Page images

the sun of her national glory can never set, but will burn with brighter and still brighterlight, until all the ages of time shall be lost in the profound of eternity. The standing army of Britain may be too numerous and too expensive for the present dilapidated state of her finances; but, in regard to the liberties of her people, it is utterly harmless and innocent.

How much more a fortiori then must the liberties of the American people be secure, under the presence

of ten thousand men, mostly native citizens, and commanded by officers, whose courage, loyalty, and talents have been displayed on the battle-field, and have received the reward of their country's gratitude! This little army is divided and stationed in garrisons along the Atlantic coast, from the District of Maine to St. Mary's, in Georgia, a distance of nearly two thousand miles, and on the west, from the lakes to New Orleans, a distance still greater. The American citizens are intelligent, well educated, and awake to the preservation of their liberties; every where armed, and trained to the use of arms, and comprising a militia of nearly a million of free men. Are such a country, and such a people, in jeopardy, as to their freedom, from the existence of a standing army of ten thousand men ?

Upon what ground of political forecast and wisdom is it, that so many members of the Congress, and so large a portion of the people out of the national legislature, seem bent upon lessening the defences of the country; and that, too, precisely at the moment when the United States, by their rapid augmentation in greatness, and by the peculiar condition of the world, which has thrown all Europe into the hands of three or four powerful sovereigns, and which forbids the very existence of any weak or nerveless government, are more than ever exposed to disturbance in their foreign relations ? Against all saving of mere money, at the expense of national dignity and strength, it behoves the American government to contend with all its influence, power, and vigilance. And, unless the government gradually train its people to bear the weight of due taxation, how



can it expect their adequate support in a fierce and protracted struggle for national superiority, or sovereignty, or existence? Are the people of the United States prepared, now, for such a conflict, as the British people have, with so much courage, and wisdom, and perseverance, endured for five and twenty years, and finally conducted to so triumphant an issue? A conflict which, at the expense of seven hundred millions of pounds sterling, and of three hundred thousand lives, has broken down the power of revolutionary France, and rescued Europe, America herself, and the whole world, from impending bondage ?

If not, how are they to acquire such habits of enduring patriotism and loyalty? When the danger comes, it will be too late; it will then be in vain to appeal to the fears and hopes of the people, to talk of forced loans, and of conscriptions, of requisitions of men and money. The government alone can inspire such high and heroic habits into the people, by a wisely adjusted system of internal taxation, which, increasing with the augmenting wealth and population of the Union, will enable government to call out, either on a sudden, or for a continuance, all the resources of the country, whether for the purpose of defence or offence, whenever the interests of the nation may require. Not a moment ought to be lost in laying the foundation of such a system ; to frame which may well employ the deepest reflection of our ablest legislators and financiers; that the taxes shall be so laid as not to obstruct the progress of productive labour, nor divert capital from its legitimate objects, but leave all individual effort free to find the advantages of unrestrained competition in every allowable pursuit.

The banking capital of the United States exceeds a hundred millions of dollars. In most of the States there are several chartered banks for the purposes of discount and deposit. The United States Bank has a capital of thirty-five millions of dollars, of which the general government is a stockholder to the amount of seven millions, and appoints five out of twenty-five

directors, twenty being chosen annually by the stockholders at large. The influence which government has over this bank will greatly facilitate all its monied operations in future, both in war and in peace. The intrinsic benefits which banking institutions afford to every commercial community are too well known to require any minute elucidation. The youthful student will find those benefits fully displayed in Sir James Stuart's Work on political economy ; Dr. Smith's, “ Wealth of Nations," and in Mr. Thornton's admirable Treatise on Paper Credit.

The national debt of the United States at present does not amount to one hundred and twenty millions of dollars. The expense of the revolutionary war, which gave independence and sovereignty to America, was upwards of one hundred and thirty-five millions of dollars. About one-half of this expense was paid by taxes, levied and collected during the war, and the residue remained a debt due from the United and the separate States on the return of

peace, in 1783. The advances made from the American Treasury were principally in paper, called Continental Money, which, ultimately, depreciated so much that one thousand dollars would not buy more than one dollar in silver; but the specie value of the debt, independently of the

paper depreciation, amounted in April, 1783, to 842,000,375, and the annual interest to 82,415,956. The interest, however, was not paid under the old confederation; and in 1790, the debt amounted to 854,124,464 ; and the State debts, including interest, were estimated at 825,000,000. Mr. Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury, after the establishment of the Federal Constitution, advised the general government to assume the whole of this debt, both state and continental, amounting to 879,000,000, and bearing an annual interest of 84,687,444, but Congress assumed only 821,500,000, of the debts of the several States, which were appropriated to each State. On the 31st day of December, 1794, the sum total of the unredeemed debt was 876,096,468.

[blocks in formation]

Provision was made by law, first for paying the interest, and then for the redemption of the capital of the debt. For the payment of the interest, the permanent duties on imported articles, the tonnage duties, and duties on spirits distilled within the United States, and on stills, after reserving 8600,000 for the support of the general government and the national defence, were appropriated and pledged. The Sinking Fund, for the redemption of the debt, was placed under the management of the President of the Senate, the Chief Justice of the United States, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Treasury, and the Attorney General, for the time being, as Commissioners of the Sinking Fund, which consisted of the surplus of the duties on imports and tonnage to the end of the year 1770; the proceed of loans, not exceeding 82,000,000 ; the interest on the public debt, purchased, redeemed, or paid into the Treasury, together with the surpluses of monies

арpropriated for interest; and, lastly, the avails of the public lands. The amount of debt purchased by the Commissioners of the Sinking Fund, up to the 31st of December, 1794, was 82,265,022. In March, 1795, Congress made considerable additions to the income of the Sinking Fund, and appropriated and vested them in the Commissioners, in trust, till the whole debt should be redeemed.

On the 1st of January, 1800, the total debt, funded and temporary, of the United States, amounted to 879,433,820; the debts contracted by the general government from the year 1790 to 1800, being 810,786,100, and the debts discharged during that time being 88,164,232. The causes of the augmentation of the debt were the extraordinary expenses incurred in the wars with the Indians; 81,250,000 expended in suppressing two insurrections in Pennsylvania, on account of the tax on whiskey; more than $1,500,000 spent in the transactions of the United States with Algiers and the other Barbary powers, and the still greater expenses occasioned by the disputes with revolutionary France, in 1798 and 1799. On a

change of administration, in 1801, the Sinking Fund was modified anew, and on the 28th of April, 1802, Congress enacted, that 87,300,000 should be appropriated annually to the Sinking Fund; which was to be applied first to paying the interest and principal of the public debt. In 180s, the amount of debt was a little more than 870,000,000, of which 832,119,211 were owned by foreigners-by the English, 815,882,797 ; the Dutch, 813,693,918; other foreigners, 82,542,495. Of the residue, particular States owned 85,603,564; incorporated bodies in the United States, 810,096,398; individuals, 822,330,606.

In the purchase of Louisiana the United States paid the French government 815,000,000; of which 83,750,000 were to be paid to the American merchants, for their claims on that government, and 811,250,000 to be paid in stock, at six per cent.--the interest payable in Europe, and the principal payable in four equal annual instalments, the first becoming due in 1818. By the Act of Congress, 10th Nov. 1803, creating this stock, 8700,000 annually was added to the Sinking Fund, making its income 88,000,000. After the United States had concluded peace with France, in 1800, the vast increase of their revenues, arising from duties on imports and tonnage, owing to a rapidly increasing population, and an unparalleled extension of commerce, enabled them to pay off a large proportion of the debt, which on the 1st January, 1812, was 845,154,489; the payments in redemption, from the 1st of April

, 1801, to Jan. 1, 1812, being 846,022,8 10. During this period no additional tax was laid, except a duty of two and a half per cent. on goods imported, paying ad valorem duties. The sums received from 1801 to 1811, inclusive, and applicable to the payment of the interest and principal of the debt was about 890,000,000.

In the month of June, 1812, Mr. Madison and the Senate of the United States declared war against England, about the same time that Bonaparte left France . with an army of five hundred thousand men, for the

« PreviousContinue »