Imágenes de páginas

and if he wishes to realize the amount, he will draw on his agent, and sell such draft. This evidently subjects him to a double operation, and to the expenses of commission and guaranty.

It is plain, I think, that, in the present state of things, the shipper of Southern and Western produce enjoys the benefit of both the foreign and the Northern market more perfectly than he would if this state of things were to be so changed, that he could not draw on his consignee in the foreign market as advantageously as he can now do it.

But if there be a question about the utility of the operations of the bank in foreign exchange, there can be none, I suppose, as to its influence on that which is internal or domestic. I speak now of internal exchange as exchange merely; without considering it connected, as it usually is, with advance or discount, in anticipation of the maturity of bills. In regard to mere exchange, the operations of the bank appear to have produced the most beneficial effect. I doubt whether, in any extensive country, the rates of internal exchange ever averaged so low. Before the bank went into operation, three, four, or five per cent. was not uncommon as the difference of exchange between one extremity of the country and the other. It has at times, indeed, as I am informed, been as high as six per cent between New Orleans and Baltimore; and between other places in this country much higher. The vast amounts bought and sold by the bank, in all parts of the country, average, perhaps, less than one half of one per cent. I doubt whether this exceeds the rates between comparatively neighboring parts of Great Britain, or of the continent of Europe, although much of it consists in exchange between the extreme South and the northern and eastern parts of the Union.

With respect to the effect and operation of the bank upon the general interests of agriculture, commerce, and manufactures, there will be found a great difference as we look at different parts of the country. Everywhere, I think, they have been salutary; but they have been important in very different degrees in different quarters. The influence of the bank on the general currency of the country, and its operations in exchanges, are benefits of a general nature. These are felt all over the country. But in loans and discounts, in the distribution and actual application of its capital, different portions of the country have partaken, and are partaking, in very different degrees. The West is a new and fast-growing country, with vast extents of rich land, inviting settlement and cultivation. Enterprise and labor are pressing to this scene of useful exertion, and necessarily create an urgent demand for capital. This demand the bank meets to a very considerable degree.

The reports of the bank show the existing extent of its accommodation to this part of the country. In the whole Southern and Western States, that is to say, south and west of Philadelphia, the amount exceeds forty-three millions of dollars. In the States lying on the Mississippi and its waters, it exceeds thirty millions of dollars. Of these thirty millions, nineteen or twenty are discounts of notes, and the residue of acceptances of bills drawn on other parts of the country. This last amount is not strictly a loan; it is an advance in anticipation of a debt; but other advances are needed, quite as fast as this is paid off, as every successive crop creates a new occasion, and a new desire to sell bills. I leave it to Western gentlemen to judge how far this state of things goes to show that the continuance of the bank is important to the agriculture and commerce of the West. I leave it to them to contemplate the consequences of withdrawing this amount of capital from their country. I pray them also to inquire what is to be their circulating medium, when the notes of the bank are called in? Do they see before them neither difficulty nor danger in this part of the case ? Are they quite confident, that, in the absence of the bills and notes of the Bank of the United States, they need have no fears of a bad currency, depreciated paper, and the long train of ills that follow, according to all human experience, those inauspicious leaders ? I ask them, also, to judge how far it is wise to settle this question now, so as to give time for making this vast change, if it is to be made at all. The present charter is to continue but four years. If it be not renewed, this debt must be called in within that period. Not a new note can be taken to the bank for a dollar of it, after that time. The whole circulation of bank-notes, too, must be withdrawn. Is it not plain, then, that it is high time to know how this important matter is to be adjusted? The country could not stand a sudden recall of all this capital, and an abrupt withdrawal of this

circulation. How, indeed, the West could stand the change, even if it were begun now, and conducted as gradually and as gently as possible, I confess, I can hardly see. The very commencement of the process of recall, however slight, would be felt in the prices of the very first crop, partly from the immediate effect of withdrawing even a small portion of the capital, and partly from the certainty of future pressure from withdrawing the rest.

Indeed, gentlemen must prepare themselves, I think, for some effect on prices of lands and commodities by the postponement of this question, should it take place, as well as for embarrassments in other respects. That postponement will, at best, not diminish the uncertainty which hangs over the fate of the measure. Seeing the hostility which exists to renewing the charter, and the extent of that hostility, if the measure cannot now be carried, not only a prudent regard to its own interests, but the highest duty to the country, ought to lead the bank to prepare for the termination of its career. It has not before it one day too many to enable it to wind up such vast concerns, without distressing the public. If it were certain that the charter was to be renewed, a postponement would be of little importance. But this is uncertain, and a postponement would render it more uncertain. A motion to postpone, should such be made, will be mainly supported by those who, either on constitutional grounds, or some other grounds, are and always will be against the renewal of the charter. A postponement under such cir. cumstances, and such auspices, cannot but create far stronger doubts than now exist of the final renewal of the charter. It is now two years and a half since the President invited the attention of Congress to this subject. That invitation has been more than once repeated. Everywhere the subject has been considered; everywhere it has been discussed. The public interest now requires our decision upon it, and the public voice demands that decision. I trust, Sir, we shall make it, and make it wisely.

Mr. President, the motives which prescribe my own line of conduct, on this occasion, are not drawn from any local considerations. The State in whose representation I bear a part has as little interest peculiar to itself, in the continuance of this corporation, as any State in the Union. She does not need the aid

of its capital, because the state of her commerce and manufactures does not call for the employment of more capital than she possesses. She does not need it, in a peculiar degree, certainly, as any restraint or corrective on her own paper currency. Her banks are as well conducted as those of other States. But she has a common interest in the continuance of a useful institution. She has an interest in the wise and successful administration of the government, in all its departments. She is interested that the general currency of the country should be maintained in a safe and healthy state. She derives a benefit with others (I believe it a great benefit) from the facility of exchanges in internal commerce, which the bank affords. This is the sum of her motives. For these reasons, she is willing that the bank should be continued. But if the matter should be otherwise deter. mined, however much she might regret it on general and public grounds, she certainly does not apprehend from that result such inconveniences to her own citizens as may and must fall, so far as I can see, on some others.

Mr. President, I will take leave of the subject for the present, with a remark which I think is due from me.

For some years past, I have not been inattentive to the general operations of the bank, or to their influence on the public interests and the convenient administration of the government; and I take the occasion to say, with sincerity and cheerfulness, that, during that period, its affairs have been conducted, in my opinion, with fidelity, as well towards the government as towards its own stockholders; and that it has sought the accomplishment of the public purposes designed by its institution with distinguished ability and distinguished success.



The question being on the amendment offered by Mr. Moore of Alabama, proposing, —

“First, That the bank shall not establish or continue any office of discount or deposit, or branch bank, in any State, without the consent and approbation of the State ;

“Second, That all such offices and branches shall be subject to taxation, according to the amount of their loans and issues, in like manner as other banks or other property shall be liable to taxation" ;

Mr. Webster spoke as follows:

I trust, Sir, the Senate will not act on these propositions without fully understanding their bearing and extent. For myself, I look upon the two parts of the amendment as substantially of the same character. Each, in my opinion, confers a power in the States to expel the bank at their pleasure; in other words, entirely to defeat the operations, and destroy the capacity for usefulness, of the whole bank. The simple question is, Shall we, by our own act, in the charter itself, give to the States this permission to expel the bank and all its branches from their limits, at their own pleasure? The first part of the amendment gives this permission in express terms; and the latter part gives it in effect, by authorizing the States to tax the loans and issues of the bank, with no effectual limitation. It appears to me idle to say, that this power may be safely given, because it will not be exercised. It is to be given, I presume, on the supposition that probably some of the States will choose to exercise it; else why is it given at all ? And will they not so choose? We have already heard, in the course of this debate, of two cases in which States attempted to exercise a power of this kind, when they did not constitutionally possess it. Two States have taxed the branches, for the avowed purpose of driving them out of their limits, and were prevented from accomplishing this object merely by force of judicial decisions against their right. If, then, these attempts have been made to exercise this power when it was not legally possessed, and against the will of Congress, is there any doubt that it will be exercised when its exercise shall be permitted and invited by the proposed amendment? No doubt, in my mind, the power, if granted, will be exercised, and the main object of continuing the bank will be thus defeated.

I have already said, that the second branch of the amendment is as objectionable and as destructive as the first. I think it so. It appears to me to give ample power, by means of taxation, to expel the bank from any State which may choose to expel it. It gives a power of taxation without fixed limits, or any reasonable guards. And a power of taxation without fixed limits,

« AnteriorContinuar »