The Rise and Fall of England: 14. The Decline of England
APRIL 01, 1969 by CLARENCE B. CARSON
Dr. Carson, Professor of History at Grove City College, Pennsylvania, will be remembered for his earlier FREEMAN series, The Fateful Turn, The American Tradition, and The Flight from Reality.
England’s decline began in the interwar years between World War I and World War II. To all appearances, England was still a great world power. The sun never set on the British flag; indeed, it had less chance of doing so in the interwar years than before. The British navy no longer quite ruled the seas, but no other did either. In the gatherings of great powers, England must still be present or consulted. Yet the inner strength which had given England power and influence around the world was decaying. The decline was political, economic, moral, religious, and social. Before exploring the signs of decline, it needs to be placed in a broader context. England’s decline occurred within the framework of the disintegration of the European order, a disintegration which had ramifications around the world.
"To think," Kaiser Wilhelm lamented at the outbreak of World War I, "that George and Nicky should have played me false! If my grandmother had been alive, she would never have allowed it."¹ "George" was George V of England, and "Nicky" was Nicholas II of Russia. "Grandmother" was, of course, Queen Victoria of England. She was not only the Kaiser’s grandmother but also Czar Nicholas’ grandmother by marriage. Moreover, it was not simply a felicitous phrase to refer to her as "Grandmother of Europe."2 In view of the heavy tomes since written on the "causes" of World War I, historians are inclined to rate the Kaiser’s remark as highly naive. Yet, it should not be casually dismissed. Grandmother Victoria might not have prevented World War I, most likely could not have. But monarchy had provided balance and continuity for nations and empires between the Congress of Vienna and World War I—that century of peace. It had come generally to be limited monarchy in which the monarchs’ powers for abuse were shorn but in which sufficient power was retained to counterbalance legislatures. Moreover, the intertwining of royal families by kinship and marriage did tend to make for good relations among the countries of Europe. The spirit of nationalism had distinguished peoples from peoples, but they were still linked to one another in royal families.
The disintegration of the European order was twofold during or after World War I. On the one hand, monarchy was abandoned by major countries: Germany and Russia most notably. Secondly, the empires of Central and Eastern Europe were broken up: German, Austro-Hungarian, Russian, and Ottoman. In their place, new nations were brought into being and old ones revived: Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Latvia, Lithuania, and so forth. New as well as old nations were highly nationalistic, jealous of one another, and no longer generally linked with one another by royal families, though some monarchs were retained or restored.
The New Mercantilism: Return to Self-Sufficiency
The disintegration was both signaled and fostered by attempts of each country to become economically self-sufficient—by economic nationalism or neo-mercantilism, whatever term may be preferred. One history gives an example of this for one group of countries:
As an expression of their sovereignty and independence each of the states in Danubian Europe erected its own tariff system… In general the tariffs ascended in this order: Austria, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Rumania…. Recourse was also made to quota and licensing systems.
It adds: "The small states of Central Europe cannot be censured for trying to create a rounded national economy when the whole world was doing the same thing."3
In many respects, this economic nationalism was a continuation and extension to new states of developments which were becoming general in the last decades of the nineteenth century. Country after country had erected tariff barriers: the United States, Germany, and so forth. These had set the stage for the new surge to get colonies and dominate territories in various places on the globe. The roots of World War I can be found in this expansionism which grew out of protectionism. England grasped for colonies while holding out against the protectionist measures.
This new mercantilism differed significantly in the animus behind it from the mercantilism of the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries. It was spurred by the trend toward socialism and the welfare state. Countries found it expedient to erect "trade curtains" to protect themselves from the world market in order to control and regulate domestic economies. Black and Helmreich point up the connection in their discussion of the bills of rights in the new constitutions of the Danubian governments in the 1920′s: "The government must assure the right to work; the health of the citizens, particularly the laboring man, must be safeguarded; the aged must be cared for; the family protected, etc. To implement all these `rights’ the government would of necessity have to provide a far-reaching social service program, regulate trade and industry, and become in truth the very nurturer of the whole population…."4 England held out longer than other nations against the interior logic, or illogic, of the requirements of the welfare state, but, as we shall see, eventually succumbed.
The League of Nations
The League of Nations was supposed to bring about and maintain order and peace during the interwar years. It did not do so; indeed. it could not do so. That organization was to promote international cooperation and provide collective security. Yet nation was pitted against nation economically; manipulated currencies made movement of goods and peoples from one land to another increasingly difficult; ideology and action severed the natural bonds of one people with another. Nations cannot use the power of their governments against one another in trade and collaborate to maintain peace politically. They cannot establish national socialism, on the one hand, and international collective action, on the other. The notion that if the United States had joined the League matters would have turned out differently pays too high a compliment to the colossus of the New World. The vaunted inventiveness of Americans would not have sufficed to overcome the interior contradictions of disintegrating Europe.
At any rate, the old order in Europe was not replaced by a new order in the interwar years. Instead, disorder spread, became more violent, and threatened the peace of the world. Governments made that variety of internal war upon their own populations which is implicit in socialist ideology and attempted to forge a new unity by preaching class and race hatred. Governmental power was totalized, first in the Soviet Union, then in other lands. Power was concentrated in the hands of dictators or would-be dictators in land after land—in the hands of Stalin, Mussolini, Hitler, Marshall Pilsudski, Salazar, and so forth—in the absence of the old monarchical and aristocratic restraints and under the guise of the thrust toward socialism. Dictators consolidated their power by turning to aggression in the 1930′s. Word of new horrors began to spread, suggested by such phrases as concentration camps, Siberia, secret police, dossiers, travel permit, shot in the back of the neck, Gestapo, liquidation of kulaks, and so forth. Intellectuals in France, Great Britain, and the United States—themselves bent toward socialism—disavowed the misbegotten step-children of socialism known as Italian fascism and German Nazism, but were generally unrepentant in the face of Soviet purges and the Nazi-Soviet Pact.
Decline in Foreign Trade and Domestic Production
Such was the setting of England’s decline.
That decline is most readily measurable in foreign trade and economic production. In some areas, the decline was relative; in others, it was absolute. The United Kingdom’s relative share of world trade—exports and imports—is indicated by these figures: in 1840, it was 32 per cent; 1913, 17 per cent; 1938, 13 per cent.5 More important, British imports accounted for an increasing proportion of the trade, while exports decreased.6 The United Kingdom’s portion of world manufacturing production was 31.8 per cent in 1870; 14 per cent in 1913; and 9.2 per cent in the 1936-1938 period.7
Britain’s decline was most notable in the older basic industries, those industries which the British had dominated in the nineteenth century: coal, iron and steel, shipbuilding, shipping, cotton goods, and so forth. The decline in coal mined was absolute. A record 287 million tons were mined in 1913; in the 1920′s, annual production averaged about 253 million tons.8 A decreasing proportion of this was sold in foreign trade.9 "Until 1937, pig-iron production declined steadily from its absolute peak of 10¹/4 million tons in 1913."¹0 In general, iron and steel production fell during the interwar years until it began to rise in the late 1930′s. What happened to the cotton goods industry is probably most important, for it had accounted for a large portion of exports in the nineteenth century. Piece goods production fell from a little over 8 billion square yards in 1912 to 31/2 billion square yards in 1930 to only a little over 3 billion yards in 1938. Exports of piece goods declined even more drastically: from nearly 7 billion square yards in 1912 to less than 1¹/2 billion square yards in 1938.¹¹ British shipbuilding fell off badly between the wars.
From 1920 onwards the tonnage under construction fell, though the years 1927-30 were relatively good years, British launchings then running at about 75% of the level of 1911-13. In the slump, with millions of tons of shipping laid up, the building of new tonnage virtually came to a standstill: in 1933 the launchings from British yards fell to 7% of the pre-war figure. Throughout the early 1930′s a large part of the industry was idle….12
Some new industries did grow and develop during the interwar years, such as electrical goods, automobiles, aircraft, silk and rayon goods, and chemical products,¹³ but these did not alter the fact of the general decline.
British agriculture did not fare well during the period either. There were just over 11 million acres in cultivation in 1914 (in England and Wales). It had fallen to 9,833,000 acres in 1930. Acreage under wheat in 1931 reached the lowest point ever recorded. There were some increases in production in some categories, but the English were producing far less than they consumed of agricultural products.¹4 A flight from the land was characteristic of these years: "employment in agriculture and forestry in the United Kingdom fell from an average of 1,004,000 in 1920-22 to an average of 735,000 in 1927-28…. Workers left the industry at the rate of 10,000 a year, and the exodus of young men was particularly marked…"15
British Themselves Responsible for Commercial Decline
Many historians attribute the commercial and industrial decline of England to the protectionist policies of other nations, to other countries finally catching up to an earlier lead England had gained, and to the failure of the British to modernize. Undoubtedly, the protectionist policies of other countries made trade more difficult for the British. The latter two points, however, require explanations rather than constituting them. In truth, the British were mainly responsible for their commercial decline. The reasons for that decline are not far to seek. England had risen as a great industrial and commercial nation when the energies of men had been freed, when restrictions upon land were removed or reduced, when special privileges were struck down, when liberty and property were secured for individuals, and when they were motivated by belief to constructive achievement.
England’s decline followed the onset of government intervention on a scale that could not be fully compensated for. That intervention began to take effect in the early years of the twentieth century, was temporarily vastly expanded during World War I, and in the interwar years began to mount once more. The thrust toward intervention came from Fabian socialists and other reformers, was spearheaded by the Labour Party in Parliament, and gained sway during every major cabinet administration from 1906 onward. High taxation made the accumulation of capital a forbidding task; regulation made new investments in many areas unenticing; labor unions introduced inflexibilities into the economy; and Britain became less and less competitive around the world. The determination of interventionists to regulate and control was inconsistent with free trade and the gold standard; one or the other had to go, and it was freedom that went. There is not space here to tell the story in detail, but enough must be told to show how the decline followed from the intervention.
Following World War I, there was a considerable attempt at reconversion and restoration of the old order. "During 1919 the controls of trade and shipping were allowed to end. Rationing of food and most price controls ended by 1920…. Factories and stores of `war surplus’ goods were sold off. The Government made every show of its conviction… that Governments ought to get out of business…."¹ This last sentence exaggerates somewhat, but it does indicate one tendency. The budget was balanced once again, and the inflation halted. Trade with the rest of the world was virtually freed. In 1925, Winston Churchill, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, was able to restore the gold standard. Most of this had been accomplished under governments headed by David Lloyd George, Bonar Law, and Stanley Baldwin, the latter two being Conservative Prime Ministers.
Revival Short-Lived; More Governmental Intervention
These measures did not succeed fully in reviving England for two reasons mainly. In the first place, the reconversion was not that thorough; much intervention was continued, and more came. One historian notes that during the war "departments, bureaus, committees, controllers were created and piled on top of each other…." After the war, "though the flood subsided, government never returned to its old channel."¹7 Signs of increasing government appeared in the establishment of a Ministry of Labour in 1916, a Ministry of Health in 1919, a Ministry of Transport in 1919, a Department of Scientific and Industrial Research in 1916, a Forestry Commission in 1919, and a Medical Research Council in 1920.¹8 Railroad consolidation was prescribed after the war; coal mines were greatly regulated; high taxes were imposed; and some tariffs were continued. Two new welfare acts were passed shortly after the war. "The Housing and Town Planning Act of July 1919… provided for government subsidies through local authorities." An unemployment insurance act was passed in 1920. "Nearly twelve million workers, including eight million not previously insured were brought within the scope of the act…."19 This last was to become very shortly a great burden on English taxpayers.
Trade Unions a Major Obstacle to Recovery
The other great obstacle to the revival of England in the 1920′s was the labor unions. These had grown greatly during World War I, and they now had a powerful political arm in the Labour Party. Labor unions find it very difficult to survive deflation. They depend for their following to a considerable extent upon frequent increases in wages. This can only be accomplished generally by increases in the money supply or reductions in employment. When the government began balancing the budget and later returned to the gold standard, labor unions resisted any cut in wages vigorously. There were widespread strikes, this activity coming to a head with the General Strike of 1926 (an event significantly preceded by the return to the gold standard). The government came to the aid of miners by subsidizing them and prescribing the conditions that should prevail. More generally, however, those union workers with jobs continued to get high monetary wages. They did so at the expense of other workers, for unemployment became endemic in England in the 1920′s, and was a fixture throughout the interwar years. By June of 1922, the registered unemployed had reached 1¹/2 millions. The government came to the rescue, and began its subsidization of unemployment on a large scale. The government, "by a series of Acts in 1921 and 1922… extended the period during which benefits could be drawn…, altered the rates of benefit, and increased the contributions."²º One of the major reasons for economic decline in England during the interwar years was that a considerable portion of the people were not working. The labor unions produced the situation, and the government sustained it.
Unemployment was highest in the old staple industries, and remained high during these years. These were the industries, of course, where unionization had its great impact. A further reason for decline can be seen in wages and productivity. British wages were generally higher than in other lands.2¹ On the other hand, productivity did not keep pace. In coal mining, for example, other countries in Europe were greatly increasing the output per man-shift; England had only small gains. "By 1936, the peak year in every country, Britain’s output per man shift was 14 per cent above that of 1927, whereas the increase in the Ruhr mines was 81 per cent, in the Polish mines 54 per cent, in the Dutch mines 118 per cent."22 Small wonder that Britain could not maintain its trade position.
Protectionism in the Thirties
Government intervention and labor union obstruction prevented the revival of the economy in the 1920′s. With the coming of the depression of the 1930′s, the government abandoned the feeble effort it had made to restore the policies which had made England great. The great symbols of these, the gold standard and free trade, were given up: the gold standard in 1931; protective tariffs and imperial preference were inaugurated in 1932. The pound sterling was no longer good as gold, and England was no longer the trading Mecca of the world.
It has been suggested that England backed into socialism in the interwar years. But this was not always the case. In the 1920′s under a Conservative government there was a straightforward movement in that direction in two instances. Radio was taken over by the government as the British Broadcasting Corporation. A Central Electricity Board was created, and it was empowered to make wholesale distribution of electricity. In retrospect, though, it does look as if the stage was set for socialism by the backdoor. The government appeared to do its best to wreck free enterprise by abolishing competition in many areas in the 1930′s. Cartelization was authorized and fostered in several industries, notably coal mining, iron and steel, and shipbuilding.
The government fostered combinations, collaborations, and price setting, similar to what was undertaken under the N.R.A. in the United States. What was involved is suggested by this description: "The Government looked for the benefits of monopoly, tempered by planning in the national interest. Accordingly, the British Iron and Steel Federation was formed in April 1934…. In 1935-36 it took over the price-fixing functions of earlier sectional associations, and it negotiated with foreign cartels to impose quantitative restrictions on imports…."2³ Nationalization was only a step away after this.
If anything, the intervention in agriculture was more massive than that in other areas in the 1930′s. England had already, in the 1920′s, attempted to establish sugar beet growing by giving subsidies (what were called bounties generally under the older mercantilism). In the 1930′s protectionist policies for agricultural products were followed, and attempts at cartelization, of a sort, were made. Potato Marketing Boards, Milk Marketing Boards, Bacon and Pig Marketing Boards were set up to do such things as control production and prices. One historian describes the inconsistency in this way: "Viewed in the broadest possible perspective, the world was suffering from a surfeit of food, and Britain, the world’s chief food market, reacted to this glut by closing her frontiers to imports and encouraging her farmers to add to the world output by expanding their high-cost production."24 At any rate, the vaunted independent Englishman was independent no more; he was caught in the toils of government power by the promises of government favors.
There was a revival of the British economy in the middle and late 1930′s. It did not, however, signalize the recovery to full health of the patient. Instead, it was only an instance of that deceivingly healthful flush that patients sometimes develop just before they succumb.
England declined in many other ways than the economic in the interwar years. British influence and power was waning in the world at large. At the Washington Naval Conference, and then more completely at the London Naval Conference, Britain abandoned its naval pre-eminence. The United States was accorded equality, and the Japanese acquired a leading role in the Pacific. These indicated the decline of power and of the will to be the strongest.
Waning World Influence
The waning of British influence was more subtle and probably much more significant. In the nineteenth century, British political forms and institutions had been the models for much of the world. In the interwar years, this ceased to be the case. Intellectuals began to cast admiring glances toward the Soviet Union: to its social planning, to one-party government, to the dictatorship instituted there. Italian fascism had its admirers, too, as Mussolini consolidated his power in the mid-twenties. (At least, some said, the trains run on time in Italy.)
But to look at it this way is probably to approach the matter wrong-end-to. What was there to admire and imitate about British institutions any longer? What were they? How convinced of their probity were the British themselves? Power had already been centralized in the House of Commons and concentrated in the cabinet. The balance of powers now remained largely in relics which were forms without substance. Political parties represented about all that was left of the means of balancing power. But these, too, lost vitality during the years under consideration.
The only party that managed to get a clear majority in the interwar years was the Conservative Party. But its leadership was usually reluctant to govern. Labour got a plurality in the election of 1929, and Ramsay MacDonald, the Labourite, formed a government. It fell in 1931, and MacDonald led the movement for a National government. There was an overwhelming vote for candidates pledged to the National government. Actually, Conservatives elected 472 members to the House of Commons, a preponderant majority itself. Nonetheless, Ramsay MacDonald served as Prime Minister for a National government from 1931 to 1935, followed by two Conservatives, Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain, to 1940. This was surely the peacetime nadir of party responsibility in modern British history. Without effective party responsibility for what was done, there was little check left upon government. In short, England turned to its own variety of "one-party" government in this period—a pale imitation of what was occurring in the dictatorships.
Retreat to Munich
Britain was withdrawing from the world, retreating from competition behind tariff barriers, going off the gold standard, pulling in to the hoped-for safety of empire. Other nations were becoming aggressively expansive: Japan, Italy, Germany, and the Soviet Union. Nobody did anything of real consequence when Japan invaded Manchuria in the early 1930′s. Britain and France agreed not to intervene significantly when Mussolini’s forces invaded Ethiopia in 1935. This would throw Mussolini into the arms of Hitler, it was feared, and Britain clung to the relics of a balance of power policy which, in fact, at this point meant a withdrawal of influence. When Spain became a battleground between communists, on the one hand, and fascists—assisted by Germany and Italy—, on the other, no British weight was used to prevent the intervention. Indeed, as Germany rearmed, as the Rhineland was remilitarized, as international treaties were flagrantly violated, Britain acquiesced piecemeal in virtually every measure.
The depth of the bankruptcy of British foreign policy was reached at the Munich Conference in 1938. Prior to this conference, Chamberlain had made hurried trips to meet and treat with Hitler, pleading with the arrogant dictator to moderate his claims. At Munich, Hitler refused to allow Czech representatives to be present at the meeting of himself, Mussolini, Daladier (for France), and Chamberlain. Yet the men present agreed to the cession of Czechoslovak territory (the Sudetenland) to Germany. But if the Czechs had been present, they could have been outvoted; such are the possibilities of democratic collective agreements. Chamberlain returned to England exultant; the Munich agreement had, he proclaimed, secured "peace in our time." And the crowds cheered!
That men are fallible beings is undoubtedly true. They fall short of their ideals; they do not invariably hue to the line of principle; they compromise quite often where moral questions are involved. Yet there are tides in the affairs of men, and it is not simply individual fallibility involved in these affairs. Chamberlain had not simply varied from principle; in the best of times men do this. He was confused, and his confusion was the reflex of that of a large portion of the English people. The decline of England was preceded and accompanied by moral and religious decline. It is one thing to violate the known and agreed upon principles of morality; it is quite another not to know what these principles are, to be torn between conflicting views, or to be uncertain as to the existence of verities. It was the latter which afflicted the English, as well as people elsewhere.
One historian describes the decline of religion in the interwar years in this way:
More broadly, religious faith was losing its strength. Not only did church-going universally decline. The dogmas of revealed religion—the Incarnation and the Resurrection —were fully accepted only by a small minority. Our Lord Jesus Christ became, even for many avowed Christians, merely the supreme example of a good man. This was as great a happening as any in English history since the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons to Christianity….25
Another points out that by the 1930′s the number of communicants in the Church of England only barely exceeded that of Roman Catholics. The well-to-do still availed themselves of the rites of the church. "But no more than socially; and Puritanism languished except in a few Dissenting congregations, and among the elderly."26
For several decades, the erosion of belief in verities had proceeded apace or accelerated. Intellectuals had swung over to relativism. Morals, people were taught, are relative to time and place, are matters of customs and mores. Moral absolutes were for Englishmen reflexes of Puritanism and Victorianism, hence, old-hat, outmoded, and increasingly despised. Rationality had been undercut by new currents of irrationality.
Ripe for Socialism
There was a close relation between these developments and the movement toward socialism. Socialists could not advance their dogmas in a framework of individual responsibility. The virtues of industry, thrift, clean living, and careful husbandry must be undermined. Traditional morality abjured violence, enjoined respect for property, taught that men should not steal but be content with the fruits of their own labor. Covetousness was enjoined by Holy Writ. These had to be, and were, denigrated for socialism to make its gains.
The point is this: When Chamberlain confronted Hitler, he brought no high moral position from England with which to oppose the Führer. The gradualist movement toward socialism in England had acclimated the English to methods analogous to those of Hitler, if not in so brutal a guise. The British had come to accept labor union violence as a legitimate means to achieve their ends. They had been familiarized with increasing use of government force against the population to regulate trade, to confiscate wealth, to provide funds for idle men. What was right was what the majority voted for, according to an underlying ethos. If the majority voted for programs which took the profits of corporations, that was not theft; it was only social justice. If the House of Lords stood in the way of this thrust for power, it should be shorn of its effective veto. There was no high ground in all of this from which to counter Hitler’s moves. Moreover, the British people did not want adventures; they wanted peace.
It must not be thought that socialists believed consistently in the protection of minorities. Which minorities? Not the Lords. Not the farmers. Not factory owners. Not the unemployed (and their right to work in struck plants). Not of women, for the labor unions had worked diligently to drive women from their employment after World War I. The Czechs were, after all, only another minority. Why should their selfish wishes stand in the way of the great goal of world peace?
It is not my point, of course, that the British were more responsible than others for these international events, or that they acted more ignobly. They did eventually stand and fight, and they did so sturdily and even heroically. In the dark days of 1940-41, they stood alone against the Axis might which bestrode the continent of Europe. Winston Churchill’s promises to "wage war, by sea, land, and air" until victory was achieved rallied his people behind him. The point, rather, is that England’s decline was of its own making, that the decay of morality underlay this decline, that the British abandoned ancient principles and vitiated their system, that government intervention produced the decline, and that waning influence abroad was a logical consequence of the loss of certainty at home. Nor was the war anything more than a temporary interruption of the British on their road leading toward oblivion.
The next article of this series will pertain to "Socialism in Power."
1 Walter L. Arnstein, Britain: Yesterday and Today (Boston: D. C. Heath, 1966), p. 237.
2 See ibid., pp. 372-73 for a simplified chart of the relationship of Queen Victoria to the other monarchs in Europe
3 C. E. Black and E. C. Helmreich. Twentieth Century Europe (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1960), pp. 293-94.
4 Ibid., p. 291.
5 Shepard B. Clough, European Economic History (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1968, 2nd ed.), p. 419.
6 See Charles Loch Mowat, Britain Between the Wars (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1955), p. 262.
7 Clough, op. cit., p. 397.
8 Loch Mowat, op. cit., p. 276.
9 Sidney Pollard, The Development of the British Economy: 1914-1950 (London: Edward Arnold, 1962), pp. 110-11.
10 Ibid., p. 114.
11 Ibid., p. 121.
¹2 Ibid., p. 117.
13 Ibid., p. 98.
14 Loch Mowat, op. cit., pp. 250-53.
15 Pollard, op. cit., p. 142.
16 David Thomson, England in the Twentieth Century (Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1965), p. 67..
17 Loch Mowat, op. cit., pp. 13-14.
18 Ibid., p. 15.
19 Alfred F. Havighurst, Twentieth Century Britain (New York: Harper and Row, 1962, 2nd ed.), p. 171.
20 Loch Mowat, op. cit., p. 127.
21 Ibid., p. 268.
22 Ibid., p. 276.
23 Pollard, op. cit., p. 116.
24 Ibid., p. 141.
²5 A. J. P. Taylor, English History: 1914-1945 (New York: Oxford 2University Press, 1965), p. 168.
26 Robert Graves and Alan Hodge, The Long Week-End (New York: Norton, 1963), p. 113.
Martin Van Buren
Those who look to the action of this Government for specific aid to the citizen to relieve embarrassments arising from losses by revulsions in commerce and credit lose sight of the ends for which it was created and the powers with which it is clothed. It was established to give security to us all in our lawful and honorable pursuits, under the lasting safeguard of republican institutions. It was not intended to confer special favors on individuals or on any classes of them, to create systems of agriculture, manufactures, or trade, or to engage in them either separately or in connection with individual citizens or organized associations. If its operations were to be directed for the benefit of any one class, equivalent favors must in justice be extended to the rest, and the attempt to bestow such favors with an equal hand, or even to select those who should most deserve them, would never be successful.
Message before a Special Session of Congress, September 4, 1837, to consider monetary problems.