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inefficient treasury. The mass of moderate people, no doubt, desired tranquillity on the frontier, and sustained the President's labors for that end, but for the most part they were silent. The voices that Washington heard most loudly joined in a discordant chorus of disapproval around his Indian policy. No one understood that here was an important part of a scheme to build up a nation, to make all the movements of the United States broad and national, and to open the vast west to the people who were to make it theirs. Washington heard all the criticism and saw all the opposition, and still pressed forward to his goal, not attaining all he wished, but fighting in a very clear and manful spirit, and not laboring in vain.
The Indian question in its management touched, as has been seen, at various points our financial policy and our foreign relations, on which the history of the country really turned in those years. The latter had not risen to their later importance when the government began, but the former was knocking importunately at the door of Congress when it first assembled. The condition of affairs is soon told. The Revolution narrowly escaped shipwreck on the financial reefs, and the shaky government of the confederation had there gone to pieces. The country, as a political organism, was bankrupt. It owed sums of money, which were vast in amount for those days, both at home and abroad, and it could not pay these debts, nor was there any provision for them. All interest was
in arrears, there were no means provided for meeting it, and the national credit everywhere was dishonored and gone. The continental currency had disappeared, and the circulating medium was represented by a confused jumble of foreign coins and worthless scrip. Many of the States were up to their eyes in schemes of inflation, paper money, and repudiation. There was no money in the treasury to pay the ordinary charges of government; there was no revenue and no policy for raising one, or for funding the debt. This picture is darkly drawn, but it is not exaggerated. That high spirit of public honor, which seventy-five years later rose above the ravages of war and the temptings of dishonesty to pay the debt and the interest, dollar fór dollar in gold, seemed in 1789 to be wellnigh extinct. But it was not dead. It was confused and overclouded in the minds of the people, but it was still there, and it was strong, clear, and determined in Washington and those who followed him.
Congress grappled with the financial difficulties in the most courageous and honest way, but it struggled with them rather helplessly despite its good disposition. It could lay taxes in one way or another so as to get money, but this was plainly insufficient. It could not formulate a coherent policy, which was the one essential thing, nor could it settle the thousand and one perplexing questions which hedged the subject on every side. The members turned, therefore, with a sigh of relief to the new Secretary of the Treasury, asked him the ques
tions which were troubling them, and having directed him to make various reports, adjourned.
The result is well known. The great statesman to whom the task was confided assumed it with the boldness and ease of conscious power, and when Congress reassembled it listened to the first report on the public credit. In that great state paper all the confusions disappeared, and in terse sentences an entire scheme for funding the debt, disposing of the worthless currency, and raising the necessary revenue came out clear and distinct, so that all men could comprehend it. The provision for the foreign debt passed without resistance. That for the domestic debt excited much debate, and also passed. Last came the assumption of the state debts, and over that there sprang up a fierce struggle. It was carried by a narrow majority, and then defeated by the votes of the North Carolina members, who had just taken their seats. Washington strongly favored this hotly contested meas
He defended it in a letter to David Stuart, and again to Jefferson, at a later time, when that statesman was trying to undermine Hamilton by wailing about a “corrupt squadron" in Congress. To Washington, assumption seemed as obviously just as it does to posterity. All the debts had been incurred in a common cause, he said, why should they not be cared for by the common government ? He had no patience with the sectional argument that assumption was unfair, because some States got more out of it than others. Some States had
suffered more than others, but all shared in the freedom that had been won. He saw in it, moreover, as Hamilton had seen, something far more important than a mere provision for the debts and for the payment of money to this community or to that. Assumption was essentially a union measure. The other debts were incurred by the central government directly, but the state debts were incurred by the States for a common cause.
If the United States assumed them, it showed to the people and to the world that there were no state lines when the interests of the whole country were involved. It was therefore a national measure, a breeder of national sentiment, a new bond to fasten the States to each other and to the Union. This was enough to assure Washington's hearty approval; but the measure was saved and carried finally by the famous arrangement between Hamilton and Jefferson, which took the capital to the Potomac and made the war debts of the States a part of the na. tional debt. Washington was more than satisfied with this solution, for both sides of the agreement pleased him, and there was nothing in the compromise which meant sacrifice on his part. He rejoiced in the successful adoption of the great financial policy of his administration, and he was much pleased to have the capital, in which he was intensely interested, placed near to his own Mount Vernon, in the very region he would have selected f he had had the power of fixing it.
Sparks, Writings of Washington, x. 98.
The next great step in the development of the financial policy was the establishment of the national bank, and on this there arose another bitter contest in Congress and in the newspapers. A sharp opposition had developed by this time, and the supporters of the Secretary became on their side correspondingly ardent. In this debate much stress was laid on the constitutional point that Congress had no power to charter a bank. Nevertheless, the bill passed and went to the President, with the constitutional doubts following it and pressed home in this last resort. As has been seen from his letters written just after the Philadelphia convention, Washington was not a blind worshipper of the Constitution which he had helped so largely to make; but he believed it would work, and every day confirmed his belief. He felt, moreover, that one great element of its lasting success lay in creating a genuine reverence for it among the people, and it was therefore of the utmost importance that this reverence should begin among those to whom the management of the government had been entrusted. For this reason he exercised a jealous care in everything touching the organic law of the Union, and he was peculiarly sensitive to constitutional objections to any given measure.
In the case of the national bank, the objections were strongly as well as vigorously urged, and Washington paused, before signing, to the utmost limit of the time allowed. He turned to Jefferson and Randolph, both opposed to the bill, and asked them for