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very long ago, exercising a right that no one denies to have belonged to them, and exercising it under the compulsion of circumstances, so imperious, that every one now confesses they could not have refrained without a plain violation of their duty-when, I say, they determined that branch notes should thenceforth be paid only where, upon their face, they were made payable, there was an almost universal clamor.-Sir, there is still another source of prejudice. The bank has had the day of its beginning. It is now in the day of its humiliation. But, it has had the day of its prosperity, too ; when success, even beyond the expectations of its most sanguine friends, seemed to crown its operations. In that day—I appeal to many who are within hearing of what I state, and are able to confirm its truth, as a mere matter of fact-I appeal to every one acquainted with our nature, to say whether it is not what would naturally happen—those who had themselves refused to subscribe, and discouraged the subscription of others—those who had thus neglected to avail themselves of what then appeared to have been the golden opportunity—suffered all the mortification of seeing their predictions continually falsified, and could scarcely avoid the influence of a certain deeply implanted kindred feeling, which is never more sharply exerted than when we see others profit by what we have permitted to escape from ourselves. They did not avoid it.
There are, besides, many, who think that a national bank, however organized, is impolitic and unwise: And there are some who think it not within the constitutional power of congress to establish a bank. 4. Under the combined operation of such a mass of causes, the committee had no doubt a difficult task to perform, even if they had taken much more time for its performance than seems to have been allotted. If they have fallen into errors, it is not at all surprising, but it ought to secure from them some indulgence for error in others. It will at least
entitle us to differ from them in opinion, and freely and fully to canvass the grounds of the report.
Before, however, I proceed to examine the report, I beg leave to call the attention of the committee to the authority under which we have been acting, as it is to be found in the law for incorporating the subscribers to the bank. The provisions of the charter, designed to secure the faithful administration of the bank, contain in them a distribution of powers, just in itself, and perfectly well adapted to attain the object. The power given to this house, (section 23) is confined to a single point of inquiry, namely, whether or not the charter has been violated; in order that we may be enabled to judge whether or not it is expedient to institute legal proceedings for its repeal. The examination we are authorized to make, is subordinate to this object; and, to my mind, it is quite clear that we have no right to pursue it further. The care of the remaining interests of the government in the institution, is confided to the Executive. The President appoints the government directors. The Secretary of the Treasury has an almost unlimited power of examining the proceedings of the bank. Weekly statements are to be made to him, (sec. 11, art. 15) and he has the right to inspect every thing except the accounts of individuals. The purpose is manifest. It is, in the first place, to enable him to judge of the conduct of the directors appointed by the government. It is, in the next place, to enable him to decide whether the public interest in the bank, consisting of the stock belonging to the government, and the deposites of public money, is faithfully guarded. The necessary sanction for enforcing the exercise of this power is also confided to the Executive. The President has authority to appoint, and to him is given the authority to remove, the directors on the part of the government (sec. 8.) A much more important sanction is the power given to the Secretary of the Treasury, by section 16, to withdraw the public deposites, laying before Congress his
reasons for so doing. The interests of the stockholders, which form the remaining branch of this great national concern, were intended to be left to the care of the stockholders themselves, as their best and safest guardians--their natural guardians; and it is the right of the stockholders to delegate the authority to such directors as they may think proper. This right is enforced and secured by the power of election. Their servants are accountable to them, precisely as we are to our constituents. If, upon a review of our conduct here, they are not satisfied with our efforts to serve them, they elect us no more, but devolve the honourable trust of representing them in the councils of the nation, upon others, whom they think more worthy of their confidence.
These provisions, thus arranged and distributed, are of sufficient efficacy for all the purposes that were designed to be accomplished. Thus arranged and distributed, they are in harmony with each other, and while every interest is guarded by its appropriate sanction, they all co-operate to secure the common result-a faithful administration of the bank.
If this be a correct exposition of the terms of the charter, our inquiry ought properly only to be, (what alone it can be effectually,) whether the charter has been violated. Any other course will inevitably lead us into difficulty. If we undertake to examine the general administration of the affairs of the bank, or to investigate the conduct of particular directors, we are involved at once in the danger of an interference with the Executive. To that department it belongs to decide whether the public duty has been performed. The officer at the head of the treasury must always be well qualified to decide. None but a citizen of distinguished talents will be placed in that high and responsible station, and, when there, his official occupations, the habitual tenor of his studies and reflections, his daily acquaintance with the management of the bank in all its re
lations to the fiscal concerns of the nation, as well as his repeated inspection of the statements exhibited, will enable him, better than any other person, to judge how far its concerns are faithfully administered towards the public. Are we not in danger, too, of involving ourselves in collision with the judiciary? We are here entertaining a mixed inquiry, partly' of expediency, and partly of charter-right, mingled in such a way, that, in deciding whether the charter has been violated, we make no distinction between errors, or, if you please, misconduct, in the management, and such offences of the corporation as would work a forfeiture of the charter. Indeed, the distinction, obvious as it is, seems scarcely to have been noticed, either in the report of the committee, or in the debate that has taken place. The great stress of objection has rested, not so much upon the specific violations of charter, alleged to have been committed, aš upon the more comprehensive ground of mismanagement in the exercise of indisputable charter-rights. Suppose, then, that, under the impression of considerations like these, you send this corporation to the judiciary, there to receive its trial-you may send it there with all the weight of prejudice arising from a vote of Congress—you may, and you will, in some degree, pre-occupy the public mind, always deeply affected by the judgments of their representatives, and you may, and probably will, more or less impair the chance of a fair and impartial trial. But, when this trial shall come—when the corporation shall appear at the bar of a judicial tribunal-there will be an end to every question except the naked question of forfeiture. There will be an end to every consideration that is foreign to that precise inquiry, and then the consequence will be, that, following a different rule of judgment, the judicial tribunal will probably arrive at a different result. You are thus in direct collision. Different departments of the government are placed in a state of hostility towards each other, the public mind is irritated, and that harmony which
we all know to be of so much importance, in the structure of our government, is uselessly endangered.
Sir, we interfere, to a most alarming extent, with the just power of the stockholders. They are the exclusive judges of whom they will have for directors. They are the best judges. That sure instinct, “that keen, steady, and, as it were, magnetic sense of his own interest,” which every man feels and obeys, in his own concerns, is the best security to be relied upon for a careful and prudent selection. It is the right of the stockholders, by the charter, and it is almost the only right they have reserved. To the government they have conceded much; for themselves they have retained only the power in question, to be exercised under such modifications and restrictions as Congress thought fit to prescribe. Upon the faith of an undisturbed and free enjoyment of this republican right, of choosing their own representatives, they have embarked their property in the institution; and would you, can you, without doing unjust violence to the compact you have made with them, impair or disturb the exercise of the power that belongs to them, of judging for themselves whom they will have for directors? Sir, I will put to you what may at this moment, perhaps, be deemed the strongest case. Suppose they choose to elect a broker, or a speculator-can you say they shall not? Have you the power to tell them what shall be the occupation, what the character of the men whom they are to employ? You may think their selection unwise or imprudent, but they will answer you that they know their own interests, and are able to take care of them. That in the very instances you object to, though the individuals may be obnoxious to the imputation of being speculators or brokers, and you, on that general ground, may think them exceptionable, yet they, the stockholders, have the means of knowing their individual characters from various sources, inaccessible to you, and feel the fullest confidence in their intelligence, and fidelity to the institution. I do