this floor, who, besides other investments of the kind, that produce him some remuneration, has one hundred thousand dollars invested in improvements of acknowledged utility to the state, from which he derives not one cent of income. might also point your attention to our charitable institutions, our numerous associations, for the promotion of knowledge and science,