Page images





THE executive government having required of congress, authority to borrow twenty-five millions of dollars to enable them to prosecute the war during the year 1814, the measure was strenuously supported by the friends of administration, and vehemently opposed by most of the members of the federal party. The principal reasons of their opposition in this instance, are urged in the following speech with all the animation, vigour, and boldness, which usually distinguish the eloquence of Mr. Hanson.


When I look before me and survey the vast and boundless prospect which the subject presents, my mind is almost overpowered. I scarcely know where to begin, how to proceed, when to conclude. Not that many topics of interest and magnitude do not remain untouched, through the considerate politeness of those who have preceded me-not that there is any dearth of reasons why the capacity should be withheld from those who evince a fixed determination to pursue a mad and ruinous career-nor that there are not still higher obligations than those imposed by a love of country, which command the patriot to break and diminish as he can the force of a blow aimed at her best interests, but it is set. ting oneself adrift upon the wide ocean, it is like hunt.

. arguments to prove an axiom, to assign reasons why this loan should not be granted—this war should

ing for

be no longer persisted in. Could one plausible reason be assigned for its continuance, sufficient arguments might then be called for to demonstrate the propriety and necessity of its termination. Could encouragement be derived from the past, keeping alive hope for the future, to stimulate us on the one hand; on the other, more than a countervailing depression and despondency would be produced, by a calm contemplation of the wonderful revolution in the affairs of the world since the fatal, ever to be lamented hour when administration first had recourse to its “ áttitude and armour.” Every consideration which can be suggested by minds devoted to the good of the country, is arrayed against this bill. We have still much to lose, every thing to fear, nothing to hope, and as little to gain.

For a long series of time this administration has been pursuing a phantom-grasping at the shade of a shadow. At this hour they are no nearer their unattainable object than when they first started. Like the infatuated alchymist, they have persisted in their experiments until the very means of continuing them are well nigh exhausted, and without the most distant prospect of realizing their visionary expectations. It may truly be said, the sword was drawn against ourselves. Failing in the hopeless attempt to subdue Great Britain, we were disgraced, humbled, deprived of many valuable lives, the nation was loaded with an immense debt, the public safety jeopardized, or made to rest upon the humiliating and precarious reliance of an enemy's forbearance—successful, the sword was sheathed in the bosom of our own country. England conquered, where should we have concealed ourselves from the searching eye of the fell destroyerwhere found shelter from the tyrant's fury. Victorious, we were conquered, defeated, ruined. Such is the nature

[ocr errors]

of the contest we are engaged in; a war without hope, carried on for objects unattainable.

Is any motive to be found for its continuance in its conduct, the events which have attended it, or what all must now join in believing will be its issue? With the same weak councils; with the same incompetent men to direct our armies; with a divided, disheartened people contending against a formidable nation, united to a man against us by what they conceive to be the justice of their cause-Aushed by the success which has every where attended their arms, left without a rival on the globe, what must be the consequence of adherence to feeble and desperate counsels? Released from her struggle on the continent, let England pour her veterans into Canada, can we conquer that province? Let her resistless marine, no longer restrained by motives of humanity, lay waste our seaboard; where are our means of defence?' Already has army after army been driven out of Canada, captured, or slaughtered. Loan after loan has been negotiated and wasted, and without our rulers condescending to tell the people the causes of these disgraceful failures, but when called on by a solemn vote of this house to make known the causes, referring us to a mass of unmeaning documents, from which nothing is to be extracted but evidence of the incapacity and ignorance of all who have helped to swell the volume of trash -declaring it would be unsafe to trust the people's representatives with a knowledge of the actual state of our army-refusing to tell or unable to say what has been the cost of the war, or how the supplies already granted have been applied-keeping the people in the most agonizing suspense and painful ignorance of the state of the nation, and yet we are called on to unite in a vigorous prosecution of this war! My moral sense, sir, revolts at the invitation. Neither threats, denunciation, nor entreaty can force or seduce me to plant a poniard in the breast of my country, already bleeding and languishing under so many wounds.

I am already admonished, sir, to prescribe limits to the range of debate I find myself gliding into. I proceed at once to examine the budget before the house. It is with some diffidence I enter upon an examination of the estimates submitted by the chairman of the committee of ways and means. That branch of the debate I was content to have confined to the two honourable gentlemen, (Mr. Pitkin and Mr. Sheffey,) who preceded me. I must however endeavour to supply some striking omissions in their luminous exposition of the public finances and resources. The great defect which runs through the exposition of the honourable chairman of the committee of finance is so important that I must claim the indulgence of the house, while I attempt to explain it. Though the house has been amused by fanciful, fallacious and exaggerated estimates to show the capacity of the people to lend, he has failed to elucidate the ability of the government to borrow. That ability depends upon the disposition of the people to invest money in the public stock. To produce that disposition, their interest must be consulted. It must be made their interest to lend, by furnishing sufficient government securities, providing indemnity against loss. If a permanent efficient fund is created, co-extensive and coeval with the public debt, and that fund pledged for the payment of the interest, the capitalist may then see his interest in becoming a public creditor. You then create the ability to borrow, by producing a corresponding disposition to lend, which in finance are convertible. But if, from a fear of losing popularity by resorting to an odious system of taxation, you fail to provide a permanent revenue adequate to the punctual payment of the interest, and looking to the gradual extinction of the principal of the debt to be created, the public credit must suffer, and the monied men will find it to be their interest not to aid the loan. I have too much respect for the understanding of the house to enlarge upon this topic.

After a fair and deliberate examination, I pronounce the system of ways and means submitted to the house, deceptive and disingenuous. These are strong and harsh terms, but I speak in the language of the distinguished gentleman, who now presides in this house with so much ability, dignity and impartiality. I speak the language of the late committee of finance, and of this house, who adopted the memorable report of that committee, which denounced and reprobated in the strongest terms the very system now recommended. I speak the language of every financier and political economist whose opinions are respected in free and well regulated governments, when I say it is ruinous and destructive of public credit to enter upon a system of loans without providing the ways and means commensurate with the demands of government—without creating and pledging a fund securing to the public creditors the punctual payment of the interest and ultimate reimbursement of the principal of the public debt. It is a maxim in finance, a fundamental principle of public credit, never to borrow without providing the means of paying the interest, and finally extinguishing the principal. To act upon a different system, to rely upon loans to pay the interest of loans, is to adopt a most desperate system of fiscal gambling, sapping the foundation of public credit, and conducting to national bankruptcy. Well versed in finance, the prede. cessor of the present chairman of that committee, could not be induced to sanction, much less recommend a system of ways and means founded in a studied concealment of the public finances, and not built upon the sub

« PreviousContinue »