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were embodied the tyranny, oppression, and despotism which, growing up age aster age, and piling tower upon tower, was then frowning in sad wrath from its lofty battlements, upon an enslaved, down-trodden people, and scowling defiance in their pallid, hunger bitten faces, every hour of their toilsome and degraded existence.
It was this consciousness, deep-stirring in their bosoms, that set the long-sleeping masses in motion, and sent them welling and billowing against that which was a more complete emblem of tyranny than the poor imbecile Louis, who bore the name of Majesty. In like manner, it was not the parchment of privileges, the impenetrable walls of a marble palace, or the old De Launay, royal superintendent, and his Swiss guards who dwelt therein, that roused the indignation of the people against our American bastile. It was a mightier cause of action—a secret, all-pervading, overshadowing influence, corrupting their agents and sapping their liberties; of which sweeping, overwhelming power that institution was the sign, the symbol, the thinking-head and controlling will.
The Constitution, after a perilous time of disorder and national prostration, was adopted by the people of the States for their common defence and general welfare; and the Government organized under it had been in operation now some forty years, but was perverted in the beginning from its legitimate purposes. That class of men who would live by their wits on the labor of others; who would be clothed with purple and fine linen, and fare sumptuously every day at the expense of the toil and sweat of the poor man's brow; who practise the principles of Cataline, alieni avidus sui profusus—the system of Diddler in the farce, "living any way and well, at any body's expense;" who hung like a dark cloud of croaking, ill-boding ravens on the skirts of our suffering, bleeding armies, defrauding the soldiers, succoring the enemy, and in the hour of triumph, soulless wretches as they were, crying beef! beef! while a patriot camp was wringing with the shouts of victory and independence; ever clamorous for office, scrambling for the merest crumbs of patronage; that class of men, the perennial growth of every clime and every age, seized on the Government in the beginning of its operations, and endeavored to convert it into a machine for funding, banking, and speculating, not only in the national domain, in Indian wars, treaties, annuities, and Indian lands; but such was their cormorant appetite, that not even the claims of the poor invalid and pensioner, the claims of the toil-worn soldier, which he asked in exchange for his youth, health, fortune, and blood, spent in defence of his country, could escape their rapacious hands. While robbing the poor, and plundering the nation, ever fruitful in expedients, skilful in devices, growing bold with success, and audacious in impunity, they at length assumed omnipotent powers for a government which the people had ordained for limited and specified purposes, and cominenced a system of unequal and unjust taxation, beneficial to themselves, but burthensome to the people—a system of taxation, not for revenue, not for the legitimate wants of a Government economically administered, but avowedly for the purpose of fostering and protecting the interests of a few sections and classes of men at the expense of the entire nation. The vast funds, thus accumulated be yond the just wants of Government, were wielded as a kind of magic wand, to sway and influence the opinions of the people, corrupt their principles, change their love of liberty into a thirst for gain, and to bribe them into submission and a right loyal allegiance, by appealing to their hopes, and exciting the expectation that they would obtain a portion of those rich spoils, the fruits of their prostitution and abandonment of principle; but which were at length, by selfish and fraudulent combinations, expended on some road, or canal, or river, or creek, or harbour, not for the common defence and general welfare, but for the immediate and only benefit of those concerned in the speculation. This stupendous system of partial legislation, of fraud and peculation, was checked by the Executive veto on the bill providing for the Maysville road; but it still survives, and, Proteus-like, lives in a thousand shapes, costing the nation, to this day, an annual expenditure of some ten or twelve millions. In tracing the history of our national legislation, it will be observed that the limitations of the Corstitution, and the common good of the whole Union, have been rarely considered in the adoption of any measure. And with few exceptions, the same observation is true in regard to the Legislatures of the States. To go no further back than seven years, the date of the veto on the bank bill, what has been their employment since that period ? Look at their statute books; they are crowded with enactments to alter, amend, enlarge, and create bank charters, banking companies, monopolies, and corporations, for every conceivable purpose within the scope of human enterprise, and even of human imagination. To foster these schemes, to furnish a pabulum for these banks, canals, turnpikes, and railroads to feed upon, the credit of the States have been brought into requisition, and the people, in a new form, saddled with a national debt of more than one hundred and sevenly nillions. The banks, thus sustained on the credit of the people, live only by making a lottery of their fortunes, and plundering them of their property. The thousand petty schemes of internal improvement, forced into being by a prodigal expenditure of the public resources, are, with rare exceptions, local and sectional in their character; giving no stimulus to agriculture or enterprise; gotten up for the benefit of corporations and individuals, many of them altogether useless, and all put together, are not able to pay the interest on the money expended in their execution.
While the Legislatures of the States have never lifted themselves up to a comprehensive view of the wants and interests of the whole; never ventured to hazard on some noble enterprise for education and commerce, the little modicum of popularity by which they held their places, ever scrambling for a distribution of the crumbs; intriguing and mousing over their petty, selfish schemes of individual advantage; while thus wasting the resources of the State, and poorly consulting the common weal, all power has been gradually sliding from their hands, and falling into the possession of those corporate instituiions which they, from year to year, had created. Where are our men of talents, of wealth, of experience in affairs—men of influence, ambitious of power and distinction ? Look at your railroad companies, canai com. panies, turnpike companies, and banking institutions; there you will find them, presidents, cashiers, treasurers, or directors; men who have been eminent in the councils of the nation, members of Congress, of the Executive cabinet, and senators, are retiring from those exalted stations, and seeking with avidity the offices in the gift of corporate institutions. And wherefore ? “Whcresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.” Ambitious men seek those stations, because they well know that in them is concentrated the true, substantial power and patronage of the country; that in them is lodged the power behind the throne, greater than the throne itself; that they are the steam engines that put all the wheels of Government in motion, and draw along after them the entire train of legislation. Nine hundred banks—the number is scarcely less—with as many thousand officers, three or four hundred thousand stockholders, near seven hundred thousand debtors, wielding a capital of four hun. dred millions, a discount loan of five hundred millions; possessing the sovereign prerogative of elevating or debasing at pleasure the currency of the country, controlling a State funded debt of one hundred and seventy millions, and the stocks, funds, and debts of an innumerable host of joint-stock companies, which, together with the banks, constitute an organized, consolidated, well-disciplined Macedonian phalans, thoroughly imbued with aristocratic ideas of the nobility of money and the degradation of labor ; holding that wealth is a virtue, and poverty a crime, monopolizing all the lands, capital, trade, and commerce of the country; marching boldly forward under the direction of influential, wealthy, talented, and ambitious men; openly aspiring to legislative and governmental control; crowding our national Assembly and State Legislatures with hired and unprincipled orators; corrupting the people in their primary assemblies at the polls and the ballot-box, and recklessly pressing forward to the ultimate overthrow of equal representation, and the establishment of what they designate a mild aristocracy- the open and avowed enemy of Democratic principles. And well have they succeeded in the accomplishment of their purposes. The constitutional form of legislation is an idle mockery; the people may go through the solemn ceremony of electing men to represent them in Congress and the Legislatures, but so soon as men arrive on the theatre of action, they universally imbibe the opinions, and fall into the current of feeling most fashionable around them. They soon learn to think that the interests of the banks and of the people are the same: a touch the banks, you touch the people;" they are not long in discovering that the directors and financiers of moneyed corporations are wiser than they are, or their constituents, and that whatever schemes they may desire or recommend must be implicitly adopted. Not to speak of the direct influence brought to bear on their hopes and fears—their expectations of some future good or evil resulting from the tremendous moneyed power of the banks—their personal feelings of pride and vanity are appealed to; and really honest, unsuspecting men, yielding to the attentions and blandishments of those who know so well how to use them, and anxiously seeking to gain the smiles and approbation of those whom they have the weakness to suppose would reflect honor on their acquaintance, soon find themselves the followers and liege subjects of associated wealth. Should these appliances fail, which seldom happens, the more potent weapons of ridicule and denunciation are resorted to; the keen sarcasm, and cutting wit of the pensioned orators, and hireling presses, seldom fail to drive all but the stern uncompromising friends of liberty into silence or neu trality; so that when any question of vital importance comes up, in which the interests of associated wealth and the interests of the people are at issue, the latter have never failed to be found in a hopeless minority.
Events had been steadily and surely advancing to this crisis for more than forty years. Forgetting that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty; imagining that their forefathers had accomplished every thing in ordaining a Constitution of specified powers, and vainly dreaming that all power was vested in themselves; the people at length woke up to a sense of their true condition, and found that their creatures had become omnipotent—that the reins of government had glided from their own hands, and fallen into the possession of an exclusive privileged order; who, without regard to the limitations of the Constitution, or a pretence to the common defence and general welfare, were creating monopolies, immunities and privileges for themselves, engines of oppression, burthensome taxes, and enormous national debts for the people.
They resolved to strike once more for independence. With an unerring instinct and sagacity peculiar to an incensed and outraged people; they struck at the centre of this unholy combination—the sun of the system around which all the lesser luminaries revolved, and from which they drew their light and heat, and the principles of vitality; they struck their first blow at the Bank of the United States, the main pillar of strength to the allied forces; their high tower of defence into which they retreated in the hour of distress for council and succor, and whence went forth the signal for the rally or the onset ; they first resolved on the destruction of that ‘Mother of Jacobins,' who could call to her aid a thousand affiliated and kindred institutions, living on the pabulum she furnished; owing their existence to her will and forbearance; thinking, feeling, and acting as she thought, felt, and acted; smiling when she smiled, frowning when she frowned; they resolved to crush this vast corporation. In a word, they resolved to level and raze to the earth that which was the sign and symbol of an unseen, overwhelming power which had perverted their Constitution, corrupted their agents, and destroyed their liberties—the bastile of Republican American usurpation, oppression and tyranny. When the decree went forth, pronounced by the Hero of the Iron Nerve, that the Bank of the United States, after the expiration of its present charter, should not be renewed; when that decree was sanctioned and sustained by a virtuous and patriotic people, resolved to restore their wounded and down-trodden Constitution, then commenced the Second War of the Revolution. The second war of revolution,only bloodless as yet, because the largesses,open bribery, violence, and excesses, practised in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, could not provoke an honest, self-possessed, and resolute people into similar practices, riots, and excesses and because a sufficient number of hired myrmidons
could not be procured to fire on their countrymen, and protect, and cover up and conceal the fraud, corruption and profligacy which had been practised at Harrisburg.
Seven long years have we been involved in this war of revolution, and have not yet approached the beginning of the end.
Seven years have nearly elapsed; during that long period many have fallen in the conflict-many passed from the scene of action; many leaders and whole masses of men have changed their position, altered their relations to each other—the old land. marks have been obliterated-darkness has come over the path of the people--the dear objects of their pursuit seem to have eluded them at every step, and they are, apparently, no nearer their attainment than when they first began. Confused and dispirited, they have been meeting in their primary assemblies, and in conventions, to consult and advise together—to determine, if they can, how far they have advanced in this warfare for independence; when they may hope to reach the end; wbo are their faithful friends, trust-worthy guides, good men and true, in whom they might safely confide their destinies? They have been crying to the wardens on the wall-watchman, what of the night—and to the pilot and the helmsman, look out upon the stars, take the aspect of the heavens, and tell us whither we are dritting, where are the shoals and the breakers, and from what quarter is the storm approach. ing. At this critical and trying moment, it is our purpose to perform the part of faithful sentinels. Placed as a watchman upon the walls, we shall blow the trumpet and warn the people. We shall tell them, as it becometh us, in all plainness and sincerity, the errors of their past course—the dangers which now beset them, and the means of escape; so that, if they heed not the warning, and perish by the sword, their blood will not be required at the watchman's hand.
When the revenues of the people were taken from the Bank of the United States, where they were used for battering down the constitution and the laws, were placed in other depositories, and the whole subject thus brought within reach of legislation, then was the time for the Representatives of the people, in Congress assembled, to have matured some plan for the future collection, safe keeping, and disbursement of the same-some permanent, well-digested plan, which should regard the welfare of the community, and not the interests of a few classes of men—which should separate the Government from all extraneous influence, and place it on the broad principles of equality and justice embodied in the constitution, and which would esteem the moral and political integrity, and the liberties of the people, of infinitly more value than the vain attempt to regulate exchanges and currency by govermental machinery. Few, however, at that time seemed to comprehend the true question before the country. Many honest, sincere friends of the people, circumscribed in their vision, really imagined it was only a crusade against the Bank of the United States; and that when the overthrow of that institution was accomplished, the controversy would be at an end, not dreaming it was a death struggle for power and supremacy, an effort on the part of the people to regain their lost independence, to restore to its natural and constitutional owners that power which an unjust, partial, and unwise legislation had thrown into the hands of corporations, monopolies and speculators, into the hands of a monied aristocracy, a republican oligarchy to which the Bank of the United States was the nucleus of attraction, the thinking-head and controlling will The true friends of reform, while ignorant of the character and extent of the evil to be remedied, were laboring under a fatal delusion which prevented them from adopting those wise measures demanded by the crisis of the times. Taught only in the school of bank financiers, they were led to believe that the interests of commercs and trade would be greatly promoted by permitting the public revenue to be used by banks, as a fund to operate on in the same manner as though it were their own capital. Such had been the practice of the United States Bank, and all the local banks, and such were the doctrines so zealously inculcated by their friends, that use and custom, and the uncontradicted dogmas of bank emissaries, had at length impressed the minds of honest men with the idea, that there was a sort of propriety, if not ne
cessity, in a connection of Bank and State in some form-not knowing that credit, which they were so anxious to promote and protect, when based on sound capital and the actual products of the country, possesses an elasticity and expansibility capable of meeting any increased operations of business, and adequate to every sudden emergency in commercial vicissitudes, they yielded to the clamor of bank friends, and thereby sacrificed the only measure of reform by which the people were to be benefitted.
The local banks, on the other hand, and their numero us friends, never co-operated in the destruction of the United States Bank, with an honest intention of promoting the great constitutional reform on which the people had entered. They looked only to the political advantages accruing to themselves, and to the spoils of victory. They had been restricted in their operations, checked and thwarted in all their plans, and kept in a state of vassalage by the overshadowing influence of that national insti. tution. They clearly foresaw that if the Bank of the United States were once removed, they would, by an easy and natural combination, control the entire legislation of the country; and realise vast sums of money by an unlimited trade on the commerce, public lands, and credit of the Union. Possessing all power in their respective States, they could not brook opposition, and easily grasped at the proffered means of casting off restraint, and expanding their own fortunes. Hence their hostility and zealous co-operation against the Bunk of the United States. Their motives cannot be mistaken. Never intending to surrender any of their dominion and power over the fortunes and liberties of the people, they only desired to clip the aspiring wing of one who soared above the rest. It was a sort of Runnymede agreement among the rag barons, that no one of the fraternity should be monarch over the others-a quarrel of the robbers against their brigand chief for assuming more authority than is justly due to him—a quarrel which would soon be healed when the band itself is endangered, or new spoils are to be obtained. When therefore we consider the friends of the United States Bank, who well nigh constituted a majority of the whole Congress, the friends of the State banks who entered into the crusade merely for their own private gains, and the friends of reform who were laboring under a delusion, it will not be surprising that so few comprehended the true crisis of affairs; and that no sound measures were proposed or adopted. What more could be expected of a body composed of such materials, than panic speeches, agitation, and a vile scramble among the rival interests for a portion of the spoils.
The wise plan of ultimately producing the reformation desired by the people of finally separating the Government from the banks, by causing them to withdraw their small notes, reduce their circulation, and fill up the channels of trade with gold and silver, so that the divorce might take place without any injury to themselves, or any shock to the business of the country, was talked of, highly praised, held up to public view as the most salutary and important reform ever proposed, but it was never digested into any definite form, or introduced for legislation. It was promised by a distinguished senator from Virginia; he pledged himself to its performance, and the hopes of the country for a time hung on his movements. But he never redeemed his promise. And whether be was deterred by a modest diffidence of his own powers, or a dread of the overwhelming majority then arrayed against him, or whether he himself was drawn in, and engulphed by the mighty maelstrom of bank influence which swept every thing along in its dashing and whirling eddies, is no longer a doubtful question.
For two years and a half nothing was donc. From December 1833, to June 1836, the banks were under no legislative restraint whatsoever, and were left to run wild in their excesses. That portion of the monied oligarchy, who for their own purpose desired an overthrow of the United States Bank, having gained their end, went to work in their respective States to multiply their local institutions, and increase their facilities for stockjobbing, borrowing, speculating in petty schemes of internal improvement, and plundering the people. The friends of the United States Bank diftering from hom in no one principle whatsoever, having lost their favorite instiVOL. V. NO. XVII.-MAY, 1839.