Monthly Record of Current Events, March 9.
The Thirty-seventh Congress terminated its existence on the 4th of March. Several bills passed near the close of the session are of the highest importance.
The Financial Bill authorizes the Secretary of the Treasury to borrow from time to time on the credit of the United States $900,000,000 — $300,000,000 for the current, and $600,000,000 for the ensuing fiscal year, and to issue bonds therefor, at such times and upon such terms as he may think advisable; the bonds to bear interest not exceeding 6 per cent, and to be payable at such times as may be fixed upon by the Secretary, not less than ten or more than forty years. The Secretary is also authorized to issue Treasury Notes to the amount of $400,000,000, to run not more than three years, and bear interest; which notes may be made legal tender, besides which he may issue $150,000,000 of Treasury Notes in the ordinary form, including the $100,000,000 lately authorized by joint resolution. Thus, if money can be had by borrowing, he is authorized to borrow; if it can not be procured by borrowing upon terms which he thinks advantageous, he is authorized to manufacture paper-money to the amount of 550,000,000 of dollars. Besides this, the Bank Act in effect transfers to the Government the entire control over the bank currency. This Act empowers any Company to issue bank-bills on the basis of Government securities to an amount within ten per cent. on the market-value of the securities deposited by them. In just so far as currency is issued by individual banks under this law every stockholder and bank-note holder is really an insurer of Government stock to the value of his stock or notes. — Another provision, inserted as an amendment into the Tax Bill, has already exerted a decided influence upon the finances of the country: For some months gold and silver have become articles of speculation, and, in consequence, coin has almost disappeared from circulation. The holders of specie or bullion borrowed largely upon the pledge or deposit of the precious metals, and succeeded in raising its price to a maximum of 172 cents for the dollar. The amendment to the Tax Bill provides that all contracts for the sale or purchase of coin or bullion, if to be performed after a period of three days, must be in writing, or printed, and duly signed, the contract to bear upon it stamps equal to one-half per cent. upon its amount, with interest; any renewal or extension of such loan to be subject to the same tax; and, moreover, no loan to be made upon pledge or deposit of coin or bullion for an amount exceeding the par value of the coin pledged or deposited as security; all contracts made in violation of this provision to be invalid, and any amounts paid upon them to be recoverable by law. The bearing of this amendment is to impose a tax of one per cent. upon all contracts for the purchase and sale of specie to be executed in
70130 days, the general tax being one-half per cent., and the interest for 30 days being one-half per cent. more. The immediate result of this measure was that in three days the price of gold fell from 172 to about 150 per cent., though it afterward rallied to 155, at which price it was currently sold on the day when our Record closes.
The "Act for Enrolling and Calling out the National Forces," commonly called the "Conscription Law," provides that all able-bodied male citizens, and persons of foreign birth who have declared their intentions of becoming citizens, and who have voted, between the ages of 20 and 45, are liable to be called into service — unless specially excepted. The exceptions are those who are physically or mentally incapable; those who have ever been convicted of felony; a few specified officers of the National and State Governments; and the following classes of persons: The only son of a widow or of aged or infirm parents, dependent upon his labor for support; when there are two or more sons of aged or infirm parents, dependent upon them for support, the father, or if he be dead the mother, may select one who shall be exempt; the only brother of children without father or mother, under 12 years old, dependent upon him for support; the father of motherless children under 12 years old, dependent upon his labor for support; where of the same family and household a father and one or more sons are in the military service of the United States, two of the same family and household are to be exempt. Those persons liable to conscription are to be divided into two classes; the first class comprising all below 35 years of age, and all unmarried persons between 85 and 45; the second class comprises married persons between 35 and 45. This second class is not to be called into service until the first class has been exhausted. — Any person actually drafted may be discharged from draft by furnishing an acceptable substitute, or by paying a sum not exceeding 300 dollars, to be fixed by the Secretary of War. The foregoing are the essential provisions of this Act, the remainder prescribing the details of carrying it into execution. It will be seen that every able-bodied citizen, who is not included within these exceptions, between the ages of 20 and 45, without respect to color, occupation, or religious persuasion, is liable to be called into actual service. Negroes, clergymen, teachers, and Quakers, who have heretofore been exempt from military service, are put on the same footing as other classes. Another Act empowers the President to suspend the habeas corpus Act, whenever and wherever he deems it expedient. Still another Act empowers the President to issue Letters of Marque and Reprisal. The entire white population of the loyal States, at the breaking out of the war, liable to enrollment under the Conscription law, after deducting all exemptions, was fully 4,000,000; of these probably 1,000,000 are now in the service or have been killed, disabled, or discharged; so that there is a reserved force of 3,000,000 able-bodied men between the ages of 20 and 45, all of whom are liable to be called into military service. By these several military and financial laws the entire resources of the country, personal and material, are placed under the absolute control of the President of the United Sates. Power more ample was never assumed by or confided to any ruler. — A concurrent resolution which passed both Houses of Congress takes decided ground against any attempt at mediation by foreign Powers, declaring that Congress will regard every proposition for interference in the present contest as so far unreasonable and inadmissible as to be explained only on the ground of a misunderstanding of the true state of the question; and that any further attempt of the kind will be looked upon as an unfriendly act.
An insurrection of an annoying if not formidable character has broken out in Russian Poland. The immediate occasion appears to have been the attempt at a rigid enforcement of the conscription law, although indications are not wanting to show that a national movement, long meditated and secretly organized, underlies this sudden action. The outbreak took place almost simultaneously at Warsaw and other places about the 22d of January. The rising is evidently of such an extent and character as to have excited serious apprehensions. Within a week after the first movements an alliance offensive and defensive was entered into by the sovereigns of Russia and Prussia, both of whom had so large a share of dismembered Poland. This alliance appears to have been looked upon unfavorably by France and England, and the French Emperor sent a dispatch to Berlin expressing his displeasure, while in the English Parliament Earl Russell has denounced the course of Russia. Our intelligence is as yet too meagre to enable us to form any opinion as to the result of this rising; but it is clear that it is considered in Europe as not unlikely to give rise to serious international troubles, which will for the present give ample occupation to the European Powers.