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Statement of deposits of Gold and Silver in the mints, exclusive of California
gold, for 1849.
Total coinage in
pieces, Total coinage in
$361,299 $244,130,100 $1,646,000 $3,913,2667025 $11,164,6951001 Statement of the coinage at the mint and branches to the close of the year 1849 :
1793 11,725,426 63,470,612 176,801,491 61,091,211.30
1793 128,913,641 1,251,734.52 317,440.558 128,813,558.42 1838
37,103,725 27,259,213.00 1838
560,937 2,381,689.00 1838
128,913,641 $1,251,734.52 355,947,409 $162,182,400.42
TAXATION OF UNITED STATES PROPERTY WITHIN THE STATES.
THE PORTLAND CUSTOM-HOUSE AND PHILADELPHIA MINT CASES. The action of the supreme court upon these cases renders it proper that the public should be apprized of the questions involved in them. For a series of years prior to 1843, ihe city of Portland, under the laws of Maine, assessed a tax upon the United States custom-house, warehouse, and wharf in that city, which the collector paid, to avoid a forced collection. The attorney-general, Mr. Legare, having expressed an official opinion that this and all oiher taxes imposed upon property held by the United States for similar purposes, were illegal, the United States brought a suit in the United States circuit court to recover back the moneys thus paid. On the trial, the circuit judges were divided in opinion upon the constitutionality of the law imposing this tax, and certified their division to the supreme court for instructions. The case was argued two years since by Mr. Clifford, attorney-general, for the United States, and Mr. Evans for the city of Portland.
The court held the question under advisement until the last term, with the view of hearing the argument in the Philadelphia Mint case, before making a decision. The latter case was this: The city of Philadelphia, under the laws of Pennsylvania, as she claimed, assessed taxes upon the mint in that city, and under them brought a suit against Isaac Roach, then treasurer of the mint, as the occupant of the mint buildings, and recovered a judgment in the local court, which was affirmed by the supreme court of that state, on which the United States brought a writ of error to the United States supreme court, to test the validity of the law under which the tax had been assessed. The case was argued last winter by Mr. R. H. Gillet, then solicitor, and Mr. AttorneyGeneral Toucey, for the United States, and Mr. Brewster for the city of Phila. delphia.
On consultation, the supreme court ordered a re-argument at the present term, of the two causes together, upon the single question of the validity of the two statutes under which the taxes had been imposed. The two causes were argued a few days since, by Mr. Gillet and Attorney-General Johnson, for the United States, and by Mr. Evans for Portland, and Mr. Brewster for Philadelphia. It was contended on the part of the United States, that whatever the government purchased, or provided, under the constitution, in the execution of the powers conferred upon the national government, could not be taxed by the states, because by such taxation the state could destroy whatever was thus provided, or expel it from the state, which makes the state power supreme, and would enable it to exclude the authority of the national government from its territories.
It is further contended, that by thus taxing the instruments necessarily provided to coin money and collect revenue, Maine and Pennsylvania, in effect, imposed taxes upon her sister states, who contributed to the expense of providing them. And that if the custom-houses and mints could be taxed, ships employed by the navy, and the war and postoffice departments, ship maierials, arms, ammunition, and provisions, and the mail establishment, might also be taxed.
On the other side, it was contended that a state possessed the eminent domain within itse and might impose taxes, by general law, upon property within it, over which it had not conferred 'exclusive jurisdiction upon the United States. And that the United States, like other proprietors holding lands under the laws of a state, were bound to pay their share of the expenses incurred in administering the laws which protected such property; and that if it were otherwise, the national government might monopolize property, and thus prevent it from taxation, to the injury of the state, and to the destruction of state rights.
To this it was replied, that the power of eminent domain was limited under our system of government, and a state could only tax what she might take and apply to her own public use; but the power which wouldauthorize her to take possession of the custom-house and mint, and use them for poer-houses, or quariering state troops would be destroying necessary constitutional instruments; and that if the United States purchased and paid for real estate on which to make erections, it placed in the hands of the former owner taxable means in its stead; and that the states accepted the United States constitution upon the condition that its powers might be executed, without molestation, whenever necessary, of which the national government, as often held by the supreme court, must judge, unless these necessary buildings were exempt when Congress had ordered their erection, the laws passed empowering the United States constitution would not be supreme, as provided in that instrument.
On consultation, after this argument, the judges of the supreme court, eight being present, were equally divided in opinion, and, consequently, no opinion could be given as the judgment of the court upon the constitutional question involved. The Portland case was remitted to the circuit court to be disposed of without instructions. The mint case is left as it came to the supreme court, and, consequently, the judgment of the court below stands affirmed, and the tax upon the mint is to be collected. Whether the Portland taxes are to be recovered back, is a question now pending, and to be disposed of in the circuit court, by Justice Woodbury and Judge Ware, of Maine.—N. Y. Post.
INTEREST AND USURY LAWS. In an article on Interest, published in the Bankers Magazine, the writer makes the following statement for the purpose of exhibiting the advantages, that would result from a repeal of the laws limiting the rate of interest: "The case of Holland furnishes a practical and striking proof of the correctness of the theory we have been endeavouring to establish. It is an undoubted fact, that the rate of interest has been, for a very long period, lower in Holland 45, 5,
than in any other country in Europe; and yet Holland is the only country in which usury laws are altogether unknown, where capitalists are allowed to demand, and borrowers to pay any rate of interest. Strictly speaking, this applies only to the state of Holland previously to the revolution in 1795. The enactments of the Code Napoleon were subsequently introduced; but it appears from the report of the parliamentary committee on the usury laws, that They have not, in any instance, been acted upon. Notwithstanding all the violent changes of the government, and the extraordinary derangement of her financial concerns in the course of the last twenty years, the rate of interest in Holland has continued comparatively steady. During the whole of that period, persons who could offer unexceptionable security have been able to borrow, at from three to five and a half per cent.; nor has the average rate of interest charged on capital, advanced on the worst species of security, ever exceeded six or seven per cent., except when the government was negotiatiog a forced loan. The general rate of discount in Holland is from four to five per cent., and occasionally from three to three and a half per cent., but very seldom lower. During the revolution it had been at six and seven per cent., and even at eight; but this was generally owing to some forced financial operation on account of the government, and was never of long duration. The following is the average rate of discount at Amsterdam and Rotterdam from 1795 to 1817: 1795–4, 41, 5, 6.
6. 1796–4, 41, 5, 6.
3, 4, 5, 6. 1797–4, 41, 5, 5), 6, 9, 12. 1809–4, 41, 5, 6. 1798–4, 44, 5, 5.
1810-4, 4, 5,
6. 1799—3, 41, 5.
5. 1800—4, 45, 5, 6.
3), 4, 1801-4, 44, 5, 6. 1813–3, 3, 4, 5,
6. 1802–4, 5, 5), 6.
1814–4, 5, 54, 5, 6, 64. 1803-1, 5, 51, 6.
1815–54, 6, 61, 7. 1804-4, 44, 5,
55, 6, 64, 7. 1805–4, 5, 54, 6,
51, 6. 1806—4,
4, 5, 51, 6, 9. “The Bank of Amsterdam never discounts at a higher rate than five per cent.; but they discount at a lower rate, and vary their discounts according to the abundance of capital, never exceeding five per cent., and occasionally as low as two and a half and three.” (Mr. Holland's evidence, Report of the Committee on the Usury Laws, p. 45.) But in this country, where the law declares that no more than five per cent, shall be taken, the rate of interest for capital advanced on the best landed security has, in the same period, varied from five to sixteen or seventeen per cent., or five times as much as in Holland. Surely this ought to put to rest all doubts as to the impolicy and the inefficiency of the usury laws.
LEGAL RATE OF INTEREST IN FRANCE. In France the usury laws were abolished at the revolution; and it is distinçıly stated, that their abolition was not attended by any rise of interest.Storch, Economie Politique, tome iii. p. 187. According to the Code Napoleon, only six per cent. interest' is allowed to be taken in commercial affairs, and five per cent. when money is advanced on the security of real property. There is not, however, any difficulty in evading this law. The method resorted to for this purpose is to give a bonus before completing the transaction, or, which is the same thing, to frame the obligation for the debt for a larger sum than was really advanced by the lender. None of the parties particularly interested can be called to swear to the fact of such a bonus being given; so that the transaction is unimpeachable, unless a third party, who was privý
to the settling of the affair, can be produced as a witness. The Bank of France never discounts at a higher rate of interest than five per cent., but sometimes at a lower rate.
In Hamburg the rate of interest is quite unrestricted; or, if there be a written law restraining it, it has become altogether obsolete. The rate, therefore, varies according to circumstances. Occasionally it has been at seven, eight, and even ten per cent.; and in 1799, a period of great mercantile embarrassment and insecurity, it was as high as fourteen per cent. Generally, however, the rate of discount on good bills does not exceed four or five per centi Report on Usury Laws, p. 46.
In Russia the legal rate of interest is six per cent. But as Russia is a country capable of much improvement, and where there are very great facilities for the advantageous employment of capital, the market rate of interest is invariably higher than the statute rate, and the law is as constantly as it is easily evaded.— lbid. and Storch, tome iii. p. 207.
At Trieste, and throughout the Austrian empire in general, the usual rate of interest is fixed by law at six per cent.; but capital can seldom be obtained for less than eight or ten per cent.-See Report, ubi supra.
At Leghorn the ordinary rate of interest is a half per cent. per month, or six per cent. per annum; but there is no law to prevent the taking of a higher rate.
In Spain the ordinary rate of interest is six per cent.; but no law exists against taking a higher rate, and it seldom falls below five, or rises above seven per cent.
IN THE UNITED STATES.
In the United States legal interest is fixed at six per cent.; but the market jate fluctuates from ten to twelve per cent. Efforts, Mr. Birbeck informs us, are now making in various parts of the Union, particularly in Virginia and North Carolina, to do away the restraints on usury, which, as he justly observes, "operate merely as a tax on the needy borrower."
· RAIL ROAD STATISTICS, &c.
(From the Daily Advertiser.) During the financial embarrassments now passing away, as we trust, so much has been said and written, especially in the money articles of the public presses, of the rapid extension of railroads, and of their injurious consequences to other branches of business, it may be the part of wisdom to take a dispassionate view of the subject, and to know if the forebodings of croakers and other timid minds have sufficient foundation to justify their depressing anticipations.
For this purpose we propose to present some statistics, and institute some comparisons, which may tend to allay, in a degree, the apprehensions now rife in our community from such sources.
In England, where the railroad fever has seriously affected the pecuniary inte. rests of vast multitudes of speculators, there is just ground of alarm, because that country, with its already overgrown population and limited area of land, may not be in a position to justify such immense outlays for this branch of improvement.