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our territorial limits, that calm and enlightened judgment which ultimately governs our people as one vast body, will always be at hand to resist and control every effort, foreign or domestic, which aims or would lead 10 orerthrow our institutions.
What can be more gratifying than such a retrospect as this? We look back on obstacles avoided, and dangers overcome; on expectations more than realized, and prosperity perfectly secured. To the hopes of the hostile, the fears of the timid, and the doubts of the anxious, actual experience bas given the conclusive reply. We have seen time gradually dispel every unfavorable foreboding, and our constitution surmount every adverse circumstance, dreaded at the outset as beyond control. Present excitement will, at all times, magnify present dangers; but true philosophy must teach us that none more threatening than the past can remain to be overcome; and we ought, for we have just reason, to entertain an abiding confidence in the stability of our institutions, and an entire conviction that
, if administered in the true rin, character, and spirit in which they were established, they are abundantly adequate to preserve to us and our children the rich blessings already derived from them; to make our beloved land, for a thousand generations, that chosen spot where happiness springs from a perfect equality of political righ:s. For myself
, therefore, I desire to declare, that the principle that will govern me in the bigh duty to which my country calls me, is a strict adherence to the letter and spirit of the constitution, as it was designed by those who framed it. Looking back to it as a sacred instrument, carefully and not easily framed; remembering that it was throughout a work of concession and compromise, viewing it as limijed to national objects; regarding it as leaving to the people and the states all power not explicitly parted with, I shall endeavor to preserve, protect, and defend it, by anxiously referring to its provisions for direction in every action. To matters of domestic concernment which it has entrusted to the federal government, and to such as relate to our intercourse with foreign nations, I shall zealously devote myself; beyond those limits I shall never pass.
To enter, on this occasion, into a farther or more minute exposition of my views on the various questions of domestic policy, would be as obtrusive as it is probably unexpected. Before the suffrages of my countrymen were conferred upon me, I submitted to them, with great precision, my opinions on all the most prominent of these subjects. Those opinions I shall endeavor to carry out with the utmost ability.
Our course of foreign policy has been so uniform and intelligible, as to constitute a rule of executive conduct which leaves little to my discretion, unless, indeed, I were willing to run counter to the lights of experience, and the known opinions of my constituents. We sedulously cultivate the friendship of all nations, as the condition most compatible with our welfare and the principles of our government. We decline alliances, as adverse to our peace.
We desire commercial relations on equal terms, being erer willing to give a fair equivalent for advantages received. We endeavor to conduct our intercourse with openness and sincerity; promptly avowing our objects, and seeking to establish that mutual frankness which is as beneficial in the dealings of nations as of men. We have no disposition
, and we disclaim all right, to meddle in disputes, whether internal or foreiga, that may molest other countries; regarding them in their actual state, as social communities, and preserving a strict neutrality in all their controver
sies. Well knowing the tried valor of our people, and our exhaustless resources, we neither anticipate nor fear any designed aggression; and in the consciousness of our own just conduct, we feel a security that we shall never be called upon to exert our determination, never to permit an invasion of our rights, without punishment or redress.
In approaching, then, in the presence of my assembled countrymen, to make the solemn promise that yet remains, and to pledge myself that I will faithfully execute the office I am about to fill, I bring with me a settled purpose to maintain the institutions of my country, which, I trust, will atone for the errors I commit.
In receiving from the people the sacred trust twice confided to my illustrious predecessor, and which he has discharged so faithfully and so well, I know that I cannot expect to perform the arduous task with equal ability and success. But united as I have been in his counsels, a daily witness of his exclusive and unsurpassed devotion to his country's welfare, agreeing with him in sentiments which his countrymen have warmly supported, and permitted to partake largely of his confidence, I may hope that somewhat of the same cheering approbation will be found to attend upon my path. For him, I but express, with my own, the wishes of all, that he may yet long live to enjoy the brilliant evening of his well-spent life; and for myself, conscious of but one desire, faithfully to serve my country, I throw myself, without fear, on its justness and its kindness. Beyond that I only look to the gracious protection of the Divine Being whose strengthening support I humbly solicit
, and whom I fervently pray to look down upon us all." May it be among the dispensations of His Providence to bless our beloved country with honors and with length of days; may her ways be ways of pleasantness, and all her paths be peace.
SPECIAL SESSION MESSAGE.
SEPTEMBER 4, 1837.
Fellow Citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives :
The act of the 23d of June, 1836, regulating the deposites of the public money, and directing the employment of state, district, and territorial banks for that purpose, made it the duty of the secretary of the treasury to diseontinue the use of such of them as should at any time refuse to redeem their notes in specie, and to substitute other banks, provided a sufficient number could be obtained to receive the public deposites upon the terms and conditions therein prescribed. The general and almost simultaneous suspension of specie payments by the banks in May last, rendered the performance of this duty imperative, in respect to those which had been selected under the act; and made it, at the same time, impracticable to employ the requisite number of others, upon the prescribed conditions. The specific regulations established by Congress for the deposite and safe keeping of the public moneys, having thus unexpectedly become inoperative, I felt it to be my duty to afford you an early opportunity for the exercise of your supervisory powers over the subject.
I was also led to apprehend that the suspension of specie payments,
increasing the embarrassments before existing in the pecuniary affairs of the country, would so far diminish the public revenue, that the aceruing receipts into the treasury, would not, with the reserved five millions, be sufficient to defray the unavoidable expenses of the government, until the usual period for the meeting of Congress; whilst the authority to call upon the states for a portion of the sums deposited with them was 100 restricted to enable the department to realize a sufficient amount from that source. These apprehensions have been justified by subsequent results, which render it certain that this deficiency will occur, if additional means be not provided by Congress.
The difficulties experienced by the mercantile interest in meeting their engagements, induced them to apply to me, previously to the actual sospension of specie payments, for indulgence upon their bonds for duties, and all the relief authorized by law was promptly and cheerfully granted. The dependence of the treasury upon the avails of these bonds to enable it to make the deposites with the states required by law, led me in the outset to limit this indulgence to the first of September, but it has since been extended to the first of October, that the matter might be submitted to your farther direction.
Questions were also expected to arise, in the recess, in respect to the October instalinent of those deposites, requiring the interposition of Congress.
A provision of another act, passed about the same time, and intended to secure a faithful compliance with the obligation of the United States, to satisfy all demands upon them in specie or its equivalent, prohibiting the offer of any bank note, not convertible on the spot into gold or silver at the will of the holder; and the ability of the government, with millions on deposite, to meet its engagements in the manner thus required by law, was rendered very doubtful by the event to which I have referred.
Sensible that adequate provisions for these unexpected exigencies could only be made by Congress; convinced that some of them would be indispensably necessary to the public service, before the regular period of your meeting; and desirous also to enable you to exercise at the earliest moment, your full constiiutional powers for the relief of the country, I could not with propriety avoid subjecting you to the inconvenience of assembling at as early a day as the state of the popular representation would permit
. I am sure that I have done but justice to your feelings, in believing that this inconvenience will be cheerfully encountered, in the hope of rendering your meeting conducive to the good of the country:
During the earlier stages of the revulsion through which we have just passed, much acrimonious discussion arose, and great diversity of opinion existed, as to its real causes. This was not surprising. The operations of credit are so diversified, and the influences which affect them so numerous, and often so subtle, that even impartial and well-informed persons are seldom found to agree in respect to them. To inherent difficulties were also added other tendencies, which were by no means favorable to the discovery of truth. It was hardly to be expected, that those who disapproved the policy of the government in relation to the currency would, in the excited state of public feeling produced by that occasion, fail to attribute to that policy any extensive embarrassment in the monetary affairs of the country. The malter thus became connected with the passions and conflicts of party; opinions were more or less affected by political considerations; and differences were
prolonged which might otherwise have been determined by an appeal to facts
, by the exercise of reason, or by mutual concession. It is, however, a cheering reflection, that circumstances of this nature cannot prevent a community so intelligent as ours from ultimately arriving at correct conclusions. Encouraged by the firm belief of this truth, I proceed to state my views, so far as may be necessary to a clear understanding of the remedies I feel it my duty to propose, and of the reasons by which I have been led to recommend them.
The history of trade in the United States, for the last three or four years, affords the most convincing evidence that our present condition is chiefly to be attributed to over-action in all the departments of business; an overaction deriving, perhaps, its first impulses from antecedent causes, but stimulated to its destructive consequences by excessive issues of bank paper, and by other facilities for the acquisition and enlargement of credit. At the commencement of the year 1834, the banking capital of the United States, including that of the national bank, then existing, amounted to about two hundred millions of dollars; the bank notes then in circulation to about pinety-five millions; and the loans and discounts of the banks to three hundred and twenty-four millions. Between that time and the first of January, 1836, being the latest period to which accurate accounts have been received, our banking capital was increased to more than two hundred and fifty-one millions; our paper circulation to more than one hundred and forty millions, and the loans and discounts to more than four hundred and fiftyseven millions. To this vast increase are to be added the many millions of credit, acquired by means of foreign loans, contracted by the states and state institutions, and, above all, by the lavish accommodations extended by foreigo dealers to our merchants.
The consequences of this redundancy of credit, and of the spirit of reckless speculation engendered by it, were a foreign debt contracted by our citizens, estimated, in March last, at more than thirty millions of dollars; the extenşion to traders in the interior of our country of credits for supplies, greatly beyond the wants of the people; the investment of thirty-nine and a half millions of dollars in unproductive public lands, in the years 1835 and 1836, whilst in the preceding year the sales amounted to only four and a half millions ; the creation of debts, to an almost countless amount, for real estate in existing or anticipated cities and villages, equally unproductive, and at prices now seen to have been greatly disproportionate to their real value; the expenditure of immense sums in improvements
, which in many cases have been found to be ruinously improvident; the diversion to other pursuits of much of the labor that should have been applied to agriculture, thereby contributing to the expenditure of large sums in the importation of grain from Europe,-an expenditure which amounted, in 1834, to about two hundred and fifty thousand dollars,—was in the first two quarters of the present year increased to more than two millions of dollars; and finally, without enumerating other injurious results, the rapid growth among all classes, and especially in our great commercial towns, of luxurious habits founded too often on merely fancied wealth, and detrimental alike to the industry, the resources, and the morals of the people
. It was so impossible that such a state of things could long continue, that the prospect of revulsion was present to the minds of considerate men before it actually came. None, however, had correctly anticipated its severity. A concurrence of circumstances
, inadequate of themselves
to produce such wide-spread and calamitous embarrassments, tended so greatly to aggravate them, that they cannot be overlooked in considering their history. Among these may be mentioned, as most prominent, the great loss of capital sustained by our commercial emporium in the fire of December, 1835,--a Joss, the effects of which were underrated at the time, because postponed for a season by the great facilities of credit then existing; the disturbing effects, in our commercial cities, of the transfers of the public moneys, required by the deposite law of June, 1836; and the measures adopted by the foreign creditors of our merchants, 10 reduce their debts, and to withdraw from the United States a large portion of our specie.
However unwilling any of our citizens may heretofore have been to assign to these causes the chief instrumentality in producing the present state of things, the developments subsequently made, and the actual condition of other commercial countries, must, as it seems to me, dispel all remaining doubts upon the subject. It has since appeared that evils similar to those suffered by ourselves, have been experienced in Great Britain, on the continent, and, indeed, throughout the commercial world; and ibat in other countries, as well as our own, they have been uniformly preceded by an undue enlargement of the boundaries of trade, prompted, as with us, by upprecedented expansion of the systein of credit. A reference to the amount of banking capital, and the issues of paper credits put in circulation in Great Britain, by banks and in other ways, during the years 1835 and 1836, wil show an augmentation of the paper currency there, as much disproportioned to the real wants of trade as in the United States. With this redundancy of the paper currency, there arose in that country also a spirit of adventurous speculation embracing the whole range of human enterprise. Aid was profusely given to projected improvements; large investments were made in foreign stocks and loans; credits for goods were granted with unbounded liberality to merchants in foreign countries; and all the means of acquiring and employing credit were put in active operation and extended in their effects to every department of business, and to every quarter of the globe. The re-action was proportioned in its violence 10 the extraordinary
, Character of the erents which preceded it The commercial community of Great Britain were subjected to the greatest difficulties, and their debtors in this country were not only suddenly deprived of accustomed and expected credits, but called upon for payments which, in the actual posture of things here, could only be made through a general pressure and at the most ruinous sacrifices.
In view of these facts, it would seem impossible for inquiries after truth to resist the conviction, that the causes of the revulsion in both countries have been substantially the same. Two nations, the most commercial in the world, enjoying but recently the highest degree of apparent prosperity, and maintaining with each other the closest relations, are suddenly, in a time of profound peace, and without any great national disaster, arrested in their career, and plunged into a state of embarrassment and distress In both countries we have witnessed the same redundancy of paper money, and other facilities of credit; the same spirit of speculation; the same partial successes; the same difficulties and reverses; and, at length, nearly the same overwhelming catastrophe. The most material difference between the results in the two countrics has only been, that with us there has also occurred an extensive derangement in the fiscal affairs of the