Page images
[ocr errors]

minimum amount of bonds required by law. The banks which have been organized during the last few years have not been organized on account of the profit upon circulation, but rather because it is found by experience that a bank can more certainly build up a deposit account under the National system than

any other. This is very evident from the numerous conversions of State banks and private bankers into the system, and the numerous organizations in the new States and Territories, where the rates of interest are so high that there is a loss, instead of a profit, on circulation; and also from the fact that many associations which have left the system on account of the restrictions of the act, have found it to their interest again to return. So long as the National banks continue to retain their reputation as the safest places of deposit, the system will attract to itself new organizations and continue to retain the old.

It is probable that, not long hence, the constitutional question will be raised whether Congress has not the power to authorize the organization of National banks without requiring them to deposit any United States bonds whatever, and in view of a recent decision of the Supreme Court, there would not seem to be much doubt as to the construction of such a law by that tribunal.

If a law should be passed authorizing the National banks to reduce the bonds now on deposit to one-half the amount now required, as given in the first proposition, the National banking system could continue during the next twenty years upon an aggregate deposit of about $50,000,000 of bonds by the different banks now organized, or which are likely to be organized, until the year 1907; and in the course of the next twenty years many strange things may happen, and among them, possibly, an increase of the National debt.


NOTE. --Since this article was written, bills have been introduced by Senator McPherson, of New Jersey, and Hon. James F. Miller, Chairman of the Committee on Banking and Currency of the House, authorizing a reduction of the bonds held as security for National bank notes. The bill of Senator McPherson, like his previous bill, which was first presented in the year 1883, and which passed the Senato during the last Congress, contains a clause providing for the issue of circulating notes at the par value of the bonds, while the House bill provides for the issue of ninety per cent only, in accordance with the present law.

Senator Aldrich, of Rhode Island, on December 18th, renewed his proposition, which was under consideration in 1883, providing for the refunding of the long Government bonds into 2%s, and for the payment of maturing bonds having a higher rate of interest previous to those bearing a lesser rate.

On December 13th, Hon. Abram S. Hewitt, of this city, introduced a bill in the House, autborizing the Government to anticipate the payment of interest on the bonded debt, in excess of the rate of three per cent.; for stamping the bonds which are presented so as to show the reduced rate of interest ; and also authorizing such stamped bonds to be received as security for the issue of circulating notes to the National banks, at the par value thereof. The first section of this bill is as follows :

SECTION 1. That out of any money in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated, the Secretary of the Treasury is hereby authorized and empowered, to anticipato the payment of so much of the interest on the

interest-bearing bonds of the United States as shall be in excess of the rate of 3 per cent. per annum, by the payment in gross of such sum in each case as shall be equal to the aggregate present worth of such excess of interest thereon. And for the purpose of ascertaining such present worth, the interest upon the amount paid by the United States in anticipation of such excess of interest shall be computed at the rate of 3 per cent. per annum reinvested quarterly, so as to secure to the United States the benefit of compound interest thereon.


FACTS are as dangerous to handle as dynamite. They refuse to fit where they were meant to stay. They explode in the adjusting and scatter destruction. In deciding upon the quality or the origin of a religion from its permanency, or from its condition at any one time, one is especially liable to this explosion of facts.

In the spiritual, in the intellectual, as in the material world, nothing is independent, self-existent. Nothing is, but from something that was. No life exists but from antecedent life. A nation is not made full-grown, isolated. It came from another nation; it sprang from some insignificant tribe. Development is a wide if not the universal law. One human being sees but a small part of the procession of events, but the procession goes on. Birth, growth, decadence, death is the order of all systems, the history of all movements. But in death, not all dies. Out of death springs other life, waxing while the first wanes. At any point in time we do not see the evolution. We see only a cross section. Of all the rest, we must judge from that. At the present moment we see Christianity crown of the world. Other systems are on the decline, or in late stages, or inferior positions, or have perished altogether. But is the fact that they have perished or are perishable, proof that they had never a divine principle which is imperishable ? May not an ethnic religion have gathered corruption and fallen into dishonor, which once was pure, if simple, and leveled society upward, placed it morally on an ascending grade ? May not a preparatory religion have accomplished its object, have fulfilled its prophecies, have carried out its hints, have yielded to its successors, have become itself decadent, effete, without thereby forfeiting its claims to be in its essence a divine and preparatory religion, the harbinger of Christianity, the fore-runner of Christ ?

On scriptural grounds no one can with reason maintain that Christianity is the only religious system that has approved itself of God, or that Hebrew law was the only school-master to bring us to Christ. The Bible itself gives us an infallible rule—infallible not only by reason of its being Scripture, but because it answers to human consciousness—a general principle which touches the very depth of revelation, of natural theology, of human history. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of Lights. So, then, not Christianity alone, but every faith that wrought good works and high character is from above.

Not heeding the ancient polities which have perished with the nations that framed them and were framed by them, we see even within the realm of written records such shining manifestations of human reason as must have come from the source of reason, the Father of Light, in whom is light, the light which is the life of men. The Romans were heathen and knew not Christ, but what virtue was wrought in them, what valor, what obedience, what self-denial, what devotion to duty, what reverence for unseen law, what administration of justice, what capacity for organization, what establishment of order! So wisely and greatly they lived and decreed, that it was finally given to Rome to give to the world & system of law which survived her empire, and deep down among the strong foundations underlies the very structure of modern society. Somewhere in the heart of their body politic must have been something divine, something whose tendency was upward, some sense of duty working itself out in right action, or the nation could not have grown so great, could not, in departing, have left upon the sands of time footprints of permanent rectitude, could not have left upon the wide-stretching ocean of life its moonglade

of everlasting light.

" From my mother I learnt piety and beneficence,” said a Roman heathen whose blind eyes were lifted in vain to the rosy dawn of Christianity, whose hands were imbued in the blood of its martyrs—and abstinence not only from evil deeds, but even from evil thoughts.” When he heard of the assassination of one of his rebellious subjects, he was sorry, he said,“ to be deprived of the pleasure of pardoning him.”

Is this but an isolated instance of heathen purity, heathen piety and forgiveness ? Even so it would still be heathen purity, piety and forgiveness, a sublime and mysterious hint of Christianity, to be accounted for outside of Christianity. But the uncle and predecessor in empire of this man was as wise, as gentle, as virtuous, as beneficent as he. More than this, the nation which produced them both not only rose and ruled and fell, but it made its mark for good—and powerful and moulding good-on all the following generations. Supporting and, indeed, explaining this, it is to be remembered not only that this man bequeathed the imperishable private record of his blameless, aspiring, inward life, but as an acute Christian scholar has testified, the great record for his outward life “is the clear, consenting voice of all his contemporaries-high and low, friend and enemy, pagan and Christian—in praise of his sincerity, justice and, goodness. Long after his death his bust was to be seen in the houses of private men through the wide Roman Empire. These busts of Marcus Aurelius, in the homes of Gaul, Britain, and Italy, bore witness to their reverential memory of the passage of a great man upon the earth.”

This does not mean isolated greatness, uncomprehended excellence. Those busts of Marcus Aurelius bore witness not only to the passage of a great man upon the earth, but to a wide-spread virtue, an instinct of goodness, a correct standard of judgment, a national recognition of real Divinity.

The spirit of Paul was stirred in him when he saw the city of Athens wholly given to idolatry ; but even while preaching to them the new doctrine of Jesus Christ, he admitted the great truth to which their philosophy had attained : the preparatory quality in their ethnic faith. He rejected only the corruptions of this faith. The ancient faith itself he not only did not reject, but accepted as the foundation upon which to build his new structure of life and immortality, whose plan was revealed in Christ.

What its ancient faith did for Greece, what, under the ancient faith, Athens did for the world, the best conscience, the highest achievement of the world testifies. An eloquent writer, a most pure and blameless as well as a most royally endowed child of Christian civilization, testifies :

“If we consider merely the subtlety of disquisition, the force of imagination, the perfect energy and elegance of expression, which characterize the great works of Athenian genius, we must pronounce them intrinsically most valuable; but what shall we say when we reflect that from hence have sprung, directly or in

« PreviousContinue »