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to the constitutional compact ? Many and great violations are charged, and truly charged to us, while few, very few, can be justly attributed to them.
But, admitting there might be danger of losing the lands, should they be disposed of as proposed, from the want of good faith on the part of the States, I boldly assert that the danger of being lost is far greater if the present system should, unfortunately, be continued, and that, too, under circumstances vastly more disastrous to the peace and safety of the Union. What I have asserted comes from deep and solemn conviction, resulting from a long and careful examination of this vast and complicated subject.
Those who have not given special attention to it, and the progress of our land system, can form no just conception of the danger to which the public lands are exposed. The danger is twofold : that they will be lost by the mere progress of settlement, without payment, in consequence of the vast quantity beyond the wants of the country, to which the Indian title is extinguished ; and if that should not be the case, they will be from the growing conflict between the old and new States, in consequence of the rapid increase of the latter, and the great difference in the respective views of the policy proper to be adopted in reference to them. Both causes are operating with powerful effect; and if they do not speedily attract the attention of the Government and the country, they will certainly terminate before long, either by their separate or joint action, in the loss of the public domain. Nothing but a full understanding of the causes of danger, and the application of a prompt and efficient remedy, can prevent it; and what I propose is to present a brief sketch of my views in reference to both.
As important as it is, few have turned the attention it deserves to the almost miraculous extension of our land system. In the comparatively short time in which it has been in operation, the Indian title has been extinguished in round
numbers, to 320,000,000 of acres; of which there have been sold 81,000,000, and granted away, for various purposes, 12,600,000; leaving in the possession of the Government, on the 1st of January, 1840, 226,000,000, a larger portion of which is surveyed, platted, and in the market : showing that the progress of extinguishing the titles of the Indians has far outrun the demands of the country for government lands, as great as it has been. In fact, the reality far exceeds the statement, as strong as that is ; for, of the eightyone millions of acres sold, upward of thirty-eight millions were sold in the years 1835, 1836, and 1837, during the great expansion of the currency and rage for speculation in lands, of which but a small portion, perhaps not a third, was for settlement; and of the residue, a greater part, say twenty millions, is still for sale in the hands of large purchasers. Making proper allowance for the speculative operations of those years, the actual sale of the public lands for settlement, during the period of fifty years which has elapsed from the beginning of the Government, would not probably exceed sixty millions of acres, about one-fourth as much as that to which the Indian title is now extinguished.
But numbers can give but a very imperfect conception of the vast extent of the region to which the Indian title is extinguished, and of which the Government is the sole and exclusive proprietor. To form a correct idea of its great magnitude, it will be necessary to compare it to portions of the Union, the extent of which is familiar to all. то enable me to do this, a friend has furnished me with a statement, from which it appears that if all the land now unsold, and to which the Indian title is extinguished, was grouped together, it would be equal in extent to all New England, New-York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and a third of North Carolina. But this falls far short of the vast extent of the region throughout which it lies dispersed—a region equal
ling all the old Atlantic States, taking in all Florida, the States of Alabama and Mississippi, and half of Tennessee. Into this vast and unoccupied domain, our people, with a multitude of foreigners, are pouring yearly in one incessant tide, by thousands on thousands, seeking new homes,-some with the means of purchasing, who select the best lands ; others with insufficient means, who select their place, and settle with the hope of purchasing in a short time; and a large class without means, who settle on spots, without any fixed intention but to remain so long as they are undisturbed, generally on tracts of inferior quality, having the advantage of a spring, with a small portion of more fertile land, sufficient for their limited cultivation, but not sufficient to induce a purchaser to take it at the Government price. This class of settlers has greatly increased, if I am correctly informed, within the last ten or fifteen years,—and is still rapidly increasing, especially in the Western and Southwestern States, where the proportion of good to inferior land is comparatively small,—and must continue to increase with accelerated rapidity, so long as the present land system remains as it is.
Those who have had an opportunity of witnessing the effect of such occupancy on the minds of the settlers, will not be at a loss to anticipate the consequences which must follow, unless arrested. Occupation long and undisturbed, accompanied by improvement, however limited, cannot fail to be associated with the idea of property in the soil. It is this, in fact, which constitutes the primitive right in land. This will be felt in common by all the occupants similarly situated—will be sure to create an esprit de corps, accompanied by mutual respect for each other's rights, which would not fail to make it dangerous for any one to disturb the rights of another. This feeling will not be long in showing itself towards the emigrant intruder, as he would be considered, coming in with the view of purchase. He would find it not a little hazardous to enter and purchase a spot held by a
mere occupant, or squatter, if you will, and oust him of his possession. In a short time, no one who regards his peace and safety will attempt it; and then, the feeling, which began with the poorer class, will extend rapidly upwards to the more wealthy, until, finally, none will look to any other title but occupancy and improvement ; and all, the rich and poor, will become squatters, with a common interest to maintain and defend each other, when the public lands will be lost, and cease to be any longer a source of revenue, if nothing be done to stop it. For the truth of the picture, I appeal to the Senators from the new States, especially from the Western and Southwestern. We have thus presented the difficult question, What is to be done to remedy it ?
It is perfectly natural that the first impression should be, to keep out intruders on the public lands. The lands belong to the people of the Union as common property, and it would seem contrary to reason and justice that any one should be permitted to enter on and appropriate the use of that to himself, without paying for it, which belongs to all ; and we accordingly find not a small portion of the Senate who insist on keeping out and expelling all intruders as the proper remedy. But in this case, like many others, we must look beyond mere abstract right. What seems so plausible would, when tried, prove impracticable. We need no other proof than the fact that no administration has ever undertaken it, even when it would have been an easy task, comparatively to what it now would be. How is it to be done ? By the marshals and their deputies? Can they expel from their homes the vast host of occupants on the public lands, all hardy and bold men, familiar with the use of the most deadly of weapons ? Would you employ the army ?
It would be found almost as impotent as the civil authority. If the whole military was employed in this, to the neglect of all other service, there would be more than five hundred and fifty square miles for each officer and soldier, supposing your establishment to be full. No: were it possible to employ the military in so odious a service in this free country, you would have to double your force, at a cost greater than the annual income from the land ; and the work would be ever beginning, and never ending. ' If you drive them away and destroy their improvements, as soon as the force was withdrawn they would return to their possession. I had some experience, while Secretary at War, of the difficulty of expelling and keeping off intruders ; and I found that the message which brought intelligence of the withdrawal of the force was immediately followed by that which brought information that the intruders had returned.
But the Senator from Kentucky (Mr. Clay) deems all this as merely imaginary, and asserts that intruders may readily be kept off the public lands. I will not attempt to reply to his reason for this opinion. He and his political friends will soon be in power with a chief of their own selection, and in whose firmness and energy they express high confidence. In six weeks the time will come round which brings him into power, and we shall see what will follow. Without pretending to the spirit of prophecy, I feel I hazard nothing in predicting that what is deemed so easy to be done when out of power, will be pronounced impracticable when in. The Senator would have too much prudence to give the advice; but, if not, the President elect will, I conjecture, have too much discretion to act on it.
If, however, I should be mistaken, and the attempt should be made to expel the occupants from the public lands, I hazard nothing in predicting that the administration will go out of power with ten times the majority with which it came in, as great as that was. The bitterest enemy could not give more fatal advice.
If, then, this powerful tide of emigration, which is flowing in on the public lands, cannot be arrested, what ought, or can be done, to prevent the loss of the public domain by the