Saturday, September 10, 2016

Salmon P. Chase to William Cullen Bryant, December 13, 1862

washington, December 13, 1862

The kind and liberal appreciation which my public conduct has always received from the “Evening Post” makes me more than ordinarily solicitous to avoid its just censure. Of course, I was not a little pained to read the article entitled “The Financial Views of Mr. Chase.”

A public man, in times of terrible trial, must often adopt expedients, not inherently immoral, which he would, in a normal condition of things, avoid. This would, I think, justify my support of a national system of banking associations, even were the plan intrinsically defective. The support of the demand, which will be created by the enactment of the plan, for bonds, will enable the Government to borrow at reasonable rates. Without that support, I confess I see nothing less than the Serbonian bog before me for our finances. In the conflict of opinions concerning it, I almost despair.

The choice is narrow. National credit supported by the organization of capital under national law, or limitless issues of notes, and — what beyond? I don't wish to look at it, or to administer the finances with no other road than that open before me.

Is it quite right, when I am struggling with almost overwhelming difficulties; when — shall I be bold to say it? — after having achieved results which, at the outset, I thought impossible, I just reach the point where not to be sustained is, perhaps, to be utterly defeated; is it quite right to say of my “central idea” that it is impossible because gold is not of uniform value at Chicago and at New York? Who ever thought of value not being uniform because not capable of sustaining such a test? Why not take my language in its common-sense acceptation, that uniform value means that value which is practically uniform — paying travelling bills everywhere, and debts everywhere in the country, having everywhere substantially equal credit founded on equal security?

Again, is it quite right to say that no aid to the Treasury is to be expected from the plan when, in the very same article, a like plan in New York is said to have advanced the bonds of New York some ten per cent above other bonds? In the report I admit frankly that I do not expect from it direct aid in money; that is, no such direct aid as is afforded by issues of circulation, or by loans. Such aid can only come when bonds are paid for in coin or notes, and no necessity exists for retiring the notes to prevent inflation. But indirect aid is not less valuable than direct, and the indirect will be immediate and immense; and it will be derived from the imparting of that strength to national bonds which the similar New York plan imparts to New York bonds. It will facilitate immediate and future loans, and be of vast advantage to every interest.

I am obliged to prepare this letter very hurriedly, but you will get my ideas.

My country engages all my best earthly thoughts and affections. Most willingly will I sacrifice all for her. To serve her, my labors have been incessant. Must I fail for the want of concord among her most devoted lovers?

Most truly yours,
S. P. Chase.

SOURCE: Parke Godwin, A Biography of William Cullen Bryant, Volume 1, p. 185-6

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