Summary of Legislative Debate on Resolution Relative to Public Depositories, 17 January 18391
There has been quite a debate in the House on the resolution sometime since introduced into the Senate by Mr. Gatewood, relative to the deposit of the public money collected in Illinois in banks of other states, in preference to our own banks in which the State has an interest.—2This debate commence yesterday, and has been terminated this afternoon. It is impossible for me to give you any more than a general idea of this protracted debate in which a great deal of interest has been felt, both in and out of the House. —As soon as the resolutions were read yesterday, Mr. Churchill of Kane, moved to strike out all except the second resolution; this motion was lost, ayes 40, noes 45.3 Mr. Pace then moved to strike out of the first resolution the word “partiality,” and insert “policy;” on this a protracted debate arose in which Messrs.[Messieurs] Webb of White, Williams, Calhoun, Baker, and Happy participated, when the House adjourned without coming to a decision.4
To-day the question again came up.—Mr. Calhoun said he wished it distinctly understood that he was not opposed to our banks; he wished to foster them all he could; but he was unwilling to see blame thrown on the Gen. Government for not giving them those deposits, which the action of the banks, had precluded them from obtaining under the law of Congress; if that law was to blame, it was not the production of his political friends, 6 only of whom voted for it in the U.S.S.; he wished to call on the banks for the correspondence between them and the Secretary of the Treasury, if then, the latter was to blame, he would go for the resolutions, although the language was very strange.5
Mr. Williams said he was always willing to censure those who were blame-worthy; whether they were friends or foes, and he thought the language of the resolution was correct, even with the gentleman’s opposition [to?] it. The Government was divided into several parts, if Congress was the cause of the injury done to Illinois, in this particular, he was for reproving them, if the Secretary of the Treasury let him bear the blame, or if ever this injustice was done us by the Executive, he would not shrink from telling him of the partiality. The popular doctrine now among the opposers of these resolutions, is that the states should regulate the currency, but while this was their doctrine, they yet sanctioned and upheld the regulation of the matter by Congress, even when that regulation was so injurious to our own institutions. But the Secretary of the Treasury has every thing to do in this matter, he selects 16 banks as depositories, and yet pays no attention to the banks of Illinois, which are in as good or better condition than most of those selected. Mr. Williams read from the Secretary’s Report a list of the banks, and remarked that two of them have not yet resumed specie payments and that they had yet on had near $1000 000 of the old deposit not yet paid, while our banks were rejected entirely. He called on gentlemen now to think for themselves; no longer crouch down at the feet of power; enquire whether justice has been done our State, and if not, then cry out in tones so deep that all shall hear, and grant to us our rights. Mr. Smith of Wabash, said he had always been afraid of our banks, and if the geatleman from Adams will show him whether any of the selected banks are for purposes of general deposit, he should believe with him that our banks were treated badly, and would go for the resolution. Mr. Williams read from the report of the Secretary that 4 banks, viz. 1 in New York, 2 in Georgia, and 1 in Missouri, were general deposit banks[;] the others were public depositories[;?] he showed the operation of this matter and conclusively proved that special and general deposit were nearly the same thing.
Mr. Cloud moved to amend by striking out all of the original resolution, and insert some that he sent to the chair, which were in substance, that if our members of Congress should ascertain that our banks can be made depositories, &c.[etc], they shall endeavor to have them made such, &c. &c.6 Mr. Williams believed it was our duty to speak out on this subject, and not ask our members of Congress whether we have been injured or not, said we know our own grievances and should direct them to apply a remedy.
Mr. Happy agreed with Mr. Williams in saying we should judge for ourselves, but in order to do so we must have all the facts. He read an extract from the law of Congress regulating deposits; said this was a party question; it had been made such by the Sangamon Journal; he should so regard it, and vote accordingly.7
Mr. Baker contended that the question was simply, whether we would stand silently by and see the General Government bear off all the revenue of this State to deposit in and enrich other states, greatly to the injury of our own.
He descanted largely on the act of 1836, and the modification of it in 1838;8 showed that special deposits to the credit of the [Treasurer?], were just the same as general deposits to his credit; of as much use to the community and the banks.—He enquired why our banks should have none of these benefits; why we should always be made the vassals of others: he called earnestly on every gentleman here to sustain his own Illinois, to stand up for her rights, to ask, to demand it firmly, and submit to nothing less.
He said that the man who would truckle, yield, or submit, when he knew he demanded nothing but justice, was unworthy a seat upon this floor, be the representative of Freemen. Mr. Walker of Vermillion, said on last evening he tried to speak, but could not; he was opposed to the resolution as it was, for he did not feel willing to say by his vote that the General Government was particular, but if gentlemen, would have that word in there, they wanted to make it a party question, and he would stick to his party. He talked a great deal about the tendency to nullification of the remarks of the gentleman from Sangamon, (Mr. Baker,) eulogised our union, and hoped Illinois would not take sides with South Carolina, &c.9 Mr. English said he felt called upon to say something; he did not like to be told, if he voted against these resolutions, he was too low to hold a seat here.
He don[’]t go for making party questions; he thinks we should have no party; yet, the Senate resolutions censure the Administration; he couldn’t vote for censuring the Government; he hopes our banks will get the deposits; he is in favor of that, but he thinks it won[’]t be done if we censure the Administration for not doing so before. Mr. Lincoln said if partiality shall be proven to exist, shall we say it does? or shall we rather use another word, which will not express our meaning, for fear we offend our Master; for his part, he wanted to call things by their right names, no matter who was offended.
There had been partiality; it was proven by the Secretary’s report, and he believed we would be more thought of, if we said so, especially as it could not be denied.10
After other remarks by Mr. Murphy of Perry, Pace, Williams, Calhoun and Thornton, the question was taken on Mr. Cloud’s amendment and lost, yeas 43, noes 45.—11The amendment offered by Mr. Pace, was then adopted.12 Mr. Calhoun then moved to strike out the 5th resolution, which was carried, when Mr. Lincoln moved to lay the resolutions on the table until the 4th of July, which motion prevailed and the House adjourned. 13
1A longer, more detailed version of this debate appeared in the Illinois State Register and People’s Advocate, 22 January 1839.
2William J. Gatewood introduced this resolution in the Senate on December 19, 1838. The Senate passed the resolution on January 4, 1839. The House received the resolution on January 5. The charter of the State Bank of Illinois set aside $100,000 of the bank’s capital stock--out of a total of $1,500,000--for purchase by the state. The charter of the Bank of Illinois and the act extending it stipulated that one-third of the bank’s $300,000 in capital stock was reserved for purchase by the state.
Illinois Senate Journal. 1838. 11th G. A., 1st sess., 90-91, 97, 130, 131, 132, 133; Illinois House Journal. 1838. 11th G. A., 1st sess., 172-73, “An Act to Incorporate the President, Directors and Company of the Bank of Illinois,” 28 December 1816, Laws of Illinois Territory (1817), 11-19.
3Abraham Lincoln voted no.
Gatewood’s resolution had eight sections. The second section read: “Resolved, That as citizens of Illinois, and representatives of the people thereof, we have confidence in the solvency and safety of our own banking institutions.”
Illinois House Journal. 1838. 11th G. A., 1st sess., 172, 221.
4The first section read: “Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the State of Illinois, That we view, with deep regret, the partiality exercised by the General Government, in causing the deposites of public moneys, collected in the State of Illinois, to be made in Banks without the same.”
Illinois House Journal. 1838. 11th G. A., 1st sess., 172.
5The federal banking system was governed by “An Act to Regulate the Deposites of the Public Money,” or the Deposit Act for short. Enacted on June 23, 1836, the Deposit Act was a compromise plan to create a national banking system in the aftermath of Andrew Jackson’s veto of the re-charter bill for the Second Bank of the United States and use of select state banks, called “pet banks” by Jackson’s critics, for federal deposits. Section one required the secretary of the treasury to select at least one bank in each state and territory, provided certain conditions were met, including if the secretary believed the banks so selected were solvent and safe enough to be repositories of public money.
The Treasury Department did not employ either the State Bank of Illinois or the Bank of Illinois as repositories of public money, and the federal government had deposited revenue from land sales in Illinois in the State Bank of Missouri. The Sangamo Journal claimed that the government excluded the State Bank because it paid out notes in denominations of less than five dollars and had suspended specie payments. Section five of the Deposit Act stipulated that these actions would disqualify a bank to serve as a depository, and the State Bank had taken both.
Robert V. Remini, Andrew Jackson and the Bank War: A Study in the Growth of Presidential Power (New York: W. W. Norton, 1967), 169-70; “An Act to Regulate the Deposites of the Public Money,” 23 June 1836, Statutes at Large of the United States 5 (1856):52, 53; Illinois House Journal. 1838. 11th G. A., 1st sess., 173; Sangamo Journal (Springfield, IL), 19 January 1839, 2:2.
8Might be a reference to “An Act to Modify the Last Clause of the Fifth Section of the Deposite Act of the Twenty-Third of June, Eighteen Hundred and Thirty-Six,” 5 July 1838, Statutes at Large of the United States 5 (1856):255.
9Reference to the Nullification Crisis.
10A common complaint of the deposit banking system was the Jackson and Van Buren administrations selected banks friendly to the Democratic Party, shunning those associated with the Whig Party and other critics. Congress enacted the Deposit Act in part to correct this abuse, but it did not prove entirely effective. In Illinois, the Democrats and Whigs battled over paternity of the State Bank, each side blaming the other for fathering the faltering bank. The Sangamo Journal claimed that the Democrats refused to adopt Gatewood’s resolution because they wanted to see the bank, which they viewed as a Whig project, “crippled and destroyed.”
Sangamo Journal (Springfield, IL) 2 February 2:3; Proceedings of Whig Meeting in Hall of House of Representatives regarding Present Administration; Illinois State Register (Springfield), 14 December 1839, 3:2; Robert V. Remini, Andrew Jackson and the Bank War, 125, 170.
12The House adopted Pace’s amendment by a vote of 54 yeas to 34 nays, with Lincoln voting nay.
Illinois House Journal. 1838. 11th G. A., 1st sess., 231.
13The fifth section read: “Resolved, That we consider submission, on the part of our public functionaries in and out of Congress, to the practice of withdrawing from our State the revenues collected here, and depositing them to the support of another banking institution in a neighboring State, as a humiliating surrender of the rights of our citizens, and their claims to equal justice, protection, and support.”
The House agreed to table the Senate resolution until July 4, 1839, by a vote of 46 yeas to 42 nays, with Lincoln voting yea.
Illinois House Journal. 1838. 11th G. A., 1st sess., 173, 231-32.
Copy of Printed Document, 1 page(s), The Illinoian (Jacksonville, IL), 26 January 1839, 1:2-3.