Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub

for the benefit of the West, but because they were for the benefit of the whole country. That they are local in their advantages, as well as in their construction, is an objection that has been and will be urged against every measure of the kind. In a country so widely extended as ours, so diversified in its interests and in the character of its people, it is impossible that the operation of any measure should affect all alike. Each has its own peculiar interest, whose advancement it seeks; we have the sea-coast, and you the noble river that flows at your feet. So it must ever be. Go to the smallest government in the world, the republic of San Marino, in Italy, possessing a territory of but ten miles square, and you will find its citizens, separated but by a few iniles, having some interests which, on account of local situation, are separate and distinct. There is not on the face of the earth a plain, five miles in extent, whose inhabitants are all the same in their pursuits and pleasures. Some will live on a creek, others near a hill, which, when any measure is proposed for the general benefit, will give rise to jarring claims and opposing interests. In such cases, it has always appeared to me that the point to be examined was, whether the principle was general. If the principle were general, although the application might be partial, I cheerfully and zealously gave it my support. When an objection has been made to an appropriation for clearing the snags out of the Ohio River, I have answered it with the question, “ Would you not vote for an appropriation to clear the Atlantic Ocean of snags, were the navigation of your coast thus obstructed? The people of the West contribute their portion of the revenue to fortify your sea-coast, and erect piers, and harbors, and light-houses, from which they derive a remote benefit, and why not contribute yours to improve the navigation of a river whose commerce enriches the whole coun

try?

It may be expected, fellow-citizens, that I should say something on a topic which agitates and distracts the public mind, I mean the deranged state of the currency, and the general stagnation of business. In giving my opinions on this topic, I wish it to be distinctly understood, that I force them on no man. I am an independent man, speaking to independent men. I think for myself; you, of course, enjoy and exercise the same right. I cheerfully concede to every one the liberty of differing

with me in sentiment, readily granting that he has as good a chance of being right as myself, perhaps a better. But I have some respect for my character as a public man. The present state of things has grown out of a series of measures, to which I have been in uniform opposition. In speaking of their consequences, I am doing but justice to myself in showing them in justification of my conduct. I am performing a duty to my fellow-citizens, who have a right to know the opinions of every public man. The present state of things is unparalleled in the annals of our country. The general suspension of specie pay. ments by the banks, beginning I know not where, and ending I know not where, but comprehending the whole country, has produced wide-spread ruin and confusion through the land. To you the scene is one as yet of apprehension ; to us, of deep distress. You cannot understand, my fellow-citizens, nor can I describe it so as to enable you to understand, the embarrassment and suffering which are depressing the spirit and crushing the energies of the people of the sea-girt States of the East. You are agriculturists, you produce what you consume, and always have the means of living within your reach. We depend on others for their agricultural productions; we live by manufactures and commerce, of which credit is the lifeblood. The destruction of credit is the destruction of our means of living. The man who cannot fulfil his daily engagements, or with whom others fail to fulfil theirs, must suffer for his daily bread. And who are those who suffer? Not the rich, for they can generally take care of themselves. Capital is ingenious and farsighted, ready in resources and fertile in expedients to shelter itself from impending storms. Shut it out from one source of increase, and it will find other avenues of profitable investment. It is the industrious, working part of the community, men whose hands have grown hard by holding the plough and pulling the oar, men who depend on their daily labor and their daily pay, who, when the operations of trade and commerce are checked and palsied, have no prospect for themselves and their families but beggary and starvation, -- it is these who suffer. All this has been attributed to causes as different as can be imagined; over-trading, over-buying, over-selling, over-speculating, over-production, terms which I acknowledge I do not very well understand. I am at a loss to conceive how a nation can be

come poor by over-production, producing more than she can sell or consume. I do not see where there has been over-trading, except in public lands; for when every thing else was up to such an enormous price, and the public land tied down to one dollar and a quarter an acre, who would not have bought it if he could ?

These causes could not have produced all those consequences which have occasioned such general lamentation. They must have proceeded from some other source. And I now request you, my fellow-citizens, to bear witness, that here, in this good city, on the banks of the Ohio, on the first day of June, 1837, beneath the bright sun that is shining upon us, I declare my conscientious conviction that they have proceeded from the measures of the general government in relation to the currency. I make this declaration in no spirit of enmity to its authors; I follow no man with rebukes or reproaches. To reprobate the past will not alleviate the evils of the present. It is the duty of every good citizen to contribute his strength, however feeble, to diminish the burden under which a people groans, To apply the remedy successfully, however, we must first ascertain the causes, character, and extent of the evil.

Let us go back, then, to its origin. Forty-eight years have elapsed since the adoption of our Constitution. For forty years of that time we had a national bank. Its establishment originated in the imperious obligation imposed on every government to furnish its people with a circulating medium for their commerce. No matter how rich the citizen may be in flocks and herds, in houses and lands, if his government does not furnish him a medium of exchange, commerce must be confined to the petty barter suggested by mutual wants and necessities, as they exist in savage life. The history of all commercial countries shows that the precious metals can constitute but a small part of this circulating medium. The extension of commerce creates a system of credit; the transmission of money from one part of the country to the other gives birth to the business of exchange. To keep the value of this medium and the rates of exchange equal and certain, was imperiously required by the necessities of the times when the bank was established. Under the old confederacy, each of the thirteen States established and regulated its own money, which passed for its full value within the State, and was useless the moment it crossed the State border. The little State of Rhode Island, for instance, (I hope no son of hers present will take offence at what I say,) so small that an Indiana man might almost cover her territory with his hand, was crowded with banks. A man might have been rich at Providence, but before he could travel to Boston, forty miles distant, he would starve for want of money to pay for his breakfast.

Had this state of things continued, some of the provisions of the Constitution would have been of no force or virtue. Of what value to Congress would have been the right to levy taxes, imposts, and duties, and to regulate commerce among different States, and of what effect or consequence the prohibition on the different States of levying and collecting imposts, if each and every one of them had possessed the right of paying her taxes and duties in a currency of her own, which would not pass one hundred miles, perhaps, from the bank whence it was issued ? The creation of a national bank presented the surest means of remedying these evils, and accomplishing one of the principal objects of the Constitution, the establishment and maintenance of a currency whose value would be uniform in every part of the country. During the forty years it existed, under the two charters, we had no general suspension of specie payments, as at present. We got along well with it, and I am one of those who are disposed to let well alone. I am content to travel along the good old turnpike on which I have journeyed before with comfort and expedition, without turning aside to try a new track. I must confess that I do not possess that soaring selfrespect, that lofty confidence in my own political sagacity and foresight, which would induce me to set aside the experience of forty years, and risk the ruin of the country for the sake of an experiment. To this is all the distress of the country attributable. This has caused such powerful invasions of bank paper, like sudden and succeeding flights of birds of prey and passage, and the rapid disappearance of specie at its approach. You all know that bank-notes have been almost as plenty as the leaves of the forest in the summer. But of what value are they to the holder, if he is compelled to pay his debts in specie? And who can be expected to pay his debts in this way, when the government has withdrawn the specie from circulation ?

You have not yet felt the evil in its full extent. It is mostly in prospect, and you are watching its approach. While you are endeavoring to guard against it, strive to prevent its future recurrence. As you would hunt down, with hound and horn, the

. wolf who is making nightly havoc of your flocks and herds, pursue and keep down those who would make havoc in your business and property by experiments on our currency.

Although the country has bowed beneath the pressure, I do not fear that it will be broken down and prostrated in the dust. Depress them as it may, the energy and industry of the people will enable them to rise again. We have for a long time carried a load of bad government on our shoulders, and we are still able to bear up under it. But I do not see that, for that reason, we should be willing and eager to carry it. I do not see why it should prevent us from wishing to lessen it as much as possible, if not to throw it off altogether, when we know that we can get along so much easier and faster without it. While we are exerting ourselves with renewed industry and economy to recover from its blighting effects, while we plough the land and plough the sea, let us hasten the return of things to their proper state, by such political measures as will best accomplish the desired end. Let us inform our public servants of our wishes, and pursue such a course as will compel them to obey us.

In conclusion, my fellow-citizens, I return you my thanks for the patience and attention with which you have listened to me, and pray the beneficent Giver of all good, that he may keep you under the shadow of his wing, and continue to bless you with peace and prosperity.

[blocks in formation]
« ÎnapoiContinuă »