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guarded and properly restrained; and it may be so guarded and restrained. We need not give up the good which belongs to it, through fear of the evils which may follow from its abuse. We have the power to take security against these evils. It is our business, as statesmen, to adopt that security; it is our business, not to prostrate, or attempt to prostrate, the system, but to use those means of precaution, restraint, and correction, which experience has sanctioned, and which are ready at our hands.
It would be to our everlasting reproach, it would be placing us below the general level of the intelligence of civilized states, to admit that we cannot contrive means to enjoy the benefits of bank circulation, and of avoiding, at the same time, its dangers. Indeed, Sir, no contrivance is necessary. It is contrivance, and the love of contrivance, that spoil all. We are destroying ourselves by a remedy which no evil called for. We are ruining perfect health by nostrums and quackery. We have lived hitherto under a well constructed, practical, and beneficial system; a system not surpassed by any in the world; and it seems to me to be presuming largely, largely indeed, on the credulity and self-denial of the people, to rush with such sudden and impetuous haste into new schemes and new theories, to overturn and annihilate all that we have so long found useful.
Our system has hitherto been one in which paper has been circulating on the strength of a specie basis; that is to say, when every bank-note was convertible into specie at the will of the holder. This has been our guard against excess. While banks are bound to redeem their bills by paying gold and silver on demand, and are at all times able to do this, the currency is safe and convenient. Such a currency is not paper money, in its odious sense. It is not like the Continental paper of Revolutionary times; it is not like the worthless bills of banks which have suspended specie payments. On the contrary, it is the representative of gold and silver, and convertible into gold and silver on demand, and therefore answers the purposes of gold and silver; and so long as its credit is in this way sustained, it is the cheapest, the best, and the most convenient circulating medium. I have already endeavored to warn the country against irredeemable paper; against the paper of banks which do not pay specie for their own notes; against that miserable, abominable, and VOL. III.
fraudulent policy, which attempts to give value to any paper, of any bank, one single moment longer than such paper is redeemable on demand in gold and silver. I wish most solemnly and earnestly to repeat that warning. I see danger of that state of things ahead. I see imminent danger that a portion of the State banks will stop specie payments. The late measure of the Secretary, and the infatuation with which it seems to be supported, tend directly and strongly to that result. Under pretence, then, of a design to return to a currency which shall be all specie, we are likely to have a currency in which there shall be no specie at all. We are in danger of being overwhelmed with irredeemable paper, mere paper, representing not gold nor silver; no, Sir, representing nothing but broken promises, bad faith, bankrupt corporations, cheated creditors, and a ruined people. This, I fear, Sir, may be the consequence, already alarmingly near, of this attempt, unwise if it be real, and grossly fraudulent if it be only pretended, of establishing an exclusively hard-money currency.
But, Sir, if this shock could be avoided, and if we could reach the object of an exclusive metallic circulation, we should find in that very success serious and insurmountable inconveniences. We require neither irredeemable paper, nor yet exclusively hard money. We require a mixed system. We require specie, and we require, too, good bank paper, founded on specie, representing specie, and convertible into specie on demand. We require, in short, just such a currency as we have long enjoyed, and the advantages of which we seem now, with unaccountable rashness, about to throw away.
I avow myself, therefore, decidedly against the object of a return to an exclusive specie currency. I find great difficulty, I confess, in believing any man serious in avowing such an object. It seems to me rather a subject for ridicule, at this age of the world, than for sober argument. But if it be true that any are serious for the return of the gold and silver age, I am seriously against it.
Tet us, Sir, anticipate, in imagination, the accomplishment of this grand experiment. Let us suppose that, at this moment, all bank paper were out of existence, and the country full of specie. Where, Sir, should we put it, and what should we do with it? Should we ship it, by cargoes, every day, from New York
to New Orleans, and from New Orleans back to New York ? Should we encumber the turnpikes, the railroads, and the steamboats with it, whenever purchases and sales were to be made in one place of articles to be transported to another? The carriage of the money would, in some cases, cost half as much as the car. riage of the goods. Sir, the very first day, under such a state of things, we should set ourselves about the creation of banks. This would immediately become necessary and unavoidable. We may assure ourselves, therefore, without danger of mistake, that the idea of an exclusively metallic currency is totally incompatible, in the existing state of the world, with an active and extensive commerce. It is inconsistent, too, with the greatest good of the greatest number; and therefore I oppose it.
But, Sir, how are we to get through the first experiment, so as to be able to try that which is to be final and ultimate, that is to say, how are we to get rid of the State banks? How is this to be accomplished? Of the Bank of the United States, indeed, we may free ourselves readily; but how are we to annihilate the State banks? We did not speak them into being; we cannot speak them out of being. They did not originate in any exercise of our power; nor do they owe their continuance to our indulgence. They are responsible to the States; to us they are irresponsible. We cannot act upon them; we can only act with them; and the expectation, as it would appear, is, that, by zealously coöperating with the government in carrying into operation its new theory, they may disprove the necessity of their own existence, and fairly work themselves out of the world! Sir, I ask once more, Is a great and intelligent community to endure patiently all sorts of suffering for fantasies like these? How charmingly practicable, how delightfully probable, all this looks!
I find it impossible, Mr. President, to believe that the removal of the deposits arose in any such purpose as is now avowed. I believe all this to be an after-thought. The removal was resolved on as a strong measure against the bank; and now that it has been attended with consequences not at all apprehended from it, instead of being promptly retracted, as it should have been, it is to be justified on the ground of a grand experiment, above the reach of common sagacity, and dropped down, as it
were, from the clouds, “to witch the world with noble policy." It is not credible, not possible, Sir, that, six months ago, the administration suddenly started off to astonish mankind with its new inventions in politics, and that it then began its magnificent project by removing the deposits as its first operation. No, Sir, no such thing. The removal of the deposits was a blow at the bank, and nothing more; and if it had succeeded, we should have heard nothing of any project for the final put ting down of all State banks. No, Sir, not one word. We should have heard, on the contrary, only of their usefulness, their excellence, and their exact adaptation to the uses and necessities of this government. But the experiment of making successful use of State banks having failed, completely failed, in this the very first endeavor; the State banks having already proved themselves not able to fill the place and perform the duties of a national bank, although highly useful in their appropriate sphere; and the disastrous consequences of the measures of government coming thick and fast upon us, the professed object of the whole movement is at once changed, and the cry now is, Down with all the State banks! Down with all the State banks! and let us return to our embraces of solid gold and solid silver!
Sir, I have no doubt that, if there are any persons in the country who have seriously wished for such an event as the extinction of all banks, they have not, nevertheless, looked for the absence of all paper circulation. They have only looked for issues of paper from another quarter. We have already had distinct intimations that paper might be issued on the foundation of the revenue. The treasury of the United States is intended to become the Bank of the United States, and the Secretary of the Treasury is meant to be the great national banker. Sir, to say nothing of the crudity of such a notion, I may be allowed to make one observation upon it. We have, heretofore, heard much of the danger of consolidation, and of the great and well-grounded fear of the union of all powers in this government. Now, Sir, when we shall be brought to the state of things in which all the circulating paper of the country shall be issued directly by the treasury department, under the immediate control of the executive, we shall have consolidation with a witness!
Mr. President, this experiment will not amuse the people of this country. They are quite too serious to be amused. Their suffering is too intense to be sported with. Assuredly, Sir, they will not be patient as bleeding lambs under the deprivation of great present good, and the menace of unbearable future evils. They are not so unthinking, so stupid, I may almost say, as to forego the rich blessings now in their actual enjoyment, and trust the future to the contingencies and the chances which may betide an unnecessary and a wild experiment. They will not expose themselves at once to injury and to ridicule. They will not buy reproach and scorn at so dear a rate. They will not purchase the pleasure of being laughed at by all mankind at a price quite so enormous.
Mr. President, the objects avowed in this most extraordinary measure are altogether undesirable. The end, if it could be obtained, is an end fit to be strenuously avoided; and the process adopted to carry on the experiment, and to reach that end (which it can never attain, and which, in that respect, wholly fails), does not fail, meantime, to spread far and wide a deep and general distress, and to agitate the country beyond any thing which has heretofore happened to us in a time of peace.
Sir, the people, in my opinion, will not support this experi'ment. They feel it to be afflictive, and they see it to be ridiculous; and ere long, I verily believe, they will sweep it away with the resistless breath of their own voice, and bury it up with the great mass of the detected delusions and rejected follies of other times. I seek, Sir, to shun all exaggeration. I avoid studiously all inflammatory over-statement, and all emblazoning. But I beseech gentlemen to open their eyes and their ears to what is passing in the country, and not to deceive themselves with the hope that things can long remain as they are, or that any beneficial change will come until the present policy shall be totally abandoned. I attempted, Sir, the other day, to describe shortly the progress of the public distress. Its first symptom was spasm, contraction, agony. It seized first the commercial and trading classes. Some survive it, and some do not. But those who, with whatever loss, effort, and sacrifice, get through the crisis without absolute bankruptcy, take good care to make no new engagements till there shall be a change of times. They abstain from all further undertakings; and this brings the