David J. (David Josiah) Brewer.

Crowned masterpieces of eloquence, representing the advance of civilization, as collected in The world's best orations, from the earliest period to the present time (Volume 10) online

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otherwise, and this is the key to open his construction of the
powers of the Government. He may well ask: What interest has
South Carolina in a canal in Ohio ? On his system, it is true,
she has no interest. On that system, Ohio and Carolina are dif-
ferent governments and different countries: connected here, it is
true, by some slight and ill-defined bond of union, but, in all
main respects, separate and diverse. On that system, Carolina
has no more interest in a canal in Ohio than in Mexico. The
gentleman, therefore, only follows out his own principles; he does
no more than arrive at the natural conclusions of his own doc-
trines; he only announces the true results of that creed, which
he has adopted himself, and would persuade others to adopt,
when he thus declares that South Carolina has no interest in a
public work in Ohio. Sir, we narrow-minded people of New
England do not reason thus. Our notion of things is entirely
different. We look upon the States, not as separated, but as
united. We love to dwell on that union, and on the mutual hap-
piness which it has so much promoted, and the common renown


which it has so greatly contributed to acquire. In our contem-
plation, Carolina and Ohio are parts of the same country; States,
imited under the same General Government, having interests,
common, associated, intermingled. In whatever is within the
proper sphere of the constitutional power of this Government, we
look upon the States as one. We do not impose geographical
limits to our patriotic feeling or regard; we do not follow rivers
and mountains, and lines of latitude, to find boundaries beyond
which public improvements do not benefit us. We who come
here as agents and representatives of these narrow-minded and
selfish men of New England consider ourselves as bound to re-
gard, with an equal eye, the good of the whole, in whatever is
wuthin our power of legislation. Sir, if a railroad or canal, be-
ginning in South Carolina and ending in South Carolina, appeared
to me to be of national importance and national magnitude, be-
lieving, as I do, that the power of Government extends to the
encouragement of works of that description, if I were to stand
up here, and ask: What interest has Massachusetts in a railroad
in South Carolina ? I should not be willing to face my constituents.
These same narrow-minded men would tell me that they had
sent me to act for the whole country, and that one who possessed
too little comprehension, either of intellect or feeling; one who
was not large enough, both in mind and in heart, to embrace the
whole, was not fit to be intrusted with the interest of any part.
Sir, I do not desire to enlarge the powers of the Government, by
unjustifiable construction; nor to exercise any not within a fair
interpretation. But when it is believed that a power does exist,
then it is, in my judgment, to be exercised for the general bene-
fit of the whole. So far as respects the exercise of such a power,
the States are one. It was the very object of the Constitution to
create unity of interests to the extent of the powers of the Gen-
eral Government. In war and peace we are one; in commerce,
one; because the authority of the General Government reaches to
war and peace, and to the regulation of commerce. I have never
seen any more difficulty in erecting lighthouses on the lakes
than on the ocean; in improving the harbors of inland seas than
if they were within the ebb and flow of the tide; or of removing
obstructions in the vast streams of the west more than in any
work to facilitate commerce on the Atlantic coast. If there be
any power for one, there is power also for the other; and they
are all and equally for the common good of the country.



There are other objects apparently more local, or the benefit
of which is less general, towards which, nevertheless, I have con-
curred with others, to give aid, by donations of land. It is pro-
posed to construct a road, in or through one of the new States,
in which this Government possesses large quantities of land.
Have the United States no right, or, as a great and untaxed
proprietor, are they under no obligation to contribute to an object
thus calculated to promote the common good of all the proprie-
tors, themselves included ? And even with respect to education,
which is the extreme case, let the question be considered. In
the first place, as we have seen, it was made matter of compact
with these States, that they should do their part to promote edu-
cation. In the next place, our whole system of land laws pro-
ceeds on the idea that education is for the common good; be-
cause, in every division, a certain portion is uniformly reserved
and appropriated for the use of schools. And, finally, have not
these new States singularly strong claims, founded on the ground
already stated, that the Government is a great untaxed proprietor,
in the ownership of the soil ? It is a consideration of great im-
portance, that, probably, there is in no part of th^ country, or of
the world, so great call for the means of education as in those
new States, — owing to the vast numbers of persons within those
ages in which education and instruction are usually received, if
received at all. This is the natural consequence of recency of
settlement and rapid increase. The census of these States shows
how great a proportion of the whole population occupies the
classes between infancy and manhood. These are the wide fields,
and here is the deep and quick soil for the seeds of knowledge
and virtue; and this is the favored season, the very springtime
for sowing them. Let them be disseminated without stint. Let
them be scattered with a bountiful broadcast. Whatever the Gov-
ernment can fairly do towards these objects, in my opinion,
ought to be done.

These, sir, are the grounds succinctly stated on which my
votes for grants of lands for particular objects rest; while I main-
tain, at the same time, that it is all a common fund for the com-
mon benefit. And reasons like these, I presume, have influenced
the votes of other gentlemen from New England! Those who
have a different view of the powers of the Government, of course,
come to different conclusions on these as on other questions. I
observed, when speaking on this subject before, that, if we looked



to any measure, whether for a road, a canal, or anything else, in-
tended for the improvement of the West, it would be found that,
if the New England ayes were struck out of the lists of votes,
the Southern noes would always have rejected the measure. The
truth of this has not been denied and cannot be denied. In
stating this, I thought it just to ascribe it to the constitutional
scruples of the South rather than to any other less favorable or
less charitable cause. But no sooner had I done this, than the
honorable gentleman asks if I reproach him and his friends with
their constitutional scruples. Sir, I reproach nobody. I stated a
fact and gave the most respectful reason for it that occurred to
me. The gentleman cannot deny the fact; he may, if he choose,
disclaim the reason. It is not long since I had occasion, in pre-
senting a petition from his own State, to account for its being
intrusted to my hands, by saying that the constitutional opinions
of the gentleman and his worthy colleague prevented them from
supporting it. Sir, did I state this as a matter of reproach ? Far
from it. Did I attempt to find any other cause than an honest
one for these scruples ? Sir, I did not. It did not become me
to doubt or to insinuate that the gentleman had either changed
his sentiments or that he had made up a set of constitutional
opinions, accommodated to any particular combination of political
occurrences. Had I done so, I should have felt that while I
was entitled to little credit in thus questioning other people's mot-
ives, I justified the whole world in suspecting my own. But how
has the gentleman returned this respect for others' opinions ?
His own candor and justice, how have- they been exhibited to-
wards the motives of others, while he has been at so . much
pains to maintain, what nobody has disputed, the purity of his
own ? Why, sir, he has asked when, and how, and why, New
England votes were found going for measures favorable to the
West ? He has demanded to be informed whether all this did
begin in 1825, and while the election of President was still pend-
ing ? Sir, to these questions retort would be justified ; and it is
both cogent, and at hand. Nevertheless, I will answer the in-
quiry, not by retort, but by facts. I will tell the gentleman
when, and how, and why. New England has supported measures
favorable to the West. I have already referred to the early his-
tory of the Government — to the first acquisition of the lands —
to the original laws for disposing of them, and for governing the
Territories where they lie; and have shown the influence of New


England men and New England principles in all these leading
measures. I should not be pardoned were I to go over that
ground again. Coming to more recent times, and to measures of
a less general character, I have endeavored to prove that every-
thing of this kind, designed for Western improvement, has de-
pended on the votes of New England; all this is true beyond the
power of contradiction.

And now, sir, there are two measures to which I will refer,
not so ancient as to belong to the early history of the public
lands, and not so recent as to be on this side of the period when
the gentleman charitably imagines a new direction may have
been given to New England feeling and New England votes.
These measures, and the New England votes in support of them,
may be taken as samples and specimens of all the rest.

In 1820 (observe, Mr. President, in 1820), the people of the
West besought Congress for a reduction in the price of lands.
In favor of that reduction, New England, with a delegation of
forty Members in the other house, gave thirty-three votes, and
one only against it. The four Southern States, with fifty Mem-
bers, gave thirty-two votes for it and seven against it. Again,
in 1 82 1 (observe again, sir, the time), the law passed for the re-
lief of the purchasers of the public lands. This was a measure
of vital importance to the West, and more especially to the South-
west. It authorized the relinquishment of contracts for lands,
which had been entered into at high prices, and a reduction in
other cases of not less than thirty-seven and one-half per cent.
on the purchase money. Many millions of dollars — six or seven,
I believe, at least, probably much more — were relinquished by
this law. On this bill, New England, with her forty Members,
gave more affirmative votes than the four Southern States, with
their fifty-two or three Members.

These two are far the most important general measures re-
specting the public lands, which have been adopted within the
last twenty years. They took place in 1820 and 182 1. That is
the time ^<when.'* As to the manner "how,'^ the gentleman
already sees that it was by voting, in solid column, for the re-
quired relief : and lastly, as to the cause ^^ why, '^ I tell the gen-
tleman, it was because the Members from New England thought
the measures just and salutary; because they entertained towards
the West neither envy, hatred, nor malice; because they deemed
it becoming them, as just and enlightened public men, to meet


the exigency which had arisen in the West, with the appropriate
measure of relief; because they felt it due to their own charac-
ters, and the characters of their New England predecessors in
this Government, to act towards the new States in the spirit of a
liberal, patronizing, magnanimous policy. So much, sir, for the
cause " why *^ ; and I hope that by this time, sir, the honorable
gentleman is satisfied; if not, I do not know "when,*^ or <<how,*'
or *Svhy,'^ he ever will be.

Having recurred to these two important measures, in answer
to the gentleman's inquiries, I must now beg permission to go
back to a period yet something earlier, for the purpose of still
further showing how much, or rather how little, reason there is
for the gentleman's insinuation that political hopes or fears, or
party associations, were the grounds of these New England votes.
And after what has been said, I hope it may be forgiven me, if
I allude to some political opinions and votes of my own, of very
little public importance, certainly, but which, from the time at
which they were given and expressed, may pass for good wit-
nesses on this occasion.

This Government, Mr. President, from its origin to the peace
of 1815, had been too much engrossed with various other impor-
tant concerns to be able to turn its thoughts inward, and look to
the development of its vast internal resources. In the early part
of President Washington's administration, it was fully occupied
with completing its own organization, providing for the public
debt, defending the frontiers, and maintaining domestic peace.
Before the termination of that administration, the fires of the
French Revolution blazed forth, as from a new-opened volcano,
and the whole breadth of the ocean did not secure us from its
effects. The smoke and the cinders reached us, though not the
burning lava. Difficult and agitating questions, embarrassing to
Government, and dividing public opinion, sprung out of the new
state of our foreign relations, and were succeeded by others, and
yet again by others, equally embarrassing, and equally exciting
division and discord, through the long series of twenty years, till
they finally issued in the war with England. Down to the close
of that war, no distinct, marked, and deliberate attention had
been given, or could have been given, to the internal condition
of the country, its capacities of improvement, or the constitu-
tional power of the Government, in regard to objects connected
with such improvement.


The peace, Mr. President, brought about an entirely new and .

a most interesting state of things; it opened to us other pros- .

pects, and suggested other duties. We ourselves were changed,
and the whole world was changed. The pacification of Europe,
after June 18 15, assumed a firm and permanent aspect. The na-
tions evidently manifested that they were disposed for peace.
Some agitation of the waves might be expected, even after the
storm had subsided, but the tendency was, strongly and rapidly,
towards settled repose.

It so happened, sir, that I was, at that time, a Member of
Congress, and, like others, naturally turned my attention to the
contemplation of the newly-altered condition of the country and
of the world. It appeared plainly enough to me, as well as to
wiser and more experienced men, that the policy of the Govern-
ment would naturally take a start in a new direction, because
new directions would necessarily be given to the pursuits and oc-
cupations of the people. We had pushed our commerce far and
fast, under the advantage of a neutral flag. But there were now
no longer flags, either neutral or belligerent. The harvest of
neutrality had been great, but we had gathered it all. With the
peace of Europe, it was obvious there would spring up in her
circle of nations, a revived and invigorated spirit of trade, and a
new activity in all the business and objects of civilized life.
Hereafter, our commercial gains were to be earned only by suc-
cess, in a close and intense competition. Other nations would
produce for themselves, and carry for themselves, and manufac-
ture for themselves, to the full extent of their abilities. The
crops of our plains would no longer sustain European armies,
nor our ships longer supply those whom war had rendered un-
able to supply themselves. It was obvious that, under these cir-
cumstances, the country would begin to survey itself and to
estimate its own capacity of improvement. And this improve-
ment — how was it to be accomplished, and who was to accom-
plish it ? We were ten or twelve millions of people, spread over
almost half a world. We were more than twenty States, some
stretching along the same seaboard, some along the same line
of inland frontier, and others on opposite banks of the same vast
rivers. Two considerations at once presented themselves, in look-
ing at this state of things, with great force. One was that that
great branch of improvement, which consisted in furnishing new
facilities of intercourse, necessarily ran into different States, in



every leading instance, and would benefit the citizens of all stich
States. No one State, therefore, in such cases, would assume
the whole expense, nor was the co-operation of several States to
be expected. Take the instance of the Delaware breakwater. It
will cost several millions of money. Would Pennsylvania alone
ever have constructed it ? Certainly never, while this Union
lasts, because it is not for her sole benefit. Would Pennsylvania,
New Jersey, and Delaware have united to accomplish it, at their j\, liU
joint expense ? Certainly not, for the same reason. It could Hot jij ^
be done, therefore, but by the General Government. The same
may be said of the large inland undertakings, except that, in
them, Government, instead of bearing the whole expense, co-
operates with others who bear a part. The other consideration
is, that the United States have the means. They enjoy the rev-
enues derived from commerce, and the vStates have no abundant
and easy sources of public income. The customhouses fill the
general treasury, while the States have scanty resources, except
by resort to heavy direct taxes.

Under this view of things I thought it necessary to settle, at
least for myself, some definite notions with respect to the powers
of the Government in regard to internal affairs. It may not
savor too much of self-commendation to remark that with this
object I considered the Constitution, its judicial construction, its
cotemporaneous exposition, and the whole history of the legisla-
tion of Congress under it; and I arrived at the conclusion that
Government had power to accomplish sundry objects, or aid in
their accomplishment, which are now commonly spoken of as
internal improvements. That conclusion, sir, may have been
right, or it may have been wrong. I am not about to argue the
grounds of it at large. I say only that it was adopted and acted
on even so early as in 1816. Yes, Mr. President, I made up my
opinion, and determined on my intended course of political con-
duct on these subjects in the fourteenth Congress in 1816. And
now, Mr. President, I have further to say that I made up these
opinions, and entered on this course of political conduct Teucro
duce. Yes, sir, I pursued in all this a South Carolina track, on
the doctrines of internal improvement. South Carolina, as she
was then represented in the other house, set forth, in 181 6,
under a fresh and leading breeze, and I was among the followers.
But if my leader sees new lights, and turns a sharp corner, un-
less I see new lights also, I keep straight on in the same path.


I repeat that leading gentlemen from South Carolina were first
and foremost in behalf of the doctrines of internal improvements,
when those doctrines came first to be considered and acted upon
in Congress. The debate on the bank question, on the tariff of
1816, and on the direct tax, will show who was who, and what
was what at that time. The tariff of 18 16, one of the plain cases
of oppression and usurpation, from which, if the Government
does not recede, individual States may justly secede from the
Government, is, sir, in truth, a South Carolina tariff, supported
by South Carolina votes. But for those votes it could not have
passed in the form in which it did pass; whereas, if it had de-
pended on Massachusetts votes, it would have been lost. Does
not the honorable gentleman well know all this ? There are cer-
tainly those who do, full well, know it all. I do not say this to
reproach South Carolina. I only state the fact; and I think it
will appear to be true, that among the earliest and boldest advo-
cates of the tariff, as a measure of protection, and on the express
ground of protection, were leading gentlemen of South Carolina
in Congress. I did not then, and cannot now, understand their
language in any other sense. While this tariff of 181 6 was under
discussion in the House of Representatives, an honorable gentle-
man from Georgia, now of this House, Mr. Forsyth, moved to
reduce the proposed duty on cotton. He failed by four votes,
South Carolina giving three votes (enough to have turned the
scale) against his motion. The act, sir, then passed, and received
on its passage the support of a majority of the Representatives
of South Carolina present and voting. This act is the first, in
the order of those now denounced as plain usurpations. We see
it daily, in the list by the side of those of 1824 and 1828, as a
case of manifest oppression, justifying disunion. I put it home to
the honorable Member from South Carolina that his own State was
not only ^* art and part * in this measure, but the causa catisans
Without her aid this seminal principle of mischief, this root of
the Upas, could not have been planted. I have already said,,
and it is true, that this act proceeded on the ground of protec-
tion. It interfered directly with existing interests of great value
and amount. It cut up the Calcutta cotton trade by the roots,
but it passed, nevertheless, and it passed on the principle of pro-
tecting manufactures, on the principle against free trade, on the
principle opposed to that which lets us alone.



Such, Mr. President, were the opinions of important and lead-
ing gentlemen from South Carolina, on the subject of internal
improvements in 1816. I went out of Congress the next year;
and returning again in 1823, thought I found South Carolina
where I had left her. I really supposed that all things remained
as they were, and that the South Carolina doctrine of internal
improvements would be defended by the same eloquent voices
and the same strong arms as formerly. In the lapse of these
six years, it is true, political associations had assumed a new
aspect and new divisions. A party has arisen in the South hos-
tile to the doctrine of internal improvements, and had vigorously
attacked that doctrine. Anti-consolidation was the flag under
which this party fought; and its supporters inveighed against in-
ternal improvements much after the manner in which the honor-
able gentleman has now inveighed against them, as part and
parcel of the system of consolidation. Whether this party arose
in South Carolina herself, or in her neighborhood, is more than
I know. I think the latter. However that may have been, there
were those found in South Carolina ready to make war upon it,
and who did make intrepid war upon it. Names being regarded
as things, in such controversies, they bestowed on the anti-
improvement gentlemen the appellation of Radicals. Yes, sir,
the appellation of Radicals, as a term of distinction, applicable
and applied to those who denied the liberal doctrines of internal
improvements, originated, according to the best of my recollec-
tion, somewhere between North Carolina and Georgia. Well, sir,
these mischievous Radicals were to be put down, and the strong-
arm of South Carolina was stretched out to put them down.
About this time, sir, I returned to Congress. The battle v/ith
the Radicals had been fought, and our South Carolina champions
of the doctrines of internal improvement had nobly maintained
their ground and were t],nderstood to have achieved a victory.
We looked upon them as conquerors. They had driven back the
enemy with discomfiture, — a thing, by the way, sir, which is not
always performed when it is promised. A gentleman, to whom
I have already referred in this debate, had come into Congress
during my absence from it, from South Carolina, and had brought
with him a high reputation for ability. He came from a school
with which we had been acquainted et noscitur a sociis. I hold
in my hand, sir, a printed speech of this distinguished gentlemai?


[Mr. McDuffie], "on internal improvements, » delivered about the
period to which I now refer, and printed with a few introductory
remarks upon consolidation; in which, sir, I think he quite con-
solidated the arguments of his opponents, the Radicals, if to crush

Online LibraryDavid J. (David Josiah) BrewerCrowned masterpieces of eloquence, representing the advance of civilization, as collected in The world's best orations, from the earliest period to the present time (Volume 10) → online text (page 13 of 56)