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circumstance which fixes our attention, and challenges our deepest regret, is the general distress which pervades the whole country. It is forced upon us by numerous facts, of the most incontestable character. It is indicated by the diminished exports of native produce; by the depressed and reduced state of our foreign navigation ; by our diminished commerce; by successive unthreshed crops of grain, perishing in our barns and barn-yards, for the want of a market; by the alarming diminution of the circulating medium; by the numerous bankruptcies, not limited to the trading classes, but extending to all orders of society; by a universal complaint of the want of employment, and a consequent reduction of the wages of labor ; by the ravenous pursuit after public situations, not for the sake of their honors and the performance of their public duties, but as a means of private subsistence; by the reluctant resort to the perilous use of paper money; by the intervention of legislation in the delicate relation between debtor and creditor; and, above all, by the low and depressed state of the value of almost every description of the whole mass of the property of the nation, which has, on an average, sunk not less than about fifty per cent. within a few years. This distress pervades every part of the union, every class of society. All feel it, though it may be felt at different places in different degrees. It is like the atmosphere which surrounds us all must inhale it, and none can escape it. In some places it has burst upon our people, without a single mitigating circumstance to temper its severity. In others, more fortunate, slight alleviations have been experienced in the expenditure of the public revenue, and in other favoring causes. A few years ago, the planting interest consoled itself with its happy exemption; but it has now reached this interest also, which experiences, though with less severity, the general suffering. It is most painful to me to attempt to sketch or to dwell on the gloom of this picture. But I have exaggerated nothing. Perfect fidelity to the original would have authorized me to
have thrown on deeper and darker hues. And it is the duty of the statesman, no less than that of the physician, to survey, with a penetrating, steady and undismayed eye, the actual condition of the subject on which he would operate; to probe to the bottom the diseases of the body politic, if he would apply efficacious remedies. We have not, thank God, suffered in any great degree for food. But distress, resulting from the absence of a supply of the mere physical wants of our nature, is not the only, nor, perhaps, the keenest distress, to which we may be exposed. Moral and pecuniary suffering is, if possible, more poignant. It plunges its victim into hopeless despair. It poisons, it paralyzes the spring and source of all useful exertion. Its unsparing action is collateral as well as direct. It falls with inexorable force, at the same time, upon the wretched family of embarrassment and insolvency, and upon its head. They are a faithful mirror, reflecting back upon bim, at once, his own frightful image, and that no less appalling, of the dearest objects of his affection. What is the cause of this wide-spreading distress, of this deep depression, which we behold stamped on the public countenance ? We are the same people. We have the same country. We cannot arraign the bounty of Providence. The showers still fall in the same grateful abundance. The sun still casts his genial and vivifying influence upon the land; and the land, fertile and diversified in its soils as ever, yields to the industrious cultivator, in boundless profusion, its accustomed fruits, its richest treasures. Our vigor is unimpaired. Our industry has not relaxed. If ever the accusation of wasteful extravagance could be made against our people, it cannot now be justly preferred. They, on the contrary, for the few last years at least, have been practising the most rigid economy. The causes, then, of our present affliction, whatever they may be, are human causes, and human causes not chargeable upon the people, in their private and individual relations.
What, again I would ask, is the cause of the un
happy condition of our country, which I have faintly depicted ? It is to be found in the fact that, during almost the whole existence of this government, we have shaped our industry, our navigation and our commerce, in reference to an extraordinary war in Europe, and to foreign markets, which no longer exist; in the fact that we have depended too much upon foreign sources of supply, and excited too little the native; in the fact that, whilst we have cultivated, with assiduous care, our foreign resources, we have suffered those at home to wither, in a state of neglect and abandonment. The consequence of the termination of the war of Europe, has been the resumption of European commerce, European navigation, and the extension of European agriculture and European industry, in all its branches. Europe, therefore, has no longer occasion, to any thing like the same extent as that which she had during her wars, for American commerce, American navigation, the produce of American industry. Europe in commotion, and convulsed throughout all her members, is to America no longer the same Europe as she is now, tranquil, and watching with the most vigilant attention all her own peculiar interests, without regard to the operation of her policy upon us. The effect of this altered state of Europe upon us, has been to circumscribe the employment of our marine, and greatly to reduce the value of the produce of our territorial, labor. The further effect of this twofold reduction has been to decrease the value of all property, whether on the land or on the ocean, and which I suppose to be about fifty per cent. And the still further effect has been to diminish the amount of our circulating medium, in a proportion not less, by its transmission abroad, or its withdrawal by the banking institutions, from a necessity which they could not control. The quantity of money, in whatever form it may be, which a nation wants, is in proportion to the total mass of its wealth, and to the activity of that wealth. A nation, that has but little wealth, has but a limited want of money. In stating
the fact, therefore, that the total wealth of the country has diminished, within a few years, in a ratio of about fifty per cent. we shall at once fully comprehend the inevitable reduction, which must have ensued, in the total quantity of the circulating medium of the country: A nation is most prosperous when there is a gradual and untempting addition to the aggregate of its circulating medium. It is in a condition the most adverse, when there is a rapid diminution in the quantity of the circulating medium, and a consequent depression in the value of property. In the former case, the wealth of individuals insensibly increases, and income keeps ahead of expenditure. But, in the latter instance, debts have been contracted, engagements made, and habits of expense established, in reference to the existing state of wealth, and of its representative. When these come to be greatly reduced, individuals find their debts still existing, their engagements unexecuted, and their habits inveterate. They see themselves in the possession of the same property, on which, in good faith, they had bound themselves. But that
But that property, without their fault, possesses no longer the same value; and hence discontent, impoverishment and ruin arise. Let us suppose, Mr. Chairman, that Europe was again the theatre of such a general war as recently raged throughout all her dominions such a state of war as existed in her greatest exertions and in our greatest prosperity: instantly there would arise a greedy demand for the surplus produce of our industry, for our commerce, for our navigation. The languor, which now prevails in our cities, and in our seaports, would give way to an animated activity. Our roads and rivers would be crowded with the produce of the interior. Every where we should witness excited industry. The precious metals would re-flow from abroad upon us. Banks, which have maintained their credit, would revive their business; and new banks would be established, to take the place of those which have sunk beneath the general pressure. For it is a mistake to suppose that they have produced our present
adversity; they may have somewhat aggravated it, but they were the effect and the evidence of our prosperity. Prices would again get up; the former value of property would be restored; and those embarrassed persons who have not been already overwhelmed by the times, would suddenly find, in the augmented value of their property, and the renewal of their business, ample means to extricate themselves from all their difficulties. The greatest want of civilized society is a market for the sale and exchange of the surplus of the produce of the labor of its members. This market may exist at home or abroad, or both; but it must exist somewhere, if society prospers; and wherever it does exist it should be competent to the absorption of the entire surplus of production. It is most desirable that there should be both a home and a foreign market. But with respect to their relative superiority, I cannot entertain a doubt. The home market is first in order, and paramount in importance. The object of the bill, under consideration, is to create this home market, and to lay the foundations of a genuine American policy. It is opposed; and it is incumbent upon the partizans of the foreign policy (terms which I shall use without any invidious intent,) to demonstrate that the foreign market is an adequate vent for the surplus produce of our labor. But is it so ? First, foreign nations cannot, if they would, take our surplus produce. If the source of supply, no matter of what, increases in a greater ratio than the demand for that supply, a glut of the market is inevitable, even if we suppose both to remain perfectly unobstructed. The duplication of our population takes place in terms of about twenty-five years. The term will be more and more extended as our numbers multiply. But it will be a sufficient approxima. tion to assume this ratio for the present. We increase, therefore, in population, at the rate of about four per cent. per annum. "Supposing the increase of our production to be in the same ratio, we should, every succeeding year, have of surplus produce, four per cent. more than that of the preceding year, without taking