Imatges de pàgina


the precious metals. If, therefore, it can be shown that the bills of the United States' Bank, are of equal value with silver at all points of the Union, it would seem that the proposition is clearly made out, that the bank has accomplished the great end of establishing a uniform and sound currency." It is not denied that the bills of the mother bank, and of all its branches, are invariably and promptly redeemed in specie, whenever presented at the offices by which they have been respectively issued, and at which, upon their face, they purport to be payable. Nor is it denied that the bills of the bank, and of all the branches, are equal to specie in their respective spheres of circulation. Bills, for example, issued by the mother bank, are admitted to be equal to silver in Pennsylvania, and all those parts of the adjacent States of which Philadelphia is the market. But it is contended that these bills, not being redeemable at Charleston and New Orleans, are not of equal value with silver to the merchant who wishes to purchase cotton with them, in those cities. Now, if the Philadelphia merchant had silver, instead of bank bills, he certainly could not effect his purchases with it in Charleston or New Orleans, without having the silver conveyed to those places; and it is equally certain that he could not have it conveyed there, without paying for its transportation and insurance. These expenses constitute the riatural rate of exchange between those cities, and indicate the exact sum which the merchant would give as a premium for a bill of exchange, to avoid the trouble and delay of transporting his specie. It is obvious, therefore, that, even for these distant operations of commerce, silver would be no more valuable than the bills of the bank: for these would purchase a bill of exchangeon either of the cities mentioned, precisely as wellas silver. If the operation should be reversed, and the planter of Louisiana or South Carolina should desire to place his funds in Philadelphia with a view to purchase merchandise, he would find the bills of the branch bank in either of those States, entirely equivalent to silver in effecting his object. Even, therefore, if the bank had not reduced the rate of the exchanges, it might be safely asserted, that its bills would be of equal value with silver at every point in the Union, and for every purpose, whether local or general.

But it is impossible to exhibit any thing like a just view of the beneficial operations of the bank, without adverting to the great reduction it has effected, and the steadiness it has superinduced, in the rate of the commercial exchanges of the country. Though this branch of the business of the bank has been the subject of more complaint, perhaps, than any other, the committee have no hesitation in saying, it has been productive of the most signal benefits to the community, and deserves the highest commendation. It has been already stated that it has saved the community from the immense losses resulting from a high and fluctuating state of the exchanges. It now remains to show its effect in equalizing the currency. In this respect, it has been productive of results more salutary than were anticipated by the most sanguine advocates of the policy of establishing the bank. It has actually furnished a circulating medium more uniform than specie. This proposition is susceptible of the clearest demonstration. If the whole circulating medium were specie, a planter of Louisiana, who should desire to purchase merchandise in Philadelphia, would be obliged to pay one per cent. either for a bill of exchange on this latter place, or for the trånsportation and insurance of his specie. His specie at New Orleans, where he had no present use for it, would be worth one per cent. less to him than it would be in Philadelphia, where he had a demand for it. But, by the aid of the Bank of the United States, one half of the expense of transporting specie is now saved to

liim. The bank, for one half of one per cent. will give him a draught upon the mother bank at Philadelphia, with which he can draw either the bills of that bank, or specie, at his pleasure. In like manner, the bank and its branches will give draughts from any point of the Union to any other where offices exist, at a percentage greatly less than it would cost to transport specie, and in many instances at par. If the merchant or planter, however, does not choose to purchase a draught from the bank, but prefers transmitting the bills of the office where he resides to any distant point, for commercial purposes, although these bills are not strictly redeemable at the point to which they are transmitted, yet, as they are receivable in payment of all dues to the Government, persons will be generally found willing to take them at par; and if they should not, the bank will receive them frequently at par, and always at a discount much less than would pay the expense of transporting specie. The fact that the bills of the bank and its branches are indiscrimately receivable at the customhouses and land offices, in payment of duties, and for the public lands, has an effect in giving uniformity to the value of these bills, which mcrits a more full and distinct explanation.

For all the purposes of the revenue, it gives to the national currency that perfect uniformity, that ideal perfection, to which a currency of gold and silver, in so extensive a country, could have no pretensions. A bill issued at Missouri is of equal value with specie at Boston, in payment of duties; and the same is true of all other places, however distant, where the bank issues bills, and the Government collects its revenue. When it is, moreover, considered, that the bank performs, with the most scrupulous punctuality, the stipulation to transfer the funds of the Government to any point where they may be wanted, free of expense, it must be apparent that the committee are correct, to the very letter, in stating that the bank has furnished, both to the Government and to the people, a currency of absolutely uniform value in all places, for all the purposes of paying the public contributions, and disbursing the public revenue. And when it is recollected that the Government annually collects and disburses more than 23 millions of dollars, those who are at all familiar with the subject will at once perceive that bills, which are of absolutely uniform value for this vast operation, must be very nearly so for all the purposes of general commerce.

Upon the whole, then, it may be confidently asserted, that no country in the world has a circulating medium of greater uniformity than che United States; and that no country of any thing like the same geographical extent has a currency at all comparable to that of the United States on the score of uniformity. The committee have scen the statement of an intelligent traveller, who has visited almost every part of Europe, exhibiting the great variations of the currency in different parts of the same empire or kingdom. In Russia, the bills of the Bank of St. Petersburgh have a very limited circulation. At Riga, and throughout Courland, Livonia, and all the Southcrn parts of the empire, the currency is exclusively of silver coins. In Denmark, the notes of the Bank of Copenhagen are current only in Zealand, the other islands, and Jutland, but will not pass at all in Sleswic and Holstein, which constitute the best portion of the kingdom. Since the Congress of Vienna, Germany is divided into thirty-nine separate States, each having a distinct currency, though represented in the Diet at Frankfort. Out of the territory in which these several currencies are issued, they are mere articles of merchandise; which circumstance has given rise in every town to a numerous and distinct class of tradesmen, called money changers. How far these


separate and unconnected currencies have a tendency to embarrass commerce, may be inferred from the fact, that a traveller going from St. Petersburgh to Calais will lose upon the unavoidable changes of money an average of six per cent. In France, the bills of the bank are of such large denominations as to be adapted only to the greater operations of commerce, and are principally confined to the bankers and extensive traders in Paris. The general currency is silver; and, to avoid the trouble of carrying this to distant parts of the kingdom, gold pieces, or bills of exchange, which are preferable, are purchased at a preinium of from one and a half to four per cent. After this brief review of the currencies of Europe, the committee will barely state, as a conclusive vindication of our currency from the imputation of unsoundness, that there is no point in the Union, at which a bill of the United States' Bauk, issued at the opposite extremity of the country, is at a discount of more than one-fourth of one per cent.

In confirmation of the views here presented, as to the comparative uniformity of the currency furnished by the bank, and, also, as to the obligation of the bank to redeem its bills, indiscriminately, at all the offices, the committee will present a few brief extracts from the speech of a statesman, whose opinions have every title to authority on these important subjects. Mr. Lowndes, in discussing the question, how far the bank had performed the great duty for which it was created, used the following decided language in 1819, when the currency had not reached the point of uniformity it has now attained by half of one per cent.

The great object of the Government in chartering the bank, was to provide a currency which should have that degree of stability and uniformity in its value which is required by the interests both of our commerce and revenue. A currency, equally valuable at every place and cvcry time, cannot be provided by human wisdom. The nearest approach to this object has been generally supposed to be afforded by the employment of gold and silver as the measures of value. The 14th Congress did not aim at ideal perfection; they wished to combine with the conveniencies of bank circulation an uniformity of value equal to that which was possessed by the precious metals; and the means which they employed to secure thiş uniformity were simple and effectual, by enjoining, under a heavy penalty, the payment of all its notes in coin, upon demand. In the report, indeed, the notes of the national bank are said to be now on the same footing with those of local banks. Of the footing on which local bank notes stood, he should speak hereafter; but the price current upon his table informed him, that the greatest discount on branch notes of the United States was three-fourths of one per cent. This was a value much more uniform than that which coin could be expected to have in so extensive a country. He had been lately looking into a book on political economy, which had been published here, with high, and, in respect to its clearness and precision, with just commendations--the work of Mr. Tracy. He inferred from one of his chapters, that the difference of exchange between Marseilles and Paris was osten from two to three per cent. If, with all the facilities afforded by the internal improvements in which France is so rich, with a currency consisting almost exclusively of gold and silver, the variation in the value of money is three times greater in her territory than on our continent, can it be said, that, in this respect, the bank has not fulfilled the objects of its institution: Before its establishment, the value of bank notes, even in the commercial States, had varied twenty per cent. from each other; and, as none of them bore a fixed proportion to the precious metals, or to any natural standard, it was impossible to assign any limit to their depreciation. You have required , that the currency furnished by the national bank should be every where convertible into silver, and it is so. You have expected that it should be as uniform as coin, and it is more so. He would not detain the committee by reading a paper, which he had prepared with that intention, containing the state of exchange, since the establishment of the bank, with England, France, and Holland: for he found himself occupying much more of their time than he had expected. But he believed that any member, who should turn his attention to the subject, would remark its steadiness during that period. He thought himself justified in drawing from this fact a conclusion highly favorable to the bank.”

In reference to the great depreciation of the paper of the local banks, previous to the establishment of that of the United States, he said:

“ Did the interests or duty of the Government of the United States permit that this currency should be received by it? Some dissatisfaction was expres. sed because the branch notes of the United States' Bank were at a discount of three-fourths of one per cent. He read from a price current the state of the market for bank notes, by which it appeared that notes, which were insisted to be in very good credit, varied from a discount of two and a half to one of seven, fifteen, twenty-five, and even thirty per cent. Was our evenue to be received in these notes? How were they to be employed? They might be expended in the district in which they were issued. But was the expenditure of every district to be exactly limited to its revenue? What became of the Union if it were so? He spoke of the thing, and not the name. Our Union might dissolve in imbecility as well as be destroyed by violence. Did not union imply, that the resources of one State, its money as well as its men, might be employed for the defence of another?

" But, if the Government were willing to bear the loss of a depreciated and unequal currency, it must neglect the plainest principle of the Constitution in doing so-equality of taxation. The committee must' well rememnber, that, before the establishment of the National Bank, such was the unequal value of currency in the different States, that the merchants paid duties, varying fifteen per cent. from each other, on the same articles.""

On the question, whether the bank was bound to redeem, indiscriminately, the bills of all its branches, he said:

“ He should not argue that the bank was not bound to pay its notes, indiscriminately, at all its offices. He believed that nobody now contended that it was.” * * * “ It was no unfair account of the practical operation of the system of which he was speaking, to say that it gave to the branches where the exchange was unfavorable, the cntire disposition of the specie of those branches where the exchange was favorable. Upwards of six millions of specie haye been sent to the branch of New York, besides the amount which has been paid by the subscribers of the bank there; but, in isusing notes which the bank of New York has been obliged to redeem, every branch throughout the country has drawn upon a fund, with whose condition at the time it could not be acquainted." * *

# * * « Such a system might be expected to produce inconvenient changes in the distribution of bank capital, an extreme facility of obtaining loans at one time, and unexpected contractions of discount at another." * * * * “Whenever the state of exchange is unfavorable, whenever the just principles of banking require a reduction of discounts, then, under this system of indiscriminate payment of its potes, the bank has

nothing to fear from a draught of specie, and is encouraged to lend to every applicant. Wherever the exchange is favorable, and on the sound principles of banking, an enlarged accommodation might be given to the communitythere the flow of notes from every State whose exchange is unfavorable, contracts or suspends all the operations of the bank. Thus, wherever discounts should be enlarged, the tendency of this system is to reduce them, and to enlarge them wherever they should be reduced.”

Independently of the gross injustice of requiring the bank to perform all the exchanges of this extensive confederacy without any compensation, these enlightened views show most conclusively its inexpediency and injustice, as it regards the different sections of the Union. It would inevitably render those parts of the Union where the bank issues were prudent and moderate, tributary to those where the issues were injudicious aud excessive. In this way, the very inequality in the currency, which the bank was designed to correct, would be perpetuated by the vain attempt to make it perform impossibilities. The power of annihilating space, of transporting money or any other article to the most distant points, without the loss of time or the application of labor, belongs to no human institution.

But the salutary agency of the Bank of the United States, in furnishing a sound and uniform currency, is not confined to that portion of the currency which consists of its own bills. One of the most important purposes which the bank was designed to accomplish, and which, it is confidently believed, no other human agency could have effected, under our federative system of Government, was the enforcement of specie payments on the part of numerous local banks, deriving their charters from the several States, and whose paper, irredeemable in specie, and illimitable in its quantity, constituted the almost entire currency of the country. Amidst a combination of the greatest difficulties, the bank has almost completely succeeded in the performance of this arduous, delicate, and painful duty. With exceptions, too inconsiderable to merit notice, all the State banks in the Union have resumed specie payments. Their bills, in the respective spheres of their circulation, are of equal value with gold and silver; while, for all the operations of commerce, beyond that sphere, the bills or the checks of the Bank of the United States are even more valuable than specie. And even in the very few instances in which the paper of State banks is depreciated, those banks are winding up their concerns; and it may be safely said, that no citizen of the Union is under the necessity of taking depreciated paper, because a sound currency cannot be obtained. North Carolina is believed to be the only State where på. per of the local banks is irredeemable in specie, and consequently deprecialed. Even there, the depreciation is only one or two per cent., and what is more important, the paper of the Bank of the United States can be obtained by atl those who desire it, and have an equivalent to give for it.

The committee are aware, that the opinion is entertained by some, that the local banks would, at some time or other, either voluntarily, or by the coercion of the State Legislatures, have resumed specie payments. In the very nature of things this would seem to be an impossibility. It must be remembered that no banks ever made such large dividends as were realized by the local institutions, during the suspension of specie payments. A rich and abundant harvest of profit was opened to them, which the resumption of specie payments must inevitably blast. While permitted to give their own notes, bearing no interest, and not redeemable in specie, in exchange for better notes bearing interest, it is obvious, that the more paper they issued, the higher would be their profits. The most powerful motive that can operate

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