Зображення сторінки

by the Bank of the United States should be performed after its charter should expire." The approach of that event made the early selection of other depositories necessary, in order to allow the change to take place gradually and gently; and the State banks were there, ready at hand, and affording the only other convenient or possible receptacles for the public funds admitted of by the existing state of the law. But they were far from being your willing choice. You had already, as early as the year 1830, distinctly shadowed out the idea of a very different system, to which, at the time of the removal of the deposites, you again made an allusion; which contained in fact so near an approach to your successor's subsequent inspiration of the Independent Treasury, as to afford another evidence of your strong native sagacity, truly remarkable when we compare the immaturity of public opinion of that early day, in relation to this whole subject, with the more enlightened understanding of it, which has grown out of the experience as well as the discussions of the last few years.

I allude, my dear General, to that celebrated suggestion contained in your annual message of 1830, which has been so perseveringly misrepresented by your opponents, that a great many persons, who neglect to recur to the language of the document itself, have really been made to believe that you were then in favor of a national bank. The truth is, that though you unfortunately used the word "bank" in the suggestion you then threw out for the consideration of Congress and the country, the plan of which you sketched the general outline contained little, if anything, to which such a name could be at all applicable. That plan was little else than the Independent Treasury, without the Specie Clause for which latter feature public opinion was not yet ripe. Permit me to do you justice on this point by quoting your own words:

[ocr errors]

"It is thought practicable to organize such a bank with necessary officers, as a branch of the Treasury Department, based on the public and individual deposites, without power to make loans or purchase property, which shall remit the funds of the government, and the expense of which may be paid, if thought advisable, by allowing its officers to sell bills of exchange to private individuals at a moderate premium. Not being a corporate body, having no stockholders, debtors, or property, and but few officers, it would not be obnoxious to the constitutional objections which are urged against the present bank; and having no means to operate on the hopes, fears, or interests of large masses of the community, it would be shorn of the influence which makes that bank formidable. The states would be strengthened by having in their hands the means of furnishing the local paper currency through their own banks; while the Bank of the

United States, though issuing no paper, would check the issues of the state banks, by taking their notes in deposite, and for exchange, only so long as they continue to be redeemed with specie."

The plan here distinctly though briefly stated has no other attribute of a "bank" than the faculty of receiving individual deposites an unnecessary and unimportant concession to the prevalent ideas of the propriety of seeking to furnish commercial conveniences to individuals, in the transaction of the fiscal business of the government. It proposes nothing more than to add to the Treasury Department the machinery necessary to enable it to transact that business as an "Independent Treasury." No paper was to be issued no loans made-no property of kind any bought—no 'dealing in exchange' even allowed, beyond the simple sale of bills on the points of accumulation of the revenue, at a moderate premium, for the purpose of actually transmitting the government funds, according to convenience, to any point at which they might be needed. This feature would no more constitute a bank, than every individual merchant who sells a bill on distant funds becomes by that act a banker. And although no general bank suspension had yet suggested the necessity of the specie clause," yet the concluding words evidently contemplate a pretty stern check upon the tendency of the State banks to excess since it cannot be supposed that the specie-paying paper thus received could be meant to be kept long on hand in deposite; and under vigilant administration, prompt presentation and short settlements would have made the influence of such a fiscal system on the currency not very different from what would have been the full operation of the Independent Treasury.

However, enough of politics, past or present!-though there are not a few topics, my dear old friend, on which I would like to extend a little further the last letter I shall ever probably write to you. We have all read with peculiar delight the letters in which you have yourself lately appeared in the papers. The stamp of your own generous, true, and noble nature shines beautifully on their every line. The letter in reply to a New York committee, in which you pay so magnanimous a tribute to your successor in the Presidential Chair, at what common men would deem your own expense-admitting the more arduous nature of the difficulties through which his administration had had to struggle, than those which had encompassed your own—how like yourself! And again your letter to Mr. Butler, your late Attor-ney-General, vindicating him from the imputation which had been cast upon him, as a cabinet officer, of an unworthy subservience to your dictation-and volunteering so generously the statement that

[ocr errors]

[ocr errors]

the reverse had been in a remarkable degree the truth; and that not only had that gentleman very frequently, as a member of your administration, opposed your own views and resisted your own impulses, but that on many occasions you had with great advantage to the public service surrendered your own impressions to his arguments and counsels. Good and great old man - how little the have known you, who have been wont to pour out on the venerable honors of your gray hairs all the vials of their venom and wrath in every term of hate and rage! I have often wished, during some of the stormiest periods of your Presidency, that some of those whom I have thus heard denouncing and outraging your name, could but behold some of the placid and beautiful scenes of your domestic life at that very time-could see you, at the close of the day, listening to the reading of the Bible, from the lips of that fair young creature, seated at your knee, whose voice now sounds to the ear of memory alone, or rising, uncomplainingly, in the middle of the night, to quiet the fretfulness of an infant grandchild, by dragging it in its wicker carriage, for an hour or two at a time, to and fro the long and spacious corridors of the Presidential mansion,— or, when unwell, receiving a sudden visit of important business in bed, and being surprised with an open prayer-book lying on the coverlet, and close by your side on a small table, and propped against your favorite Bible, the portrait of your wife. How many a scene and an occasion of this kind are familiar to the recollection of your friends- exhibiting the most touching pictures of a domestic life which a sweet kindliness and goodness of heart made beautiful in all its relations - a glimpse of which would have put to shame and silence the abusive calumnies which were not less rife respecting your private than your public life! Farewell, good and dear old friend! You never heeded those calumnies then-you as little heed the remembrance of them now. But lay this assurance pleasantly to your heart,— that whatever may have been their party animosities, there are but few Americans living who, when the hour shall come which shall bid us mourn the going out of a great light from the midst of us, will not recognise and confess that after all, and through all, at the bottom of their hearts they loved you, respected you, and admired you, as a great soul, a true heart, a well-meaning patriot, and a genuine man every inch of you.


Very affectionately,

Your humble friend,



We are not going to review Mr. Lester's singular hodge-podge of a book. We let it pass 'with all its imperfections on its head.' It has one feature which, to our view, would redeem worse faults. We mean the indignant testimony which the author bears to the "SHAME of ENGLAND," for the huge and hideous national sin of which she is daily and hourly guilty, in her oppression of her poor. Of this we are not accustomed to hear much from our returning travellers; who, as they are whirled over the highly cultivated surface of that most beautiful and most wretched of islands, rarely suffer their eye to rest long on any less pleasing objects than the luxury which forms the flowery capital to the social column; together with the loveliness of natural scenery through which they pass-interspersed with the grand old remains of feudal and ecclesiastical antiquity, which they cannot ride for a day without beholding, in castle or cathedral, ruined abbey or ivymantled village church. The American in England, thrown by his introductions almost exclusively into those classes of society whose perfumed atmosphere is never infected by the dark and deathly noisomeness that broods over the wretched homes of her laboring masses, imbibes, insensibly, that same indifference to this awful national truth, in which the member of those favored "upper orders" moves through his comfortable routine of life, from morning to night, and from cradle to grave. Though the American is not entirely blind to the existence of the factthough he may know it, and see it, and even write it, yet it rarely claims from him more than a careless passing observation ; a few set phrases of abstract regret and censure; a dark page or two in a whole volume whose every other leaf glows with descriptions of the elegance and the richness with which his own eyes have been dazzled, and of the comfort, taste, and apparent happiness surrounding those homes in which he has sought all his impressions of English life. Mr. Lester goes into this great and fearful fact with a hearty earnestness, a true democratic sympathy, for which we honor him, and for which we can freely forgive him all the egotisms, the superlatives, the puerilities, and the tricks of bookmaking, which abound through his two volumes. We wish that more such travellers would go to England, and through England, and come back and tell us of all they have seen-not in the palace, but in the prison and the poor-house-not in the magnificent


• The Glory and the Shame of England. By C. Edwards Lester. 2 vols., 12mo: New York, Harper & Brothers, 82 Cliff-st. 1841. VOL. X., No. XLIII.-12

[ocr errors]

squares of the "West End," but in the infinite labyrinth of squalid lanes and alleys of the "City" - not in the castellated hall, embosomed in its beautiful park, and dominating the fair estates which spread around it over half a county, but in the hungry hut of the laborer whose sweat and tears have moistened their soil into all that teeming fertility-not in the luxurious mansion of the millionaire manufacturer, but in those huge piles in which his hundreds and thousands of half-starved slaves are sighing away their blighted lives, in a degradation and wretchedness to which no parallel is to be sought in any human bondage, the existence of which we may have to lament in any part of our own land. Let more such travellers as Mr. Lester, we repeat, look into these things with an American eye, understand them and feel them with an American heart, and then tell them to us-we care little in what fashion-with a bold and free American tongue, and we shall not long have to deplore that extensive prevalence among us of English ideas, and of the spirit of the English system, which we derive from the literature made our own by a community of language, and which is the heaviest clog upon the free movement and development of our democratic civilization.

But we abstain from commentary of our own, on a subject on which, forcibly as it is suggested by the perusal of these volumes, it is difficult to restrain the strong language prompted by that strong feeling which we have no hesitation in avowing-which we should blush, not to entertain. The very brief space remaining at our disposal in the present Number, we prefer to give to one or two extracts from Mr. Lester's own pages.

The following is given, in confirmation of the author's own statements, on the testimony of a gentleman whom Mr. Lester describes as a witness of high personal authority--a native of Scotland, the present superintendent in one of the largest cotton factories in the State of New York, perfectly familiar with the practical operation of the system on both sides of the Atlantic, and who returned in the spring of 1840 from Great Britain, where he had spent several months in collecting information in regard to the English manufactories, for the benefit of the company which employed him:

"Wherever I went, in the manufacturing districts," said he, "I saw extreme poverty, ignorance, and suffering. I did not find a factory in England where the operatives seemed to be comfortable; no one where there was not much that was painful to witness. As a general thing, the overlookers are stern and tyrannical, and the operatives expect few favors: the poor are very degraded in England, or they would not bear such treatment.

"Said an overlooker of a factory in the north of England to me, 'How do you manage to get along with republican operatives? I never would superintend a factory where I could not do as I pleased with my hands. Here we can make them behave ;

« НазадПродовжити »