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SENATE.] public Lands. [Frb. 9, 1837.
been reported in the Globe. The President, however, had thought proper to take up that report, and, in commenting upon it, had used language which no gentleman was in the habit of employing to another, and which, indeed, was more worthy of the purlieus of Billingsgate than of the manner of the Chief Magistrate of a great notion. Mr. WALR EIR said he should make no remarks on the disgculty which had arisen between the Senator from South Carolina and the President. He had been an attentive listener during the speech referred to, and had not understood the Senator as making any charge against the President personally. The charges had been of a general nature, connecting the removal of the deposites with the system of speculation and with the introduction of the present bill. Mr. W. would say a few words as to the manner in which this bill had been introduced. An address had been delivered by himself in 1830, in which the proposition now imbodied in the bill was substantially proposed; the address had been published, and— Mr. CALHOUN here interposed, and disclaimed any imputation whatever on the motives of the honorable gentleman in introducing the bill; he had never doubted for a moment that they were honest and patriotic, and that the honorable Senator's whole course in the matter was prompted by his zeal for what he understood to be the interests of the new States. Mr. WALKER went on to observe that the measure did not originate with the administration; but had in the first place been suggested in the address referred to, and had again been called up to public notice during a severe canvass in his own State during the year 1834. It had no connexion whatever with the removal of the deposites. That, on the contrary, was, he believed, the only administration measure which he had felt it his duty to oppose, not on grounds of constitutional law, however, but on those of expediency alone. Mr. W. then went into a defence of the bili, contending that it would have an effect the very reverse of that which had been predicted on the price of land in the hands of speculators. Mr. CALHOUN would merely observe that, if he had been led into error in supposing that the funds derived from banks had been used for purposes of speculation in the public lands, he had been led into it by the Presi. dent himself, who had said so in his message. Mr. CLAY rose, and said that he had waited, under the expectation that the Senator from Mississippi, [Mr. WALK kit, who had just resumed his seat, or some other friend of the administration, would make some motion founded upon the letter which had been laid before the Senate by the Senator from South Carolina. And if now (added Mr. C., pausing, and looki' g around the Senate) any friend of the administration has it in contemplation to submit any such motion, I will, with pleasure, give way that it may be made. That most cxtraordinary letter (continued Mr. C.) has filled me with the deepest regret and mortification. regret that the illustrious citizen at the head of the Government should have allowed himself to address such a letter, in such a spirit, and in such language, to one of the representatives of a sovereign State of this Union; mortification that the Senate of the United States should be reduced to the state of degradation in which we all feel and know it now to be. That this letter is a palpa. ble breach of the privileges appertaining to this body by the constitution, is beyond all controversy. It has not been denied, and cannot be denied. It is such a letter as no constitutional monarch would dare address to any member of the legislative body; and if he could so far forget himself as to do it, it would make the throne shake on which he sits.
We, Mr. President, who belong to the opposition, have no power to protect the privileges of this body, nor our individual privileges. The majority alone is now invested with authority to accomplish those objects. On that majority rests exclusively the responsibility of maintaining the dignity and the privileges of the Senate. And I have seen, with great surprise, that not one of that majority has risen, or appears disposed to rise, to vindicate the privileges which belong to the Senate. All of them, on the contrary, sit by in silence, as if they were ready to acquiesce in this new invasion of the rights of the Senate by the President of the United States, a co-ordinate branch of the Government. I heard with satisfaction, from the Senator from South Carolina, that he intended himself to make no motion founded upon the President’s letter, but should leave it to the Senate to protect its own rights. How can any member of the minority offer any motion, with that view, after the doctrines which were brought forward by the friends of the administration during the debate which arose on the removal of the deposites, and which have been more recently maintained during that on the expunging resolution, and supported by the vote of the Senate? Such is the lamentable condition to which the Senate is now reduced, how can the majority itself bring up any such motion? According to those doctrines, the Senate, being the tribunal to try the President in the event of an impeachment, has no power or right to express any opinion whatever on the constitutionality of any act which he may perform. He may insult the body or its members; he may enter this chamber with an armed force, disperse the members, and imprison them; but we must submit without murmur or complaint, and patiently wait until the majority of the House of Representatives, composed of his friends, shall vote an impeachment against him; which, if it were possible for them to do, there stands here a majority, composed also of his friends, ready to acquit him! Let those who have contributed to produce the present unhappy state of things——who have stripped the other branches of the Government of their powers, one by one, and piled them on the Executive, until it has become practically the supreme power--answer for what they have done. Under all the responsibility with which they stand to our God and our country, let them respond for this flagrant violation of the constitutional privileges of the Senate. As for us, the poor privilege only r mains of announcing to the people and to the States that the Senate, once a great bulwark of the public liberty, by a succession of encroachments, is now placed at the mercy of the Executive, exposed to every insult and outrage which the unbridled passions of any President may prompt him to offer. The Senate then proceeded to debate the
The bill was then read a third time, and the question being on its passage,
Mr. DAV is said, in substance, that he had, unsortunately for himself, been detained from the Senate most of the time while this mea ure had been under discussion, and had lost the benc sit of the remarks of gentlemen who were well acquainted with the subject; but as it was a measure of great public importance, involving great interests and a vast amount of property, he had felt anxious to express his sentiments in regard to it. He hoped he might at this late period be indulged in adverting to some of the leading objections (for he should attempt no more) which had pressed themselves upon his mind. -
The public domain, said he, is almost boundless in extent, and its value can scarcely be estimated. . It is at least several hundred millions of dollars--a treasure Feb. 9, 1837.]
greater than was ever possessed by any nation as public properly. I consider it as common property, belonging to the people of the United States, and to the whole people. All have a deep interest in it, and have a right to know what disposition is made of it. If it were money, the public would be watchfully alive to the preservation and appropriation of it to the common good; but it is not of the less value, nor is it the less useful, because it consists in what may be converted into money.
The opinion was put forth a few years ago, that the new States alone had a right to the land within them; and as fast as new States were admitted into the Union the right of the United States to such lands was extinguished. We now hear almost daily on this floor pretensions set up of large rights in such States. Members here talk of our lands, and claim, in one form and another, exclusive privileges and advantages for their own constituents. The Senator from Arkansas asserts that any and all persons have an unquestioned right to occu. py the public lands. The man who squats, as the phrase is, or seizes the public lands without color of right, and against the laws of the United States, is not only countenanced, but no language of encomium is sufficiently adulatory to express his merits.
Sir, I repeat, the public lands are public and common property, belonging to the whole people, and the whole people have a right to the benefit of them; and my principal motive in rising is to protest against partial and unjust legislation; to deny the right of the Senate to bestow them upon a class of favored individuals.
It is well known that the original boundary of the United States on the west was the Mississippi river. The country lying east of it, and between the Atlantic and the British provinces, was achieved by the common treasure, sacrifices, and blood, of the revolutionary war. This is the region declared by the treaty of 1783 to be free, sovereign, and independent. This was the great work of the old thirteen--the noble achievement of three millions of colonists, without funds, and almost without arms and ammunition, against the colossal power of Great Britain. It was the noble daring of lofty spirits, and will go down to all ages as a marked proof that a people resolved to be free cannot be subdued.
Of this territory, all west of the Alleghanies and north of the Ohio river was, with the exception of some military posts, then a vast wilderness. Indeed, the whole valley of the Mississippi was substantially so. Each State claimed limits coextensive with the charter granted to it as a colony by the Crown of Great Britain. When hese charters were granted, the geography of the country was very imperfectly understood, and the grants, for the want of accurate boundaries, interfered with each other, covering often the same territory. This gave rise to conflicting claims in all parts of the country, some of which are not adjusted to this time. The charter of Massachusetts, for example, stretched across the contiment, from the Atlantic to the Pacific ocean; and so of some other States. Virginia claimed to the lakes. In 1783, all these conflicting claims were adjusted by deeds of cession from several States to all the States of this wild territory north of the Ohio and east of the Mississippi, for the benefit, as the deeds express it, of the States; and it was to be held and enjoyed for the benefit of the States, the United States not being named as such. This is the manner in which it became common property, in which each State was thus interested, and it was pledged for the redemption of the public debt. While the deeds of cession thus make it the property of the States, by language which admits of no evasion or misconstruction, they also provide sor the division of it into States, and their admission into the Union when the territory should be inhabited,
It is thus rendered entirely clear that the new States were not to be the owners of the se lands; for the pledge of them to pay the public debt, and the declaration that they should be held for the common benefit, are inconsistent with such a claim. The lands west of the Mississippi and in Florida were purchased by the United States from France and Spain, and we paid for them twenty millions of dollars out of the public Treasury. The title to this vast domain is also equally clear. In addition to this, enormous sums have been paid to extinguish the Indian title. The title, therefore, of the United States cannot be made questionable. The public lands are common treasure, and must be dealt with as such. The United States have always so treated them, and I must be allowed to recur to the general course of policy which has been pursued, to show what has been public sentiment. A system of selling and settling then was at once, aster the cession, adopted, the details of which I need not enter into, beyond what is necessary to prove that the public interest was guarded with watchful vigilance, and all attempts to give it away or to encourage intruders firmly resisted. As far back as 1796, I find that the subject of pre-emption rights was brought before Congress, and the Committee on Public Lands reported “that, inas much as illegal settlements on the lands of the United States ought not to be encouraged, and as yielding to the said claims [for pre-emption] would interfere with the general provisions for the sale of said lands, in their opinion, the prayer of said petitions ought not to be granted;” that is, the petitions of persons asking for pre-emption rights, because they had entered without authority upon the public lands. In 1801, the Committee on Public Lands reported—to “That [certain petitioners represented that] with much labor and difficulty they had settled upon, cultivated, and improved, certain lands, the property of the United States, between the waters of the Scioto and Muskingum rivers, and had thereby not only enhanced the value of the lands upon which they had respectively settled, but of other lands in the vicinity of the same, to the great benefit of the United States, and prayed for a pre-emption right to those lands, at two dollars the acre,” [then the minimum price of public lands. “Your committee are of opinion that, as there are many others in the situation of the petitioners, if the indulgence prayed for be granted, it ought to be general; but, whatever may be the hardships sustained by the petitioners, and however great our disposition to relieve them there from, believing, as the committee do, that granting the indulgence prayed for would operate as an encouragement to intrusions on the public lands, and would be an unjustifiable sacrifice of the public interest, report, as their opinion, that the prayer of the petitions ought not to be granted.” in 1806, I find another report on pre-emption rights, which concludes thus: “An indulgence in the present instance would encourage abuses in future, and might eventually lead to an entire abandonment of the existing land system, in c. xchange for one wholly incompatible with the idea of deriving revenue from the sale of public lands, and, by encouraging migration beyond its natural and necessary progress, create an interest hostile to the general welfare of the Union. It might be observed, further, that, by an extension of this right to the claimants, we enable individuals to select and engross the most eligible spots, in point of situation and soil, and thereby destroy all competition in the public sales.” How prophetic these remarks were, will be seen in the sequel. In 1812, the committee, in regard to pre-emption rights, hold the following language:
SENATE.] Public Lands. [FER. 9, 1837.
“The committee are of opinion that promiscuous and unauthorized settlements on the public lands are, in many respects, injurious to the public interests; good policy forbids that any encouragement should be given to such intrusions. It was prohibited by the Congress under the confederation, and has been made penal by an act under the present form of government. Congress cannot, in the opinion of the committee, grant the prayer of the petitioners, in its full extent, without destroying the effect intended to be produced by the law prohibiting intrusions on the public lands. To legalize a direct violation of the law must, by obvious consequence, cmcourage suture violations.” This law is now in force, and this report was made by Mr. Morrow, of Ohio, a gentleman well acquainted with the public land and the interests of the United States. By a departure from this wise policy, all the pernicious consequences which he so distinctly points out have been realized. In 1824, the Committee on Public Lands again reportcd as follows, in regard to pre-emption rights: “The committee are of opinion that an extension of these principles would be injurious to the Government as well as to those who may hereafter become the purchasers of public lands, and probably to those who may venture to settle upon Government land without authority hereaster. “It cannot be perceived by what principle persons having no color of title should, after lands on which they have settled were known to belong to the United States at the time of making such settlement, claim the pre-emption right to such lands. “Should the Government sanction applications of this " nature, an inducement would be offered to persons of an enterprising disposition to anticipate, in every quarter, the Government in its sales of the public lands, and to settle upon and improve the most valuable tracts of land, which they would claim at the minimum price, whenever such lands were brought into the market by the authority of the United States. “Purchasers of lands, finding themselves prevented from acquiring good lands, would abstain from purchases, and resort to illegal settlements, in the hope of obtaining that at the minimum price, which they could not obtain at fair and open sale. “Thus, a competition would be excited among a certain description of our population to locate themselves upon the public lands, without regard to lines or boundaries, and with very little respect sor the rights either of the Government or their Indian neighbors. * * * “A system of indulgence to those who trespass, by making unauthorized settlements upon the public lands, after those lands are known to belong to the United States, would, in the opinion of the committee, be productive of much perplexity to the Governmen", as well as of injury to those concerned in the purchase and settlement of the public domain.” Without troubling the Senate further by reference to the doings of Congress, I may here remark that this was the wholesome doctrine which guided and regulated action here in regard to the public lands until 1830. A deaf car was invariably turned upon all entreaties to grant what are denominated pre emption rights. None stood more firmly against them than the members from the new States. The injurious consequences were foreseen, ool our predecessors comprehended how difficult it would be to retrieve a false step. In 1820, the minimum price of public lands was reduced from two dollars to a dollar and a ‘luarter an acre, and all credit abolished; which system is now in operation. In *:::: *first pre-emption law, which extended to the Pool.” generally, was passed, under pretence of quieting the possessions of A's. poor pcople who
had established homes upon the public land, and asked for a few acres, at the minimum price, which they had cultivated about their houses. The argument addressed to the humanity of Congress prevailed. The speculators, in the guise of poor men, seduced Congress. It seemed just in itself; and we will now see what have been the results of that law, and learn something from experience. . If the public documents speak the truth, it has been the means of awakening cupidity, and has served to disguise and cover up the most disgusting frauds, perjuries, and peculations. This law, in its terms, provided for retrospective cases only, for cases where settlements and cultivation had been actually made, and was designed to secure to the poor man his home, not to invite new settlers, or to enlarge the domains of the rich. A pre-emption law, as it is styled, gives to the occupant the exclusive right to enter for himself, to become the purchaser of a given quantity of land, on which he has made his improvements, be its quality or value what it may, at a dollar and a quarter the acre, which is the lowest price at which public land is sold. The least quantity which the United States, in their singular liberality, proposed to let a pre-emptioner have was 160 acres, or one quarter of a section--the public lands being surveyed into sections or squares of 640 acres each. This act of 1830, it was supposed, would apply only to the relief of a few cases of poor people, who had penetrated the public land, and commenced the process of clearing farms. But, sir, Mr. Brown, the late Commissioner of the Land Office, was required to state, at the last session of Congress, how much revenue had been diverted from the public Treasury by this act. His answer was, that he had no certain data by which to estimate it; but he adds: “Considering the many tens of thousands of claims that have arisen under it, and the prevailing desire, in the mean while, to invest money in public land, the conclusion seems fair that the selected spots would have been sold for a price proportioned to their excellence, if no such law, nor any improper conspiracy, had existed. The estimate of three millions of dollars, which I had the honor to submit to you on the 28th of January last, appears to me now to underrate, much rather than to magnify, the disference between the receipts for preemption concessions and the sum the same lands would have brought into the Treasury.” Under this law, where two persons had made improvements on the same quarter section of land, it was decided, as they could not both have it, that one should have what is familiarly called a float-–that is, a right to enter his quantity upon any of the surveyed and unsold public lands; thus giving to him a vast range, and an opportunity to select the most valuable spot. The Commissioner, in speaking of the manner in which these floats were obtained, says: “The virtuous and patriotic citizens of Louisiana have been disgusted and alarmed by the extent to which fraud and perjury are asserted to have been carried on in the manufacture of such claims within that interesting State, threatening to cover a large portion of the most valuable lands that have been surveyed.” + “I le law, as its title imports, is in favor of settlers. But pretensions have been set up by persons dwelling in town with their families, and there following mercantile pursuits, while they caused a little show of improvement, that scarce deserved the name, to be made for them by others; no proof being produced of their personal superintendence or direction on the spot. Cultivation by slaves or hirelings in 1833, and one or the other, or a growing crop on the place on the following 19th of June, have been assumed as fulfilling the required conditions.”
“Among the pretences to cultivation, there have becn disclosures as follows, viz: where the cutting and burning a small patch of cane; where an enclosure, not entitled to be called a fence, around a space only large enough for a small garden, and the planting a few culinary vegetables; and where scattering an undefined quantity of turnip seeds or grass seeds, and, in one case, planting a few turnips or onions, have been claimed as cultivation to meet this condition.” Again: “If the propriety were conceded of making the preemption policy a part of our land system, there would be still no evident fitness in extending the concession to a full quarter section of land. An allowance of half that quantity of the very best land is surely munificent, and, if presumed poverty be one of the considerations for the grant, it may be observed that many a good farm in the West contains no more than an eighth of a section.” Again: “The temptation to abuse the charity of the Legislature is so radically intermixed and so inextricably interwoven with the operation of the pre-emption laws, that I should despair of laying before you altogether effectual means for the prevention of fraud on the part of claimants. It seems to me a hopeless task to project any modification of existing enactments that shall silence perjury, and defeat the devices of sagacious speculators, so long as their ingenuity shall be sharpened and stimulated by the prospect of immense gain attending their success.” Such are the extraordinary and disgusting developments made by the officer who was last year at the head of the General Land Office, and whose means of intellig-ence cannot be questioned; and such is the effect of legislating the public domain into the hands of individu als. It offers such temptation to an easy acquisition of wealth, that it superinduces every species of fraud. I will now ask attention to some parts of a statement made by the attorney of the United States for the western district of Louisiana in regard to these floats and pre-cmption rights: “I will here mention a construction of the law which was adopted by the officers at Opelousas, and most of the pre-emption floats have been admitted under that construction: Two persons living on a quarter section, or who pretend that they do, on lands not worth a cent an acre; men who can neither read nor write; men who have never seen a survey made, and know nothing about sections or quarter sections of land; and who, in point of fact, live five, ten, and, in many instances, twenty miles apart, go besore a justice of the peace as ignorant as themselves, and swear to all the facts required by law to make their entry; this, too, in a section of country never surveyed by the authority of the Government, nor any competent officer thereof. Would it be believed that any officer of the Government would admit an entry under circumstances like these, upon the oaths alone of the parties interested in making them, and upon lands not surveyed, approved, and returned, by higher authority? Can it be possible that an entry of that kind can either be in conformity with law, justice, or right? “I state, of my own knowledge, that many of these pre-emption floats are precisely in the situation above detailed. I am authorized to name Colonel Robert A. Crane, of Louisiana, who states, positively, he knows many of them to be founded upon the same corrupt perjury--persons swearing that they lived on the same quarter section, when, in truth and in fact, they never had lived so near each other as five miles. It is not believed that there are thirty honest pre-emption floats in the whole district of Louisiana; and yet, since the 1st of January, 1835, up to the 27th of May, they have passed at the land office at Opelousas at least 350. And who
are the owners of these floats? Principally one, and not more than three speculators. Since the 1st of January of this year, up to the 27th of May, day after day, week after week, I might say months after months, a notorious speculator (and who must have been known as such to the officers of the land office at Opelousas) was seen occupying that office, to the almost total exclusion of everv body else. No other person appeared to understand how to get pre-emption floats through, and no one did succeed until an event which will be stated below. He could be seen followed to and from the land office by crowds of free negroes, Indians, and Spaniards, and the very lowest dregs of society in the counties of Opelousas and Rapides, with their affidavits already prepared by himself, and sworn to by them before some justice of the peace in some remote part of the county. These claims, to an immense extent, are presented and allowed. And upon what evidence? Simply upon the evidence of the parties themselves who desire to make the entry! And would it be believed that the lands where these quarter sections purported to be located, from the affidavit of the applicants, had never been surveyed by the Government nor any competent officer thereof, nor approved, nor returned surveyed? I further state that there was not even a private survey male. These facts 1 know. I have been in the office when the entries were inade, and have examined the evidence, which was precisely what I have stated above.” Such has been the result of the experiment of the law of 1830, made for the benefit of a few poor settlers. It has swept away more than three millions of dollars from the public chest, and introduced a system which corrupts and demoralizes the citizens, to an extent surpassing belief. It comes to us fraught with all the evils prophesied of it, and has already invited hordes to seize upon the public property, indulging the hope that new laws of this description will be passed. Indeed, they come boldly to our doors and demand them. This city is now filled with greedy claimants; not your poor and helpless individuals, who have raised a log cabin over their heads in some nook of public property, but men who enter the fashionable walks of life and boast of their fortunes. And yet this law of 1830 was guarded and protected by oaths and required proofs. The settlement and the cultivation must he proved under oath, and to have occurred before 1829, to entitle the claimant to the benc. fit of the act. But, sir, what is cultivation? Any act upon the soil; raising a handful of vegetables of a few weeks' growth; sowing a little grass seed, which is up in a few days. What is occupancy?, Feeding a horse upon the soil has been claimed as such. And such miserable frauds, aided by the perjury of hired and interested witnesses, have been employed, with the connivance of public officers, under a benevolent act, to steal the most valuable parts of the public land. Such has been our sad and appalling experience under the law of 1830. Now, sir, what is the character of the bill on your table? A thousand-fold worse than the act of 1830. It is a pre-emption, for the exclusive benefit of the States in which the public lands lie. A monopoly in their hands; an appropriation of the public lands to their use, to the exclusion of all others; a gist of this vast treasure to the citizens of those States. And can I vote for such a pros. ligate disposition of public property? How can I meet my constituents and justify such an act? . You have hardly the modesty to disguise this bill, by holding it up as a measure for the benefit of the poor; but gentlemen stand boldly forth, and contend that every man's farm should be made up to at least 1,280 acres out of the public land. Ay; more: that he shall have the right to sclect from no less than twenty-one sections of 640 acres each, the best parts and portions, to make up his compleSENATE.]
ment, at a dollar and a quarter the acre. And more: you do not confine him to lands surveyed, but permit iim to range in regions never yet exposed to sale, and to select the richest gifts of nature. Nor is your bill confined to retrospective action, but whoever will may go and seize the public domain. And what do you require of him? Oaths and proofs of occupancy and cultivation; such, substantially, as were required by the act of 1830; provisions just as easily evaded. And titles were manufactured under that act in vast numbers, by the oaths of perjured witnesses and the certificates of false magistrates. If you were robbed of three millions of dollars under that act, what may you not cxpect by thus opening the flood-gates to the cupidity of the greedy and avaricious? We have, I know, heard much sulsome panegyric lavished upon the hardy pioneers, as they are styled; much of their sufferings, and much of their perils and bravery. But, sir, who invites them to these sufferings? Who asks them to seize the public land' For whose benefit is it? The laws of the United States forbid their entry upon it, they restrain by heavy penalties all intru: sion, they declare all such persons to be trespassers and liable to indictment. These intruders are, therefore, disturbers of the public peace, and by interfering with the Indians they provoke hostilities, and create the very wars in which they affirm they have suffered, and then claim our compassion. It is my firm belief that if these disturbers were kept within lawsul bounds, we should have no hostilities with the Indians. But, sir, if fighting is meritorious, have we no fighting men to be provided for? Are those who achieved our independence forgotten? Do Bunker Hill, and Lexington, and Sarotaga, sink into forgetsulness before the exploits with Black Hawk and Occola? We have heard much, too, of the poor settler; and that there are some of this class on the public land is doubtless true. If they, and they alone, can be provided for by being quieted in their possessions, they shall have my vote. Show me a bill for them, which will bar frauds and speculation, and it shall have my most hearty support. But what sort of a bill is this for poor men, which proposes to let each person who may choose to take up for homself or to annex to his catate 1,280 acres of the most choice spots of the public land? Cannot something short of an estate equal to that of a nobleman satisfy the poor? The poor, sir, are used as the stalking-horse to disguise the measure; its features are, however, too apparent to mislead any one. But if the poor are to be provided for, then I claim that all are alike entitled. I regret it, but we have many poor, too poor even to be able to make the long journey to your public land. They are meritorious, and they suffer all the privations incident to their unfortunate condition, and I claim for them a share of the public bounty, if the public property is to be distributed. There is a great class of widows and orphans, aged and infirm, whose condition makes a strong appeal to your humanity. Let your bounty reach them, and gladden their sorrowful hearts, instead of adding to the boundless acres of the rich planters. We have been told that great numbers of respectable people have emigrated, and settled upon the public lands, in the expectation that a pre-emption law would pass for their benefit. The Senator from New Hamp. shire [Mr. Hub BARD) says that he knows of a great number, and that a large majority of the Territorial Council of Wisconsin are squatters. I doubt not it is true, and that they have left their poor neighbors behind them in New Hampshire. They are doubtless men of comfortable means; and why do they go to Wisconsin to settle upon public lands which have neither been surveyed nor brought into the market, when there are millions on millions of acres which have becn surveyed this side of
that Territory, which are of superior quality for agricultural purposes, and which they might lawfully enter and own at a dollar and a quarter? This boundless region does not satisfy the ambition of these poor men who are seeking a home. They pass by all this, as unworthy of their notice, and light upon regions where they may have the first choice, and not wait to get rich by the slow process of ordinary accumulation. These are the poor men knocking at our doors for pre-emption rights. But this is not all. We have proofs here that they are banded and associated together to resist the laws of the United States, and to maintain their claims against all opposition. They have constitutions, as they term them; and for what? To stand together and maintain their possessions. To set at defiance the title of the United States to their own property. To make war upon all persons who shall dare to bid for these lands at the sales made by the United States, and by such high-handed violence to secure to themselves great tracts of country, the most valuable portions of the public domain, at the paltry sum of a dollar and a quarter the acre, though it is well known that purchasers stand ready in many instances to give a hundred-fold more. Many of these settlers, it is said, are banded with the speculators by an agreement to divide the booty; and when the rights are thus once secured in a place, like birds of prey, they rise up and light upon some other favored region, to convert it to private property by the same process of lawless violence. I was informed by a gentleman, last winter, who lived at the Grand Rapids, in Michigan, among the Ottawa Indians, that the south bank of the rapids was owned by a squatter, who had obtained a section of 640 acres, at a dollar and a quarter the acre, and that it is worth, at this moment, without any important improvements, half a million of dollars. I could not easily credit the word of a man of the strictest veracity, until 1 saw, by the treaty made with these Indians, and ratified here at the last session, that a section on the other bank was estimated to be worth a much greater sum. This is not an isolated case of the accumulation of vast wealth by the erection of a bark cabin and the planting of a few peppers or tomatoes. The end, aim, and purpose, of the great body of pre-emptioners is to make thenselves rich out of the public property. It is, in a word, to defraud the United States in the manner described in the documents from which I have read. I have recently conversed with a distinguished mem. ber of the other House, from the West, who passed through Wisconsin during the last summer, and he informs me that the path leading through the public lands was, for a large portion of the way, skirted by a surrow or two of the plough, which turned off at intervals, and entered the prairies or the openings. Oil inquiry, he found that this was the proof of occupancy and possession. Those who had done this considcred themselves as having established pre-emption rights to all enclosed by the furrows. Some went round a thousand, some more, and some less, acres, and some marked out, in this way, many lots. Almost all the choice land had been thus seized, in anticipation of the passage of this or some pre-emption act. He added, that when one cross: ed the furrow of another, this was called jumping, and then a fight with deadly weapons ensued. I have seen also a letter, giving an account of a treaty made in Wisconsin the last summer with the Iowas, who lived on the Iowa river, west of the Mississippi. The lands upon this stream are represented to be of extraordinary fertility; and, after the general terms of the treaty were agreed upon, the commissioners proposed that a stipulation for a speedy removal of the Indians and a surrender of the territory should be inserted. When this proposition was interpreted to the Indians, the wri