Page images

Oct. 4, 1837. ]

Treasury Notes.

[H. OF R.

never, in his apprehension, intended to extend beyond em have. And in including this subject of corporations in barrassments and failures amongst mercantile men. Grant the bill now before the Senate, it will be taken entirely that some persons, not strictly traders, may, at times, have from the States and subjected to the power of the bank. been included in the provisions of some laws on the subject rupt system. This was never done, and never attempted, of bankruptcies; yet this was where the power of legisla- | in any country on the face of the globe. In England, tion was unlimited—where all legislation, as to all creditors such a provision was never dreamed of; nor did he believe and debtors, was invested in one body. It has but seldom that, when the constitution was framed, such an attribute occurred anywhere, and existed nowhere at the time of this was imagined by those who authorized the establishment of grant of power to Congress." “He was opposed to this a bankrupt system.” "The duties of banking institu. feature of the act, because to pass it would be to bring sub- tions must necessarily be discharged by agents. 'Their es. jects and citizens within the scope of the General Govern- sential responsibility is intangible by such a law. If the ment, never contemplated by our fathers; would be sweep- clause were to be inserted, and banks permitted to be made ing all classes into this Norwegian whirlpool-this vortex bankrupts, upon whom, upon what human being, could of disaster and difficulty to State rights and State inde- the penalty of the law be made to rest? Would you appendence, from which he could see no means of extrica- ply the rigor of the system to those agents, who are so far tion."

from being principals in the delinquency of the institutions Mr. Woodbury, on a subsequent day, (27th January, to which they are attached, that they are only the hired 1827,) said :

servants of these banks ? This conld not be. It would “ Under a special grant of power to us, in 1789, to be the height of injustice to implicate, in a penal manner, pags uniform laws on the subject of bankrupties,' how these agents, and not for fraud, but merely for the inabili. could we then extend those laws to persons who, at that ty of the corporations to pay their debls. The individuals time, were not within the letter or spirit of the bankrupt employed to carry on these establishments surely should be system, any more than we could extend them to distinct exempt from the penalties of bankruptcy : they are persons subjects of land titles, or forms of legal process ? It need without whom they cannot be carried on; they are the agents hardly be argued that, if we, as the agents of the several of all those who bold stock in their banks; they act for the States, with explicit powers, undertake to construe the various classes of individuals whose means are confided to language of those powers broader than what we know the banking companies, and among whom are to be found the language was then understood to mean, it is as much a widow and the orphan, who are deeply interested in barviolation of the constitution as it would be to usurp powers ing capable and honest men to fill these agencies. But entirely new."

how could such men be induced to occupy those situations, We may now advert to the application of these princi- if they were to be made individually responsible, not only ples to another clause proposed to be inserted in the bill. for their own acts, but for the misfortunes and losses of On the 6th of February, 1827, Mr. Branch, of North their corporations. On the other hand, would you render Carolina, introduced an amendment extending the act to the stockholders liable for the disasters of the institution ? banking corporations. He said :

In cases of misconduct by the officers employed by them, “ The country is inundated with paper money ; and if or a majority of them, would you make them answerable the merchants of the country were to be made bankrupt for an act of bankruptcy ? Could they, in justice, be liable when they cease to pay their debts promptly, why should for the malversation of agents employed by them to transact not incorporated companies, placed in the same circum a business of which they were, all of them, probably ige stances, be subjected to the same consequences ? The norant? He thought that no great expenditure of reasonbanks of the South had given circulation to a paper cur ing need be made to show the true answers to these inquiries ; rency which had, in many instances, become depreciated, and the very questions, he conceived, illustrated the diffito the great loss of the people; and while the banks are culties of the case. His idea of a bankrupt system war, unable or unwilling to pay their honest obligations, no that it could not be applied to any but individuals or prinmeasures were pointed out by which a just disposition of cipals, and that it was not capable of being made to operate their effects could be enforced for the benefit of the numer on associations, or on the subordinate agents, either of in. ous creditors. To place some barrier to the operation of dividuals or corporations. He therefore objected to this such a state of things, was his object in proposing this amendment. He did not wish the bill to be defaced by any amendment. There was no subject, he believed, upon | inappropriate provisions." which greater unanimity of sentiment existed, than upon The clause was rejected; Mr. Van Buren and Mr. Wood. the evils arising from the present banking system. The evils bury voting against it. arising out of a paper currency, when not placed under re Here, then, is the doctrine distinctly, and without qualstrictions sufficiently severe to restrain those engaged in ification, announced and acted on that to extend to cor. bank companies from profligate or careless conduct, were poratioys, in any way, the provisions of a bankrupt law, universally admitted. He, therefore, wished to apply the would diolate the constitution ; and that, even if no constipains and penalties of the bankrupt system to these evils." tutional obstacle existed, it would be an outrage upon the

Let us see what stand the present Executive took on dignity and sovereignty of the States. this subject. I read from the Congressional Debates : What then must be thought of the sincerity of the Pres

“Mr. Van Buren said it could not be denied that the ident, when we find in the message recently addressed to clause interfered with the regulation which State Govern us the following paragraph: ments might have adopted for the Government of their State “In the mean time, it is our duty to provide all the institutions, which was an odious exercise of power not remedies against a depreciated paper currency which the granted by the constitution. The amendment has this ex. constitution enables us to afford. The Treasury Department, tent: it directs the States as to the manner in which they on several former occasions, has suggested the propriety and shall exercise their sovereignty in this particular, and importance of a uniform law concerning bankruptcies of points out what penalty shall be inflicted, in case the char- corporations and other bankers. Through the instrumentalters granted by the States are violated. In fact, it points ity of such a law, a šalutary check may, doublless, be imposed out what the privileges granted to the incorporations shall on the issues of paper money, and an effectual remedy given be, by dictating the forfeiture and directing what the com to the citizen in a way at once equal in all parts of the panies may, and what they may not do. All this has hith- Union, and fully authorized by the constitution." erto been done by the States. They have assumed the Thus, sir, we see that the only measure of relief for the direction of these matters as a right, which they doubtless' people which the President suggests, is one that he and tho

H. OF R.]

Treasury Notes.

(Oct. 4, 1837.

Secretary have united in denouncing and defeating. Did lions to supply what, there is every reason to believe, we the President suppose it would pass ? Was he not aware may obtain from the banks indebted to us, or make availathat, if passed, he would be bound to veto it?

ble by drafts upon them; and the residue, avowedly, to It would be remarked, as a singular feature in the case, provide or keep up a surplus for the mint, and for unforeseen that in the message there was an implied reproach upon the contingencies. I question much, sir, the propriety of this Congress of other days for slighting the suggestions of for- annual appropriation for the mint. There is reason to fear mer Secretaries on this subject, when, in truth, that very that we are making money there at a heavy expense, and, result was brought about by his own vehement resistance. if so, the sooner we get rid of a losing concern the better.

We have been informed by the Judiciary Committee | As for the surplus for sudden emergencies, the very continthat they do not intend to bring forward, at the special ses gency has occurred for using whatever portion of it may sion, any bill on a subject which the President suggests as remain ; and I would sooner expend every dollar of it than the only remedy that has occurred to him to relieve the issue a 'Treasury note, or impose a burden of any kind upon country from a depreciated currency. Doubtless we shall the country. This is not the time to create or retain an never hear a word more on the subject.

idle surplus of three or four millions in the Treasury. Mr. B. said he was not disposed to apply barsh epithets But funds, it is said, are wanting to carry on what is to the conduct on which he had thus animadverted. He called the Florida war. If that be so, profoundly ignorant was willing to leave the matter to the people. It would be as we are still kept of the true cause of that war, discreditfor them to say whether there had been manifested a gen- able as its conduct has been to the administration, I am uine sympathy for their condition, and an anxiety for their ready to vote adequate supplies for the protection and securelief, or whether their sufferings had been mocked and their rity of our frontier settlements. But has the Executive understandings insulted.

called for a further appropriation for that object? If there Mr. ROBERTSON said he was opposed to the bill, be in the message the most distant allusion to such an apwhether designed to raise revenue or to create a circulating propriation, it has escaped my notice. The President medium. As a revenue measure he believed it unnecessary, sums up in a single paragraph the objects to which he inand, under that impression, he was unwilling, at this time vites our immediate attention: of general pressure, to incur a new debt or levy upon the “ To regulate, by law, the safe-keeping, transfer, and people additional burdens. The Secretary of the Treasury disbursement of the public moneys; to designate the funds anticipates a deficit of five or six millions of dollars only. to be received and paid by the Government; to enable the He proposes to withhold the fourth instalment set apart for Treasury to meet promptly every demand upon it; to prethe States, or to resort to some other resource for a sum scribe the terms of indulgence and the mode of settlement equal to ten millions of dollars; which he gives us to under to be adopted as well in collecting from individuals the revstand will meet all necessary expenses, and leave a surplus enue that has accrued, as in withdrawing it from former of one million for the mint, and three or four millions for depositories; and to devise and adopt such further meassudden and contingent calls. The same view is presented ures, within the constitutional competency of Congress, as still more distinctly by the President in his message. He will be best calculated to revive the enterprise and to protells us :

mote the prosperity of the country.” “The sum necessary for the service of the year, beyond These are the reasons assigned for the present inconvethe probable receipts and the amount it was intended should nient and unseasonable convocation of Congress.

Yet my be left in the Treasury at the commencement of the year, colleague [Mr. WISE) may have been right in suggesting will be about six millions."

that the true motive is to be found in the necessity of proHe makes this estimate on the supposition that indulgence viding further means to carry on the war in Florida. For, will be extended on the merchants' bonds. Adverting to of the various objects supposed to require immediate legisthe means of supply, he says :

lation, there is not one which the Executive, in the pleni“ It is not proposed to procure the amount required by tude of its authority, had not already provided for, or which loans or increased taxation. There are now in the Treasury might not have been deferred without much detriment to $9,367,214, directed by the act of 230 June, 1836, 10 be the public interests, till the regular period of our annual deposited with the States in October next.”

session. He then recommends the use of this sum, as the whole Why are we told, sir, of the necessity of regulating the or the greater part will be wanted to defray existing appro-safe-keeping and disbursement of the public moneys? The priations. Well, sir, we have granted the sum required, deposite act already provided for the case which has occur, in the very mode recommended by the Executive, by vio- red ; directing that, where the banks shall be discontinued -lating our engagement solemnly made with the States; and as depositories, the public moneys shall be kept by the Treanow, before we have determined whether any or what in-surer, subject to be disbursed according to law. But without dulgence shall be extended to the merchants or the banks, regard to this provision, or waiting for any new legislation, we are called upon to authorize an issue of ten millions in the Executive proceeded at once to organize a new system, Treasury notes, making (exclusive of the sum withheld Circulars were addressed, in May last, to the collectors and from the States) about forty-six millions for the current receivers of public money, requiring them to keep it in their year. It is true the President proposes this issue, not in own hands, subject to the directions of the Treasury Deaddition to the funds withheld from the States, but tempo- partment. [Mr. R. here read extracts from the circulars rarily, and only until the amount can be collected from ihe referred to.) The Executive, as usual, made a law to suit banks. But there is no pretence that the banks are insol. its own views of the exigency of the case, and the system vent; nor is there any proof that the whole or some part at then adopted has continued ever since in full operation. least of what they owe may not speedily be collected or Again, Mr. Chairman, why speak of designating the made available. We well know that hitherto drafts upon funds to be received or paid by the Government? The resthem, whether paid or not, have served the purposes of the olution of April, 1816, was in full force. It is true the Government; indeed, that, even when protested, these famous Treasury circular had been issued in defiance of drafts have readily sold in the market åt a premium of six that resolution ; and that when Congress reasserted its auor seven per cent. If six millions only of the sum wrested thority, and passed an act virtually repealing it, and doing from the States can be commanded, they will suffice, as the precisely what is now recommended-designating the funds President himself informs us, for the service of the present to be received in public payments--that act was not regardyear. Yet we are to issue ten millions in Treasury notes, ed by President Jackson as meriting the honor of his notice. -redeemable at the expiration of twelve months; six mil. But the present incumbent, none can doubt, has at least

Oct. 4, 1837.]

Treasury Notes.

(H. OF R.

as good a right to rescind the unlawful edict as his prede- ing and disbursing officers. Let us place the public money cessor had to issue it. The existing regulations prescribe, in the State banks, on special deposite, and not as a basis moreover, the very funds, which it is apparent, from the for loans: thus avoiding the danger of a connexion, either whole scope of the message, the President considers alone in political concerns or pecuniary interests, between the admissible. Why, then, call upon Congress again to des- Government and the banking institutions of the country. ignate those funds ? What assurance have we that, bound By these means, while we provide for the safety of the as he is to follow the footsteps of his predecessor, another public treasure, we may afford the people that relief which law upon the subject will not be treated like the first? Or the times require : a substantial, constitutional relief. We of what avail is it for Congress to enact laws which the shall not then be charged with permitting unjust discrimiExecutive habitually supersedes at its pleasure ?

nations among the public creditors : with providing one As to making provision to enable the Treasury to meet kind of currency for the people, and another for the Govthe demands upon it, I have already endeavored to show ernment: with extorting gold and silver at a grievous that under the practice prevailing at the Treasury of draw- sacrifice from the many, to put in the pockets of the few : ing upon the deposite banks, and the determination adopt- yes, sir, under the sanction of the Secretary of the Treaed by the Executive of withholding the fourth instalment sury, to divide among ourselves. The people have a right Jue the States, there were abundant means to meet all ne to complain of these things; and without imputing to the cessary expenditures during the current year, or at least to Secretary the dishonorable motive, in tendering gold and enable the Treasury to hold out until the first Monday in silver to members of Congress, of designing to conciliate December.

their favor by a paltry bribe, I cannot but regret that the Nor was there, sir, the least occasion for an extra ses offer was ever made or accepted. It has subjected them to sion to grant indulgence to public debtors, or prescribe humiliating applications from brokers and money changers, terms of settlement with them. The same authority which to sell at a premium what has been wrung at a great loss the Executive has exercised in relation to those subjects, up from the people, and prevented them from feeling the into the present moment, might just as lawfully have been convenience to which their constituents are subjected ; exerted for two months longer.

of soiling their hands and their pockets with the wretched There remains, then, but a single ground upon which trash currently circulating through the country.

If we the President has placed the justification of this extra can apply no remedy for the evil, we ought at least to bear session : the propriety of devising and adopting measures, our share of it. within the constitutional competency of Congress, to revive But it does not become me, Mr. Chairman, at this time, the enterprise and promote the prosperity of the country. nor perhaps at any time, to press upon those who adminisThe importance of these objects none will contest. But ter the Government measures of the character of those to what measures, calculated to effect them, does the Presi- / which I have alluded. We are given to understand in the dent recommend ? Not one. That most generally and message that the receipt into the Treasury of notes not urgently demanded by the commercial community—the redeemed in specie, on demand, ought not to be sanctioned. establishment of a national bank-he unhesitatingly re So far from relaxing, the President seems inclined to injects, as not within our constitutional competency. Be crease the rigor of the law, by withdrawing the privilege lieving, as I do, such an institution both unconstitutional of paying in notes of specie-paying banks, and, during the and inexpedient, I am gratified to find that he speaks in present almost unexampled difficulty of procuring them, to reference to it in no equivocal language. More, sir, I must exact gold and silver exclusively. With these views, wby frankly declare that I concur most fully in the doctrine of should he speak of designating the funds to be received, the message, that it is not the province of this Govern- when the law already requires the only funds he approves? ment to legislate in favor of particular pursuits. The Why convene Congress to adopt measures for relieving public credit

, the public treasure collected from all, are the the country, when he recommends none, and is opposed common right of all, and cannot justly be appropriated to to all that promise any general or effectual relief? As to the exclusive or special use of a favored class. Govern- the particular measure before us, it is not designed to rement owes equal protection to the industry of all: pecu- lieve the people, but to impose a new burden upon them, niary assistance to none : to those engaged in commercial for the relief of the Government, and that in an unusual pursuits not more than to the farmer or mechanic. Its and odious form. I am constrained, sir, upon principle, revenues and credit cannot be legitimately applied to such to vote against it; and I would now move to strike out the purposes; and with no greater propriety indirectly, through first section of the bill, but that I am unwilling to deprive the facilities of a national bank, than by a direct loan or other gentlemen of the opportunity of presenting their grant.

amendments. There is no amendment, however, which There is one measure, Mr. Chairman, by which it seems can induce me to vote for it, so long as the feature remains to me some relief may be constitutionally extended to the authorizing the issue of Treasury notes. But if the ad country: not by establishing a national bank, nor by issu- ministration will submit a proposition for the necessary ing Treasury notes. The measure to which I allude-I supplies to be raised in the ordinary way, or any gentleman mention it with great diffidence, for it is not, I am confi. will propose plans of general relief, within the pale of the dent, generally approved, and is expressly discountenanced constitution, I pledge myself to give such measures my by the President-is a relaxation of the law requiring pay- humble support, regardless of the quarter from whence they ment of public dues in specie, or in notes of specie-paying come. banks. Let us temporarily dispense, in part at least, with Mr. THOMAS said he did not rise to participate in the this rigorous exaction. Let us receive a portion of the discursive debate which had been invited by the speech of revenue in such notes as the people receive from each the gentleman from Pennsylvania, (Mr. BIDDLE.] His other : such as the State Governments accept in discharge attention had been attracted by the closing remarks of that of public dues; provided they be not so far depreciated gentleman, and he would do now what he had desired to as to justify an apprehension that they will not be ulti- do a few days since, and submit to the House and to the mately redeemed. Let us pay all public creditors alike in country a brief explanation, due to the committee of which the funds we receive, provided they consent to take them; he had the honor to be the chairman. and, if not, suffer their claims to remain a charge upon the When the gentleman from Pennsylvania heretofore callTreasury, to be paid in gold and silver, as soon as it can ed on the chairman of the Judiciary Committee to respond be procured to satisfy them. Let us reduce our extrava- to certain inquiries, Mr. T. was about to give a full and gant expenditures, and put additional guards upon collect- 'detailed reply, but was warned by the Chair that such a

H. OF R.]

Treasury Notes.

[Oct. 4, 1837.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

proceeding would not be in order.

Subsequently, a reso- porations created by the several States. Now, whether lution declaring that it is inexpedient to report a bankrupt the operations of a bankrupt system are to be extended to law at this special session of Congress was adopted in the banks already in existence, or only to such as may be committee, and it became his duty to present it to this hereafter created, there can be no necessity for hasty acHouse. After the resolution had been agreed to by the tion. It is not probable that any State will, under existcommittee, he inquired of the members present whether he ing circumstances, create any more institutions similar to should state to the House the reasons by which they had those whose dark bodies now cloud the landscape of the been influenced, and was told that it would be most agree whole Union, and whose misconduct and misfortunes have able to all concerned to have the conclusion they had come prompted a thorough examination into all the powers of to announced without comment. This was accordingly this Government, to discover, if possible, some means to done.

make them respect our fixed policy, and act in strict subThe manner in which these proceedings have been ad ordination hereafter to the laws of the land. Neither is it verted to by the gentleman calls for a few words in expla- probable that Congress would be inclined to subject existnation, to guard against misapprehension.

ing banks, without delay, to the operations of a bankrupt There has been no purpose to disguise the opinions of the law. Time ought to be given to these institutions, on Judiciary Committee, or of any of its members, on the grave account of their numerous stockholders and debtors, to resubject committed to their consideration. The members cover from the dilemma into which they had fallen. Behave been frank with each other in the committee room, fore we undertake to enforce a new rule of morals, altering and have nothing to conceal from this House, or from their essentially the past policy of the country, all parties to be constituents. It is to be hoped that no man supposes that affected should have time to prepare for the change. In they have sought to avoid a direct decision on any question no event, then, can there be a necessity for acting on the that could be at this time, with propriety, disposed of. At recommendation of the President concerning banks at the their first meeting, no opinion could be formed as to the present session. At the regular session it can be deliberprobable duration of the present session of Congress. If ately disposed of without injustice to any interest involved: it was to be extended beyond the first Monday of Decem- | Moreover, it will be perceived that neither the message of ber, ample time would be afforded to act upon the business the President, nor the report of the Secretary, referred to to be reported by the Committee of Ways and Means, and the committee, contains any proposition to devise a general also to establish a uniform system of bankruptcy. But if system of bankruptcy applicable to merchants and others; the session was to be closed before that period, and in time and the committee believed that they would not have met for members to go home and return again, all foresaw that the expectations and requirements of the country, if they the whole time of the House would be engrossed by the had reported a bill applicable to banking corporations alone. measures expected from the Committee of Ways and Between the close of this and the commencement of the Means. Under these impressions, the committee determi- next session, the public mind may be turned to this very ned not to act upon the matter referred to them, until they important subject, and Congress will reassemble in Decould be satisfied that the House would take that subject cember, with the advantage of much additional information. into serious consideration at the present session. After it How far these considerations, or any of them, have had been ascertained that the present session would not be operated on other members of the Judiciary Committee, blended with the regular session of Congress, the commit- Mr. T. was not prepared to say. Suggestions similar to tee again assembled, all the members being present but one, these were made when the resolution was assented to [Mr. HOFFMAN.) A motion was made that the committeo which has been handed to the House. But he was not be discharged from the consideration of the policy of estab- authorized to say whether any one or all of the majority lishing a uniform system of bankruptcy. The proposition of the committee are ready to adopt or repudiate the meawas rejected--for it two, against it six votes. The resolu sure recommended by the President. On that point he tion declaring it to be inexpedient to report a bankrupt bill could speak for himself only. He had bestowed upon that at the present session was then adopted without opposition. measure a good deal of reflection, and had examined and

These particulars are given that the public may see that listened to many of the arguments urged against it, and a decided Wajority of the committee are disposed to exam yet had not heard nor found any thing to bring to his mind ine further at the next session, if that duty should be im- the unwelcome conviction that there is no power in any of posed upon them, into the propriety of exercising the pow our Governments, State or federal, to check and control ers conferred on Congress respecting bankruptcies.

effectually the corporations of the country. He was reThe establishment of a uniform system on that subject luctant to believe that a State can, by a grant of a charter, is now a work of great difficulty and delicacy. The peo secure to a portion of its citizens an exemption from the ple of the several States have been long accustomed to in- obligations intended to be imposed on all the people of the solvent systems differing essentially from each other. If United States by one of the most important articles in the an attempt is to be made to supersede them by a general federal constitution. That instrument denies to the States law of the United States, it is certainly desirable that am the power to impair the obligations of a contract. There ple opportunity should be first afforded for a full develop- is no distinction to be found there between the contracts of ment of public opinion on the subject. Since the mes corporations and those of individual citizens. The obligasage of the President and the report of the Secretary were tions of all are to be held sacred and untouched by State referred, a very short time has elapsed. Notwithstanding legislation. Nearly all, if not all, the corporations that this, if the committee had supposed that there existed any have secured banking privileges from the States, are renecessity whatever for speedy action, they would doubtless quired to pay specie on demand for their notes and other have proceeded with the lights already before i.hem. But liabilities. In fact, nothing but specie can be made a legal this is manifestly not the case. We have been invited by tender by a State in payment of any contract into which the President and the Secretary of the Treasury to explore they may enter. The notes containing such a promise are the power granted to this Government concerning bank- received by the community, and without that promise they ruptcies, to see whether we cannot, in a manner authorized would not be accepted. And he was unwilling to believe by the constitution, impose some salutary check upon the that Congress cannot interpose when these contracts are issue of paper money, and guard against a recurrence of violated, and deny to any State the right to impair their that great catastrophe which has inundated the whole obligations by attempting to legalize a suspension of specio country with a depreciated currency. The evil to be rem- payments. The position of the banking institutions of the edied grows out of the mismanagement of the banking cor-'cuuntry at this moment cannot but induce a strict search

Oct. 4, 1837.)

Treasury Notes.

(H. OF R.

into all the powers of the General Government for a reme Whatever might be, therefore, thought of the wisdom of dy co-extensive with the evil now afflicting the country. his opinions, surely no one ought to impute to him selfish

For inviting attention to this subject, the President is or unmanly inducements, if, in fact, he had in tho mesentitled to the thanks of every patriot and philanthropist. sage contradicted the doctrines of the speech. But is this The banks of the States ought to be indulged in the free true? To test the correctness of the charge, it will be neexercise of all powers lawfully granted. But they must cessary to examine what would have been the effect, and not be permitted to inundate the whole country with their look to the object of the motion which Mr. Van Buren repromises to pay, and then, with impunity, depreciate the sisted. currency thus put afloat, and subject the people at large to The bill before the Senate in 1827 was founded on the the evil consequences of this mismanagement, while their assumption that all who were to be subjected to its provistockholders are not only exempt from the losses incurred, sions were natural persons. For the enforcement of its but have an opportunity, in common with the whole com- requirements heavy personal penalties, including imprisonmunity, to speculate in, and profit hy, the Auctuating ment, were to be resorted to. Mr. Branch proposed to value of their own contracts. The directors of these in- amend this bill, by inserting in the first section the words stitutions may be all honest and honorable men, but, as or other banking corporations." This amendment was suredly, they often set on foot a system of shaving-he opposed by Mr. Van Buren, in the speech from which exhad almost said of plunder and robbery—by which the tracts have been read to the House. If the motion had speculator snatches from the hand of industry half the been assented to without other material alterations in the bread it has earned.

bill, it would have been an anomaly in legislation. The gentleman from Pennsylvania has read to the Banking corporations are intangible, ideal beings, and House a portion of a speech made by Mr. Van Buren in conld, of course, do nothing which, according 10 the bill, the Senate, in 1827, to show that the sentiments then en would have amounted to an act of bankruptcy. Seeing tertained by that distinguished man differ widely from those this, Mr. Van Buren supposed, if the amendment prevailcontained in his late message to Congress. Supposing that ed, that it would become necessary to new model the he had established this inconsistency, the gentleman tells whole bill. He therefore proceeded to inquire, if the us that he will not indulge in harsh epithets. Be it so, clause were to be inserted, upon whom the pains and pen. sir. If, however, the gentleman should think proper to alties of the law could with propriety be made to rest. characterize barshly what he considers an inconsistency, He insisted that the officers of the banks ought not to sufMr. T. presumed that, if the Chief Magistrate did not fer in their persons or private property on account of the think proper to defend himself, some one of his friends failures of the banks. They are but the en ployed agents could, without difficulty, satisfy the country that he had of the stockholders, and must act in obedience to the direcbeen unjustly assailed; but he Hattered himself that this tors of the institution; and it would be the grossest injuswould not become necessary. When the gentleman has tice to make them individually responsible, not only for deliberately reviewed the speech and the message, and has their own acts, but for the misfortunes and losses of cortaken into calm consideration the circumstances under porations which they had no power to control. He mainwbich they have been severally uttered, he thought the tained, also, that the private property of stockholders in gentleman would find that denunciations of their author banks then existing ought not to be subject to seizure by would be misplaced.

commissioners of bankruptcy, to satisfy the debts of the The President, in his message, suggests that it is our corporation. duty to provide all the remedies against a depreciated cur. By the charters of these institutions, the stockholders rency which the constitution enables us to afford. The were expressly exempted from all liability for the disasters Treasury Department, on several former occasions, has of the corporation; and Mr. Van Buren contended that suggested the propriety and importance of a uniform law Congress could not by an ex post facto law inflict upon concerning bankruptcies of corporations, and other bank individuals serious personal penalties, and seize their priers. Through the instrumentality of such a law, a salu vale property, to enforce contracts entered into by their tary check may, doubtless, be interposed on the issues of agents under an authority which exempted them from all paper money, and an effectual remedy be given to the citi- liability whatever. zen, in a way at once equal in all parts of the Union, and These opinions are not antagonistical to the suggestions fully authorized by the constitution.”

contained in the Pre-ident's message. This language the gentleman from Pennsylvania sup The constitution of the United States, without attemptposes conflicts with the declarations made by Mr. Van ing to define the provisions or objects of a bankrupt law, Buren, in a speech delivered in the Senate, in 1827, clothes Congress with power to establish a uniform system against an amendment offered by Mr. Branch to the gener. of bankruptcy. The President has not pointed out any al bankrupt bill then and there under consideration. If specific mode in which this power shall be exercised; bot this supposition was well-founded, there would be no just says that, through the instrumentality of that power, such cause to apply “harsh language” to the President. Ho regulations may be established as will impose a salutary could have avoided, without censure, making the sugges- check on the issues of paper money, and give to the citizen tions in the message which have exposed him

to the charge an effectual remedy, cqual in all parts of the Union, against of inconsistency. This will not be denied. If, then, he some of the evils of a depreciated currency. If this cannot was not compelled to speak; if Mr. Van Buren could with be done without controlling the laws of the States, as propropriety have been silent, let us inquire with what proposed in 1837, then the suggestions of the message are inpriety any unworthy motive could be imputed to him? 'No consistent with the views of Mr. Van Buren, as expressed one will maintain, Mr. T. inagined, that the Chief in the debate in the Senate, but not otherwise. Magistrate has not a large share of sagacity and foresight. This is not a proper occasion to inquire whether it is His enemies impute to him powers of mind almost magical competent for Congress to bring the general authority conHe must have known, then, that he has, by suggesting a ferred upon it by the constitution over the indebtedness of bankrupt law as a remedy against depreciated currency, bankers, whether individual or corporate, in aid of the put in peril his popularity at home, where he inust be most State laws. But it will not be difficult when that effort anxious to stand firm in the affections of the people. He shall be made, to show that it can be done conveniently has, too, by the same step, risked an addition to the num and in strict accordance with the constitutional ductrines ber of the enemies of his administration throughout the contended for in the speech of Mr. Van Buren. country.

If the bankrupt question should come, while he was a

[merged small][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »