« FöregåendeFortsätt »
supported by a third (Mr. Clay), who, all know, must exercise a controlling influence over this administration. It is, then, fair to presume, that it is not only a measure, but a leading measure, of General Harrison's administration, pushed forward in advance of his inauguration by those who have the right of considering themselves his organs on this floor. Regarded in this light, it acquires a vastly increased importance-so much so as to demand the most serious and deliberate consideration. Under this impression I have carefully re-examined the measure, and have been confirmed in the opinion previously entertained, that it is perfectly unconstitutional, and pregnant with the most disastrous consequences ; and what I now propose is, to present the result of my reflection under each of these views, beginning with the former.
Whether the Government can constitutionally distribute the revenue from the public lands among the States, must depend on the fact whether they belong to them in their united federal character, or individually and separately. If in the former, it is manifest that the Government, as their common agent or trustee, can have no right to distribute among them, for their individual, separate use, a fund derived from property held in their united and federal character, without a special power for that purpose, which is not pretended. A position so clear of itself, and resting on the established principles of law, when applied to individuals holding property in like manner, needs no illustration. If, on the contrary, they belong to the States in their individual and separate character, then the Government would not only have the right, but would be bound to apply the revenue to the separate use of the States. So far is incontrovertible, which presents the question, in which of the two characters are the lands held by the States ?
To give a satisfactory answer to this question, it will be necessary to distinguish between the lands that have been
ceded by the States and those that have been purchased by the Government out of the common funds of the Union.
The principal cessions were made by Virginia and Georgia; the former, of all the tract of country between the Ohio, the Mississippi, and the lakes, including the States of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan, and the Territory of Wisconsin ; and the latter, of the tract included in Alabama and Mississippi. I shall begin with the cession of Virginia, as it is on that the advocates for distribution mainly rely to establish the right.
I hold in my hand an extract of all that portion of the Virginia deed of cession which has any bearing on the point at issue, taken from the volume lying on the table before me, with the place marked, and to which any one desirous of examining the deed may refer. The cession is “to the United States in Congress assembled, for the benefit of said States.” Every word implies the States in their united, federal character. That is the meaning of the phrase United States. It stands in contradistinction to the States taken separately and individually, and if there could be, by possibility, any doubt on that point, it would be removed by the expression “in Congress assembled"-an assemblage which constituted the very knot that united them. I regard the execution of such a deed, to the United States so assembled, so conclusive, that the cession was to them in their united and aggregate character, in contradistinction to their individual and separate character, and by necessary consequence, that the lands so ceded belonged to them in their former and not in their latter character, that I am at a loss for words to make it clearer. To deny it, would be to deny that there is any truth in language.
But, strong as this is, it is not all. The deed proceeds, and says that all the lands so ceded “shall be considered a common fund for the use and benefit of such of the United States as have become members of the Confeder
ation, or Federal alliance of said States, Virginia inclusive,” —and concludes by saying, “and shall be faithfully and bonâ fide disposed of for that purpose, and for no other use or purpose whatever.” If it were possible to raise a doubt before, these full, clear, and explicit terms would dispel it. It is impossible for language to be clearer. To be “ sidered a common fund,” is an expression directly in contradistinction to separate or individual, and is, by necessary implication, as clear a negative of the latter as if it had been positively expressed. This common fund to “be for the use and benefit of such of the United States as have become, or shall become, members of the Confederation or Federal alliance ;” that is, as clear as language can express it, for their common use in their united federal character, Virginia being included as the grantor, out of abundant caution.
[Here Mr. Clay said in an audible voice, there were other words not cited. To which Mr. Calhoun replied :-)
I am glad to hear the Senator say so, as it shows, not only that he regards the expressions cited, standing alone, as clearly establishing what I contended for, but on what he relies to rebut my conclusion. I shall presently show, that the expression to which he refers will utterly fail him. The concluding words are, "shall be faithfully and bona fide disposed of for that use, and no other use or purpose whatever.” For that use—that is, the common use of the States, in their capacity of members of the Confederation or Federal alliance-and no other; as positively forbidding to use the fund to be derived from the lands for the separate use of the States, or to be distributed among them for their separate or individual use, as proposed by this amendment, as it is possible for words to do. So far, all doubt vould seem to be excluded.
But there are other words to which the Senator refers, and on which the advocates of the measure yainly rely to establish the right. After asserting that it shall be considered a common fund for the use and benefit of the States that are or shall become members of the Confederation or Federal alliance, Virginia inclusive, it adds, “according to their usual respective proportions in the general charge and expenditure.” Now, I assert, if these words were susceptible of a construction that the fund was intended for the separate and individual use and benefit of the States—which I utterly deny—yet it would be contrary to one of the fundamental rules of construction to give them that meaning. I refer to the well-known rule, that doubtful expressions, in a grant or other instrument, are not to be so construed as to contradict what is clearly and plainly expressed—as would be the case in this instance, if they should be so construed as to mean the separate and individual use and benefit of the States severally. But they are not susceptible of such construction. Whatever ambiguity may be supposed to attach to them, will be readily explained by reference to the history of the times. The cession was made under the old Articles of Confederation, according to which the general or common fund of the Union was raised, not by taxation on individuals, as at present, but by requisition on the States, proportioned among them according to the assessed value of their improved lands. An account had, of course, to be kept between each State and the common treasury; and these words were inserted simply to direct that the funds from the ceded lands were to be credited to States according to the proportion they had to contribute to the general or common fund respectively, in order, if not enough should be received from the lands, to meet their contribution, they should be debited with the deficit ; and if more than sufficient, credited with the excess in making the next requisition. The expression can have no other meaning ; and so far from countenancing the construction, that the common fund from the lands should be applied to the separate use of the States, it 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