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have been entirely dispelled by the debate : For, the more deeply and thoroughly the subject is examined, the more obvious does its importànce become, and the more plain and imperious our duty towards all classes of our fellow citizens, but especially towards those who are immediately interested in the decision. Indeed, I am fully persuaded, that nothing is wanting but a close and candid examination of the true nature and merits of the case, with a moderate sense of what liberal justice, and the true interests of society demand, to remove the prejudices, and effectually silence the objections, which have heretofore prevented the passage of a bankrupt law.
In the remarks I am about to offer, it will be necessary, occasionally, to touch upon ground already occupied by members, who have preceded me in the debate. I will do it as little as possible, and when I am obliged to repeat what has been already advanced, it will not be from want of respect for those who have gone before me, nor from any hope of being able to present the same topics with equal strength and force, but only for the sake of their necessary connexion with other views.
The first class of objections to be noticed, for which we are indebted chiefly to the gentleman from Virginia, (Mr. A. Smyth,) are not to the principle of a bankrupt law, but to the details of this particular bill. I must submit to the judgment of the house, how far such a course of observation, was correct, or just, or likely to conduce to a fair investigation, at this stage of the proceedings, and upon the present motion, which was made for the avowed purpose of trying the sense of the house, upon the broad question, whether we would or would not pass a bankrupt law, under any modifications whatever; in other words, whether it was fit and proper at all to exercise the power given by the constitution. The particular provisions of the bill, are not open to amendment, upon such a motion; they are not within the legitimate range of its inquiry; and such objections are really calculated only to embarrass and prolong the discussion, by producing impressions, which, if they are suffered to remain, might seriously affect the minds of those who have not carefully examined the bill, while the at. tempt to answer them now, imposes upon the friends of the measure, a burthen they ought not to be required to bear, and upon the house, a tax the more severe, as it is not, and cannot be productive of any profitable result. If the details of the bill are defective, let their defects be pointed out, at the proper time, and let us then endeavour to amend them.
Instead however, of following the course which is usual upon such occasions, an attempt has been made to bring odium upon the bill, by a strong exhibition of the supposed deformity of its parts. The member from Virginia, (Mr. A. Smyth) has indeed characterized it as a monster, which, if it were as bad as he described it to be, it would be justifiable to strangle at its birth: which ought not to be suffered to have a chance to breathe the breath of life. He said, “ that it was calculated to sacrifice the liberties of the people, to destroy personal security, and the security of property, to abolish the mild and equitable systems of jurisprudence, which the wisdom and policy of the states have ordained,” in short, that it would be productive of every sort of mischief, and nothing but mischief. That gentleman has, indeed, been extremely, I had almost said excessively liberal, in acquitting me of any share in this atrocious attempt upon the liberty and laws of our country, by supposing that not a line of the bill has proceeded from my pen. While I thank him for his kind intentions, it is impossible for me to avail myself of the concession. For if it were literally founded in fact, and I cannot say that it is, yet, having adopted and advocated the bill, not once, but repeatedly; not hastily, but upon full reflection, and fcel. ing as I now do, that if my most anxious wishes and exertions for its passage, could ensure its success, it would
unquestionably succeed, I cannot, and ought not, and do not desire, to be deemed less accountable, than the original framers of the bill whoever they may have been. As to those who have now, and upon former occasions, supported it in this house, and in the other, I am willing to stand in the same line with them; they are men, with whose names I deem it an honour to have mine associated.
A member from South Carolina, (Mr. Mitchell,) has urged it as an argument against the bill, that it has been floating, as he expressed it, for three or four years, between the two houses, which he seemed to think could not have happened, if it had really deserved their consideration. He was mistaken—it has been much longersoliciting the attention of congress. A bill, substantially the same, was reported at least as long ago as the year 1813. From that time to the present, the subject has been frequently brought into view. In 1817, it underwent considerable discussion. It has since received some amendments, and at the last session it passed the senate, exactly in the form in which it is now before this house. To what, then, was this great delay attributable ? How did it happen that the call upon congress, to exercise a power expressly given to them by the constitution for the benefit of our fellow citizens, so frequently and importunately made, and under circumstances, as strong as could possibly have been contemplated by the framers of that instrument, has hitherto been made in vain? The answer is obvious. It is because, those who more particularly stand in need of the law, and petition for its enactment, and those for whose relief it is designed, are not represented here; their wants and their wishes are not felt, and, unfortunately, cannot be made intelligible. Who are the petitioners? They are, generally, merchants. When we hear that class of our fellow citizens, spoken of as they have been in this debate; when we are told as we have been, by one member, (Mr. Mitchell) that the merchant is a man, without a country, and without a home; who has no settled interest or stake in society; who, to use his very language, is, “ of every country and of no country, indifferent whether the sun rises on him to the north, or to the south of the equator," can we be at a loss to account for the difficulty and delay, which this measure has encountered? Can we be suprised, that where such unreasonable, and I must say, unjust prejudices are found, against a most respectable and honourable class of the community, a deaf ear should be turned to their complaints, and they should be dismissed, with cold indifference, or contemptuous neglect ? I am now addressing, on their behalf, a body composed almost entirely of professional men and planters, who do not want the aid of a bankrupt law for themselves, and who, I can sincerely say, I hope may never stand in need of its relief; may never know from experience, the wasting heart-sickness and despair of the unfortunate man, who can obtain no relief. Thus circumstanced-placed beyond the reach of this kind of misfortune themselves, and seldom, perhaps never, witnessing it others, they do not realize the force and extent of the evils which this bill is intended to remedy. The subject does not come home to their business and bosoms, but is a mere matter of cold speculation. When the friends of the bill, endeava our to press it upon their hearts, and their minds, by plain and unexaggerated statements, we are supposed to employ the pencil of fiction, only because they have not themselves seen the originals. If gentlemen, who are not conversant with the operation of the existing laws, will not give us credit for the facts we state; if they will not believe the statements of those who have seen the evils and sufferings, which this bill is intended to remove, it would be vain, that the picture, faithful as it is, should be presented anew, or that other scenes of evil and of misery, should be pourtrayed. But I beg them to be assured, that this class of ruined merchants, is not what it has been supposed to be, by some who have spoken on this question. Among them
are to be found the most high minded and honourable men; men who have been eminently useful, men who have been employed, and beneficially employed in the councils of the nation, and who are now withering under the blast of unmerited misfortune!
Nor do gentlemen give due attention to the distinction, a most important and plain distinction, so well enforced by my colleague, (Mr. Hemphill) between the occupation of a merchant or trader, and that of almost any other class in the community. The capital of the professional man, is in his talents and acquirements, which cannot be taken from him. The planter's is in the soil, and remains, under every vicissitude, if he be reasonably prudent, firm as the foundations of the earth. The laws secure to him its enjoyment. He may lose a crop, the profits of a year, at most; the capital is sure, immoveable, and imperishable. Neither of them has any just occasion to deal in credit, to become creditors or debtors to any considerable amountto involve himself in the fate of others, or to become liable for debts, beyond his means to pay.
Such embarassment is, as to them, in general, the evidence of imprudence at least, if not of something worse.
How different is the necessary,
1 may say inevitable condition of the man engaged in trade? His whole capital is continually at risk, exposed to the danger of the winds and the waves, dependent upon the good fortune, and prudence of others, with whom he is connected; placed by the very nature of its employment, beyond his control, and liable to be swept away, at every moment, without his fault, and to his utter ruin. Political changes, too, which press lightly in comparison, upon other members of the community, may be and frequently are, to him, overwhelming. The transition from peace to war, and even the return from war to peace, which comes dressed in smiles to every one else, may prove to the merchant, a most destructive calamity. Nonintercourse, embargo, every sort of restriction or political