Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

If Congress possessed the power to establish one bank, they had power to establish more than one, if, in their opinion, two or more banks had been “ necessary” to facilitate the execution of the powers delegated to them in the constitution. If they possess the power to establish a second bank, it was a power derived from the constitution, to be exercised from time to time, and at any time when the interests of the country or the emergencies of the gove ernment might make it expedient. It was possessed by one Congress as well as another, and by all Congresses alike, and alike at every session. But the Congress of 1816 have taken it away from their successors for twenty years, and the Congress of 1832 proposed to abolish it for fifteen years more. It cannot be “necessaryor proper" for Congress to barter away, or divest themselves of any of the powers vested in them by the constitution to be exercised for the public good. It is not necessary" to the efficiency of the bank, nor is it “proper in relation to themselves and their successors. They may properlyuse the discretion vested in them, but they may not limit the discretion of their successors. This restriction on themselves, and grant of a monopoly to the bank, is therefore unconstitutional.

In another point of view, this provision is a palpable attempt to amend the constitution by an act of legislation. The constitution declares that "the Congress shall have power to exercise exclusive legislation, in all cases whatsoever," over the District of Columbia. Its constitutional power, therefore, to establish banks in the District of Columbia, and increase their capital at will, is unlimited and uncontrollable by any other power than that which gave authority to the constitution. Yet this act declares that Congress shall not increase the capital of existing banks, nor create other banks with capitals exceeding in the whole six million of dollars. The constitution declares that Congress shall have powe to exercise exclusive legislation over this District " in all cases whatsoever ;and this act declares they shall not. Which is the supreme law of the land? This prevision cannot be “ necessary," or 'proper," or constitutional,” unless the absurdity be admitted, that, whenever it be “necessary and proper," in

of con

the opinion of Congress, they have a right to barter away one portion of the powers vested in them by the constitution, as a means of executing the rest.

On two subjects only does the constitution recognize in Congress the power to grant exclusive privileges or monopolies. It declares that “ Congress shall have power to promote the progress of science and useful arts by securing, for limited times, to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries."

Out of this express delegation of power have grown our laws of patents and copy-rights. As the constitution expressly delegates to Congress the power to grant exclusive privileges, in these cases, as the means of executing the substantive power to promote the progress of science and useful arts,” it is consistent with the fair rules of construction, to conclude that such a power was not intended to be granted as a means of accomplishing any other end. On every other subject which comes within the

scope gressional power there is an ever-living discretion in the use of proper means, which cannot be restricted or abolished without an amendment of the constitution. Every act of Congress, therefore, which attempts by grants or monopolies, or sales of exclusive privileges for a limited time, or a time without limit, to restrict or extinguish its own discretion in the choice of means to execute its dele gated powers, is equivalent to a legislative amendment of the constitution, and palpably unconstitutional.

This act authorizes and encourages transfers of its stock to foreigners, and grants them an exemption from all state and national taxation. So far from being " necessary and proper

" that the bank should possess this power to make it a safe and efficient agent of the government in its fiscal operations, it is calculated to convert the Bank of the United States into a foreign bank, to impoverish our people in time of peace, to disseminate a foreign influence through every section of the republic, and in war, to endanger our independence.

The several states reserved the power, at the formation of the constitution, to regulate and control titles and transfers of real property; and most, if not all of them, have laws disqualifying aliens from acquiring or holding lands within

their limits. But this act, in disregard of the undoubted right of the states to prescribe such disqualifications, gives to aliens, stockholders in this bank, an interest and title, as members of the corporation, to all the real property it may acquire within any of the states of this Union. This privilege granted to aliens is not

necessaryto enable the bank to perform its public duties, nor in any sense proper," because it is vitally subversive of the rights of the states.

The government of the United States have no constitutional power to purchase lands within the states, except “ for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dock-yards, and other needful buildings;" and even for these objects, only “by the consent of the legislature of the state in which the same shall be." By making themselves stockholders in the bank, and granting to the corporation the power to purchase lands for other purposes, they assume a power not granted in the constitution, and grant to others what they do not themselves possess. It is not“ necessaryto the receiving, safe-keeping, or transmission of the funds of the government, that the bank should possess this power; and it is not " proper" that Congress should thus enlarge the powers delegated to them in the constitution.

The old Bank of the United States possessed a capital of only eleven millions of dollars, which was found fully sufficient to enable it, with despatch and safety, to perform all the functions required of it by the government. The capital of the present bank is thirty-five millions of dollars, at least twenty-four more than experience has proved to be

necessaryto enable a bank to perform its public functions. The public debt which existed during the period of the old bank, and on the establishment of the new,

has been nearly paid off, and our revenue will soon be reduced. This increase of capital is therefore not for public, but for private purposes.

The government is the only " proper” judge where its agents should reside and keep their offices, because it best knows where their presence will be “necessary.It cannot, therefore, be « necessary

properto authorize the bank to locate branches where it pleases, to perform the public service, without consulting the government, and

or

66

contrary to its will. The principle laid down by the Supreme Court concedes that Congress cannot establish a .bank for purposes of private speculation and gain, but only as a means of executing the delegated powers of the general government. By the same principle, a branch bank cannot constitutionally be established for other than public purposes.

The
power

which this act gives to establish two branches in any state, without the injunction or request of the government, and for other than public purposes,

is not "

necessaryto the due execution of the powers delegated to Congress.

The bonus which is exacted from the bank is a confession, upon the face of the act, that the powers granted by it are greater than are necessaryto its character of a fiscal agent. The government does not tax its officers and agents for the privilege of serving it. The bonus of a million and a half required by the original charter, and that of three millions proposed by this act, are not exacted for the privilege of giving “ the necessary facilities for transferring the public funds from place to place, within ithe United States or the territories thereof, and for distributing the same in payment of the public creditors, without charging commission or claiming allowance on account of the difference of exchange, as required by the act of incorporation, but for something more beneficial to the stockholders. The original act declares, that it (the bonus) is granted " in consideration of the exclusive privileges and benefits conferred by this act upon the said bank," and the act before me declares it to be “in consideration of the exclusive benefits and privileges continued by this act to the said corporation for fifteen years, as aforesaid.” therefore, for "exclusive privileges and benefits" conferred for their own use and emolument, and not for the advantage of the government, that a bonus is exacted. These surplus powers, for which the bank is required to pay, cannot surely be necessaryto make it the fiscal agent of the treasury. If they were, the exaction of a bonus for them would not be “proper.

It is maintained by some that the bank is a means of executing the constitutienal power “to coin money and regulate the value thereof.” Congress have established a

It is,

mint to coin money, and passed laws to regulate the value thereof. The money so coined, with the value so regulated, and such foreign coins as Congress may adopt, are the only currency known to the constitution. But if they have other power to regulate the currency, it was conferred to be exercised by themselves, and not to be transferred to a corporation. If the bank be established for that purpose, with a charter unalterable without its consent, Congress have parted with their power for a term of years, during which the constitution is a dead letter. It is neither necessary nor proper to transfer its legislative power to such a bank, and therefore unconstitutional.

By its silence, considered in connection with the decis. ion of the Supreme Court, in the case of McCulloch against the State of Maryland, this act takes from the states the power to tax a portion of the banking business carried on within their limits, in subversion of one of the strongest barriers which secured them against federal encroachments. Banking, like farming, manufacturing, or any other occupation or profession, is a business, the right to follow which is not originally derived from the laws. Every citizen and every company of citizens, in all of our states, possessed the right, until the state legislatures deemed it good policy to prohibit private banking by law. If the prohibitory state laws were now repealed, every citizen would again possess the right. The state banks are a qualified restoration of the right which has been taken away by the laws against banking, guarded by such provisions and limitations as in the opinion of the state legislatures the public interest requires. These corporations, unless there be an exemption in their charter, are, like private bankers and banking companies, subject to state taxation. The manner in which these taxes shall be laid, depends wholly on legislative discretion. It

may

be

upon the bank, upon the stock, upon the profits, or in any other mode which the sovereign power shall will.

Upon the formation of the constitution the states guarded their taxing power with peculiar jealousy. They surrendered it only as regards imports and exports. In relation to every other object within their jurisdiction, whether persons, property, business, or professions, it was secured

« ForrigeFortsett »