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pronounce, that the question concerning its constitutionality was no longer open—that all further argument in the case, was precluded by the mere lapse of time, and the implicit sanction of common consent. But, according to your manner of considering these subjects, we are to dwell in first elements forever. The very first principles of our polity are to be forever liable to be called in question. On your principles, I see not how it is possible ever to consider any decision as ultimate. Admit these principles, and all hope of public repose is gone for ever. No foundation remains for it to rest on. What is there, on your system, to prevent, in all time to come, any single State, or any number of States, from coming forward, and breaking up the settled decisions of a century, or of ten centuries? Nothing under Heaven. Entire unanimity in all parts of the Union, and on all questions, and this alone, can preserve the tranquility of the body politic. These are the consequences to which your doctrines would lead. Had they prevailed originally, the union of these States would have been, long since, a matter of history only. Under their operation, it could not now subsist a single year. I repeat it—once admit that the decisions of that tribunal which the Constitution has established to pronounce on the validity of Congressional enactments, is not to be regarded as final—is not to bind, definitively, the will of States, as well as of individuals, (and I understand you as going the full length of this,), and no barrier is left against mutual encroachments, mutual dissentions, and civil war. The very cement of the Union is gone. Now, I maintain, that doctrines which lead to such disastrous conclusions, cannot be true. It never could have been the intention of the sages who framed the Constitution, to labour so long, so assiduously, so devotedly, in order to bind us together with such cob-web chains as these. If these considerations have any validity in their general application, their weight is enhanced, when we take into view, the circumstances attending the passage of the Bank Act, and the train of consequences that grew out of it. They render the case as strong a one as can be conceived. This thing was not done in a corner. Neither the Government nor the people were taken by surprise, or hurried into the measure in a season of excitement, and under the pressure of an unforeseen emergency. Nor was it permitted to pass sub silentio, from a modest regard to the authority of great names. Mr. HAMILTON had earnestly recommended the measure, at the very outset of the national career; and his opinions and recommendations, were not likely to be disregarded, or lightly considered, either by friends or enemies. In 1791, when the subject was first taken up in Congress, the elements, which soon after settled into a firm and steady opposition to the general policy of the Administration, had already begun to coalesce; and no measure, surely, can be imagined, more likely to awaken their vigilance, and alarm their jealousies than this. The question of implied and discretionary powers, had been already agitated, on a previous occasion. It was not likely to be neglected now. The whole fire of the battery planted on this ground, was, in fact, brought to bear, with all its weight, upon the subject. But this was by no means the most formidable part of the opposition it had to encounter. Argument and eloquence may be resisted by the same weapons. But there was arrayed against this measure, a host of prejudices more formidable still. It was denounced, both in and out of Congress, as pregnant with dangers to the integrity of the States; as adapted, and designed, to be a mighty engine of power and corruption, in the hands of the Government, by which all the bulwarks of State Rights would be borne down, or undermined. The exact process by which this mischief was to be effected, it is true, was little understood. But the terror was not the less, on that account. Those who reason but feebly, can still feel deeply; and there has ever been about banking operations, no little share of mystification, in the minds of the uninitiated. These circumstances afforded great scope for the adversaries of the measure, to awaken the suspicions and fears of the people. And they were neither slow nor unskilful to avail themselves of it to the utmost. Under these circumstances was the bill introduced; and after a long and most able debate, was carried in the affirmative, by a large majority. It is pertinent to remark, that among the ablest supporters of the bill, was Mr. SMITH, of this city. On this question, the Executive Cabinet, too, was divided; and the opposition it met with there, was not less ardent or less able, than it had experienced in the halls of Congress. Now, here let it be remembered, that both houses of Congress were, at this time, composed in a great measure, of the very men, who, in the General Convention or in those of the States, had been actively engaged in giving form and effect, to the very instrument they were now called upon, practically to interpret. They had come thither with their minds heated with the collisions of the strife they had been engaged in, on these respective arenas. Let it be remembered, too, that the measure was an odious one to the minority, from causes altogether extraneous from the question of its constitutionality, Was it not likely that this feeling would stimulate, and sharpen the perspicacity even of honest minds, in finding arguments against it in this quarter? Would it not be likely to magnify in their apprehension, the importance of these arguments?. On the other hand, the friends of the measure were placed in a position, which imposed on them the necessity of proceeding with much caution and circumspection. This was no time for hazardous or doubtful experiments. A Bank was desirable, doubtless; but the confidence of the people, the support of public opinion, was still more so. The Government was yet in its infancy. Little had been done towards consolidating the parts, and communicating strength and efficacy to the system. . It was not yet “in the full tide of successful experiment.” The flood had but just commenced. Surely, men of ordinary discretion, to say nothing of conscientious scruples, would hardly have ventured on so important a step, in these circumstances, unless they had felt the ground firm beneath them. They must have felt themselves secure on this point, or else they were not only dishonest, but rash and fatuitous. , Did they, then, not know the import of the work of their own hands? This is incredible. They must, many of them, at least, have been familiar with every fact and circumstance, in the history of this great work, which we, of this day, can only gather up by doubtful investigation. A clause, which to us, after all the lights we can obtain, may appear somewhat ambiguous, must to them have been perfectly plain. Hence the great value I attach to these early practical illustrations and comments of the men who assisted in forming the Constitution. I have intimated that greater reliance is to be placed on the ----------------
construction given to the Constitution by the friends of this bill, than on that of their opponents; and I have assigned, I think, a sufficient reason for this opinion. Only admit, that they were equally honest, and intelligent—not a very unreasonable postulatum—and it is impossible not to admit, that the opinion is correct.
We have not yet done with the subject of the National Bank. It is fruitful of instruction to all, to whom the voice of experience is not addressed in vain. We have seen the circumstances in which it took its origin; the formidable and deep-rooted prejudices it had to encounter; the local jealousies, always marked with peculiar virulence, and the local interests, real or imaginary, that were arrayed against it. I have said, that these circumstances must have impressed on the Government the necessity of proceeding with great caution, and the most scrupulous regard to the constitutional limits of their legislative powers.' Which of the positions I have taken, will you undertake to assail; which of my inferences will you set aside?
Let us allow your most unfounded supposition to be correct—that the Government of the Union, as such, has, or can have, an interest distinct from that of the people; let us allow—what is most manifestly, I' had almost said, ridiculously absurd—that the individuals, who, at any time, administer this Government, do not, every one of them, carry into his official station, all his local attachments, all his State partialities, all his exclusive patriotism; let us suppose, that, as soon as he touches the soil of the “ten miles square,” all these habititudes fall off, as by the touch of a magician’s wand, and the man stands forth a naked and unendowed cosmopolite. Let us allow all this; and let us allow, further, that this first Administration was as keen on the scent of unconceded power, as you represent the present to be—still, I say, in the position in which it found itself, it would not have dared even to look over the hedge of the Constitution. Nothing but the strong sense of rectitude of intention, and rectitude in its principles of construction, would have emboldened it to take so important a step. I repeat it: these considerations are important. To my mind, they would, of themselves, be conclusive. I really could place little reliance on any course of reasoning, however subtle and ingenious, that led to a conclusion opposed to such a precedent as this. But I proceed to the history of the Bank.
As far as I am informed, no question of its constitutionality was ever submitted to the decision of the Supreme Court. It was permitted to operate unmolested, till its charter expired by its own limitation. An attempt was then made to renew it, and failed. I have but an imperfect recollection of the course of the debate on this occasion. I think it was opposed on the grounds of its unconstitutionality by some, and of its inexpediency by others. I need not remind you what was regarded, at the time, as the true, though unavowed cause of its rejection. Be this as it may, within a few short months, the very men who had resused to renew the charter of the old Bank, brought forward a plan for a new one, on a gigantic scale.
It was now the turn of the friends of the renewal to take the attitude of opposition; and give back to their antagonists, their own arguments, as in some instances they did, in very pleasant style. I recollect well, how one honourable Senator, in particular, was annoyed in this way. The bill failed; but the project was, soon after, brought up under more savourable auspices, and accomplished almost by general consent. Since that time, the constitutional question has been submitted to the ultimate tribunal, and settled, if political logic and judicial decisions, are ever to be regarded as settling any thing. You, indeed, have called this decision in question, and ventured to couch your lance against the panoply of the Chief Justice. If you are satisfied with the result of the shock, I see no reason why I should not be. Such is the history of the National Bank; and it is a history, as I said above, fraught with instruction. It presents, in bold relief, the impracticable nature of those principles of construction for which you so earnestly contend. I have stated in a former number, that, on these principles, the operations of Government could not go on; that with these blogs on its wheels, the political machine would be arrested in its motion. I could not wish for a stronger case in support of my assertion, than the one before us. So conclusive do I consider it, that I should be willing, in the judgment of impartial men, to rest my cause upon it. No argument is so weighty as the result of fair experiment; and no experiment was ever more fairly instituted, or clearer in its results than this. The Bank was established, because the wisest men and purest patriots of whom our annals can boast, were deeply and conscientiously convinced of its necessity—(I use the term in its popular sense of course—nothing but the pressing exigencies of an argument actually in extremi, could lead any one to imagine, that in a great political chart like this, it could be used in any other)—and though they were well aware that the Constitution gave them no specific power to this effect, yet they experienced no difficulty on this ground. When the charter expired, the champions of restrictive interpretation were in power; and, to save their consistency, perhaps, an attempt was made to conduct the affairs of the nation without its aid. We have seen with what success. So impossible was it found to get on without it, that its most ardent and steadfast opponents were compelled to recant their opinions, to eat their own arguments, and to unite with their former adversaries in establishing another. Now I ask you to take leave for a moment, of your legal analogies and minute special pleading, which fit these great practical questions about as well as the doublet of Falstaff’s page would have fitted his master, and tell me whether you do in sober verity suppose, that when the people of the United States instituted their present form of Government, it could have been their intention, that the great objects committed to its management, should not be effected in the best, the most effectual, the most beneficial manner? Can you suppose, that, in order to prevent this creature of their will from grasping an item of interdicted power, it was their sovereign pleasure to leave it maimed, and truncated? It were truly a wise expedient of the charioteer, to hamstring his horses, in order to prevent their overturning his car. No Sir, it cashqt be—the doctrine were monstrous—that the people designed to impose duties on the Government, and at the same time
to withhold the powers requisite to discharge them. And if they did not, then your system of interpretation cannot stand. The history of the transaction before us utterly subverts it. Here is a measure adopted clearly without specific warrant, on the very ground of implied power—of a discretionary selection of means for the attainment of an end —the history and circumstances of which yet show, to demonstration, that it was necessary, in order to enable the Government to perform the duties imposed on it. For on no other ground, certainly, can you account for its re-enactment. Powers, then, must have been intended to be conferred by implication, just as certainly as it was the intention of those who created the Government, that it should operate efficiently in its prescribed sphere, and accomplish, in the most beneficial manner, the purposes of its creation. Your argument against the power of Congress to erect a corporation, drawn from the journals of the Convention, though plausible, is certainly unsound. It might be valid if this power were not one that necessarily inheres in the sovereignty. But such is, incontrovertibly, the fact. Else, I beg you to point out the authority by which our own Legislature acts in similar cases. Is there any specific power conferred by Tour State Constitution to this effect? Certainly not, nor was any necessity for such investment ever conceived to exist. A proposition to insert this among the enumerated powers of the Government, was, undoubtedly, made in the Convention; and you infer from the fact that it was not adopted, that it was the meaning of the Convention that the Government should not possess this power. But you surely are not warranted in this inference. Twenty other solutions of the fact may be assigned; fully adequate to account for it. I am as well entitled to infer, that it was passed by—for it seems never to have been included in any report—on the ground that it would be utterly gratuitous. To me it appears that there would have been as much propriety in an express grant of power to contract for the purchase or rent of a Custom House, as of a power to erect a corporation, in order to the discharge, or to the more effectual or convenient discharge of any of the prescribed duties of the Government. The one may be a more important measure than the other; and this ought doubtless to be taken into view when considering the question of its expediency, but with the question of constitutionality it really has no concern. With regard to the direct abstract question of the constitutionality of the Bank Act, on constructive grounds, I am hardly disposed to enter upon it. I remember the arguments of Mr. HAMILTON, of Mr. PINKNEy, Mr. Webster, and the É. Justice, on this point, and feel no inclination to hold my farthing candle up in the face of the sun. Their arguments never have been answered, and never can be; and I should honestly regard the man, who could rise from a perusal of them unconvinced, as, on this point at least, logic-proof. To bring this article to a close, I have only to state my firm conviction, that, on this topic, your reasonigs are precluded—that the question is no longer open for discussion—that repeated legislative enactments; that universal acquiescence, for a long series of years, on the part of the people; and the solemn decisions of the highest tribunal of the land, the umpire provided by the constitution itself;-that every test, in short, to which any measure can be subjected, have closed it by