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already said, confines itself to those who served not occasionally, not temporarily, hut permanently; who allowed themselves to be counted on as men who were to see the contest through, last as long as it might; and who have made the phrase, of " Misting during the war," a proverbial expression, signifying unalterable devotion to our cause, through good fortune and ill fortune, till it reaches its close. This is a plain distinction; and although, perhaps, I might wish to do more, I see good ground to stop here, for the present, if we must stop anywhere. The militia who fought at Concord, at Lexington, and at Bunker's Hill, have been alluded to, in the course of this debate, in terms of well-deserved praise. Be assured, sir, then' could with difficulty be found a man, who drew his sword, or carried his musket, at Concord, at Lexington, or Bunker's Hill, who would wish you to reject this bill. They might ask you to do more; but never to refrain from doing this. Would to God they were assembled here, and had the fate of the bill in their own hands! Would to God, the question of its passage was to be put to them! They would affirm it, with a unity of acclamation that would rend the roof of the capitol.
I support the measure, then, Mr. President, because I think it a proper and judicious exercise of well-merited national bounty. I think, too, the general sentiment of my own constituents, and of the country, is in favor of it. I believe the member from North Carolina, himself, admitted, that an increasing desire, that something should be done for the revolutionary officers, manifested itself in the community. The bill will make no immediate or great draught on the treasury. It will not derange the finances. If I had supposed that the state of the treasury would have been urged against the passage of this bill, I should not have voted for the Delaware breakwater, because that might have been commenced next year; nor for the whole of the sums which have been granted for fortifications; for their advancement, with a little more or little less of rapidity, is not of the firit necessity. But the present case is urgent. What we do, should be done quickly.
Mr. President, allow me to repeat, that neither the subject, nor the occasion, is an ordinary one. Our own fellow citizens do not so consider it; the world will not so regard it. A few deserving soldiers are before us, who served their country faithfully through a seven years' war. That war was a civil war. It was commenced on principle, and sustained by every sacrifice, on the great ground of civil liberty. They fought bravely, and bled freely. The cause succeeded, and the country triumphed. But the condition of things did not allow that country, sensible as it was to their services and merits, to do them the full justice which it desired. It could not entirely fulfil its engagements. The army was to be disbanded; but it was unpaid. It was to lay down its own power; but there was no government with adequate power to perform what had been promised to it. In this critical moment, what is its conduct? Does it disgrace its high character? Is temptation able to seduce it? Does it speak of righting itself? Does it undertake to redress its own wrongs, by its own sword? Does it lose its patriotism in its deep sense of injury and injustice? Does military ambition cause its integrity to swerve? Far, far otherwise.
It had faith fully served and saved the country; and to that country H now referred, with unhesitating confidence, its claim and its complaints. It laid down its arms with alacrity; it mingled itself with the mass of the community; and it waited till, in better times, and under a new government, its services might be rewarded, and the promises made to it fulfilled. Sir, this example is worth more, far more, to the cause of civil liberty, than this bill will cost us. We can hardly recur to it too often, or dwell on it too much, for the honor of our country, and of its defenders. Allow me to say again, that meritorious service in civil war is worthy of peculiar consideration; not only because there is, in such war, usually less power to restrain irregularities, but because, also, they expose all prominent actors in them, to different kinds of danger. It is rebellion, as well as war. Those who engage in it must look not only to the dangers of the field, but to confiscation also, and attainder, and ignominious death. With no efficient and settled government, cither to sustain or to control them, and with every sort of danger before them, it is great merit to have conducted with fidelity to the country, under every discouragement on the one hand, and with unconquerable bravery towards the common enemy on the other. So, sir, the officers and soldiers of the revolutionary army did conduct.
I would not, and do not underrate the services or the sufferings of others. I know well, that in the revolutionary contest, all made sacrifices, and all endured sufferings; as well those who paid for service, as those who performed it. I know, that, in the records of all the little municipalities of New England, abundant proof exists, of the zeal with which the cause was espoused, and the sacrifices with which it was cheerfully maintained. I have often there read, with absolute astonishment, the taxes, the contributions, the heavy subscriptions, often provided for by disposing of the absolute necessaries of life; by which enlistments were procured, and food and clothing furnished. It would be, sir, to these same municipalities, to these same little patriotic councils of revolutionary times, that I should now look, with most assured confidence, for a hearty support of what this bill proposes. There, the scale of revolutionary merit stands high. There are still those living, who speak of the I:>th of April, and the 17th of June, without thinking it necessary to add the vear. These men, one and all, would rejoice to find that those who stood by the country bravely, through the doubtful and perilous struggle which conducted it to independence and glory, had not been forgotten in the decline and close of life.
The objects, then, sir, of the proposed bounty, are most worthy and deserving objects. The services which they rendered, were in the highest degree useful and important. The country to which they rendered them, is great and prosperous. They have lived to see it glorious; let them not live to see it unkind. For me, I con give them but my vote, and my prayers; and I give them both with my whole heart.
IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES, ON THE RESOLUTION OF MR. FOOTE RESPECTING THE SALE, &c. OF PUBLIC LANDS. JAN. 1830.
The resolution was introduced on the 29th of Dccemlicr, 1829, as follows :—
'' Resolved^ That the Committee on Public Lands be instructed to inquire and report the quantity of public land. s remaining unsold within each State and Territory. And whether it he expedient to limit, for a certain period, the sales of the public lands to such landM only as have heretofore lteen offered for sale, and are now subject to entry at the mminiun price. And, also, whether the office of Surveyor General, and some of the land oftecs, may not be abolished without detriment to the public interest; or whether it be expedient to adopt measures to hasten the sales and extend more rapidly the surveys of the public lands."
On the 18th of January, Mr. Benton of Missouri addressed the Senate; and on toe 19th, Mr. Hayne, of South Carolina, proceeded in the debate, and spoke at considerable length. After he had concluded Mr. Webster rose to reply, but gave .way, ou motion of Mr. Beotoa for an adjournment.
On the 20th, Mr. Webster took the floor, and spoke as follows:
Nothing has been farther from my intention than to take any part in the discussion of this resolution. It proposes only an inquiry on a subject of much importance, and one in regard to which it might strike the mind of the mover, and of other gentlemen, that inquiry and investigation would be useful. Although I am one of those who do not perceive any particular utility in instituting the inquiry, I have, nevertheless, not seen that harm would be likely to result from adopting the resolution. Indeed, it gives no new powers and hardly imposes any new duty, on the committee. All that the resolution proposes should be done, the committee is quite competent, without the resolution, to do by virtue of its ordinary powers. But, sir, although I have felt quite indifferent about the passing of the resolution, vet opinions were expressed yesterday on the general subject of the public lands, and on some other subjects, by the gentleman from South Carolina, so widely different from my own, that I am not willing to kt the occasion pass without some reply. If I deemed the resolution as originally proposed hardly necessary, still less do I think it either necessary or expedient to adopt it, since a second branch has been added to it to day. By this second branch, the committee is to be instructed to inquire whether it be expedient to adopt measures to hasten the sales, and extend more rapidly the surveys of the public lands.
Now it appears, that, in forty years, Mr. President, we have sold no more than about twenty millions of acres of public lands. The annual sales do not now exceed, and never have exceeded, one million of acres. A million a year is, according to our experience, as much as the increase of population can bring into settlement. And it appears, also, that we have, at tins moment, sir, surveyed and in the market, reailv for sale, two hundred and ten millions of acres, or thereabouts. All this vast mass, at this moment, lies on our hands, for mere want of purchasers. Can any man, looking to the real interests of the country and the people, seriously think of inquiring whether we ought not still faster to hasten the public surveys, and to bring, still more and more rapidly, other vast quantities into the market? The truth is, that rapidly as population has increased, the surveys have, nevertheless, outran our wants. There are more lands than purchasers. They arc now sold at low prices, and taken up as fast as the increase of people furnishes hands to take them up.—It is obvious, that no artificial regulation, no forcing of sales, no giving away of the lands even, can produce any great and sudden augmentation of population. The ratio of increase, though great, has yet its bounds. Hands for labor are multiplied only at a certain rate. The lands cannot bo settled but by settlers; nor faster than settlers can be found. A system, if now adopted, of forcing sales, at whatever prices, may have the effect of throwing large quantities into the hands of individuals, who would, in this way, in time, become themselves competitors with the government, in the sale of land. My own opinion has uniformly been, that the public lands should be offered freely, and at low prices; so as to encourage settlement and cultivation as rapidly as the increasing population of the country is competent to extend settlement and cultivation.
Every actual settler should be able to buy good land, at a cheap rale; but on the other hand, speculation by individuals, on a large •rale, should not be encouraged, nor should the value of all lands, sold and unsold, be reduced to nothing, by throwing new and vast quantities into the market at prices merely nominal.
I now proceed, sir, to some ofthe opinions expressed by the gentleman from South Carolina. Two or three topies were touched by him, in regard to which he expressed sentiments in which I do not at all concur.
In the first place, sir, the honorable gentleman spoke of the whole course and policy of the government, towards those who have purchased and settled the public lands; and seemed to think this policy wrong. He held it to have been, from the first, hard and rigorous; he was of opinion, that the United States had acted towards those who had subdued tho western wilderness, in the spirit of a stepmother; that the public domain had been improperly regarded as a source of revenue; and that we had rigidly compelled payment for that which ought to have been given away. He said we ought to have followed the analogy of other governments, which had acted on a much more liberal system than ours, in planting colonies. He dwelt, particularly, upon the settlement of America by colonies from Europe; and reminded us, that their governments had not exacted from those colonists payment for the soil; with them, he said, suit at once their services, their years, their necessities, and the delicacy of their sentiments. I would gladly give, with promptitude and grace, with gratitude and delicacy, that which merit has earned, and necessity demands.
Sir, what are the objections urged against this bill? Let us look at them, and see if they be real; let us weigh them, to know if they be solid. For, sir, we are not acting on a slight matter. Nor is what we do likely to pass unobserved now, or to be forgotten hereafter. I regard the occasion as one full of interest and full of responsibility. Those individuals, the little remnant of a gallant band, whose days of youth and manhood were spent for their country in the toils and dangers of the field, arc now before us, poor and old,—intimating their wants with reluctant delicacy, and asking succour from their country with decorous solicitude. How we shall treat them, it behooves us well to consider, not only for their sake, but for our own sake, also, and for the sake of the honor of the country. Whatever we do, will not be done in a corner. CAir constituents will see it; the people will sec it; the world will see it.
Let us candidly examine, then, the objections which have been rajsed to this bill; with a disposition to yield to them, if from necessity we must; but, to overcome them, if in fairness we can.
In the first place, it is said, that we ought not to pass the bill, because it will involve us in a charge of unknown extent. We are reminded, that when the general pension law for revolutionary soldiers passed, an expense was incurred far beyond what had been contemplated; that the estimate, of the number of surviving revolutionary soldiers, proved altogether fallacious; and that, for aught we know, the same mistake may be committed now.
Is this objection well-founded? Let me say, in the first place, that if one measure, right in itself, has gone farther than it was intended to be carried, for want of accurate provisions, and adequate guards, this may furnish a very good reason for supplying such guards and provisions in another measure, but can afford no ground at all for rejecting such other measure, altogether, if it be in itself just and necessary. We should avail ourselves of our experience, it seems to me, to correct what has been found amiss; and not draw from it an undistinguishing resolution to do nothing, merely because it has taught us, that, in something we have already done, we have acted with too little care. In the next place, does the fact bear out this objection? Is there any difficulty in ascertaining the number of the officers who will be benefited by this bill, and in estimating the expense, therefore, which it will create? I think there is none. The records in the department of war, and the treasury, furnish sock evidence as that there is no danger of material mistake. The diligence of the chairman of the committee has enabled him to lay the facts, connected with this part of the case, so fully and mmutely before the Senate, that I think no one can feel serious doubt. Indeed, it is admitted by the adversaries of the bill, that this objection does not apply here with the same force as in the former pension-law. It is admitted that there is a greater facility in this case than in thai, in ascertaining the number and names of those who will be entitled to receive that bounty.