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discussed. But, what is of more importance, they were opposed to the bill ; and, as the amendment came from a hostile quarter, and was clearly intended to embarrass the bill, it is not improbable that it received the votes of many with the view of destroying the bill, without thinking whether it was constitutional or not ; just as some, no doubt will vote against the opposite amendment, to strike the banks out, now under consideration, from the belief that it is the most effectual means of destroying this bill. But if the question is to be decided by weight of names, and the vote on the occasion to be the test, the weight is clearly on the opposite side. The vote stood, 12 to include the banks, and 35 against ; and among the latter will be found names not less influential-those of Tazewell, Rowan, Hayne, Berrien, the present Secretary of the Treasury, and finally that of the present Chief Magistrate. But why attempt to decide this question by the weight of names, however distinguished ? Do we not know that all those referred to belonged to the political school which utterly repudiates the authority of precedents in construing the constitution, and who, if they were now all alive, and here present as members of the Senate, would not regard the name of any man in deciding this important constitutional question ?
I have now presented the result of my reflections on this important measure. To sum up the whole in a few words, I am of the opinion that the whole project, including the bill and the amendment, is unconstitutional, except the provisions embracing compulsory bankruptcy, as it is called, as far as it relates to individuals; and that, under existing circumstances, is highly inexpedient. Thus thinking, I shall vote, in the first instance, against striking out the bill, and inserting the amendment, and if that succeeds, against the bill itself.
On the Prospective Pre-emption Bill, delivered in
the Senate, January 12th, 1841.
[The Bill to establish a permanent prospective pre-emption system in favor of settlers on the public lands, who shall inhabit and cultivate the same, and raise a log cabin thereon, being the special order of the day, was taken up, the question being on the proposition by Mr. Crittenden to recommit the Bill, with instructions to report a Bill to distribute the proceeds of the sales of the public lands among the States; which Mr. Calhoun offered to amend, by substituting a Bill to cede the public lands to the States in which they lie, upon certain conditions.]
MR. CALHOUN said : I regard the question of the public lands, next to that of the currency, as the most dangerous and difficult of all which demand the attention of the country and the Government, at this important juncture of our affairs. I do not except a protective tariff; for I cannot believe, after what we have experienced, that such a measure can again be adopted,-a measure which has done more to corrupt the morals of the country, public and private, to disorder its currency, derange its business, and to weaken and endanger its free institutions, than any other except the paper system, with which it is so intimately allied.
In offering the amendment I propose, I do not intend to controvert the justice of the eulogium which has been so often pronounced on our land system in the course of this discussion. On the contrary, I believe that it was admirably adjusted to effect its object, when first adopted ; but it must be borne in mind that a measure, to be perfect, must be adapted to circumstances, and that great changes have taken place, in the lapse of fifty years, since the adoption of our land system. At that time, the vast region now covered by the new States, which have grown up on the public domain, belonged to foreign powers, or was occupied by numerous Indian tribes, with the exception of a few sparse settlements on the inconsiderable tracts to which the title of the Indians was at that time extinguished. Since then a mighty change has taken place. Nine States have sprung up as if by magic, with a population not less, probably, than that of two-fifths of the old States, and destined to surpass them in a few years in numbers, power, and influence.
That a change so mighty should so derange a system intended for an entirely different condition of things as to render important changes necessary to adapt it to present circumstances, is no more than might have been anticipated. It would, indeed, have been a miracle had it been otherwise ; and we ought not, therefore, to be surprised that the operation of the system should afford daily evidence that it not only deranged, but deeply deranged; and that its derangement is followed by a train of evils that threaten disaster, unless a timely and efficient remedy should be applied. I would ask those who think differently, and who believe the system still continues to work well, Was it no evil, that session after session, for the last ten or twelve years, Congress should be engaged in angry and deeply agitating discussions, growing out of the public lands, in which one side is denounced as the friends, and the other as the enemies, of the new States ? Was the increasing violence of this agitation from year to year, and threatening ultimately, not only the loss of the public domain, but the tranquillity and peace of the country, no evil ? Is it well that one-third of the time of Congress should be consumed in legislating on subjects directly or indirectly connected with the public lands, thereby prolonging the sessions proportionally, and adding to the expense upward of $200,000 annually ? Is it no evil that the Government should own half the lands within the limits of nine members of this Union, and over which they can exercise no authority or control ? Is it nothing that the domain of so many States should be under the exclusive legislation and guardianship of this Government, contrary to the genius of the constitution, which, intending to leave to each State the regulation of its local and peculiar concerns, delegated to the Union those only in which all had a common interest ? If to all these be added the vast amount of patronage exercised by this Government through the medium of the public lands over the new States, and through them over the whole Union, and the pernicious influence thereby brought to bear on all other subjects of legislation, can it be denied that many and great evils result from the system as it now operates, which call aloud for some speedy and efficient remedy ?
But why should I look beyond the question before us to prove, by the confession of all, that there is some deep disorder in the system? There are now three measures before the Senate, each proposing important changes, and the one or the other receiving the support of every member of the body ; even of those who cry out against changes. It is too late, then, to deny the disordered state of the system. The disease is admitted, and the only question is, What remedy shall be applied ?
I object both to the bill and the amendment proposed by the Senator from Kentucky (Mr. Crittenden), because, regarded as remedial measures, they are both inappropriate and inadequate. Neither pre-emption, nor distribution of the revenue received from the public lands, can have any possible effect in correcting the disordered action of the system. I put the question, Would one or the other contribute in the smallest degree to diminish the patronage of the Government, or the time consumed on questions growing out of the public lands,-or shorten the duration of the sessions,-or withdraw the action of the Government over so large a part of the domain of the new States, and place them
and their representatives here on the same independent footing with the old States and their representatives,—or arrest the angry and agitating discussions which, year after year, distract our councils, and threaten so much mischief to the country ? Far otherwise would be the effect. It would but increase the evil, by bringing into more decided conflict the interests of the new and old States. Of all the ills that could befall them, the former would regard the distribution as the greatest, while the latter would look on the pre-emption system proposed by the Bill as little short of an open system of plunder, if we may judge from the declarations which we have heard in the course of the debate.
As, then, neither can correct the disease, the question is, What remedy can ? I have given to this question the most deliberate and careful examination, and have come to the conclusion that there is, and can be, no remedy short of cession—cession to the States respectively within which the lands are situated. The disease lies in ownership and administration, and nothing short of parting with both can reach it. Part with them, and you will at once take away one-third of the business of Congress; shorten its sessions in the same proportion, with a corresponding saving of expense; lop off a large and most dangerous portion of the patronage of the Government ; arrest these angry and agitating discussions, which do so much to alienate the good feelings of the different portions of the Union, and disturb the general course of legislation, and endanger, ultimately, the loss of the public domain. Retain them, and they must continue, almost without mitigation, apply what palliatives you may. It is the all-sufficient and only remedy.
Thus far would seem clear. I do not see how it is possible for any one to doubt that cession would reach the evil, and that it is the only remedy that would. If, then, there should be any objection, it can only be to the terms or conditions of the cession. If these can be so adjusted as to give