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SPEECH IN FANEUIL HALL.*
Once again, friends and fellow-citizens, once again, and quite unexpectedly, I find myself in Faneuil Hall. And I feel all the recollections of the past gathering upon me.
I hear a thousand voices, silent elsewhere, but always speaking here, admonishing me, and admonishing you, who do me the honor to be here, to perform the whole duty which we owe to our country. I come here to-day, in obedience to an authority which I must always respect, the wishes of the people of Suffolk and the Whigs of the Commonwealth, to express to them my opinions upon the present state of the internal affairs of the country, the concerns of business and the occupations of men, and their prospects for the future; and I proceed, without preface, to the performance of that duty.
An election of President and Vice-President of the United States is now pending, and a choice of members for the new Congress is already in progress. It is in vain to disguise, that the result of these elections must produce a decided effect, for good or for evil, upon the interests of men and their pursuits, at the present moment, and upon the prospects which lie beyond the present. There are, in fact, Gentlemen, but two candidates for the Presidency, General Taylor, the Whig candidate, and General Cass, the Democratic candidate. As to the support of another gentleman, which some of our friends, I am sorry to say, have embraced and still pursue, I regard it, in a military sense of the phrase, as a mere diversion; and if the subject were not solemn, and the occasion solemn, I should say it was very much of a diversion, also, in the ordinary acceptation of that term.
* A Speech delivered in Faneuil Hall, on the 24th of October, at a general meeting of the Whigs of Boston and the vicinity, previous to the Presidential Election.
There are, fellow-citizens, two candidates, and no more; and the election of one or the other, accompanied with a correspondent election in point of political character of members of Congress, will produce one or the other, respectively, of two results; and those results regard the present state of the business of the country, as it is affected by two acts of recent legislation. If General Taylor be elected President, and if there be, to sustain his measures, a Whig Congress, there are two existing laws of the country which will be essentially modified, or altogether repealed. I mean those commonly called the sub-treasury law and the tariff of 1846. If, on the other hand, General Cass be chosen, and a Congress elected, at the same time, to sustain his views of the public interests, both of these existing laws will be continued in force.
Gentlemen, I saw this morning a speech delivered lately in Washington by the present Secretary of State, Mr. Buchanan, a gentleman who is among the first, if not the very first, of his party, in point of character and standing in the country. Differing from most of the sentiments in this speech, I still do its author the credit and justice to say, that it is a manly speech. He
says, having first paid a just, and no more than a just, tribute of respect to the military character, good sense and strong understanding, and the upright and pure motives of General Taylor, he says of him, nevertheless, that he is a Whig, and that being himself a Whig, if elected President by the Whigs, and surrounded, as he will be, by a Whig Cabinet, he must, from the necessity of his position, carry into effect Whig principles and Whig measures; and that he would be faithless to his friends and his party if he did not do that. I agree to all this, Gentlemen, and I believe that he would be prompted to Whig principles and Whig measures, not more by the necessities of his position, than from what I believe to be his deep conviction of the policy, propriety, justice, and soundness of those principles.
Well, Gentlemen, as Mr. Buchanan has stated one side of the case fairly, allow me to state the other. And I may say, upon the other hand, if General Cass be elected President, and a corresponding Congress be at the same time elected, he will carry out the Democratic platform of Baltimore, he will exert the influence of his office in favor of the sub-treasury and the tariff of
1846. He will follow the bright example of him whom he so much commends, Mr. Polk, and whatever, in the same career of legislation, Mr. Polk has left undone, General Cass will be on hand to do. So that it brings us exactly, as practical men, as men who are not carried away by theories, as men who do not attach all degree and all manner of importance to one single idea, as men who regard the various interests of the country, now and hereafter, to this position, to give our suffrages and our support heartily and cordially to General Taylor, or to consent to the election of General Cass.
Ought these measures, to which I have thus referred, to be further prolonged or continued, or ought they now to be repudiated, to be set aside, and to give place to other and wiser measures of government? That is the question pending. And to begin with what is called the sub-treasury system. Ought that to be continued ? Is it useful ? Do the business men of the community find a benefit in it? Do the laboring classes find it to protect their interests? In short, does government find it convenient for its own purposes?
But before we consider what the results of the pending election may be, it may be well to understand what is the present state of the country, in regard to the business and occupations
On that point, Gentlemen, I might, with great propriety, ask for information from you. And what I have to say upon it, I say with deference to your knowledge and experience. What, then, is the present state of things? I suppose I'may answer, that there is a very unusual scarcity of money, or high price of money, in the community at the present moment; that it has lasted a very unusual length of time; that it has now continued for more than twelve months, without any apparent abatement. I suppose I may say, that there is a great depression of industry and stagnation of business, and discouragement to the occupations of inen.
I suppose I may say, with truth, that there is a diminished demand for manufacturing labor, and a great and increasing diminution in its reward. Is this a true, though brief, presentation of the actual state of things?
There are before me hundreds of men who, with some capital, like all other men of business, have occasion also, at times, for loans and discounts. Do they find, and do they admit, and do
they feel, that money is scarce and dear? Do they find, in the daily operations of affairs in their own sphere of active life, that they are embarrassed on account of this dearness of money? All that I suppose every body can answer for himself. I suppose it is too notorious to be doubted for a moment; and having put this question to the active, industrious classes of society, engaged in trade and manufactures, and expecting to receive, if they were to speak, but one answer from them all, I would, in the next place, put the question to the rich men of the country, to the capitalists, to the men who have money to lend. I would ask them whether good notes are not now to be had at what they consider a satisfactory rate of discount; and I should expect to receive from them a very cheerful and satisfied answer.
In my judgment, Gentlemen, for a whole year back, the rich have been growing richer and richer; the active and industri. ous classes have been more and more embarrassed; and the poor have been growing poorer and poorer, every day throughout the whole year. And in my judgment, further, so long as this sub-treasury lasts, so long as the present rate of duties and customs lasts, that is to say, so long as the tariff of 1846 continues, this state of accumulation by the rich, of distress of the industrious classes, and of the aggravated poverty of the poor, will go on from degree to degree, to an end which I shall not attempt to calculate.
In the first place, Gentlemen, as to this constitutional subtreasury, I look upon it as one of the strangest fantasies, as one of the greatest deceptions, and as one of the least plausible political delusions, ever produced by party power and party management. Is there a civilized and commercial country in the world that knows any such thing as locking up in chests and boxes, under bolts and bars, the public treasury? Is there any civilized people upon the earth, that separates the interest of the government, in respect to currency and money, from the interests of the people? Is there any such thing known in Eng. land, or France, or wherever a spirit of commerce has pervaded the people? If there is, I am ignorant of it.
And now, historically, let me ask, How did it arise, and what is its origin? It is all very plain, and soon told. General Jackson had a controversy with the Bank of the United States, in which the public moneys were deposited. He withdrew those
public moneys from the Bank of the United States in the year 1833. How, then, should the public moneys be kept? He did not see fit to leave them as they were before there were banks, in the hands of collectors, to be drawn as wanted, but he adopted an “experiment," as he called it at the time, and placed them in deposit banks. That experiment failed in 1836 and 1837; and with a great explosion, these State deposit banks
By this time, Mr. Van Buren had come into office, and summoned an extra session of Congress, which assembled in September, 1837; and Mr. Van Buren and his counsellors produced on that day, as an original idea, - and it was altogether original, as of their own invention, and it was of their own invention, for in that respect they stole no man's thunder, they produced this project of what they called a constitutional treasury, or sub-treasury, which was to lock up in the chests of the government every dollar which the government received, until it should be called for again by the government, thus abstracting it from the business of society, and obstructing all commercial proceedings as far as so much capital is concerned.
That system prevailed. The country tried it. It lasted during Mr. Van Buren's administration; and you and I, and all other Whigs in the country, exerted ourselves to expose the bad character, the uselessness, the inconvenience, and the mischievous operation of this sub-treasury; and upon that, the Whigs of the country turned Mr. Van Buren out of office. Yes, Gentlemen, there was no question which had more to do with the overthrow of Mr. Van Buren's administration and the election of General Harrison, in November, 1840, than this very question of the sub-treasury. Do we not all know that?
And now, by the way, if it be by the way and not too far out of the way, what are we Whigs requested to do by many members of the community, and, I am sorry to say, by some of our own party? We are requested to take back Mr. Van Buren, sub-treasury and all. We are requested to pass judgment against ourselves for our decision in 1810. And I see men in this Commonwealth, individuals, - but, thank Heaven, they are not a great number, — who, at the period of that discussion, in Congress and out of Congress, with a voice as distinct as mine, and talents far greater, opposed, decried, and condemned the