Imágenes de páginas
[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

from one class of its subjects, in order to give ation; I will therefore repeat it, in order that to another class, or put into its own coflers. lit may be corrected. I did not say that the

With respect to the act of 1713, in the reign State of New York compelled the British merof Queen Anne, it is to be observed, that it af- chants to receive their debts, due them from fects the private or unauthorized debts of the the citizens of this State, in certificates; but Crown. In the reign of King Charles II. spe- that, by the laws of the State, the individuals cial provision was declared for the support of who remained within the lines were to receive the Crown; if this specific revenue was exceed of the individuals without the lines certificates ed, as was the case in the time of Anne, due at par; and that consequently such as reinained bills were given for the debts contracted, due in the hands of those to whom payments of this bills not issued on the authority of Parliament; kind were made, were entitled, on every prinand which sold, perhaps, froin this circum- ciple of justice, to the total of their nominal stance, at a very great discount. It was sup- amount. I shall make but one other observation. posed that the nation was under no necessity to It has been frequently said, during the course discharge them, because with them there was of debate, that the adoption of the proposition no contract; but is it pretended in the present for a composition between the two classes of case that we are at liberty to refuse the pay-public creditors will be no more a violation of ment of our certificates? Is there no contract the Constitution than the adoption of the prinexisting between the Government and indivi- ciples of the report; that a reduction of the duals? So far as this act is in point, it proves principal is nothing worse than a reduction of that the British Parliament interfered in alter the interest. But here is a material difference ing private contracts, not public; the contracts in the proposed measure; the Government, by between individuals, not between the public the exercise of a despotic power, tears a way and individuals. The interference of the same the property of the individual; while, in the Parliament, in the contracts between the South other case, the whole property remains, and noSea Company and individuals, proves equally thing but a modification of its form takes place; as much; but neither of them proves that Great nor this without the consent of the creditor. Britain undertook to do what is now proposed Whatever objections may be taken against this for us to attempt; but if they did, I hope an part of the report, it will no doubt be fully conunjust or questionable measure is not to be sidered when the alterations come under conadopted merely because it was carried into ex- sideration, and I trust fully and satisfactorily ecution in a foreign nation.

answered. The honorable gentleman, after having ad- Mr. Ames.-Placing the proposition on the duced these cases, asks if they affected the pub-ground of precedent appears to be an abandonlic credit of that nation? I answer no; and the ment of the principle of right: and the only reason is evident: they were not attempts to principle upon which it can be contended will: violate the public engagements, or to injure the be that of expediency; yet nothing can have creditors of the nation.

been more conclusively shown than has been It may possibly be contended, that there is the inexpediency of the proposed measure. If no contract on the part of Government to pay it is contended that the violation of rights by these debts; but that idea will be dissipated the other Governments authorize us to pursue simoment we read the words of the Constitution, milar measures, and the application of prece"all debts contracted and engagements enter- dents shows that this is the object, gentlemen ed into before the adoption of this Constitution, need not to have travelled across the Atlantic shall be as valid under this Constitution as in search of an example. They might have under this confederation;" the words " as va- found instances of violated rights nearer home, Tid” make the Constitution as clear as words they need not have gone further than particular can make it; but one of the great causes which States on these shores, and they would have brought about the last Revolution was a desire discovered a warrant for any infraction of indiwhich pervaded the community of securing the vidual right. If then the business rests on the perforinance of contracts; the too frequent in precedents which have been adduced, it will terference of Government in this respect had be proper to examine them. When the Parliabeen felt and acknowledged by all. Can we ment of England interfered in the South Sea then suppose that the public opinion is to be scheme, it was not with a view of destroying gratified by a measure founded on principles rights, but in favor of them, and for their prowhich are rejected and despised? No; iť wetection. The paper money of the late Conmean to give satisfaction, it must be by acting gress, if I understand the transaction, is not at on the principles of national obligation, justice, all in point. The Governiment paid the soldier and good faith; I believe we shall violate the in depreciated paper, and afterwards allowed whole of these if we adopt the proposition and paid him the deficiency; nor did the person

I do not put my opposition upon the imprac- to whom that paper was paid away, ever supticability, but on the right: I think it treason pose he had a claim to the after grants of the against the Constitution to break through the Government. The case of the Canada bills rerestraints and obligations it imposes; we cannot solves itself into a transaction between nation on any consideration violate our engagements, and nation, therefore does not apply. I suspect I was misunderstood in one observ. | The case of the due bills, in the reign f

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

Queen Anne, I can hardly conceive applicable to which they desire the concurrence of the to the present time; but, as was observed by House. the gentleman who preceded me, these due bills

PUBLIC CREDIT. were issued for debts due on the civil list; not by the sanction of Government, nor were |

The House again went into a committee on

The House again went i they inade transferable by an express act of the the report of the Secretary of the Treasury, Legislature. The measure too was carried at Mr. BALDWIN in the chair. the close of the session of Parliament with ex- ! Mr. Madison's proposition still under conpedition, and probably without debate; but it sideration. is a rule that a measure agreed upon without Mr. LIVERMORE said, he was against any debate, shall not be drawn into precedent; discrimination between the soldier and other heace, if the case was in point, which is strongly public creditor who held a public security, denied, it ought not to serve as a precedent to made payable to bearer, and consequently guide our decision,

transferable, with intent that they might be Gentlemen have told us that it never was sold, if convenience or necessity should require contemplated either by the purchaser or seller it. This had been understood by all parties, that the right to the real sum mentioned in the as well in America as in foreign countries, and certificate was obtained and conveyed; but how they had been sold accordingly. The advodoes this doctrine comport with the many and cates for discrimination have not denied this; solemn declarations of Congress finally to pay they have only alleged that the low rate at with honor and punctuality the utmost farthing? which the poor soldier or other public creditor If this be popular opinion, let popular opinion | had sold his securities was a sufficient reason choose its own instruments to effect it; for my for Congress to interfere and set aside the sale. part, I will never have an agency in effecting In opposition to this, he observed, that persons business which my principles, principles ac- had a right to buy and sell at such prices as quired by education and practice, and which, I they could mutually agree upon, provided there believe, comport with those of my constituents was no fraud. -ever are averse to.

A diamond, a horse, or a lot of ground inight It is not on account of its impracticability be sold too cheap or too dear, and so might that I oppose the scheme; it is because I con- | any other property; but Government could not ceive it to be unjust and dishonorable. I will interfere without destroying the general system only add, that the observations I made on this of law and justice. Esau had sold his birthpoint, when I was up before, were not intend right for a mess of pottage, and heaven and ed to convey any personal reflections; no man earth had confirmed the sale. The distresses can respect more the honorable mover than I do; of the army, both officers and soldiers, at the itis the measure, and not the man, that I oppose. time they received and sold their securities, I am well convinced, from the experience of had been painted in too strong colors. They that gentleman's candor, and his reputed inte. were not so emaciated by sickness and famive grity, that he is actuated by the purest motives, as had been represented. They were crowned though I think him to be engaged in a bad with victory, and received with applause by cause.

their fellow-citizens; and although they had Mr. Madison hoped the committee did not been paid in paper, their loss had been made conceive, with the two gentlemen that had re up by large bounties and in other emoluments; plied to him, that he meant by adducing prece- so that, in point of property, they were equal dents to abandon the ground of right. The to their fellow-citizens, who had borne the burcommittee will recollect that the gentlemen in then of taxes under which many are laboring opposition were repeatedly calling for prece-to this day. Let them be called brave soldiers, dents, and defied us to produce them, especial-patriotic soldiers, but not poor soldiers. They ly from Great Britain, which nation was held ought to be governed by the same system of up to us as a model. They told us, that such justice that governs others; but their contracts an interference on the part of the Government ought not to be set aside out of partiality to of England would have annihilated that credit them. The case quoted from the statute of for which she is so respectable. Under these Queen Anne is not applicable to this case, inascircumstances, the committee will think there much as Government had not originally made was a necessity imposed on us to adduce pre- the debentures therein mentioned transferable. cedent; and not that we did it to rest our ar. Neither did the case of the Canada bills apply; gument on it alone, but as a collateral support, | for, as he understood, those bills were paid to to show we had been challenged.

British merchants and to others who had purThe committee rose, and the Ilouse adjourned. chased them.

He concluded by saying, that he would vote

against the amendment, because no sufficient Tuesday, February 19.

reason had been assigned that could operate on A message from the Senate informed the his mind against the general system of right. House, that the Senate have passed the bill pro- Mr. BURKE said, that on Friday last be bad viding for the enumeration of the inhabitants of laid before the House a motion for making a the United States, with several amendinents, I discrimination between original holders and

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

assignees of public securities, and for establish- Virginia, and other States gave similar bouning a scale of depreciation for those securities. (ties, he believed, without mentioning the lands This motion le afterwards thought proper to appropriated for them by the United States. withdraw, as, on further consideration, he He would not say that the soldiers have been deemed it altogether impracticable, and be rewarded; for what reward can be adequate to cause he was not convinced that such a mea- their great services? But he insisted that the sure was honest and consistent with public people of America had not been unmindful of faith. He did not therefore think himself at those services. If we for a moment consider liberty to give it his support.

the conduct of the people towards one part of As to the question before the committee, he the army, (the officers,) we shall find that could consider it in no other view than as a America has signally displayed her gratitude question, whether we shall commit a breach of towards them, from the commander-in-chief public faith with the domestic creditors of the down to the ensign. The illustrious leader of Uniteu Siates, and violate those solemn pro- our armies, retiring froin the field to private mises so often repeated in appeals and procla-life, she again raised to the elevated station of mations to the people by the late Government, a sovereign Prince! Through what motives? and a promise or engagement which has been From gratitude for his splendid services. View reiterated by the new Constitution? In his the high departments of the General Governopinion, it required no profound skill in politics ment; look into the several offices; enter the or finance to answer this question: it is only several custom-houses from the northern to the consulting the dictates of common faith and southern extremity of the continent; there we common honesty, which command nations as shall find conspicuous instances of gratitude. well as individuals to fulfil their engagements. Let us now see how the people regard the

The United States have repeatedly pledged officers of the army in the different States. themselves in terms as plain as language can In South Carolina, no other class of citizens express, to pay to the bearers a specific sum; stand any chance in competition with officers; and to commit a violation of this promise ap- they are promoted to the stations of Governor, peared to him both unjust and impolitic. 1 Lieutenant-Governor, and Privy Councillors; the United States are able to perform it, they they are to be found presiding in the tribunals ogght to do so. 'lle believed and hoped that of Justice, in the Legislatures, and on the floor they had the ability; and even in the case of in- of Congress; and the gratitude of the people ability, he was of opinion, should bankruptcy follows them in the private walks and ordinary itseit ensue froin the lionorable attempt to do occupations of life. They are justly held in justice, this would be preferable to a stain cast love and veneration; and if the future historian upon these Siates at the commencement of their of America records the truth, and nothing but political career by a cool and deliberate act of the truth, hic must raise lasting monuments, public injustice to their creditors. America both of the illustrious services of the officers of has established in the world a high military the army, and of the gratitude and love of the character. Let her but fulfil her engagements, people for those services. This he mentioned in and she will also establish a national character answer, or rather in defence of the people, and of honor and fair dealing. This will be to her to clear them from the charge of ingratitude. as a real and substantial treasure, which she It is urged in favor of discrimination that a will be able to transmit, like a fair inheritance, few speculators will make princely fortunes. to her children. Should we, on the other hand, This, he said, was a circumstance which he pollute her by suffering her to cominit a breach sincerely regretted; as he did likewise regret of honor, it will be such a public calainity as the speculations now carrying on from this city no money can compensate.

and other places, in the State of South CaroliHe wished to offer a few observations in an- na--the sending pilot-boats secretly from New swer to those' gentlemen who were so urgent | York to Charleston, while the people there in favor of the motion. They had advanced were asleep, as it were, and totally unacquaintthat the officers and soldiers have not been ed with the councils or views of the adminisfully paid. The gentleman from Virginia (Mr.tration, with information on the one side only;

Ladison) has said that without the discrimina- | this he thought a hard case. But the speculation which he offers, we shall be raising monu- tors, availing themselves of this and a variety ments of gratitude, not to our officers and sol- of other advantages, could not justify him, in Kliers who fought for us, but to those who his own mind, in giving a vote that would give speculated on our securities. On this, he would a stab to the good faith and credit of a nation remark, that it is to be lamented, when our in whose councils he had the honor of a suffrage. arıny was disbanded, the derangement of our! He foresaw, however, a still greater misforafturs put it out of our power to pay them in tune in this business, than that of a few specu-specie. The States, however, did every thing lator's aggrandizing themselves by our funding in their power to provide for their soldiers. system: It is, that our public securities will go The State of South Carolina gave them boun- into the hands of foreigners. The present systies in lands, and the warrants and grants for tem, offered by the Secretary, is actually mortthese lands were passed through different gaging these States to foreign speculators, for offices without the usual fees. North Carolina, theamount of the debt; for the holders will sell,

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

as they have already sold, immense sums to fo- ask, whether, if the United States had thus reigners to raise ready money. Few of our exonerated theinselves from the obligation to citizens will become purchasers, as ready mo- the assignee, whether the claim of the original ney will yield far greater emolument, employed holder would not still remain in its full force in in commerce or agriculture, than when lodged a moral view? But believing the point of jusin the funds. This is a calamity which he la- tice to be exhausted, I will just adil one remented from bis soul; but, upon a most serious mark upon the practicability. The transferred consideration upon the subject, he was not clear certificates, generally, will show the names of but that a forfeiture of public faith, a loss of the original holders, and here there is no difli public credit, would be for America a far greater culty. With respect to those granted to the calamity. He entertained strong apprehen- heads of either of the five great departments, sions, that parting with the fair inheritance of the books of the Treasurer of Loans, as well as public faith and public honor, under any pre- the accounts of those departments now in the text, would be acting the part of him who sold Treasury, will designate with a great degree of his inheritance for a mess of pottage. Viewing accuracy, and this may be followed up by the the subject in this light, he could not, he dare usual mode of obtaining evidence; and I beheve, not vote in favor of the motion.

every security may be provided against fraud He also mentioned another ground whereon in this case that was provided in the case of he opposed it: The scheme of a discrimination the Commissioners who were sent into the reappeared totally impracticable. Commissioners spective States for ascertaining and liquidating must be appointed, not only in different States, the claims of individuals. That there will be but in different places of the same State. If some difficulty I admit, but it is enough for me Commissioners are appointed, for instance, in that it is not insuperable; and I trust, with the Charleston, the citizens must attend from the assistance which the cause of equity and justice remotest parts of the State, and be worried in will ever obtain from the members of the travelling backwards and forwards to seek for National Legislature, they will easily be surwitnesses, many of whom may be dead, or re- mounted. moved into other countries-not to mention the Mr. WHITE wished to ascertain a fact whicis length of time and enormous expense which so had been mentioned. He did not mean to infer complicated a business must occasion. He that gentlemen had related a fact they did not concluded, by declaring it to be his opinion, believe; but supposed they might have been that the proposition, if agreed to, would throw inisinformed. He asked, whether foreigners had things into confusion and perplexity, which he been induced to purchase in our funds by as. could not see the extent of: he should, there-surances from the ministers of the United fore, oppose it.

States, residing at Foreign Courts, that no vari.. Mr. Madison.-If paper, or the honor of ation would be made in the domestic debt. statues or inedals, can discharge the debts of Mr. BLAND asked his colleague, (Mr. MAjustice, payable in gold and silver, we cannot DISON,) how long he supposed the settlement only exonerate ourselves from those due to the which he conteinplated would take in its comoriginal holders, but from those of the assignees; pletion. For his part he supposed two or three so far as paper goes the latter have received generations might pass away before that object the compensation. If honor can discharge the could be accomplished, considering the disdebt, they have received civil honors; look persed situation of the claimants through Ameround to the officers of every Government in rica, Europe, Asia, and Afriea. the Union, and you find them sharing equall Mr, MADISON said, the claims of individuals honors with those bestowed on the original cre- were presented and liquidated by the Commisditors. But, sir, the debt due in gold and sil- sioners throughout the United States in nine ver is not payable either in honor, appoint- months; that was the perio:l fixed for that purments, or in paper.

pose by Congress; he would not say but it was Gentlemen say it will work injustice; but are too short, yet he thought this experiment fairly we not as much bound to repair the injustice inferred that the ascertainment he contended done by the United States? Yet I do not be- for could be effected in a short tine. lieve the assertion has been established by any | Mr. Boudinor had seen an authentic lerter, thing that has been urged in its support. The in which the writer mentioned that the opinion gentleman from Maryland, (Mr. Srone) ac- of Mr. JEFFERSON was asked, and obtained. knowledges, that there is a moral obligation to He also had reason to believe the sentiments of compensate the original holders; how will they the President of the late Congress was given to get what he admits is their due? He is willing the same eitect. to make an effort by applying the l'esources of The committee now rose, and the House adthe country to that purpose; but if we are to journed. judge by the sentiments of other gentlemen who have spoken on this occasion, we have little to expect from that quarter. Sup. 1

Monday, February 22. pose the debt had depreciated to a mere tri- The House proceeded to consider the amend? fle, and suppose the sale of the Western Ter- ments of the Senate to the bill providing for ritory had extinguished the certificates, let me the enumeration of the inhabitants of the United

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

States, and agreeing to a part and disagreeing the purchase with six per cent, interest in three to other parts; a message was sent to the Se-years. nate informing them thereof.

In what does the case differ between the dePUBLIC CREDIT.

preciated paper and the certificates? Paper

money was redeemed at forty for one, as well to The House then resolved itself into a Com- the last as the first holder; the same principle mittee on the Report of the Secretary of the would lead to give the last holder of the certi. Treasury, Mr. BALDWIN in the chair.

ficate the depreciated value at which he bought Mr. MADISON's proposition still under consi- it. But we propose to work no injustice, we deration.

give the first holder, if he is the holder still, the Mr. PAGE.- As the worthy and eloquent full value stipulated. It would not be injusmember who replied to me did not answer the tice to consider the assignee, as having paid questions I put to the committee, I suppose he what he advanced, in consequence of his confieither did not hear thein, did not understand me, dence in Government, on account of that Goor could not answer them. I hope, before the vernment; and that the Government ought to committee decide, they will attempt at least to repay him what he so advanced; having repaid resolve them. I asked, where is the injustice that sum, the balance ought to go to the credit of the States complying with its engagements of the assignee. I am willing, on this considemade to the first holders of certificates, as far ration, to call the speculator the friend and sup. as the case admits? Where is the justice of porter of the Government, who kindly lent us, doing more for the assignee than he or his as- when in need, two shillingsand six pence in every signor expected could or would be done? Where pound, to advance to the poor soldier. If certiis the breach of faith in Government, if it paid ficates are the evidence of the debt, it proves, sir, its whole debt with justice blended with mercy! that the balance is due to him in whose name Where is the interference in contracts, when it issued. This is the day of payment, and we the proposition is to comply sacredly, as far as inust pay accordingly; and here permit me to the case will admit, with the contracts between remark, in reply to the observation of the gena State and its creditors? I asked, is not the tleman from New Hampshire, (Mr. LIVERassignment of certificates confirmed by the mo-MORE) that Jacob was punished for his fraud, tion? Does it not give to the assignee the very but for his faith enjoyed the promise; even so thing stipulated to be given, that is, whatever let us regard those who had so much confidence sum Government shall be pleased to pay for the in us, as to advance two shillings and six pence certificates, for that was the condition of the I to the distressed soldier. assignment? And is not the suin now proposedMr. HEISTER was in hopes this question would more than either the first or last holder, till be postponed for the present, in order to go into within these few days, supposed would be paid a consideration of the ways and means; when, hin? I asked also, ought not an honest assignee lif it appeared that the United States were into be pleased that Government intends to do capable of making full provision, it might be that justice to his assignor which he ought to do considered, whether one deviation would not himself, were the whole payment made to him: authorise the other? If any gentleman would I asked, of what is the assignee deprived but of make a motion to that effect, he would second his late sanguine expectation? I asked whether him. the proposition before us does not rather esta! The question was now taken on Mr. MADIblish confidence in Government than the con- son's proposition for a composition, and it passtrary? For, sir', to make use of the comparisoned in the negative; yeas 13, nays 36. which has been often made here between the Mr. WHITE observed, that the second resoState and an obligor, on a bond, what could lution proposed by the gentleman from Penngive more credit to any man's bonds than to sylvania (Mr. FITZSIMONS) was now before the find that, though they had depreciated to half a committee; he would wish to modify it, by den crown in the pound, he paid the whole twenty claring that permanent funds ought to be proshillings; len shillings to the assignee, who had vided, instead of appropriated; because the given but two shillings and sixpence, and ten to latter seemed to imply that Congress were althe obligee who had sold at so great a loss ready possessed of the funds, which he believed

It is true Congress may, consistently with was not the case; he also wished to extend the the rules of common law courts, pay the bearer resolution, so as to embrace the civil and miliand take no notice of the creditors; but were a tary establishments of the United States, leavCourt of Equity instituted to decide on the case ing the surplus to be employed in just proporof certain speculators, how would they decide? tion to discharge the interest of the domestic Government, in the inost solemn manner, debt. The plan of the Secretary seemed to pledged itself to make compensation to the sol- contemplate the payment of four per cent. and diers, have they done it? Instead of doing this, gave a preference to those who subscribed to certain persons, who took advantage of their his new loan; by this means, the original holder ignorance and their poverty, bought up the evi- who had retained his certificate, and who dence of their debt at one-eighth of their no- thought his claim more meritorious than the minal value; and in some states these very men others, and who, in consequence, could neither had drawn wbat constituted the principal of lafford, nor would be willing to accept of either

« AnteriorContinuar »