« ForrigeFortsett »
considerations, and supposing even the presi- constantly recurring want of it, in the interdent and directors of the parent bank culpable course of business between the different parts of all the mistakes in pleading of the branch at of the country. The solicited power was never Lexington, this transaction is of ten years stand- denied, but it was never granted; and the omising. If usury there were, it was the usury sion to grant it had the effect of denial. The not of Nicholas Biddle and the directors of want of circulating currency, equivalent to 1832, but of Langdon Cheves and the directors specie, continued with increasing pressure upon of 1822. The contract was inade in May of the people, and especially at the locations of that year. From the endorsement upon the the southern and western branches of the bank. note then made by an illustrious citizen of Ken- An expedient was at last resorted to, which, tucky, and one of the most distinguished law- without transcending the limits of the charter, yers of the Union, (Mr. Clay,) it is clear that effected the same purposes which would have there was nothing, in his opinion, in the trans- been accomplished by notes payable at the action which could expose it to the charge of branches," under the signature of their presiusury. The subscriber sees nothing in it of that dents and cashiers. It was, that they should be nature now. It was undoubtedly considered in authorised by the directors of the parent bank to the same light by the then president of the draw notes or drafts upon the bank, payable bank, Mr. Cheves, to whose opinions upon only there. That this expedient was warranted other points regarding the administration of the by law, has been settled by solemn decision in affairs of the bank, so much deference is shown the Circuit Court of the United States. It had in the report of the majority of the committee, previously received the sanction of the Secrethat the subscriber thinks he might well have tary of the Treasury. An obvious remark upbeen spared this imputation of being accessary on it is, that its success depended upon the exto an usurious contract of the branch at Lex- tensiveness and universality of the credit of the ington, and of having permitted it to be con- bank. The drafts, though payable only at the summated without censure or animadversion. bank in Philadelphia, circulated as specie in The next charge upon which the majority of every part of the country. But for that credit
, the committee have deemed it within their com- they could not have circulated at all, or only as petency to report, is that relating to the issuing depreciated currency. They have answered of the branch drafts or notes. Upon this sub- an exceedingly useful purpose, and proved a ject, there was nothing of any moment for the great public convenience in the transaction of investigation of the committee to discover. business, and the circulation of exchanges Their existence, the causes in which they origi- throughout the Union. Under management alnated, and the purposes which they were in- ways prudent and cautious, no serious inconvetended to answer, had all been disclosed upon nience would be anticipated from them. But returns already made by the president of the it is not to be disguised, that they offer facili, bank to inquiries instituted by this and the other ties and temptations for improvident and exceso House of Congress. They had been issued, sive issues. The bill reported by the Commitnot hastily, but after deliberate advisement with tee of Ways and Means, for rechartering the regard to their legality, sactioned by the written Bank of the United States, proposes to prohibit opinions of three of the most eminent counsel, the issuing of these branch drafts, but to aulearned in the law, in the United States. All thorise the presidents and cashiers of the the facts leading to a just estimate of their ex- branches to sign bills payable at their respecpediency were well known. They were sub- tive offices only. The want of a circulating stituted for small notes, signed by the president currency will not be so effectually supplied by and cashier of the parent bank, of which it was this process, as by that now in use; but it will impossible for them to supply sufficient num- be more invariably safe to the bank itself
. It bers for the necessary circulation of the coun- is understood to be more acceptable to the pretry. The report of the majority of the com-sident and directors, and the subscriber is wilmittee states, much in detail, the repeated ling that it should be substituted for the pracand earnest application of the president and tice now established, from which, however, he directors of the bank to Congress for an ad- perceives not that any serious public injury has ditional authority to the presidents and cash- yet resulted. That it is justifiable under the iers of the several branches, to sign the notes character, hc has no doubt. issued by those branches. It does not appear The next charge adopted by the majority of that this request was ever denied by. Congress, the committee, from the bill of indictment of after deliberation. In one instance, at least, the chairman, is, that the president and directhere was a report of a select committee of the tors of the bank have been guilty of the crime House of Representatives, in favor of the ap- of receiving and paying Spanish dollars, and pointment of signers to the notes of the bank; even our own gold coins at their intrinsic value, but the spirit which, in the balls of legislative which is higher than that conferred upon them power, so often defeats by procrastination that by statute. The objection is, that these are which it cannot reasonably reject, had always not technically called bullion ; and there seems succeeded in arresting the action of Congress to be an argument in the report, that to give or upon this proposal. But the power which was receive more for foreign coin, or for domestic adequate to withhold the means of furnishing, coined gold, than thcir value, as established by in this form, uniform currency for circulation, law, is unlawful. This argument, the subscricould neither supply its place, nor suppress thelber believes, has the merit of novelty--ta huim
at least it is new. So long as the proportional evidences of a loan made to the Govertiment value in the market of gold to silver, whcther by the bank itself? In the contract of loan bullion or coin, shall be seven or eight percent. there must be a debtor and creditor, neither higher than the relative value assigned to them of whom can, with propriety, be said to obtain by statute, while both shall be legal tenders, any thing from the other. in the use of amso long as Spanish or Mexican dollars shall con- biguous language, there is always danger of tain more pure silver than the coinage of our ambiguity of conception. In this case, if the own mint, so long will the coin of highest in. bank obtained stock from the government, it trinsic value be bought and sold as commodi- was because the government obtained money ties, in spite of all human legislation. Nothing from the bank. The loans could not have been is more clearly established by the universal ex- made without special authority by act of Conperience of mankind, than the impotence of gress, and that authority was expressly given. despotism itself, to control the value of the pre- The bank is prohibited from purchasing any cious metals. Every attempt to exercise such public debt whatsoever, but it is not prohibited authority bears upon its face the stamp of injus- from selling any certificate of public debt, tice. Charles XII. of Sweden, once transmit- which it may lawfiilly possess. With regard to ted a message to the Senate of the kingdom, the loans with which the report of the majority that he would send to govern them one of his of the committee refers, the stock which re. boots. The same monarch successively issued presented the moneys borrowed, was made eight or ten copper counters, each of about the transferrable by the very acts of Congress weight of a half cent, and decreed that they which authorized the loans. The banks reshould pass for Swedish silver dollars. His own ceived the certificates transferable upon their creditors were compelled to receive them ; but face, and neither that act, nor the charter of to pass them off upon others at the same rate the bank, nor any other law of the land, prowas beyond his power: With two metallic le-hibited the bank from selling them. If the gal tenders of different intrinsic value, the bank, object of the argument of the majority report like every other corporation or individuals, has upon this charge bc, to urge that, in the new the option, and always will make the optiorf
, to charter which may be granted to the bank, a pay in the tender of the lowest value. Their clause should be introduced to prohibit the debtors having the same option, will, as univer- bank from selling the certificates of the stock sally, pay the corporation in the same tender of authorized loans by the bank to the governof lowest value. To forbid the bank from re- ment, it is obvious that such a clause would be ceiving foreign silver or doinestic gold coins at precisely equivalent to a provision that the an advance, would be to expel them, unless as bank should never loan to the government at special deposites, forever from their vaults. 'To all, for it is clear that Congress could lay no forbid the bank from paying them at an advance other competitor with the bank for the loan would be prohibition ever to issue them at all. under the same restriction; nor could the bank, They are commodities in the market which will under such restriction, erer enter into compebe bought and sold, by all the brokers and tition with other proposers for the loan not so State banks in the Union, whether bought and restricted. Among the great public benefits of sold by the Bank of the United States or not. la national bank, with a capital proportioned to The participation of that bank in the traffic, the extent of its operations, the subscriber confar from tending to disturb the legal value of siders this very facility furnished to the Govthe coin,' and render that portion of the metal- ernment contracting loans upon moderate fic currency uncertain and Auctuating, has a terms, as the exigencies of the public interest tendency directly the reverse. To prohibit the may require, holls a conspicuous rank. He bebank from making an allowance of advance up- licves that those very loans to which the majority on Spanish dollars, would be a prohibition to report refers, to be signal examples of the be. import specie, consisting of that coin, at all. nefit of the bank to the nation. He is well as. Then, either it would be imported to the same sured that, if, at the time when these loans were extent by other institutions and individual tra- contracted, there had been no national bank, ders, or there would be a deficiency in the sup- the loans must have been made upon terms ply of specie. In the former case the Auctua- much more burdensome to the borrowers, while tion in the value of that kind of specie would the public Treasury would have lost all the probe neither more nor less than it is, and in the fit of the participation in the loan to the nation latter, it would be much greater.
as stockholders of one-fifth of the capital of the The fourth charge reported by the majority bank. of the committee, is that of selling stock ob The fifth and sixth subjects of the charges, tained from Government, under special acts of considered by the majority report as amoun:ing Congress.”
to violations of the charter, come within the In this
, as in many other parts of the report, purview of one and the same principle. They the subscriber has had occasion to regret the consist of expenditures made by authority of the want of precision in the statement of the charge. President and Directors of the bank for the Here almost every word in which ihe charge is purpose of improving and of adding value to conveyed is remarkable for its looseness and in the real estate, of which, in the caurse of their definiteness of meaning. Who, for example, business, they have become lawfully possessed. under the denomination of sock obtained from There are two donations of 1500 dollars each Government," would naturally understand the to turnpike road companies--some appropria
tions for canal basins--for building of 6 ware- the quantity of lands which they might hold, houses, and perhaps some other houses. There but the right of improving that which was their appears to be in the principles of the charges own—the common proprietary right. If there something of an instinctive aversion to internal had been any manifestation of a desire on the improvements a sentiment with which the sub- part of the corporation to increase the quantity scriber must disclaim all sympathy whatever. of their lands, tenements, and hereditaments, The majority report presents the donations to permanently held, the subscriber would have the two turnpike road companies as offences been among the first to censure their design, high'y aggravated by the circumstance that the and the readiest to restrain them from the inGeneral Government had declined making ap- dulgence of such a desire by law. But almost propriations for similar objects—which declining all these lands were held in one place-Cincinfor similar objects becomes, in the very next nati in the State of Ohio. They had, according sentence of the report, a direct 'refusal of the to the declaration of the president of the bank, Government to expend its revenues on the very come into their possession strongly against their same objects.
own inclinations. He stated, and it appears to But this assertion, in either of its forms, is be perfectly natural, that all the lands which liable to much controversy, and must be re- came into their hands were considered by them ceived with much qualification. It is admitted, as incumbrances; that their design was to disin a note to the report, to be possible that the pose of them as speedily as they possibly could. improvements were in the neighborhood of the That for this purpose they had erected a small real estate of the bank, and upon the ground number of houses, to make both the land on that such donations would increase the value of which they stood, and the adjoining lands, more that real estate; and this possibility the majori- easily and more freely saleable. The buildings ty would have found to be positive fact, if they were also erected, partly by contributions, in had thought proper to ask for an explanation of labor and materials, by debtors to the bank, it before passing censure upon the transaction. who had no other mean of payment. The ad
The assertion is therefore altogether gratui- vantage of all this was principally to the stocktous, that the Government had declined to holders of the bank, and the 'subscriber bemake appropriations for similar objects. The lieves that the solicitude for their interests, so Government has made many and very large ap- warmly manifested in the majority report, when propriations for the construction of roads, be denying the right of the president and directors cause they would give additional value to the to spend their money in donations and gratuipublic lands, through or near which the road ties, will find no responsive voice amongst the was to pass. It was the main argument upon stockholders themselves. It was indeed the unwhich the first very expensive work of internal fortunate condition of those to whom the manimproveinents, the Cumberland road, was un- agement of the affairs of the corporation were dertaken. It has silenced many a stubborn ob- entrusted, that, whatever they have done, must jection, satisfied many a timid scruple, subdued be made a subject of censure. If they increase many a constitutional obstacle.
So decisive their business and their profits by branch drafts has been its effect, that it would be difficult to upon the banks it is a henious offence because name a single instance of the refusal of Con-Congress had neglected to give a power to sign gress to make an appropriation to assist in the the bank bills to any other officers than the construction of a road when it has been made president and the cashier. If they increase the apparant to Congress that it would raise the va- value of their real estate, by contributing to a lue of the public lands. If, therefore, the pro- turnpike road, it is wasting the property of the ceedings of the bank, were to be influenced by stockholders in gratuities and donations. If the example of the Government, they had the they enlarge their discounts and accommodafull sanction of their authority for their appro- tions, they supply temptations to overtrading, priations for these turnpike roads. Nor is it and bring the bank to the verge of ruin. If just to consider them in the light of donations they contract their issues, they produce unor gratuities, wasteful of the property of the heard of distress in the trading community
. Do stockholders. For such expenditures, the they trade in foreign silver and domestic gold board of directors at Philadelphia could have no coins, they are accessary to the pernicious eximaginable motive other than that of promoting portation of the precious metals. Do they subthe interest of their stockholders, and making stitute bills of exchange for silver dollars in the their funds more available. With regard to the exportation to China Who does not see that building of houses, the majority report quotes they must send to London the coin which for: the restriction in the charter upon the holding merly went round the Cape of Good Hope of real estate by 'the bank. The corporation And, besides, the transaction looks very
"like is permitted to hold lands, tenements, and here. respondentia securities. The most perfect paditaments, bona fide mortgaged to it by way of rallel to the majority report known to the subsecurity,or conveyed to it in satisfaction of debts scriber, is the lively lady in “ Much Ado about previously corttracted in the course of its deal. Nothing:” ings, or purchased at sales upon judgments ob
« who never yet saw man, tained for such debts. It is not alleged that the How wise, how noble,young, how rarely featurid, bank holds one acre more of land than is thus But she would spell him backward." allowed by law. But the majority report seems Thus, when the Administration of Mr. to consider the restriction as affecting not only Cheves can be exhibited in favorable contrast
with that of the present President, it is present insidiously started, how many proxies he held ed with high and earnest commendation; but The more he held, the more extensive was the when a charge of usury can be brought to bear confidence of the stockholders in him. No scru. . upon the bank, upon the credit of a confession ple had ever crossed the mind of any President implied in a demurrer, the occasion to stigma- of the United States, to deter him from nomitize the bank cannot be passed over, though nating him, year after year, as a government diten long years have slumbered over the sin, and rector. Not a voice had ever been raised in the thougtrLangdon Cheves himself must be brand. Senate to cause their hesitation to confirm his ed as the usurer.
appointment; and so perfectly in harmony with The subscriber will no longer tax the time this confidence has been that of the public, that and patience of the House by pursuing, into not a rumor has ever been raised of a prospect, their microscopic details, a series of inculpa- or even of a project, for the election of any tions and criminations, not one of which, in his other person as President in his place. After deliberate opinion, has a shadow of reasonable ten years of fair fame, thus sustained without an foundation. How could he consider otherwise adverse whisper being heard, it has been a than a waste of time a prying scrutiny into the source of deep mortification to the subscriber question—who of the stockholders have usually to see the character and feelings of such a citi. voted at the election of directors? Who were zen treated, by a Committee of the House of the voters present? And who held the proxies Representatives, as if he had been an inmate of the absent? When it is notorious that in this fresh issued from the penitentiary to preside case, as in all similar institutions, whose stock- over the Bank of the United States. As an exholders have confidence in their presiding offi-emplification of this fact, it might be sufficient cer, the great difficulty is to prevail upon the to refer to the tone of the majority report from stockholders to attend and vote at the elections beginning to end; to the consciousness of authoat all. How could he consider as a grievanceritative power which pervades all its pages, unto be probed to the quick, and reported upon mingled with that courtesy which arrays even to the House, that whereas, the charter pro- authority itself in the ornaments of a meek and vides that there shall be twenty-five directors, quiet spirit; to the continual contestation even there are, at this very hour, only twenty-four, of facts stated by the president of the bank because the stockholders, at their annual meet- upon bath; to expressions so divested of all sem ingy, did elect Nicholas Biddle one of their di- blance of delicacy as these; that “the bank, as it rectors, and the President of the United States collects the revenue, knows, or ought to know, did nominate, and by, and with, the advice of that it will be called upon by the government to the Senate, did appoint the same Nicholas Bid-'reimburse it.” The subscriber forbears, for he dle one of the five directors on the part of the finds it difficult to express his sensations without government? Such has for several years been using terms obnoxious to the same criticism the fact, and the conclusion naturally and justly which he is compelled to apply to these. to be drawn from it is, that Mr. Biddle has en A large portion of the sa ne report, and that joyed the unquestioning and entire confidence, with which it closes, consists of an elaborate arboth of the government and of the individual gumentative parallel between the condition of stockholders. The reason of the double elec- the bank in 1819, when it is stated to have been tion has been this: the president of the bank is upon the verge of bankruptcy, and its present elected by the directors on the first Monday of condition. Without entering into the particuJanuary, and none but a director is eligible to lars of this disquisition, the subscriber will close the office of president. The nomination of this, his own report, with a few general regovernment directors sometimes lingers in the marks concerning it. Senate until after the first Monday in January. And in the first place he observes that the The stockholders, therefore, elect Mr. Biddle bank cannot with any propriety be said to have as one of their directors
, that he may with cer- been upon the verge of bankruptcy in 1819. tainty be re-eligible as President. When the no- It did not suspend specie payments for an hour mination of Mr. Biddle, as a government direc-—it had met with heavy losses—its capital had tor, has been completed in time to be known to not been punctually paid in, conformably to its the stockholders at their election, they have not charter. Imprudent and irregular, if not frauchosen him; when it has not, he has been ap-dulent speculations in its stock had been allowpointed and elected. And thus there are only ed and shared by one or more of its directors. twenty-four instead of twenty-five directors. In It had failed in the indiscreet attempts to make all former years, however, Mr. Biddle has de- all its bills payable at all its branches. Had a clined accepting the appointment as a govern- severe pressure come upon it, a short interval ment director, and his place has been supplied. might have ensued during which it might have So that, until the present year, the board of di- suspended cash payments, and that would greatrectors has been full. The effect of his not de- ly, perhaps permanently, have affected its creclining the appointment from government the dit. But the bank was never near the verge of present year, is, that he is removable from of bankruptcy. The majority report itself states fice at the pleasure of the President of the Uni- that in April, 1819, when its difficulties were
the greatest, its means of specie, notes of other Ten years long has this confidence been en- banks, and funded debt, amounted to upwards joyed and justified by that distinguished citizen of ten millions of dollars, while the whole deand honorable man. No question had ever been mands which could come against it in the same
month, amounted to only fourteen millions. exploded or passed away. In such emergen-
informed of this visitation of calamity, every fi.