« ZurückWeiter »
the benefit of the whole Union. There had been already several systems proposed for regulating the sale and applying the proceeds of them. Some of the new States were so extravagant as to claim all the public lands within their limits. Others proposed to sell them immediately; which would permit a few speculators to purchase the whole.And some were in favor of selling low, and waiting a long period for the payment; with a view to accomplish their more speedy settlement.*
The resolution offered was to abolish the office of the land commissioner, and to suspend the sale of public lands for some years, when they would probably be of more value. The subject was justly interesting to all the members of the Senate; for the results of these various plans must be very different to the States. Generally, the Senators from the old, and those from the new States, entertained opposite views on the subject. And a Senator from South Carolina, asserted and labored to prove, that the eastern States especially, were disposed to retard the settlement of the western parts of the Union, from selfish or political views; and therefore wished to prohibit the sale of the public lands, till some distant future period. It was intimated that the statesmen of the eastern part of the Union, were jealous of the growth of the west, as it would lessen their portion of influence in the general government, and would also drain them of much of their population, which would prove injurious to their manufacturing establishments. Such suggestions were made by members from the south as well as from the west. Party or political views, perhaps, had an influence with some members in the views they expressed, and in the charges they made against the eastern States. For strange opinions are advanced, and improper systems urged, not unfrequently, for party purposes; and those who cherish such purposes themselves are often ready to charge their opponents with sinister views.
It had become customary, at this period, to take a wide range in debate, and to refer, by way of illustration or otherwise, to political subjects of a general nature, which divided the friends and the opponents of the administration. The Senator from South Carolina not only seized this oc
* It was stated at the time, that lands, to the amount of nine millions seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars, had been appropriated, from 1790 to 1829, for surveys, for public roads, for academies and schools, and for various works of internal improvements; and almost exclusively for the benefit of the new States.
casion to reproach the eastern States with a design to prevent the settlement and increase of the western parts of the Union, from sectional or political views; but to plead for the doctrine of State rights and power, to a novel and alarming extent; though it had no necessary or immediate connection with the question before the Senate; contending that the several States within which the public lands were situated, should have the entire control and jurisdiction over them. The real or direct question, arising out of the resolution before the Senate, was lightly touched by him; while the points, just mentioned, were discussed at great length, and not without much ingenuity and eloquence: and yet, in the opinion of many impartial men, with less sound reasoning than plausibility. His remarks were so pointed and so severe on the character of the eastern States, that the sensibility of the members from that section of the Union was much awakened, and they felt obliged to notice and to repelthem. They differed in some respects from the views of the Senator of South Carolina, and ihose who agreed with him, as to his plan on the subject of managing the public lands; and as to his doctrine of State rights, and his insinuations of hostile feelings in the people of the east towards those in the west, they were entirely at issue with them. They believed that State rights, as asserted and contended for by him, would interfere with and render utterly powerless the authority of the federal government, which was clearly granted by the Constitution. The legitimate conclusion from the doctrine advanced would be, that a single State even might control the general government; in other words, that one State might govern all the others in the Union. Such probably was not the opinion of the able Senator, but it evidently fcllowed from his doctrine.
Mr. Webster, who was then a member of the Senate from Massachusetts, replied to the Senator from South Carolina, with great power and effect. His argument on the powers of the federal government, granted by the Constitution, as being paramount in certain cases, to any and all State authority, was generally admitted to be sound and entirely unanswerable. He contended that on subjects fully committed to the general government by the Constitution, its powers were exclusive and unlimited ; that no one State, nor even a number of States, might justly interfere with its measures; and that the public land, not particularly and expressly ceded to a State, or sold to companies or individuals, was solely at the disposal and under the
jurisdiction of the United States government. When he was charged with pleading for the consolidation of the States, he replied, that he was not disposed to derogate from their authority in any cases or on any subjects, except in so far as the Constitution had given power to the general government—which was of course paramount to that of a State—that in many respects, the States were sovereign, and had the entire control of their own internal affairs, that he was in favor of the consolidation of the Unionwhich was the design of the framers of the Constitution of the United States,—though not of the States, in the sense charged by his opponents. He then showed that the general government had the sole management and disposition of the public lands, which had been ceded by different States, for the benefit of the whole. He did not wish, he said, to exclude the new States from their just portion of the public lands, or from an equal share in the benefits to be derived from the sales; but contended that the original States had an equal, if not a superior, right to them. He said he was not averse to the policy of retaining a large part of the lands for a future revenue, and yet was in favor of selling small tracts to actual settlers, and thus gradually to fill up the vacant territory with inhabitants.
The Senator from Massachusetts referred to the insinuations which had been made against the politicians of the New England States, as if they were selfish; or were opposed to the prosperity and improvements of the new States in the west and north west. And here he discovered some indignant feeling, as justly he might. The reproach on the eastern States was not just; it was, indeed, alike unfounded and ungenerous. They did, indeed, contend for the privileges of commerce and navigation; and it was for the protection of these departments of business, in great part, that the federal government had been instituted. It was important also, that manufactures, which were more attended to in the eastern and middle States than in the south or west, should be encouraged, for the prosperity of the whole nation. But it was not therefore attempted, nor desired, to depress the inhabitants of the west, in their agricultural enterprises, nor to prevent the settlement of the vast territory in that section of the Union. It was only contended, that the public lands should not be wholly appropriated for the benefit of the settlers thereon, or the States where they were situated; but should be sold, or so managed, as to secure to the original States their just proportion. No particular law resulted from this protracted and
able discussion. The subject long continued before Congress; but so various have been the plans for the disposition of the public lands, that no one has yet received the sanction of the federal legislature.
Other important subjects were introduced and debated in Congress, at this session, and occupied much time, but on which there was no decided legislative action. A bill for retrenchment in the public expenditures was repeatedly discussed; but it was not passed ; after all the charges of extravagance against Mr. Adams's administration, it was not found that any items of the public expense could be reasonably dispensed with. The charge made in 1828, of this nature, was chiefly for party objects, or in ignorance; and the appropriations and expenditures for 1830, and annually afterwards, were fully equal to those made from 1825 to 1828, except that about fifty thousand dollars had been expended in 1826, '27, and '28, for various surveys, as authorized by laws of Congress, with a view to public and national objects—these were not continued during President Jackson's administration, as he doubted the right of the federal government to expend money for such purposes.
In his public message to Congress, in December, 1829, the President recommended a revision of the tariff of 1828; of which the people in some parts of the Union complained as excessive and unequal. He was in favor of affording encouragement to domestic manufactures, but believed, as many others did, that a less duty than that imposed by the former law, would prove a sufficient protection for manufacturing establishments in the United States. The subject was referred to a committee in the House of Representatives, by whom a report was made, that it was inexpedient to make any alteration in the law then in force. This report was accepted in the House, though the minority, on the question, was a large one. The subject was discussed in the Senate, where the majority were disposed to have the act modified; but the vote of the Representatives, being in favor of its continuance unchanged, nothing could be legally effected. No doubt that considerations of local interest had an influence in the opinions entertained ; the manufacturing establishments were not to be found in the southern parts of the country. In the eastern and some of the middle States, they were numerous; while few had been introduced in the south or west. In May, 1830, a bill was passed in both branches of the national legislature, making appropriations for the erection of lighthouses, beacons, &c. --for improving harbors, and for surveys-which was laid
before the President, on the last day of the session, for his approval. But he did not give it his signature, nor return it to Congress with objections. And thus it failed to become a law. The President was blamed on this account, as being arbitrary, or as neglecting his official duty. It was said by his political friends, that he was opposed to some of the objects for which the appropriations were made, and had not time for a due consideration of the bill in all its parts. Some of the provisions related to works of internal improvements, on the constitutionality of which he entertained doubts.* A similar complaint was made respecting his conduct, at a later period, when he retained a bill regulating the sale of the public lands, which was of great importance, without signing it, and when there was sufficient time to have examined and returned it for the further action of Congress.
The annual message of President Jackson, in December, 1830, was unusually elaborate. It was full and minute, in the statements relating to the proceedings of the executive department of government, during the recess of the legis. lature; to diplomatic occurrences and efforts; and to the fulfilment of various acts of Congress, assigned to the action of the President; with more of reasoning, to show the correctness of the conduct of the executive, than usual, or was perhaps necessary. For it is the province of the legislative to examine the executive proceedings, and to judge of their correctness.
The acts of the administration, during the year 1830, besides the common and necessary duties occurring in the various departments of the government, were referred to in the message, and afford ground for an opinion of the true state and condition of the United States, at that period. The commercial intercourse with the colonial ports of Great Britain, though nominally improved, remained very nearly on the same footing it had been for several years previously. A Convention had, indeed, been formed and accepted; but the commercial part of the nation was not satisfied with it, as there was much ceded, to the benefit of England, and but very little to the United States. The restrictions on American vessels, visiting the colonies of Great Britain, were not removed. The negotiation had been conducted
* In his next annual message, the President stated his objections to the bill for a subscription to the stock of the Louisville and Portland Canal Company, to be of this character ; and that he disapproved of the bill for lighthouses, &c. as their increase served rather to confuse and mislead the navigator than to be a means of safety.