James Madison Papers

Thomas W. White to James Madison, 13 June 1831

Richmond June 13, 1831.

My Dear Sir,

As the subject of rechartering the Bank of the United States, as well as the policy of the banking system generally has been much discussed recently, and as the mind of a statesman, like yourself, whose opinions are deservedly valued and highly reverenced by the great body of your fellow-citizens, must, without doubt, have been often turned to this subject, and given it a close scrutiny, I should esteem it a favour of the highest value, as I am anxious to attain all the light and information necessary to arrive at a correct view of this intricate question, if you would favour me with an answer to the annexed queries.

I am perfectly conscious, sir, that at your age, and absence from public life, it must be incongenial to your habits to mingle in political questions. Nor should I have ventured to trouble you but from the consideration that as the Bank was instituted during your administration of the Federal Government, your mind and attention must have been forcibly directed to a consideration of its whole scope and policy, and be familiarized with all its details. It is sir, a true republican maxim and no one has more powerfully exemplified its truth that whatever abilities or talents we possess, are justly the property of our country, and ought to be held in readiness at every call. And the patriot will ever rejoice when he can by his standing in society or talents contribute his portion to the public welfare. The time has arrived when the country requires light on this important subject. If the Bank be a public good, if it has contributed to augment our commerce, and establish a sounder currency, let it be preserved. If, on the contrary, its influence has been deleterious to the interests of our country, let us at once abandon the system. But it is a serious and vitally important question, What shall we substitute in its place—if we decline rechartering it. My solicitude to obtain your opinion arises from an anxious desire that no crude or visionary scheme may be imposed on our beloved country. These are my reasons for asking this favor in the name and on behalf of that country. I have no connexion & never expect to have any in no possible shape with the Bank. My desire of information arises solely from solicitude for the future welfare of my country. I beseech you, therefore, to favor me with an answer.

What are your views at this time as to the policy of rechartering the present Bank of the U. S.?

If the Constitution does not in your opinion invest the power in Congress to create a National Bank at all, can you either find any provision in it to establish such an Institution in lieu thereof, as has been recommended by President Jackson?

And if we are to have a Government or National Bank, which would you give the preference to, the one now in existence or that which it is proposed to build up on its ruins?

What would be the consequences of destroying the present Bank? Would not such an event impoverish thousands of our worthy citizens many of whom have invested their funds in this Institution, believing most conscientiously that its establishment was not only constitutional, but necessary? And has not the fact been most satisfactory, that the Bank has been a great acquisition to the agricultural as well as to the mercantile community. With sentiments of high respect, I am, dear Sir, Your Obt. Servt.

Thomas W. White.

RC (DLC). Docketed by JM.

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