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The resolution was introduced on the 29th of December, 1829, as follows:"Resolved, That the Committee on Public Lands be instructed to inquire and report the quantity of public lands remaining unsold within each State and Territory. And whether it be expedient to limit, for a certain period, the sales of the public lands to such lands only as have heretofore been offered for sale, and are now subject to entry at the minimum price. And, also, whether the office of Surveyor General, and some of the land offices, may not be abolished without detriment to the public interest; or whether it be expedient to adopt measures to hasten the sales and extend more rapidly the surveys of the public lands." On the 18th of January, Mr. Benton of Missouri addressed the Senate; and on the 19th, Mr. Hayne, of South Carolina, proceeded in the debate, and spoke at considerable length. After he had concluded Mr. Webster rose to reply, but gave way, on motion of Mr. Benton for an adjournment.

On the 20th, Mr. Webster took the floor, and spoke as follows:

NOTHING has been farther from my intention than to take any part in the discussion of this resolution. It proposes only an inquiry on a subject of much importance, and one in regard to which it might strike the mind of the mover, and of other gentlemen, that inquiry and investigation would be useful. Although I am one of those who do not perceive any particular utility in instituting the inquiry, I have, nevertheless, not seen that harm would be likely to result from adopting the resolution. Indeed, it gives no new powers and hardly imposes any new duty, on 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, that, in forty years, Mr. President, 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. it appears, also, that we have, at this moment, sir, 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 still faster to hasten the public surveys, 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, outran 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 yet 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 stepmother; 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 followed the analogy of other governments, which had acted on a much more liberal system than ours, in planting colonies. dwelt, particularly, upon the settlement of America by colonies from Europe; and reminded us, that their governments had not exacted from those colonists payment for the soil; with 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 anything 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 stepmother 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 equal 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 succour 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 or reluctantly, certainly; but yet not inconsiderable, 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 Alleghany, did not pass beyond the care and protection of their own government. Wherever 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. It is now thirtyfive years since that scene actually existed. Let us, sir, 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 map, the arm of the frontierman had levelled the forest, and let in the sun. little patches of earth, and 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 civilisation. 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 authorise, 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 strengtk 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 full 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. Second. The compact with Georgia, in 1802. Third. The purchase of Louisiana in 1803. Fourth. 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 the territory within the limits of her charter, lying to the northwest of the river Ohio. It may not be ill timed to recur to the causes and occasions of this and the other similar grants.

When the war of the revolution broke out, a great difference existed in different states, in the proportion between people and territory. The northern and eastern states, with very small surfaces, contained comparatively a thick population, and there was generally within their limits, no great quantity of waste lands belonging to the government, or the crown of England. On the contrary, there were in the southern states, in Virginia and in Georgia for example, extensive public domains, wholly unsettled, and belonging to the crown. As these possessions would necessarily fall from the crown, in the event of a prosperous issue of the war, it was insisted that they ought to devolve on the United States, for the good of the whole. The war, it was argued, was undertaken and carried on at the common expense of all the colonies; its benefits, if successful, ought also to be common; and the property of the common enemy, when vanquished, ought to be regarded as the general acquisition of all. While yet the war was raging, it was contended that Congress ought to have the power to dispose of vacant and unpatented lands, commonly called crown lands, for defraying the expenses of the war, and for other public and general purposes. "Reason and Justice," said the Assembly of New Jersey, in 1778, "must decide, that the property which existed in the crown of Great Britain, previous to the present revolution, ought now to belong to the Congress, in trust for the use and benefit of the United States. They have fought and bled for it, in proportion to their respective abilities, and therefore the reward ought not to be predilectionally distributed. Shall such states as are shut out, by situation, from availing themselves of the least advantage from this quarter, be left to sink under an enormous debt, whilst others are enabled, in a short period, to replace all their expenditures from the hard earnings of the whole confederacy?"

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