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ard whereby they might be known from other men, were hardly in a position to accuse him of treachery because he refused to conform to that which they sought to establish when the election was over. /With Clay leading the majority in Congress, and Tyler in the presidential chair, the prospect of a harmonious Whig administration vanished completely and at once.
The issue soon came, but it was not sought by Tyler. He did, indeed, assert his right to the full title of president, which was not accorded him as promptly and generally as it might have been;1 but this was probably due to the fact that the case was without precedent, and custom had not yet crystallized. He, however, took over Harrison's cabinet without a change, in spite of the fact that four of the members were virtual representatives of Clay. April 9, 1841, he issued an address to the people of the United States, which served as his inaugural. As might have been expected, it dealt with generalities; but it hinted that the circumstances of his accession might lead to factional assaults on his administration. He declared his dissatisfaction with "existing enactments" as to government finance, and promised his sanction to "any constitutional measure" that Congress might originate to restore a "sound circulating medium." In passing upon the "adaptation of any such measure to the end proposed" and its constitutionality, he would, he said, follow the views of "the fathers of the great republican school." *
1 See Tyler's notification by the cabinet, Niles' Register, LX.t 84; Schurz, Clay, II., 200.
In his message at the opening of the special session, Tyler was hardly more definite. He emphasized the necessity for a "suitable fiscal agent" and asserted that the "popular voice" had condemned the three already tried—to wit: a United States bank, state banks, and the existing sub-treasury system.2 To Congress he submitted "the entire question," reserving only the right to reject any measure which might, in his opinion, "conflict with the constitution or otherwise jeopardize the prosperity of the country." 3
Unquestionably some kind of legislation along the lines suggested in the address and the message was needed. The state banking interest, though opposing the Whigs in their desire to re-establish a national bank, was ready to join them in attacking the sub-treasury; but this, as experience has shown, was a much more satisfactory agency for safe-keeping and handling the national revenue than state banks or Whigs were then willing to admit.
The question of a uniform currency had still to be met, and it was of serious import. In January, 1840, Clay asserted in the Senate that half the banks, from New Jersey to the extreme southwest, had suspended specie payments; that there was no currency of uniform value throughout the country; and that what there was varied, by the specie standard, from par to fifty per cent, discount.1 Rates of exchange were very high and uncertain. This state of things could not exist among an energetic and progressive people without an active search for a remedy. If local banks of issue were to exist, whose methods and management varied according to the varying restrictions of state law, there could be no uniform currency without some kind of general regulation. A national bank might not be necessary, but some kind of national banking system was. Tyler's peculiar suggestion that the states, with the consent of Congress, limit by agreement among themselves their power to create banks, shows that he saw clearly one serious aspect of the problem.1
l Richardson, Messages and Papers, IV., 36-39.
1 Cf. Schurz, Clay, II., 203; Hart, Slavery and Abolition (Ant. Nation, XVI.), chap. xx.
• The paragraph concerning the fiscal agent will be found in Richardson, Messages and Papers, IV., 43-46.
Having received the president's message, the two houses at once set to work. A resolution introduced by Clay, and passed by the Senate, to inquire into the expediency of repealing the sub-treasury law was quickly followed up by a bill for that purpose, also introduced by Clay, which was reported June 4 and rushed through that body in four days. Meanwhile the Senate and House both called on the secretary of the treasury for a plan of a bank or fiscal agent. On June 7,1841, Clay offered a series of resolutions1 that should have gone before the Harrisburg convention of 1839, for they were, in fact, the belated announcement of the Whig platform. They proposed a programme, nominally of legislative work for the session, but really of Whig policy, including the repeal of the sub-treasury law, the incorporation of a bank, the imposition of duties which would provide adequate revenue, and the distribution of the proceeds of the public lands. Clay asked for no immediate action on the resolutions, which Schurz calls, not inaptly, his "general order to Congress." They were undoubtedly intended to be a notice served on Tyler, who, it is said, had already defied Clay.2 In any case, they seemed very much like a direct assumption of the president's constitutional right to suggest legislation.3
1 Clay, Works, VI., 171.
1 Richardson, Messages and Papers, IV., 46.
Congress proceeded to obey Clay's orders. The bill for the repeal of the sub-treasury system was passed by the Senate the next day. There was a delay of four days in pushing on the next item of the programme, the bank, because of a delay in the report of the secretary of the treasury, which had been called for as a basis for action; but on June 12 that report came in, accompanied by a bill for the incorporation of a bank in the District of Columbia to be called the Fiscal Bank of the United States, and to have general banking powers with certain restriction.1 The bill provided that Congress, by virtue, not of its national authority, but of its powers as the local governing body of the District of Columbia, was to establish a bank in the district, which should serve as a nucleus for a general system. The bank was to be authorized to establish branches having the functions of deposit and discount in the several states, but only with the assent of the states.2 The resolution calling on the secretary of the treasury for the plan asked for a bill free from constitutional objection; and the provision requiring the assent of the states was intended to meet Tyler's scruples as to the constitutionality of the measure.3
1 Cong. Globe, 27 Cong., 1 Sess., 22. 'Schurz, Clay, II., 204; Tyler, Tylers, II., 33. * U. S. Const., art. II., sec. 3.
The select committee to which the bill had been referred wrestled with the subject until June 21, and then reported a substitute, which omitted the proviso as to the assent of the states.4 The report affirmed that the question as to the constitutional power of Congress to establish a bank was settled, and that no bill for a bank in the District of Columbia would be effectual which did not recognize the existing constitutional power of Congress to establish branches in any state without its consent.
1 Cong. Globe, 27 Cong., 1 Sess., 48.
'Tyler, Tylers, II., 69. »Nibs'. Register, LX., 238.
*The accompanying report will be found in Niles' Register, LX., 338-260.