humility, to submit. And yet, the gentleman will pardon me when I say, that it is a little unfortunate for the fame of this great legislator, that the gentleman from Missouri should have proved that he was not the author of the ordinance of ’ 87, on which the Senator from Massachusetts has reared so glorious a monument to his name. Sir, I doubt not the Senator will feel some compassion for our ignorance, when I tell him, that so little are we acquainted with the modern great men of New England, that, until he informed us yesterday, that we possessed a Solon and a Lycurgus in the person of Nathan Dane, he was only known to the South as a member of a celebrated assembly called and known by the name of “the Hartford Convention.” In the proceedings of that assembly, which I hold in my hand, (at page 19) will be found, in a few lines, the history of Nathan Dane; and a little further on, there is conclusive evidence of that ardent devotion to the interests of the new States, which it seems, has given him a just claim to the title of “Father of the West.” By the 2 d resolution of the “Hartford Convention,” it is declared, “that it is expedient to attempt to make provision for restraining Congress in the exercise of an unlimited power to make new States, and admitting them into the Union.” So much for Nathan Dane, of Beverly, Massachusetts.
In commenting upon my views in relation to the public lands, the gentleman insists that it being one of the conditions of the grants, that these lands should be applied to “the common benefit of all the States, they must always remain a fund for revenue,” and adds, “they must be treated as so much treasure.” Sir, the gentleman could hardly find language strong enough to convey his disapprobation of the policy which I had ventured to recommend to the favorable consideration of the country. And what, sir, was that policy, and what is the difference between that gentleman and myself, on this subject? I threw out the idea, that the public lands ought not to be reserved forever as “a great fund for revenue;” that they ought not to be “treated as a great treasure;” but that the course of our policy should rather be directed towards the creation of new States, and building up great and flourishing communities.
Now, Sir, will it be believed, by those who now hear me, and who listened to the gentleman’s denunciation of my doctrines yesterday, that a book then lay open before him, nay, that he held it in his hand, and read from it certain passages of his own speech, delivered to the House of Representatives, in 1825, in which speech he himself contended for the very doctrines I had advocated, and almost in the same terms. Here is the speech of the Hon. Daniel Webster, contained in the first volume of Gales and Seaton’s Register of Debates, (p. 251) delivered in the House of Representatives, on the 18th January, 1825, in a debate on the Cumberland Road—the very debate from which the Senator read yesterday. I shall read from this celebrated speech two passages, from which it will appear that, both as to the past and the future policy of the Government in relation to the public lands, the gentleman from Massachusetts maintained, in 1825, substantially the same opinions which I have advanced, but which he now so strongly reprobates. I said, sir, that the system of credit sales, by which the West had been kept constantly in debt to the United States, and by which their wealth was drained off to be expended elsewhere, had operated injuriously on their prosperity. On this point the gentleman from Massachusetts, in January, 1825, expressed himself thus: “There could be no doubt, if gentlemen looked at the money received into the treasury from the sale of the public lands to the West, and then looked to the whole amount expended by Government, (even including the whole of what was laid out for the army) the latter must be allowed to be very inconsiderable, and there must be a constant drain of money from the West to pay for the public lands. It might, indeed, be said that this was no more than the refluence of capital which had previously gone over the mountains. Be it so. Still its practical effect was to produce inconvenience, if not distress, by absorbing the money of the people.”
I contended that the public lands ought not to be treated merely as “a fund for revenue,” that they ought not to be hoarded “as a great treasure.” On this point the Senator expressed himself thus: “Government, he believed, had received eighteen or twenty millions of dollars from the public lands, and it was with the greatest satisfaction he adverted to the change which had been introduced in the mode of paying for them; yet he could never think the national domain was to be regarded as any great source of revenue. The great object of the Government in respect to those lands, was not so much the money derived from their sale, as it was the getting of them settled. What he meant to say was, that he did not think they ought to hug that domain as a great treasure, which was to enrich the exchequer.”
Now, Mr. President, it will be seen that the very doctrines which the gentleman so indignantly abandons, were urged by him in 1825; and if I had actually borrowed my sentiments from those which he then avowed, I could not have followed more closely in his footsteps. Sir, it is only since the gentleman quoted this book, yesterday, that my attention has been turned to the sentiments he expressed in 1825, and, if I had remembered them, I might possibly have been deterred from uttering sentiments here which, it might well be supposed, I had borrowed from that gentleman.
In 1825, the gentleman told the world, that the public lands “ought not to be treated as a treasure.” He now tells us, that “they must be treated as so much treasure.” What the deliberate opinion of the gentleman on this subject may be, belongs not to me to determine; but, I do not think he can, with the shadow of justice or propriety, impugn my sentiments, while his own recorded opinions are identical with my own. When the gentleman refers to the conditions of the grants under which the United States have acquired these lands, and insists that, as they are declared to be “for the common benefit of all the States,” they can only be treated as so much treasure, I think he has applied a rule of construction too narrow for the case. If, in the deeds of cession, it has been declared that the grants were intended for “the common benefit of all the States,” it is clear, from other provisions, that they were not intended merely as so much property: for, it is expressly declared that the object of the grants is the erection of new States; and the United States, in accepting the trust, bind themselves to facilitate the foundation of these States, to be admitted into the Union with all the rights and privileges of the original States. This, sir, was the great end to which all parties looked, and it is by the fulfilment of this high trust, that “the common benefit of all the States” is to be best promoted. Sir, let me tell the gentleman, that, in the part of the country in which I live, we do not measure political benefits by the money standard. We consider as more valuable than gold—liberty, principle, and justice. But, sir, if we are bound to act on the narrow principles contended for by the gentleman, I am wholly at a loss to conceive how he can reconcile his principles with his own practice. The lands are, it seems, to be treated “as so much treasure,” and must be applied to the “common benefit of all the States.” Now, if this be so, whence does he derive the right to appropriate them for partial and local objects? How can the gentleman consent to vote away immense bodies of these lands—for canals in Indiana and Illinois, to the Louisville and Portland Canal, to Kenyon College in Ohio, to Schools for the Deaf and Dumb, and other objects of a similar description? If grants of this character can fairly be considered as made “for the common benefit of all the States,” it