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Sir, (said Mr. B.) this distinc:ion is not easy to understand ; but if the gentleman gives it so, we are bound to take it. But this charge has been given to the winds ; it must be met, and, if it can be done, shown to be without the least foundation. The delegate from Susquehanna as well as Mr. B., was at Harrisburg when the mails of the day brought the information of the suspension in Philadelphia and New York. The dismay and embarrassment it occasioned was felt by all.
Meetings were immediately called at Harrisburg, of those who had the managing of the banking institutions there, and ihe result was a declaration, that the only step by which the safety of these institutions, and of the thousands connected with them as debtors could be assured the only alternative was to follow the example of New York and of this city—that is to say, to suspend specie payments. But nothing could be further from the opinions and knowledge of one and all of these gentlemen, than any thing like previous combination, or even a suspicion of what was about to take place. I take this fact as a standard, in relation to all the institutions of the state of Pennsylvania, and I feel that I am fully warranted in doing so. It had an influence, so far as character goes, upon all the institutions of our state. Upon the day after the occurrence, to which I have just alluded, I was in York--the place where I reside. A bank has existed there since the year 1814. I was a director of that bank. Information had arrived the evening before of the suspension of specie payments. The directors were immediately called together, and abey, like the directors of the banking institutions of Harrisburg, determined also, upon a suspension of specie payments. But I assert confidently, in regard to the directors there, as well as at Harrisburg, so far from their having been a combination, there did not even exist a suspicion, that such an event was about to take place. It had never entered the ininds of these gentlemen.
Here, sir, are facts coming home to the understanding of every man, showing nothing like pre-concert, nothing like combination. Sir, the Duspension of specie payments on the part of the banks, was an act of stern and absolute necessity, like that which compels the commander of a vessel of war, to throw his guns overboard, that he may save his ship and the lives entrusted to his charge. It was a terrible necessity which compelled them to adopt that measure, although they saw embarrassment and difficulty on every side. No other plan presented itself to them ; no other measure could have saved the banks, and those whose vital interests were so intimately connected with them. But even if there had been any other way to save themselves, let me ask the gentleman from Susquehanna, (Mr. Read) where could have been the motive for this conspiracy which he charges against the banks? Here is a measure charged upon them, which must bring with it embarrassment, danger to their charter, and in fact, every evil which they would be most desirous to zvert. I do not know for what purpose these charges have been made, unless it may be to aid in the consummation of a work which is going on elsewhere, and that is, to break down these institutions—to sweep them from the surface of the earth.
In relation to the effects of this suspension, gentlemen have brought forward here as one of the calamities which have resulted from that meas
ure, that all the specie has been absorbed by the banks. In this particular, they are certainly in error. At the time the suspension took place, the currency existed of notes of the banks and of a certain amount of specie. Where is it now? The banks have not got it. Where, then, is it? I answer, it is among the people who have themselves suspended specie payments.
The banks have acquired some since that time. There may, indeed, be some slight increase as to some few of the banks, but it is by no means general. Thus we see that this argument falls at onee to the ground, so soon as we come to compare it with facts as they are known to exist.
But, sir, delegates on this floor who have supported the amendment offered by the gentleman from Susquehanna (Mr. Read) in the first instance, and subsequently by my friend on the right, (Mr. Fuller) have accused myself and others, who take the opposite side of the question to them. selves, with being opposed to all reform, to all regulation or restriction of the banking system. This accusation---that we are opposed to all reform -has been loudly and repeatedly made; and, sir, it places us in a false position. One and all of the gentlemen who have taken the same ground in relation to the banks, that I have taken, admit that there are defects in the present system, which might, with great propriety, be remedied. But, the great point of difference between us is, that we say, that these are defects which must be regulated by the legislature, and which cannot be regulated by any act on the part of this convention. They attempt to constitute this body into a legislative assembly, and we, on the other hand, while we admit the existence of the defects in the system, say that it is the province of the legislature, and of the legislature alone, to remedy those defects.
But, there is another point, Mr. Chairman, to which I would call the attention of the committee for a moment. I allude to the strange inconsistency to which gentlemen on the other side are compelled to resort, in order to support their own propositions. All the leading debate on their part has been such as was calculated to destroy the banks, by the use of every opprobrious epithet which the gentlemen could devise. This has been the same from beginning to the end of this discussion. I will not repeat their language ; its character was such that it could not escape the observation of all who heard it. 'The gentlemen have all closed their remarks with the same song— we are the friends of these institutions, we do not wish to destroy them;" like the man who would give the vital stab, and afterwards with a composed air, assure his victim he meant him no harm-that he only wished to regulate his system. The whole tenor of the remarks of the gentlemen has tended entirely, and directly to have the effect to destroy every banking institution in the state. I do not say that such was their design, I merely say that this would be the effect. This would be the inevitable result, and as to speaking of reform, you might just as well attemptto resuscitate a dead man after you had destroyed him, as attempt to reform a system from which you have taken the vital support away. What is the life blood of these institutions in the absence of which they can have no vitality-no existence?. It is public confidence and the public good will. The gentleman from Allegheny (Mr. Forward) put the matter upon the only true principle; they must have public confidence and good will, and public opinion at all times in their favor. If this is not so, they are of no avail—they are absolutely useless ; they can do no good either to themselves or others.
But, Mr. Chairman, among other epithets which have been applied to these institutions, they have been spoken of by the strong name of aristocracies and monopolies. Now, I take the opposite ground and I say, that the very nature and object of a bank is to prevent this very monopoly of which such grievous complaints are made. Banks are distributors of money. Monopolies bring together the money of wealthy individuals, for works of private interest peculiar to themselves. Banks, on the contrary, are the means by which capital is distributed ; they are the very antipodes of monopolies. Their object is to make capital useful in every branch of trade and business. I would say, in short, that banks are legal institutions under legal restrictions, by which the wealth and capital of the country are distributed and made subservient to the demands of those who require it, to make industry or skill more productive and profitable. This is my definition of a bank.
But, gentlemen speak also of banks, being aristocratic institutions. I assert, on the other hand, that they are the very offspring of democracy-yes, sir, the very children of democracy. When had we more democracy among us than in the time of Simon Snyder? At that day, the people, with scarce an exception, were all democrats. And what was the veto on the banks ? . It wannan old federal measure which had been condemned as a measure of John Adams, the elder, to strengthen the hands of government. What was the result, when Governor Snyder objected to the establishment of banks? Why, sir, the people would have them, whether the governor was willing or not, and those banks were chartered by a majority of three-fourths of the legislature of your state. Here was your democracy of numbers.
From their very nature, banks are democratic. And, here let me say a word in reply to my friend from the county (Mr. Brown) who is not now in his seat, and who made a reference to the extraordinary political revolution which has recently taken place in New York. If I understood the gentleman correctly, he attributed this singular change to bank influence. Sir, this is only carrying out the idea of Mr. Van Buren, in his message, to the congress of the United States. I, for one, disagree entirely with both these gentlemen. I say, that it was not corruption, that it was not improper bank influence, which has produced these great results in New York, but that it was the people coming to the rescue of their own institutions. Such a charge as this, even when it brings with it the weight of the endorsement of the President of the United States, can not gain credence with those who are willing to know the truth, and to judge by the truth alone. The great secret of that revolution, no doubt was, that the people saw their own institutions were in danger and they resolved to come to the rescue. The United States Bank, as we all know, was allowed to go down. The leaders of a powerful party took their stand against it, and it fell. But, that institution stood upon a very different footing from our own state institutions. It had no sympathy with the pcople, and it fell at once, because it had no sympathy with the people. But, when the leaders of a party, which had become desperate endeavored to drive this destruction home to our state institutions, then you find that the matter assumes a very different aspect. The people found that an attack on one interest would bring with it an attack upon another. They rose at once and stayed the hand of the destroyers, who care little for the real interests of the people, provided they can make their favor a means of obtaining office. Sir, let me assure gentlemen, that they have entirely mistaken the ground in this respect they will find, if ihey do not already know, that these institutions are so intimately blended with the happiness and the prosperity of the people, that all attempts to interfere with, or destroy them, will, in the end, meet with signal defeat.
I must now, Mr. Chairman, allude briefly to the course of the gentleman from Fayette, (Mr. Fuller.) He introduced a resolution of a very singular character, in connexion with the subject. I refer to the resolution, the object of which was to exclude any member of this body, who might be a stockholder i anyanking institution, from voting upon any question connected with the interest of banks. I believe, I state correctly the purport of the resolution. Now, I admit that in a case where a question of right between man and an is to be decided, it is judicious and proper, if not indispensable Bessary, that he who has an interest in the decision, shall not be allo ed to take any part in the matter. But, this principle never could be exerted to represent active deliberations. Such a principle would be in direct opposition to that which the gentleman from Fayette himself maintains—that is to say : that a representative, in his character as such, represents his constituents, and that all his opinions are the opinions of his constituents.
For my own part, I do not go quite so far ; still that is the principle maintained by the gentlemen from Fayette. Instead, therefore, of this being an objection, it should be otherwise, in connecting his interest with theirs, and thus giving an additional reason for his fidelity in the discharge of those duties which his constituents have imposed
Suppse that you were to apply the principle contained in that resolution, to legislative acts, I will ask any gentleman whether a single question could come up before a legislative body, in which every meinber has not himself a direct pecuniary interest? Every law which is adopted by the legislature affects every individual in some way or other ; especially all law in relation to taxes, revenue, and the financial affairs of the country. Each man has to pay his quota under these laws. Sir, I shall pay no regard to such a principle. I feel myself beyond the control of that resolution, or of this body, in regard to any vote which I may think proper to give upon any matter touching the interests of my constit
But, there is another point of view which shews that the gentleman from Fayette is interfering with the garments of others, while his own skirts are by no means clear. It is the supposition here that these banking privileges have generally belonged to the people that they have been granied to individuals as so much of the people's property ; and, it is the desire of gentlemen who array themselves here in opposition to the banking system, to get back to the people these rights and privileges which they say have been improperly granted.
Now, sir, if I am a stockholder in one of these institutions, I hold a portion of these privileges under the charter by which that institution was incorporated; and, if the gentleman from Fayette holds some, he is one of the people. It is, then, a mere question of meum and tuum. Is he not as much interested in taking this away from me, as am in keep
If I am to be excluded from holding it at all, it follows, by necessary consequence, and for the same reason, that he would be exclu. ded as one of the people from taking it from me. There is, therefore, just as much interest on the one side as there is on the other.
Such, it appears to me, Mr. Chairman, is the position in which gentlemen on the other side have placed themselves by the course of argument they have adopted. They are equally interested.
I come now to say a few words in relation to the immediate question before us.
If I understand it, the amendinent which has been offered or assumed by the gentleman from Susquehanna, is this ;-in the first place, recogniziug the 3d section of the 7th article of the constitution of 1790, as it now stands--adding to it a clause in relation to double legislation operating upon bank charters--and then, added to that, is the proposition of the gentleman from Fayette, (Mr. Fuller) prohibiting the banks from *issuing notes of a less denomination than ten dollars. This, I believe, is precisely the state of the question at the present moment.
In regard to the first branch of the amendment, we, of course, can have no objection.
In regard to the second part of that which requires the double action of the legislature in the part of a bank charter,-although I do not think it is very important as applicable to the future-still, it appears to'me to be objectionable upon several grounds. I am not able to discover any reason why, in granting a mere private petty corporation, the action of two successive legislatures should be made requisite; especially when we know that a single legislature has power to decide upon the dearest rights of property and of life. Where the reason is to justify this difference, I cannot tell. Perhaps some gentleman on the other side may be good enough to enlighten me.
But there is another reason why I am opposed to it. According to my view of the matter, it conveys a direct sanction-it gives an unequivocal endorsement to the strange and wild accusations which have been made, as well in this body as out of it, against the legislative assembly of our state. It would to a certain extent, directly sanction the declaration which has gone abroad, that the representatives of the people are unworthy to be trusted. I am unwilling, by any word or act of mine, to sanction that idea in the slightest degree. I, therefore, cannot vote for it.
In regard to the last provision-that which proposes to restrict the banks from issuing any notes of less denomination than ten dollars, there are two or three objections which, to my mind, appear so strong, that I think no member can be so blind as not to see them.
In the first place, then, what is this proposition? It is nothing more than an ingenious attempt to annul, to expunge that very important reso. lution which was passed by so large a vote in this body, some four or