Page images
PDF
EPUB

was about to be usurped by the executive branch of the government.

It is but a little more than two and a half years to the termination of the charter of the present bank. It is considered as the decision of the country that it shall then cease to exist, and no man, the President believes, has reasonable ground for expectation that any other bank of the United States will be created by Congress. ... It is obvious that any new system which may be substituted in the place of the bank of the United States, could not be suddenly carried into effect on the termination of its existence without serious inconvenience to the government and the people. Its vast amount of notes are then to be redeemed and withdrawn from circulation, and its immense debt collected. These operations must be gradual, otherwise much suffering and distress will be brought upon the community. It ought to be not a work of months only, but of years, and the President thinks it cannot, with due attention to the interests of the people, be longer postponed. It is safer to begin it too soon than to delay it too long.

It is for the wisdom of Congress to decide upon the best substitute to be adopted in the place of the bank of the United States; and the President would have felt himself relieved from a heavy and painful responsibility if in the charter of the bank, congress had reserved to itself the power of directing at its pleasure, the public money to be elsewhere deposited, and had not devolved that power exclusively on one of the executive departments. . . But as the President presumes that the charter to the bank is to be considered as a contract on the part of the government, it is not now in the power of congress to disregard its stipulations; and by the terms of that contract the public money is to be deposited in the bank, during the continuance of its charter, unless the secretary of the treasury shall otherwise direct. Unless, therefore, the secretary of the

227

VOL. VII.-17

treasury first acts, congress have no power over the subject, for they cannot add a new clause to the charter or strike one out of it without the consent of the bank; and consequently the public money must remain in that institution to the last hour of its existence, unless the secretary of the treasury shall remove it at an earlier day.

The responsibility is thus thrown upon the executive branch of the government, of deciding how long before the expiration of the charter, the public interests will require the deposites to be placed elsewhere ... and it being the duty of one of the executive departments to decide in the first instance, subject to the future action of the legislative power, whether the public deposites shall remain in the bank of the United States until the end of its existence, or be withdrawn some time before, the President has felt himself bound to examine the

question carefully and deliberately in order to make up his judgment on the subject: and in his opinion the near approach of the termination of the charter, and the public considerations heretofore mentioned, are of themselves amply sufficient to justify the removal of the deposites without reference to the conduct of the bank, or their safety in its keeping.

But in the conduct of the bank may be found other reasons very imperative in their character, and which require prompt action. Developments have been made from time to time of its faithlessness as a public agent, its misapplication of public funds, its interference in elections, its efforts, by the machinery of committees, to deprive the government directors of a full knowledge of its concerns, and above all, its flagrant misconduct as recently and unexpectedly disclosed in placing all the funds of the bank, including the money of the government, at the disposition of the president of the bank, as means of operating upon public opinion, and procuring a new charter, without requiring him to render a

voucher for their disbursement. A brief recapitulation of facts which justify these charges and which have come to the knowledge of the public and the President, will, he thinks, remove every reasonable doubt as to the course which it is now the duty of the President to pursue.

It has been alleged by some as an objection to the removal of the deposites, that the bank has the power, and in that event will have the disposition, to destroy the state banks employed by the government, and bring distress upon the country. It has been the fortune of the President to encounter dangers which were represented as equally alarming, and he has seen them vanish before resolution and energy. ... The President verily believes the bank has not the power to produce the calamities its friends threaten. The funds of the government will not be annihilated by being transferred. They will immediately be issued for the benefit of trade, and if the bank of the United States curtails its loans, the state banks, strengthened by the public deposites, will extend theirs. What comes in through one bank, will go out through others, and the equilibrium will be preserved. Should the bank, for the mere purpose of producing distress, press its debtors more heavily than some of them can bear, the consequences will recoil upon itself, and in the attempts to embarrass the country, it will only bring loss and ruin upon the holders of its own stock. But if the President believed the bank possessed all the power which has been attributed to it, his determination would only be rendered the more inflexible. If, indeed, this corporation now holds in its hands the happiness and prosperity of the American people, it is high time to take the alarm. If the despotism be already upon us, and our only safety is in the mercy of the despot, recent developments in relation

[graphic][merged small]

(Chosen United States Senator in 1825 from New Hampshire, and received into the intimate counsels of President Jackson: instrumental in winning over New Hampshire from the Federalist to the Jackson interest. The portrait is from an engraving after a drawing by J. B. Longacre)

to his designs and the means he employs, show how necessary it is to shake it off. The struggle can never come with less distress to the people, or under more favorable auspices than at the present moment.

All doubts as to the willingness of state banks to undertake the service of the government, to the same extent, and on the same terms, as it is now performed by the banks [bank] of the United States, is put to rest by the report of the agent recently employed to collect information; and from that willingness, their own safety in the operation may be confidently inferred. Knowing their own resources better than they can be known by others, it is not to be supposed that they would be willing to place themselves in a situation which they cannot occupy without danger of annihilation or embarrassment. The only consideration applies to the safety of the public funds, if deposited in those institutions. And when it is seen that the directors of many of them are not only willing to pledge the character and capital of the corporations in giving success to this measure, but also their own property and reputation, we cannot doubt that they, at least, believe the public deposites would be safe in their management. The President thinks that these facts and circumstances afford as strong a guarantee as can be had in human affairs, for the safety of the public funds, and the practicability of a new system of collection and disbursement through the agency of the state banks.

From all these considerations the President thinks that the state banks ought immediately to be employed in the collection and disbursement of the public revenue, and the funds now in the bank of the United States drawn out with all convenient despatch. ...

The President again repeats that he begs his cabinet to consider the proposed measure as his own, in the

« PreviousContinue »