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by exposure of their private and pecuniary considered as affecting the integrity of the persons cerns, flowed, it is to be presumed, altogether upon whom they might ciance to fall He frefrom patriotic principles, and a stern abhorrence quently di-claimed all intention of putting upof corruption. The natural and irresistible on trial the character of the president of the tendency of all investigations conducted on bank, and he appears to have been quite una. such principles, must be to substitute passion ware upon whom his denunciations might evenin the place of justice, and political rancor tually be found to descend. The subscriber in the place of impartiality. In all times of believed that there was a great want of preci. party excitement, the members of the Legisla sion in the definitions by the chairman of the tive assembly are placed in attitudes of keen committee, in his original motion, of the crimes and ardent opposition to each other. We have which he denounced. Take, for example, the constant experience of the personal animosi- charge of subsidizing the press. If a violation ties into which all debates on questions of of law be an essential ingredient in the cumpodeep public interest are continually running. sition of crime, there was no law which prohiAn individual member of this House, who pre. bited the bank from subsidizing the press; nor sents himself in the attitude of an accuser, not was there any law which prohibited the presionly calls for the investment in him elf of an dent and directors of the bank from affording extrarodinary power; but if he prosecute himn. facilities and accommodations to editors of self, the accusation claims the exercise of pow. newspapers. On the other hand, here is,perers which in no general system for the admin-baps, no class of citizens in the community, istration of equal justice can ever be united. who, by the nature of their profession, may The spirit of the prosecutor, is not the spirit more frequenily need the aid of bank facilities, of the judge. Whoever voluntarily assumes or to whom they may be more signally useful, the former capacity, disqualifies himself for the and in proportion to the extensiveness of a unimpeachable performance of the latter. printing establishment, will, of course, be the
During the present session of Congress, two amount of the accommodations which they may instances have occurred of inquiries instituted require. Why, then, should the bunk be laid into the conduct of Executive officers of this under an interdict for subsidizing the press? government-one bearing upon the second au Why should the president and directors of the ditor of the treasury, and the other upon the bank be chargeable with gross and palpable Commissioner of the General Land Office. 1 corruption, because large accommodations and each of those cases the member instituting the facilities, in the regular course of banking opeinquiry moved its reference to a committee of rations, have been afforded to editors of news. which he was not himself a member. There papers? There appears to the subscriber to be was no law, nor even aliy rule of the House, included in the principle of this charge a very wbich imperatively required this; but the mem- dangerous assault upon the freedom of the bers themselves felt the delicacy of their situa press. A principle, proscriptive in its nature, tions, and of their own accord divested them and the application of which, if once assumed selves of that invidious combination of charac- by the authority of the legislature, could be ter which unites the prosecutor and the judge. successful only in reducing the press to servile The prosecution of the bank has been the only subserviency to whatever party might comexception to this course of proceeding. The mand a momentary majority in the two Houses chairman of the committee commenced his car of Congress. The editors of newspapers are reer as a prosecutor by exhibiting an indict. not responsible to Congress for the political ment, so called by himself
, of twenty-two char-principles which they may advocate or oppose; ges against the bank. The bank is a corpora. Dor can the legislature take cognisance either tion consisting of a president, directors, and of their consistency or their political purity.-company of stockbolders. The bill of indict. They are responsible for their opinions to their ment, therefore, being ostensibly against the subscribers, and to the public opinion of their bank, seemed to be divested of personal animo country. To hold them to this responsibility, sity, and this, perhaps, may have induced the their rivals and competitors, and political adchairman to lose the consciousness of incongru- versaries, are sufficiently watchful and suffi. ity in the exercise at once of prosecuting and ciently armed. The opinions and interests of of judicial powers. These observations are majorities in Congress will vever luck for press. deemed indispensably necessary to elucidate es to sustain themselves. But if
, in addition to the spirit in which the examination was con- that common interest of the majority, and of ducted, partaking, throughout, of this unusual their favorite presses, in the competition for union of the prosecuting and of the judicial public favor, they are to assume a cesorial character. Among the charges exhibited by power to punish or stigmatize the editors who the indictment, not ostensibly against any indi support the opinions or mterests of the minori. vidual, but against the bank, was one of subsidi. ty, in what does this differ from an imprimatur zing the press by special favors and accommo- in the hands of the governing power-anen. dations to editors of newspapers-another for gine for the suppression of all freedom of the special favors and accommodations to members press, as well as for the oppression of every of Congress. In all this the chairman of the editor whom it may suit the purpose of the precommittee appears to have entertained the op- dominant party to discredit or destroy. nion that because the charges were, in form, Entertaining these opinions, and believing against the bank, they were not at all to be con- that ihe principle on which they were founded
bad been sanctioned by the House itself in the protectors of the freedom of the press, the
this loan, made in person by Mr. Webb, was The majority of the committee did, the sub. sustained by a letter from Mr. Noah, and sunsc:iber doubts not, with pure intentions, other dry statements relating to the pecuniary conwise decide, and the accounts of editors of dition and credit of the New York Courier and newspapers with the bank were called Enquirer. The letter from Mr. Noah was en for. 'In reviewing this decision, and the closed to the president of the bank by Walter proceedings of the committee subsequent upon Bowne, Mayor of the city of New York, who it, he deems it his duty to declare, that none had been one of the earliest directors of the of bis objections to it have, in his judgment, bank, with a recommendation of the applica. been removed. He views it as a precedent of tion itself, to be considered as a business transportentous evil; as an unjustifiable encroach- action. It was so considered by the board of ment of arbitrary authority upon the freedom of directors whụ acceded to the loan desire i, the press; as an 'odious persecution of individual But ihe editors of the Courier and Enquirer had citizens, to prostrate the influence of personal long been, as they still are, ardent and active or political adversaries, by the hand of power, political partisans, and their newspaper has
of this class of accounts thus produced. been, and continues, Jeeply immersed in bat those of one newspaper establishment only un-portion of political affairs immediately connectderwent the investigation of the committee. j'em with elections. The peculiar character susThose of James Watson Webb and Mordecia tained by the paper and its editors
, at the time M. Noah, editors of the New York Courier and when this application for a loan was made, was Enquirer, one of the most distinguished and that of devoted friends to the present adminisextensively circulated journals of the Union. tration, and particularly to the eminent citizen Mr. Webb was examined upon oath by the at its head. This character they and their pacommittee, at his own request. Mr. Noah per still retain. They have, of course, nu transmitied to the committee his own affidavit merous adversaries of the opposing party, and made before a magistrate of the city of New numerous rivals in their own. Sometime before York. Mr. Silas E. Burrows,a private citizen, this application for a loan from the Bank of the not an editor of a newspaper, but connected United States, there had been between them with the responsibilities of Messrs. Webb and and some of their competitors for party and Noah in the bank, was subpænaed to appear public favor, a newspaper war, with regard to before the committee, but, as the subscriber ine conduct of their journal, and the opinions believes, with a just estimate of his own rights, of its editors with reference to the Bank of the did not give his attendance. No proposal was United States. In all this the interests of rival made in the committee to issue a compulsory printing offices, and rival banks, may, without process against him.
As editors of a public breach of charity, be presumed to have been journal, and in that character as guardians and very willing auxiliaries to editorial virtue and
oft dhe dors Thes dens
the qosullied purity of the public press. The peachment of their veracity. The committee
twenty thousand dollars. The president and Noah, po loss or damage has curred to the directors considered it as it had been viewed in stockholders, nor is any to be apprebended. In the recommendation of the Mayor of New York the original charges presented to the House by -as a business transaction. Yet, it did not es. the chairman of the committee, there was one cape their attention that a political coloring of subsidizing the press; and these acconsor orla. might, and probably would, be given to it by tions to Messrs. Webb and Noah were underthe inveterate enemies of the bank. They were stood to be among the most prominent exempliaware, that if the loan was granted, it would be fications of that nameless crime which an invesliable to the charge of a favor dispensed, to tigation of the affairs of the bank would dispurchase the aid and support of the newspaper close to the world. It would bappily be a fruit. in behalf of the bank ; and if it should be de. less search to find, in the criminal code of this nied, it would be charged as proof of hostility Union, or of any one of its constituent States, to the Administration of the General Govern such a crime as subsidizing the press. When ment and its chief. Sure that they could in no the charge was first brought forward by the event escape the censure of enemies predispos. chairman of the committee in the House, it was ed to blame, they granted the loan, to which, impossible to ascertain of what overt or covert afterwards, in December, an addition of fifteen acts this offence, thus novel and undefined, thousand dollars was made. Notes of Mr. consisted; nor, except in the proceedings of the Webb, endorsed by Mr. Noah, and payable to majority of the committee, Can the subscriber Silas E. Burrows, had been previously dis- yet comprehend what are the elements of this counted for Mr. Burrows, but without the new and still undefined offence. The majority of knowledge of Webb or Noah, as they tes:ify, the committee, immediately after entering upto the amount of seventeen thousand dollars. on the discharge of their duties at Philadelphia, Of these sums so much has been paid, that there commenced a search into all the accounts with now remains due from Messrs. Webb and the bank of editors of newspapers. In the reNoah, to the bank, a sum of about eighteen turns to this demand, it was found that Webb thousand dollars, payable in semi-annual in. and Noab, far from being solitary culprits in this stalments, and from the statements laid before unheard of transgression, were in the very rethe committee, believed by the subscriber to spectable company of the editors of the Nation. be as safe as any other debt upon the books of al Intelligencer, of the National Gazette, of the the bank.
United States Telegraph, of the Globe, and of The transactions of James Watson Webb and the Richmond Enquirer. This information was of Mordecai M. Noah with the Bank of the scarcely in the possession of the committee, be. United States, formed, in the opinion of the fore it found its way into the public journals
, subscriber, no proper subject of examination and thus all the editors of those well known by the committee, or of investigation to the prints stand, by an exhibition of their private House, further than to ascertain whether, in accounts, charged before the public as conductthose transactions, there had been any violation ors ot presses subsidized by the bank. The com. of the law of the land. Within the pale of the mittee did in no other instance than that of the law, if this be a government of laws, and not of New York Courier and Enquirer, go into an inmen, Webb and Noah were not amenable for vestigation of the reasons or mo:ives for which their conduct, or their opinions, to the House the discounts or the loans bad been granted. of Representatives of the United States, or 10 Political motives were un quivocally and expli. any committee by them appointed.
citly disclaimed by the president and directors In behalf of the United States,as large stock who assented to the loans; and while in this, as holders in tlie bank, a general superintendence in all other banks, the practice is uniform of over the proceedings of the president and di- never assigning the reasons either for iliscounts rectors of the bank is no doubt vested in the or rejection, they are not, and cannot, be made Congress. But the s.:bscriber does not believe subjects.of testimony. Every member of the that the president, or any director of the bank, board has his own reasons, which may not be is or can be accountable to a committee of ei- known to any other member. One member, ther House of Congress, or to the House itself, therefore, is not responsible for the reasons of for the motives or reasons upon which he acce. any other member, nor is the board responsible ded or onjected to any one discount. The prac. for the reasons of any one of its members. Motice of all well-regulated banks, is, and must tives can then be made a subject of scrutiny be, that declared by the testimony of the presi only upon suspicions-political suspicions, dents of the two banks in New York to be sharpened by the collisions of personal pecuni. theirs. The reasons or motives for accepting orary interests. rejecting a note offered for discount, are not The subscriber believes all inquiry into the subjects of inquiry at the board itself. The motives of bank facilities or accommodations, to reasons of each director are in his own breast. be not only pregnant with injustice to indivi
. His own colleagues at the board have no right duals, but utterly beneath the dignity of the to inquire into them--they are in his own dis- legislature. Their rights of inquiry are comcretion.
mensurate with the law. For actions within the It is indeed within the bounds of possibility bounds of laws, to scrutinize motives, is tantathat this discretion should be abused to the in mount to an inquisition of religious opinions jury and damage of the stockholders. But in species of moral and intellectual torture, fitted the transactions of the bank with Webb and more to the age of Tiberius Cæsar at Rome,
than to the liberal spirit of the present time. for imagination can invent, to invoke popular The discount of notes at a bank, whether to a resentment and indignation against the Bank large or small amount, can in no case be consi- of the United States, to prevent the renewal of dered as donations or gratuities. They are con heir charter, the president and directors of tracts of mutual equivalents for the benefit of the Bank of the United States are forbidden all both parties, in which the bank is no more the use of the public press, for the defence and benefactor of the customer than the customer vindication of their own institution, they stand of the bank.
indeed in fearful inequality of condition with As the period of time is approximating at their adversaries before the tribunal of public which the present charter of the Bank of the opinion. The local banks of New York, for United States is to expire, the question, with example, grant, with lavish hand, bank accomregard to the renewal of its charter, has be- modations and facilities to the editor of a daily come an object of great and inereasing public newspaper, who fills his columns with all the interest. The duties of the president and di. commonplaces of vituperation agaiest the Bank rectors of the bank to protect and promote of the United States. They deny all facility the interests of the stockholders naturally and accommodation to an other editor, who admake it an object of intense and earnest de mits into his papers essays or communications sire to them. Independent of all personal and favorable to that bank. Does the editorial voindividual interests of their own, these bliga- tary of State banks, and seven per cent. intertions to the company require of them to use all est, slacken in his fervor? his discounts at the fair and lawful means to obtain a renewal of State banks are curtailed. Does he falter in the charter. Were it even true that under his zeal? a pressure for money comes upon the these circumstances they should indulge a dis- State banks, and his notes are called in. Does position to the utmost bounds of liberality, con. he dare to admit into his paper a communicasistent with justice and discretion, to one or tion favorable to the mammoth bank? he loses more eminent editors of public journals, but all credit with his old bankers. Does he preextending only to discounts of their papers at sume to hint, in an editorial article, that, after the regular remunerating interest at the rate of all, a bank bound to discount at the rate of six six per cent. interest by the year, is this to be per cent. interest may be of some advantage to construed into corruption, or converted into a borrowers in a community where the establishbribe! In every State the Union there is a ed legal rate of interest is seven? becomes large capital of its citizens invested in stocks of at once, in the estimation of the local bank dia multiplied State banks. Most of these are rectors, insolvent, and blasied in credit; and, if rivals in business with the Bank of the United he offers for discount a note of a hundred dolStates, and they have all boards of directors, lars, with the best endorser in the city, it is reand most of them are colleagued with newspa. jected by the silent vote of one or two direcpers, all eager for the destruction of the Bank tors, because the editor's newspaper did forof the United States, An institution doubly merly oppose, and now ceases to oppose, the obnoxious to the system of safety fund banks rechartering of the Bank of the United States. in the State of New York, inasmuch as their And then if the editor, cramped and crippled discounts, at the rate of six per cent. a year, in his business by the screw thus put upon his curtail one per cent. of the dividends which press, to save himself and his establishment otherwise, by the laws of New York, they from ruin, applies to the president and direcwould he enabled to levy upon the community. tors of the bank of the United States for an acIt is, therefore, not surprising, that in the city, commodation loan! No; they too must regard and even in the State of New York, that ani. him as insolvent, and blasted in credit; they too mosity against the Bank of the United States must withhold all banking accommodation and of almost all the local banks should have been facility from him, though recommended by the so great as even to spread its influence into the Chief Magistrate of the City of New York bimLegislature of the State. The same operation self, or they will be guilty of the attrocious ofis active under feebler excitements in many fence of subsidizing the p ess. other States. These are not bribes. But the The statement of facts is here hypothetically concert of opposition ffom State banks in al. putmit is not intended to charge the presidents most every quarter of the Union organized with and directors of the New York city banks with harmonious energy, in concert with public any such mo:ives for granting or withholding journals perhaps as numerous, and constantly iheir discounts. The subscriber not only ap. operating upon the public mind unfavorably proves, but was gratified, at their refusal to asby means of the press, made it indispensably sign their reasons for declining to discount the necessary for those to whom the welfare of the notes offered by Mr. Webb. Had the question corporation was intrusted, to defend themselves been asked them why they had discounted the occasionally, and from time to time, in the same notes of the same person before, their answer
must have been the same. The acceptance of If, while hundreds and thousands of the con an offered note is by unanimous and tacit asductors of State banks, impelled by private sent, without assignment of reasons, and for and personal interests, are filling the popular which the reasons of one director are not ne. public journals under their influence, by means cessarily the reasons of another. They are not of discounts and facilities granted or withdrawn, proper subjects of inquiry, so long as the diswith every charge that suspicion can conceive, count is in violation of no law. And this prin