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And as to the slow and hesitating assent which he gave to this measure, Washington never gave a quick or hasty assent to any thing. It was not his nature to do so. His reason and not his humor, his conscientious and well-considered judgment, and not any rash and arbitrary will, were the rules and standards of his action. It was by this very slowness and hesitation, that he secured the success of our Revolutionary contest. American Independence could have been achieved by no other qualities in the leader of its armies.
Unus cunctando nobis restituit rem.
And so far from regarding the hesitation which characterized his course as to this national bank as favorable to the cause of those who have suggested it, the whole weight which the suggestion possesses, whatever it is, seems clearly to belong to the other scale. Why, Sir, does it make an opinion less worthy of confidence, that it was slowly and deliberately formed? Does it diminish the value of a decision, that it was pronounced after a full hearing and upon solemn judgment ? Does it impair the efficacy of seals and signatures, that they were affixed after many misgivings and with much ceremony? The very reverse of all this, certainly, - and especially where the opinion was formed, the decision pronounced, the signature and seal affixed by a man like Washington. He was not the person to strike nice balances in accounts of conscience or of duty. He was no constitutional casuist. Much less would he ever have given his pen to one side of a question, while his opinion was on the other. When he doubted, he sought sincerely and anxiously to resolve his doubts, and he rarely acted till they were resolved. He summoned councils, he solicited opinions, he insisted on the fullest and freest statements and arguments of the case on both sides, and upon the materials thus obtained he turned and fastened the calm, clear, dispassionate eye of his own powerful judg. ment. And then, like the mists before the sun, those doubts were dispelled. And let me add, that he who goes behind the approving signature of Washington, to magnify scruples, hesitations, or doubts which were expressed or implied by him before that
signature was given, does great injustice either to his ability or his integrity.
But the charter which he signed was suffered to expire, and after a few years a second charter was signed by James Madi
Was not he a framer of the Constitution ? Was there any one among those framers more distinguished, any one whose opinion as to what the Constitution was or was intended to be, upon this or any other point, we should rather have had? True, Mr. Madison had originally opposed this measure. True, he had himself once vetoed a national bank charter. And the grounds upon which that veto was based are certainly not a little remarkable, when considered in connection with the present doctrines of the Government and the present condition of the country. They were these, Sir, — that the amount of stock to be subscribed would not be sufficient to produce, in favor of the public credit, any considerable or lasting elevation of the market price; that no adequate advantage would arise to the public credit from the subscription of Treasury notes; that the bank would be free from all obligations to coöperate with public measures; and that the bank would commence and conduct its operations under a perpetual obligation to pay its notes in specie! Not a word here about divorces between Bank and State, but objections rather that the alliance between them was not made closer. Not a word about the Government taking care of their business and the people of theirs, but a complaint that there was not enough of coöperation between Government and people to sustain the public credit. And even a suspension of specie payments, instead of being denounced as under all circumstances, immoral and fraudulent, is regarded as so essen. tial, in certain emergencies, to the welfare of the country, that it ought to be allowed and authorized in the very terms of the charter!
But what did Mr. Madison say in this same veto message on the point of the constitutionality of that charter ? He declared expressly, Sir, that all question of the constitutional authority of Congress to incorporate a bank, was, “in his opinion, precluded by repeated recognitions, under varied circumstances, of the validity of such an institution, in acts of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of the Government, accompanied by indications, in different modes, of a concurrence of the general will of the nation."
Mr. Chairman, nine-and-forty years have passed away since the foundation of this Republic. During forty of those years a national bank has existed. It has received the deliberate sanction of many of the framers of the Constitution. I know not that any one of them has ever perseveringly and consistently opposed it. It has received the official signature both of Washington and of Madison, and the latter declared more than twenty years ago that its constitutionality was even then, in his opinion, no longer a matter of question. And yet, Sir, we are now gravely told that such an institution is not constitutional, never was constitutional, and never will be constitutional, and are soberly invited to enter anew upon an abstract original argument upon this point. For one, I decline that invitation at once and altogether. Had I the logical powers of Hamilton and Marshall and Madison and Webster conjoined, and without them one could in vain expect to put the subject even in as clear a light as that in which it already stands on the pages of these great constitutional statesmen, I should regard it as not only a wasteful, but as an unworthy employment of those powers to argue such a question. It seems to me too much like arguing the constitutionality of the Constitution itself; too much like going behind the Constitution to interpret the mysterious terms of some original compact or divine right; too much, in short, like open and outright nullification. Having confined myself, therefore, to a merely historical view of the subject, and being satisfied that any one who is not convinced by that would be convinced by nothing, I turn to the last topic of my remarks.
The gentleman from Gloucester has again and again during this and other debates, taken occasion to allude to the party names of the day, and has more than once summed up his opinion of their propriety in the elegant exclamation — “ American Whiggery is British Toryism.” He has not indeed been entirely and at all times consistent in this cry. The expression, on one occasion, that conservatism had grown rife here, - the declaration, on another, that he was defending the institutions of property from a destructive majority in this House, --and the allusion, on a third, to the old joke of Dr. Johnson, that the first Whig was the Devil, — have been edifying episodes. But the main burthen of his song has still been—“ American Whiggery is British Toryism."
If I remember right, Sir, the first time this expression was heard in the House, it was used in a relation somewhat personal to myself, and therefore it is, that I feel a greater disposition and a greater liberty to notice it. It was during a debate on a point of order which it was my fortune to be called on to decide soon after my election to the Chair, — and in deciding which I referred, as an authority, to a similar point which had been decided in the British Parliament about five-and-twenty years ago. Upon that point there was no division in the House of Commons, and of course there is nothing upon record to show who was for, or who was against, the decision. But the sharp optics of the gentleman from Gloucester, seeing things not to be seen, have discovered that it was altogether and exclusively the work of a Tory majority, and that the Whigs of that assembly were to a man opposed to it. And hence, “American Whiggery is British Toryism.”
Now, Sir, I do not propose to argue that point of order over again. Having twice decided it, and twice given my reasons at length, and twice been sustained by an overwhelming majority of the House, I should have no desire, even were it pertinent to the present issue, to enter upon it anew. Let me say, however,
, that it is one thing to follow a Tory precedent in favor of the rights of the people and of their title to representation, and a very different thing to follow such a precedent when it leads in an opposite direction. If the right of a Representative to his vote, or rather the right of the people to the vote of their Representatives, were esteemed too precious and too sacred, even in the rotten-borough system of the British Parliament five-andtwenty years ago, to be set aside upon any indefinite allegation of personal interest, how much more should it be held inviolable upon such a ground, under the free and equal system which we here enjoy! Let me add, Sir, that, whether this be a Tory precedent or not, and there is nothing but gratuitous assertion to
show what it is, it is the only precedent on the record of Parliamentary proceedings on either side of the ocean;- I should rather say that it is the latest of a series of precedents all bearing upon the same point, and all sustaining the same decision, and with whose conspiring authority I have found nothing in reason, and nothing upon record, to conflict. But enough, and more than enough, of this digression.
The charge of British Toryism against the American Whigs, and the corresponding claim of British Whiggism in behalf of American Tories, have not been confined to the circumstances of this case or to the principles of this decision. They have been applied to the whole political character and conduct of both parties, and with particular reference to the great financial questions upon which they are now divided. Now it would be no difficult undertaking, I am inclined to think, Sir, to prove both the charge and the claim, whether in their broader or more restricted application, to be utterly unfounded and false. I have already alluded to the fact that the joint stock banking system, which it is the design of this Sub-Treasury scheme to annihilate, has grown up and greatly extended itself under the late liberal policy of the British Government. A still greater extension of that system has been recently demanded by the British Whigs, and some of the more radical of them have even been clamoring, not for a metallic currency, like the radicals of our own land, but for downright irredeemable paper. A free circulation, they declare, is the only mode of making trade prosperous and wages high, and, though I by no means agree with them in this last mode of making the circulation free, their declaration is undeniably correct.
But, Mr. Chairman, I will not suffer myself to be diverted, by the ingenuity of the gentleman from Gloucester, from the true issue as to the propriety of these party names. It was no bard-money doctrines, it was no financial schemes, that gave rise to the renewal of the old Revolutionary titles. No, Sir, but the means by which those doctrines were inculcated, and the acts by which those schemes have been enforced. It was that series of Executive assumptions and usurpations, that succession of vetoes and circulars and orders, to which I have already alluded,