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exclusive legislation over the District of Columbia, but we may pledge the faith of the United States that, as a means of executing other powers, it shall not be exercised for twenty years, or forever. We may not pass an act prohibiting the states to tax the banking business carried on within their limits, but we may, as a means of executing power over other objects, place that business in the hands of our agents, and then declare it exempt from state taxation in their hands. Thus may our own powers and the rights of the states, which we cannot directly curtail or invade, be frittered away and extinguished in the use of means employed by us to execute other powers. That a Bank of the United States, competent to all the duties which may be required by the government, might be so organized as not to infringe on our own delegated powers, or the reserved rights of the states, I do not entertain a doubt. Had the executive been called upon to furnish the project of such an institution, the duty would have been cheerfully performed. In the absence of such a call, it is obviously proper that he should confine himself to pointing out those prominent features in the act presented, which, in his opinion, make it incompatible with the constitution and sound policy. A general discussion will now take place, eliciting new light, and settling important principles; and a new Congress, elected in the midst of such discussion, and furnishing an equal representation of the people according to the last census, will bear to the capitol the verdict of public opinion, and, I doubt not, bring this important question to a satisfactory result. - Under such circumstances, the bank comes forward and asks a renewal of its charter for a term of fifteen years, upon conditions which not only operate as a gratuity to the stockholders of many millions of dollars, but will sanction any abuses and legalize any encroachments. Suspicions are entertained, and charges are made, of gross abuse and violation of its charter. An investigation unwillingly conceded, and so restricted in time as necessarily to make it incomplete and unsatisfactory, disclosed enough to excite suspicion and alarm. In the practices of the principal bank partially unveiled, in the absence of important witnesses, and in numerous charges confidently made, and as yet wholly uninvestigated, there was enough to induce a majority of the committee of investigation, a committee which was selected from the most able and honorable members of the House of Representatives, to recommend a suspension of further action upon the bill, and a prosecution of the inquiry. As the charter had yet four years to run, and as a renewal now was not necessary to the successful prosecution of its business, it was to have been expected that the bank itself, conscious of its purity, and proud of its character, would have withdrawn its application for the present, and demanded the severest scrutiny into all its transactions. In their declining to do so, there seems to be an additional reason why the functionaries of the government should proceed with less haste and more caution in the renewal of their monopoly. The bank is professedly established as an agent of the executive branches of the government, and its constitutionality is maintained on that ground. Neither upon the propriety of present action, nor upon the provisions of this act, was the executive consulted. It has had no opportunity to say that it neither needs nor wants an agent clothed with such powers, and favored by such exemptions. There is nothing in its legitimate functions which makes it necessary or proper. Whatever interest or influence, whether public or private, has given birth to this act, it cannot be found either in the wishes or necessities of the executive department, by which present action is deemed premature, and the powers conferred upon its agent not only unnecessary, but dangerous to the government and country. It is to be regretted that the rich and powerful too often bend the acts of government to their selfish purposes. Distinctions in society will always exist under every just government. Equality of talents, of education, or of wealth, cannot be produced by human institutions. In the full enjoyment of the gifts of Heaven, and the fruits of superior industry, economy, and virtue, every man is equally entitled to protection by law. But when the laws undertake to add to these natural and just advantages, artificial distinctions, to grant titles, gratuities, and exclusive privileges, to make the rich richer, and the potent more powerful, the humble members of society, the farmers, mechanics, and laborers, who have neither the time nor the means of securing like favors to themselves, have a right to complain of the injustice of their government. There are no necessary evils in government. Its evils exist only in its abuses. If it would confine itself to equal protection, and, as Heaven does its rains, shower its favors alike on the high and the low, the rich and the poor, it would be an unqualified blessing. In the act before me, there seems to be a wide and unnecessary departure from these just principles. Nor is our government to be maintained, or our Union preserved, by invasion of the rights and powers of the several states. In thus attempting to make our general government strong, we make it weak. Its true strength consists in leaving individuals and states, as much as possible, to themselves; in making itself felt, not in its power, but in its beneficence; not in its control, but in its protection; not in binding the states more closely to the centre, but leaving each to move unobstructed in its proper orbit. -Experience should teach us wisdom. Most of the difficulties our government now encounters, and most of the dangers which impend over our Union, have sprung from an abandonment of the legitimate objects of government by our national legislation, and the adoption of such principles as are imbodied in this act. Many of our rich men have not been content with equal protection and equal benefits, but have besought us to make them richer by act of Congress. By attempting to gratify their desires, we have, in the results of our legislation, arrayed section against section, interest against interest, and man against man, in a fearful commotion, which threatens to shake the foundations of our Union. It is time to pause in our career, to review our principles, and, if possible, revive that devoted patriotism and spirit of compromise which distinguished the sages of the revolution and the fathers of our Union. If we cannot at once, in justice to the interests vested under improvident legislation, make our government what it ought to be, we can at least take a stand against all new grants of monopolies and exclusive privileges, against any prostitution of our government to the advancement of the few at the expense of the many, and in favor of compromise and gradual reform in our code of laws and system of political economy. I have now done my duty to my country. If sustained by my fellow-citizens, I shall be grateful and happy; if not, I shall find in the motives which impel me, ample grounds for contentment and peace. In the difficulties which surround us, and the dangers which threaten our institutions, there is cause for neither dismay nor alarm. For relief and deliverance, let us firmly rely on that kind Providence which, I am sure, watches with peculiar care over the destinies of our republic, and on the intelligence and wisdom of our countrymen. Through His abundant goodness, and their patriotic devotion, our liberty and union will be preserved.
THE bill entitled “An act to incorporate the subscribers to the Fiscal Bank of the United States,” which originated in the Senate, has been considered by me, with a sincere desire to conform my action in regard to it to that of the two Houses of Congress. By the constitution it is made my duty either to approve the bill by the signing act, or to return it, with my objections, to the house in which it originated. I cannot conscientiously give it my approval, and I proceed to discharge the duty required of me by the constitution — to give my reasons for disapproving.
The power of Congress to create a national bank to operate per se over the Union, has been a question of dispute from the origin of our government. Men most justly and deservedly esteemed for their high intellectual endowments, their virtue, and their patriotism, have, in regard to it, entertained different and conflicting opinions. Congresses have differed. The approval of one President has been followed by the disapproval of another. The people at different times have acquiesced in decisions both for and against. The country has been, and still is, deeply agitated by this unsettled question. It will suffice for me to say, that my own opinion has been uniformly proclaimed to be against the exercise of any such power by this government. On all suitable occasions, during a period of twenty-five years, the opinion thus entertained has been unreservedly expressed. I declared it in the legislature of my native state. In the House of Representatives of the United States it has been openly vindicated by me. In the Senate chamber, in the presence and hearing of many who are at this time members of that body, it has been affirmed and re-affirmed, in speeches and reports there made, and by votes there recorded. In popular assemblies I have unhesitatingly announced it; and the last public declaration which I have made, and that but a short time before the late presidential election, I referred to my previously expressed opinions as being those then entertained by me; with a full knowledge of the opinions thus entertained, and never conceded, I was elected by the people Vice-President of the United States. By the occurrence of a contingency provided for by the constitution, and arising under an impressive dispensation of Providence, I succeeded to the presidential office. Before entering upon the duties of that office, I took an oath that I would “preserve, protect, and defend the constitution of the United States.” Entertaining the opinions alluded to, and having taken this oath, the Senate and the country will see that I could not give my sanction to a measure of the character described, without surrendering all claim to the respect of honorable men — all confidence on the part of the people — all self-respect — all regard for moral and religious ob1igations; without an observance of which, no government can be prosperous, and no people can be happy. It would be to commit a crime which I would not wil