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OF A UNITED STATES BANK.
THE UNITED STATES BANK CONTROVERSY.* Twenty years are now elapsed since a British army sacked the city of Washington, and, disregarding the laws of civilized warfare, burnt the national structures dedicated to the arts and charities of life. These events were seized by our internal political enemies, to prove that we ought to supplicate for peace. At that dark moment I was honored by being Secretary of a Democratic meeting of this county, which assembled to declare, that the more the country was afflicted, the tighter we would cling to it.
You, Mr. Chairman,t presided at the meeting. Like myself, you are not prominent in ordinary political contests. From seeing you to night, I trust you think with me, that the present is a revival, by similar men, of the designs which that meeting intended to counteract. The politicians of that day sought power through the distresses produced by a foreign invasion. They seek power now, through the distresses produced by a Bank invasion. The war might at all times have been easily sustained by the undivided energies of the people ; and the present enemy is too contemptible to be deemed a national opponent, but for the allies which it finds in the United States Senate, who, palsying all the energies of the General Government, seem willing to surrender up, bound fast, the noble Eagle
* Spoken at a Public Meeting, March, 1834.
† Hon. Nathan Williams.
of the world, “to be hawked at by a mousing owl and killed."
I care not now whether the Bank be constitutional, or unconstitutional; a necessary fiscal agent, or unnecessary; whether the public deposits were rightfully removed by Government, or wrongfully—these questions are all merged in the greater issue, of whether the country shall be coerced to grant the Bank a re-charter. Even Senators urge the renewal as the only alternative against ruin; while to give efficacy to the position, the Bank, with the presses in its pay or favor, and the politicians in its interest, are shaking all the pillars in the edifice of Credit, willing to crush community in a general ruin, rather than fail of a re-charter.
In this contest two distinct agents exist, and they should not be confounded, -one is, the Bank seeking a recharter; the other, politicians seeking power. The Bank may suppose, like the fabled fly on the coach box, that the clouds which blacken the horizon are all of its own creation; but great as are its powers of mischief, and conscious as it may be of exerting them, the Bank is not entitled to the bad fame of all the ruin-a portion of it being due to partisan newspapers, who, also acting on the principle of the fabled fly, may think that the ruin is all the result of their efforts. That they thus think, I possess some proof in a letter which, as the presiding officer of a Bank in this city, I received a few days since, from the editor of a leading opposition daily newspaper of this State, seeking a discount, coupled with the annunciation, (delivered to me, forsooth, in confidence,) “that one word from our papers here would blow the country Banks to atoms."
While, then, the Bank is thrust forth as too strong for the nation to resist, we must be cautious and not attribute
to it greater powers than it possesses. Could the Bank alone have inflicted sufficient ruin, a partisan press would not have volunteered a useless assistance-few men being so desperately wicked as to murder for the mere love of slaughter.
Previously to the first of February last, when the Bank Commissioners published their Annual Report, the interior of our State had experienced no pecuniary distress. The Report, though expressly announcing a secure situation of the Banks, was greeted from nearly all the presses in the interest of the United States Bank, by a sudden, simultaneous, and rancorous attack on our State Banks. The attack has well been termed incendiary; for the fire-brands thus scattered among a previously excited community seemed designedly cast to create a general destruction. So fierce was the attack, and so urgent the danger, that the Banks, in a period but little exceeding a month, reduced their circulation three millions of dollars. Money vanished as by enchantment; while the agents of the wicked conspiracy found, to their surprise, that the Banks, the objects of their malignity, were safe; but all commerce was prostrated.
As we must not measure the power of the Bank by the distress the country is suffering, so we must not judge of its merits by the hosannas that are heard in its praise. The Bank, whatever it may vain-gloriously think, is, both in Congress and out, but an instrument in the hands of a party, who use it to acquire a power with which the people steadily refuse to entrust them. A party with as many names as a swindler, and which changes them as often; a party whose objects are in as constant a flux as its name, raving for war, and when war was declared, raving for peace; refusing to drive an invader from our own shores,
and subsequenıly goading the country to civil war on some abstract question of Indian rights. This party, so furious for a re-charter of the United States Bank, would have been equally furious against the Bank, if the Government had wished to re-charter it. Even so void of political principle is this party, that General Jackson, whom they pourtray as a demon, might become their candidate for the next Presidency, if he would only commit some act that would lose him the confidence of the country.
The enemies of the President assert that opposition to the Bank rests with the President alone. This is untrue. He is but vigorously executing what the people have decreed. And now that he is periling his all to accomplish our own wishes, shall we desert him for his faithfulness? In the execution of our own plans, shall we, because difficulties are discovered, make him our scape-goat, and join in the cry to crucify him ? Worthy of all infamy must that man be who would act thus ; and especially any citizen of a State, whose voice alone, speaking in 1811, through George Clinton, pronounced the death of the former Bank —an event which demonstrates that we, at least, date our hostility to such institutions beyond the commencement of General Jackson's era.
Up to the present pecuniary distress, the people were opposed to a re-charter of the Bank. What has occurred since, to make the Bank more lovely in our eyes ? Are we, like spaniels, to be whipt into affection ? No; if the people have become willing to re-charter the Bank, the change has been produced by coercion. Like a man with a dagger at his throat, thousands may be willing to comply with the wishes of the hand that holds the dagger; but Andrew Jackson is not one of these.
History seems to prove that Providence exerts a more
than ordinary care of us. During the Revolutionary War it gave us a Washington. During the last war, and the aggressions which led to it, Providence placed successively at the head of our nation Jefferson and Madison, who, in a degree almost superhuman, enjoyed the confidence of the country, and thus enabled us, against a disordered currency, an empty treasury, and internal treason, to cope with the naval power that had subdued all Europe, and with the armies that conquered the foremost man of all the world. And now when every faction, rushing from every quarter, is striving to produce a whirlwind that shall destroy all credit, all confidence, all property, all enterprise and all prosperity, unless the will of the people will yield to the will of a minority, Providence has placed at the helm of State a man who, unlike Ulysses of old, is not compelled to stop his ears, lest he should be swayed from duty by clamor; nor, like the same Ulysses, forced to beg his friends to sustain him, lest he should desperately yield the government to destruction, but standing on the energy of his own purposes, is able to sustain not only himself in this trying moment, but to sustain his friends, and to hold back even the nation, should it be inclined to bow its crest at the bidding of a creature of its own bounty.
Our immediate representative in Congress has well said in his place: “ Perish credit, perish commerce, perish the State institutions, give us a broken, a deranged and a worthless currency, rather than the ignoble tyranny of an irresponsible corporation." But we honor the Bank over much, if we suppose such sacrifices are necessary to quell its power. Let people who desire relief, cease from memorializing Congress for a restoration of the public deposits, and for riveting the Bank on the nation by a renewed charter. As well may such petitioners attempt to quench