Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

those of other men or associations. If it has been a condition of the charters of the banks that they should become responsible to a certain extent, to that extent only are they bound, and no further. To compel them to pay anything beyond that amount, or at a different time, is to take their property for the benefit of those who have no right to it, and is, therefore, manifestly unjust. Even when it becomes absolutely necessary to take property for public use, it cannot be done without just compensation.

Our system of chartered banks may be founded on erroneous principles ; and it may become proper, if it be practicable, to substitute for it one that shall be free to all and rest exclusively on personal responsibility. In the mean while, and so long as those banks are permitted to exist, the rights of the stockholders are as sacred as those of the owners of any other species of property.

There is a striking contrast in the treatment respectively experienced by the banks in this State and by those of some other parts of the Union. Those in the States south and west of New York have, through the extraordinary and unaccountable indulgence of the respective Legislatures, been permitted, after having suspended their specie payments, to persist in a continued violation of their engagements for more than two years. Those in this State, which in the first instance resumed those payments alone, which have ever since continued to supply a currency equal to specie, and whose failure would infallibly be followed by a general suspension of specie payments throughout the Union, are alone selected as special objects of aggression.

The banks of this State are entitled to no particular merit for that which was only the performance of a sacred duty. I do not wish for the slightest relaxation in their favor if they should fail to fulfil their engagements; and it is evident that they must pay their proportionate share of the general taxes. I ask only for strict justice, as well towards them as on their part, and that, therefore, they should not be subject to special and unjust taxation.

A deviation from justice has no limits, and naturally leads to acts of the same character. Thus, a proposition was lately made sequently incorporated have assented to that condition, which has thus become, to all intents and purposes, a contract between the stockholders and the public. Neither party has the right to alter it in any manner whatever without the consent of the other party; and the State is expressly forbidden to pass any laws impairing the obligation of contracts.

The arguments appear to me conclusive, and will, I think, be sustained by every sound constitutional lawyer.

I have the honor to be, respectfully, sir, your obedient servant.

P.S.—Mr. Lawrence has returned from Albany, and informs [me] that on reconsideration the bill has been amended in the Senate so as to insert as the annual payment required from the bank one-half of one per cent. on their capital. If this be only a confirmatory provision of the condition which the banks are already by law bound to perform, if it amounts only to this, viz., that they shall pay one-half of one per cent. a year till the liabilities on the fund are paid, and till it amounts again to three per cent., it is all very well, and I would have supposed that no new law was necessary for that

purpose;

but if it be intended that the banks shall pay this annual one-half per cent. in addition to the half per cent. which they may already be called upon

if on any account they are required to pay more than a half per cent. a year, the objection will still subsist, and I pray you to attend so far to the subject as that no misunderstanding may take place on the subject.

to pay ;

LORD ASHBURTON TO GALLATIN.

WASHINGTON, 12th April, 1842. DEAR MR. GALLATIN,—My first destination was to approach America through New York, but the winds decided otherwise, and I was landed at Annapolis. In one respect only this was a disappointment, and a serious one. I should have much wished to seek you out in your retreat to renew an old and highlyvalued acquaintance and, I believe and hope I may add, friend

a

ship; to talk over with you the Old and the New World, their follies and their wisdom, their present and by-gone actors, all which nobody understands so well as you do, and, what is more rare, nobody that has crossed my passage in life has appeared to me to judge with the same candid impartiality. This pleasure of meeting you is, I trust, only deferred. I shall, if I live to accomplish my work here, certainly not leave the country without an attempt to find you out and to draw a little wisdom from the best well, though it may be too late for my use in the work I have in hand and very much at heart.

You will probably be surprised at my undertaking this task at my period of life, and when I am left to my own thoughts I am sometimes surprised myself at my rashness. People here stare when I tell them that I listened to the debates in Congress on Mr. Jay's treaty in 1795, and seem to think that some antediluvian has come among them out of his

grave.

The truth is that I was tempted by my great anxiety in the cause, and the extreme importance which I have always attached to the maintenance of peace between our countries. The latter circumstance induced my political friends to press this appointment upon me, and with much hesitation, founded solely upon my health and age, I yielded. In short, here I am. My reception has been everything I could expect or wish; but your experience will tell you that little can be inferred from this until real business is entered upon. I can only say that it shall not be my fault if we do

. not continue to live on better terms than we have lately done, and, if I do not misunderstand the present very anomalous state of parties here, or misinterpret public opinion generally, there appears to be no class of politicians of any respectable character indisposed to peace with us on reasonable terms. I expect and desire to obtain no other, and my present character of a diplomatist is so new to me that I know no other course but candor and plain-dealing. The most inexpert protocolist would beat me hollow at such work. I rely on your good wishes, my dear sir, though I can have nothing else, and that you will believe me unfeignedly yours.

GALLATIN TO LORD ASHBURTON,

NEW YORK, 20th April, 1842. DEAR LORD ASHBURTON,– Your not landing here was as great disappointment to me as to you. I have survived all my early friends, all my political associates ; and out of my own family no one remains for whom I have a higher regard or feel a more sincere attachment than yourself. If you cannot come here, I will make an effort and see you at Washington. Your mission is in every respect a most auspicious event. To all those who know you it affords a decisive proof of the sincere wish on the part of your government to attempt a settlement of our differences as far as practicable; at all events, to prevent an unnatural, and on both sides absurd and disgraceful, war. There are but few intrinsic difficulties of any magnitude in the way. Incautious commitments, pride, prejudices, selfish or party feelings present more serious obstacles. You have one of a peculiar kind to encounter. Our President is supported by neither of the two great political parties of the country, and is hated by that which elected him, and which has gained a temporary ascendency. He must, in fact, negotiate with the Senate before he can agree with you on any subject. It is the first time that we have been in that situation, which is somewhat similar to that of France; witness your late treaty, which the French Administration concluded and dared not ratify. It may be that under those circumstances our government may think it more eligible to make separate conventions for each of the subjects on which you may agree than to blend them in one instrument.

The greatest difficulties may be found in settling the two questions in which both parties have in my humble opinion the least personal or separate interest, viz., the right of visitation on the African seas for the purpose only of ascertaining the nationality of the vessel ; and the North-Western boundary. I have no reason, however, to believe that the Administration, left to itself, will be intractable on any subject whatever; I hope that higher motives will prevail over too sensitive or local feelings, and I place the greatest reliance on your sound judgment,

thorough knowledge of the subject, straightforwardness, and ardent desire to preserve peace and cement friendship between the two kindred nations. You cannot apply your faculties to a

. more useful or nobler purpose. I am now in my eighty-second year, and on taking a retrospective view of my long career I derive the greatest consolation for my many faults and errors from the consciousness that I ever was a minister of peace, from the fact that the twenty last years of my political life were almost exclusively employed in preventing the war as long as I could, in assisting in a speedy restoration of peace, and in settling subsequently as many of the points of difference as was at the time practicable. May God prosper your efforts and enable you to consummate the holy work!

GALLATIN TO SISMONDI.

New York, le 10 juin, 1842. MON CHER MONSIEUR SISMONDI,-Permettez-moi de vous prier de vouloir bien présenter en mon nom à la Bibliothèque de Genève quatre volumes que vous recevrez par la voye de Paris, savoir:

1. Sketch of the Finances of the United States, 1796.

2. Speeches (1791–1799) and Miscellaneous Reports (1802– 1810).

3. Essays on various subjects, 1830–1841. 4. Synopsis of Indian Tribes, 1836.

J'y ajoute une note ou explication et deux autres exemplaires du volume d'Essais. L'un d'eux est destiné pour mon parent et ami, le Syndic Gallatin; je vous prie d'accepter l'autre comme souvenir et comme témoignage de ma considération distinguée. Je n'ai plus d'exemplaires des autres ouvrages; il m'a même été difficile de receuillir les discours et les rapports contenus dans le volume sous ce titre (2), et impossible de les tous retrouver. J'aurais désiré faire à ma patrie natale un hommage plus digne d'elle, en lui présentant la série de mes travaux tant comme Secrétaire du Trésor que dans les missions extérieures dont j'ai

« ForrigeFortsett »