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ready to justify them, or, if this can their predecessors. The absurdity not be decently attempted, to refrain and the criminality of such a princi. from condemning them. Who can ple are so obvious, that a formal redoubt that the repudiation of Missis. ply appears like an impeachment of sippi was thus vindicated by multi- the common sense and morality of tudes of her own people, or that the reader, and yet we deeply fear there is a secret willingness felt by that its hold upon multitudes is too many in every other portion of our strong to be thus shaken. The lecountry, to advance the same plea? gislative omnipotence, or the power But what shall be pronounced as to to pass any laws whatever, which its soundness ? A legislature not sub- Blackstone virtually ascribes to the ject to the moral laws which bind in- British parliament, many of our ledividuals? The citizen or the sub- gislators are assuming as their own ject responsible to the government prerogative, so far as the constitu. of God, but Congress or the despottion does not sternly prohibit them. not responsible? We have but two They are answerable to no human questions to ask here. Has God tribunal, and the only question which prescribed moral laws for the obedi. they feel constrained to ask anterior ence of man, and if so, which of to any act of legislation, is, not those laws releases the ruler from whether it will be right, but will it obedience, while it binds the ruled? be popular? It was popular in Mis, Even the infinite Lawgiver himself sissippi, for the moment, to refuse to is pleased to observe the very laws pay the just debt of the state, and which he has given to his creatures. her legislature refused accordingly. His adherence to justice, to truth And were it a popular measure and faithfulness, and to every other throughout our country, to exclude moral obligation, is perfect and un- that state, by an act of legislation, changeable. If the legislature of from our Union, Congress might, on Mississippi could thus violate the the same principle, enact that all her plighted faith of the state, they might people should be henceforth hewers on the same principle disregard ev. of wood and drawers of water. Ne. ery other act of former legislatures; ver can the prince or the president they might destroy all the rights or the senator escape from the least which had been thus vested, and moral restraint, until he can escape overthrow all preceding legislation. from his personal identity. His arHere was a contract into which tifici public relations are but a their own predecessors had delibe- mere robe which never hides his per. rately entered, entrusting to them sonal character, and they only aug. the work of providing for its fulfill. ment his responsibility before the ment at the due time. What could last tribunal. they plead, either in the nature of A second defense,
and it is that civil government, or in their own which was publicly advanced at the state consitution, or in the laws of time, and that on which the main God, which could release them from stress has been placed, is this : the performance of this trust? If that the sales of the state bonds by not bound sacredly to observe every the agents were vitiated by their un. moral law, that of justice for exam. faithfulness or their fraud. In ex. ple, then they were bound to observe amining the soundness of this deno such law. In the exercise offense, we may be compelled occa. their own supremacy they might sionally to use somewhat technical rightfully enact that every man language, but we shall adopt it as wearing a cocked hat should be rarely as possible. According to capitally punished, if they might the allegation of Governor McNutt, rightfully nullify the contracts of in his celebrated reply to Hope &
Co. of Amsterdam, these bonds were stitution required both. How could delivered by him to the managers of purchasers in London and Amster. the Union Bank, under his express dam know that such was the requis directions that they were not to be sition, and that it had been disresold at less than their par value, and garded by the managers in the orionly for cash, and this the law which ginal sale ? All that they knew or gave the bank the credit of the state, could be supposed to know, was also required. They were in fact what was legible on the face of each sold by the agents of these mana. bond itself, and on its back,—the gers to the president of the United one being the engagement of the States Bank, on credit, for the same state of Mississippi to pay the sum amount to be paid in five equal an. of money there specified, the other nual installments, two millions of naming the place of payment and which, however, were paid within the currency in which payable. Nei. the first six months. These bonds ther of these furnished any hint of were then sold in the market in the the existence of what is thus alledg. United States and in Europe, and ed as a defense ; neither directed were made payable at the agency of the purchaser to make inquiry as to the United States Bank of Pennsyl- the laws and constitution of Missis. vania in London, in sterling money, sippi, prescribing the original mode and with interest there payable se. of sale; all was in the common form miannually.
of similar securities. The purcha. It is this express disregard by the ser bought them for a fair price, remanagers of the Union Bank and lying on the express promise of the their agents, of these directions of state, and the state gave him no reaGovernor McNutt, and their equal son to suppose that the whole transdisregard of the provision in the law action ab ovo usque ad mala was not just specified, and of an article in constitutional and legal. If then the the constitution of Mississippi, for- original sale by the managers proved bidding the passage of any law au- to be finally detrimental to the Union thorizing a loan of money on the Bank and to the state ; if these agents credit of the state, which are alledg. were equally unfaithful and dishoned as a justification of the subse- est, the purchasers may still reply, quent measures of repudiation. What is that to us? These are
The plain and decisive answer by matters between the state and its imthe holders of these bonds to this mediate agents, with which we have plea, is its utter irrelevancy. How no concern. Punish these agents, can their rights be lessened by any as criminals, if dishonest ; hold them thing which occurred between the responsible in their private estates, governor of the state and the man- if unfaithful ; but refuse not to pay agers of the Union Bank, six or us, honest creditors in Massachutwelve months previously? How setts and New York, and in Europe, could they, by any possibility, be- on such allegations as these." Still come acquainted with the verbal di. more evident is the irrelevancy of rections respecting the sale of the this defense, when we consider the bonds, that were then given by the original design of the issuing of these former to the latter? Whether these bonds. This was to procure a bankwere legal or illegal, whether he had ing capital for the Union Bank, by attached two conditions or forty, or pledging the faith of the state. The none whatever, to the transfer, was bonds were to be executed in due immaterial to them. As little force form, and were then to be sold, on has the allegation that the bonds purpose to procure that capital from were not sold at their par value, and the moneyed world, which Missisfor cash, when the law and the con- sippi could not herself furnish. It query. And
was one mode of procuring a loan question, and the reply must here alon the credit of the state, and the so be in the affirmative.
" The insum to be raised was $5,000,000. terest upon it has been now due for And had these qualifications respect three years and more: will you pay ing the sale of the bonds for cash, it?” would be the third and at par value, been incorporated here “ the sovereignty," if even inwithin the bonds themselves, so as differently honest, could give but one to constitute a part of their tenor, no
Her incompetent or knasale could have been ever effected to vish officers she might indeed punthe amount of a single dollar. Not ish as they should deserve, turn a purchaser in the United States or them out of her house, expel them in Europe would have parted with from her broad farm, confiscate their his money, when, as a preliminary property, if they had any, and thus matter, he was thus informed that make them a terror to all future evil. the security which he was invited to doers; but her own just debts she buy would prove worthless, unless it
must pay: should appear at the time of matu- Still a third defense, or semblance rity that these precedent conditions of defense, may be alledged. The had been all complied with. When state of Mississippi was utterly unpublic stocks are transferred, no able to pay either the principal or buyer thinks of first sending an ex- the interest of these bonds, at the press from London by a Liverpool time when the latter first became steamer, or from New York by a due; and she was thus compelled rail-car across the Alleghanies, to the to refuse payment by absolute nestate of Mississippi, that he may first cessity. We suppose that this alleascertain whether some unknown gation is partly correct. The capilaw or article in her constitution has tal of the banks and of similar been exactly obeyed by the state institutions existing in that state commissioners of the loan. State at the beginning of the year 1838, bonds and state credit would have amounted, as was observed at the but little to do with “ cash" and commencement, to forty five mil“par values,” or with any value lions of dollars; and in addition to above a minus quantity, if such were this enormous amount, the Union the condition. This professed justi. Bank was then incorporated with a fication has so little speciousness, capital of more than fifteen millions that Governor McNutt, when al- of dollars, which the state underledging it to Hope & Co. at a dis. took to provide. Sixty millions of tance of five thousand miles, must banking capital for a state, whose have felt that all this wide interval poputation then exceeded that of was needed to screen him from their Connecticut by a fraction only, and indignant looks and exclamations. whose pursuits were almost wholly Were the state of Mississippi a nat- agricultural, attended probably with ural instead of a corporate person, a still larger issue and circulation a brief dialogue between these two of bank paper :-what but a degree parties would be in somewhat of of ignorance in her successive lethe following strain : “Is that seal gislatures, amounting almost to fayours ?” would be the first interro. tuity, could have created these instigation propounded by the Amster. tutions ; what but unmeasured bor. dam bankers, after taking up one of rowing, and then reckless expendithese bonds and pointing to its face, ture, and then a general inability and her republican highness would to pay, and then an all but univerbe constrained to answer, “ Yes.” sal bankruptcy, must have been the "Was it originally issued by your speedy result! This fearful reacown agents ?” would be the second tion had commenced before the ori
ginal sale of these bonds, and when means of enforcing them. The inthe first payment of interest became debtedness of the state, legal and due, the clouds were still blacken- equitable, evidently thus continuing, ing; and had a demand been then and thus irremovable by her own made upon the state for the pay- act alone, with at the same time ment of the principal, to meet it an admitted inability to pay ;-are would have been a literal impossi- we asked, what should have been bility. But the interest only was the course of her legislature? The then payable, no part of the princi. answer is obvious. First, to affirm pal falling due before 1850, and the sacredness of the claims of these sorely crippled as was her strength, bond-holders to the full extent, prin. it is probable that this additional cipal and interest. Secondly, to burden could have been shouldered proclaim the fixed purpose of the without staggering. No pretense state to pay the interest at the first to the contrary appears in the let- moment practicable. Thirdly, to ter to Hope & Co. already cited, give every bond-holder the proper and by this document as the plea additional security for the interest of her chief executive officer, may already due. If in addition to these she be fairly tried. The annual primary measures, the legislature payment of but a twentieth of the had at once entered upon a system amount of the principal, for the of rigid economy as to the public interest was but five per cent., would expenditures, and had also imposed have preserved untainted the credit some tax, however small, for the and the character of the state ; and payment of the interest, all would what efforts should not be put forth have been then accomplished which by any community to prevent the could properly be asked. Scarce sacrifice of these priceless jewels! a foreign or an American creditor The demagogue who panders to would have then parted with these the basest passions of the populace, bonds at a sacrifice, the faith of would indeed be recreant in such the state would have been untaran emergency, and so would many nished, the character of the nation a timid legislator who is honest in would not have been lowered abroad his private dealings ; but no man of before friends and foes alike. And strict integrity could hesitate. But far more than all these, the first admit that the payment of the inter- step in the beaten road of dishonor est was then impracticable, suppose might not have been yet taken. that the state was for the time bank. Mississippi repudiation, with all its rupt; what then? Does this jus- existing evils, and these are feartisy repudiation, or the refusal.ever ful indeed, is still to be dreadedthereafter to pay any portion of the mainly as a precedent. It is the principal or interest ? Yes, just so first stain on a vestal's fame : all far as the present insolvency of a was spotless before, but there is private individual is, ipso facto, his now a broad leprous spot—the harfinal release from all indebtedness. binger of widely spreading disease. What immunity can the debtor state And there is the greater cause for elaim in such case, which is to be fear, when we consider how pecudenied to the debtor citizen? The liar is the sympathy which pervades remedy, originally granted by the the population of a great republic. constitution to the private creditor Their very equality, their unre. of summoning a state as an indi. stricted intercourse with each other vidual before the national tribunals, as individuals, their union amid has indeed been taken away; but every diversity of interest, and their his rights are not thus divested, tendency to act in all public mathe has but lost the most effectual ters as parties, or masses, rather
than singly, are all auspicious in alone, they would have tremblingly some emergencies, but they are recoiled. Perhaps not one tenth ominous of fatal danger in others. of the legislature, or of the people Let but a foot of our soil be inva- of Mississippi would have approved ded, the heart of the nation beats of the repudiation of these bonds, high with patriotism, and the glow had the measure been proposed to is felt at the most distant extremi. them merely as individuals ; but ties; and let but the doctrine of as soon as a few of her leading repudiation be adopted by two or men had boldly recommended it, three of our state legislatures, and and the flame had begun to spread, no statesman can
us that all resistance became for the time other states will not also enter on hopeless. Her governor then af. this precipitous path, until half of firmed, and the state has thus far the Union may be seen hastening sustained him in the affirmation, in company to dishonor and bank- that Mississippi “will never pay ruptcy. Here, as in numberless the five millions of dollars of state other cases, communities, like indi. bonds issued in June, 1838, or any viduals, are more easily persuaded portion of the interest due, or to to do wrong than to do right; to become due thereon.” And should break their faith, than subsequently a majority in the legislature of Pennto make full restitution.
sylvania, which is to be chosen in 16 Facilis descensus Averni :
the interval between the writing and Sed revocare gradem-hoc opus.'
the printing of these pages, openly
espouse this Mississippi mode of It is this fearful sympathy, this dealing with the creditors of a state, almost universal tendency to act in then, unless the measure is at once all public matters as communities indignantly rejected by great multior parties, rather than as individ- tudes of the people, and demagogues uals, which constitutes perhaps our are for the time terrified into silence, greatest danger. The citizen loses the legislation of that great comsight of his personal responsibility, monwealth may be made to sancbecause he acts with a great party ; tion the rightfulness of state frauds. public opinion is his opinion, and We say state frauds, because we immense numbers rarely think of insist that a state or a nation, when adopting any other standard. With it has once contracted debts, can such persons the inquiry is not, never in any circumstances whatwhat does justice require in the ever be released from her indebt. particular case; what does the will edness, except by actual payment. of God evidently prescribe ; but we say, if the debt has been acwhat has the legislature enacted, tually contracted ; and the fact of what has our party pronounced; indebtedness depends not on the what is the course of public opin. consideration, whether the state itself ion; what do certain political presses has received a full equivalent, or declare to be true, or expedient ? any equivalent. If she has induced And when the answer is given, the individuals, within or without her question, however momentous, is in jurisdiction, to part with their own their view settled. There may be property in consideration of being troublesome misgivings long after subsequently repaid by herself, then wards, and under better influences she is the debtor, and they are the many may be led to retrace their creditors. Whether some articles devious steps ; but they move at in her constitution, or some provi. the time as men are borne along in sion in the particular law authori. the midst of a mob, to adopt meas. zing the sale of her bonds or other ures and do acts, from which, if securities, has been observed, or