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Penny Postman, No. III.
Andrew Jackson, [with a fine engraving]
THE Mississippi Bonds must be paid. To the last dollar, the last cent, the last mill, every pledge of the public faith, whether by the collective whole of our glorious Union, or by any one of its constituent parts, must be honorably redeemed-be the consequences, be the cost what they may. Be justice done though the firmament fall.
It is true that the People of the State have been shamefully defrauded. But it is not less true that it is to a great extent their own fault. They have now to submit to the loss of about five millions of dollars as the natural retributive penalty of their own folly. And if they will but lay well to heart the lesson they have been taught, it is worth its price. They have bought their experience much cheaper than some of their neighbors. Illinois and Indiana, for example, — and Pennsylvania, par excellence!
We are not surprised at the feeling which has been excited in Mississippi in relation to this subject. We are not surprised that a powerful and respectable opinion has formed and declared itself against the payment of these bonds. It may perhaps be that of a majority of its citizens-though the recent election is by no means to be regarded as any decisive evidence to that effect. It is easy to suppose that, among those whose suffrages have elected Governor Tucker, a much larger number than that of his majority over his competitor may have had no serious idea that the bonds ought to be, or actually would be, repudiated. Yet even if it were the present will of a clear popular majority, we would ascribe it rather to a temporary though natural exasperation against the authors of this great fraud upon the State; blinding the eyes of the people to that more calm and just view of all
the bearings of the question, which we should still feel certain that they would not fail to take after a brief season of "sober second-thought."
Of one thing there is no doubt that the charge so angrily brought against the people of Mississippi, of a wilful and deliberate spirit of bad faith, of public dishonesty and dishonor, in the threatened repudiation of the bonds in question, is a gross calumny. Made originally by those whose pecuniary interest prompts their clamor on this charge, it is reëchoed by a party press, which seeks to turn it to a political advantage. In our own opinion the argument of the anti-bond party is an unsound one; yet is it by no means a clear case or a simple question. There is a great deal to be urged, and with more than plausibility, on both sides; and we are well assured that the great body of those among the Democratic Party of Mississippi who support the repudiation, would be found the last to attempt or desire to evade the payment of a just debt or an honorable obligation No one would pretend that in a private transaction, parallel in all its features to the case in question, the slightest obligation, technical or equitable, would attach on the part of the principal, to pay the bonds so fraudulently issued by a dishonest agent, in violation of the express prohibition of the very authority under which the latter held all his legal existence. The principle of law in force in that State, moreover, is, that the transfer of choses in action, even to innocent third parties, can involve no prejudice to any rights or equities on the part of the obligor. If some one must suffer from the dishonesty of an unfaithful agency, it must be the party who trusts him without the proper and prudent scrutiny which he ought to have made into the nature and extent of his powers. If we apply to the State the analogy of a private transaction of the same character, the advocates of repudiation must stand unanswerably justified. And this view of the questioncombined with a sympathy for the honest People that has been made the victim of the fraud of the case has led several of the democratic papers of the north to sustain them in that position. But, like many similar applications of private analogies to public transactions, the argument is, we repeat, in our judgment an unsound one; and we should sadly belie the past character and course of the Democratic Review, if, entertaining this opinion, we should allow ourselves to be checked by any partisan consideration, from its frank and free expression.
The anti-bond argument is this: In the first place, the Constitution of the State expressly requires that every law for the
pledge of the public credit shall receive the distinct sanction of two successive Legislatures. Now it is true that a certain law was passed at one session, and duly confirmed at the next, authorizing the loan of the credit of the State, to the amount of fifteen millions of dollars, to the great "Union Bank," which it was then determined to create. But a supplementary law was passed shortly after, involving a material change of the original law, and authorizing a direct subscription by the State to the stock of the bank; and it was under this law, which had not passed through that ordeal of popular ratification prescribed by the Constitution of the State, that the transaction in question took place. At the time of the passage of this supplementary act, a minority in the Legislature (at the head of which stood the recently elected Governor, Mr. Tucker) entered a formal protest against it, as unconstitutional and void. In the second place, the provisions of this very act itself were palpably violated in the issue of the bonds, by a fraudulent collusion between the Union Bank, the commissioners appointed by it for the negotiation of the bonds, and the Bank of the United States, by which, through the name of Mr. Nicholas Biddle, they were purchased. They were sold at a credit instead of for cash, and instead of being made payable, according to the terms of the law, in "current money of the United States," were made payable in London, in sterling currency, at a rate of 4s. 6d. to the dollar, involving a heavy loss, and a departure, as it is alleged, from that standard of "par value," which was prescribed by the law. The total amount of loss thus sustained by the State, through the Bank, by the departure from this double requisition of cash and par, is computed by Governor McNutt, in his celebrated Letter to the Hopes of Amsterdam, at the enormous sum, on the five millions of bonds sold, of $1,084,781 00. Now, it is contended that the express conditions on which the public faith was plighted, as represented in these bonds, having been thus violated, no obligation affecting the State was created by the transaction ; — that these violations of condition were not of an immaterial character, but substantially affecting the rights and the safety of the State, as the obligor on the bonds; the ability of the Bank to pay them, as well as to fulfil the objects of its creation, being prejudiced to the amount of the sacrifice thus illegally and improperly incurred by it in the operation; that the Constitution of the State, and the law under which the bonds were issued, were public documents, of which all parties interested were bound to take notice, and to inform themselves, at their own peril if they should neglect so obvious a duty of prudence;
that it is therefore to the Union Bank which issued, and the