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Abridgment of the Debates of Congress, from 1789 to 1856. From Gales and Seatons' Annals of Congress; from their Register of debates; and from the official reported debates, by John C. Rives online

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Online LibraryUnited States. CongressAbridgment of the Debates of Congress, from 1789 to 1856. From Gales and Seatons' Annals of Congress; from their Register of debates; and from the official reported debates, by John C. Rives → online text (page 55 of 184)
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tention among the several beneficiaries of the
pre-emption law, the experience of the past
sufficiently proves. The north-west corner of
Indiana (within my own observation) has been
settled by pre-emptors. A more orderly, indus-
trious, or better regulated community, is not to
be found.

The argument in favor of pre-emptions is so
pregnant, that it seems almost superfluous to
adduce the authority of other Governments
which have uniformly extended the kindest
protection towards their infant settlements.
From the time when the wandering Scythian
roamed from one hunting ground or pasturage
to another, as his brief annual tenure would
expire — from the period of the folTcland and
loohland of the ancient Saxon, there has been
no mercenary legislation upon lands. The far-
famed agrarian laws of Eome were designed to
aid and protect the colonist. The States of our
own Confederacy have either surrendered their
lands to settlers or sold them at a nominal price.
We are all conversant with that force of public
opinion which constrained Massachusetts to
pass laws requiring the successful plaintiff in
ejectment to pay the occupying claimant for
what they termed his " betterments," answer-
ing to the " melioramenta " of the civil law, or
the " improvements " of the Western squatter.
A rigorous policy against the settler would be
alike in violation of contemporary sentiment,
and of all the lights of experience.

You have been reminded, sir, by way of
checking too gratuitous a spirit towards the
new States, of the bounty and munificence, or
as the Senator from South Carolina (Mr. Pebs-
ton) eloquently expresses it, of the justice (for
what higher attribute can be claimed in these
degenerate ages?) of Virginia and the other
conceding States, in surrendering their rich
possessions to the Union. The new States con-
gratulate themselves upon this result. They
congratulate the Union. Had the States retain-
ed this territory we should not now perhaps be
in the hands of a paternal Government, boast-
ing its redeemed guarantee for our admission
into the Union, Wisconsin, Iowa, Florida,



January, 1841.]

Permanent Prospective Pre-emption Lam.

[26Ta CoKO.

would not Lave held that guarantee yet to be
faithfully and speedily performed. The terri-
tory north-west of the Ohio Eiver would have
been a mere appendage to the Old Dominion.
Louisiana in all probability would not have
been acquired, nor the navigation of the Missis-
sippi secured. We should not now have boast-
ed New Orleans, the peerless exporting city of
this continent, nor would our gi-eat staple grow-
ing region of the South have had the valleys
of the Upper Mississippi, the Ohio, the Illinois,
and Wabash, to pour, free of duty, their abun-
dant and ceaseless supplies into her bosom ;
thus giving to her annual eighty millions of ex-
ports one-third of the element of their value.

As a representative of Western interests, I do
not complain of partial or unequal laws ; but it
cannot be forgotten that commerce has its cost-
ly defences, and manufactures a protection
springing from your laws. Of necessity, al-
most, the pecuniary patronage of the Govern-
ment is limited to the seaboard. In proportion
to its numbers, the West is the largest tax-pay-
ing section of our country, for the simple rea-
son that not an article of import is produced
there. These drains upon our industry we
submit to with an uncomplaining temper. But
we cannot forget the equity which such consid-
erations raise when you are called to pass laws
upon subjects pecnliarily affecting our interests.
Our staples are the agricultural products which
seem to be placed beyond the pale of constitu-
tional protection. Compared with the magni-
tude of the agricultural interest, all the other
products of labor in this country sink into utter
insignificance. Commerce has its one hundred
millions of exports, and an equal amount of im-
ports, and our manufactures doubtless tran-
scend these sums in amount ; but agriculture,
towering above all, ascends to two thousand
millions per annum. No nation can be pcr-
• fectly independent which does not raise its own
bread-stuffs ; and the highest condition of so-
cial happiness and prosperity is attained where
other interests, to be sure, are flourishing, but
when the agricultural interest maintains the as-
cendant. In every vicissitude of trade, and in
every revulsion of Government, while famine
and distress too often mark their desolating
career in other countries, in peace and in war,
our teeming soil continues to yield its fruits to
the labors of the husbandman, and our barns
and granaries to furnish perpetual resources for
the life of man. No event in history is associ-
ated with such a mass of human happiness, pres-
ent and prospective, as the settlement of our
Western country, by multiplying and cheapen-
ing the food upon which man subsists. But I
will not press this topic further. The people
of the West, exulting in their growing strength,
expect from Congress just and considerate laws,
not so much from their power to enforce them,
as from the enlightened appreciation in which
their claims must be held by the entire Union.
It is matter of regret that the dignity of these
claims should be disparaged, or suspicion be

thrown upon them by the manner in which
the present bill was introduced into the Senate.
When pre-emption laws become the mere foot-
ball of party, or are converted into an engine
for political warfare, it is no wonder that they
fail to command that general assent to which
they are entitled. The honorable member who
brought in this bill remarked, upon its intro-
duction, that the Federal party (as he was
pleased to term the Whig party) had, in the
recent Presidential canvass, shown so devoted
a love for log-cabins and their inmate-i, he was
fearful they would anticipate the friends of the
Administration in presenting the measure of a
permanent pre-emption, and he therefore has-
tened to submit the proposed measure. Sir,
the significant title prefixed to this bill, if it
shall not be interpreted as ironical upon its
worthy beneficiaries, has at least that aspect in
reference to one of the great parties engaged in
the recent Presidential struggle. Certainly, sir,
either the bill or its title or some other associ-
ations, have produced, in this debate, not a lit-
tle raillery against the emblems adopted for
good cause by the Whigs in the late contest.
The freight with which this pre-emption vessel
is laden, is acceptable to my constituents, but
they like not the flag under which she sails.
In a word, sir, it cannot be concealed that this
measure is intended to overreach the action of
the coming Administration, and either to force
that Administration into an antagonist position,
or obnubilate its glories by this forced and sud-
den interposition of a policy for which the
country was as ripe eight years ago as now. It
matters not to me, however, whether this con-
summation be achieved under the star of Gen-
eral Harrison, whether it be the concomitant
of that series of conservative and patriotic
measures which are to restore the character of
the age and elevate our institutions, or whether,
now urged on by influences no longer to be re-
sisted, the measure has been precipitated upon
us by the stern virtue which is felt and appre-
ciated, and, I may add, feared in the character
of General Harrison, and by that powerful voice
of the people which has pronounced his elec-
tion, f

Connected with the subject of a final settle-
ment of the land question, as proposed by the
bill, two antagonist measures have been pre-
sented to the Senate. That contained in the
amendment of the honorable Senator from Ken-
tucky, (Mr. Crittenden,) proposes to grant to
the actual settler, whose estate shall not exceed
the value of $1,000, the right of pre-emption to
any quantity of land not exceeding 320 acres,
and to distribute the proceeds of the sales of
the public lands among the several States of the
Union in just and equitable proportions. The
other, proposed by the honorable member from
South Carolina, (Mr. Calhoun,) contemplates a
cession of the public lands to the several States
within whose limits they lie, upon conditions,
the principal of which are, that the States shall
annually pay to the General Government sixty-



2d Skss.]

Tennanent Prospective Pre-emption Law,

[January, 1841.

five per cent, of the gross proceeds, and that
the cession " shall be in full of the five per
cent, fund or any part thereof not already ac-
crued to any State ; and the said States shall
be exclusively liable for all charges that may
hereafter arise from the surveys, sales, and
management of the public lands and extinguish-
ment of Indian title within the limits of said
States respectively." It also provides that the
States may pass pre-emption and graduation
laws. I shall now consider the amendment of
the Senator from South Carolina.

I object to this scheme as misettling the
whole land system, approved by the experience
of forty years, as destroying that uniformity
which has contributed so much not only to the
security of titles, but to the value of improve-
ments made upon the newly purchased lands.
It transfers the muniments of title from the ar-
chives of this Government to the custody of the
Executives of the several States, the forms of
conveyance of course to be devised by the au-
thorities of those States. It creates new re-
sponsibilities unknown to the constitution, and
dangerous to our revenues. Who can believe
that the States will meet pecuniary engage-
ments of this kind with promptitude ? Your
laws cannot enforce their collection, and your
only reliance is upon the faith of the States.
In original engagements of the several States
with the world, their plighted faith will be a
sufficient guarante.e for the redemption of any
pecuniary obligation. But here the case is very
different. This proposition creates relations
between the States and the Federal Govern-
ment, not very dissimilar to those which exist-
ed under the old articles of Confederation. A
principal inducement for abolishing the old
Confederacy, was because requisitions for money
(even for so serious a consideration as the pay-
ment of the Eevolutionary debt) made by Con-
gress upon the States, were not regarded. The
failure of a single debtor State to meet engage-
ments proposed by this measure, would produce
dissatisfaction, and justify a like remissness on
the part of others. In every aspect of the case,
the relation of debtor and creditor between the
States and this Government is to be deprecat-
ed ; but when that relation is relied upon to
supply a considerable portion of our current
revenue, it can result only in disaster and dis-
appointment, until the sense of obligation shall
ultimately be broken. But one experiment of
this kiaA has been made since the era of our
constitution, and that was in the act of 1836,
depositing forty millions of our surplus reve-
nues with the States. From the moment that
this act was passed, and in contravention of its
very terms, the sense of the nation has pro-
nounced it a distribution, and not a deposit act.
That fund (or rather so much of it as was de-
posited) has ceased to belong to the resources
of the Federal Government ; and he who would
treat it as such, subjects himself to the just an-
imadversion of every practical man.
But if, for any purpose, and particularly for

revenue purposes, it is unwise and hazardous
to involve the States in a condition of indebted-
ness to the Union, how is the argument strength-
ened, and the danger increased, when the con-
sideration of that indebtedness is the price of
their own domain 1 Some of the States have
already asserted that the proprietary interest
of this Government in tliese lands, and the au-
thority necessarily assumed in consequence
thereof, is in derogation of the rights and sover-
eignty of the States. Such doctrines have
been held, I believe, at least in Alabama and
Missouri. They have been advocated by prom-
inent members, both upon this floor and in the
other branch of Congress. I can regard this
amendment in no other light than as an enter-
ing wedge for the surrender of all the public
domain to the States where it lies. "What, sir,
are the principles of the contemplated cession ?
Not, surely, the employment of the States as
agents merely of this Government for the sale
of the lands, but a transfer to them in their
own right, by virtue of a contract of purchase.
It was so treated by the Committee on Public
Lands at the last session, who were friendly to
the measure. The amendment ex vi termini re-
cognizes certain rights on the part of the States
to control these lands, at least so strong an
equity as to render it improper in this Govern-
ment further to direct their management. How
long will it be, after a cession made nnder such
motives and impulses, until the States, habitu-
ated to regard these lands in the first instance
as their own, shall forget the secondary obliga-
tion of yielding sixty-five per cent, of their pro-
ceeds to the general Treasury? By this act
you weaken, nay, almost destroy, the sanction
of the old deeds of cession from the original
States, which now cannot be violated without
convulsion, and tempt the States to forget a
contract which, after the lapse of a little time,
shall seem to carry with it no moral obligation.
I sum up all, when I say that the success of this
measure is the loss of the lands.

"Wednesday, January 20.
Permanent Prospective Pre-emption Law

The bill to establish a permanent prospective
pre-emption system, in favor of settlers on the
public lands, who shall iniiabit and cultivate
the same, and raise a log-cabin thereon, being
the special order of the day, was taken up.

Mr. Huntington submitted several amend-
ments, which will be more particularly desig-
nated when the debate to which they gave rise
shall be published, some of which were in sub-
stance as follows :

Strike out the word " eighteen," and insert
" twenty-one," so as to confine the provisions
of the bill to persons, heads of families, of
twenty-one years of age, and upwards.

Upon this question the ayes and noes were
demanded, and resulted as follows :

Teas. — Messrs. Bayard, Clay of Kentucky, Clay-



Jantaby, 1841.]

Alleged Extravagance of Mr. Van Bwen's Adminislratton.

[26™ CoNO.

ton, Crittenden, Dixon, Graham, Henderson, Hunt-
ington, Ker, Knight, Mangum, Merrick, Nicholas,
Phelps, Pierce, Prentiss, Preston, Roane, Kuggles,
Smith of Indiana, Southard, Webster, White, and
Williams— 24.

Nats. — Messrs. Allen, Anderson, Benton, Buchan-
an, Clay of Alabama, Fulton, Hubbard, King, Linn,
Lumpkin, Mouton, Nicholson, Norvell, Porter, Rob-
inson, Sevier, Smith of Connecticut, Sturgeon, Tall-
madge, Tappan, Walker, Wall, Wright, and Young

The Vice Pebsident. The result of the
votes is ayes 24, noes 24 : my vote is No : so
the amendment is lost.

Upon Mr. Tallmadge's suggestion, and by
general consent, the word " ■n'hite " was strick-
en out of the bill, as free persons of color are al-
lowed to hold property in all the States of the

The amendments of the committee of the
whole being concurred in by the Senate,

The question was then taken on ordering the
bill to be engrossed for a third reading, and it
was decided in the aflBrmative, as follows :

Yeas. — Messrs. Allen, Anderson, Benton, Buchan-
an, Clay of Alabama, Fulton, Henderson, Hubbard,
King, Linn, Lumpkin, Mouton, Nicholas, Nicholson,
Norvell, Pierce, Porter, Robinson, Sevier, Smith of
Connecticut, Smith of Indiana, Sturgeon, Tallmadge,
Tappan, Walker, Wall, White, Williams, Wright,
and Young — 30.

Nats. — Messrs. Bayard, Clay of Kentucky, Clay-
ton, Crittenden, Dixon, Graham, Huntington, Ker,
Knight, Mangum, Merrick, Phelps, Prentiss, Preston,
Roane, Ruggles, and Southard — 17.

The Senate then adjonrned.

Thuesdat, January 21.
Permanent Prospectwe Pre-emption Law.

The bill to establish a permanent prospective
pre-emjjtion system, in favor of settlers on the
public lands, who shall inhabit and cultivate
the same, and raise a log-cabin thereon, was
taken up, and having been read through, the
question being on its passage —

Mr. Crittenden then submitted the propo-
sition which was negatived when the bill was
in Committee of the Whole — to recommit
the bill, with instructions to report a bill for
the distribution of the proceeds of the sales of
the public lands among the States.

Mr. C. said he wished to have a full vote of
the Senate on this proposition, and, as there
were some Senators now absent who would be
here in a few days, he would move that the
further consideration of the subject be post-
poned until Monday.

This was opposed by Mr. Clat, of Alabama,
and Mr. Benton, when the question was then
taken on the motion to postpone, and decided
in the negative, as follows :

Yeas. — Messrs. Bayard, Clay of Kentucky, Clay-
ton, Crittenden, Dixon, Graham, Huntington, Ker,

Knight, Mangum, Merrick, Phelps, Preston, Ruggles,
Smith of Indiana, Southard, Tallmadge, and White

Nats. — ^Messrs. Allen, Anderson, Benton, Buchan-
an, Clay of Alabama, Fulton, Henderson, Hubbard,
King, Linn, Lumpkin, Mouton, Nicholas, Nicholson,
Norvell, Pierce, Porter, Roane, Robinson, Sevier,
Smith of Connecticut, Sturgeon, Tappan, Walker,
Wall, Williams, Wright, and Young— 28.

The question then recurring on the motion
to recommit, Mr. Ckittenden addressed the
Senate at much length, reviewing in detail the
measures of the present Administration.

Mr. Weight followed in reply, and was suc-
ceeded in the debate by Mr. Webstee, who was
foUovred by Mr. Benton, and then

The Senate adjourned.

Feidat, January 22.

Extravagance of Mr. Van Buren's Administra-
tion — The Charge disputed — Mr. Buchanan's

Mr. Buchanan rose to answer each of the
four specific charges of extravagance which
had been made by the Senator from Kentucky
(Mr. Oeittbnden) againiit the present Adminis-
tration. That Senator had called npon him
personally to make this answer ; and he under-
took the task with pleasure, not believing it to
be one of much difficulty. Before, however,
he should apply himself directly to this work,
he would take the liberty of making some pre-
liminary observations.

And in the first place, said Mr. B., permit me
to observe, that I, at least, have never intror
duoed into this Senate, as topics of debate,
" log-cabins, hard cider, and coon skins ; " nor
have I ever made an observation here which
could be tortured into a reflection npon either
the integrity or intelligence of the people of
the United States for having elected General
Harrison their President. The Senator from
Kentucky has promptly and frankly disclaimed
any intention of imputing to me such a charge ;
and with this I am entirely satisfied. The
people are the only legitimate sovereigns of this
country, and however much I may regret their
recent decision of the Presidential question, I
shall never, either here or elsewhere, indulge
myself in the use of reproachful language
against them for this or any other cause.

If I know myself, said Mr. B., I came to
Congress in December last with the desire and
with the expectation that this would prove to
be a business session. It was my sincere wish
that the political excitement which has recently
agitated the people and has extended to every
portion of the land, might, for the present,
be suffered to subside, and that we might bring
up the arrears of business with which we are
now incumbered. I had not the most distant
idea that this chamber would again so soon be
converted into a mere political arena. Acting



2d Sess.]

Alleged Extravagance of Mr. Vara Burea's Administration.

[Jasuaey, 1841.

under a sense of duty, I have abstained from
political conflicts since the coinmenoement of
the present session, except when compelled to
enter the lists in the necessary defence of my-
self or of my party. I have made no assaults,
and have generally been a mere listener.

I had another reason for refraining from'
any participation in the debate now before the
Senate. I knew that the question of the dis-
tribution of the proceeds of the public lands
was before the Legislature of my own State,
and that I might be instructed on the subject ;
and, aa I shall ever entertain and express the
utmost deference and respect for that Legisla-
ture, whatever political party may be in the
majority, I thought that a proper sense of
delicacy required me to abstain from discussing
this question. I have not, therefore, said, nor
do I now intend to say, a single word upon
that subject : and I shall either give my vote
according to these instructions, should they
pass, or resign my seat. I am not the man
who, after having enjoyed the sunshine of
political favor, will shrink from the storm. I
long since, from the deepest conviction, adopted
the principle that the representative was bound
by the instructions of his constituents. I con-
sider it essential to the wholesome action of a
free. Democratic Republican form of Govern-
ment ; and having publicly avowed this doctrine
at a period when there appeared to be but little
probability that it could ever reach myself, I
shall not disavow it in the day of apparent
gloom and adversity. I am willing to abide
the fate of war.

For a similar reason, I might even have
refrained from advocating the passage of the
pre-emption bill, dear as it now is, and ever
has been to me, had I then known that the
instructions before the Legislature of Pennsyl-
vania embraced this subject, as well as that of
the distribution of the proceeds of the public
lands. I am glad, however, now to find, that
even the Senator from Kentucky himself (Mr.
Ceittenden) is in favor of the principle of pre-
emption, and has actually incorporated it with
that of distribution in his motion now before
the Senate. This renders it certain, that if
ever a distribution bill should pass — and from
the signs of the times I consider such a result
probable — the poor man, who has expended
his toU in erecting an humble dwelling, and
cultivating the soil, shall not be driven from
his home* on the public lands of the far "West,
provided he is willing to pay the Government
price for the quarter section, which he has
selected and improved.

For one, it was both my design and my de-
sire, so far as I was concerned, to devote this
session to the necessary business of the country,
and to wait patiently until General Harrison
should get into power. I shall then judge the
tree by its fruits, without any predetermination
to oppose his measures. I am bound, notwith-
standing, in candor, to declare, that if he enter-
tains the opinion of his friend from Kentucky,
Vol. XIV.— 15

(Mr. Ceittendbit,) in regard to a National Bank,
he (General Haeeison) believes that to be a
great good, which I consider one of the great-
est evils which can befall the country. With-
out, at present, alluding to its fatal political
consequences, I believe that in a mere financial
point of view, it would prove destructive to our
prosperity. In order to obtain a specie capital
for such an institution, you must either ruin or
essentially cripple our State banks; or you
must adopt the alternative of borrowing specie
abroad, and creating a national debt for this
purpose. One or other of these alternatives is
inevitable ; and the country is not in a condition
to resort to either, without great injury to the
people. But enough of this for the present. I
return to the subject with which I commenced.

I shall now proceed to show that the charge
of extravagance which has been so often made
and reiterated against the present Administra-
tion by both the Senators from Kentucky,
(Messrs. Oeittenden and Olat,) is without foun-
dation. It will be for the Senate and the coun-
try to decide whether I shall have succeeded.

It will be recollected that in the month of
May last, a report was made by the Secretary
of the Treasury in obedience to a resolution of
the Senate on the subject of the annual expen-
ditures of the Federal Government during the
fifteen preceding years. From that report it
appears, that the ordinary expenses of this
Government, which in 1824 amounted to a little
more than seven millions one hundred thousand

Online LibraryUnited States. CongressAbridgment of the Debates of Congress, from 1789 to 1856. From Gales and Seatons' Annals of Congress; from their Register of debates; and from the official reported debates, by John C. Rives → online text (page 55 of 184)