From The Constitution, Wednesday, February 12, 1862 (volume 25, number 1259)
It is believed that the Senate will pass the treasury note bill with the legal tender clause.
No doubt is entertained that there has been fighting before this at Roanoake [sic] Island. Intelligence reached Fortress Monroe on Friday that Gen. Burnside’s expedition moved from Hatteras Inlet on Wednesday morning for the Island. The weather has been favorable and we are expecting good news from there soon.
News from the West continues to be cheering. Troops are in motion towards Knoxville, and the railroad through Eastern Tennessee will be taken possession of immediately.
Three vessels of the Butler Expedition left Boston on Saturday for Ship Island.
Gen. Lander with seven or eight thousand troops marched against the enemy at Romney on Thursday. The forces were about equal on both sides, but the rebels retreated across the river, burning the bridge in their rear.
Nothing of importance from the army of the Potomac.
Gen. Stone has been placed under arrest and sent to Fort Lafayette.
The latest from the west is from St. Louis, Feb. 10th. The enemy is still encamped near Fort Henry, and preparations for further movements are going vigorously forward. The panic is so extensive in Tennessee that the river is considered open for Union fleets to its headwaters.
By the Jura, just arrived, we learn that Mason and Slidell have arrived in England. The Times thinks they will keep quiet.
Highly important news from Mexico is that a great battle has been fought between the Spaniards and Mexicans at the National Bridge near Vera Cruz, in which the Spaniards were defeated. The conflict lasted five hours. The Mexican people are represented as being completely united in their efforts to resist foreign invasion.
Dreadful Colliery Accident – Two Hundred Men and Boys Buried in a Pit
Shields, Friday night.—I have just returned from Hartley New Pit, where 200 men and boys are buried. The shaft has been closed up through the huge beam of the pumping engine falling down the pit yesterday. It carried the timber and the wood work down, and thus blocked the up and down cast shafts. The falling timber filled five out of eight men who were being drawn up in a cage at the time. The men and lads working below at the time of the accident have been buried forty-eight hours, notwithstanding the greatest exertions to relieve them on the part of the ablest men in the coal trade.
The working seam is filling with water, and no doubt the horses, which are worth £500, are already drowned. The men and lads, however, could escape by means of a ladder to the Yard Seam, which is 49 fathoms higher, and out of reach of water. Men have been heard trying to clear the obstruction in the shaft from below, to-night, and no doubt is entertained that they are all out of danger of water at least. Means have been employed for securing good ventilation, and I was assured by the best authorities, before I left to-night, that the strongest hopes may be entertained that the yard seam would be reached and the men and lads rescued before morning.
Great excitement prevails and numerous pitmen’s wives have been at the pit mouth, watching since last night.
The three men who were saved hung to the cage in the shaft eight hours before they were rescued.
The Victory in Tennessee
We had glorious news from the west last week of the capture of Fort Henry on the Tennessee River, which was effected on Thursday. This is not only a glorious but an important victory, opening the way, as it does, for a general movement of our land and naval forces southward. It will also, it is thought, permit a flank movement to be made, cutting off Beauregard’s and Johnson’s forces at Bowling Green. The victory was achieved entirely by the brave seamen of Com. Foote’s squadron of gunboats, and nobly did they maintain the honor of the stars and stripes in the hard fought battle. This is the first victory in Tennessee. It will not be the last.
The Proposal to Make Treasury Notes a Legal Tender
The principal feature of the treasury note bill now before Congress is that it proposes to make the United States treasury notes a legal tender, that is, to place them on an equality with coin in the payment of all debts. This is an entirely new step in legislation, and one which must strike every reflecting mind as a very bold movement, and which can only be justified by the most extraordinary emergencies.
The first difficulty which presented itself was that Congress had no constitutional power to convert promissory notes into a circulating medium and place them on a par with coin. But the weight of authority appears to be on the side of the constitutionality of the measure. By the constitution the whole power of regulating the currency is placed in the hands of Congress. Such is the opinion of the Attorney General, Mr. Bates, and such was clearly the opinion of Daniel Webster. Mr. Webster was decidedly opposed to making any thing but coin a legal tender, and for that reason he was a firm friend of a national bank, which, while it gave every needed accommodation to the government and met all the demands of the business community, rested on a firm specie basis. Such an exigency as now exists did not exist during his career, and no one can say that he would not under present circumstances have favored the legal tender clause in the present bill. But it is remarkable that while in his day he opposed on grounds of expediency making anything a legal tender but coin, he admitted the constitutional right of Congress to do so. He says Congress “has authority” to regulate, and must regulate and control any and all paper which either states or individuals might desire to put into circulation purporting to represent coin and to take its place in the uses of trade and commerce.”
Allowing then that such legislation may be constitutional, it is still a question whether it should be resorted to under present circumstances. It is claimed that unless these notes are made a legal tender, they will be depreciated in value, and will entirely fail to answer the purpose for which they are issued. It is well known that Mr. Chase, the Secretary of the Treasury, did not at first favor the plan of making the notes a legal tender. But now he affirms his belief that no other course will satisfy the demands of the treasury. If it is so, if those who are best acquainted with the real situation of our national finances declare that this extraordinary measure is necessary, then the bill ought to pass, and government notes should become a part of the legalized currency of the country. But such a measure as this should not be adopted unless an absolute necessity for it is seen to exist. It indicates any thing but a flattering condition of our national credit, for it says as clearly as can be said that U. States treasury notes require to be bolstered up by all the authority of Congress in order to give them a fair position in business circles. The credit of the government ought to be such that its notes will circulate without such aid. They should represent an actual value, like any other notes, and pass for what they are worth. And what is more, we doubt whether Congress can by legislation give a value to notes which they do not represent. According to all principles of political economy it is as impossible by a single act of legislation to convert a piece of paper which represents no value into money as it is by the same process to convert a piece of copper into a diamond. There are some things that Congresses and Parliaments cannot do, and this is one of them. The only possible way of making government paper equivalent in value to coin, and so of making it answer all the purposes of a legal tender, is by making it convertible into coin.
But the question with Congress is one of expediency. Something must be done to meet a present exigency. However improper this project may appear in ordinary times, it is possible that it may be necessary now. Mr. Chase says it should be adopted, and we have more faith in the foresight and good judgment of the accomplished Secretary than we have in this plan which he has sanctioned. If the legal tender clause becomes a law, the public will know that the treasury is in great straits for money.
Com. Foote, who commanded in the late battle at Fort Henry, is a native of Cheshire in this State. His father was Samuel A. Foote, Governor of the State, and U.S. Senator.
The earthquake of which we made mention last week, was perceived in many of the towns in this county. It was felt in Deep River, and also in East Haddam. The vibrations, it is stated, were so sharp as to cause a violent rattling of windows, stoves, crockery, &c., and they apparently proceeded from the northwest to the southeast. About 9 o’clock the same evening (Sunday before last) another lighter shock occurred, and in the morning about 4 o’clock, still another took place. It would seem that the shock in Colchester was felt more severely than anywhere else. The New London Chronicle says :
“On Sunday evening, about 8 o’clock, the shock of an earthquake was noticed at several localities in this county. In East Lyme and Old Lyme it was perceived, lasting three or four seconds in the latter place. At Colchester it was quite severe, and excited no little alarm in the village. A congregation in one of the churches cut short the service and cut stick for the door—accomplishing the complete evacuation of the building in the quickest time ever made there in going out of meeting. People fled from their dwellings in terror, and sought the streets. Such a scene was never before witnessed in Colchester.”
It is stated that Smith Williams, teacher in District School, No. 3, in Portland, was arraigned before Justice Campbell for cruel punishment of Mary Cox, a scholar, and fined seven dollars and costs.
On Saturday afternoon a horse attached to a sleigh with a man in it became frightened at the boys’ sleds when on the corner of Broad and Court streets. The steed plunged down Court street with the fell purpose of getting out of the way and leaving town in the quickest possible time. He dashed across Main street, and then put for the river, the man all the while holding on to the lines determined to go the whole figure with the horse. At the foot of the street a schooner is laid up and hauled off two or three feet from the dock. The horse took a bee line for the schooner, and without waiting for anybody to throw out a gang-plank, jumped on board. He brought up square against the mast, which knocked him down and put an end to any further operations on his part. The sleigh was carried partly on board the schooner, was not injured, and the driver still retained his seat and his hold on the lines. That race almost beats John Gilpin.
The entertainment last Tuesday and Wednesday evening, by Messrs. Smith and Franklin of the old Continental company, was a very pleasing one. They had a panorama illustrating war scenes, but the great attraction was the singing of patriotic and other songs, which fairly “took down” the house. Although but slight notice of the entertainment was given, they had a good house.
What is the Matter ?
The mail bag from Hartford to Middletown has been several times detained, and once or twice has not reached here till the next day. The public can excuse accidents, but the same kind of accident don’t [sic] generally occur in the same spot more than twice a week. Will the post master in Hartford see if there is not a screw loose somewhere ?
The Calathumpians were around town a few nights ago, and serenaded several very respectable individuals. Their music was thought to be a bad imitation of a chorus of tom cats, screech owls, and hyenas. It did not sound like anything earthly, and it could not be celestial—so it must have been—
There was a ball at the White House on Wednesday evening. It was a splendid affair—five hundred guests present—the supper room “exhibited one of the finest displays of gastronomic art ever seen in this country.” The same night hundreds of Unionists were hunted from their homes in the mountains of Tennessee. The same night our brave sailors in the West were preparing for a deadly conflict at Fort Henry. The same night many a poor mother sat by her lonely fireside thinking of her boy who had gone to defend the flag of his country.