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Page:Register of debates in congress, v6.djvu/73

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never seen any more difficulty, in erecting light houses on the lakes, than on the ocean; in improving the harbors of inland seas, than if they were within the ebb and flow of the tide; or of removing obstructions in the vast streams of the West, more than in any work to facilitate commerce on the Atlantic coast. If there be power for one, there is power also for the other; and they are all and equally for the country.

There are other objects, apparently more local, or the benefit of which is less general, towards which, nevertheless, I have concurred, with others, to give aid, by donations of land. It is proposed to construct a road, in or through one of the new States, in which this Government possesses large quantities of land. Have the United States no right, as a great and untaxed proprietor, are they under no obligation, to contribute to an object thus calculated to promote the common good of all the proprietors, themselves included? And even with respect to education, which is the extreme case, let the question be considered. In the first place, as we have seen, it was made matter of compact with these States, that they should do their part to promote education. In the next place, our whole system of land laws proceeds on the idea that education is for the common good; because, in every division, a certain portion is uniformly reserved and appropriated for the use of schools. And, finally, have not these new States singularly strong claims, founded on the ground already stated, that the Government is a great untaxed proprietor, in the ownership of the soil? It is a consideration of great importance, that, probably, there is in no part of the country, or of the world, so great call for the means of education, as in those new States; owing to the vast numbers of persons within those ages in which education and instruction are usually received, if received at all. This is the natural consequence of recency of settlement and rapid increase. The census of these States shows how great a proportion of the whole population occupies the classes between infancy and manhood. These are the wide fields, and here is the deep and quick soil, for the seeds of knowledge and virtue; and this is the favored season, the very spring-time for sowing them. Let them be disseminated without stint. Let them be scattered with a bountiful, broad cast. Whatever the Government can fairly do towards these objects, in my opinion, ought to be done.

These, sir, are the grounds, succinctly stated, on which my votes for grants of lands for particular objects rest; while I maintain, at the same time, that it is all a common fund, for the common benefit. And reasons like these, I presume, have influenced the votes of other gentlemen from New England. Those who have a different view of the powers of the Government, of course, come to different conclusions, on these, as on other questions. I observed, when speaking on this subject before, that, if we looked to any measure, whether for a road, a canal, or any thing else, intended for the improvement of the West, it would be found, that, if the New England ayes were struck out of the lists of votes, the Southern noes would always have rejected the measure. The truth of this has not been denied, and cannot be denied. In stating this, I thought it just to ascribe it to the constitutional scruples of the South, rather than to any other less favorable or less charitable cause. But no sooner had I done this, than the honorable gentleman asks if I reproach him and his friends with their constitutional scruples. Sir, I reproach nobody—I stated a fact, and gave the most respectful reason for it that occurred to me. The gentleman cannot deny the fact; he may, if he choose, disclaim the reason. It is not long since I had occasion, in presenting a petition from his own State, to account for its being entrusted to my hands, by saying, that the constitutional opinions of the gentleman and his worthy colleague, prevented them from supporting it. Sir, did I state this as matter of reproach? Far from it. Did I attempt to find any other cause than an honest one, for these scruples? Sir, I did not. It did not become me to doubt nor to insinuate that the gentleman had either changed his sentiments, or that he had made up a set of constitutional opinions, accommodated to any particular combination of political occurrences. Had I done so, I should have felt, that, while I was entitled to little credit in thus questioning other people’s motives, I justified the whole world in suspecting my own. But how has the gentleman returned this respect for others’ opinions? His own candor and justice, how have they been exhibited towards the motives of others, while he has been at so much pains to maintain, what nobody has disputed, the purity of his own? Why, sir, he has asked when, and how, and why, New England votes were found going for measures favorable to the West? He has demanded to be informed whether all this did not begin in 1825; and while the election of President was still pending? Sir, to these questions retort would be justified; and it is both cogent, and at hand. Nevertheless, I will answer the inquiry, not by retort, but by facts. I will tell the gentleman when, and how, and why, New England has supported measures favorable to the West. I have already referred to the early history of the Government—to the first acquisition of the lands—to the original laws for disposing of them, and for governing the territories where they lie; and have shown the influence of New England men and New England principles in all these leading measures. I should not be pardoned were I to go over that ground again. Coming to more recent times, and to measures of a less general character, I have endeavored to prove that every thing of this kind, designed for Western improvement, has depended on the votes of New England; all this is true beyond the power of contradiction.

And now, sir, there are two measures to which I will refer, not so ancient as to belong to the early history of the public lands, and not so recent as to be on this side of the period when the gentleman charitably imagines a new direction may have been given to New England feeling and New England votes. These measures, and the New England votes in support of them, may be taken as samples and specimens of all the rest.

In 1820, (observe, Mr. President, in 1820 ,) the People of the West besought Congress for a reduction in the price of lands. In favor of that reduction, New England, with a delegation of forty members in the other House, gave thirty-three votes, and one only against it. The four Southern States, with fifty members, gave thirty-two votes for it, and seven against it. Again, in 1821, (observe, again, Sir, the time,) the law passed for the relief of the purchasers of the public lands. This was a measure of vital importance to the West, and more especially to the Southwest. It authorized the relinquishment of contracts for lands, which had been entered into at high prices, and a reduction in the other cases of not less than 37½ per cent on the purchase money. Many millions of dollars—six or seven I believe, at least, probably much more—were relinquished by this law. On this bill, New England, with her forty members, gave more affirmative votes than the four Southern States, with their fifty-two or three members.

These two are far the most important measures respecting the public lands, which have been adopted within the last twenty years. They took place in 1820 and 1821. That is the time when. And as to the manner how, the gentleman already sees that, it was by voting, in solid column, for the required relief: and lastly, as to the cause why, I tell the gentleman, it was because the members from New England thought the measures just and salutary; because they entertained towards the West, neither envy, hatred, or malice; because they deemed it becoming them, as just and enlightened public men, to meet the exigency