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men will come to learn to speak and write to and for the growing millions of a generally educated community. They will learn that they may communicate. They cannot hoard if they would, and they would not if they could. They take in trust to distribute; and every motive of ambition, of interest, of duty, will compel them to distribute. They buy in gross, to sell by retail. The lights which they kindle here will not be set under a bushel, but will burn on a thousand hills. No, sir; a rich and public library is no anti-republican monopoly. Who was the old Egyptian king who inscribed on his library the words, “The dispensary of the soul” 2 You might quite as well inscribe on it, “Armory and light and fountain of liberty!” It may possibly be inquired what account I make of the library of Congress. I answer, that I think it already quite good and improving, but that its existence constitutes no sort of argument against the formation of such a one as I recommend. In the theory of it, that library is merely to furnish Congress and the government with the means of doing their official business. In its theory it must be, in some sort, a professional library, and the expenditure we now make—five thousand dollars in a year, or, as last year, two thousand and five hundred—can never carry it up to the rank and enable it to fulfil the functions of a truly great and general public library of science, literature, and art. The value of books which could be added under the appropriations of the last year cannot greatly exceed twenty-one hundred dollars. Doubtless, however, in the course of forming the two, it would be expedient and inevitable to procure to a great extent different books for each. I do not think, Mr. President, that I am more inclined than another to covet enviously anything which the older civilization of Europe possesses which we do not. I do not suppose that I desire, any more than you, or than any of you, to introduce here those vast inequalities of fortune, that elaborate luxury, that fantastic and extreme refinement. But I acknowledge a pang of envy and grief that there should be one drop or one morsel more of the bread of intellectual life tasted by the European than by the American mind. Why should not the soul of this country eat as good food and as much of it as the soul of Europe? Why should a German or an Englishman sit down to a repast of five hundred thousand books, and an American scholar who loves truth as well as he be put on something less than half allowance? Can we not trust ourselves with so much of so good a thing 7 Will our digestion be impaired by it? Are we afraid that the stimulated and fervid faculties of this young nation will be oppressed and overlaid? Because we have liberty which other nations have not, shall we reject the knowledge which they have, and which we have not? Or will you not rather say, that, because we are free, therefore will we add to our freedom that deep learning and that diffused culture which are its grace and its defence?
THE NECESSITY OF COMPROMISES IN AMERICAN
OU see, sir, the nature and the effect of the proposed amendment. If it is adopted, instead of arming the corporation with the power of setting up branches all over the States, each possessing and exercising all the functions of a perfect bank, you empower it to do so only with the assent of the States. In the meantime, however, independently of, and prior to, any such assent, and even against their expressed dissent, if dissent they should happen to express, you empower it, by means of agencies distributed throughout the country, to perform everywhere all the business which a bank can perform, except to discount. That business, the loaning of money on local paper, itself in great measure a local and domestic one, and of inferior policy, it may not perform but with the consent of the States, within whose limits, for the benefit of whose inhabitants, and side by side with whose local banks, it is to be carried on. This is the whole of the amendment. The bill of the committee authorizes the bank to engross the local discount business of the States without their consent; the bill as amended authorizes it to do all things else which a bank can do: to deal in exchange; to issue a currency of its own notes; and to do all things else without their consent; but this one single power it permits to be exerted only on their application. It simply restores in this important feature the project furnished on our call by the Secretary of the Treasury, and which comes to us as an administration measure. Now, sir, I do not vote for it from any doubt on the constitutional power of Congress to establish branches all over the States, possessing the discounting function, directly and adversely against their united dissent. I differ in this particular wholly with the Senator who moves the amendment. I have no more doubt of your power to make such a bank and such branches anywhere than of your power to build a post-office or a custom-house anywhere. This question, for me, is settled, and settled rightly. I have the honor and happiness to concur on it with all, or almost all, our greatest names: with our national judicial tribunal and with both the two great original political parties; with Washington, Hamilton, Marshall, Story, Madison, Monroe, Crawford, and with the entire Republican administration and organization of 1816 and 1817. But it does not follow, because we possess this or any other power, that it is wise or needful, in a given case, to attempt to exert it. We may find ourselves so situated that we cannot do it if we would, for want of the concurrence of other judgments; and therefore a struggle might be as unavailing as it would be mischievous and unseemly. We may find ourselves so situated that we ought not to do it if we could. All things which are lawful are not convenient, are not practicable, are not wise, are not safe, are not kind. A sound and healing discretion, therefore, the moral coercion of irresistible circumstances, may fitly temper, and even wholly restrain, the exercise of the clearest power ever belonging to human government. Is not this your actual situation? . . . Now I think the people ought not to be made to wait for the relief they have a right to demand. They ought not to be made to suffer while we argue one another out of the recorded and inveterate opinions of our whole lives. I say, therefore, for myself, that, anxious to afford them all the relief which they require, regretting that the state of opinion around me puts it out of my power to afford that relief in the form I might prefer, I accommodate myself to my position, and make haste to do all that I can by the shortest way that I can. Consider how much better it is to relieve them to some substantial extent by this means, at once, than not to relieve at all, than not to initiate a system or measure of relief at all, and then go home at the end of this session of Congress, weak and weary, and spend the autumn in trying to persuade them that it was the fault of some of our own friends that nothing was done. How poor a compensation for wrongs to the people will be the victories over our friends! I am going now to give another reason for my vote, which you may say is scarcely suitable to the dignity of this place, on which I do not mean to dwell for a moment, but which the manliness of Senators will excuse my suggesting; and that is, that the adoption of the amendment will not only soonest effect the grand object of public relief, but will preserve the harmony and unity of the ascendant political party. Do not suppose I shall dwell for a moment on such a topic. I owe you, I owe especially the wakeful and powerful minority by which we are observed here, an apology for speaking of it. I address myself to the majority. You acknowledge the importance of united counsels
* On Friday, July 2, 1841, the Senate having under consideration the amendment proposed by Mr. Rives of Virginia to the Fiscal Bank Bill, Mr. Choate spoke on the necessity for compromises illustrating the governing theory of the first half century of national politics. The argument on the bill itself is here omitted.