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ON MOVING FOR LEAVE TO INTRODUCE A BILL TO CONTINUE
THE BANK OF THE UNITED STATES FOR SIX YEARS, DELIVERED IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES, MARCH 18, 1834.
MR. PRESIDENT: I rise, Sir, pursuant to notice, to ask leave to bring in a bill to continue, for six years, the act incorporating the subscribers to the Bank of the United States; and shall hope for that indulgence of the Senate which is usually granted on such occasions, if I accompany its introduction with some remarks on the general state of the country, as well as on the nature of the measure proposed. If leave be granted, it is my purpose to move to refer the bill to the Committee on Finance, that it may take the usual course, and come up for the consideration of the Senate in due season.
Mr. President, in the midst of ample means of national and individual happiness, we have, unexpectedly, fallen into severe. distress. Our course has been suddenly arrested. The general pulse of life stands still, and the activity and industry of the country feel a pause. A vastly extended and beneficent commerce is checked; manufactures suspended, with incalculable injury to those concerned in them; and the labors of agriculture threatened with the loss of their usual reward. Our resources are, nevertheless, at the same time, abundant, and all external circumstances highly favorable and advantageous; such as fairly promised us, not only a continuance of that degree of prosperity which we have actually enjoyed, but its rapid advancement, also, to still higher stages.
The condition of the country is, indeed, singular. It is like that of a strong man chained. In full health, with strength unabated, and all its faculties unimpaired, it is yet incapable of performing its accustomed action. Fetters and manacles are on all its limbs. If we could but unbind it; if we could break these iron chains; if we could once more set it free,-it would, in a moment, resume its activity, and go on again in its rapid career. It is our duty, Sir, to relieve this restraint, to unshackle the industry of the people, and give play, once more, to their common action and their common
energies. The evils, all the evils, which we now feel, and feel so acutely, result from political measures; and by political measures, and political measures alone, can they be redressed. They have their in in acts of Government, and they must find their cure in other acts of Government.
Only six months ago, Sir, the country presented an aspect, in regard to all its great interests, exceedingly satisfactory and gratifying. Our commerce was highly prosperous, and our manufactures, for the present at least, flourishing. Agricultural products commanded fair prices, and the general appearance of things exhibited more than a usual degree of activity. The year elapsing between the autumn of 1832 and that of 1833, was a year of great prosperity. In the activity of commerce, it is possible enough that some degree of overtrading had taken place; but there is nothing to show that great excess had been committed in that particular. In general, the state of things was sound, as well as prosperous. The commerce of the country had reached, I think, to a greater extent than in any former year; the amount of exports for 1833 being, according to the treasury estimate, no less than ninety millions of dollars, and that of the imports no less than one hundred and nine millions. The internal and coasting trade was in a still more flourishing condition. This branch of the national industry has grown into the very highest importance, affording a vast field for active usefulness, enriching all parts of the country by its mutual exchanges of commodities, and furnishing profitable employment to great numbers of the people. It was carried on · last year, both by sea and land, with great vigor; and the situation of the currency of the country gave it facilities such as never existed elsewhere over so broad an extent. The money circulation was free, and the banks in good credit. They were, doubtless, somewhat too economical in the use of specie, and sustained their credit on a basis not sufficiently broad to be quite secure. But no great degree of danger to the circulation was felt, or generally feared.
Such was our condition in September last ; and the change which has since taken place must strike all minds. How do we stand now, in respect to these great interests ? Let us look to our commerce, the main source of our revenue, as well as a source of wealth, and let us see how that is affected, or likely to be affected, by recent occurrences. I have stated the amount of exports and imports for the last year; those for the present cannot, of course, be yet estimated with accuracy ; but we are not without some means of forming opinions upon this interesting point. I think it is evident that there must be a falling off in the imports, and consequently a falling off in the revenue. I shall be very glad to find myself mistaken in this opinion ; but it appears to me there is much reason to entertain it. As one of the Committee on Finance, I have felt
it my duty, of course, to look to the state of the treasury, and to form some opinion, if I could, of what may be its future condition. Its present state, as we learn from the Secretary's report, with his estimate of the receipts and expenditures of the year, is substantially as follows:
Estimated balance in the treasury, January 1, 1834, $7,983,790
But from this deduct the amount of appropriations already
3,000,000 Bank dividends and miscellaneous,
Total of means for the use of 1834,
This statement would seem to exhibit a deficit of more than two millions; and this would doubtless be the result, should the appropriations of the year all be called for within the year; but experience shows that this is not to be expected. What amount of appropriations may remain uncalled for, however, is necessarily uncertain.
Among the expenditures, it is to be observed, is included the sum of five millions, within a fraction, for the payment of the balance of the public debt, which becomes “reimbursable at the commencement of next year.”
The Secretary supposes, even without making any allowance for the effect of recent measures, that the receipts for 1835 will be still less than those for 1834; and that, unless the revenue should be more productive than is anticipated, it will be necessary, in two years from this time, to retrace our steps, and to impose duties on articles which are now free, in order to meet the current expenses of the Government.
If such were the prospects of the country in regard to revenue, before the late measures had so much disturbed its commerce, it cannot but be expected that, under the influence of that cause, there may be a very considerable deficiency, especially should the cause continue.
It is not very easy to ascertain to what extent the importations of the year may fall short of previous importations, in consequence of the disturbed state of things; but I know an opinion is entertained among those who have the best means of forming a correct judgment, that there may be a falling off in the receipts of the
customs from a quarter to a third of the amount anticipated. Should this prove to be true, which there is certainly too much reason to fear, Congress may be called on, much earlier than within two years, to furnish additional means of revenue.
The diminution will be mainly felt in the last half of the year, it being generally understood that orders for fall importations have been countermanded to a great extent. It is not thought improbable, that the receipts of the year from customs, estimated at fifteen millions, will fall down to twelve. This, should it happen, would no otherwise disturb the intended course of things, than as it would postpone the payment of the balance of the public debt; but this effect it is not unlikely to produce. On such subjects, however, no very sure anticipations can be founded, and therefore I speak with no positiveness. But it is my expectation that the receipts of the year will fall below the estimate, and probably to the extent I have mentioned ; and that this effect will be produced by no other cause than the deranged state of things, occasioned by the removal of the public moneys.
If such be the consequences of the measure on our foreign commerce, and on the revenue, its effect on the internal trade of the country is a thousand times more disastrous. Here it produces not only diminution, but stagnation; and such a stagnation as has caused a cessation of production. The industry of the country is arrested, and its useful labor suspended. Great activity prevailed in the manufacturing districts, under a sanguine expectation that the law of the last session would, for a time at least, ensure success to that great interest. But this new measure has struck that interest with a sudden and deadly blow. It is now but little more than twelve months since the manufacturing portion of the community was deeply alarmed by the pendency of a measure in the other House, known usually as Mr. Verplanck's bill. Throughout the Middle and the Northern States, and wherever that interest existed, the apprehension of change in the policy of the country diminished the value of property, embarrassed all calculations for the future, and disturbed and deranged the course of private occupation and industry. But how small was all that evil, compared with the effects produced by the Secretary, when he interfered with the public revenues !
I will not go over the long list of cases, in which prosperous manufacturing establishments have been compelled to discontinue their operations, under the pressure of the times. I will only advert to an instance or two, taken, without selection, from papers and letters before me. Let Paterson, in New Jersey, be one of these instances; the state of which interesting and afflicted town has been, indeed, repeatedly presented to the Senate by the members from that State.' The population of Paterson, I believe, is about
ten thousand; and it is known to be a population almost exclusively engaged in manufactures. In September last, 43,500 spindles were in operation in it. Of these, 24,500 have stopped, and 5,000 others are expected to stop as soon as stock on hand is worked up. I am informed that the manufacturers at Paterson cannot prevail on their consignees in Philadelphia and New York to come under responsibilities for them, even to the amount of one third the cost of producing the article. The means, therefore, of paying labor, and purchasing new stock, are completely cut off. We
may see another instance, sufficiently appalling, in the manufactories in New Hampshire. I understand a cotton mill at Dover, of six thousand spindles, has ceased operation, and another was to cease the 15th of this month ; a mill with four thousand spindles, at Newmarket, and another at Nashua, of five thousand, have ceased also; and a large woollen mill, at a place called the Great Falls, employing two or three hundred hands, has stopped with the rest. These, Sir, are instances of the effect of the experiment upon our manufacturing interests. Accounts similar to these have reached us from New York, Connecticut, Maine, Vermont, Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania. I need not enter into the particulars of these accounts. Their general character is like that of those which I mentioned from New Jersey and New Hampshire.
It is often inquired, how this enormous amount of evil could spring from a cause so apparently inadequate to produce it? Can it be possible, it is asked, that the Secretary has brought about all this distress, simply by removing a few millions of dollars from one bank into other banks? Sir, nothing is more true, and nothing more easily accounted for.
Every commercial country has one great representative, constantly passing and acting between all its citizens. This universal representative is money, or credit, in some form, as its substitute. Without this agency nothing can be bought, and nothing can be sold: capital has no income, and labor no reward. It is no more possible to maintain the ordinary business and intercourse between man and
money and credit, than to maintain an intercourse between nations without ministers or public agents, or to maintain punctual correspondence by letter without the mail. And all the distress which the country now suffers arises solely from acts which have deranged the currency of the country, and the credit of the commercial community. The country is as rich, in its general appearance, as it was before the experiment was begun; that is to say, men have the same houses, lands, ships, and merchandise. But the value of these has fallen; or, to speak more correctly, they have lost the power of being exchanged ; and they have lost this power because of the embarrassment which has befallen the general medium of exchange.