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administration of them, on just and liberal terms, to the States, and close our land offices within their limits, and you will, at once, place the States beyond the reach of the action of the Government, and the influence of Executive control, and would thereby leave both the new and old, as far as the land question is concerned, free from all improper bias in the election of the Chief Magistrate. The only point of conflict that could possibly remain between them in reference to the lands, would be as to the conditions of the cession ; but it may be easily shown, that if the terms should be liberal and satisfactory, in the first instance, to the new States, as I have proposed, they would neither have the disposition nor the interest to disturb the compact ; or if they should, the hazard of losing the lands in consequence would be far less than it would be should the present system be continued. But there may be some who may admit this to be true, and yet object that the advantages which I anticipate from the measure, would be purchased, on the part of the old States, at too great a sacrifice. It would be premature to undertake to answer this objection, before it is ascertained what portion of the proceeds should be left to the States, and what paid over to the Government; and this cannot be done till after a laborious investigation, as has been stated. All I maintain at present is, that the portion allotted to the States should be not only just and liberal, but such as would interest them in preserving the arrangement. Thus far it would be obviously the interest of both parties, as has been shown. In the mean time, I have suggested an equal division of the proceeds, under the belief that it would be satisfactory to the new States, and probably not far from the division which a rigid investigation would establish.
But of one thing I feel assured, that, when the subject is fully examined, it will be ascertained that an apportionment of the proceeds may be fixed on, which will give to the Government a sum per acre as large, or not much less, on all the lands which might hereafter be disposed of, as it has received for what has been disposed of since the present price was fixed ; and which would leave, at the same time, to the States a liberal and satisfactory allowance. If this should prove to be the fact, the interests of all parties, even in a pecuniary point of view, would be reconciled. But that would be taking too narrow a view of this important subject. To determine correctly the true interests of the parties in this arrangement, we must raise our eyes above pecuniary considerations, to the far more interesting view—the political bearing of the measure. Thus viewed, the gain to both, and to the whole Union, would be incalculable. The new States would gain the ownership and administration of their whole domain—a gain not more essential to their own independence, than to the convenience of their citizens, who would thereby have their claims, connected with the public lands, adjusted by their own legislatures, instead of being dragged to a great distance from home to await the tardy and uncertain action of Congress. But their greatest gain would be, that they would be elevated to an equality with the other States in all respects, and exempted from the controlling influence of the Government arising from a widely expanded system of landoffices.
To the Union the gain would be not less important. Congress would be relieved from an immense and increasing mass of business, which now consumes at least one-third of its time, and be left free to turn its attention to other subjects of deep interest, which it is now compelled to neglect. The sessions would be greatly shortened—a matter of importance, not only in a pecuniary, but still more in a political point of view. But these, though important, are but minor advantages. There are others immeasurably greater. It would close our land-offices in the new States, and, with them, the door to the vast patronage and influence which they place in the hands of the Executive. Who can estimate this advantage? Who is there, that has a particle of patriotism or love of republican institutions, who would not rejoice at the reduction of such immense patronage, made, not only without injury, but with advantage, to the public? When we add to this, that it would remove all cause of conflict between the old and new States ; that it would withdraw from the Presidential contest the public lands—that prolific source of corruption in the hands of the profligate—and, finally, that it would save our vast and noble domain itself from being squandered in the struggle, it is hardly in the power of calculation to estimate the advantages that would result.
Having now suggested what I believe to be the proper policy to be pursued in relation to the public lands within the new States, and hastily traced the advantages of the measure I have suggested for consideration, the next question is, Have we the right to dispose of the lands in the manner proposed ? I would not have supposed that there could have been a doubt on this point, had not the Senator from Massachusetts (Mr. Webster) raised it on this, as well as on a former occasion. The constitution gives to Congress, expressly, the right to dispose of the public lands; and why may they not dispose of them to the States as well as to individuals ? I can see no reason, and never have heard one assigned. We are in the daily habit of making grants to the States for public purposes; and if we may grant, may we not also sell or dispose of them, as I have proposed ? The lands belong to the States, in their confederate character, as has been stated; and Congress is the trustee to dispose of them for the common benefit. They are bound, in the fulfilment of the trust, to dispose of them to the best advantage ; and if the disposition proposed be the best for all concerned, Congress has not only the right to make it, but would be bound by the trust so to do.
Entertaining these views, it may be asked why I have not brought forward the measure this session ? My answer is, there is not time, at the present short session, to digest and carry through a measure of so much importance, and involving so many and such conflicting interests. But I pledge myself, if present at the next session, to introduce it at an early day, and to use my best efforts to press it to a decision.
If I can prevent it, no other measure relating to the public lands shall take precedence of it.
I have now presented my views as to the policy which ought to be adopted in reference to the public lands within the new States; and it only remains, in conclusion, to assign my reason for voting against the engrossment of this bill.
Believing that nothing short of a radical change of policy, such as that proposed, can arrest the evils apprehended from the present system, I am of the opinion, that till some permanent remedy can be applied, the proper course is to vote against all partial and temporary expedients like the present; and I shall, in conformity to that opinion, give my vote against this bill. I believe it to be the course, not only the best calculated to insure, in the end, the application of a permanent and efficient remedy, but also to prevent, in the intermediate period, the mischiefs naturally resulting from the present system. But, in addition to these general reasons, there are others against this particular measure, sufficient to induce me to vote against it. Passing others by, I shall only notice one.
This bill is pressed on the Senate, on the ground, among other reasons, that it is a financial measure. It is stated that the treasury is deficit, and that one of the effects of the reduction of the price of the public lands would be, a present increase of the revenue from that source. I am not prepared to say whether such would be the fact, not having examined the point sufficiently to form an opinion ; but if it should be so, it would to me constitute an objection, instead of a recommendation. It is admitted that the increase of the revenue would be temporary, and be followed in a short time by a corresponding reduction. Now, if I am not mistaken, the income of this and the ensuing year will, without further addition to the revenue, be sufficient to meet the expenditures, with due economy, and timely and judicious retrenchment. The pinch will be in the two subsequent years -1841 and 1842—when six-tenths of the entire reduction under the Compromise Act will take place. The difficulty will be in passing through those two years; and this bill considered as a measure of revenue, instead of passing now, ought to be postponed until then. Its passage at this time would but increase the difficulty two years hence. Whatever it might add to the income of this and the next year, would serve but to increase their expenditures to the same extent. Experience has taught us that our expenditures increase with our income, and that, if there be money in the treasury, it will be spent, regardless of consequences. The result would be that, instead of aiding the Government to meet the fiscal crisis of 1841 and 1842, by increasing its income then, it would compel it to meet it under the great disadvantage of increased expenditures with diminished means. Under this belief, if there were no other objections, I would feel myself compelled to vote against the bill.
On the Motion of Mr. Benton for leave to introduce a
Bill to repeal the Salt Duty and the Fishing Bounties; delivered in the Senate, January 30th, 1839.
MR. CALHOUN said, he felt perfectly indifferent as to the fate of this motion. It was impossible for the proposed measure to pass at this time; and the only question was,