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#66: US Gets a New President in 1837, and a Depression

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Welcome to the MAKING OF A NATION – American history in VOA Special English.

Martin Van Buren was sworn-in as the eighth president of the United States in eighteen thirty-seven. Not long after he took office, the United States suffered an economic depression.

1836年,马丁.范布伦当选为美国第八位总统。他宣誓就职后不久,美国就陷入了一场严峻的经济衰退。

Martin Van Buren
Martin Van Buren

Many state banks had printed more money than they could guarantee with gold or silver. As more paper money came into use, the value fell. Prices rose sharply. Some people could not buy food or other necessities. In a short time, the demand on banks to exchange paper money for gold and silver grew too heavy.

各州银行大量发行纸币,价值远远超过了银行手中掌握的金币和银币。随着纸币流量的增加,纸币不断贬值,商品物价飞涨,有些穷人甚至买不起食物和日常生活用品。没过多久,银行持有的金币和银币就不足以应付兑换纸币的要求了。

The banks halted such exchanges. They said the situation was only temporary. But the crisis continued.

在这种情况下,银行宣布,停止将纸币兑换成金币或银币,并表示,这只是暂时的,是迫不得已而为之。此后,经济危机继续恶化。

This week in our series, Harry Monroe and Tony Riggs talk about the economic situation. And they discuss foreign affairs during the Van Buren presidency.

VOICE TWO:

Many of the weaker state banks closed after gold and silver payments were suspended. Those that stayed open had almost no money to lend. Businessmen could not pay back money they owed the banks. And they could not get loans to keep their businesses open. Many factories closed. Great numbers of people were out of work.

金币和银币的兑换暂停后,很多实力虚弱的州银行纷纷倒闭,勉强维持的银行也没钱放贷,商家无力偿还银行贷款,同时也得不到新的贷款,很多工厂被迫关门,大批劳工失去工作。

The federal government itself lost nine million dollars because of bank failures. Businessmen said the government was to blame for the economic depression. They said the biggest reason was an order made by former president Andrew Jackson. Jackson had said the government would not accept paper money as payment for the purchase of government land. It would accept only gold or silver.

联邦政府本身也因为银行倒闭损失了九百万美元。商界认为,政府是经济衰退的始作俑者。他们指出,最主要的原因就是前总统杰克逊下的一道政令,要求购买政府土地,一律使用金币或银币,不能使用纸币。

Opponents of the order said it had caused fear and mistrust. Even some of Jackson's strongest supporters said the order should be lifted. They said it had done its job of ending land speculation. Now, they said, it was hurting the economy.

这项政令的反对者说,政令引起了猜疑,就连杰克逊的一些支持者都认为,这项政令应该取消。他们认为,这道政令已经有效制止了土地投机的浪潮,完成了自己的历史使命,如果再继续下去的话,只会对经济造成伤害。

VOICE ONE:

Two of President Van Buren's closest advisers urged him to continue the order. Lifting it, they argued, would flood the federal government with paper money of questionable value.

然而,总统范布伦身边的两位顾问坚持建议他把这道政令继续下去。他们认为,政令一旦解除,联邦政府马上就会被一文不值的纸币所淹没。

A cartoon drawing from 1837 making fun of Martin Van Buren's financial policies
A cartoon drawing from 1837 making fun of Martin Van Buren's financial policies

Van Buren was troubled about the government's money. He wanted to make sure the government had enough money. And he wanted this money safe until needed.

政府财政让范布伦很伤脑筋。他一方面希望确保政府拥有足够资金,保证资金安全;

At the same time, Van Buren did not believe the federal government had the responsibility for ending the depression. And he did not believe the government had the right to interfere in any way with private business. So Van Buren decided to continue the order. No government land could be bought with paper money.

另一方面,范布伦认为,联邦政府没有结束经济衰退的义务,政府无权插手私人经济。因此,范布伦决定继续执行杰克逊的政令,禁止使用纸币购买政府土地。

The economy got worse. The president called a special meeting of Congress. In his message to Congress, Van Buren said "over-banking and over-trading" had caused the depression. He proposed several steps to protect the government.

美国经济进一步恶化。总统范布伦召集国会特别会议。范布伦告诉国会说,“银行界的过量活动和商界的过度交易”是经济衰退的罪魁祸首,他还提出了一系列保护政府的行动步骤。

(MUSIC)

VOICE TWO:

Van Buren asked Congress to postpone payment of surplus federal government money to the states. He said the money would be needed to operate the federal government in the coming year. He also asked Congress to pass a law permitting the government to keep its own money in the Treasury, instead of putting it in private banks. This was the so-called "independent Treasury" bill.

范布伦要求国会推迟将联邦政府的结余资金交给各州。他说,联邦政府在接下来一年里的运作需要这笔资金。他还要求国会通过一项立法,允许政府把联邦资金留给财政部管理,不交给私有银行。这就是所谓的“独立财政”法案。

The opposition Whig Party denounced the president's proposals. It criticized Van Buren for thinking only of protecting the federal government -- and not helping businessmen, farmers and the states.

反对党辉格党对范布伦的提议表示反对,批评范布伦只想着保护联邦政府,置商人、农民和各州的利益于不顾。

Whig opposition was not strong enough to defeat all the president's proposals. Congress approved a bill to postpone payment of surplus federal government money to the states. But the Whigs -- together with conservative Democrats -- rejected the proposal for an independent Treasury.

然而,辉格党势单力薄,没能阻挡范布伦的所有提案。国会最后通过立法,推迟将联邦政府的结余资金交给各州,但是与此同时,“独立财政”的法案却在辉格党和保守派民主党人的联合阻扰下,无疾而终。

VOICE ONE:

America's Treasury Department received money when it collected import taxes and sold land. It used this money to pay what the government owed. The Treasury did not, however, hold the money from the time it was collected to the time it was paid out.

The Treasury put the money in private banks. President Van Buren wanted to end this situation. He wanted a law to permit the Treasury to keep government money in its own secure places.

The Whigs argued that such a law would give presidents too much power over the economy. Some Democrats who believed strongly in states' rights also opposed it. Between them, they had enough votes in Congress to defeat the proposal.

VOICE TWO:

President Van Buren tried again the following year to get approval for an independent Treasury. Again, the proposal was defeated.

次年,范布伦再次提出“独立财政”议案,结果再次受挫。

Finally, in June, eighteen-forty, Congress passed a law permitting the Treasury Department to hold government money itself. Van Buren signed the bill. The economic depression of eighteen thirty-seven lasted for six years. It was the major problem -- but not the only problem -- during Van Buren's one term as president.

直到1840年6月,国会才通过立法,允许财政部保留政府资金。范布伦签字生效。美国1837年开始的经济衰退持续了六年,是范布伦第一个任期内遇到的主要问题,但并非唯一问题。

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

In foreign affairs, one of the chief problems Van Buren faced was a dispute with Britain about Canada. Canadian rebels had tried two times to end British rule of Canada. They failed both times. Rebel leaders were forced to flee to safety in the United States. There they found it easy to get men and supplies to help them continue their struggle.

在外交领域内,加拿大跟英国发生了矛盾。加拿大的反叛势力两度企图摆脱英国统治,结果都以失败告终。反叛头领被迫逃亡美国,寻求安全。他们发现,在美国可以轻而易举地得到人力和物力,继续他们的独立斗争。

A drawing of the American ship Caroline, seized by Canadian soldiers. They set fire to it and pushed it over Niagara Falls.
A drawing of the American ship Caroline, seized by Canadian soldiers. They set fire to it and pushed it over Niagara Falls.

The rebels built a base on a Canadian island in the Niagara River which formed part of the border between the two countries. They used an American boat to carry supplies from the American side to their base. In December eighteen thirty-seven, Canadian soldiers crossed the Niagara River and seized the boat. One American was killed in the fight.

他们在美加边境尼亚加拉河一个加拿大岛屿上建立了根据地,用美国船只把供给从美国运来。1837年12月,加拿大部队穿过尼亚加拉河,扣押了运输供给的美国船只,还打死了一个美国人。

VOICE TWO:

For a while, Canadian forces and Canadian rebels exchanged attacks on river boats. A number of American citizens fought with the rebels. President Van Buren was troubled. He declared that the wish to help others become independent was a natural feeling among Americans. But, he said no American had a right to invade a friendly country. He warned that citizens who fought against the Canadian government, and were captured, could expect no help from the United States.

加拿大部队和反叛力量经常在船上交火,一些美国人跟反叛力量并肩作战。范布伦为此十分苦恼。他宣布,帮助他人争取自由,是美国人民的自然感受,但是他说,美国人无权入侵友好邻邦。他警告说,任何跟加拿大政府作对的美国公民,一旦被抓住,不要指望美国政府出面帮助。

VOICE ONE:

Another problem between the United States and Canada at that time concerned the border along the state of Maine. That part of the border had been in dispute ever since seventeen eighty-three when Britain recognized the independence of the American states.

美国和加拿大面对的另一个问题是缅因州一带美加边境线引起的纠纷。自从1783年英国承认美国独立以来,那一段边境就一直存在争议。

Years later, the king of the Netherlands agreed to decide the dispute. The king said it was impossible to decide the border from words of the peace treaty between Britain and the United States. So he offered what he believed was a fair settlement instead: The United States would get about two times as much of the disputed area as Canada.

很多年后,荷兰国王同意出面,协助斡旋。他说,根据英美两国签署的和平协议,无法判断边境的划分,他提出了自己认为最合理的建议,就是将争议地区分成三份,美国两份,加拿大一份。

Britain accepted the proposal by the king of the Netherlands. The United States did not. The United States refused, because the state of Maine would not accept it.

英国接受了荷兰国王的解决方案,但是美国拒绝接受,因为缅因州不答应。

VOICE TWO:

In eighteen thirty-eight, Britain withdrew its acceptance of the proposal. And Canadians entered the disputed area. The governor of Maine sent state forces to the area. The soldiers drove out the Canadians and built forts. Canada, too, began to prepare for war.

1837年,英国也收回成命。加拿大人随即进入争议地区,缅因州州长派兵把加拿大人赶走,并在那里建筑了堡垒。加拿大也开始积极备战。

General Winfield Scott
General Winfield Scott

President Van Buren sent General Winfield Scott to Maine. Scott was able to get the governor to withdraw his forces from the disputed area. He also received guarantees that Canadian forces would not enter the area. The danger of war passed.

总统范布伦派遣温菲尔德.斯科特将军赶往缅因。在斯科特将军的调解下,缅因州部队撤出了争议地带,加拿大人也保证不涉足那片地区,从而避免了一场战争。

VOICE ONE:

Americans in the border area, however, were angry with President Van Buren. They believed Van Buren was weak, because he did not want war. Not only in the Northeast was the president losing support. People all over the country were suffering because of the economic depression.

然而,边境地区的美国人对范布伦非常不满,认为他过于软弱,不敢打仗。与此同时,经济衰退,民怨沸腾。

Most people believed Van Buren was responsible for their troubles, because he did not end the depression. The economy had fallen apart because of the hard money policies of former President Andrew Jackson, and the opposition to those policies by businessmen and bankers. And Van Buren did nothing to change those policies.

大多数人都觉得,范布伦要为经济困境负责。美国经济之所以一发不可收拾,是因为前总统杰克逊实行的强硬的货币政策,以及这些政策引起的商人和银行家的反对。但是范布伦拒绝改变杰克逊的政策。

VOICE TWO:

Van Buren had been a good political adviser to President Jackson. But he had not been a strong president. He was unable to make the people understand his policies. The opposition Whig Party was happy over these developments. It saw an excellent chance to win the next presidential election.

范布伦是杰克逊手下的优秀幕僚,但并不是一位优秀的总统,他无法让人民理解自己的政策。当时的反对党辉格党对这种事态发展十分满意,他们看到了在下届总统大选中获胜的希望。

The issues in American politics before the election of eighteen forty will be our story in the next program of THE MAKING OF A NATION.

(MUSIC)

ANNOUNCER:

Our program was written by Frank Beardsley. The narrators were Harry Monroe and Tony Riggs. Transcripts, MP3s and podcasts of our programs can be found, along with historical images, at www.unsv.com. Join us again next week for THE MAKING OF A NATION - an American history series in VOA Special English.

___

This is program #66 of THE MAKING OF A NATION

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