Sidebilder
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

ciple is equally ap, licable to the president and by Congress, or either of its Houses, of the directors of the Bank of the United States principle that the accounts of editors of newsTh:y are amenable to authority only for con papers, as a separate class of men, with the formity to the law. To the stockholders they bank, are to be scrutinized by a committee of are further accountable for the prudent and dis. Congress as tests of the political opinions or doccreet employment of their funds. But, while trines of their editorial columns ; or indications he result of that management bas been, for a 1 of the candidate for the presidency to whose series of years, to yield to the stockholders banners they adhere ; or to defeat the re-charhalf-yearly dividends of three and a balf per tering of the bank by deducing from the same cent. upon their investments, wbile the stock of naked fact of existing loans, large or small, the the bank is at twenty-five per cent. advance dishonorable conclusion, that the motives of the upon its original cost in the market; and whilst president and directors of the bank, for grantthe heaviest of all the complaints against the ing these loans, were to purchase the support bank is the extensiveness and universality of its of the borrowers, by bribery and corruption. credit, the subscriber believes that the stock - But let it, for argument's sake, be admitted, holders, and the most vigilairt guardians of their that the accommodation of a loan to the editor interest, may wait until an actual loss shall have of a newspaper, by the president and directors happened upon any one loan or discount, b- of the Bank of the United States, is, on their fore they shall be justified in imputing either part, an act of corruption of which the Congress ebriftless improvidence or sordid corruption to of the United States, without doing injustice, the president and directors of the bank for hav and without derogation from the dignity of their ing granted it.

duties, can take cognizance ; the subscriber The constitution of the United States denies be ieves that it cannot justly have any bearing to Congress itself the power of passing any bill whatever upon the question whether the Bank of attainder, ex post facto law, or law abri Iging of the United States shall or shall not be re. the freedom of the press. But here is a new chartered. fangled offence created ex post facto, under the Admit that, in a country where the freedom denomination of subsidizing the press to ope of the press is among the first elements of the rate as a bill of attainder upon the bank, ana liberty of the people, a committtee of one as a disfranchisement 10 every ediror of a pub. House of Congr:ss has a right to constitute ex lic journal who may happen to be obnoxious to post facto, a crime under the name of subsidiza political pirty in power. The fact constitut. ing the press, of that, which in the eyes of thet ing this most extraordinary crime, is the mere law of the land, is, and always bas been, innoexistence of a loan, or discount of the proscrib. cent. Admit that they have power to search ed editor at the bank: a transaction entirely into the hearts of the president and directors warinted by law, but in the consummation of of the bank, for dishonest motives to lawful acwhich a committee of one branch of the legis tions. Admit that they have a right to intero lature first assumes the right of scrutinizing ind rog te them for reasons which no director of then of passing sentence of condemnation upon any bank is ever bound to give. Admit that the motives of both parties to the con.ract. As after the president and directors have submitted there is no law constituting the offence, the de. to these insuling interrogatories, and assigned gree of malignity bas no rule of proportion but the reasons by which they were actuated, the that of the temper by which it is prosecuted-committee should still feel themselves justified it will be aggravated by every stimulant of pri. in groping, day after day, for circumstantial evivate pique, of classting interest, of political dence to falsify the frank and explict declaraprejuice, or of morbid suspicion, which can be tions of men without a slur upon their fame.enlisted in the p osecution. A committee man, That piles of folio volumes, of bank accounts, being a large stuckholder in a State bank, to be should be rummaged over, nights and days, for deeply benefitted by the extinguishment of the a variety in the color of ink, in entries made Bank of the United States ; another, linked in by different clerks, with different ink stands, connexion with a newspaper establishment in for errors in the spelling of a name, for intercompetition with the editor to be attainied ; a lineations and erasures in a waste book or a profound political economist, wedded to a sys- tickler, and all to substitute trifles light as air of iem of coin, currency, and cr dit, propitious to suspicion, in the place of fact, and to impute one banking interesi, and unfavorable to ano- fraud, forgery, and perjury where they cannot ther; a mere partisan banging upon the skirt of be proved. Admit that the unsullied characa political candidate, and following the camp to ters of men, long known among their fellow share in the spoils of the victory, might all club citizens, for lives without fear and without retheir inventive faculties ti: swell this imaginary proach, may thus be breathed and whispered trespass into felony and seldom would there into disgrace. What has all this to do with the lack, as an ingredient in the composition, the question, whether the Bank of the United States corrosive sublimate of a malicious iemper, with shall receive a new charter or not? If the instinctive hatred of all honor and integrity, president and any number of directors, have prone always to inter actual fraud and villainy been guilty of malversation in their offices, the from the mere possibility of iis existence, and remedy for tbeir offence, is removal from office. even to insinuate curruption, without daring They may be further responsible to the stuck openly to affirm it. These are consequenci soiders in their persons and property. The which must and would follow from the sanctions directors, appointed by the President and Se

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

nate, are, at all times, removeable by the Presi.)jection of the subscriber is to all inquisition indent of the United States alone. The presi- to motives, for actions unforbidden by law. dent of the bank is every year liable to re But in each of these four cases_in those of the moval, both as president and as director, by accounts of every editor of a newspaper, of ev. failure of re-election as a director by the stock ery member of Congress, and of every person holders, or as president by the directors. No connected with the Executive Government--if other director can be re-elected more than the fact of the individual account is exhibited three successive years in four. If the board of to the public, it is, upon the plainest principle directors have been guilty of neglect or viola. of justice, the right of the individual to have tion of their duties, the punishment of their de alike exhibited to the public, all the circumlinquency is to appoint another set of directors stances connected with the transactions which in their place; not to punish the innocent and he may deem essential to his justification. But injured stockbolders by refusal to renew the what is that justification? Is it justification limcharter. By the rolation prescribed in the ited by the boundaries of the law? No: that is charter itself, not one of the present board of not sufficient. The account in bank must be directors can remain in office at the time of the coupled with the conduct and opinions of the expiration of the charter, nor can the present individual, to point the finger at him and at the president of the board ever be president of the bank as for dishonorable conduct and corrupt bank under the renewed charter, but by the purposes. So it was in the case of James Watsuffrages of the stockholders, according to their son Webb and Mordecai M. Noah. Why was respective privileges of voting. If, therefore, it not so in other cases? Why are the names any misconduct had been discoverable in the of other printers, and the amount and aspect of official conduct of the president of the bank, their debts to the bank, as principals or endorthe proper punishment for it would have been sers, withheld? Why are uther editors, having bis removal from office; and the same may be large accommodations in the hank, the names said of any other of the directors. But for of their endorsers, the character of their settletheir fault, to punish the stockholders who had ments, the present state of their engagements, no communion or privity with them; for their and a cotemporaneous exposition of their eria errors, to deprive ihe great mass of the com- torial friendship or hostility to the bank not set munity of the benefits and advantages secured forth in all the developments of the bank debts to them, and enjoyed by them through the in- and editorial speculations of James Watson Webb strumentality of this great institution over this and Mordecai M. Noah? Why are not the day whole Union, would proceed from a theory of of an editorial discount and the day of an editocrimes and punishments unrivalled by th: po- rial puff or panegyric, or blast of abuse upon litical Inquisition of Venice, or the religious the bank, brought in juxtaposition to each othInqu sition of Spain. A theory by which the er, so that suspicion may yoke them together in crime would be committed by one sel of per. the relation of cause and effect in any other case sons and the punishment inflicted upon another; than theirs. The subscriber believed that there a theory by which the stockholders would be were other accounts of editors and printers with mulcted in their property, because the direc- the bank, exhibited to the committee, which, tors had been faithless to their trust, and the compared with editorial lucubrations in the people bereft of public blessings, because their newspapers, of the same editors at the same confidence in the integrity of their agents had times with the discounts, or at the present day, been betrayed.

would suggest reflections quite as ecifying to . At the close of the long commentary of the the spirit of retorm, as the debts and disserta. majority report, upon the transactions between tions of James Watson Webb and Mordecai M. the editors of the New York Courier and En- Noah. The majority report has buried them in quirer, it is observed, that among the ducu- oblivion. There let them remain. The subments exhibited to the committee, and reported scriber will not disturb their repose. But he to the House, are four other cases of loans at asks of the candor of the community, and of the long credit, made by the bank. The report self-respect of the House, representing the feelneither mentions the names of the individu Is. ings of the people, that no more legi lative in. parties to these contracts, nor the correspondo vestigations may be instituted at the expense of ence and testimony relating to them, which the nation, under color of an examination into were laid before the committee. The sub. the books and proceedings of the Bank of the scriber, approving the discretion of the majori. United States, into the political purity and unty in this particular, will not deviate from the devia ing consistency of the conductors of the example set in the report. He will barely tak public press. Occasion from it to remark, that the names of It is with great satisfaction that the subscrithose individuals, and of their accounts and ber declares his entire and undoubting convic. transactions with the bank, cannot be brought uion, as to the result of all the examination, before the public, by the committee, without which, under the resolution of the House, and gross injustice. Those transactions, he is bound ne unbounded range of inquiry sanctioned by to believe, were perfectly justifiable in all the the majority of the committee, he was aule to parties to the contract ; but he was under a give the books and proceedings of the bank, that full conviction that neither be nor the commit- no miscunduct, whatever,is imputable to the pretee had the right to inquire into them, whe-sident, or to any of the present directors of the ther for justification or for censure. The ob- bank. That in the management of the affaire

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

of tbis immense institution, now for a series of ter of the president of the bank, and yet with. nearly ten years, occasional errors of judgment, held from the committee the name of his inforand possibly of inadvertance, may have been mant. The subpoena to Mr. Thomas Wilson committed, is doubtless true—in the vast mul. was, nevertheless, issued. The charges against titude of relations of the bank with the proper the president of the bank were, that Thomas ty of the whole community, the board of direc. Biddle, a distant relative of his, and one of the tors of the parent bank, or of some of its branch. most eminent brokers of Philadelphia, had been es, have sometimes mistaken the law, and some in the habit , by permission of the president, of times have suffered by misplaced confidence.- taking money out of the first teller's drawer, A spirit of predetermined hostility, uncontrol. leaving in its place certificates of stock; keepled by a liberal sense of justice, prying for ing the money an idefinite number of days, and flaws, and hunting for exceptions, may gratify then replacing the money, and taking back his itself, and iswell with exultation at its own saga. certificates of stock, without payment of intecity, in discovering an error, or arguing a mis- rest upon the moneys of which he had had the construction of powers

In the conduct of the use. The quintessence of the charge was, the present president and directors of the Bank use by Mr. Thomas Biddle of the moneys of the of the United States, no intentional wrong and bank without interest. And there was another no important or voluntary error has been com-charge, that the president had also been in the mitted. He deems this declaration due from habit of making large discounts upon notes of him to those worthy and respectable citizens, in Thomas Biddle without consulting the directors, the face of this House, and of this nation, will-between the discount days, and that the notes ing as he is able to abide upon it the deliberate were entered as of the previous discount day. judgment of after times. He deems it the more Mr. Wilson's testimony completely disproved, imperiously required of him as a signal vindica: so far as his knowledge went, both these charg. tion of the honor and integrity of injured and es. He had never known a single instance in persecuted men. It has been impossible for which Mr. Thomas Biddle, or any other person, him to observe, without deep concern, the spi- had ever been permitted by the president of the rit and temper with which the investigation has bank to use the moneys of the bank without been prosecuted, particularly with regard to payment of interest. He had never known a the president of the bank. As one example of discount of a note of Thomas Biddle, by order of which, he would call the attention of the House the president of the bank, without consulting the to the testimony of Reuben M. Whitney, to the board of directors, or the committee duly authorimanner in which it was produced, and to the zed to discount. Mr. Wilson had been removed catastrophe in which it terminated.

in a manner as inoffensive to his feelings as possiOn the 2d of April, the chairman of the comble, from his office of cashier of the parent bank mittee asked of them authority to issue a sub-in 1824, by being first transferred to the branch pæna to summon the attendance before them of at New Orleans, from which he was also afterThomas Wilson, heretofore, in the year 1824, wards removed. Previous to his removal from a cashier of the bank, to testify as a witness.- the bank at Philadelphia, the personal interThe subscriber inquired what it was expected course hetween the president of the bank and Mr. Wilson would prove, which question the him bad not been altogether harmonious. He chairman declined to answer. The subscriber had hinted to Mr. Rueben M. Whitney, a direcobjected, therefore, to the issuing of the sub- tor then secretly unfriendly to the president

, and pæna, and the motion for it was, for that day, Mr. Paul Beck, a director particularly friendly withdrawn,

to himsetf, that he thought the president had. The next day it was renewed, with a state- too much influence over the board of directors, ment in writing by the chairman of several al and had spoken with disapprobation of the fact legations, as the subscriber conceived, amount- that Mr. Thoinas Biddle had, occasionally, reing to charges against the president of the bank, ceived discounts upon transferred stock, with of embezzlement of the moneys of the institu checks, which, at the end of an indefinite numtion. The subscriber inquired from whom ber of days, were taken up and the cash returnthese charges had been received, which the ed, with regular payment of interest, as upon Chairman declined to state. The subscriber discounted notes. The checks being entered moved that a copy of the charges should be tur, in the books under the head of Bills Receivable. nished to the president of the bank. But the Several cases of this kind had occured in the paper was withdrawn by the chairman, and a re- months of May and June, 1824. Mr. Wilson's solution was substituted in its place, which was testimony was very clear and explicit as to the entered on the journal of the committee. The integrity of the president of the bank, and it was objection of the subscriber to this course of pro- totally contradictory to the statements which the ceeding was, at his request, entered upon the chairman had framed into charges from the prijournal, and at the request of the chairman an vate information which he had received, and the entry was also made of the grounds upon which name of the informer of which he declined givhe deemed his own course in this respect justi- ing to the committee. But Mr. Wilson, had namfiable. The objection of the subscriber was, ed Mr. Paul Beck and Mr. Rueben M. Whitney, not that the chairman had thought proper to two of the directors of the bank in 1824, and listen privately to secret informers, but that he to whom he had incidentally communicated his required the action of the com nittee for a call slight discontents at the period immediately be. of testimony deeply affecting the moral charac- fore his removal.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Mr. Beck and Mr. Whitney were summoned produced, and left with the committee on a to appear and testify.' The character and res- small slip of paper, worn out and torn, and it pectability of Mr.Beck are so universally known is among the papers reported by the committee; at Philadelphia, that all remark upon them and as it formed the main stay of Mr. Whitney's would be superfluous. He had been a director first testimony, a copy of the whole of it in here of the bank in the years 1824, '25, and ’26, and subjoined : again in the years 1828, '29, and '30, and of course not only at the time alluded to by Mr.

‘May 25, 45,000 Wilson, but for five of the years which have e

26, 24,000 lapsed since then, and till within less than tyo

May 13, 15 days $20,000 collateral. years past. Mr. Beck remembered the commu

21, C. Biddle, 38,319, 16 days 5-8 June." nications made to him by Mr. Wilson, shortly. Of the two first notes, Mr. Whitney declared, before his removal, and had thought them to in answer to a leading question from the chair. proceed from irritation.

man, that no entry had been made upon the He had seen no cause to doubt the correct- books : that he took his note of them from a ness of the official conduct of the president, and memorandum in the teller's drawer, and that has retained his perfect confidence in it unim- on making the discovery, he directed the officers paired to the present day.

of the bank, one or both the cashiers, to enter The testimony of Mr. Whitney was of a dif. this money upon the books; that it was done ferent character. This person had been a di- that he did not see it done, but subsequently rector of the bank in the years 1822, 23, and saw on the books, the entry of “bills receiva*24, and a very active member of the board. -- ble,” which he knew was the entry made by He was a native American, but from the year his order. 1808 to 1816, had been a resident in Montreal, He further stated, that immediately after makin Canada-during the war, by permission of ing this discovery, and giving this order, he had the British government, on his taking an oath gone into the President's room, where he found to obey the laws of the country, which he him alone: that he told him what he had discodid not consider as an oath of allegiance-- vered and done, and requested that no such but he had not asked or received the permis- transaction should be repeated while he was a sion to remain in Canada from his own Govern- director of the institution. That the president ment. About a year after the expiration of his did not deny the facts as he had stated them, service as a director of the bank, he failed in that he colored up very much, and promised business. Of his present standing in the com- that no such thing should happen again munity, no evidence has been taken by the com This testimony appeared to be in all respects mittee.

so extraordinary, and so deeply to affect the The story that Mr. Whitney told on his first moral character of the president of the bank, in examination was, that some time in 1824, Mr. which the subscriber had been long accustomed Wilson and Mr. Andrews, then cashiers of the to repose the most unbounded confidence, that bank, had mentioned to him certain transactions he deemed it proper to trace its introduction, in the bank, in which T. and J. G. Biddle were so far as possible, to its origin. As the question concerned, which they were not willing should of the chairman of the committee which drew exist without some member of the board being forth this testimony indicated that he had previinformed of them. Upon his inquiring what ously been made acquainted with it in detail

, they were, they replied that T. and J. G. Biddle and as he had, on first stating his expectation had been in the habit of coming to the bank, to prove these charges, declined naming the and getting money, and leaving certificates of witness by whom he expected to prove them, stock, which represented it in the first teller's the subscriber resorted, by interrogation of the drawer, without paying interest, and without witness, to ascertain that which the chairman being entered on the books. That they had, had declined communicating to the committee. also, stated that the Messrs. Biddles had had He inquired of Mr. Whitney whether he had notes discounted for them by the president, had previous communication on the subject with which were entered on the books of the preced- any member of the committee? What had been ing discount day : that upon Mr. Whitney's ask- his motive for giving the testimony? Whether ing them what sums there were of the kind in it had been voluntary or solicited? To these existence at that time, they went with him to questions he answered, that he had made prethe first teller's drawer, and found one sum of vious communications to the chairman at his a45,000 dollars, dated 25th of May, and one for partment, in presence of another member of the 24,000, dated 26th May; that they then went to committee; that he had no particular, but

genthe discount clerk's desk, and found one note at neral motives for giving the testimony; that he fifteen days, dated 13th May, for 20,000 dollars, did not recollect whether it had been voluntary of T. Biddle's, and one note of Charles Biddle's, or asked of him; but upon being pressed by : dated 21st May, at sixteen days, for 38,319 dol- further question, he answered that Judge Claylars: that the two former sums represented cash, ton had been recommended to him by a letter and the two latter were notes, which the two from Mr. Benton. This disclosure was then cashiers stated to him had been discounted by confirmed by the chairman. order of the president. Of all this, Mr. Whit The subscriber requested that his objections ney declared, a memorandum at the time had to the admission of this evidence, while anonybeen taken by him. Such a memorandum he mous, should be entered on the journals of the

[ocr errors][merged small]
[merged small][ocr errors]

Cole, and an explanatory entry was also ordered the entries of the two sums of 45,000 macie at the request of the chairman. and 24,000 dollars to be made upon the books,

Mr. Whitney appealed, with great confi- and placed the affirmance in an alternative posidence, to his memorandum, and to the books oftion, to meet the evidence as it appeared in fact the bank corresponding with it, to confirm his upon the books. He now said, he had ordered story; but there was nothing in the memoran- the entries to be made, or bad found them aldum to show that it had not been taken from the ready made, and confirmed them. But he nevbooks of the bank. There was internal evidence er attempted to show to the committee whence in the memorandum, that it could not have been or how he, as a single director, had derived the taken before the 26th of May; and there was authority of ordering the keepers of the reevidence on the books of the bank, that it was spective books' to make any entry upon the probably taken from them on the 27th of May: books whatever; an authority which all the that was the only day on which one of the keepers of the books denied to belong to a dibooks of the bank corresponded with the memo- rector. randum of Mr. Whitney.

The question was put to Mr. Whitney, whethBut Mr. Whitney testified, that no entries had cr, upon his making his discoveries, he had conbeen made of the certificates of stock in the sidered himself as having fully discharged his teller's drawer, of the two sums of 45,000 and own duty, as a director, by a mere private ex24,000 dollars, minuted on his memoradum, on postulation with the president, without making the books, until after he had ordered the entries known the transaction to the board of directors to be made; while the books of the bank proved at all? To which he answered, that he had not that entries of both those sums, had been regu- considered the subject in that point of view. larly made on those respective days--the 25th Mr. Whitney, to sustain his character, proand 26th of May: Mr. Whitney's own testimony duced evidence that he had been very extenshowed, that he had seen the books after the sively engaged in business; had paid large sums en les were mnde, and there was nothing, ex. for duties on imported articles to the Governcepl his own declara ion, to show that he had ment of the United States; that, while a direc, not taken his memorandum from them.

tor of the bank, he had been a very active and Mr. Andrews and Mr. Wilson, the two cash- industrous member of the board; and that he iers from whom Mr. Whitney alleged that he had had been employed by the board in confidenreceived the first information of this embezzle- tial trusts, which he had faithfully executed. mint of the moneys of the bank, denied in the As a last resort to sustain his charge of embezzlem » explicit and unqualified terms that any such ment against the president of the bank, although tr tactions had ever taken place; denied not he admitted he had never mentioned it to the Olly that they had ever given to Mr. Whitney board of directors, he insisted that he had, soon s on information as he had affirmed to have re-after it happened, spoken freely of it to others, cived from them, but the existence, at any and particularly to Mr. Wilson Hunt, who, he time, of any facts which would have justified requested, might be called, and who according them in giving such information.

ly was called as a witness before the comunitMr. Burtis, the first teller, and Mr. Patterson, tee. the discount clerk, at whose drawers Mr. Whit. Had there remained a fragment of doubt upney's narrative represented him as having made on the mind of the subscriber with regard to his discoveries, and given his orders for making the character of the testimony of Mr. Whitney, the entries, with equally earnest asseveration, before the examination of Mr. Hunt, it would d. ned that any such transaction had ever taken have vanished upon hearing what he testified. place, so far as they were concerned. It was, that Mr. Whitney, some years since, at

The president of the bank, confronted with the time when he was a director of the bank, Whitney, declared, upon oath, that there was had confidentially shown him a memorandum of not one word of truth in his statement of his in some loans on stocks, which, he said, had been terview with him. And Mr. Whitney was left, made to Mr. Thomas Biddle, by the president, with his ragged memorandum and his oath, fal- without the knowledge of the directors

. Mr sified by the concurring oaths of he five indi- Hunt thought that Mr. Whitney had further viduals who, with certainty of knowledge, averred, that these loans had not been entered could contradict him.

on the books of the bank, but he did not reNor was this all. Mr. Whitney's statement collect that he had told him that he had ordered was confined, by the purport of his memoran- them to be entered on the books, and he was dum, and the context of the books of the bank, very sure he never had told him that the loans to a dare of time of no wider range than the were without payment of interest. Mr. Hunt 26th or 27th of May, 1824. The president had been impressed with the idea, derived from of the bank, on a subsequent day, proved, Mr. Whitney's communications to him, that he by the correspondence of the bank, that, from was not friendly to the president of the bank; the 22d to the last day of that month, he was and he said he had thought them serious enough. not at Philadelphia, but on a visit to the city of But Mr. Hunt manifested astonishment at the Washington, on the business of the bank. For very question, whether Whitney had told huim these discrepancies from the testimony of Mr. the loans were made without payment of inWhitney, as upon his examination he termed terest?, He not only denied that fact, but, with them, he did not attempt to account. He a very natural asseveration, that if it had been withdrew, however, the statement, that he had so stated to him, it was impossible he should

have forgotten it

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
« ForrigeFortsett »