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Slavery in the District of Columbia--Cession of the Public Lands.
[Fen. 9, 1837.
The whole number of Senators of the U. States is 52
From which it appears that Rich And M. Jouxson, having the votes of a majority of the whole number of Senators, as required by the constitution of the United States, is duly elected; and I therefore declare that Rich And M. Johnson, of Kentucky, has been chosen by the Sepate, in pursuance of the provisions contained in the constitution, Vice President of the United States # * years, commencing with the 4th day of March,
On motion of Mr. GRUNDY, a resolution was adopted for the appointment of a joint committee to inform Rich And M. Johnson of his election; and the Chair was authorized to appoint the member thereof on the part of the Senate.
On motion of Mr. WEBSTER,
The Senate then adjourned.
Thunsi, AY, FEBRUARY 9. SLAVERY IN THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA. Mr. SWIFT presented the petition of inhabitants of the town of Georgia, in the State of Vermont, praying the abolition of slavery and the slave trade in the District of Columbia. Mr. S. moved to refer that part of the petition which relates to the slave trade to the Committee for the District of Columbia, remarking that he believed the question on this subject had not been distinctly tried. Mr. BROWN moved to lay this motion on the table; which was accordingly ordered, by yeas and nays, on the call of Mr. SWIFT, as follows: YEAs–Messrs. Bayard, Brown, Buchanan, Calhoun, Clayton, Cuthbert, ilana, Ewing of Illinois, Fulton, Grundy, Hubbard, Kent, King of Alabama, King of Seorgia, Lyon, Moore, Nicholas, Norvell, Preston, Robinson, Ruggles, Strange, Tallmadge, Walker, White, Wright-26. p.’. Hendricks, Knight, McKean, Niles, to obin, Southard, Swift, Tipton, Wall, M . Ol' T H E PUIS LIC LANDS. * ***HOUN introduced as a substantive - - proposttion, and in form of a bill, the anendment he had the day
before moved to the land bill; which proposes a cession
they might have a vote upon it by yeas and nays; but he was not willing, sor one, that the bill should make any progress in the Senate, which might create, out of doors, the expectation that such a measure could obtain the least favor in that body. He was himself entirely opposed to the proposition. If the Senate would consent to reconsider, he should, on to-morrow, ask the reas and nays on its second reading, and no more. Mr. CALHOUN hoped the vote would not be reconsidered. The subject was obviously of great moment; and, at a period very shortly to come, it must press itself home on the consideration of every Senator. It was in vain to expect, on a bill of this magnitude, a naked vote by yea and nay. He should himself desire to be fully heard in its behalf, as he doubted not other gentlemen would, from both the new and the old States. It was a matter of perfect indifference to him in what form his views should be presented, whether by a speech on the floor, or through the report of the committee. A reference and report was the usual course, and he hoped that a bill of this character would not be treated with less courtesy than others. Mr. WALKER demanded the yeas and nays. Mr. BROWN advocated the motion to reconsider, and deprecated the idea that the opinion should go forth that this Government, at one fell swoop, would seize upon the whole public domain, and transfer it to the new States. Mr. CLAY said he was desirous of saying a few words on this bill, although his feelings would rather admonish him to be silent. Four or five years ago, contrary to his most earnest desire, this subject of the public lands had been forced upon him. With great labor, he had devised a scheme, fraught, as he conceived, with equity to all the States, according to which the object originally designed by the respective States which had ceded this domain for the common benefit of the Union would be accomplished, the proceeds of the whole divided, and an additional allowance made to the new States, such as should be called for by their increasing population. That scheme, although proceeding from a source which had now no influence in the Senate, and none in the country, had conciliated the favor of both Houses of Congress. It had been rejected by the President. Yet a large portion of the country, and, as he believed, a decided majority of the people of the United States, were, notwithstanding, in its favor. Mr. C. said that he had ever thought th’s public domain one of the most sacred of all the sacred trusts confided to the General Government, and that they were bound to take the ut. most care of it, and to administer it fairly for the benefit of all the States of the present generation and of posterity. This he had labored to do, but had labored in vain; , and now a project was brought forward, which aimed to wrest these lands from the common benefit of the Union, and appropriate them to the use either of a small portion of the States or of speculators. Mr. C. was equally opposed to the land bill now before the Senate, and to the project just introduced by the Senator from South Carolina. Indeed, he could see but little difference between them; for though the land bill before the Senate proposed, as its avowed objects, to restrict the sales of the public lands, to limit the amount of the revenue, and to repress speculation, it inbodied principles which, in spite of all effort to the contrary, would continue to be carried out, re-enacted, and enlarged, until the whole of the public domain be swept away. !" view, as he supposed, of this result, the Senator from South Carolina proposed at once to divest the country of tile whole domain. To such a mea ure Mr. C. could hot consent. He must do his duty faithfully and honest. ly, though it might be unsuccessfully. He was firmly “PPosed to the project already before the Senate, and to
the kindred project of the Senator from South Carolina; and did he not seat it would be in vain, he would address himself to his brother Senators on all sides of the House, and would implore them, by every consideration of love to their country, and regard to their own reputation, not to allow a matter of this weight and moment to be made an object of party politics. He would conjure them to abstain from appeals, by the new States, to this or to that party. He would not say that honorable Senators were actuated by any such considerations, because it would be unparliamentary, and might not be true in fact; but he would ask them if the impression had not been created that the party now dominant in the country intended to appeal to the new States, and, by conciliating their favor, to perpetuate itself in power? He would ask the Senator from South Carolina whether, after such an impression had gone abroad, any gentlemen were there found offering to these States still better boons, those who should do so would not expose themselves to the suspicion that they were engaged in a similar design? To the Senators from the new States he would say, was it an enviable situation for them to occupy, to have appeals of this kind not only made, but openly avowed, and to witness proposals on which they were called to act, involving vast pecuniary advantages to the States they represented? Was it not inevitable, from the nature of the object in question, that, if one party made it an instrument to retain political power, another party would be induced to do the same thing? And the result must be an appeal, by both parties, to the new States, by the sacrifice of that great interest which ought sacredly to be preserved for the benefit of the whole. Mr. C. said, in conclusion, that he hoped the members of the Senate would appreciate those motives which laid it as a duty upon him, out of a regard to the value of our public domain, and the purposes for which it had been given, to say thus much on the present occasion. . He must repeat, in conclusion, that he should oppose himself firmly to both projects. He considered them equally liable to exception, and could, as he had before observed, perceive but little difference between them. Mr. CALHOUN observed, in reply, that he had come there with a fixed resolution to resist all attempts at innovation upon our system in relation to the public lands; and, he might add, with no small hope that he should be successful. Mr. C. said he took it as rather unkind, though he was sure it had not been so intended, that the Senator from Kentucky should say that there was any analogy between this bill and that from the Committee on the Public Lands, which Mr. C. had strenuously opposed. This measure, reluctantly forced upon him by the necessity of the case, had been introduced with a desire to terminate great political evils. He did assure that honorable Sen. ator, whatever might be the obligation of duty which he felt in opposing this measure, a no less imperative obli: gation urged Mr. C. to bring it forward. There is, said Mr. C., too much power here; the tendency of this Government to centralism is overpowering; and among the many powerful instruments which can be and are brought to bear on the securing and extending of executive power, this control of the public lands is one of the greatest and most effectual. It now gives to any administration disposed so to use it control over nine States (eight, certaúly) of this Union. Those States, so far as this regulation of the public lands is concerned, are the vassals of this Government. We are in the place of a great landlord, and they of tenants; we have the ownership and control over the soil they occupy. Can there be any doubt as to how such an ascendency will be used in the present corrupt state of the country? Is there any doubt as to how it has been usel, or that the influence derived from it is a growing influence? We must find SENATE.] Fen. 9, 1837.]
some remedy for such a state of things, or sink under it. It is in vain to tell us that the Senators from the new States are as capable of giving an independent vote on measures connected with the public lands as those from the old States. It is impossible, in the nature of things. Their constituents have that feeling of ownership which is naturally inseparable from the occupation of the soil; and it must and will control the action of their representatives. And now I put it to the bosom of every Senator, whether the mere moneyed income derived from the public domain is to be compared for one moment to the great advantage of putting these Senators on the same independent footing with ourselves? I look with sympathy upon their condition, and I feel very sure they will be liberated from it with joy. Such, I am very sure, would be my feelings in the like circumstances. So long as there was no attempt to use the control of the public lands for purposes of a political character, their condition was very diffe, ent; but since this has been swept into the great vortex of political influence, their situation is wholly changed. I am for knocking off their chains. Sir, said Mr. C., I have, on a deliberate view of the whole case, entered upon this course, and I am resolved to go for this measure with all my power. I seek not its popularity or influence. I had rather that some other individual had moved in it, as more than one Senator here can bear me witness; but none would move, and I have therefore determined to proceed. I believe the time has arrived, and I am resolved to go on in the face of all the imputations to which my motives may be liable. I have often done my duty under very difficult circumstances, as all who hear me well know. As to popularity, I despise it. I would not turn on my heel to obtain it. It is a fleeting shadow, unworthy of the pursuit of an upright man. , No, sir, I move here on a conscientious conviction of high and imperious duty; and I shall therefore go forward until I have effected my object, if it can be effected. I believe it will prove, in its practical results, a great blessing to the country. I am convinced no stronger measure can be devised for withdraw. ing the public lands from the great game of political scrambling and gambling for the presidency. As to the details of the bill: I am under the impression that the sum demanded from the new States for the cession of these lands should be moderate, especially consid. ering that they will be charged with the whole trouble and expense of their administration; and that, from the nature of the human mind, they will necessarily have the feeling that they possess a better right to these lands than others, from the fact of their occupancy. The next rea. son is, that we may prevent any disturbance from a feeling of discontent, but that the arrangement we make may be viewed as a liberal one, even by the new States them. selves. So desirous am I to effect this object, that I will consent to modify this feature of the bill, by inserting almost any rate per cent. which the new States shall, on the whole, deem most prudent and advisable. Another reason why I have set the bonus at a low rate is a desire that the plan should operate as a benefit to the new States. ... I wish to counteract the tendency to running down of the price of land, and to secure its sale at prices calculated for the benefit of all parties. To secure this, I have inserted a provision, that if there shall be any departure from this condition of the cession, the grant it. self shall be void, so as to make it a judicial question. This measure is not, as has been said, a surrendering of the public domain to a few states of the Union. The lands are not surrendered, they are ceded, on terms by which this Government will make the most of them, even on a mere calculation of money. But I hope all such considerations will be held as entirely secondary and subordinate to greater and higher interests. All, I am
Cession of the Public Lands.
confident, feel that there must be some remedy devised for the existing evils connected with this subject. There is too much action here; how it enures, and to whose advantage, we have fully seen. It is the great evil of patronage, which, if not limited and curtailed, will render perfectly futile all efforts to preserve the liberties of the country. My ideas on this subject are well known. It is the law of our political situation that, as our territory spreads, and our population is augmented, the action at the centre of the system must be diminished more and more. It should be confined merely to the sustaining of a harmonious intercourse of the several portions of the confederacy; a harmony of parts throughout the great and wide-spread system. I solemnly believe that a knowledge of this great fundamental law, and a steadfast adherence to it, are the only means by which our freedom can be preserved. We must watch the stealthy advance of power, and resist it, step by step. We must not suffer every power of this Government to be perverted into an engine for President making. Let us apply, at once, the axe to the root. These are my motives in bringing forward this important measure, and not a grovelling desire of popularity, or any reserved hope of personal benefit to be enjoyed hereafter; I hold all such things light as air. I seek to do my duty, and to preserve, so far as I can, the liberties of my country. Mr. WEBSTER said it was because he had thought it more respectful to the Senator from South Carolina to move a reconsideration, than to make a motion to lay the bill on the table, that he had moved the former. But if that gentleman could not consent to reconsider, he must, however reluctantly, be compelled to move that the bill be laid upon the table. Aster some conversation, Mr. ROBINSON withdrew his motion for a select committee, and Mr. WEBSTER renewed the motion to reconsider; (which motion brings up the whole subject for discussion.) He did this, he said, with a view to take the sense of the Senate, desiring that the bill might come up to-morrow. But if the Senator from South Carolina was disposed to enter into the discussion on the present motion, it could proceed in that way. Mr. CALHou N expressed his regret that the bill should be opposed at this early stage, and in so unusual a manner. As long as I have been a member of this and the other House, (said Mr. C.,). I cannot recollect more than three or four instances, before the present, in which a bill has been opposed at its second reading, and then under very peculiar circumstances. And why, may I ask, is the usual course departed from on the present occasion? why not let this bill receive its second reading and be referred, as other bills are, to a committee, to be considered and reported on? The reply is, to prevent agitation; that is, as I understand it, to prevent the feelings of the public from being excited and its attention directed to this highly important sub: ject. If that be the intention, I tell gentlemen they will sail in their object. The subject is already before the public; and, if my life be spared, I shall keep it there— shall agitate it till the public attention shall be roused to a full and thorough investigation of a measure that I firmly believe is not less essential to the interest of the whose Union than it is to that of the new States. I tell them more: that the very unusual and extraordinary course they have adopted, in opposition to this bill, will but more deeply agitate the public mind, and the more intensely attract its attention to the subject. It will naturally excite the inquiry, why not let this bill take the ordinary course? Why not let it go to a committee, to investigate its provisions, and Present all the argu
Cession of the Public Lands.
ments for and against it, fully and fairly, so that its merits and demerits, such as they are, may be clearly understood? Opposition to so reasonable a course will make the impression that the object is to suppress investigation, whatever may be the motive of gentlemen, and will naturally excite suspicion and more diligent inquiry. In making these remarks, I am not ignorant that the merits of the bill are fully open to discussion on the pending question; but it is impossible that a hasty discussion, at this last stage of the session, and when the time of the Senate is so fully engrossed with other subjects, can be so satisfactory as would be a report, in which the views of the majority and minority of the committee, after a full consultation, might be calmly and deliberately spread at large before the public. And why not adopt so natural a course? Besides being more favorable to investigation, it would consume less time; a point of no small importance at the present stage of the session. lf referred, the committee would doubtless be so constituted as to comprehend both friends and opponents of the measure. Among the latter, if my wishes should be consulted, I would be glad to see the name of the Senator from Massachusetts, [Mr. Websten,) who is so capable of doing sull justice to whatever side he undertakes to defend. It is thus that the whole merits of the measure would be fully presented; and if it be so liable to objections as is supposed, the result might be to satisfy the new States themselves that it ought not to be adopted. But if, on the other hand, the argument should prove to be decidedly in its favor, as I firmly and concentiously believe, the very agitation which gentlemen seem so much to dread would be promptly terminated by the adoption of the measure. Thus regarding the subject, I cannot but regret that this bill has not been permitted to take the usual course, and that I am compelled, in this hasty manner, without premeditation, to reply to the arguments of the Senator from Massachusetts, [Mr. W E astER, ) which, after mature deliberation, he has urged with all his force against the measure. I shall begin with my reply to his constitutional objections. He holds that the measure is unconstitutional, because we have no authority to give away the public lands. I do not feel myself obliged to meet this objection. It is not true in fact. The bill makes no gist. It cedes the public lands to the States within which they are respectively situated, subject to various conditions, and, among others, that they shall pay over one third of the gross amount of the sales to the United States; that they shall surrender all their claims against the Government under the two and three per cent. funds, and take the whole trouble and expense of the management of the land, including the extinguishment of the Indian tittles. But I waive this decisive answer. I meet the Senator on his own ground, and with a conclusive argument, as far at least as he is concerned. He admits that it would not be a violation of the constitution for Congress to make a donation of land to an individual; and what, I ask, is there to prevent it from making a donation to two; to an hundred; or to a thousand? And if to them individually, why not to them in the aggregate, as a community or a State? He, indeed, admits that Congress may make a donation of public lands to a State, for useful purposes. If to one State, why not to several States–to the new States, if the measure should be thought to be wise and proper? 1s there be a distinction, I acknowledge my intellect is too obtuse to perceive it; but as the bili makes no gift, I feel under no necessity of pressing the argument further. The Senator's next position is, that we have no right to delegate the trust of administering the public domain, confided to us by the constitution, to the States. Here, again, I may object, that the argument has no soundation
in truth. The bill delegates no trust. It makes a concession—a sale of the public lands to the new States; and what the Senator calls trusts are but conditions annexed to the sales—conditions alike beneficial to them and to the old States. The simple question, then, is, can Congress sell public lands to a State? Suppose the State of Ohio were to offer to pay $1 25 an acre for the remnant of the public lands within her limits, could not Congress sell it to her? And if it may sell for $1 25, may it not for a dollar, for 75 cents, or a less sum, if it should be deemed the true value? Again: if Congress can make an absolute sale, may it not make a conditional one? And if so, why may it not make the disposition proposed in this bill? That is the question, and I would be glad to have it answered. If I ever had any constitutional scruples on the subject, the arguments of the Senator would have satisfied me that they were without the shadow of foundation. His reasoning faculties are well known; and if these are the strongest constitutional objections that he can advance, we may be assured that the bill is perfectly free from all objections of that description. Having now despatched the objections against the constitutionality of this bill, I shall next consider the ar. guments which the Senator urged against its expediency. He says that I placed the necessity of this bill on the fact of the passage of the land bill reported by the Committee on Public Lands; and, as it was uncertain whether it would become a law, the ground on which the necessity of this bill was based may yet fail. The Senate will remember the remarks I made on asking leave to introduce this bill, and that I was for placing it on the simple fact of the passage of that bill. I took broader ground, and rested my motion on the character of the bill and the circumstances which attended its passage through this body. From these, I concluded that the period we all acknowledge must sometime come had actually arrived, when the public lands within the new States should on proper conditions be ceded to them. I do not deem it necessary now to go into a discussion of the character of the bill, nor the history of its passage through the Senate. We all have, no doubt, formed our opinion in relation to both. From all I saw and heard, I am satisfied that the bill had not the hearty assent of its supporters, whether from the new or old States; and I doubt very much whether there was an individual who voted for it, that gave it his hearty approbation. Many who had uniformly opposed all measures of the kind, and who represented portions of the Union which had ever been vigilant on all questions connected with the public lands, were found in the ranks of those who supported the bill. The explanation is easy. . It assumed the character of a party measure, to be carried on party grounds, without reference to the true interests of either the new or old States; and, if we are to credit declarations made elsewhere, to fulfil obligations contracted anterior to the late presidential election. From all this, I inferred we had reached the period when it was no longer possible to prevent the public domains from becoming the subject of party contention, and being used by party as an engine to control the politics of the country. It was this conviction, and not the mere passage of the bill, as the Senator supposes, that induced me to introduce this bill. I saw, clearly, it was time to cut off this vast source of patronage and power, and to place the Senators and representatives from the new States on an equality with those srom the old, by withdrawing our local control, and breaking the vassalage under which they are now placed. The Senator from Massachusetts objects to the term, and denies that Congress exercises any local control over those States. I used it to express the strong degree of dependence of the new States on this GovernSENATE.]
Cession of the Public Lands.
[Feb. 9, 1837.
ment, whose power and patronage are ram fied over their whole surface, and whose domains constitute so large a portion of their territory. I certainly did not anticipate that the Senator from Massachusetts, or any other, would deny the existence of this dependence, or the local control of the Government within their limits. Can any thing be more local than the lands of a State? and can any state be said to be free from dependence on a Government, when that Government has the administration of a large portion of its domain? Is it no hardship that the citizens of the new States should be compelled to travel nine or ten hundred miles to this place, and to wait our tardy justice on all claims connected with the public lands; a subject, in its own nature, the most local of all, and which ought, above all others, to be under the charge of the local authority of the States? I ask him if he would be willing to see Massachusetts placed in the same relation to this Government? and, if it were, whether it would not destroy its independence?" I ask him if it must not give a great and controlling influence wherever it exists? Through its lands, authority and action of the Government pervades the whole territory of the new States, and their citizens become claimants at your doors, session after session, either for favor or justice. I do not say that all this is incompatible with the sovereignty of those States, but I do aver that it is in derogation of their sovereignty. The Senator next objects to this measure, that it would not free Congress from its present difficulties, in reserence to the public domain. He says that we should soon have the new States here, besieging us with memorials to alter the conditions of cession, with all the dependence and difficulties of which we now complain. My impression is very different. Make the terms liberal, and they will be satisfied. They will relieve Congress from the whole burden of business, as far as the lands are concerned, which now occupies so much of its time; and the public councils will no longer be under the dangerous influence inseparable from their management. If hereafter a new state of things should arise, and the ar. rangement proposed in the bill should require reversion, it will be for those who come aster us to apply a remedy; and I have no fear but they will do their duty. The Senator next insists that the acquisition of these lands will prove no benefit to the new States, and predicts that it woull involve them in incessant agitation and trouble. Such might be the case, if the cession was absolute; but the bill contains provisions which will prove an effectual check against these difficulties. To place its provisions beyond alteration or attack, it is expressly provided that, if they should be violated by the States, the cession itself should be void, and all grants made subsequent thereto shall be null and of no effect. They are thus placed under the safeguard of the Judi. ciary, and the courts of the Union will determine on questions growing out of their infraction. For this purpose, the cossion has assurned the form of a compact, and i fect confident that, under its provisions, the new States would administer the land without agitation or any seri. ous trouble or disficulty. If this can be effected, I appeal to the Senators, whether the land within their limits ought not to be under their local administration? I, for one, feel that we of the old States have not, and can. not have, that full and accurate local knowledge neces. sary for their proper management. Of all the branches of our business, it is that which I least understand. From this defect of information, the Land Committee has it almost exclusively under its sole control, whenever it is so coos tuted as to attract in any degree the confi. dence of the House. This has been the case from the first. I well remember, that when I first took my seat in the other House, Jeremiah Morrow, a member from Ohio, a man of great integrity and good sense, was the
chairman of the Committee on Public Lands, and was, in fact, the sole legislator on all subjects connected with them; and in this body we have almost invariably yielded our judgment to the committee, from a conscious want of information. The difficulty is growing from year to year, with the vast increase of the new States and Territories, and the growing complication of our land code; and the consequent increase of business is such that we already have scarce time to despatch it with due attention. In a short time the increase will be doubled; and what shall we then do? By passing this bill, we will be wholly relieved from this burden, and the questions we are now compelled to determine without a 'equate knowledge will then be settled by those whose local knowledge will make them familiar and well acquainted with the subject. But we are told by the Senator that the public lands have been well administered by the General Government, and that he cannot surrender his belief but that they will continue so to be. That they were well administered in the early stages of the Government, while they were not an object of much pecuniary or political interest, I am ready to admit; but I hold it not less certain, that as the number and population of the new States increase, and, with them, the value of the public lands and the political importance of those States, we must become year by year less and less competent to their management, till finally we shall become wholly so. I believe that we are not now far from that period. Does not the Senator see the great and growing influence of the new States, and that it is in the power of any unprincipled and ambitious man from one of them to wield that influence at his pleasure? Should he propose any measure in relation to the public lands, be it ever so extravagant and dangerous, the members from the new States dare not vote against it, however adverse to the measure. It is useless to disguise the fact that our possession of so much land in the new States creates and cherishes an antagonist feeling on their part towards the Government, as to every measure that relates to them. They naturally consider your policy as opposed to their interes', and as retarding their growth and prosperity, as great as they are. We must take human nature as it is, and accommodate our measures to it, instead of making the vain attempt to bend it to our measures. We must calculate that the means of control, which this state of things puts into the hands of the ambitious and designing, will not be neglected; and, instead of idly complaining, iet us remove the cause by wise and timely legislation. The difficulties and dangers are daily on the increase. Four years more will probably add three more new States, and six additional senítors, with a great increase of members in the other House; and, what is more important, a corresponding increase of votes and influence in the electoral college. Can you doubt the consequences? The public lands, with their immense patronage, will be brought to bear more and more on the action of Congress; will control the presidential elections; and the result will be, that he who uses this vast fund of power with the least scruple will carry away the prize. the sonator himself sees and acknowledges the approach of this dangerous period, and "goes that, when it does come, we must surrender the public lands, within the new states; but is for holding on till it shall have actually arrived. My opinion is the revorse. ...I regard it as one of the wisest maxims in human affairs, that when we see an inevitable evil, like this, not to be resisted, approaching, to make concessions in time, while we can to it with dignity, and not to wait until necessity.com. pels us to ac, and when concession, instead of gratitude, will excite contempt. The maxim is not new. I have derived it from the greatest of modern, salesmen, Ed. mund Burke. He urged its adoption " the British Gov