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strengthened by whatever continues or furnishes inducements to the people of the States to hold together? If they mean merely this, then, no doubt, the public lands, as well as every thing else in which we have a common interest, tend to consolidation; and to this species of consolidation every true American ought to be attached ; it is neither more nor less than strengthening the Union itself. This is the sense in which the framers of the Constitution use the word consolidation, and in this sense I adopt and cherish it. They tell us, in the letter submitting the Constitution to the consideration of the country, that, “ In all our deliberations on this subject, we kept steadily in our view that which appears to us the greatest interest of every true American, the consolidation of our Union, in which is involved our prosperity, felicity, safety, perhaps our national existence. This important consideration, seriously and deeply impressed on our minds, led each State in the Convention to be less rigid on points of inferior magnitude than might have been otherwise expected."
This, Sir, is General Washington's consolidation. This is the true, constitutional consolidation. I wish to see no new powers drawn to the general government; but I confess I rejoice in whatever tends to strengthen the bond that unites us, and encourages the hope that our Union may be perpetual. And therefore I cannot but feel regret at the expression of such opinions as the gentleman has avowed, because I think their obvious tendency is to weaken the bond of our connection. I know that there are some persons in the part of the country from which the honorable member comes, who habitually speak of the Union in terms of indifference, or even of disparagement. The honorable member himself is not, I trust, and can never be, one of these. They significantly declare, that it is time to calculate the value of the Union; and their aim seems to be to enumerate, and to magnify, all the evils, real and imaginary, which the government under the Union produces.
The tendency of all these ideas and sentiments is obviously to bring the Union into discussion, as a mere question of present and temporary expediency; nothing more than a mere matter of profit and loss. The Union is to be preserved, while it suits local and temporary purposes to preserve it; and to be sundered whenever it shall be found to thwart such purposes.
Union, of itself, is considered by the disciples of this school as hardly a good. It is only regarded as a possible means of good; or, on the other hand, as a possible means of evil. They cherish. no deep and fixed regard for it, flowing from a thorough conviction of its absolute and vital necessity to our welfare. Sir, I deprecate and deplore this tone of thinking and acting. I deem far otherwise of the union of the States; and so did the framers of the Constitution themselves. What they said, I believe; fully and sincerely believe, that the union of the States is essential to the prosperity and safety of the States. I am a unionist, and, in this sense, a national republican. I would strengthen the ties that hold us together. Far, indeed, in my wishes, very far distant be the day, when our associated and fraternal stripes shall be severed asunder, and when that happy constellation under which we have risen to so much renown shall be broken up, and sink, star after star, into obscurity and night!
Among other things, the honorable member spoke of the public debt. To that he holds the public lands pledged, and has expressed his usual earnestness for its total discharge. Sir, I have always voted for every measure for reducing the debt, since I have been in Congress. I wished it paid because it is a debt, and, so far, is a charge upon the industry of the country and the finances of the government. But, Sir, I have observed, that, whenever the subject of the public debt is introduced into the Senate, a morbid sort of fervor is manifested in regard to it, which I have been sometimes at a loss to understand. The debt is not now large, and is in a course of most rapid reduction. A few years will see it extinguished. I am not entirely able to persuade myself that it is not certain supposed incidental tendencies and effects of this debt, rather than its pressure and charge as a debt, that cause so much anxiety to get rid of it. Possibly it may be regarded as in some degree a tie, holding the different parts of the country together, by considerations of mu. tual interest. If this be one of its effects, the effect itself is, in my opinion, not to be lamented. Let me not be misunderstood. I would not continue the debt for the sake of any collateral or consequential advantage, such as I have mentioned. mean to say, that that consequence itself is not one that I regret; at the same time, that, if there are others who would or who do regret it, I differ from them.
As I have already remarked, Sir, it was one among the reasons assigned by the honorable member for his wish to be rid of the public lands altogether, that the public disposition of them, and the revenues derived from them, tend to corrupt the people. This, Sir, I confess, passes my comprehension. These lands are sold at public auction, or taken up at fixed prices, to form farms and freeholds. Whom does this corrupt? According to the system of sales, a fixed proportion is everywhere reserved, as a fund for education. Does education corrupt?
Is the schoolmaster a corrupter of youth? the spelling-book, does it break down the morals of the rising generation ? and the Holy Scriptures, are they fountains of corruption ? Or if, in the exercise of a provident liberality, in regard to its own property as a great landed proprietor, and to high purposes of utility towards others, the government gives portions of these lands to the making of a canal, or the opening of a road, in the country where the lands themselves are situated, what alarming and overwhelming corruption follows from all this? Can there be nothing pure in government except the exercise of mere control ? Can nothing be done without corruption, but the impositions of penalty and restraint? Whatever is positively beneficent, whatever is actively good, whatever spreads abroad benefits and blessings which all can see and all can feel, whatever opens channels of intercourse, augments population, enhances the value of property, and diffuses knowledge, - must all this be rejected and reprobated as a dangerous and obnoxious policy, hurrying us to the double ruin of a government, turned into despotism by the mere exercise of acts of beneficence, and of a people, corrupted, beyond hope of rescue, by the improvement of their condition?
The gentleman proceeded, Sir, to draw a frightful picture of the future. He spoke of the centuries that must elapse before all the lands could be sold, and the great hardships that the States must suffer while the United States reserve to themselves, within their limits, such large portions of soil, not liable to taxa. tion. Sir, this is all, or mostly, imagination. If these lands were leasehold property, if they were held by the United States on rent, there would be much in the idea. But they are wild lands, held only till they can be sold; reserved no longer than till somebody will take them up, at low prices. As to their not being taxed, I would ask whether the States themselves, if they owned
them, would tax them before sale? Sir, if in any case any State can show that the policy of the United States retards her settlement, or prevents her from cultivating the lands within her limits, she shall have my vote to alter that policy. But I look upon the public lands as a public fund, and that we are no more authorized to give them away gratuitously than to give away gratuitously the money in the treasury. I am quite aware, that the sums drawn annually from the Western States make a heavy drain upon them; but that is unavoidable. For that very reason, among others, I have always been inclined to pursue towards them a kind and most liberal policy; but I am not at liberty to forget, at the same time, what is due to other States, and to the solemn engagements under which the government rests.
I come now, Mr. President, to that part of the gentleman's speech which has been the main occasion of my addressing the Senate. The East! the obnoxious, the rebuked, the always reproached East! — we have come in, Sir, on this debate, for even more than a common share of accusation and attack. If the honorable member from South Carolina was not our original accuser, he has yet recited the indictment against us with the air and tone of a public prosecutor. He has summoned us to plead on our arraignment; and he tells us we are charged with the crime of a narrow and selfish policy; of endeavoring to restrain emigration to the West, and, having that object in view, of maintaining a steady opposition to Western measures and Western interests. And the cause of all this narrow and selfish policy, the gentleman finds in the tariff; I think he called it the accursed policy of the tariff. This policy, the gentleman tells us, requires multitudes of dependent laborers, a population of paupers, and that it is to secure these at home that the East opposes whatever may induce to Western emigration. Sir, I rise to defend the East. I rise to repel, both the charge itself, and the cause assigned for it. I deny that the East has, at any time, shown an illiberal policy towards the West. I pronounce the whole accusation to be without the least foundation in any facts, existing either now or at any previous time. I deny it in the general, and I deny each and all its particulars. I deny the sum total, and I deny the detail. I deny that the East has ever manifested hostility to the West, and I deny that she has adopt
ed any policy that would naturally have led her in such a
But the tariff! the tariff!! Sir, I beg to say in regard to the East, that the original policy of the tariff is not hers, whether it be wise or unwise. New England is not its author. If gentlemen will refer to the tariff of 1816, they will find that this was not carried by New England votes. It was truly more a Southern than an Eastern measure. And what votes carried the tariff of 1824? Certainly not those of New England. It is known to have been made matter of reproach, especially against Mas
achusetts, that she would not aid the tariff of 1824; and a selfish motive was imputed to her for that, also. In point of fact, it is true that she did, indeed, oppose the tariff of 1824. There were more votes in favor of that law in the House of Represen. tatives, not only in each of a majority of the Western States, but even in Virginia herself, than in Massachusetts.
It was literally forced upon New England; and this shows how groundless, how void of all probability, must be any charge of hostility to the growth of the Western States, as naturally flowing from a cherished policy of her own.
But leaving all conjectures about causes and motives, I go at once to the fact, and I meet it with one broad, comprehensive, and emphatic negative. I deny that, in any part of her history, at any period of the government, or in relation to any leading subject, New England has manifested such hostility as is charged upon her. On the contrary, I maintain that, from the day of the cession of the territories by the States to Congress, no portion of the country has acted either with more liberality or more intelligence, on the subject of the public lands in the new States, than New England.
This statement, though strong, is no stronger than the strictest truths will warrant. Let us look at the historical facts. So soon as the cessions were obtained, it became necessary to make provision for the government and disposition of the territory. The country was to be governed. This, for the present, it was obvious, must be by some territorial system of administration. But the soil, also, was to be granted and settled. Those immense regions, large enough almost for an empire, were to be appropriated to private ownership. How was this best to be done? What system for sale and disposition should be adopt