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On the Letter of General Jackson, made in the Sen
ate, while the Bill to limit the sales of the Public Lands was under discussion, July 9th, 1837.
MR. CALHOUN said :-I have received, within the last forty-eight hours, a communication from the Chief Magistrate, connected with the bill now before the Senate, of such a nature, that duty to myself, as well as to this body, renders it necessary that I should lay it before the Senate.
[Here Mr. C. sent to the Secretary the letter, which was read as follows:]
“WASHINGTON, February 7th, 1837. “Sir :-In the Globe of the 6th inst. I find the report of a speech made by you on the 4th, upon the Land Bill, which contains the following passages, viz. :
666 Was it not notorious that the President of the United States himself had been connected with the purchase of the public lands? Yes, the “experiment” (Mr. Calhoun delighted in the word) was the cause of speculation in public lands; and if this bill should not be passed, speculations could not go on, and the price of the public lands must consequently be reduced. He contended that every man could not but see that it would be utter ruin to those who had borrowed money, to speculate in lands, if the system was not to go on.' In a former part of your speech, as reported, you say: 'The speculation which a particular state of things had
given rise to, had been produced by those in power. They had profited by that state of things; and should this bill be passed, it would only consummate their wishes.' &c., &c., &c.
“Knowing the liabilities of reporters to err in taking down and writing out the speeches of members of Congress, I have made inquiry in relation to the accuracy of this report, and have been furnished with certificates of gentlemen who heard you, affirming that it is substantially correct.
"You cannot but be aware, sir, that the imputations which your language conveys are calculated, if believed, to destroy my character as a man, and that the charge is one which, if true, ought to produce my impeachment and punishment as a public officer. If I caused the removal of the deposits for the base purpose of enriching myself or my friends by any of the results which might grow out of that measure, there is no term of reproach which I do not deserve, and no punishment known to the laws which ought not to be inflicted upon me. On the contrary, if the whole imputation, both as to motive and fact, be a fabrication and a calumny, the punishment which belongs to me, if guilty, is too mild for him who wilfully makes it.
"I am aware, sir, of the constitutional privilege under which this imputation is cast forth, and the immunity which it secures. That privilege it is in no degree my purpose to violate, however gross and wicked may have been the abuse of it. But I exercise only the common right of every citizen, when I inform you, that the imputations you have cast upon me are false in every particular, not having for the last ten years purchased any public land, or had any interest in such purchase. The whole charge, unless explained, must be considered the offspring of a morbid imagination, or of sleepless malice.
“I ask you, sir, as an act due to justice, honor, and truth, to retract this charge on the floor of the Senate, in as public a manner as it has been uttered—it being the most appropriate mode by which you can repair the injury which might otherwise flow from it.
“But in the event that you fail to do so, I then demand that you place your charge before the House of Representatives, that they may institute the necessary proceeding to ascertain the truth or falsehood of your imputation, with a view to such further measures as justice may require.
“If you will neither do justice yourself, nor place the matter in a position where justice may be done me by the representatives of the people, I shall be compelled to resort to the only remedy left me, and before I leave the city, give publicity to this letter, by which you will stand stigmatized as one who, protected by his constitutional privilege, is ready
to stab the reputation of others, without the magnanimity to do them justice, or the honor to place them in a situation to receive it from others.
“ ANDREW JACKSON. “ The Hon. J. C. Calhoun, United States Senate.
"P.S. I herewith inclose you the copies of two notes, verifying the correctness of the report of your speech in the Globe of the 6th inst.
"A. J. “February 7th, 1837."
" WASHINGTON City, February 6, 1887. " At the request of the President of the United States, I hereby certify that I was present in the gallery of the Senate of the United States on Saturday, the 4th instant, during a discussion upon the Land Bill. and heard some of the remarks of Mr. Calhoun upon that subject, in which the President was charged with being a speculator in public lands.
“On coming out of the Capitol the subject was mentioned to me by a friend of the President's. And my recollection of the words used accorded with what he understood had been said, and which is substantially the same as reported in the Globe of the 6th instant. "(Signed)
ARTHUR CAMPBELL.” (No. 2.)
“ Wasitington, February 7, 1937. “Sır: In answer to your inquiry of me whether Mr. Calhoun, in his remarks on the Land Bill, on Saturday last, used the words attributed to him by me in the report, which appeared in the Globe of yesterday, viz. : "Was it not notorious that the President of the United States himself had been connected with the purchase of public lands?' I would state that I have referred to my short-hand notes, and find that such was the language he used according to the best of my knowledge and belief.
"Yours, very respectfully, (Signed)
W. E. DRAKE.” "I certify, that No. 1 and No. 2 are true copies of the originals. " Test:
A. Jackson, Jr.”
I do not intend, said Mr. C., in what I propose to say, to comment on the character or the language of this extraordinary letter. It has excited in my bosom but one feeling, that of pity for the weakness of its author, contempt for his
menace, and humiliation that one occupying the office which he does, should place himself in a situation so unworthy of his exalted station. Nor do I intend to invoke the interposition of the Senate to protect the privilege attached to a Senator from one of the sovereign States of this confederacy, which has been outraged in my person. I seek no aid to defend my own privileges; and, so far from being intimidated, I shall be emboldened to express myself with greater freedom, if possible, to denounce the corruption of the administration, or the violation of the laws and of the constitution, in consequence of this attempt to restrain the free exercise of the right of expressing my opinions upon all subjects concerning the public interests, secured to me by the constitution. I leave the Senate to determine what measures the preservation of their own privileges demands.
Much less do I intend to comply with the request, or demand, made of me; demand has no place between equals, and I hold myself within my constitutional privilege, at least equal to the Chief Magistrate himself. I, as legislator, have a right to investigate and pronounce upon his conduct, and condemn his acts freely, whenever I consider them to be in violation of the laws and of the constitution. I, as a Senator, may judge him; he can never judge me.
My object is to avail myself of the occasion to reiterate what I said, as broadly and fully as I uttered them on a former occasion, here in my place, where alone I am responsible, and where the friends of the President will have an opportunity to correct my statement, if erroneous, or to refute my conclusions, if not fairly drawn. I spoke without notes, and it may be that I may omit something which I said on the former occasion that may be deemed material, or express myself less fully and strongly than I then did. If so, I will thank any Senator to remind me, so that my statement now may be as strong and as full as then.
If my memory serves me, I opened my remarks, when I
spoke formerly, by stating that so many and so subtle were the devices by which those who were in power could, in these times, fleece the people, without their knowing it, that it was almost enough to make a lover of his country despair of its liberty. I then stated that I knew of no measure which could better illustrate the truth of this remark, than the one now before us. Its professed object is to restrict the sales of public land, in order, as is avowed, to prevent speculation ; and, by consequence, the accumulation of a surplus revenue in the treasury. The measure is understood to be an administration measure.
I then stated that, so far from preventing speculation, it would, in fact, but consummate the greatest speculation which this country has ever witnesseda speculation originating in a state of things of which those in power were the authors ; by which they had profited ; and which this measure, should it become a law, would but complete. I then asked what had caused such an extraordinary demand for public land, that the sales should have more than quintupled within the last three years ?—and said that, to answer this question, we must look to the state of the currency. That it was owing to the extraordinary increase of bank
paper, which had filled to repletion all the channels of circulation. The Secretary had estimated this increase, within that period, from six dollars and fifty cents per individual, to ten dollars. I believed the increase to be much greater—the effects of which have been to double the price of every article, which had not been kept down by some particular cause.
In the mean time the price of public lands had remained unaltered, at one dollar and twenty-five cents the acre ; and the natural consequence was, that this excessive currency overflowed upon the public land, and had caused those extraordinary speculations which it was the professed object of this bill to prevent.
I then asked what had caused this inundation of paper ? The answer was, the “ experiment” (I love to remind the