Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Panic of 1837 (3)

A provision of another act, passed about the same time, and intended to secure a faithful compliance with the obligation of the United States to satisfy all demands upon them in specie or its equivalent, prohibited the offer of any bank note not convertible on the spot into gold or silver at the will of the holder; and the ability of the Government, with millions on deposit, to meet its engagements in the manner thus required by law was rendered very doubtful by the event to which I have referred.

Sensible that adequate provisions for these unexpected exigencies could only be made by Congress; convinced that some of them would be indispensably necessary to the public service before the regular period of your meeting, and desirous also to enable you to exercise at the earliest moment your full constitutional powers for the relief of the country, I could not with propriety avoid subjecting you to the inconvenience of assembling at as early a day as the state of the popular representation would permit. I am sure that I have done but justice to your feelings in believing that this inconvenience will be cheerfully encountered in the hope of rendering your meeting conducive to the good of the country.

During the earlier stages of the revulsion through which we have just passed much acrimonious discussion arose and great diversity of opinion existed as to its real causes. This was not surprising. The operations of credit are so diversified and the influences which affect them so numerous, and often so subtle, that even impartial and well-informed persons are seldom found to agree in respect to them. To inherent difficulties were also added other tendencies which were by no means favorable to the discovery of truth. It was hardly to be expected that those who disapproved the policy of the Government in relation to the currency would, in the excited state of public feeling produced by the occasion, fail to attribute to that policy any extensive embarrassment in the monetary affairs of the country.

The matter thus became connected with the passions and conflicts of party; opinions were more or less affected by political considerations, and differences were prolonged which might otherwise have been determined by an appeal to facts, by the exercise of reason, or by mutual concession. It is, however, a cheering reflection that circumstances of this nature can not
prevent a community so intelligent as ours from ultimately arriving at correct conclusions. Encouraged by the firm belief of this truth, I proceed to state my views, so far as may be necessary to a clear understanding of the remedies I feel it my duty to propose and of the reasons by which I have been led to recommend them.

To be continued: The Panic of 1837 (4)

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