A BAD BEGINNING
Democratick Editorials: Essays in Jacksonian Political Economy
The Division of Political Classes
DESPOTISM OF ANDREW JACKSON
Evening Post, May 22 and 23, 1834. Title added by Sedgwick; Roman numerals added.
Hitherto despotism has assuredly been considered as the concentration of all power in one man, or in a few privileged persons, and its appropriate exercise the oppression of the great majority of the people. But the Presidential Bank candidates in the Senate of the United States, and the bribed tools of the Bank who preside over the Bank presses, have lately discovered, or rather invented, an entire new species of despotism. They have found out that pure republican despotism consists in administering the Constitution and laws with an express reference to, and entirely for, the benefit of the people at large.
If we examine the whole course of that extraordinary despot, the President of the United States, it will be found that the very essence of his usurpation consists in interpreting the Constitution, and administering the laws, for the benefit of the many instead of the few. This is the true character of his despotism, and for this is he denounced by those who wish to free the people from this original and extraordinary tyranny, by reversing the picture, and placing the rights and interest of the many at the mercy of the few. In order more clearly to exemplify the character of General Jackson's despotism, we will pass in brief review the prominent acts of his administration.
If we comprehend the nature and principles of a free government, it consists in the guaranty of EQUAL RIGHTS to all free citizens. We know of no other definition of liberty than this. Liberty is, in short, nothing more than the total absence of all MONOPOLIES of all kinds, whether of rank, wealth, or privilege. When General Jackson was elected by a large majority of the people of the United States to the first office in their gift, he found in successful operation a system calculated, if not intended, to sap the whole fabric of equal rights, because it consisted of little else than monopolies, either open and palpable, or in some flimsy disguise or other calculated to cheat the people into a quiet acquiescence.
The first was an oppressive tariff, a system of bounties in disguise, under the operation of which the consumers of domestic manufactures were obliged to pay from twenty-five to two hundred per cent. more for certain indispensable articles of consumption than he would have paid had things been suffered to take their natural course. The consumers of an article always constitute a much greater number of the people than the manufacturers, simply because one man can supply the wants of many. Hence this bounty was a device to tax the many for the benefit of the few. It operated exclusively in favour of the smaller class, and exclusively against the most numerous. It was, therefore, not only destructive of the principle of EQUAL RIGHTS, but it was a sacrifice of the rights of a great majority in behalf of a small minority.
The first act of General Jackson was to set his face against this anti-republican principle of protecting one class of labour at the expense of the others. He made use of his personal and political influence to bring down the rate of duties on importations to their proper standard, namely, the wants of the government, in which all were equally concerned; and that influence, aided by the good sense of the people, was on the point of being successful, when, by a juggle between Messrs. Clay and Calhoun, the measure was transferred to the Senate. That body passed a bill similar to one on the eve of passing the House of Representatives, which was sent to the latter as an amendment to their own bill, and adopted with wonderful docility. The object of this most excellent legerdemain was to give to Messrs. Clay and Calhoun the credit of an adjustment of the tariff, which but for General Jackson would have remained a subject of heart burning and contention, in all probability to this day. By this notorious assumption Mr. Clay sought to gain credit for his disinterestedly sacrificing his friends on the altar of Union, while Mr. Calhoun was delighted with so capital an excuse for postponing his plan of nullification to a more favourable opportunity. It was a cunning manoeuvre; but, cunning is not wisdom, any more than paper money is gold. Notwithstanding the absurd pretensions of these two gentlemen to the honour of adjusting the tariff, there is probably not a rational man in the United States who is not satisfied that the real pacificator was General Jackson, and that Mr. Clay only assented to what he could not prevent. He found the current going strongly against him, and was nothing more than honest King Log, floating with the tide.
This was General Jackson's first act of despotism. He interfered to relieve the many from those burthens which had been imposed on them for the benefit of the few; he restored, in this instance, the EQUAL RIGHTS of all, and for this he is denounced a despot and usurper.
When General Jackson came into office he found another system in operation, calculated not only to undermine and destroy the principles and independence of the people, but to trench upon the sacred republican doctrine of EQUAL RIGHTS. We allude to Mr. Clay's other grand lever by the aid of which he hoped to raise his heavy momentum to the height of his lofty ambition—his system of national internal improvement. Besides the constitutional difficulty arising from the necessary interference with state jurisdictions, there were other powerful objections to this system. It placed the whole revenues of the people of the United States at the disposal of Congress, for purposes of political influence. It enabled ambitious politicians to buy up a township with a new bridge; a district with a road, and a state with a canal. It gave to the General Government an irresistible power over the elections of the states, and constituted the very basis of consolidation. In addition to all this, it was a direct and palpable encroachment on the equal rights of the citizens. It was taxing one state for the exclusive benefit of another; nay, it was diverting money contributed by one state to purposes injurious to the interests of that state. It was appropriating the funds contributed by New-York for the general benefit, to the Ohio and Chesapeake Canal, the successful completion of which it was boasted would be highly injurious to her own internal navigation. In short, it was a system of favouritism entirely destructive to EQUAL RIGHTS, inasmuch as it was entirely impossible that all should partake equally in its benefits, while all were taxed equally for its expenditures.
To test the firmness of the old patriot, the great champion of EQUAL RIGHTS, a bill was concocted by the combined ingenuity of the advocates of internal improvement, combining such powerful temptations, and appealing to so many sectional interests, that it was hoped General Jackson either would not dare to interpose his constitutional prerogative to arrest its passage, or that if he did, the consequences would be fatal to his popularity. But the old patriot was not to be frightened from his duty, and besides has a generous confidence in the intelligence and integrity of his fellow-citizens. He knows by glorious experience that the true way to the affections and confidence of a free and enlightened people, is to stand forth in defence of the EQUAL RIGHTS of all. He vetoed this great bribery bill and the people honoured his firmness, and sustained him in the great effort he had made in their behalf. This is the second great usurpation of General Jackson, and the second great example of his despotism. He interposed to protect the people from a system which afforded a pretext for applying the means of the many to the purposes of the few, and furnished almost unbounded resources for corrupting the people with their own money.
We shall continue the history of the despotism of Andrew Jackson in our paper of to-morrow.
The next text on which the Bank coalition have rung the changes of "tyranny," "despot," and "usurper," is the veto on Mr. Clay's bill for distributing the public lands among the respective states. The people should understand that these lands are their exclusive property. They contribute a general source of revenue common and equal to all. But the bill of Mr. Clay, no doubt for the purpose of raising the popularity of that permanent candidate for national honours in the west, established a distinction in favour of certain states, of either twelve or fifteen per cent.—we cannot just now be certain which—on the plea that a large portion of these lands were within their limits, although they were the property of the people of the United States.
General Jackson justly considered this preference of certain states over others as not only unconstitutional, but unjust, and for these and other cogent reasons, to which the coalition has never been able to fabricate an answer, declined to sanction the bill. Here, as in every other act of his administration, he stood forward the champion of the EQUAL RIGHTS of the people, in opposing an unequal distribution of their common property. Yet for this, among other acts equally in defence or vindication of these rights it has been thundered forth to the people that he is a tyrant and usurper.
But it is in relation to his course with regard to the Bank of the United States, that he appears most emphatically as the champion of the Constitution and the EQUAL RIGHTS of the people. Fully aware of the great truth, that monopolies, whether of rank or privilege, whether possessed by virtue of hereditary descent or conferred by legislative folly or legislative corruption, were the most sly and dangerous enemies to equal rights ever devised by the cunning of avarice or the wiles of ambition, he saw in the vast accumulation of power in that institution, and its evident disposition to exercise, as well as perpetuate it, the elements of destruction to the freedom of the people and the independence of their government. He, therefore, with the spirit and firmness becoming his character and station as the ruler of a free people, determined to exercise his constitutional prerogative in arresting its usurpations, and preventing their being perpetuated.
The child, the champion, and the representative of the great democracy of the United States, he felt himself identified with their interests and feelings. He was one of themselves, and as such had long seen and felt the oppressions which a great concentrated money power, extending its influence, nay, its control, over the currency, and consequently the prosperity of the country throughout every nook and corner of the land, had inflicted or might inflict upon the people. He saw in the nature, and in the acts, of this enormous monopoly, an evident tendency, as well as intention, to subjugate the states and their government to its will; and like himself, and in conformity with the whole tenor of his life, he resolved to risk his place, his popularity, his repose, in behalf of the EQUAL RIGHTS of the people.
He saw, moreover, as every true democrat must see, who interprets the Constitution upon its true principles, that the creation of a Bank with the privilege of establishing its branches in every state, without their consent, was not delegated by the states to the general government; and he saw that by one of the first declaratory amendments of the Constitution, that "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited to it by the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people."
But there is, unfortunately, a clause in the Constitution, which is somewhat of the consistency of India rubber, and by proper application can be stretched so as to unite the opposite extremes of irreconcileable contradictions. It is somewhat like the old gentleman's will in the Tale of a Tub, about which Lord Peter, Martin and Jack disputed so learnedly, and which at one time was a loaf of brown bread, at another a shoulder of mutton. It admits of a wonderful latitude of construction, and an ingenious man can find no great difficulty in interpreting it to suit his own particular interests. We allude to the following, which will be found among the enumeration of the powers of Congress:
"To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof."
The sticklers for state rights in the Convention which adopted the Constitution, and in the State Conventions to which it was referred for acceptance or rejection, did not much relish this saving clause. They imagined they saw in it a sort of Pandora's box, which, if once fairly opened, would cast forth a legion of constructive powers and constructive usurpations. They thought they perceived in these two little words "NECESSARY AND PROPER," a degree of elasticity which might be expanded so as to comprehend almost any thing that a majority of Congress might choose to ascribe to them. They were, in our opinion, not much mistaken in their anticipations, although probably they scarcely dreamed that the constructive ingenuity of the times would find that to be indispensably "necessary" which the country was enabled for many years to dispense with, during which time it enjoyed a degree of prosperity which excited the envy and admiration of the world!
However this may be, the people of the United States will do well to bear in mind, when they hear General Jackson denounced as a tyrant and usurper for the course he has pursued in relation to the Bank, that this institution has no other legs in the Constitution to stand upon than those two little words "necessary and proper." If it is necessary and proper, then it may be re-chartered under the Constitution; but it has no right to demand a re-charter. If it is not necessary and proper, then it ought never to have been chartered, and ought not to be continued one moment longer than the faith of the nation is pledged.
As this is one of those points which rests on the nice interpretation of words, it naturally depends for its decision on the general bias of the two parties in the controversy. The party attached by habit, education, interests, or prejudice, to a consolidated or strong government, will interpret "necessary and proper" one way, and the party opposed to any accumulation of constructive powers in the federal government, will interpret them the other way. General Hamilton, for example, considered a Bank of the United States "necessary and proper," while Mr. Jefferson believed, and has repeatedly denounced it, to be the most dangerous infraction of the constitution ever attempted under the cloak of constructive power. Such has always been the opinion of the great leaders of the democracy of the United States, although some of them have yielded to the voice of a majority of Congress, mistaking it for that of the people.
We have premised thus much in order to show that the course pursued by General Jackson, in regard to the Bank of the United States, is in perfect consonance with the known principles of the democracy, the people of the United States. When the Democratic Party had the ascendency, they took the first opportunity that offered to put an end to the first Bank of the United States, and now they avail themselves of a similar occasion to give a like demonstration of their settled principles and policy. General Jackson would not have been re-elected by that party, against all the corruptions of the Bank, combined with the whole force of all the disjointed, incongruous elements of opposition, after he had placed his Veto on its re-charter, had he not acted in this instance in strict conformity with the sentiments of a great majority of the democracy of the United States. Here as in every other act of his administration, they saw in him the great opponent of monopolies, the stern, inflexible champion of EQUAL RIGHTS.
With regard to the other alleged acts of despotism charged upon this true unwavering patriot, such as the removal of Mr. Duane from office,*59 and the appointment of one of the very ablest and purest men of this country in his stead; the subsequent removal of the deposites from the Bank of the United States, and the protest against the ex-parte condemnation of the "Independent Aristocratic Body," more has already been said in his defence than such charges merited. We do not believe the Senators making them believed one word they themselves uttered on the subject, because, though tainted to the core by personal antipathies and personal ambition, they are men of too clear intellect, seriously to cherish such ideas of the constitution as they have lately put forth to the people. These speeches and denunciations, like those on the subject of universal distress and bankruptcy, were merely made for effect. They certainly could not believe that what the constitution expressly delegates was intended to be withheld; that what was expressly conceded by the charter of the Bank of the United States was intended to be denied; or that the exercise of a privilege inherent in human nature, to wit, that of self-defence, was an outrage on the privileges of the Senate. Real honest error may sometimes be combated successfully by argument; but we know of no way of convincing a man who only affects to be in the wrong in order to deceive others, and shall therefore spare ourselves and our readers any further discussion with opponents who are not in earnest, but who have so high an opinion of the sagacity of the people, that they think they can make them believe what they do not believe themselves.
It will be perceived from this brief analysis of the leading measures of General Jackson's administration, that all his "tyranny" has consisted in successfully interposing the Constitution of the United States in defence of the EQUAL RIGHTS of the people; and that all his "usurpations" have been confined to checking those of the advocates of consolidation, disunion, monopolies, and lastly a great consolidated moneyed aristocracy, equally dangerous to liberty from the power it legally possesses, and those it has usurped. Yet this is the man whom the usurpers themselves denounce as a usurper. This is the man against whom the concentrated venom of disappointed ambition and baffled avarice is vainly striving to contend in the heads and hearts of the American people, and to bury under a mass of wilful calumnies. This is the very man whose whole soul is wound up to the great and glorious task of restoring the EQUAL RIGHTS of his fellow-citizens, as they are guarantied by the letter and spirit of the constitution. May Providence send us a succession of such USURPERS as Andrew Jackson, and spare the people from such champions of liberty as Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun, Daniel Webster, George Poindexter, and Nicholas Biddle!
Notes for this chapter
William John Duane, secretary of the treasury from June to October of 1833, was removed after refusing to obey Jackson's directive to transfer federal government deposits from the Bank of the United States to state banks.—Ed.
A BAD BEGINNING
End of Notes
THE DIVISION OF PARTIES
Evening Post, November 4, 1834. Title added by Sedgwick.
Since the organization of the Government of the United States the people of this country have been divided into two great parties. One of these parties has undergone various changes of name; the other has continued steadfast alike to its appellation and to its principles, and is now, as it was at first, the DEMOCRACY. Both parties have ever contended for the same opposite ends which originally caused the division—whatever may have been, at different times, the particular means which furnished the immediate subject of dispute. The great object of the struggles of the Democracy has been to confine the action of the General Government within the limits marked out in the Constitution: the great object of the party opposed to the Democracy has ever been to overleap those boundaries, and give to the General Government greater powers and a wider field for their exercise. The doctrine of the one party is that all power not expressly and clearly delegated to the General Government, remains with the States and with the People: the doctrine of the other party is that the vigour and efficacy of the General Government should be strengthened by a free construction of its powers. The one party sees danger from the encroachments of the General Government; the other affects to see danger from the encroachments of the States.
This original line of separation between the two great political parties of the republic, though it existed under the old Confederation, and was distinctly marked in the controversy which preceded the formation and adoption of the present Constitution, was greatly widened and strengthened by the project of a National Bank, brought forward in 1791. This was the first great question which occurred under the new Constitution to test whether the provisions of that instrument were to be interpreted according to their strict and literal meaning; or whether they might be stretched to include objects and powers which had never been delegated to the General Government, and which consequently still resided with the states as separate sovereignties.
The proposition of the Bank was recommended by the Secretary of the Treasury on the ground that such an institution would be "of primary importance to the prosperous administration of the finances, and of the greatest utility in the operations connected with the support of public credit." This scheme, then, as now, was opposed on various grounds; but the constitutional objection constituted then, as it does at the present day, the main reason of the uncompromising and invincible hostility of the democracy to the measure. They considered it as the exercise of a very important power which had never been given by the states or the people to the General Government, and which the General Government could not therefore exercise without being guilty of usurpation. Those who contended that the Government possessed the power, effected their immediate object; but the controversy still exists. And it is of no consequence to tell the democracy that it is now established by various precedents, and by decisions of the Supreme Court, that this power is fairly incidental to certain other powers expressly granted; for this is only telling them that the advocates of free construction have, at times, had the ascendancy in the Executive and Legislative, and, at all times, in the Judiciary department of the Government. The Bank question stands now on precisely the same footing that it originally did; it is now, as it was at first, a matter of controversy between the two great parties of this country—between parties as opposite as day and night—between parties which contend, one for the consolidation and enlargement of the powers of the General Government, and the other for strictly limiting that Government to the objects for which it was instituted, and to the exercise of the means with which it was entrusted. The one party is for a popular Government; the other for an aristocracy. The one party is composed, in a great measure, of the farmers, mechanics, labourers, and other producers of the middling and lower classes, (according to the common gradation by the scale of wealth,) and the other of the consumers, the rich, the proud, the privileged—of those who, if our Government were converted into an aristocracy, would become our dukes, lords, marquises and baronets. The question is still disputed between these two parties—it is ever a new question—and whether the democracy or the aristocracy shall succeed in the present struggle, the fight will be renewed, whenever the defeated party shall be again able to muster strength enough to take the field. The privilege of self-government is one which the people will never be permitted to enjoy unmolested. Power and wealth are continually stealing from the many to the few. There is a class continually gaining ground in the community, who desire to monopolize the advantages of the Government, to hedge themselves round with exclusive privileges, and elevate themselves at the expense of the great body of the people. These, in our society, are emphatically the aristocracy; and these, with all such as their means of persuasion, or corruption, or intimidation, can move to act with them, constitute the party which are now struggling against the democracy, for the perpetuation of an odious and dangerous moneyed institution.
Putting out of view, for the present, all other objections to the United States Bank,—that it is a monopoly, that it possesses enormous and overshadowing power, that it has been most corruptly managed, and that it is identified with political leaders to whom the people of the United States must ever be strongly opposed—the constitutional objection alone is an insurmountable objection to it.
The Government of the United States is a limited sovereignty. The powers which it may exercise are expressly enumerated in the Constitution. None not thus stated, or that are not "necessary and proper" to carry those which are stated into effect, can be allowed to be exercised by it. The power to establish a bank is not expressly given; neither is incidental; since it cannot be shown to be "necessary" to carry the powers which are given, or any of them, into effect. That power cannot therefore be exercised without transcending the Constitutional limits.
This is the democratic argument stated in its briefest form. The aristocratic argument in favour of the power is founded on the dangerous heresy that the Constitution says one thing, and means another. That necessary does not mean necessary, but simply convenient. By a mode of reasoning not looser than this it would be easy to prove that our Government ought to be changed into a Monarchy, Henry Clay crowned King, and the opposition members of the Senate made peers of the realm; and power, place and perquisites given to them and their heirs forever.
RICH AND POOR
Evening Post, November 4, 1834. Misdated by Sedgwick.
The rich perceive, acknowledge, and act upon a common interest, and why not the poor? Yet the moment the latter are called upon to combine for the preservation of their rights, forsooth the community is in danger! Property is no longer secure, and life in jeopardy. This cant has descended to us from those times when the poor and labouring classes had no stake in the community, and no rights except such as they could acquire by force. But the times have changed, though the cant remains the same. The scrip nobility of this Republic have adopted towards the free people of this Republic the same language which the Feudal Barons and the despot who contested with them the power of oppressing the people, used towards their serfs and villains, as they were opprobiously called.
These would-be lordlings of the Paper Dynasty, cannot or will not perceive, that there is some difference in the situation and feelings of the people of the United States, and those of the despotic governments of Europe. They forget that at this moment our people, we mean emphatically the class which labours with its own hands, is in possession of a greater portion of the property and intelligence of this country, ay, ten times over, than all the creatures of the paper credit system put together. This property is indeed more widely and equally distributed among the people than among the phantoms of the paper system, and so much the better. And as to their intelligence, let any man talk with them, and if he does not learn something it is his own fault. They are as well acquainted with the rights of person and property, and have as just a regard for them, as the most illustrious lordling of the scrip nobility. And why should they not? Who and what are the great majority of the wealthy people of this city—we may say of this country? Are they not (we say it not in disparagement, but in high commendation) are they not men who began the world comparatively poor with ordinary education and ordinary means? And what should make them so much wiser than their neighbours? Is it because they live in better style, ride in carriages, and have more money—or at least more credit than their poorer neighbours? Does a man become wiser, stronger, or more virtuous and patriotic, because he has a fine house over his head? Does he love his country the better because he has a French cook, and a box at the opera? Or does he grow more learned, logical and profound by intense study of the daybook, ledger, bills of exchange, bank promises, and notes of hand?
Of all the countries on the face of the earth, or that ever existed on the face of the earth, this is the one where the claims of wealth and aristocracy are the most unfounded, absurd and ridiculous. With no claim to hereditary distinctions; with no exclusive rights except what they derive from monopolies, and no power of perpetuating their estates in their posterity, the assumption of aristocratic airs and claims is supremely ridiculous. To-morrow they themselves may be beggars for aught they know, or at all events their children may become so. Their posterity in the second generation will have to begin the world again, and work for a living as did their forefathers. And yet the moment a man becomes rich among us, he sets up for wisdom—he despises the poor and ignorant—he sets up for patriotism: he is your only man who has a stake in the community, and therefore the only one who ought to have a voice in the state. What folly is this? And how contemptible his presumption? He is not a whit wiser, better or more patriotic than when he commenced the world, a waggon driver. Nay not half so patriotic, for he would see his country disgraced a thousand times, rather than see one fall of the stocks, unless perhaps he had been speculating on such a contingency. To him a victory is only of consequence, as it raises, and a defeat only to be lamented, as it depresses a loan. His soul is wrapped up in a certificate of scrip, or a Bank note. Witness the conduct of these pure patriots, during the late war, when they, at least a large proportion of them, not only withheld all their support from the Government, but used all their influence to prevent others from giving their assistance. Yet these are the people who alone have a stake in the community, and of course exclusively monopolize patriotism.
But let us ask what and where is the danger of a combination of the labouring classes in vindication of their political principles, or in defence of their menaced rights? Have they not the right to act in concert, when their opponents act in concert? Nay, is it not their bounden duty to combine against the only enemy they have to fear as yet in this free country, monopoly and a great paper system that grinds them to the dust? Truly this is strange republican doctrine, and this is a strange republican country, where men cannot unite in one common effort, in one common cause, without rousing the cry of danger to the rights of person and property. Is not this a government of the people, founded on the rights of the people, and instituted for the express object of guarding them against the encroachments and usurpations of power? And if they are not permitted the possession of common interest; the exercise of a common feeling; if they cannot combine to resist by constitutional means, these encroachments; to what purpose were they declared free to exercise the right of suffrage in the choice of rulers, and the making of laws?
And what we ask is the power against which the people, not only of this country, but of almost all Europe, are called upon to array themselves, and the encroachment on their rights, they are summoned to resist? Is it not emphatically, the power of monopoly, and the encroachments of corporate privileges of every kind, which the cupidity of the rich engenders to the injury of the poor?
It was to guard against the encroachments of power, the insatiate ambition of wealth that this government was instituted, by the people themselves. But the objects which call for the peculiar jealousy and watchfulness of the people, are not now what they once were. The cautions of the early writers in favour of the liberties of mankind, have in some measure become obsolete and inapplicable. We are menaced by our old enemies, avarice and ambition, under a new name and form. The tyrant is changed from a steel-clad feudal baron, or a minor despot, at the head of thousands of ruffian followers, to a mighty civil gentleman, who comes mincing and bowing to the people with a quill behind his ear, at the head of countless millions of magnificent promises. He promises to make every body rich; he promises to pave cities with gold; and he promises to pay. In short he is made up of promises. He will do wonders, such as never were seen or heard of, provided the people will only allow him to make his promises, equal to silver and gold, and human labour, and grant him the exclusive benefits of all the great blessings he intends to confer on them. He is the sly, selfish, grasping and insatiable tyrant, the people are now to guard against. A CONCENTRATED MONEY POWER; a usurper in the disguise of a benefactor; an agent exercising privileges which his principal never possessed; an impostor who, while he affects to wear chains, is placed above those who are free; a chartered libertine, that pretends to be manacled only that he may the more safely pick our pockets, and lord it over our rights. This is the enemy we are now to encounter and overcome, before we can expect to enjoy the substantial realities of freedom.
THE STREET OF THE PALACES
Plaindealer, December 10, 1836.
There is, in the city of Genoa, a very elegant street, commonly called, The Street of the Palaces. It is broad and regular, and is flanked, on each side, with rows of spacious and superb palaces, whose marble fronts, of the most costly and imposing architecture, give an air of exceeding grandeur to the place. Here reside the principal aristocracy of Genoa; the families of Balbi, Doria, and many others of those who possess patents of nobility and exclusive privileges. The lower orders of the people, when they pass before these proud edifices, and cast their eyes over the striking evidences which the lordly exteriors exhibit of the vast wealth and power of the titled possessors, may naturally be supposed to think of their own humble dwellings and slender possessions, and to curse in their hearts those institutions of their country which divide society into such extremes of condition, forcing the many to toil and sweat for the pampered and privileged few. Wretched indeed are the serfs and vassals of those misgoverned lands, where a handful of men compose the privileged orders, monopolising political power, diverting to their peculiar advantage the sources of pecuniary emolument, and feasting, in luxurious idleness, on the fruits of the hard earnings of the poor.
But is this condition of things confined to Genoa, or to European countries? Is there no parallel for it in our own? Have we not, in this very city, our "Street of the Palaces," adorned with structures as superb as those of Genoa in exterior magnificence, and containing within them vaster treasures of wealth? Have we not, too, our privileged orders? our scrip nobility? aristocrats, clothed with special immunities, who control, indirectly, but certainly, the political power of the state, monopolise the most copious sources of pecuniary profit, and wring the very crust from the hard hand of toil? Have we not, in short, like the wretched serfs of Europe, our lordly masters,
"Who make us slaves, and tell us 'tis their charter?"
If any man doubts how these questions should be answered, let him walk through Wall-street. He will there see a street of palaces, whose stately marble walls rival those of Balbi and Doria. If he inquires to whom those costly fabrics belong, he will be told to the exclusively privileged of this land of equal laws! If he asks concerning the political power of the owners, he will ascertain that three-fourths of the legislators of the state are of their own order, and deeply interested in preserving and extending the privileges they enjoy. If he investigates the sources of their prodigious wealth, he will discover that it is extorted, under various delusive names, and by a deceptive process, from the pockets of the unprivileged and unprotected poor. These are the masters in this land of freedom. These are our aristocracy, our scrip nobility, our privileged order of charter-mongers and money-changers! Serfs of free America! bow your necks submissively to the yoke, for these exchequer barons have you fully in their power, and resistance now would but make the burden more galling. Do they not boast that they will be represented in the halls of legislation, and that the people cannot help themselves? Do not their servile newspaper mouth-pieces prate of the impolicy of giving an inch to the people, lest they should demand an ell? Do they not threaten, that unless the people restrict their requests within the narrowest compass, they will absolutely grant them nothing?—that they will not relax their fetters at all, lest they should next strive to snap them entirely asunder?
These are not figures of speech. Alas! we feel in no mood to be rhetorical. Tropes and figures are the language of the free, and we are slaves!—slaves to most ignoble masters, to a low-minded, ignorant, and rapacious order of money-changers. We speak, therefore, not in figures, but in the simplest and soberest phrase. We speak plain truths in plain words, and only give utterance to sentiments that involuntarily rose in our mind, as we glided this morning through the Street of the Palaces, beneath the frowning walls of its marble structures, fearing that our very thoughts might be construed into a breach of privilege. But thank heaven! the day has not yet come—though perhaps it is at hand—when our paper money patricians deny their serfs and vassals the right to think and speak. We may still give utterance to our opinions, and still walk with a confident step through the Street of the Palaces of the Charter-mongers.
Plaindealer, December 31, 1836. Extract deleted.
A writer, of uncommon eloquence and ingenuity, has appealed, in the columns of the Evening Post, under the signature of Anti-Privilege, and has undertaken to prove the unconstitutionality of the restraining law, on the ground that it is a violation of that clause of the federal constitution which declares that no state shall grant any title of nobility. It is obvious, from the whole tenor of the article, that this is not undertaken as a mere exercise of ingenuity; but that, "just in his views or not, the writer is in earnest." We have read his remarks with attention, and profess ourselves to be of the opinion he so cogently maintains, that the restraining law is, in effect, if not in letter, a grant of titles of nobility to those whom its provisions protect in their special privileges and immunities. We cannot better appropriate a portion of our space, than by inserting an extract from this able essay.
The author of the above new view of a very important subject has promised to continue his speculations, and we hope, for the sake of the public good which such investigations are calculated to effect, that he will redeem his pledge. We have been in the habit for a long time, of speaking very freely on the subject of the exclusive privileges of our chartered aristocracy, and have frequently, for the purpose of bringing the system into disrepute, termed those who are enjoying its advantages, the scrip nobility, and the noble order of the money-changers. The peculiar privileges which they exercise (and exercise very tyrannously at times,) we really considered, in point of fact, fully equal to those of any order of European nobility, and, in their tendency to undermine our democratic institutions, highly insidious and dangerous. But we have not before been led to reflect that the act which constitutes the exclusiveness of these rights and immunities is a grant of titles of nobility, in positive contravention of an express provision of the Constitution of the United States. We tender to Anti-Privilege our cordial thanks for the flood of new and useful light he has shed upon this subject.
We have heretofore looked on the restraining law as an unequal, unnecessary, and unjust restraint on the natural freedom of capital and industry. We shall hereafter look upon it with augmented abhorrence as a positive violation of the Constitution of the United States, in a respect which was meant to guard the American people from the approaches of aristocracy. We have heretofore looked upon banking incorporations, which that law encircles and protects, as possessed of privileges incompatible with the principle of equal rights, a principle which constitutes the very foundation of human freedom. We shall hereafter look upon them with increased aversion, as the possessors of actual titles of nobility, distinguished by more objectionable features than the patents of the European aristocracy; and we shall labour with renewed zeal to enfranchise the community from their degrading subjection to the noble order of the money-changers.