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sumption of specie payments. Within this dangerous strait the Banks of Pennsylvania are now steering, and yet they assume that the efforts of New-York for an early resumption of specie, is dictated by the peculiar peril of the Banks of New York.
And what is the position of the Banks of Massachusetts ? The Legislature of their Ştate, we are complacently informed, has not designated May as the termination of the period in which the suspension of specie shall be legalized. True; but we know that the Banks of Massachusetts are now in the position which the Banks of New-York will occupy after next May: that is, they are now liable momentarily to a forfeiture of their charters, and exist at the mere suffer. ance of the community.
New York, we are told also, will listen to no compromise, and is too pertinacious of the single measure that she advocates. But the question admits of no middle ground. New-York will compromise as to the time of resumption. She desires March, but she will, as a compromise, agree to a later day; but she cannot compromise by agreeing to designate no day. Instead of being a compromise, that will be a defeat of the object for which the Convention assembled. And permit me to say in conclusion, that should we adjourn without designating a day for the resumption of specie payments, we ought never to have assembled. The period of our meeting is full of interest, and many may deem it full of meaning. A Congress is assembling in which topics are to be discussed of known interest to Banks. Our decision may affect those discussions, and our decision
may be obnoxious to the suspicion of being intended to affect them; and hence I heard with regret the remarks of some gentlemen, that we cannot resume payments till we learn first whether the sub-Treasury bill is to be enacted.
To withhold our action till that question is decided, is to act on the question ourselves, and to act against it. The lessons of experience are, I trust, not to be lost on
What destroyed the United States Bank? Was it a belief that such an institution is useless ? No. It was destroyed in despite of its admitted great use to both Government and people. It was destroyed because the people suspected that it was endeavoring to coerce the Government into a renewal of its charter. Shall the Government conquer the Bank, or shall the Bank conquer the Government? was the issue which rallied the country and overwhelmed the Bank. I say not that the Bank was guilty of the charge against it; but if it were innocent, the warning to us is stronger than if it were guilty. The people will correct the Government, if they believe that the Government is directly or indirectly acting injuriously on the country by means of acting injuriously on Banks; but should the people only suspect that Banks are prolonging the suspension of specie payments, and thereby unnecessarily embarrassing the country, to goad the people into dissatisfaction with the Government, on the sub-Treasury question, they will sustain the Government and spurn the Banks from the earth.
We must therefore avoid, if possible, in our decision, not only all effect on Government, but we must avoid all appearance of intending an effect. Nothing, however, can be more difficult. If we designate a day for the resumption of specie payments, persons may say that the designation at this moment is intended to prevent the passage of the sub-Treasury bill; and if we adjourn without designating a day, we may be liable to the suspicion of intentionally embarrassing the fiscal concerns of the nation, for the purpose, on the part of some of us, of forcing on the Gov
ernment a National Bank, or for some equally sinister purpose. The dilemma is painful, and I am aware of only one way in which we can pass through it with safety, and that is to perform or duty. If our decision shall conform to our moral and legal obligations, we may trust that the admitted propriety of our decisions will protect us from misconstruc. tion; but if, contrary to our moral and legal obligations, we adjourn without designating a day, the impropriety of our decision will lead to misconstruction, how pure soever may be our intentions. In this case, then, as in all others, the path of duty is the path of safety. And besides, nothing will be more difficult than to establish the probability of pure intentions, should we adjourn without designating a day. The position of Banks is beyond endurance mortifying. The humility which turns one cheek when the other is smitten is nothing compared with the humility of Banks. Threatened, taunted, and despised for not complying with our obligations, we say we will not comply from deference to the interests of the people who thus threaten, taunt, and despise us. Can the people believe that Banks are thus disinterestedly encountering shame and peril? You can judge; but I am satisfied that should we even err in fixing a day, we shall err on the side of safety.
OF THE STATE GOVERIN MENT.
REASONS FOR CALLING A CONVENTION TO REVISE THE
EXISTING CONSTITUTION.* While history records but little more than unceasing attempts to circumscribe the natural rights of man, and enlarge the privileges of rulers, we occasionally institute the opposite experiment, of how far every man may be left unrestricted in the pursuit of his own happiness, and how far the superiority of rulers may be wholesomely diminished. In about five months we are to pronounce whether another experiment of this nature shall be tried or not. The object is undeniably benevolent, and with the known good dispositions and sedate views of our citizens, we ought not to be too suspicious of evil, miser-like clinging to our present possessions, and from the mere possibility of loss, refusing all attempts at further political acquisitions. The spirit of fair enterprise which leads us, step by
* Published in 1845.
step, to perfection in other sciences, may, if directed to government, lead to results equally beneficial. The good which may be elicited at every trial, will be a permanent acquisition to mankind in all times and places; while the mistakes that may be committed will be corrected by ourselves as soon as they are felt. The experience, too, of all our States in such trials is full of encouragement for the future, since every attempt has meliorated the condition of the people, for whose benefit it was instituted.
Before any man can assume that our present Constitution is incapable of improvement, he must believe that the congregated wisdom of the State can suggest nothing which is not already known to him; this, too, in the face of defects in our judiciary, that oppress every suitor with " the hope deferred, which maketh the heart sick ;" and in the face of social inequalities that proceed not from the differences of intellect, health, perseverance, and other inevitable natural causes, but from a difference of privileges accorded arbitrarily to some men and denied to others. If any citizen wishes to erect a saw-mill, he receives no guarantee that another person shall not erect a rival mill in its vicinity; but when a man has obtained from the Le. gislature a charter for the construction of a railroad, say from Utica to Schenectady, he has acquired a monopoly of the route, for no person can erect a rival road without like legislative facilities : and no legislative application for such rivalry would be successful in one application out of a thousand. The corporators of such special privileges are, therefore, about as secure of their monopoly as though the monopoly were an express grant; hence their stocks sell in market at premiums varying from 20 to 30 per cent. or more, while travellers, excluded from the benefit of rival enterprises, are helplessly subjected to virtually un