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Imprisonment for Debt.
[Dec. 20, 1827.
ment should be universal. He also suggested that it was dangerous to encumber the Bill with all the machinery under which it now labored. In the present shape of the Bill, they would assuredly do more or less than they intended. He had not risen to argue the principles of the Bill, at this period, and he merely threw out these reflections, in order that the attention of gentlemen should be directed to what he thought faults in the Bill. In its present form, he could not vote for it—mor would he pledge himself to do so in any case—but should it pass, it would be desirable to all, that its provisions should be calculated to arrive at the object in view. Mr BERRIEN observed, that, under the circumstances that the gentleman who had introduced the bill had moved its postponement, it was hardly in order to discuss its merits. But, if it was advisable to postpone the details, it was, nevertheless, important to examine the principles of the measure, and he was particularly de sirous to meet the objections made to it by the gentleman from Virginia. He was aware that any innovations upon existing laws of long standing, were more or less dangerous, and there was always reasonable doubt, whether they might not trench on existing institutions. And, it was highly to be desired, that the collective knowledge and experience of the Senate should be brought into action, to prevent, in completing a saluta: ry measure, the occurrence of any such evils. . But, if they were to refrain from any provision which the good of society, and the interests of humanity required, because there was danger that they might make innovations on existing laws—if they were to refrain from tearing from the statute-book, a leaf that stained and disgraced it, fearing, that in so doing, they should trench on the system of laws, of which it had for ages made part—if an acknowledged evil of no common magnitude were to be sanctioned and perpetuated, because, to abolish it, implied a danger of creating confusion in the practice—then might any amelioration be prevented. He knew not whether these effects would arise out of the present bill ; but he knew, if such were the principles upon which Congress acted, then they were doomed never to advance, but to sit idly down under all the evils of the present system. If the bill now under consideration threatened any of those inconveniences that had been enumerated by the gentleman from Virginia, it was the duty of his brethren of the Senate to give their assistance in checking them, and render more perfect the bill, by placing around it all the requisite safeguards. For himself, he was in favor of the bill. Its principles met his full approbation. He had long looked upon imprisonment for debt as an evil that disgraced a free, an enlightened, and humane community; and from such motives he had acquiesced in the report of the Committee, of which he was a member, in its favor. He was not bigoted in his preference for the bill now before the Senate ; nor did he arrogate that its form was the most perfect. In his adherence to the principle, however, he was firm. The bill was now subjected to the investigation of his brother Senators, and, from a body comprising so much learning and intelligence, he might hope that its provisions would receive all the necessary modification. He, therefore, wished that the opponents of the measure would examine it thoroughly—not to cavil and find fault—but to direct and improve it. So far as he was concerned, he held himself ready to accede to the bill as it might be modified by his colleagues. He was not pledged to it in its present form ; but wished that the lights of others might be shed upon it, that all the good it promised might be realized, and as little of the evil, with which it was charged in anticipation, might arise from its operation. With such views, he might be allowed to say that he was in no way appre
hensive that the difficulties named by the Senator from Virginia, would be experienced. By the laws of Vir. ginia, lands were not subject to a direct process ; but they were liable to be seized by the indirect process, which that gentleman had explained. Now this right, or practice, was not touched by this bill. It provides that a plaintiff can, by making oath that the defendant keeps his lands in such a condition that they cannot be levied on--a complaint which every citizen has a right to make—which becomes the subject of a trial, and, if found to be true, his original right to issue a ca. 8a, recurs; and thus, for all useful purposes, that process is retained, while, only where its operation is oppressive, is it abolished. It does not, in fact, touch upon the ancient mode of recovering land by taking the body by a captas ad satisfaciendum. It makes that process milder, and more accordant with the principles of justice and humanity. He did not wish to go farther at this time. He was desirous to hear the opinions of his coadjutors upon the measure ; and he solicited the aid and counsel of those associated with him in pointing out the best and safest method of reducing the principle to practice. Mr. JOHNSON, of Kentucky, was, although not intending to join it, highly pleased to hear the discussion upon this subject. He merely rose to offer a few remarks upon the objections offered by the gentleman from Virginia. That gentleman had done—what no one could be more sensible than Mr. J. that he was able to do--in making out a plausible, and even probable, case of hardship, under the bill for the abolition of imprisonment for debt. It amounted to this : that one man might sell a quantity of land to another, who, subsequently would not, or perhaps could not, pay for it; and that, in this case, the creditor must lose his demand. To this objection, said Mr. J., I have two answers. I admit that there might happen such a case of hardship. I go farther. I allow that such cases would undoubtedly happen. My first answer to the objection is this : The law is prospective in its operation, and the seller would, for his own safety, not only take the obligation of the purchaser for the payment, but he would retain a hold upon the title in default of satisfaction of his demand. He believed no gentleman would, even under present circumstances, sell a valuable estate in Virginia, and not retain some security upon the property for the fulfilment of the obligation entered into by the purcha: ser. Whether would it be better that this law should not pass, affecting as it does the freedom and happiness of thousands, or that an occasional case of hardship— and for which there was an adequate remedy—arising generally from the negligence of the seller to his own interests, should occur : If the gentleman from Virgi. nia was disposed to make any motion by which the liabilities on the part of the debtor should be increased so as to protect the creditor from any imaginable injury, he was perfectly willing to accede to it. But in passing an act which the happiness of millions required, was it the fault of Congress that Virginia was not treate’ in the same manner as the other States Nor was it to be maintained, that some partial inconvenience, or occasonal hardship, must stand in the way of a measure calculated to redeem our country from a disgraceful violation of the rights of man, and the dictates of Christianity, freedom, and benevolence. He had one more remark, in answer to the gentleman from Virginia. If the case which he has stated be a hardship, what will he do with the thousands of cases in which an honest debtor, unable, by some unforeseen and unavoidable misfortune, is deprived of the means of paying his debts, and who is liable to be imprisoned, at the mercy of a hard-hearted and vindictive creditor Can these cases be weighed against those possible ones to which he has referred us Now, Dec. 20, 1827.]
Imprisonment for Debt.
if the gentleman will frame a bill, by which the honest and unfortunate debtor shall be exempted from imprisononent, I will, in turn, agree to one by which the rich and fraudulent debtor shall be punished—I care not how *rely. Yet the cases on his side are but one to a thousand of those that would be relieved by the aboli. tion of this barbarous practice, from undeserved and in. evitable wretchedness. To him, the character of the country seemed deeply involved in this measure. The doctrines of Christianity pointed out its adoption ; for it **one of its first principles, that none but the guilty should suffer punishment. If this bill passed, it would be a triumph of principle ; for it was based on the best and most humane principles. That it might do some partial injury, and create some minor inconvenience, he *as not prepared to deny. But, when was ever a great change effected without some partial evil The ingenuity of any individual would not be put to a very diffi. cult task, to prove, that the putting down of any institution, long established, would produce injury to some cne. This, however, is no substantial argument to oppose to a measure whose principles are founded in the dictates of truth and humanity. He was, however, fully $onvinced that, when the gentleman reflected on the benefits and injuries likely to arise out of this bill, he would be led by the acuteness of his judgment to a conviction that there was a vast balance in favor of the $ormer, and be satisfied with the beneficence of its gene. sal operations. Mr. J. observed, in conclusion, that, as his friends were still desirious of putting off the consideration of the subject, he would alter his motion, and move that it be made the order of the day for Friday se'nnight, when he hoped that the Senate would be prePared to cone openly to the discussion, and finally reject or adopt the bill. Mr. TAZEW ELL remarked, that he had, on several former occasions, stated his impressions firmly and strongly upon the measure proposed by this bill. His opinions were now the same—he had seen no reason to alter them. He had, in what he had said a short time since, suggested to the advocates of the bill the objections that had occurred to him, in order that they might put their object on its proper footing. Do they wish to abolish imprisonment for debt. So they say. But they have pitched upon the process of capias ad satisfaciendum, and think to attain their object by removing it. But they are in error. By this method they destroy their own object. If they are desirous to persist in the path they have marked out, they may. But were I a friend of the bill, which assuredly I am not—even were I as strong in its favor as my friend from Georgia, I should be averse to its present form. I, being opposed to it, shall offer no amendment; for I have been too long familiar with legislation not to have learned that amendments offered by an opponent, are little heeded, and are generally looked upon in a hostile light. They say that they do not intend to destroy the liability of real estate, but to abolish imprisonment for debt. And although they are, in my opinion, entirely in error, in endeavouring to reconcile these two positions, yet this is not the time to enter into the broad discussion of those fallacies. I say again, that the object I have in view, in the remarks I have made, is to call the attention of the defenders of the bill, to those means by which it can be made capable of attaining the end they propose. If they wish to go on, as it is, I can only say that it must meet with my opposition. Mr. VAN BUREN, in the commencement of his re marks, spoke in so low a tone that thc Reporter could not stinctly hear him. He was understood to say, that, if there was any ground for opposing the measure, it was that it might interfere with the laws of the States. The 5.1 had formerly been before the Committee on the Judiciary, of which he was a member, an had been found full
of difficulties. Its importance dictated that it should be carefully investigated. He was, however, of opinion, that the objection started by the gentleman from Virginia was founded upon an imaginary difficulty. He recollected that clause to which he took exception was formerly proposed by a member from Virginia. It went to provide, that, whenever real estate was removed by the debtor from liability to execution, the creditor was restored to his right of issuing a capias ad satisfaciendum; and the debtor was deprived of the benefit of the act, and the liberties of the jail were taken away , so that the creditor in Virginia would have an increased security over the debtor by this provision. Mr. V. B. had not read the bill this year, but believed it mainly the same. He did not apprehend that the difficulty pointed out by the gentleman from Virginia would be experienced. He was friendly to the bill in general, and thought it a good measure ; nor was he apprehensive of any evil that would result from it. Mr. KANE said that, as he was friendly to the measure, he hoped the details of the bill would be so arranged as fully to meet the objects in view. The gentleman from Virginia had stated objections which the present form of the bill did not remove. He wished to incorporate into the bill a provision, by which the objections of the gentleman from Virginia might be removed, which might, he thought, be done by altering the phraseology in such a manner as to provide that the debtor shall not be imprisoned unless he refuses to give up his property, or be guilty of a fraud. Mr. HAYNE, after a few preliminary remarks, observed, that he thought the proposition of the gentleman from Illinois would not altogether meet the objections. He would suggest that a better method would be to strike out all but the 6th section of the bill. By striking out all but this section, it would be allowed to extend to all cases, in courts in which the debtor was liable to process; who, by filing a list of his property, and surrendering it to the Clerk of the Court, would be released from all liability of process thereafter. This would meet the object of the proviso as to fraud, and cover the whole ground. He thought, if the bill was in this manner amended, the most important objections would be removed. There was another view he had taken of it, which he would now submit. He thought the benefits of the bill would be much increased, if a provision were made for a uniformity of process in all the States—that is, an uniformity in each State with the process of the Courts of the State. The process, for instance, in Kentucky, was regulated by one rule, that in South Carolina by another, and so on, through the various States. His proposition would be, to make the process of the United States’ Courts conform to that of the Courts of the State in which they were located. He did not rise to discuss the merits of the bill ; but as its details were now under consideration, he threw out these suggestions, as tending, in his opinion, to increase its value. Mr. MACON said he had no objection to the suggestion of the gentleman from South Carolina. But the question was, whether the plan proposed by the bill was the best. Perfection, he knew, was not to be expected from human nature. All the States had made alterations in their laws after being admitted into the Union. The evils which often existed in their laws were not discovered until custom had made men familiar to them. But evils could not be remedied at once, for it wanted time to discover them. As we go on we see our errors and faults; and he hoped his friend from Kentucky would not again, with his usual complacency, postpone the bill until it is lost in a press of other business, as has been the case on former occasions. Mr. M. thought he had better bring it up now, than put it off, and put it off, until the business became more urgent. There was at present but little to do, and the opportunity was a good one to push this measure to an issue. Mr. JOHNSON, of Kentucky, expressed himself high
sir, 'I do not deem it necessary to go into any general
[DEc. 24, 1827.
ly pleased at a prospect that the bill was about to be fairly discussed. He hailed the proposition of the gentleman
from South Carolina, as the dawning of a disposition to re
store to Kentucky the rights of which she had so long been deprived. He hoped that unfortunate and patriotic
state was about to be reinstated in the immunities of which
she had been shorn, refused the right of making her own
laws, and restricted by legal constructions, with a Solon to
legislate for the People, in the character of a Circuit and
District Judge. Mr. J. here alluded to the difficulties
under which Kentucky had long suffered, and the evils,
political and domestic, to which she had been subjected.
ise then moved the postponement of the bill to Friday
next, then to be made the order of the day : which was agreed to.
i Monnay, DEcEMBER 24, 1827.
Mr. BENTON having obtained leave to introduce, a bill for the graduation of the price of the Public Lands, prefaced it with the following remarks :
irise Mr. President, for the purpose of making the motion for which I gave notice on Thursday last—a mo: tion for leave to introduce a bill to graduate the price of the public lands. In asking this leave, for the fifth time,
exposition of the merits of my bill; that was done very fully about two years ago; and it is not my intention to repeat now, anything which I then said. But there is one point of view in which the character of the bill has been misunderstood, and for the better understanding of which, I should be glad to be indulged in saying a few words. It has been thought, by some, that this bill was of a sectional or local character, calculated for the peculiar benefit of the new States in the West, and not intended to do any good to the older States in the East, and the Union at large. If such was the fact, Mr. President, I be. lieve i should have no necessity, certainly no inclination, to conceal or deny it : for I have had too many proofs of the paternal kindness of the Senate towards these young States, to fear that any measure favorable to them, would be the less favored in this Chamber on that account. put such is not the fact, Sir. My bill is not of a sectional or local character. It is not intended for the exclusive or peculiar benefit of the new States in the West; but comprehends within its liberal scope, the essential interest of every State in the Union. Every State, Mr. president, is essentially interested in having the public debt paid off, and its citizens relieved from the load of taxes'which they now bear on account of it. My bill is, sir, intended to facilitate the accomplishment of these objects; and any bill which shall have that effect, will be admitted, I apprehend, to be a very. different thing from a piece of sectional or local legislation. . I believe, Mr. President, that, by the operation of this bill, in conjunction with other measures now in force, the public debt may be paid off in five years, and the people relieved from the annual levy of twelve or fifteen millions of taxes. I say five years; and paradoxical as such a declaration may seem, I believe it is not only true, but that the plainest statement of my proposition will amount to a de monstration of its truth. For example : We owe a debt
of sixty-seven millions, bearing an intercst of three millions, and we have a government to support which costs us ten millions. To meet these demands, we have a revenue of a million and a half, derived from sales of pub. lic lands, and twenty-three millions more, taking an aver age of three years, derived from duties on imports, bank dividends, and a few other sources. Now, it is clear that the revenue derived from duties and other sources, exclusive of the lands, would be sufficient of itself to defray the current expenses of the Government, and to extin
guish the debt in five years, provided its whole amount could be applied to these two objects ; and that it might be so applied is equally clear, provided the interest of the debt, for that period, could be raised from the lands. This, then, is my object; and in proposing to accomplish it by means of the bill which I am asking leave to introduce, I do not consider myself as attempting any new thing, or proposing any innovation upon the ancient policy of this government, but only as endeavoring to use these lands for the precise purpose for which they were ceded to the Congress of the Confederation above forty years ago. It is well known, Mr. President, that these lands, or the greater part of them, were, long since, ceded to the General Government, by different States, to be “disposed of" for the payment of the public debt; and it is equally well known, that, instead of being so “disposed of, ” they have, on the contrary, been so reserved from sale, and kept out of market ; so hugged up in the arms, and treasured away in the bosom of the Federal Government, that upwards of nine-tenths of them remain to this day unsold! and that enough has not been received from their sales to reimburse the federal treasury for its expenses in the acquisition and management of them! So far from paying the public debt, they have not yielded the one-fifth part of the interest which has accrued upon it : and the States which made so magnificent a provision for the discharge of that revolutionary legacy, after paying about one hundred and fifty millions in interest, with money derived from other sources, have the mortification, at the end of nearly half a century, to see the debt about as large as it was, and themselves still recurred to to furnish ten or twelve millions more, from other sources, to meet its annual interest, and a fraction of the capital! Such a result, Mr. President, announces a great fault in the administration of this fund, so patriotically given for a purpose to which it has not been applied ; and I have no hesitation in affirming, that this fault lies in the policy of holding up these lands for a future rise and a higher price, instead of selling them off promptly for their actual value, as recommended by President Washington and Secretary Hamilton, in the year '91. These great men, when they were at the head of affairs, twice recommended to Congress to “dispose” of these lands as soon as possible, for their real worth; and the sum of twenty cents per acre was fixed by General Hamilton as their average value. I mention this sum particularly, Mr. President, and with emphasis, that gentlemen who have been astonished that my scale of prices should descend as low as to a minimum of twenty-five cents per acre, may henceforth dedicate a part of their amazement to the plan of General Hamilton, which rose no higher than to an average of twenty! His report to this effect, and the two messages of President Washington recommending it, with the manner in which his plan was defeated, and the consequent injury to the country, were fully insisted upon by me on a former occasion, and will not be further adverted to now. But I wish to avail myself of the authority of the great names of Washington and Hamilton, in this my adventurous attempt to revive their policy, and to achieve a victory where they had sustained a defeat. I wish to have it known that my bill is bottomed on a principle which has received the high sanction of their approbation, and which the experience of six and thirty years has proved to be correct. I wish to have it seen that, like them, I am in favor of sinking our price to the quality of the land, instead of waiting, indefinitely, for its quality to rise to our price. To do this, my bill proposes, after the public sales are over, and all the choice lands are sold, which cornmand more than one dollar and twenty-five cents per acre, to offer the remainder, for five consecutive years, at an annual periodical reduction of price, at the rate of twentyfive cents per acre per annum, until every tract shall find a purchaser, or fall into the class of refuse lands. In this
Dec. 24, 1827.]
way every tract would graduate itself, and find a purchaset when it fell to its value. In five years every district would be picked five times over; every saleable part would be culled out and taken up ; and the refuse, which would not sell for twenty-five cents per acre, and which would otherwise lie idle for centuries in the hands of the Federal Government, would be disposed of in donations to the poor, and in cessions to the States in which they lie for promoting the education of the people and the improvement of the country.—Such, Mr. President, is the plan of my bill; and, in proposing it to the Senate, I have the satisfaction to be able to say that it is not an untried experiment, now to be ventured upon for the first time, but that it has been tried in one of the States—the State of Tennessee—with the most complete and gratifying success, disposing of all her arable land in a few years, and bringing more money into the Treasury than it had received in the half century preceding. Doubtless the same system will operate equally well on federal lands; at least that it will make our two hundred and sixty millions of acres produce as much as will meet the interest of the | public debt for five years, which, on the basis of an annual reduction of thirteen millions of the capital, will not exceed the sum total of nine or ten millions. Thus, Mr. President, in the brief space of five years, the whole public debt may be paid off, (for what is not redeemable, is purchasable in market,) and the United States present the imposing spectacle of a great nation without a national debt. Such a spectacle would command the admiration of the civilized world, and would impart a moral power to this Republic, greater than the possession of fleets and armies could ever give her. But the advantages of such a position would not be limited to the acquisition of moral power, and to the enjoyment of foreign admiration. Other benefits, of a more direct and sensibie kind, would immediately result, and diffuse themselves among the people. The extinction of the debt would enable the Federal Government to dispense with more than half of its present revenue, and, of course, to abolish taxes, in the shape of duties upon comforts and
talking with the people, and two or three thousand miles of annual travelling through eight or ten different States,
has brought me to acquiesce in its truth—at least so far as the aforesaid North American of the grain-growing and
planting States of this Union is concerned. The secret
of this heavy taxation, Mr. President, lies in the fact, that
the citizens of the United States are subject to be taxed,
at the same moment, by two separate and distinct Govern
ments, without having, what the people of Asia under the like circumstances once demanded from Mark Anthony, a double set of seasons and of crops to answer the
duplicate demand. They are taxed by the Federal Government, in duties upon imports, to the amount of twenty odd millions, which go into the Treasury, and eight or ten
millions more, in the shape of mercantile profit, upon that sum, which go into the pockets of the retail dealers. By the State Governments they are taxed, as nearly as can be ascertained, about twenty millions more, in all the dif. ferent forms of State taxes, county taxes, city taxes, corporation taxes, poor taxes, taxes upon licenses, working upon roads, serving on juries, supporting churches and charitable institutions, and a long list of et cæteras. The aggregate of the whole annual levy, under the exactions of the duplicate governments, may well be, as supposed by Citizen Talleyrand, about fifty millions of dollars. An enormous sum, Mr. President, for a population of twelve millions to pay, even if they were all tax-paying people, which they are not; for some are paupers, and pay nothing ; many are poor, and pay but little; and two millions are slaves, and are paid for by their owners. I repeat, Mr. President, that fifty millions would be an enormous tax for this population to pay, even if the burthen of it was equally diffused, which it is not: for it is incontestible that an undue proportion of it is levied upon that quarter of the Union whose labor contributes most to the support of this Government, and whose citizens receive least from it— that quarter which is drained at once by the conjoint operations of Federal legislation, and the course of trade— that quarter, whose cotton, tobacco, and rice, constitut. ing seven-eighths of the agricultural, and three-fifths of
necessaries, to that amount. The blessings of such a dis. the total exports of the country, gives employment to pensation would need no recommendation from arts of numerous ships and mariners of the East, enriches many speech, to render them acceptable to the people, at least of their merchants, and builds up their cities, and brings to the people of the grain-growing and planting States of back the chief part of the imports which pay the twenty this Union, with whose condition I am best acquainted. odd millions of revenue into the Treasury, which are else. Unhappily, they have at home, in the decaying condition where expended. Still the fifty millions are paid, and of too many of their towns and villages—in the melan- must be paid. It is a levy which no force can resist, no choly aspect of too many of their farms and country art elude. . The Sheriff is collector for one Government, houses—a sufficient cominentator upon the amount of and necessity for the other; and both agents are equally their taxes, and the necessity of relief. But, to gentle- inexorable. , One commits the body to prison for non-paymen who dwell in more favored parts—to Senators who ment, and the other applies to it, not the old. Roman income from the sea-board of the East, where commerce sterdiction of fire and water, but the Federal interdiction collects her accumulated treasures, where multiplied of food and clothes. . It is in vain to say, that the duties banks diffuse an abundant paper currency, and where the are levied upon articles of consumption, and that it is oppolicy of the Federal Government causes to be expended stional with the citizen to use them or not. . It is mockery the chief part of the revenue which is elsewhere col- to talk in that way: for the duties of which I speak, are lected—to such gentlemen it may not be an act of supere. levied upon articles of prime necessity, or ordinary com. rogation to intinate, that the North American of the Unit. 'fort, and such as no family can live without—upon sugar, ed States is among the most heavily taxed animals of his teas, and coffee : upon salt and spices; upon blankets and species; and that he occupies, in this respect, a middle linens; upon the working tools of the well man, and the position between the Englishman, who is taxed to the physic of the sick one. It is in vain to speak of more ultinate point of human endurance, and the Frenchman, economy, and more retrenchment. These negative aids who is not very far behind him. I make this suggestion, of family revenue. have long since been in requisition. Mr. President, upon the authority of one of the most acute Every family that lives upon its own into has long since and practised statesmen of the age—one of whom we been reduced to its “peace establishment —to its minihave long known, and under various titles, but best and mum of expenditure, and its pessimum of enjoyment. longest under his old Republican and Revolutionary ap. Still, every one has to yield its proportion of those thirty pellation of Citizen Tolleyrand.—This veteran statesman, old millions to the Federal Government, and 20 odd to in a late debate in the French Chamber of Peers, took the States. For every hundred dollars worth of foreign occasion to class the burthens of the English, French, and goods or groceries which * family buys, it pays, in addi. Americans, in the order in which I have stated them, ; and, tion to the value of the article, a tax of thirty-five or forty strange as his classification appeared to me at first, I must dollars to the Federal Government, besides another little confess that subsequent reflection and observation, much tax of ten or twelve dollars upon that sum, in the shape
[Dec. 24, 1827.
of mercantile profit, to the retail dealer. The amount of this superincumbent, superstructive, and, I believe I might say, supercrescential tax, in the shape of mercantile profit upon taxes, cannot be less than one-third per centum, or eight or ten millions upon our present Customhouse revenue—a sum in itself four times as great as that direct tax of the year '98, which overturned the President of this Union, ruined his party, and marked an era in the history of this country, which is still referred to as one of oppression on the part of the Government, and of suffering on the part of the people. I hope the Senate will not misunderstand me. I do not draw this picture for the purpose of exciting dissatisfaction with our present rate of duties. I am one of those who contributed to establish it, and am willing for it to remain unaltered until the occasions which called for it are passed away. But it is not to be dissembled that thirty millions upon articles of consumption, in addition to twenty millions upon property in possession, is an enormous load for our population to carry, and that the Congress which shall relieve them of one-half or two-thirds of it, will confer a national benefaction, which will entitle it to the glorious appellation of “blessed.” The Congress of 1832-3 may be that most enviable body, provided the Congress of 1827-8 shall make itself participator in its glory by laying the foundation of its work. To do that we must go to work at once, and in earnest, upon these public lands. We must rouse them from their dormant state. We must infuse new life and animation into the sales. We must give them an accelerated movement in the path of their original destination. We must force them to yield at least as much as will meet the interest of the debt for five years. In a word, Mr. President, this Congress must pass my bill. Then may we hail the approach of that auspicious day when the national debt shall cease to exist, and when the tariff shall be taken up, not to alarm and distract the country, not to array one half of the Union against the other—but to reconcile all hearts, to excite all hopes, and to call forth universal benedictions. Then shall we see the day when this subject, so pregnant with the seeds of bitter contention, shall be taken up with unanimous consent, and for the joyful purpose of expunging a long list of articles from its ample catalogue. What these ar. ticles shall be, is not for us to say, but for that most happy Congress which shall have the grateful task to perform, and which shall come fresh from the body of the people, instructed by their wishes, and amenable to their will. But, if I could be permitted to speculate on a measure still five years ahead, and to indicate a few of the articles which might be struck from the list, I would put into the first class all the articles of prime necessity, or ordinary comfort, which are now taxed for the sole purpose of raising revenue, and without comprehending the further object of encouraging the home production of a rival article. This class would comprehend coffee, which pays a duty of five cents a pound, and costs the consumer six or seven cents more, in consequence of that duty: teas, which pay duties from twenty-five to fifty cents a pound, and cost the consumer from thirty odd to seventy odd cents more : spices, which pay one or two hundred per cent. and cost the consumer double ; and linens, which incur an advance of forty or fifty per cent on the twentyfive per cent. cd valorem which they bring to the Government. These articles and others of the same class, which are taxed for the sołe purpose of raising revenue, would be expunged from the lost with unanimous consent, the instant the Treasury could dispense with their proceeds. The next class would comprehend the catalogue of necessaries partially made at home, and now subjected to duty for the double purpose of raising revenue and cherishing domestic industry. In this classis included salt, the duty on which takes thirty cents a bushel out of the pocket of the consumer, and puts twenty into the
coffers of the Government: sugars, which take four, five, and six cents a pound from the consumer, and give three, four, and five cents to the Government ; and blankets, which cost us forty or fifty per cent. more, for twentyfive per cent. ad valorem which they put into the Treasury. Upon the question of abolishing the duties upon these articles, and others of the same class, some diversity of opinion might prevail; but the rule which should govern in every case, is, to my mind a clear one, viz: to abolish the duties upon articles of prime necessity or ordinary comfort, which are not made at home at all, or not made in sufficient quantity to merit national protection, and to leave them upon articles of taste and luxury, and upon such rival productions of foreign countries, as our security in time of war, and our general independence as a nation, require to be made off. An abolition of one half the present duties, upon these principles, would not only relieve the country from a vast burthen, but would have the happy effect of reconciling all parts of the Union to the continuance of the tariff for the combined object of supporting the Government and protecting our useful manufactories. These few remarks, I trust, Mr. President, will be sufficient to satisfy gentlemen that the bill which I ask leave to introduce, is not of a local or sectional character—that it is not designed for the exclusive or peculiar benefit of the new States in the West—but that, howsoever beneficial its enactment may prove to these young States, in extricating them from the condition of tenants to the Federal Government—giving them the use of all the soil within their limits, for settlement and taxation—multiplying the number of their freeholders—raising many indigent families from poverty and wretchedness to comfort and independence—and converting some millions of acres of refuse and idle land into an active fund for the promotion of the great cause of education and internal improvement—it would, at the same time, be eminently advantageous to the old States, and to the whole Union, by hastening the extinction of the public debt, and the consequent release of the people from twelve or fifteen millions of taxes. Mr. BARTON said, he did not rise to oppose granting leave for the introduction of this bill, but to make some explanation in relation to it. It was not needful to tell the Senate that the propositions alluded to, of Washington and Hamilton, were made at a time when the Government was in great want of funds, when they' were looking about for means to supply immediate necessities, and seizing upon everything that promised to yield them. That other means were found, was well known. and that the practicability of the plan was never tested. He believed the Government would reap no benefit from it, however it might be beneficial to individuals. In . deed, there had been some practical experience of the effect of such a plan, as one of a similar nature had been adopted in the State of Alabama, where companies of persons had been banded together to purchase the lands ; and the effect had been that the cultivator of . the soil had paid much more than the speculators. Although no one could hold the character and opinions of General Hamilton in higher respect than he did ; still, he believed that the proposition which his colleague had alluded to, was a mere temporary plan, hit upon at a season when the country was struggling for existence. As to any effect that the plan might have on the increase of settlements, he did not think any such result would arise from it. He believed, as soon as necessity required, the land would be settled and filled up ; anci he did not wish that any neglect should cause them to rise to an exorbitant price, of which he thought there: was no fear, under the present arrangement. But he felt confident that the graduation of the prices was impracticable. It was, he knew, but just, that a graduation should take place, so that the price of the lands shootlei