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tion of men, who waste their time in fruitless discussion, do not do justice to representative government or to the body itself. They do not know that even here, there are many who are silently and laboriously occupied in doing public work, which makes no noise, and engages no attention, however faithfully done. Let us endeavour to avoid deserving such censure.
The press, too, the great intellectual light of the world —what should we say of that, if we looked only at one side of the case? But I must not enter further into such inquiries. What is it, I repeat, that the friends of this bill promise? That it will do some good. What do its enemies say? That it will not cure all evil. Granted. Will it be better or worse than the present state of things ? I firmly believe things cannot be worse than they now are.
The laws, as they stand at present, are sufficient for creditors in general, but not for the creditors of a failing debtor. They are limited in territorial operation, they are strongly tinctured with local feeling and views, are repugnant and contradictory, and occasion conflicts, where one uniform system would produce harmony throughout the nation. They are inadequate, because they have no efficient power to compel, and can offer no adequate motive to induce an honest surrender.
The laws are insufficient for failing or for fallen debtors. They are limited in territory, and they are limited in the relief they can give. They are wholly inefficacious against foreign creditors, while the foreign debtor finds a sure refuge from his creditors in the institutions of his own country, the benefit of which is extended to him here. The merchant of the United States, whether creditor or debtor, is in a worse condition than the merchant of any European nation.
Where is the remedy? Here, in a bankrupt law-and here only; the states can do nothing, they have surrendered all their power to you-Such a law will establish
peace between the citizens of different states, by extending
ommon rule to all who are like to have relations with each other, in a case where a common rule is of the greatest importance. . It will give relief to the unfortunate; restore them to society, and to usefulness, and teach them to look with affection and gratitude to the government of their country-It will place your merchants upon a footing of equality with foreigners, while even to foreigners it will do equal justice-It will give greater security to the revenue; and it will have a tendency to perpetuate the blessings of this union, by extending the hand of constitutional authority with parental power, but with parental tenderness too, throughout every part of the nation.
And at whose expense will all this good be done? I answer, unhesitatingly, at the expense of no one. Gentlemen have indeed told us, that creditors may be in distress as well as debtors, and the Speaker has indulged himself in sketching for us a picture of the misery that may be brought into the family of a creditor by the failure of a debtor. It may happen, that is certainly true. What then? You cannot relieve the creditor, nothing would be relief to him but the payment of his debt, and that you cannot pay-if you could, you would effectually relieve both debtor and creditor. The debtor you can relievebut, as you cannot give relief to both, according to this argument, you will give relief to neither. Because the misfortune of one (more or less as it may happen to be) is inevitable and incurable, therefore you will not administer the aid you can give to the extreme misery of the other. Because you are not certain that you can do all possible or conceivable good, you will do none at all. Is this wise, or humane, or just ? It is of the same class with another objection that has been made, and amounts to this, that if we cannot relieve all debtors, of every description, we ought not to relieve any.
Is the bill perfect, or is it even such that any one would
undertake to pronounce that no better can be devised? Assuredly we need not insist that it is. It has been fully and deliberately and carefully examined. If there be those among us who think some bankrupt law may be made, let them now join us to make it. Here is the basis. How else can we answer to our fellow citizens who are praying for such a law? Let us not turn a deaf ear to their complaints, nor repel them with a cold suggestion, that we have not yet devised a perfect system. They will be satisfied with the bill on the table, much better at any rate than with such an answer.
And the unfortunate who now stand in need of its relief, what shall we say to them? They are waiting in anxious and trembling expectation, their eyes turnéd towards you with an intensely earnest and imploring look. If that bill pass, imperfect as you may deem it to be, their suspense will terminate in tears of joy and gratitude. Many a glad hcart will you make, now weighed down with sorrow.
We will say to them, be patient, be patient-stay till we make a perfect system, till we devise something which the wit of man never yet devised. We, who are here entirely at our ease, enjoying in abundance the good things of the world-we will counsel them to be patient. They will answer us, that they are suffering every moment, in daily want of the necessary comforts of life, without freedom to exert their industry, and without even the consolation of hope to cheer them on their way—“ the flesh will quiver where the pincer tears." We will still coolly council them to be patient. But remember, that the sand in the glass is all this time rapidly running down—with some of them, it will soon be empty. Then, yes, then, without our aid, they will obtain a discharge, which we, nor no human power can prevent-an effectual discharge. The cold clod will not press more heavily on the debtor than on the creditor; the breath of heaven over the silent depository in which he lies will be as sweet, and the verdure be as quick
and fragrant. But till that moment arrives, the unfortunate man is doomed to feel the incumbent weight of the institutions of society. Let us think of the present generation; of the men that live, and let us do something for their welfare and happiness. Let us, I repeat it, begin; for the sake of humanity and justice, let us begin.
My strength is exhausted, and I must conclude. Yet 1 scarcely know how to leave this part of the subject, when I think what deep disappointment will follow the failure of the bill.
Sir, I am as ambitious as people in general are, and I believe not more so. I feel unaffected pleasure in possessing the confidence of those amongst whom I live, second only to the desire to deserve it. I will not deny that I am even fond of what is called popularity. But if the choice were presented, and it be not presumptuous to suppose it-I can say sincerely, there is no honour this country can confer, which I would not cheerfully forego, to be instrumental in giving the relief intended by this bill.
ON RETRENCHMENT AND REFORM, DELIVERED IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE UNITED STATES, FEBRUARY 2ND, 1828.
In the session of 1827-8, Mr. Chilton, of Kentucky, offered a series of
resolutions on the subject of retrenchment, in the House of Representatives, which, after a long and animated discussion, in the course of which this speech was delivered, with some modification were finally adopted. The whole subject of the proposed retrenchment of the expenses of the General Government, was ultimately referred to a select committee, composed of Messrs. Hamilton, Cambreleng, Rives, Ingham, Sergeant, and Everett.
MR. SERGEANT said he should be sorry to have it known how much difficulty he had had, to overcome the repugnance he felt to make any demand upon the time and attention of the House in this debate. If known to others, to the extent he had felt it himself, he was afraid it would be deemed an absolute weakness. He had been for some time, he said, out of the House. Great changes had taken place in its composition during that period. There were many members to whom he was a stranger. It seemed to him, also, that there was a change in the kind of demand they made on each other. Nothing appeared to him likely to engage the attention of the house-judging from what he had witnessed, unless it was piquant, highly seasoned, and pointed with individual and personal allusion. For this he was neither prepared nor qualified. He would take up as little time as possible, and, as far as he could, would avoid all topics that were likely to irritate or inflame. He would not here treat of the great question which agitates the people