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the committee. All that the resolution proposes should be done, the committee is quite competent, without the resolution, to do by virtue of its ordinary powers. But, Sir, although I have felt quite indifferent about the passing of the resolution, yet opinions were expressed yesterday on the general subject of the public lands, and on some other subjects, by the gentleman from South Carolina, so widely different from my own, that I am not willing to let the occasion pass without some reply. If I deemed the resolution as originally proposed hardly necessary, still less do I think it either necessary or expedient to adopt it, since a second branch has been added to it to-day. By this second branch, the committee is to be instructed to inquire whether it be expedient to adopt measures to hasten the sales, and extend more rapidly the surveys of the public lands.
Now it appears, Mr. President, that, in forty years, we have sold no more than about twenty millions of acres of public lands. The annual sales do not now exceed, and never have exceeded, one million of acres. A million a year is, according to our experience, as much as the increase of population can bring into settlement. And it appears, also, that we have, at this moment, surveyed and in the market, ready for sale, two hundred and ten millions of acres, or thereabouts. All this vast mass, at this moment, lies on our hands for mere want of purchasers. Can any man, looking to the real interests of the country and the people, seriously think of inquiring whether we ought not to hasten the public surveys still faster, and to bring, still more and more rapidly, other vast quantities into the market? The truth is, that, rapidly as population has increased, the surveys have, nevertheless, outrun our wants. There are more lands than purchasers. They are now sold at low prices, and taken up as fast as the increase of people furnishes hands to take them up.
It is obvious, that no artificial regulation, no forcing of sales, no giving away of the lands even, can produce any great and sudden augmentation of population. The ratio of increase, though great, has its bounds. Hands for labor are multiplied only at a certain rate. The lands cannot be settled but by settlers, nor faster than settlers can be found. A system, if now adopted, of forcing sales, at whatever prices, may have the effect of throwing large quantities into the hands of individuals, who would in this way, in time, become themselves competitors with the government in the sale of land. My own opinion has uniformly been, that the public lands should be offered freely, and at low prices; so as to encourage settlement and cultivation as rapidly as the increasing population of the country is competent to extend settlement and cultivation. Every actual settler should be able to buy good land, at a cheap rate; but, on the other hand, speculation by individuals on a large scale should not be encouraged, nor should the value of all lands, sold and unsold, be reduced to nothing, by throwing new and vast quantities into the market at prices merely nominal.
I now proceed, Sir, to some of the opinions expressed by the gentleman from South Carolina. Two or three topics were touched by him, in regard to which he expressed sentiments in which I do not at all concur.
In the first place, Sir, the honorable gentleman spoke of the whole course and policy of the government towards those who have purchased and settled the public lands, and seemed to think this policy wrong.
He held it to have been, from the first, hard and rigorous; he was of opinion, that the United States had acted towards those who had subdued the Western wilderness in the spirit of a step-mother; that the public domain had been improperly regarded as a source of revenue; and that we had rigidly compelled payment for that which ought to have been given away. He said we ought to have imitated the example of other governments, which had acted on a much more liberal system than ours, in planting colonies. He dwelt, particularly, upon the settlement of America by colonies from Europe; and reminded us, that their governments had not exacted from those colonies payment for the soil. In reference to them, he said, it had been thought that the conquest of the wilderness was itself an equivalent for the soil, and he lamented that we had not followed that example, and pursued the same liberal course towards our own emigrants to the West.
Now, Sir, I deny, altogether, that there has been any thing harsh or severe in the policy of the government towards the new States of the West. On the contrary, I maintain that it has
, uniformly pursued towards those States a liberal and enlightened system, such as its own duty allowed and required, and such as their interest and welfare demanded. The government
has been no step-mother to the new States. She has not been careless of their interests, nor deaf to their requests; but from the first moment when the territories which now form those States were ceded to the Union, down to the time in which I am now speaking, it has been the invariable object of the government, to dispose of the soil according to the true spirit of the obligation under which it received it; to hasten its settlement and cultivation, as far and as fast as practicable; and to rear the new communities into new and independent States, at the earliest moment of their being able, by their numbers, to form a regular government.
I do not admit, Sir, that the analogy to which the gentleman refers us is just, or that the cases are at all similar. There is no resemblance between the cases, upon which a statesman can found an argument. The original North American colonists either fled from Europe, like our New England ancestors, to avoid persecution, or came hither at their own charges, and often at the ruin of their fortunes, as private adventurers. Generally speaking, they derived neither succor nor protection from their governments at home. Wide, indeed, is the difference between those cases and ours. From the very origin of the government, these Western lands, and the just protection of those who had settled or should settle on them, have been the leading objects in our policy, and have led to expenditures, both of blood and treasure, not inconsiderable; not, indeed, exceeding the importance of the object, and not yielded grudgingly; but yet entitled to be regarded as great, though necessary sacrifices, made for high, proper ends. The Indian title has been extinguished at the expense of many millions. Is that nothing? There is still a much more material consideration. These colonists, if we are to call them so, in passing the Alleghanies, did not pass beyond the care and protection of their own government. Whereever they went, the public arm was still stretched over them. A parental government at home was still ever mindful of their condition and their wants, and nothing was spared which a just sense of their necessities required. Is it forgotten that it was one of the most arduous duties of the government, in its earliest years, to defend the frontiers against the Northwestern Indians ? Are the sufferings and misfortunes under Harmar and St. Clair not worthy to be remembered ? Do the occurrences
connected with these military efforts show an unfeeling neglect of Western interests? And here, Sir, what becomes of the gentleman's analogy? What English armies accompanied our ancestors to clear the forests of a barbarous foe? What treasures of the exchequer were expended in buying up the original title to the soil? What governmental arm held its ægis over our fathers' heads, as they pioneered their way in the wilderness? Sir, it was not till General Wayne's victory, in 1794, that it could be said we had conquered the savages. It was not till that period that the government could have considered itself as having established an entire ability to protect those who should undertake the conquest of the wilderness.
And here, Sir, at the epoch of 1794, let us pause and survey the scene, as it actually existed thirty-five years ago. Let us look back and behold it. Over all that is now Ohio there then stretched one vast wilderness, unbroken except by two small spots of civilized culture, the one at Marietta and the other at Cincinnati. At these little openings, hardly each a pin's point upon
the arm of the frontier-man had levelled the forest and let in the sun. These little patches of earth, themselves almost overshadowed by the overhanging boughs of that wilderness which had stood and perpetuated itself, from century to century, ever since the creation, were all that had then been rendered verdant by the hand of man. In an extent of hundreds and thousands of square miles, no other surface of smiling green attested the presence of civilization. The hunter's path crossed mighty rivers, flowing in solitary grandeur, whose sources lay in remote and unknown regions of the wilderness. It struck upon the north on a vast inland sea, over which the wintry tempests raged as on the ocean; all around was bare creation. It was fresh, untouched, unbounded, magnificent wilderness.
And, Sir, what is it now? Is it imagination only, or can it possibly be fact, that presents such a change as surprises and astonishes us when we turn our eyes to what Ohio now is? Is it reality, or a dream, that, in so short a period even as thirty-five years, there has sprung up, on the same surface, an independent State with a million of people? A million of inhabitants! an amount of population greater than that of all the cantons of Switzerland; equal to one third of all the people of the United States when they undertook to accomplish their independence. This new member of the republic has already left far behind her a majority of the old States. She is now by the side of Virginia and Pennsylvania; and in point of numbers will shortly admit no equal but New York herself. If, Sir, we may judge of measures by their results, what lessons do these facts read us upon the policy of the government? What inferences do they authorize upon the general question of kindness or unkindness? What convictions do they enforce as to the wisdom and ability, on the one hand, or the folly and incapacity, on the other, of our general administration of Western affairs ? Sir, does it not require some portion of self-respect in us to imagine, that, if our light had shone on the path of government, if our wisdom could have been consulted in its measures, a more rapid advance to strength and prosperity would have been experienced? For my own part, while I am struck with wonder at the success, I also look with admiration at the wisdom and foresight which originally arranged and prescribed the system for the settlement of the public domain. Its operation has been, without a moment's interruption, to push the settlement of the Western country to the extent of our utmost means.
But, Sir, to return to the remarks of the honorable member from South Carolina. He says that Congress has sold these lands and put the money into the treasury, while other governments, acting in a more liberal spirit, gave away their lands; and that we ought also to have given ours away. I shall not stop to state an account between our revenues derived from land, and our expenditures in Indian treaties and Indian wars. But I must refer the honorable gentleman to the origin of our own title to the soil of these territories, and remind him that we received them on conditions and under trusts which would have been violated by giving the soil away. For compliance with those conditions, and the just execution of those trusts, the public faith was solemnly pledged. The public lands of the United States have been derived from four principal sources. First, cessions made to the United States by individual States, on the recommendation or request of the old Congress; secondly, the compact with Georgia, in 1802; thirdly, the purchase of Louisiana, in 1803; fourthly, the purchase of Florida, in 1819. of the first class, the most important was the cession by Virginia of all her right and title, as well of soil as jurisdiction, to all VOL. III.