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in some way or other, in the collection, salekeeping, and alsbursements 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 ita 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 preten se of such a necessity is sustained by the provisions of this bill. The bank is not tors of the customs and your receivers at the land offices are still to be continued, and every dollar is to be collected by them as heretofore. Nor is it true that the bank is to be charged with the payment or disbursement of the revenue: these, under the warrants of your Treasurer, are to be made by your paymasters, pursers, and other public officers, as they have been from the foundation of the Government. All that this fiscal concern is to be employed by the Government to do, is to have the simple custody of our revenue during the brief period between its collection and disbursement. And is this all the necessity-all the propriety for this mighty institution ? Certainly it is, all-all. Simply to keep your surplus revenue, when all agree that there should be no surplus; and to keep it for a little while, until you can find some creditor willing to take it off your hands. What a mighty edifice to be reared on so small a foundation! a mountain resting on a pebble!
Unable, as it is now falsely pretended, to keep our own revenue, we are called upon to establish this ponderous agency for that purpose, and for that purpose only. We must advance certainly ten millions-probably sixteen millions--to set this agency in operation. I mistake, sir; we do not advance the money; we have it not to advance. We must borrow it at home or abroad, and pay an interest of at least half a million of dollars. Ten millions, at five per cent., make that sum; and if we have to take the sixteen millions mentioned in the bill, it will be nearly three-quarters of a million. This amazing sum we must pay annually for the benefits of this wonderful agency. What was the cost of the Independent Treasury, which we are so often told the people have rejected ? It did not exceed fifty thousand dollars per annum. Fifty thousand against five hundred thousand ! Yes, sir, carry this fact home, faithfully home to the people,-that for this new Fiscal Bank they must pay at least ten times as much as for the Independent Treasury. What a commentary on the economy of this reformed and reforming administration! Where we formerly paid ten dollars for the temporary custody of our revenues, we are to pay now one hundred ; and where one hundred, we must now pay one thousand! You point me in vain to the
of all this interest. The fate of the old bank, and of hundreds of others now lying like shattered and broken wrecks over the whole ocean of incorporated insolvency, will furnish ample refutation to the argument. With all their profits and nearly all of their original capital wasted and plundered, what hopes can we have of future profits and dividends from this institution, made by party, and whose proceeds will be prostituted and wasted for the vilest purposes of party?
Mr. Chairman, it is on a slender necessity, such as I have described, that the present charter is asked for with convulsive anxiety. It was on such a foundation as this that the constitutionality of the old bank was sustained by the Supreme Court of the United States; not that the judges thought such an institution to be necessary and proper, for that they have never decided; but that if Congress thought it so, it was not for them to decide to the contrary;—that it was the exclusive province of Congress to decide on that question, and, having done so by passing the charter, it was not their province to set aside that decision. The celebrated opinion of Chief Justice Marshall, in the case of the Bank of Maryland, “has this extent-no more."
And yet the gentleman from Pennsylvania, in this debate, has pressed the argument on the House that this was the decision of the tribunal of the last resort, and that all the other departments of the Government must yield and conform to its adjudication. Sir, it is in exact accordance with its decisions that this House is now considering this very question of constitutionality. They have declared that it is our business to decide that question, and not theirs. If more than this is claimed to have been decided by that court, I deny its authority to have gone further. We are co-ordinate and co-equal with the judiciary. It is our business to prescribe the law; it is theirs to administer it and enforce it between individuals. But the constitution is above both. Each, in its own department, must construe for itself, and neither can control or lord it over the other. That solemn oath which you administered to every member on this floor, embraced nothing but the constitution, and had nothing to do with those commentaries which the judi
sanctions of that oath would be personal, both in time and eternity
But the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Borts) claims more than a Popish infallibility for this tribunal. Their decisions are to be above and to supersede the constitution. Instead of that sacred instrument being laid on our table, in order to be before us for perpetual reference, it is to be laid upon the shelf, or hid in some obscure recess of this vast Capitol, and the decisions of the Supreme Court substituted in its stead. This, sir, is what the gentleman's argument would do for the constitution. What does it do with the President? The gentleman declares that, in the face of the decisions of that court, the President has no right to think about the high injunctions of the constitution; that the court has thought for him-has expounded for him; and it is his bounden duty to conform, with implicit obedience, to its commands. The same argument leads to the stultification of this House and of the Senate of the United States. But, sir, I am not surprised at it. Throughout this session we have been told that we had no right to debate; now we are informed (what it was easy to anticipate) that we are not to think adversely to the Supreme Court.
Yes, Mr. Chairman, the freedom of debate has been cloven down; the liberty of thought has been denied to this House and to the President; and these two great departments of our Government are proclaimed to be the mere agents to register the edicts of the judiciary.
Sir, I am admonished that I have but three minutes more to protest against the passage of this bill,three minutes more to protest against the monstrous doctrines by which it is sustained. Sir, I have no use for them, but to give them back to that inexorable majority by whom they were granted.
V. B. does not wish to be understood as saying that the journals of the convention show that the proposition to authorize Congress to charter a durant was, eo nomine, submitted to the convention and rejected. That there was such a proposition, however, is satisfactorily established by other testimony. He submits the following from Mr. Jefferson's Memoirs : “March the 11th, 1798. When the bank bill was under discussion in the House of Representatives, Judge Wilson came in, and was standing by Baldwin. Baldwin reminded him of the following fact which passed in the grand convention. Among the enumerated powers given to Congress, was one to erect corporations. It was on debate struck out. Several particular powers were then proposed. Among others, Robert Morris proposed to give to Congress a power to establish a national bank. Gouverneur Morris opposed it; observing that it was extremely doubtful whether the Constitution they were framing could ever be passed at all by the American people ; that to give it its best chance, however, they should make it as palatable as possible, and put nothing into it not very essential, which might raise up enemies. That his colleague (Robert Morris) well knew that a bank had been the great bone of contention between the two parties of the State, from the establishment of their constitution ; having been erected, put down, erected again, as either party preponderated ; that, therefore, to insert this power would instantly enlist against the whole instrument, the whole of the antibank party of Pennsylvania : whereupon it was rejected, as was every other special power, except that of giving copy-rights to authois, and patents to inventors. The general power of incorporating being whittled down to this shred. Wilson agreed to the fact.”
The argument here submitted, as to the rejection of this power, is fully sustained, however, by the following extract from the journal of the conven. tion. (1st vol. Elliott's Debates, page 278.)
“Saturday, August 18, 1787.—The following additional powers proposed to be vested in the legislature of the United States, having been submitted to the consideration of the convention, &c., were referred, &c. The fifth proposition of the series was as follows:
"To grant charters of incorporation in cases where the public good may require them, and the authority of a single State may be incompetent.
“ The 12th of the same series was in the following words : “ To grant charters of incorporation."