CHAPTER VII. ORGANIZATION OF THE GOVERNMENT (1789-1793).
Having thus reorganized the finances of the country, Hamilton now proposed the fifth part of his scheme, - the establishment of a national bank. In a report of Dec. 14, 1790, he presented the subject to the attention of Congress. He urged that it would benefit the public by offering an investment, that it would aid the government in making loans and by collecting taxes, and that its notes would be a useful currency. Hamilton drafted a bill, which was an adaptation of the charter of the Bank of England. The capital of $10,000,000, and the management of the bank, were to be private; but the government was to be a stockholder, and to have the right of requiring periodical statements of the bank's condition.
The Senate passed the bill without a division, substantially as drawn by Hamilton. Apparently it was on the point of going through the House, when Smith of South Carolina objected, and Jackson of Georgia declared that he had never seen a bank bill in the State of Georgia; "nor will they ever benefit the farmers of that State or of New York;" and he called it an unconstitutional monopoly.
[The question of implied powers.]
After a week's debate on the question whether the bank was authorized by the Constitution, it passed the House by a vote of 39 to 20, and was sent to the President. He called for the opinions of the members of his cabinet in writing, and the answers submitted by Hamilton and Jefferson are still among the most important documents on the construction of the Constitution. Jefferson's standpoint was simply that, since the Constitution nowhere expressly authorized the creation of a bank, Congress had gone beyond its powers. Hamilton asserted that if the bank were "necessary and proper to carry out any of the specific powers, such as taxation and the borrowing of money, then Congress might create a bank, or any other public institution, to serve its ends." The President accepted Hamilton's view, and the act was signed. The capital of the bank was speedily subscribed, and it immediately entered on a prosperous and useful career.
79. SLAVERY QUESTIONS (1789-1798).
The question of the extent of the powers of Congress had already once been raised. On February 11 and 12, 1790, there were presented to Congress two memorials, the one the "Address of the People called Quakers, in their Annual Assembly convened;" the other the "Memorial of the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery." These memorials asked Congress to "exert upright endeavors, to the full extent of your power, to remove every obstruction to public righteousness," particularly in the matter of slavery. The motion to commit instantly roused Southern members. Jackson of Georgia said that "any extraordinary attention of Congress to the petition would hold their property in jeopardy." The matter was sent to a subcommittee, composed chiefly of Southern members. On March 8th that committee reported the principles under which Congress acted during the next seventy years. They said that Congress had no power to interfere with slavery or the treatment of slaves within the States; they might pass laws regulating the slave-trade, but could not then stop the importation of slaves from foreign countries into the United States. Another resolution, to the effect that Congress would exercise its powers for the humane principles of the memorial, was struck out by the House. The anti-slavery organizations from which these memorials had proceeded kept up a brisk fusillade of petitions. In some cases the House refused to receive them, but Congress did pass several laws reducing the evils of the slave-trade.
In 1793 the question came up, how fugitive slaves should be restored if they had fled and taken refuge in another State. An act was passed by which the United States assumed authority in the matter; the claimant was simply to satisfy any national or State magistrate that he was entitled to the person claimed. The act had hardly gone into effect before a fugitive was apprehended in Massachusetts. Josiah Quincy, who was employed to defend him, tells us that he "heard a noise, and turning round he saw the constables lying sprawling on the floor, and a passage opening through the crowd, through which the fugitive was taking his departure, without stopping to hear the opinion of the court." From the very first, therefore, we find in vigorous action the paraphernalia of the later anti- slavery movement, - societies, petitions, laws, and deliberate violation of laws.
80. THE SUCCESS OF THE NEW GOVERNMENT.
[The government established.]
The end of Washington's first administration in March, 1793, saw the government completely organized, and accepted throughout the Union. The distinction between friends and opponents of the Constitution had entirely disappeared. There was no longer any suggestion of substantial amendment. Two Congresses had gone through their work, and had accustomed the people to a national legislature. The President had made appointments, sent ambassadors, commanded the army, and vetoed bills, and yet there was no fear of a monarchy. The national courts were in regular and undisturbed session. The Union was complete, and two new States, Vermont and Kentucky, had been admitted.
This remarkable success was due in considerable part to the personal influence of a few men. Washington's great popularity and his disinterested use of his new powers had taken away a multitude of fears. The skill of Hamilton had built up a successful financial system. In Congress Madison had been efficient in working out the details of legislation. Washington, with his remarkable judgment of men, had selected an able staff of officials, representing all the sections of the country.