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CHAP. v. recommended; while others telt themselves em. 1792. barrassed in the opposition they were desirous of
making. His measures were generally supported by a majority of congress; and while the high credit of the United States was believed to attest their wisdom, the masterly manner in which his reports were drawn contributed to raise still higher that reputation for great talents which he had long possessed. To the further admission of these reports, it was determined, on this occasion, to make a vigorous resistance.
But the opposition was not successful. On taking the question, the resolution was carried, thirty one members voting in its favour, and twenty
seven against it. Report of The report* made by the secretary in pursuance
of this resolution, recommended certain augmentations of the duties on imports, and was imme. diately referred to the consideration of a committee of the whole house. Resolutions were then entered into which were to form the basis of a bill, and which adopted not only the principles, but, with the exception of a few unimportant alterations, the minute details of the report.
Before the question was taken on the passage of the bill which was introduced in conformity with these resolutions, a motion was made to limit its duration, the vote upon which strongly marked the progress of opinion in the house res. pecting those systems of finance which were be
the secretary of the treasury for raising additional supplies.
* See Note, No. IV. at the end of the volume.
lieved to have established the credit of the United CHAP. V. States.
1792. The secretary of the treasury had deemed it indispensable to the creation of public credit, that the appropriations of funds for the payment of the interest, and the gradual redemption of the principal of the national debt, should be not only sufficient, but permanent also. A party was found in the first congress who opposed this principle, and were in favour of retaining a full power over the subject in each branch of the legislature, by making annual appropriations. The arguments which had failed in congress appear to have been more successfully employed with the people at large. Among the multiplied vices which were ascribed to the funding system, it was not thought the least, that it introduced a permanent and extensive mortgage of funds, which was alleged to strengthen unduly the hands of the executive magistrate, and to be one of the many evidences which existed of monarchical propensities in those who administered the government.
The report lately made by the secretary of the treasury, and the bill founded on that report, contemplated a permanent increase of the duties on certain specified articles, and a permanent appropriation of the revenue arising from them, to the purposes of the national debt. In favour of the motion for limiting the duration of the bill, were thirty one members, and against it only thirty. By the rules of the house, the speaker had a right first to vote as a member; and, if the numbers should then be equally divided, to decide as VOL. V.
CHAP. V. speaker. Being opposed to the limitation, the 1792. motion was lost by his voice.
On the eighth of May, after an active and interesting session, congress adjourned to the first monday in November.
The asperity which, on more than one occasion, discovered itself in debate, was a certain index of the growing exasperation of parties; and the strength of the opposition on those questions which brought into review the points on which the administration was to be attacked, denoted the impression which the specific charges brought against those who conducted public affairs, had made on the minds of the people in an extensive division of the continent. It may conduce to a more perfect understanding of subsequent transáctions, to present in this place a sketch of those charges.
It was alleged that the public debt was too tration with great to be paid before other causes of adding to it
would occur. This accumulation of debt had been artificially produced by the assumption of what was due from the states. Its immediate effect was to deprive the government of its power over those easy sources of revenue, which, applied to its ordinary necessities and exigencies, would have answered them habitually, and thereby have avoided those burdens on the people, the imposifion of which occasioned such murmurs against taxes, and tax gatherers. As a consequence of it, although the calls for money had not been greater than must be expected for the same or equivalent exigencies; yet congress bad been already obliged,
Strictures on the conduct
a view of parties.
not only to strain the impost until it produced chap. V. clamour, and would produce evasion, and war on their own citizens to collect it; but even to resort to an excise law, of odious character with the people, partial in its operation, unproductive unless enforced by arbitrary and vexatious means, and committing the authority of the government in parts where resistance was most probable, and coercion least practicable.
That the United States, if left free to act at their discretion, might borrow at two thirds of the interest contracted to be paid to the public creditors, and thus discharge themselves from the principal in two thirds of the time : but from this they were precluded by the irredeemable quality of the debt; a quality given for the avowed pur. pose of inviting its transfer to foreign countries. This transfer of the principal when completed would occasion an exportation of three millions of dollars annually for the interest, a drain of coin without example, and of the consequences of which no calculation could be made.
The banishment of coin would be completed by ten millions of paper money in the form of bank bills, which were then issuing into circula. tion. Nor would this be the only mischief result. ing from the institution of the bank. The ten or twelve per cent annual profit paid to the lenders of this paper medium would be taken out of the pockets of the people, who would have had without interest, the coin it was banishing. That all the capital employed in paper speculation is barren and useless, producing like that on a
CHAP. V. gaming table, no accession to itself, and is with. 1792. drawn from commerce and agriculture where it would have produced addition to the common
The wealth therefore heaped upon indi. viduals by the funding and banking systems, would be productive of general poverty and distress.
That in addition to the encouragement these measures gave to vice and idleness, they had furnished effectual means of corrupting such a portion of the legislature as turned the balance between the honest voters, This corrupt squadron, deciding the voice of the legislature, had manifested their dispositions to get rid of the limitations imposed by the constitution ; limitations on the faith of which the states acceded to that instrument. They were proceeding rapidly in their plan of absorbing all power, invading the rights of the states, and converting the federal into a consolidated government.
That the ultimate object of all this was to pre. pare the way for a change from the present repub. lican form of government to that of a monarchy, of which the English constitution was to be the model. So many of the friends of monarchy were in the legislature, that, aided by the corrupt squad of paper dealers who were at their devotion, they made a majority in both houses. The republican party, even when united with the antifederalists, eontinued a minority.
That of all the mischiefs resulting from the system of measures which was so much reprobated, none was so afflicting, so fatal to every honest hope, as the corruption of the legislature.