Sidor som bilder

If something be not done, it is not difficult to see that the danger from these causes and that froin occupancy must run together, and that their combined forces will be altoge ther irresistible. The occupants on the public lands lying within the States are voters, with a weight at the polls equal to the most wealthy, and, of course, an equal influence over the election of President and Vice-President, members of Congress, and of the State governments. I hazard little in asserting that, if they have not already, from their numbers, a decided influence over all the elections in many of the new States, they will in a very short period, from their rapid increase, if nothing should be done to arrest the evil. That influence would be felt here, and movements would be made to satisfy the demands of so numerous and powerful a class, till, with their growing influence, the proposition will be boldly made to give, as has been stated, the land without purchase; to which, from the necessity of the case, the Government will be compelled to yield, in order to avoid the danger of its being seized and kept in open defiance of its authority.

Against this, the only ground that can be devised, as far as I can see, is the one I have proposed—to dispose of the land to the States—to part with ownership and administration, the root of the evil-on fair and equitable conditions, with the best possible provisions that can be devised to ensure the faithful performance of the compact. If that, with the provisions against the danger from occupancy, cannot prevent the loss of the public lands, I know not what can. I have as strong confidence as the nature of the subject will admit, that it will, when perfected in its details by the wisdom of the Senate, prove all-sufficient, not only to prevent the loss of the public domain, but to arrest the many and growing evils to which I have alluded as incident to the system as it now exists. But if in this, I should err, with all the caution I have taken to come to a correct conclusion, I feel assured I cannot err in asserting that the danger would be far less, under the amendment I intend to propose, than it would be should the system continue as it now stands; and that if the public domain is to be lost, it is far better it should be under the former than the latter. It would be with far less intermediate hazard, and, in the end, with less violence and shock to our political fabric. In the one case, we could lose nothing but the value of the land, which I shall presently show is far less than usually estimated, —while, in the other, no one can estimate what the loss may not be.

Having now, I trust, shown, to the satisfaction of the Senate, that nothing short of disposing of the public lands on just, equitable, and liberal terms, can remedy the evils, and guard against the dangers incident to the system under existing circumstances, it only remains to consider what would be the effects of the measure on the revenue compared with the present system. Should I be able to prove, as I hope to do, that, even in that respect, it will bear a highly advantageous comparison, that it would yield more, and when most needed, now,—when the treasury will require replenishing, every solid objection to its adoption would, I trust, be removed.

There is a great and prevalent mistake as to the true value of the public lands, as I have just intimated. They are estimated as if every acre was worth $1 25 paid down, without taking into account that only a small quantity could be sold annually at that price, and that by far the greater portion of the income from the sales can only be received through a long series of years, extending to a very remote period. In estimating what is their true value, we must not forget that time has the same effect on value which distance has on magnitude, and, that, as the largest objects in the tuniverse dwindle to a point, when removed to the distance of the stars, so the greatest value, when it can only be realized at remote periods, diminishes almost to nothing. It is in consequence of this difference between present and future value, that a sum paid down is worth twice as much as an equal sum to be paid sixteen years hence, estimated at six per cent. simple interest,—and four times as much as a like sum to be paid at the end of thirty-two years. I do not take fractions of years into the estimate. The principle is familiar to all who are in the habit of calculating the present value of annuities for a given number of years, and is as applicable to regular annual incomes from land, or any other source, as it is from what is usually called an annuity. On the same principle, discounts are made on payments in advance. But we are in the daily habit of overlooking this plain and familiar principle, known to every business man in the management of his own affairs, in estimating the value of the public domain. In consequence of such oversight, the 160,000,000 of acres lying in the new States have been estimated to be worth $200,000,000, at $1 25 per acre-a sum nearly eight times greater than its real value, supposing it would give an annual income averaging $2,500,000, and admitting every acre will be sold at $1 25—a supposition far greater than will ever be realized. The Committee on Public Lands, at the last session, assuming these data, proved incontestably that the true present value did not exceed twenty-six millions and a half of dollars. They showed, in the first place, that a permanent income for ever of $2,500,000 would be worth but a fraction more than forty-one millions of dollars in hand, as that sum, at six per cent., would give an equal income. They next showed, that to derive an income of $2,500,000 from the one hundred and sixty millions of acres in the new States, would exhaust every acre in eighty years ; and that, of course, instead of being a permanent income, it would be one only for that period, which would reduce its value to about thirty-four millions of dollars, which would be its present value, if there was no expense attending its sales and management. That is, however, far from being the case. Applying the same rule of calculation to the annual expense incident to their management, including what would be saved by the Government if the cession should be made, ascertained to be about $550,000 annually, they find the present value of the land to be the sum stated ($26,500,000.) The result, assuming the data to be correct, is incontrovertible ; and that sum would constitute the entire amount of the loss under the present system, if the lands were really to be given away by the proposed cession, as has been most unfairly charged on the other side of the Chamber.

I propose to apply the same principle to the same lands, to show their present value under the operation of the measure I intend to propose. Should it be adopted, the whole of the lands in question would be sold, I assume, in twenty-five years from the time they become subject to the graduating process—which is much more probable than that the whole would be sold in eighty years at the present price of $1 25 per acre.

I next assume that equal quantities would be sold during each period of graduation. I next assume that the portion not yet offered for sale, and which, according to the amendment, would not be subject to graduation, and which is estimated, in the report of the Committee on Public Lands, to amount to a little more than 62,000,000 of acres, would yield an average revenue during the ten years equal in proportion to what the 160,000,000 of acres are estimated to yield. It is, probably, much less than what they would, as they will, for the first time, be offered for sale. I also estimate that the lands that have been offered, and which have not yet run ten years, and will, of course, be held till then at $1 25, will, with that which will be sold on the first reduction to $1, average $112. I have also estimated the whole period, including that which is now in progress towards ten years, and the first period of reduction, as one period of fifteen years, and that the entire amount sold during the entire period will only equal the average of the other period of graduation (five years) : an estimate greatly under the truth.

On these data I have based the calculations, which have been made with great care, and I find the present value of the lands would be more than a third more, under my proposed amendment, than under the existing system ; and that the excess would be sufficient to pay the 35 per cent. proposed to be allowed to the new States for their expense and trouble, leaving the 65 to be received by the Government, equal to the entire present value of the lands under the existing system. Such is the vast difference between receiving a smaller amount by annual payments, during half of a long period, and a much larger one, in like manner, during double the time.

There are but two of the data on which the calculation is based that can be supposed to have any material effect on the result, which can possibly prove to be over-estimated : the one,—that all the lands will be sold during the period of graduation,—which, however, is quite as probable, to say

the least, as that all will be sold in eighty years at $1 25; and the other,—that equal quantities would be sold during each step of the reduction. It is not improbable this may not prove to be the case, and that larger quantities would be sold towards the latter stages of the graduation, at low prices, than during the earlier stages, at higher prices, which affect the result. The other supposition, that equal sums would be received at each period, would probably be much too low; and the truth may probably prove to be between them; but, even on that assumption, the present value, under the measure I propose, would greatly exceed that under the present system; --so much so as to be quite sufficient to cover the 13 per cent. proposed to be allowed to the States for their trouble, above the expense of managing the lands, including the saving to the Government by the cession. I have assumed

« FöregåendeFortsätt »