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1793.]

MR. GILES'S RESOLUTIONS.

495

appended to it, Mr. Giles hastily drew conclusions that the finances had been illegally and improperly managed by the Secretary.

He therefore, confident in the soundness of his views, and in his ability to explain them, made an attack against the Secretary on a point on which it is probable that no man was more invulnerable.

Mr. Giles frankly declared that he had not been able to understand the Secretary's financial reports, and then, in a plausible statement of facts, he showed that the loans made of the bank were unnecessary, as the government at that very time had deposits to an amount exceeding the loan.

The resolutions of Mr. Giles were referred to the Committee of the Whole, by a decisive majority.

Mr. Hamilton, in his vindication, could not disguise his indignant feelings towards his assailants, and in language scarcely consistent with the respect considered due to a member of the Legislature, he pointed out a tissue of errors both of fact and reasoning, and which he thought ought not to be referred to gross ignorance, and which he intimated must be ascribed to discreditable motives. He satisfied all that none of the public money was unaccounted for, and that the funds of the treasury had been honestly, and perhaps judiciously, used.

After this report, or rather series of reports, was concluded, Mr. Giles presented a new set of resolutions, in which the Secretary was charged with violating the acts of August fourth and August twelfth, which authorised two several loans for two different purposes, by his blending the two loans: they further alleged that, in doing so, he had also exceeded the authority given him by the President, and that he had been guilty of a great inde

496

MR. GILES'S RESOLUTIONS.

[CHAP. VI.

corum in arraigning the motives of the members of the Legislature who had instituted the inquiry.

These resolutions were warmly debated for two days by Messrs. Giles, Findley, Mercer, and Madison, in support of them; and by Messrs. Barnwell, Smith of Delaware, Ames, Lawrence, and Gerry against them.

Mr. Madison earnestly supported the resolutions of his colleagues, and having shown that the terms of the acts of Congress, and the instructions of the Magistrate had not been complied with, he considered it impossible that the majority could negative resolutions which affirmed those facts. He assailed also, with much force, the reasons which the Secretary had urged in his justification for bringing over from Europe funds which had been there obtained by loan, and in not communicating the receipt of the money to the Commissioners of the Sinking fund.

Mr. Findley showed that the bank had been assisted by the public deposits at the very times it most needed aid, and that the money which had been obtained on interest was thus suffered to be unproductive.

Every deviation from the letter of the acts of Congress, and of the President's instructions, was ingeniously defended; and Mr. Madison having urged that the negotiation of loans constituted no part of the Secretary's official duty, but was confided exclusively to the head of the Executive, he was taunted with inconsistency in censuring the Secretary for not giving information to the Commissioners of the Sinking fund that he had received the proceeds of the loan into the treasury, as if it made any difference in the Secretary's duties touching the actual state of the treasury, whether the money it contained proceeded from one source or another.

The resolutions were, however, rejected by very large

1793.]

MR. HAMILTON EXCULPATED.

497

majorities, not more than sixteen voting in favor of any one, and not more than seven or eight in favor of most of them.

When there was such a concurrence of voices in favor of exculpating the Secretary, we must suppose that the charges were regarded by men of both parties as either unsustained, or of too frivolous a character to warrant the censure of the House on a man whose ability all acknowledged, and whose integrity was no longer questioned. Yet the weight of this exculpatory vote was not a little diminished by the fact that the majority comprehended three bank directors, and some fifteen or more stockholders of the bank, who had a direct interest in the accommodation which had been afforded to the bank.1

Soon after the Secretary's report on the thirtieth of November, the Federal party proposed the assumption of the balances which should be found due from the United States to the individual States, which was opposed by the opponents to the former assumption. A decisive majority were, however, in favor of it; and when an amendment was proposed by a member of the opposition, which was calculated to prevent the holders of these debts from becoming the prey of speculators, the amendment was rejected. On the passage of the bill, the House being equally divided, it was carried by the vote of the Speaker.

In the discussion of the bill for repaying the two millions borrowed of the bank, Mr. Madison, not deeming it prudent for the Government, in the state of its finances, to anticipate this payment of two millions to the United States, for the chance of saving thirty-five thousand dollars, and which Hamilton himself soon reduced to twenty 1 See Mr. Jefferson's explanation of the vote of the House, in his Am. March 2d, 1793.

VOL. I. -32

498

REIMBURSEMENT BILL REJECTED.

[CHAP. VI.

thousand dollars a year, liable as it was to be reduced by commissions, loss of interest by delay, to say nothing of fluctuations of exchange, proposed to insert two hundred thousand dollars-the amount of the stipulated annual payment—in lieu of the two millions, which was rejected by a single vote.

The bill was not, however, passed, nor was it finally acted on until the twenty-seventh of February, when the motion to strike out the first section (one of the modes of rejecting a bill) which in December had received but seventeen votes, was passed without opposition.

What had occasioned this change in two months? No visible cause is presented, except that the new assumption bill had been, in the interval, rejected by the Senate, under the influence, as Mr. Jefferson suggests, of the President,' who prevailed on Mr. Langdon to vote against it, and who probably also influenced his colleague, Mr. Wingate. After this bill failed, which would have presented so fair an opportunity of speculation by those who had money, or could borrow it, it was no longer an object with those who had such views to furnish the bank with new means of lending. The two bills had been introduced nearly at the same time, and since, after one had failed, the other was suffered to fail when they had the means of passing it, the fact seems to show that the two were connected together, and that while one offered the occasion of speculation, the other provided the means of profiting by it."

1 Am. IV. Jefferson, page 478.

2 It was boldly denied by Mr. Sedgwick in Congress that members of that body had speculated in the public debt when they were about to fund it, and this has been regarded as sufficient to stamp Mr. Jefferson's charges as unfounded calumnies. In the absence of positive proof, we

1798.]

SLAVE-TRADE AND NEGRO SLAVERY.

499

Mr. Ames concluded the debate in a speech of a very conciliatory character. He readily testified to the purity of the motives of the mover of the resolutions; but he appealed, in a strain of persuasive eloquence, to the mischievous consequences of this want of harmony between the different branches of the government both at home and abroad, and besought the House, when they were satisfied that the motives of the Secretary were pure, and that he had aimed to promote the public welfare, not to inflict the disproportionate punishment for exercising his discretionary powers somewhat further than the law allowed. It is not improbable that the majority was increased by this speech.

During these financial discussions, a subject was introduced which never failed to touch the sensibility of a portion of the Southern members. This was the subject of the slave-trade. Abolition societies from most of the States had petitioned Congress against this trade, both at this and the preceding session, but these petitions had been laid on the table. A petition, however, from Warner Mifflin, a Quaker, against slavery itself, had been presented in the early part of the session, and this having also been laid on the table, Mr. Steele, on a subsequent day, brought it to the notice of the House, and moved that it be returned to its author. After some remarks by Mr. Smith, of South Carolina, the motion was carried.

Connected with this subject was a law in the execution must resort to probabilities, and they seem greatly to be in favor of the truth of Mr. Jefferson's views, from the following facts:

The charge was made and repeated again and again after Mr. Sedgwick's denial as before. In one case, it was urged by a writer who gave his name, Henry Banks, who stated that many members had grown suddenly rich, without any visible cause for the change: and he alleges that large credits were advanced to members to enable them to purchase stock.

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