The Great Speeches and Orations of Daniel Webster: With An Essay on Daniel Webster as a Master of English Style

By Edwin P. Whipple; Daniel Webster | Go to book overview
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THE CREDIT SYSTEM AND THE LABOR OF
THE UNITED STATES.

FROM THE SECOND SPEECH ON THE SUB-TREASURY, DELIVERED IN THE
SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES, ON THE 12TH OF MARCH, 1838

Now, Mr. President, what I understand by the credit system is, that which thus connects labor and capital, by giving to labor the use of capital. In other words, intelligence, good character, and good morals bestow on those who have not capital a power, a trust, a confidence, which enables them to obtain it, and to employ it usefully for themselves and others. These active men of business build their hopes of success on their attentiveness, their economy, and their integrity. A wider theatre for useful activity is under their feet, and around them, than was ever open to the young and enterprising generations of men, on any other spot enlightened by the sun. Before them is the ocean. Every thing in that direction invites them to efforts of enterprise and industry in the pursuits of commerce and the fisheries. Around them, on all hands, are thriving and prosperous manufactures, an improving agriculture, and the daily presentation of new objects of internal improvement; while behind them is almost half a continent of the richest land, at the cheapest prices, under healthful climates, and washed by the most magnificent rivers that on any part of the globe pay their homage to the sea. In the midst of all these glowing and glorious prospects, they are neither restrained by ignorance, nor smitten down by the penury of personal circumstances. They are not compelled to contemplate, in hopelessness and despair, all the advantages thus bestowed on their condition by Providence. Capital they may have little or none, but CREDIT supplies its place; not as the refuge of the prodigal and the reckless; not as gratifying present wants with the certainty of future absolute ruin; but as the genius of honorable trust and confidence; as the blessing voluntarily offered to good character and to good conduct; as the beneficent agent, which assists honesty and enterprise in obtaining comfort and independence.

Mr. President, take away this credit, and what remains? I do not ask what remains to the few, but to the many? Take away this system of credit, and then tell me what is left for labor and industry, but mere manual toil and daily drudgery? If we adopt a system that withdraws capital from active employment, do we not diminish the rate of wages? If we curtail the general business of society, does not every laboring man find his condition grow daily worse? In the politics of the day, Sir, we hear much said about divorcing the government from the banks; but when we abolish credit, we shall divorce labor from capital; and depend upon it, Sir, when we divorce labor from capital, capital is hoarded, and labor starves.

The declaration so often quoted, that "all who trade on borrowed capital ought to break," is the most aristocratic sentiment ever uttered in this country

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The Great Speeches and Orations of Daniel Webster: With An Essay on Daniel Webster as a Master of English Style
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