Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

tain a just equilibrium in its movements;” and kpowledge not the slightest responsibility of that, when complaints are made of abuses for any description whatsoever to the Secretary of party purposes, “as it is difficult to ascertain the Treasury touching the political opinions the fact, or to scan the motive, perhaps the on- and conduct of their officers, that being a subly safe guide to test the justice of such com-ject on which they never consult

, and never de. plaints, is the public opinion of the vicinity from sire to know, the views of any admivistration. which they emanate." Without discussing here It is with much reluctance the board of directhe general merit of such a plan, I will only say tors feel the nselves constrained to make this that there is scarcely conceivable a more strikdeclaration. But, charged as they are by Con. ing example of its extreme danger, and of the gress with duties of great importance to the abuse to which it may be perverted, than this country, which they can hope to execute only very case of Mr. Mason. On the eve of an elec- while they are exempted from all influences not tion for an officer of this bank in New Hamp-authorized by the laws, they deem it most be. shire, the Senator from New Hampshire, the coming to themselves, as well as to the Execu. Second Comptroller froin New Hampshire, the tive, to state with perfect frankness their opiLegislature of New Hampshire, the merchants nion of any interference in the concerns of the of all parties in New Hampshire, were all array institution confided to their care. In the same ed to complain of his abuses, and to show how spirit, I will endeavor to explain the reasons of loudly public opinion demanded his removal, that opinion, which are, that the interposition of just at the moment when the administration had the Secretary seems to want the sanction of any declared to the bank that public opinion was the law, or usage, or especial fitness. Of these in only safe test of such accusations.

their turnsHappily the board of directors are but little 1st. As to his authority. The bank is cre. sensible to influences of that description. In- ated by an act of Congress : to that act alone stead of yielding to these complaints, thev ex- can it look for all its powers and responsibili. amined them, and, after a calm and thorough in. ties; and all pretensions to exercise an influ. vestigation, they found that all these accusa-ence over its movements, not found in that tions were entirely groundless; that the most act of Congress, must be wholly illegitimate. zealous of his enemies did not venkure to assert Now, so far from giving any authority over that he had ever, on any occasion, been influ- the bank to the Secretary of the Treasury, the enced by political feelings, and that this public fact is, that the whole structure of the institu. opinion, so imposing in the mist of distance, de. tion was cautiously adapted to exclude that ve. generated into the personal hostility of a very ry influence. Congress felt that the greatest limited, and, for the most part, very prejudiced danger of the bank, that which has destroyed circle. Mr. Mason was, therefore, immediately every similar institution weak enough to subre-elected.

mit to it, was the influence of the Executive Having now disposed of the case which gave officers. They knew that a time might come rise to this correspondence, it remains to under- when these officers would be raised into power stand the views which, in the course of it, by the spirit of party ; that the spirit of party have been presented by the Secretary of the would retain or remove them; and that they Treasury.

would feel such an anxiety to maintain the asAfter a deliberate, and we hope a very dis- cendancy of the party to which they owed their passionate consideration of all these circum- elevation, as to render their control or their stances, the board of directors think it evident influence hazardous to the bank. Accordingthat the Secretary of the Treasury believes- ly, the greatest division of sentiment in Con.

1st. That the "relations between the Go gress was on the point whether the Executive vernment and the bank” confer some supervi. should have the power of nominating any dision of the choice of the officers of the bank, to rectors at all. In the House of Representathe “proper management” of which his inter. tives, the most animated efforts were made to pretation is authorized;.

prevent it, and, on a motion to that effect, the 20. That there is some "action of the Go- votes were 91 to 54. In the Senate a similar vernment on the book.” not precisely explain- motion failed, by a vote of 21 to 14. ed, but in which he is the proper agent; and, But the provision inserted in the original

plan of the bank, giving the appointment of 3d. That it is his right and his duty to sug- the presidents of the branches to the Execugest the views of the administration as to the tive, was entirely rejected. So, too, the propolitical opinions and conduct of the officers of vision tbat the president of the bank should be the bank.

chosen from among the Goveroment directors, Presuming that we have rightly apprehended was expunged by a vote of nearly two to one. your views, and fearful that the silence of the And, again, in the choice of these directors, bank migbt be hereafter misconstrued into an the Executive was limited, by an amendment, acquiescence in them, I deem it my duty to to the appointment of not more than three tim state to you in a manner perfectly respectful to any one State. These whole proceedings in yourfofhcial and personal cbaracter, yet so clear dicate the dread of the influence of the Ercas to leave no possibility of misconception, that cutive over the bank; but the most sensitive the Board of Directors of the Bank of the Unit-jealousy of Congress seems never to bave antited States, and the boards of directors of the cipaed, and, therefore, never to have forbidbranches of the Bank of the United States, ac-lden, that, in addition to the infuence of the

finally,

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

five Government directors, the bank should know, ever asked any office or any favor from ever receive a formal and official declaration of the Government. Experience has accordingly the views of the Executive officers in regard to ratified the judgment of Congress that a body the political opinions and couduct of the agent thus constituted, composed of members of all of the bank.

political parties, standing between them all, Accordingly, the act of Congress simply de- yet connected with none of them, having noe clares, "that, for the management of the affairs thing to ask, nor to hope, nor to fear, from of the said corporation, there shall be twenty. the Executive, furnishes a much greater sefive directors." When these are chosen, the curity for an iodependent administration, than whole administration of the bank is committed the officers of the Government could possibly to their exclusive care. Their responsibility offer. for the management of it is to Congress, and to These officers, too, are the more unsafe Congress alone : but no Executive officer of counsellors ; because, such is the delusion of the Government, 'from the President of the the spirit of party, they often advise very hoUnited States downwards, has the slightest au- nestly with an entire unconsciousness of their thority to interfere in it; and there can be no own motives. Of this it is difficult to imagine more warrant for suggesting the views of the a stronger illustration than the present occaadministration to the Bank of the United States sion. You give it as your deliberate opinion, than to the Supreme Court of the U. States. that such is the power of party feelings that it

In the absence of any specific authority, is morally impossible for any five hundred Ame. there might be some est.blished usage to jus-rican citizens, carefully selected in small retify this interposition. But, from the founda- sponsible bodies, and the greater part of whom tion of the Government, no such claim has ever have sworn, as I have, to execute their duty before been asserted. Your predecessors, Mr. faithfully, not to betray their trusts, by grant.Morris, General Hamilton, Mr. Wolcott, Mr. ing or refusing loans from political hostility or Gallatin, Mr. Campbell, Mr. Dallas, Mr. Craw- partility. Now, I must be permi:ted to reford, and Mr. Rush, were gentlemen of ac- mark, that this judgment seems to be exceed. knowledged intelligence and fidelity to their ingly severe. I should, indeed, dispair of the duties. Yet, neither during the existence of country, if I did not think that these free and the first Bank of the United States, even when manly institutions of ours had reared up, not there were no Government directors, nor since five hundred, but five hundred thousand men the existence of the present bank, nor in the too proud to surrender their honor, or desert interval between them, does it seem ever to their duty, to promote the cause of any party; have occurred to them that it formed any part and that whenever the people or the people's of those duties to inquire into the political opi- leaders were misled into excesses, they would nions and conduct of the officers of the banks both be rebuked back to their duty by the in which the public funds were deposited. On temperate firmness of these independent citi. the contrary, when that distinguished states- zens. But they, who assert the irresistible man, Mr. Crawford, was consulted by the power of the spirit of party, might reflect that bank, in 1819, on a subject entirely financial, this spirit becomes more intense by concentrahe accompanied his answer with this declara- tion in those who receive most and expect most tion : "I wish to have no other influence up- from its influence. And yet, while it is conon the decision which the board of directors is sidered morally impossible for the directors of called upon to make, than the views which I the bank not to pervert their authority to pares have presented are calculated to produce. The ty purposes, the officers of the General and first duty of the board is to the stockholders ; State Governments invoke the interposition of the second to the nation.” If neither authority the bank against a person guilty of friendship nor custom sanctions it, there seems to a political antagonist, without the least sus.

3d. No peculiar fitness in the Secretary for picion that it may be morally impossible for the suggestion of such views. Undoubtedly it them also not to share in the general infirmity. was the aim of Congress to exclude the opera- For their agency, moreover, on the present oction of party, and the influence of the Execu- casion, there was no necessity. All these retive. For this purpose, they committed the presentations from New Hampshire might have care of the bank io twenty-five gentlemen, come, and, doubtless, would have come dis, chosen partly by the President and Senate, and rectly to the bank, but for the design of propartly by the stockholders ; trusting to this ducing an “action of the Government on the variety in the composition of the body, and to bank” through the instrumentality of the Treaa the patural confidence which an American Con sury. That instrumentality might be perfectgress would feel in the uprightness of Ameri- ly harmless, and it was doubtless well intend. can citizens, that they would not abuse their ed; but the danger is, that they, who listen to trusts. In this, I must be allowed to say, they the advice of others, may soon be made to folhave succeeded. They have obtained the ser low it. In the vocabulary of power, to sug. vices of a body of gentlemen, of whose gene. gest, to advise, to influence, and to control, are ral intelligence and independence it is unne. too often synonimous; and the descent is short cessary to speak; but who are so entirely aloof and treacherous from being the instrument of from all connection with politics, that, from its party, to being its victim. establishment to the present hour, no director

It accords with the unreserved freedom o of the bank has ever received, nor, as far as I this communication to add a few words in re

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

gard to the course of policy recommended by who are charged with duties conni cred with it. the administration. I will not permit myself But, in its ordinary condition, the public opifor a moment to doubt that this course has been nion, which every party claims, and which almaturely considered by them as useful and pro most every party can make for the moment; per, alike for the bank and the country: and the public opinion whuge sudden impulses it is yet, I think they will perceive that in practice the whole purpose of our institutions, judges, it would prove ruin vus to the institution. The juries, and legi latur. s, to rectify and moderate; success of the bank, and the prosperity of the this public opinion, in its crude state, is the country, so far as they are connected, depend most dangerous of all guides. The bank can. mainly on the capacity ard fidelity of its offi- not obey it. The bank is strong enough to excers, who are necessarily the depositories of an ercise the noblest prerogative of strength, not almost unlimited confidence, but, from the mo to be afraid of being jusi to its officers; and, ment they are to be chosen for any reason but content that they perform their duty, it will their fitness from the moment that the officers not pursue them into private life with inquisiof the General or the State Governments are tions into their friendships, nor will it ever sa. allowed to interfere in the selection-all com-crifice them either to appease any clamor, or to mand over its own materials, and all responsi- propitiate any authority: bility for its measures, depart from the institu It is, I hope, alinost superfluous to add, that, tion. To choose these officers according to while the board of directors deemed it their any system of political "checks and counter- duty to express their dissent from your views balances,” would oblige the bank to consult the in regard to the administration of the basik, the wishes of the party which chanced to predomi. difference is wholly unaccompanied with any nate for the moment in the public councils, and feeling of uniriendliness towards yourself or to change them with every change of political the admini tration. To bot', in the sphere of administration in the General ur State Govern- duty allotted to it, the bank has given the most ments.

cordial support; to both it will, ber after, give Now, the very avowal of a principle of po- a co-operation equally zealous in all its approlitical division amongst the officers, would re- priate duties. quire a constant subserviency to the pretensions I have the honor to be, &c. of the numerous parties who divide the country,

N. BIDDLE, President. and these checks and counterbalances themselves Hon. S. D. INGHAM, Serry Treasury. would need perpetual re-adjustment; uillat length the very effort to please, would end, as it o'lgbt

[CONFIDENTIAL] to end, in universal disconlent. For the bank, TREASURI DEPARTMENT, 5th Oc. 1829. which has specific duties to perform, and which Sir: Your letter of tbr 151 ul no, superbelongs to the country and not to any party, there added to a correspondenc: which I had reis but one course of bonor or of safety. When sumed at an end, bas remained unanswered, in ever its duties come in conflict with the spirit consequence of official engagements, from of party, it should not compromise with it, nor which, until recently, I have been una ile to capitulate to it, but resist it-resist it openly withdraw my attention. Its 1 ngth, charac er, and fearlessly. To this, its interests concurs and source, entitled it to a respect:ui considera. with its duty, for it will be found at lust, such tion, which I beg you to believe it has received. is the good sense of the country, that the best Intending to review the contents of your mode of satisfying all parties is, to disgregard communication with the “ unreserved freedom" .them all.

by which it is happily caracterized, I must Nor could the board of directors adopt th. congratislate you an your associa.es, as well as remedy proposed by the administration, that, myself, that, whatever differences exist bewhen an officer of the bank is accused of abus-tween us, they are yrt on pin's parely specue, ing his trust to the purposes of party, as "it lative; that the alleged practical i use of s'do is difficult to ascertain the fact or to scan the tion, towards which my first letter invited me ·motive, perhaps the only safe guide to test inquiries of the board, has been scrutinized sy the justice of such complaints is the public op:- the prysident of the bank in persoí), doubtless nion of the vicinity from which they emanate. with impar iality and candor; and hat "the It would seem more natur) that, in all cases o public opinion” especting Mr. Mason, which accusation, the difficulty of ascertaining the was so imposing at a distance," in your prefact, should make us slow to believe, and doub. sence so dexenerated into the personal hostility ly vigilant to discuver it. The difficulty or of a very limited, and, for the most par", V. scanning motives should teach us how easily prejudiced circle." I cannot but be gratitud they may be misconstrued. But fact, and mo to bear thai the directors instituted a calmand tive, and character, and conduct, would all be thorough investigation:” thus com lying wb prejudged in deference to public opinion, which the only wish entertained or expressed by me is itself me ignorant both of facts and motives on the subject; and, as it is said, this examinathan the board of directors themselves who are tion has proved " that the accusations were ena to submit to it. This is too summary, and too tirely groundless," an habitual reliance upon dangerous; for this public opinion, which is to the fairness and justice of my fellow citizens, supercede all inquiry, to be respected must be inspires the hope that their framers will conrespectable. Even in its best siate, it is like a tendedly acquiesce in the re-election of a viathing rather to consult than to obey, by those uicated officer. If such results alone are to

9

[ocr errors]

flow from occasional correspondence between ministration either knew or approved it. With
the "public servon!s" here, and the public great respect for the motives which prompted
sero ints" in your board, it is presumed that the him as a public officer, I can neither assume
most wary sensitiveness would lack cause for the merit, nor incur the responsibility of the
disquietude. I am not the less gratified with fact.
these results, ay may well be imagined, at find. You farther take occasion, twice in the course
ing tiem sustained by the test of public opi of your letter, to consider avowed by me, a
nion," which I took' occasion to refer to, with sentiment utterly alien to my feelings and judg.
sore confidence, as a safe guide in the investi. ment, inconsistent with my uniform language;
gation of matters of that character.

and preposterous in principle.

“ Your reply I had thought my objects and sentiments so (says you) of the 23d of July, treats the exemppl.inly conveyed, and indeed your recognition tion from political bias, as a moral impossibiliof them so forcibly and flatteringly expressed, ty.” Again: “You give it as your deliberate that no danger of subsequent misrepresentation opinion, that such is the power of party feelwas to apprehended. When, in reply to my ings, that it is morally impossible for any five letter of the 11th of July, you were obliging hundred American citizens, carefully selected enough to sy, that my "good judgment had in small responsible bodies, and the greater indicated the true theory of administering the part of whom have sworn, as I have, to execute bank;that my clear and sound principles their duty faithfully, and not to betray their contained the whole elements of the system of the trusts, by granting or refusing loans, from polibank, and its true relation to the Government;" tical partiality or bustiliiystating this as my and that “the real nature and interests of the written sentiment, you are pleased to denounce institution are perfectly understood and appreci- it

, buth eloqu nily and justly. If you will turn ated by the present administration," it was im- to the paragraph which has been thus strangely possible not to be please.i at the prospect of disc lorel, and repeat it to our board, my re. justly and harmoniously transacting what, spect for their sense of justice and fairness, perthough a measure of public duty, was certainly suades me that they will regret having precipi. of a delicate and disagreeable character. This tately and unadvisedly sanctioned the conver. pleasure was promptly and unaffectedly confession of an immutable truism into an opinion as sed in my letter, addressed to you under tale of abhorrent in the abstract, as it is unnatural to the 234 of July, and, notwiihs'anding a careless me. These are my words: "Impressed with: phrase inserted in the reply, written and “rans. these truths, which may indeed be considered mitted to me during your absence, it remained undeniable, I was not prepared for so confident undiinished, until the receipt of the one I am an assertion of the universal purity of the bank now noticing. Unwilling to suppose, for a mo- and all its branches, in practice as well as prin. ment, that you can bave either an inclination or ciple, as is to be found in your letter; and, motive to do me, individually or officially, a while I would scrupulously forbear to as ume wrong, the unespected transition from confi- any fact derogatory to the character of your dence tu suspiciun, from complimentary inter- board, or those of the branches, it is not deem. course to a jealous assertion of corporate chas- ed incompatible with the most rigid justice, to tity, by which your last is characterised, how- suppose that a body of tive hundred men, not ever unaccountable, I would gladly interpret selected by an Omniscient eye, cannot be fairly most favorably to your character for intelligence entitled to the unqualified testinony which you and consistency, in the comments I have to make have been pleased to offer in their behalf. It upon what are ostensibly the ninges of this in- is morally impossible that the character of all tellectual revolution. These, however, will the acts of the directors of the branches, much be made with “urreserved freedom," not less their motives, could be known to the padoubting that further reflection will enable you rent board: hence, the declaration that no loan to perceive that you have gratuitously attribut. was ever granted to, or withheld from any ined to me, and, through me, to the administra- dividual, on account of political partiality or tion, certain acts, without knowing whether we hostility, must be received rather as evidence sanctioned them or not, and that you have un- of your own feelings, than as conclusive proof intentionally distorted,' by partial quoiations, of the fact so confidently vouched for.” the natural and obvious meaning of expressions

The ability of the parent board, to know in my forroer letter. Having done this, I will the character of all the acts of the directors of proceed to your general theories respecting the the branches, and their motives, is physically, connexion subsisting, by law and in practice, as well as morally impossible: were it otherbetween the Governmeót and the bank. wise, how should we limit the shame of the

The communication made to the Bank of the enormous frauds which have signalized some United Siates by Mr. Isaac Hill, accompanying of your subordinates! And a volunteer affira two memorials, was wholly unknown to ine, ud- mation of their universal purity; to their free. til I saw it adverted to in your letter.

It was of dom from ordin ry feelings, passions, and vices a nature distinct from an official act, notwith- of human nature, made prior to an investigation standing his having described himself as "Se-on a particular charge of culpability, may indicond Comptroller of the Treasury.” It is to be cate a liberal condence, but cannot be acregretted, that, before invoking his language as cepted as evidence of innocence. shade for ground work of your picture, an effort That men may, and often do act with er. had not been made to ascertain how far the ad emption from improper bias, in the discharge

of the trust confided to them, is indisputable, In the phraseology, too, of the action of the but it is equally true, however, that they Government upon the bank, you have imagin. do not always thus act; and it will not be deed some unexplained and mysterious preten. nied, that, to remove the motive and destroy the sions implied. The words, when violently torn power to commit an abuse, are the most desir from their context, may convey to the imaginaable, as well as effectual preventives. That he tion an idea big with the fate corporate in who now writes, habitually and fearlessly, trusts violability, and teeming with corruption; but in the readiness as well as capacity to "execute restore them to their right place, and they deduty faithfully,” with “an exemption from po- fy nisconstruction. The principles suggested litical bias,” is strongly exemplified in the una in my letter of the 11th July, indica ing 'be disguised manner in which, on behalf of some views of the Treasury Department as to the complaining fellow citizens, he has appealed to proper duties of the bank, met with your corthe justice and integrity of the existing direc- dial and unqualified approbation, which was retors of the Bank of the United States.

sponded in uo measured terms of eulogy. Ale A casual suggestion in my first letter, as to low me to repeat them: "my good judgment the most effectual mode of averting the perni- had indicated the true theory of administering cious tendency of party spirit, and defending the bank;" that my “clear and sound princithe character of the bank from the imputation ples contained the whole elements of the system of of it, seems now to be seen through a new me. the bank, and its true relation to the Government;" dium, and to furnish evidence of some fearful that the real nature and interests of the institupurpose of interference in the election of offi- tion are perfectly understood and appreciated! cers of the bank; but, for the importance which by the administration, &c. &c. you have given the remark, I should not feel The reply, in my letter of the 230 July, to excused for occupying a moment of your time, this part of yours, contains the expression that to show that you have erred, not less in the con- seems to have awakened your sensib'lity for ception of my purpose, than the propriety of the independence and purity f the bank. It the suggestion, Indulging an anxious wish is as follows: “I am gratified to find so entire that your institution should not only be pure, a concurrence in our opinions as to the princibut beyond suspicion, 1 intimated, not "a for- ples which cught to govern in the administramal declaration as to the political opinion and tion of the affairs of the bank. When princiconduct of the officers," but what every one ples are thus cordially seitled, there is much knows to be tru“, that "checks and counter- reason to expect that every material error of balances are necessary to obtain a just equili-practice, will, in time, be properíy corrected, brium” in all moving bodies.

and there can be no doubt that while the action The proposition was not only undeniable in of the Government upon the bank, and that of the abstract, but in perfect conformity to the the bank upon those within the sphere of its inseverest rules of justice and policy, and influence, shall be practically regulated by these strict analogy with the principle which requires principles, the insti'ution will not fail to se. the impartial selection of every tribunal, which cure the great ends for which it was establishtries the property, liberty, or life, of a fellow ed." I forbear tu offer any further comment being; but, in the present case, the suggestion, upon the use you have been pleased to make of coming through any other channel, must have the abducted phrase, and proceed to consider had, in your estimation, even stronger recom- its character even in ihe naked firm it las been mendations than these. It happened to be in made to assume. conformity with your own expressed views of The Guvernment of this nation is presumed the true theory of selection as prescribed in the to act, directly or indirectly, obviously, or ins charter, for you have justly remarked, that one sensibly, upon all who enjoy its blessings or great foundation of confidence in the upright. submit to its conirol. In conducting the business of the bank, was based in the “ variely in ness of the people, it acts visibiy túrough rethe composition of the body." I apprehend it cognized officers, upon those in any manner would not be material as to the mode by which connected with that business; and while the “ this variety'' was effected: in such matters first general action is modificd and restricted forms are nothing , substance every thing. Nor by settled principles, the great system of pure have I been able to see the force of your argu- and free institutions is preserved unimpaired. ment against such a policy, founded on the sup. The bank cannot, if it would, avoid the "acposed necessity of changing your officers to suit tion of the Governmenes in all its legitimate the political views of successive administrations, operations an: policy, however disposed it inasmuch as the variety in the composition of might be, after calculating the immensity of its the body,” being made a part of the system coffers, and the expansion of its p.wer, to asnecessary to safety, would require no change sert a superiority or insensibility to such action. to suit the legimate purposes of any party. The pretension could only excite a smile; com

cannot but be gratified with every rational as- parea to the Government, the bank is essen. surance, that the selections of your officers i ally insignificant. Imak these remarks with have been so "i entirely” successful, and at re- no view to disparage the real importauce and ceiving any evidence tending to weaken the dignity of your institution; nor to insinuate that force of complaints as to the alleged partisan the highly respectable citizens, by whom its organization and persecuting disposition of wealth is wicidei, do now, or ever have etr some of your branches.

tertained projects of ambition; but to enable

« ForrigeFortsett »