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expressly provides how it shall be credited to the confederated or allied States, in their account current with the general or common fund of that Confederacy. The opposite interpretation would imply the most palpable contradiction and absurdity.
But it is asked, what would have to be done if there had been a permanent surplus ? Such a case was scarcely supposable, with the heavy debt of the Revolution, and the small yield from the land at the time; but if it had occurred, it would have been an unforeseen contingency, to be provided for by the United States, to whom the fund belonged, and not by Congress, as its agent, or trustee, for its management.
That this expression was intended merely to direct how the account should be kept, and not to make that the separate property of the States individually, which had been declared, in the most emphatic manner, to belong to them, and to be used by them, as a common fund, in their united federal character, we would have the most conclusive proof, if what has been stated already was not so, in the fact that, in the deeds of cession from all the other States, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New-York, North Carolina, and South Carolina, these words are omitted.
As to the cession from Georgia, it is impossible that there should be two opinions about it. It was made under the present Government, and in the very words of the Virginia cession, excepting the words, "according to their usual respective proportion in the general charge and expenditure.” The omission, while the other portion was exactly copied, is significant. The old system of requisition on the States to supply the common treasury, under the Articles of Confederation, had been superseded by taxes laid directly on the people, under the present Government, and it was no longer necessary to provide for the mode of keeping the account, and for that reason was omitted. But the cession by Georgia was, in reality, a purchase. The United States has paid
full consideration for the land, including the expense of extinguishing the Indian titles, and other charges ; and of course the portion of public domain acquired from that State may be fairly considered as standing on the same principle, as far as the present question is concerned, as that purchased from foreign powers.
So undeniable is the conclusion that the lands ceded by the States were ceded to them in their united and aggregate character as a Federal community, and not in their separate and individual one, that the Senator from Massachusetts was forced to admit, if I understood him correctly (and if not, I wish to be corrected), that they were so ceded in the first instance, but only for the purpose of paying the public debt, and that on its final discharge, the lands became the separate property of the States. This, Sir, is a perfectly gratuitous assumption on the part of the Senator, and is directly opposed by the deeds of cession, which expressly provide that it shall be a common fund for the use and benefit of the States in their united and federal character, without restriction to the public debt, or limitation in point of time, or any other respects. This bold and unwarranted assertion may be regarded as an implied acknowledgment on his part of the truth of the construction for which I contend, and on which the Government has ever acted, but now attempted to be changed on a false assumption.
The residue of the public lands including Florida and all the region beyond the Mississippi, extending to the Pacific Ocean, and constituting by far the greater part, stands on a different footing. They were purchased out of the common funds of the Union, collected by taxes, and belong, beyond all question, to the people of the United States in their federal and aggregate capacity. This has not been, and cannot be denied ; and yet it is proposed to distribute the common fund derived from the sales of these, as well as from the ceded lands, in direct violation of the admitted
principle that the agent or trustee of a common concern has no right, without express authority, to apply the joint funds to the separate use and benefit of its individual members.
But setting aside the constitutional objection, conclusive as it is, I ask what consideration of expediency-what urgent necessity—is there for the adoption, at this time, of a measure so extraordinary as a surrender to the States, for their individual use, of the important portion of the revenue derived from the public domain, which, it is probable, will not fall short, on an average of the next ten years, of five millions of dollars ? Is the treasury now burdened with a surplus, far beyond the wants of the Government, for which all are anxious to devise some measure of relief, as was the case when the Senator introduced and passed his scheme of distribution formerly ? On the contrary, is it not in the very opposite condition--one of exhaustion, with a deficit, according to the statement of that Senator, and those who act with him, of many millions of dollars ? And is not the revenue still declining, so that in a short time the present deficit will be doubled ? To take a broader view, I would ask, Is the condition of the country less unfavorable to the adoption of the measure than the state of the treasury ? Is there an individual capable of taking a comprehensive view of our foreign relations at this moment, who does not see the imperious necessity of applying every dollar that can be spared to guard against coming dangers, more especially on that element where a revolution so extraordinary is going on, by the all-powerful agency of steam, both as to the means of attack and defence ?
If, then, the state of the treasury and the condition of the country so urgently demand the retention of this important branch of revenue, for the common use and objects for which the Government was created, what possible motives can impel those who are shortly to be charged with its administration, to bring forward, at such a period, the extra
ordinary proposition to take from the necessities of the treasury and the country so large a sum, to be distributed among the States for their separate and individual use ? To this question but one answer has been or can be giventhat many of the States want the money. They have contracted debts for their own individual and local purposes, beyond their ordinary means, and which the dominant party in those States are unwilling to meet by raising taxes on their own people, for fear of being turned out of power. The result has been a loss of credit, followed by a depreciation of their bonds, held by rich capitalists at home and abroad. The immediate object of this scheme is to raise the credit of the indebted States by distributing the revenue from the lands; that is, to surrender about one-fourth of the permanent revenue of the Union, and that the most certain, to enhance the value of the State bonds, now greatly depressed, because some of the indebted States do not choose to raise, by taxes on their own people, the means of paying their own debts. To have a true conception of the whole case, it must be borne in mind that these bonds were taken by the capitalists on this and the other side of the Atlantic on speculation, in the regular course of business, as a profitable investment, and many of them, at great depreciation ; and that the demand on the common treasury is substantially to make good, not only their losses, but to enable them to realize their anticipated profits. Such is the object.
We are thus brought to the question, In what manner is this deficit of at least five millions to be supplied ? By taxes -additional taxes on the commerce of the country, preparing the way for still higher by combining the indebted States with the tariff interest, to impose heavier burdens on that important but oppressed branch of industry. Wines and silks are to be selected, under the plea of taxing luxury ; and much manoeuvring has been resorted to in order to enlist the tobacco interest in favor of the tax, with, I fear, too
much success. They are, I admit, fair objects of taxation, and ought to bear their due proportion of the public burden. I am prepared to act on that opinion, when the tariff comes up for revision, as it must, at the next session. I go further: fix the amount which the just and necessary wants of Government may require, including the revenue from the lands, and I will cheerfully agree to lay as much on luxuries as gentlemen will agree to reduce on necessaries. It is my favorite system, and I am prepared to go as far as any one in that direction. But I shall not agree to impose a cent on luxuries or necessaries, on the rich or poor, to pay the debts for which this Government is in no way responsible, and which we cannot pay without a palpable violation of the constitution, and gross injustice to the great body of the community. I was struck with the fact, that, while the Senator (Mr. Webster) held out, at one moment, that the duties on wines and silks would fall on the consumers, and, by consequence, on the rich, in the very next he informed us that they would not rise in price in consequence of the duties, and, of course, they would entirely escape from them. To prove that they would not increase in price in consequence of the duties, he assumed, as a principle, that where one country is a principal producer of certain articles, as France was of wine and silks, and another a principal consumer of them, as the United States were, a duty imposed on them by the latter would have the effect, not of raising the price in the country where it was laid, but to reduce it where they were produced ; that is, to reduce it in France, and not to raise it in the United States. Now, I put it to the Senator, whether the loss, taking his own conclusion, could fall on the French producers of wines and silks, without, in its reaction, falling also on the American producers of the products given in exchange for them—that is, the growers of tobacco, rice, and cotton, which furnish almost exclusively the means of payment ? Is it not clear if they cannot sell as high