United States. Congress.

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

. (page 80 of 187)
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 80 of 187)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


ought to have received ? If the school lands
had been laid off within each six miles square,
as contemplated by the act of cession, each
tract would have been more than equal to ^
score of those now asked for. ^

Mr. B. said that he would now inquire into
the burdens which had been imposed upon Ten-
nessee, and her inducements to encounter them.
The district which he had the honor to repre-
sent was first settled ; the citizens of whicli, iii
order to obtain their claims, were compelled to
cross over what, at that tim«, wiis consideired



324



ABEIDGMENT OP THE



H. OP E.]



LanA Claims in Tennessee.



[Jancaet, 1829.



an almost impassable chain of mountains ; when
they reached their intended homes, they were
Burromided by savages and beasts of prey, and
deprived of every convenience and comfort in-
cident to civilized life. After thus sustaining
themselves amidst portentous difSculties, and
being established as a member of this great
Confederacy, the language of complaint was
heard on the subject of their inconveniences in
obtaining from the seat of Government of the
parent State titles to their homes purchased at
so dear a rate. This as a matter of convenience
inclined Tennessee to assume the agency and to
enter into a concern in which she was to be-
come the responsible member of the firm
though not participator in the profits.

It cannot be supposed that the State of Ten-
nessee assumed the responsibility and incurred
the expense of superintending the landed con-
cerns of others from motives of convenience
alone. Eecur to her past history and what are
the facts ? Thirty years' legislation and con-
sequent taxation in order to keep up this land-
ed system ; Boards of Commissioners for the
adjudication of the North Carolina land claims
and for agents sent to North Carolina to pro-
cure copies of the books in the Executive office
of that State ; and for what ? I answer from
the confident hope that there would be a reali-
zation of some benefit to her or to the literary
institutions of the State after satisfaction of all
the claims of North Carolina upon that terri-
tory^a hope that from the surplus lands over
which her care was to be extended, a fund
would be raised to gladden the poor man's
heart by seeing the clouds of ignorance and er-
ror dissipated from the mind of his ofispring
under the genial infiuenoe of the rays of educa-
tion which had measurably been obscured in
their lonely retreat. In this way, and this
alone, could he account for the labors perform-
ed, and expenses incurred by his native State,
when, for many years, these burdens were sus-
tained by the district, the citizens of which his
colleague and himself represented. If he was
correct in saying that all the North Carolina
claims were first to be satisfied, and in satisfy-
ing them, school lands were to have been laid
off for each six miles square, he would put a
plain question to the House. Suppose, in the
exercise of great good feeling towards the oc-
cupants in the Western district of Tennessee,
you should give away the fund which was pro-
vided for the satisfaction of the claims before
specified, what think you would be the next ap-
plication ? Surely it would be to you both on
the part of North Carolina and Tennessee to
discharge their respective claims. WiU you
then divest yourselves of the means of paying
your debts and exercise generosity, at the ex-
pense of justice?

Mr. IsAOKS said : I will not occupy the at-
tention of the House with constructions of ces-
sions and compacts, and the history of legisla-
tion growing out of them, in North Carolina
and Tennessee ; enough has been said already



to maintain, as far as all that can go, the
ground taken in support of this bill. I wUl
content myself with presenting one plain view of
the subject, which others may have overlooked.
I submit to the House this direct and simple
inquiry : In the present situation of this land,
what is it likely to be worth to the United
States ? It must be answered, if it remains as
it is, it can be worth nothing. "Will you be at
the expense of surveying, selling, and making
titles to it ? Will it pay cost, and yield a profit
over, which will be worth the experiment?
The United States can't dispose of it without
establishing a land office there ; a register and
receiver must be appointed, and a surveyor,
with salaries, such as are given to the like offi-
cers elsewhere : for these, under our system of
land laws, are salary officers. A register and
receiver get, each, besides commissions on
sales, five hundred dollars a year. The sur-
veyor, besides compensation per mile, two
thousand dollars.

The United States cannot establish and keep
there the necessary machinery for the appro-
pi'iation of these lands, at an expense short of
five thousand dollars per annum. And then,
how are the public lands of the Government
disposed of? Not an acre of it can, under the
existing laws, be sold, either at public or pri-
vate sale, for less than one dollar and twenty-
five cents per acre. Does any man, from the
general but faithful account given of the qual-
ity of the land, believe that there is any part of
it that would ever sell at that price ? If he
does, he is certainly much mistaken, as I will
show. You may expose your land there to
public sale; your crier may cry himself to
death ; you may continue your land office ;
and in fifty years you cannot sell land enough
to pay the expense of one year : for the plainest
of aU reasons — the land is not worth the price
you set upon it. Whenever this subject has
been before the House, some gentlemen have
shown much sensibility, and expressed great
concern, lest Congress should relinquish to
Tennessee property of great value if retained.
If gentlemen think so, how is it that no one of
them has ever submitted a proposition to have
the necessary offices established, and the duties
performed, by which the Government could
realize the value,.which, in argument, had been
attached to the lands ? Why have they so long
forborne to attend to this great interest ? Their
own conduct goes clearly to support the posi-
tion which I talje, that, to the United States,
the price obtained, would not clear' cost. I
pretend to no very accurate knowledge of the
quality of this vacant land, not having seen it ;
but I know enough of the general features of
the country, and especially of the mode of land
appropriations in Tennessee, to render any de-
tailed information altogether unnecessary in ar-
riving at a just conclusion. This district, south
and west of the line, is said to contain eight
millions of acres. Be it so. It is shown that
more than half of that has been covered by en-



DEBATES OF CONGRESS.



325



Januabt, 1829.]



Land Claims m Tennessee.



[H. OF R.



tries and grants. There is mucli good land
there, but there is also a very great proportion
of uneven, barren, sterile, and swampy ground,
worth nothing at all. Of the portion appro-
priated, the parcels are in all sizes, from five to
live thousand acres, and in all' imaginable
shapes : for the Vfarrant-holder, not being con-
fined by any sectional or other lines, made his
entry upon just such lands as suited him — of
course, including the good and excluding the
bad ; and thus the surveys, in their size and
shape, are regulated by the choice, convenience,
or whim, of the enterer, and often controlled
by accidental circumstances. This brief ac-
count of the irregular mode of appropriation
may not be intelligible to those who are only
acquainted with the regular surveys by right
lines, ready made to their hands, by the Gov-
ernment, but it will be understood, at least by
the members from Kentucky, who, like us, have
some unpleasant experience on this subject. I
wish I had a map on which the surveys were
represented, so as to present to the eye, the
curious variety of figures which they would ex-
hibit, and the shapeless remnants of refuse
lands — refuse, truly, because, it is just what re-
mains after picking and culling over and over,
with warrants of all sizes. This is a fair but
imperfect picture. Subtract from this remnant
the lands worth nothing ; s^ your surveyor to
work : he must first run out all the individual
claims, to ascertain the vacant residuum. This
he must leave in the shape he finds it, and, by
its numerous offsets, give the quantity ; the
quality would hardly compensate him for his
pains, nor you for the expense. Though I ad-
mit that there may be, if you had it run out,
over a hundred thousand acres that would be
worth something, none of it is worth the Gov-
ernment's minimum price.

But we are met at every corner with this ob-
jection : If the land be so indifferent, and lies
so awkwardly, why do you show such perse-
vering solicitude to get it ? In other words, if
it is worth nothing, why do you want It ? I
will meet that inquiry candidly, and I trust,
successfully. "We show, by the very situation
and character of the property, the difiiculty and
expense of its ascertainment and sale, that the
United States cannot realize any profit from it.
"Why ? Not merely because it is worth so lit-
tle, but because it would cost so much in pur-
suit of that little ; th&t the expenditures out of
the Treasury, in actual cash, would never be reim-
bursed by the proceeds of the sales. But it does
not, therefore, follow, that it would be worth
nothing to Tennessee — far from it. It will cost
us very little to sell it. There is the difference.
The United States would have to employ offi-
cers, say at the rate of five thousand dollars a
year. We can save that cost, because we have
our offices and officers already ; and, for the in-
terest of our citizens, we must keep up that ap-
paratus, whether we get this land or not. That
which would cost the United States more than
ihey would get for the land, will cost us little I



or nothing ; and whatever shall be made, we
shall have clear of charge. The difference be-
tween the Federal Government and Tennessee,
in regard to their interest, consists in the differ-
ence of situation in regard to the means of
turning their interest to a good account ; the
one already has, without an increase of ex-
pense, all the means that are necessary — the
other has not the means, and cannot have
them, without incurring an expense that their
interest in the thing wiU not justify. And
hence we say, and say with confidence, that the
land is of no value to the United States, but
would be of considerabe advantage to us. To
the United States the expense would overrun
the profit — to us the profit would teU for itself,
without the expense. If then, the House are
satisfied that this land can be of no use to the
Union, it surely will not hesitate to let it go
where it can be useful. I will not believe that
Congress will act the part of the dog in the
fable : neither use it themselves nor let any one
else do it.

The next question is, to what purpose will
you convert it ? "WiU you relinquish it to the
State of Tennessee, to be applied as a small ad-
dition to our very scanty fund for the education
of children at common schools, agreeably to the
original plan proposed by the bill? Or will
you adopt the amendment proposed by my col-
league, (Mr. Oeockett,) making it a free gift to
the settlers? I am for making it useful to
both : useful to the State, in the way of com-
mon school education ; and useful to the people
of the "Western district, and to the settlers
themselves, who will have a common interest
in this fund, and derive an equal benefit from
it. And to render it peculiarly beneficial to
the settlers, I am in favor of going further, and
should not be willing to vote for any bill that
did not enable them, without risk, to save their
homes, by securing to them the right of pre-
emption to the land that they occupy. I would
give them ample time to do that, before the
land should be sold to others. I would give
them the most reasonable terms, at graduated ^'
prices, and even better terms than the common
purchaser ; and with this I think they ought to
be content. Farther than this, with all my
feelings in favor of occupants, I cannot go. If I
did I should not only disregard the instructions
of the Legislature, and the general interest of
the State, but I should feel that I might be vio-
lating that maxim which requires us to be just
before we are generous. How stands the mat-
ter, as abundantly shown by others? These,
with other lands in Tennessee, were ceded by
North Carolina to the United States, upon this
express condition, among others, that all the
claims upon the land which North Carolina
had originated, should be satisfied. It is alleged
that there are still claims of this description un-
extinguished ; to what amount I know not.
But one thing I know, that, if you give away
all the land, and put it out of the power of Ten-
nessee, who, by compact, has been made the



326



ABKIDGMENT OF THE



H. OF E.]



Land Claims in Tetmessee.



[jANtTAET, 1829.



agent of these parties, to discharge the trust,
either in land or compensation for warrants, it
will not be long before yon hear from these
North Carolina warrant-holders, if there be
" any, (I hope there are but few.) And how
will Congress resist their claim to indemnity ?
They wiU tell you that you have broken the
contract, by giving away the land, that they
had a right to get. You cannot turn them
over to Tennessee, because you have snatched
the land away out of her hands, and not allow-
ed her to get any thing for it, when she asked
you for permission to dispose of it.

But I have other, and to my mind, stronger,
reasons for opposing this amendment. It is at
war with the principles of equality which ought
always to be observed in legislation. A pref-
erence to the first settlers, in a new district of
country,- has been a favorable and excellent
principle in the policy and legislation of Ten-
nessee, and has been practised by Congress un-
der peculiar circumstances. It is one to which
I am much devoted. But that preference has
never been extended farther than to give to the
settler the right of saving his land, at the low-
est price which the common purchaser was re-
quired to pay, and prevent any other from tak-
ing it from him, if he would, within a given
time, pay that much. There are, certainly,
thousands of citizens in Tennessee who settled
their lands under at least equal hardships, and
much greater dangers, than the settlers upon
the lands in question did. No lands were ever
given to them; none were expected to be
given. All that ever was done, for the most
meritorious of them, was to give them a pref-
erence in the procurement of their titles. Why,
then, make a distinction in this particular case ?
I have heard no reason urged for it which
might not equally apply to the first settlers of
every other part of Tennessee, and the other
inhabitants of the Western district, and, indeed,
to those of every other new country. There
are many reasons why this class of citizens
should be favored by the Legislature, in secur-
ing their homes in preference to others. But,
while the public domain is sold at aU, it might
be going too far to give it away merely because
it has been settled upon. I confess that, be-
tween the amendment and the biU as amended
by the gentleman from Kentucky, (Mr. Wiok-
LiFFB,) I have very little choice. It is not, with
me, a serious objection to the amendment that
it proposes to perfect the titles through the
agency of our State officers. Though not, ex
officio, bound to perform the duty, I doubt not
but they would do it for the fees. Nor do I
believe that we shall have a Governor in Ten-
nessee, though he receives no fee, who would
think it an indignity to sign a poor man's grant,
if authorized by Congress to do so.

Mr. Woods said he asked the indulgence of
the House, for the purpose of making an expla-
nation, to remove an impression which had,
perhaps, been made by his remarks, in relation
to the information received from the gentleman



on his right, (Mr. Oeookett,) to which he had
referred. Sir, (said Mr. W.,) I received no in-
formation from that gentleman which he did
not state in his place to this House. I never
heard him say a word on the subject which he
did not substantially repeat on this floor. It
was stated, by the member from Tennessee, in
his place, that three hundred and five thousand
acres had been divided between that State and
the North Carolina University. I referred to
that fact, and I now have in my hand the act
of the Legislature, passed on the 24th of No-
vember, 1825, page 37, by which it is provided
that Tennessee should have two-thirds, and the
University one-third, of the money arising from
the sale of warrants for one hundred and five
thousand acres, the right to which had been dis-
puted. I understood one gentleman (Mr.
Blaie) to say, that Tennessee had never con-
troverted or denied the justness and vahdity of
the claims of North Carolina, or its citizens.
Sir, I will read a paragraph of the compact en-
tered into, on the 26th of August, 1822, be-
tween the agents of that State, and the North
Carolina University, published with the laws
of Tennessee, of 1822, page 43. The preamble
of that compact declares : " Whereas the State
of North Carolina hath issued to the President
and Trustees of the University of North Caro-
lina sundry land warrants, founded on military
services, performed by certain officers and sol-
diers of her continental line, who have died,
leaving no heirs in the United States; and
whereas the State of Tennessee hath contended
that the State of North Carolina ought not to
have issued said warrants, by virtue of any law
of said State, to the President and Trustees of
said University, and that grants ought not to issue
on the same." The States of Tennessee, and
North Carolina, when it united their interests,
did compromise these differences ; and we have
been informed by the gentleman who reported
this bm, that North Carolina has closed her
offices, and, by law, provided against issuing
any more warrants. (See Keport, No. 32, Vol.
1.) The argument that we might, by this
amendment, interfere with the rights of North
Carolina, must, therefore, be wi&iout foundar
tion. The same honorable member has said,
that Tennessee had not received the amount of
money I stated ; and that thousands of acres,
in the Hiwassee district, would not sell for one
cent per acre. As I did net read the document
yesterday, to which I referred, I now beg leave,
to read an official letter from Nathaniel Smitii :
(Entry taken for the Hiwassee district, Senate
Documents, vol. 4. Doc. 166.) " The amount
sold at the sale in 1820, 1 have no account of,
not having any thing to do, at that time, with
the Land Office. I have been informed, by the
Treasurer of East Tennessee, who superintend-
ed the sales, the amount of sales was about
four hundred and eighty thousand dollars ; that
the land sold averaged about four dollars per
acre; and that the sum of two hmidred and
fifty thousand dollars had been paid into the



DEBATES OF CONGRESS.



327



Januakt, 1829.]



Land Claims m Termessee.



[H. OP R.



Treasmy." Mr. Smith also states that " the
amount of land entered in that district, since
the 2d of Fehruary, 1824, is five hundred and
one thousand acres ; for which the State had
received, in cash, two hundred and seventy-six
thousand two hundred and twenty dollars."
The whole amount for which land had been
sold, in that district, being, as I before stated,
seven hundred and fifty-six thousand two hun-
dred and twenty dollars. I also refer to an-
other letter in the same volume (document 160)
from an honorable member from Tennessee,
(Mr. Mitchell,) who says, " If my recollection
serves me rightly, between three hundred and
fifty and four hundred thousand dollars were
paid into the public Treasury, from the entry
of the lands, in that small district, after the
whole of them had been culled and picked, at
the sales which preceded the entry system."
I will not longer trespass upon the House. My
object, in rising, was to do justice to the gen-
tleman on my right, (Mr. Ceookett,) and to
read the documents to which I referred yes-
terday.

Mr. Polk said : Standing in the relation that
he did to the subject before the House, having
reported this bill from the Select Committee
who had been charged with the subject, and
frequent allusion having been made to him as
the chairman of that committee, by several
gentlemen, he felt it to be his duty, and he
asked the indulgence of the House, to correct
some errors into which he conceived gentlemen
had fallen, and to meet some objections which
had been urged against the bill. And first, the
gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Lookb) had
been pleased to refer to the information pos-
sessed by the committee that reported the bill,
and, especially, to that communicated by him-
self and his colleague, in reference to the true
situation of the vacant lands in Tennessee. The
gentleman opposed this bill upon the ground,
chiefly that we had not suflBcient information
of the country, and that he apprehended these
lands were worth much more than was gen-
erally supposed. The gentleman, in his great
zeal to defeat this bill, had gone so far as to
say, (certainly without any data upon which
•to make the estimate,) that these vacant
shreds and patches of land were worth, and in
his opinion would bring, to the United States,
half a million and perhaps a million of dollars.
Mr. P. said that the gentleman's estimate was
one made not only without proof to sustain it,
but was against the positive proof before the
House.

When the subject was before the committee,
he and his colleague who were members of the
committee, had given such information as they
possessed, as to the true situation and probable
value of these lands. Their information was of
course general and not minute. They had
stated in substance, that the most valuable
lands had been appropriated in satisfying the
North Carolina warrants ; that what remained
were the refuse lands, lying not in compact



bodies, but in detached parcels ; and that, in
their opinion, the United States, if they at-
tempted to survey and bring them into market,
according to the present land system of the
United States, the amount of sales, if it should
be practicable for them to do it at all, would
not defray the expenses. They had called the
attention of the committee to the memorial of the
Legislature of the State, in which a statement
of the true situation of the lands was contained.
This general statement was made, and (said Mr.
P.) it was the true statement. Himself and his
colleague could not, of course, state what pre-
cise number of dollars and cents it was worth,
for their information was not so minute. With
this general statement, and from the documents-
before them, a majority of the committee
thought it just to cede the lands to Tennessee
to supply the deficiency in the common school
lands, and agreed to report the bill. The gen-
tleman from Massachusetts was in a minority
on the committee ; he was not, as he said, sat-
isfied, and at his (Mr. Lookb's) suggestion, he,
(Mr. P.,) after the biU was reported, in order to
satisfy, if possible, every individual, had, at the
last session of Congress, addressed a letter to
each of the Tennessee surveyors in that district
of country, requesting specific information on
the subject. ' The official statements of the sur-
veyors was received, sustaining to the fuU ex-
tent the statement which had been made. He
had presented those official statements to the
House ; they had been ordered to be printed,
and had been laid upon the table of every gen-
tleman. And yet the gentleman complains of
a want of information. What would satisfy
him he knew not ; but he was sure he would
do him the justice to say, that he had used all
the means in his power to procure, for him and
for the House, the necessary information to
enable them to act understandingly on the sub-
ject. Sir, (said he,) what are the official state-
ments of the Tennessee surveyors, as to the
quantity and value of these lands ? He had (he
said) at his table, whilst the discussion had
been going on, made a rough estimate, taken
from these official statements, which if not in
the opinion of the gentleman minutely accu-
rate, certainly approximated to the. truth, and
varied but little from it. From these official
statements, which he had then before him, it



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 80 of 187)