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Relief to Land Purchasers.
according to the contract, is not expired. It is evident that they have received no indulgence, and can receive none, if this proposition should succeed. Would this be fair? would it be equal? would it be just? I think not. Their condition would be worse than that of those going before or coming after them. It would be an odious anomaly, marring the harmony and beauty of your system.
The gentleman from Tennessee contends that the late purchasers, particularly those in Alabama, are better entitled to relief than others, because they have purchased at enormous prices. This is very true, and I concur entirely in his opinion. Sir, the situation of Alabama is peculiar, is critical, is deplorable. Relief that will be efficient and adequate for the other new States, would be much less so for her. Time alone would do nothing for her, except in the cases of the fortunate few who made their purchases at reasonable rates. For others we must resort to very different provisions, which I shall take the liberty to suggest in the further progress of this bill.
But, Mr. President, this is a great national question, which, however deeply and pre-eminently it may concern Alabama, does not concern Alabama alone; it embraces the Union. When we act on it, we must look at the paramount interests of the entire Confederacy. We must frame a system which shall be general, which shall take in the whole, and particular hardships are incident to all such general measures. They may be deplored, but they must be submitted to. But I shall have more to say on this point in its proper place. Meantime, I content myself with repeating that this object of the honorable gentleman from Tennessee may be obtained directly by an amendment, more conveniently than by the circuitous process of recommitment.
The second object of a recommitment is to confine the relief proposed by the bill to actual settlers only-to those who had made an actual settlement before the 30th October, 1820. Those who have not made such settlement are denounced as speculators, and speculators are entitled to no redress. Speculation ought to be repressed and discountenanced, and subjected to the ban of penalty and forfeiture. I know this Senate too well; I have too high a respect for its intelligence and liberality to suppose, for a moment, that it is in danger of being misled by a name. I can see nothing in the nature and reason of the thing which calls upon Congress, acting for the United States at large, to make the discrimination proposed. It is in the nature of a premium on actual settlement, a bounty for removing from the old States to the new. It supposes that there is something of positive merit in such removal, which is entitled to reward. If this be so, why not proclaim the fact? Why not embody it in your system? Why not make the advantage known before the sale? Why not draw your line of distinction prospectively, and not retrospectively? Why hold out the same terms to all, if you do not intend to mete out to all the same equal measure of justice? Sir, it seems to me that you are foreclosed, in all equity and good conscience, from making this distinction. It is not
"in the bond." Your faith is pledged, and you are bound, in all fair construction of the contract, to make no such distinction. I speak now of the Union. With regard to the new States, the question assumes a totally different aspect and character. Population is their strength. They desire, for the most obvious and cogent reasons, to increase it. Every immigrant not only adds to their numerical force, but he brings from abroad an accession to their wealth. He improves the soil; he supports the local government; he imparts new vigor to the body politic; he gives new value to every thing around him. Well may the new States, therefore, be ready to welcome him. They, indeed, might very naturally be willing to make distinctions in his behalf. But can they do so? Have you left them at liberty to pursue a course so obviously advantageous to them? You have done no such thing. As if foreseeing this very result, you have taken the precaution, as far as in you lay, to tie up their hands. You have looked at the interest of the whole, and not of a part. You have regarded the public lands as the domain of the nation. Your object has been to sell them for the highest price. You invite all the world to the auction. The only condition of the sale is, that the highest bidder shall be the purchaser. You do not inquire whether he live in Maine, or on the lakes, on the Gulf of Mexico, or at the foot of the Stony mountains. He may reside in terra incognita, or the moon. You ask not, you cannot. All you ask is his money. You want a chapman, who will give the highest price for your commodity. You do not limit the quantity which an individual may buy. His purse and his judgment are left to fix the limit. You do not require him to erect a cabin, or girdle a tree. The property is his, and he is allowed "to manage his own concern in his own way." But do you stop here? Do you content yourselves with this negative legislation? You do not, sir. You go still further, and, lest the new States, in their sovereign capacities, and for their local interests, should make discriminations in the burdens which they may see proper to impose on the soil, you cautiously restrain them, and you declare "that the lands of non-residents shall never be taxed higher than the lands of residents." This article enters into every act by which any of your Territories has been authorized to become a State. It is part of the consideration of admission into the federal family. It is of permanent obligation, and cannot be rescinded without your consent. Thus careful have you been to protect the rights of purchasers, let them live where they may; and this policy increased the number of bidders, and enhanced the value of your lands. But when have you required actual settlement as a condition of the purchase? When have you made distinctions in favor of actual settlers? How often have you refused any particular advantages to squatters? And will you make a difference after the sale which you did not make before? And will you tie the hands of the new States, lest they should follow their particular interests, to your prejudice, while you yourselves commit a gratuitous injustice-an injustice the
Relief to Land Purchasers.
more cruel, from the very pains which you have taken to mask it? But, whatever may be the decision of the Senate on this point, it should not be forgotten that a recommitment is not necessary to attain it.
The third object of a recommitment is, to exclude town sites from the operation and benefits of the bill. These, again, have been matter of speculation and profit, and ought to be beyond the pale of relief; and the gentleman tells us that the town companies and other companies of speculators, bid up the lands to enormous prices, and excessively enhanced their value in the market. And he quotes a case, in Alabama, where a town company gave upwards of eighty thousand dollars for less than three thousand acres. Here, then, the speculators gave more than twenty-four dollars the acre; and must have paid for the first instalment only, upwards of twenty thousand dollarswhen the fee-simple, at the minimum price, would have been less than six thousand. And who was the receiver of this enormous sum? Your Treasury, sir. It has already in its vaults more than the entire value of the land. Yes, sir, the Government is, in reality, the great land speculator. Your system is built upon speculation. You have encouraged and fostered it; you have lent it aid and inducement; you have shared in its gains; your cryers have set forth your commodity with all the art and eloquence of auctioneers. All the blandishments of description have been lavished; the eager excitement of public competition has been employed; and now you stigmatize your dupes and repel them from your clemency. But, if it shall be the good pleasure of the Senate to exclude town sites from the benefits of the bill, I shall acquiesce. I do not object. But let this be done by a direct amendment; and do not send back the bill to a committee for such a purpose. This is, in fact, but a trifling matter-a mere affair of detail; and I am ashamed to have occupied your attention on it so long. I will pass to considerations of higher import.
Let us look, then, Mr. President, at the bill itself; let us examine, a little more nearly, the system of relief which it proposes; let us inquire into its inducements and its objects, and estimate the force of the motives by which it appeals to our support. This is the more necessary at this time, since to recommit with specific instructions is to pass on its merit or demerit; is to fix principles; is, in short, to decide the fate of the bill. I consider the whole question as now fairly and fully before us; and I am encouraged to go on by the wish of certain gentlemen near me, to whom the subject of the public lands, in its multiform character and interest, is not very familiar.
The national domain is of immense extent, and stretches over regions of every variety of soil. I shall not enter into the history of its acquisition. It is with your mode of disposing of it, that we have to do. This was, for a considerable period, variant and irregular. But in 1802 you adopted a regular, well-defined, and comprehensive system, which continued to be in operation until the 1st of July, 1820. By this system, the lands were laid 16th CoN. 2d SESS.-8
off in townships of six miles square, each contain ing thirty-six sections; which, again, were subdivided into quarters, of one hundred and sixty acres each. This was the smallest subdivision known to your law until 1817, when six sections in each township were made divisible, at the option of the purchaser, into tracts of eighty acres, or halfquarter sections. So much for the mode of survey, and the size of the tracts: and so far your system was beautiful and excellent. It still remains without alteration, except that every section is now divisible into half quarters: an alteration which, while it did not impair the beauty and harmony of the system, was of the highest political importance, as tending directly to increase the number of freeholders-the strength and glory of a nation.
The land, so divided, was sold at public auction to the highest bidder. One fourth of the purchase money was paid in hand, and the residue was payable in three instalments, of two, three, and four years, bearing interest from the date of the purchase, if not punctually paid; and, if any portion of the purchase money remained unpaid at the expiration of five years from the date of the purchase, the land became forfeited to the United States, and was re-sold for their benefit. It could not be sold for less than the whole sum remaining unpaid, including interest: but if sold for more than that sum, the excess was paid to the former purchaser. I forbear to mention other particulars of detail, as unnecessary to my present purpose.
What was the practical result of this system? An enormous debt, sir, continually accumulating, growing with the growth of the new States, until, on the 30th of September, 1819, it had amounted up to the frightful sum of upwards of twenty-two millions of dollars! Half of which had been added during the last two years immediately preceding that date. This was the radical defect of the system. The debt was always growing, with an accelerating ratio, at an average of more than a million a year, until it hung like an ugly excrescence over half the Republic. You began to regard it with an eye of apprehension. You saw in the relation of debtor and creditor something unbefitting the relation of the citizen towards the Government. Too much might be expected on the one hand, and too much or too little refused or granted on the other. The very magnitude of the debt was alarming, especially when considered in connexion with its inherent vice of continual increase. Its locality, too, was not without interest. It was not diffused in equal ratio over all parts of the Union. It was confined to the new States. These, standing in the same situation, must be supposed to have a common feeling, as well as a common interest, on this subject. Their number was increasing, their population augmenting with unparalleled rapidity. Their representation in the councils of the Union were increasing, pari passu, with their population. Already it was nearly one-third of this body. What might not be feared from this debt when it should have reached a hundred millions, when the debtors should constitute half your numerical force, and occupy the largest and fairest portion of your em
Relief to Land Purchasers.
pire? The apprehension of evil seemed natural
value, was greater than it is now, in the proportion of eight to five. But transfer and deduction of three-eighths from the original price would do this in a great degree; and purchasers would only get the same quantity and the same tracts which they would have bought originally, had the sales been made for cash only. I shall therefore at a proper time move an amendment combining these principles.
The second section of the bill allows a deduction for prompt payment. It is to be observed that a very large portion of this enormous sum of twentyfive millions outstanding and unpaid is not yet due, especially in Alabama. The day of grace is still distant-in many cases several years. The object of this section is to hasten the extinction of these future debts, by holding out to your debtors inducements to make such a course desirable to them on the score of interest. They may "owe you a debt, but they would be loth to pay you before your day." If you wish to anticipate that day, you must appeal to their interest; you must offer some consideration-some motive-and this is presented in the shape of this allowance or discount. This is still in blank. It is obvious that the amount to be derived immediately from this section will depend very much upon the rate of discount. The more liberal the deduction, the greater the prompt payments. This is the opinion of the Secretary of the Treasury, who proposes the principles of this bill in aid of the finances. Of one thing I am convinced that more money will be obtained by the bill than ever would be obtained without it. Five-eighths of the purchase-money is much more than Alabama lands could be sold for. The amount of the first payment-the first instalment, as it is popularly called-could not, in innumerable instances, be had for them. This is not an idle conjecture; it is a fact proved recently by actual sales. The lands in Colbert's reserve were sold at Huntsville last autumn under your new cash law; and, although their situation is superior to any in the Tennessee valley, they did not on the average bring so much as the first instalment of adjoining lands of equal quality sold two years before. In very many cases, indeed, I have no doubt that it would be more advantageous to purchasers to incur a forfeiture, and buy again, rather than seek relief under this bill. They would make money by it in the end. But this course would require patience and courage. It must encounter the vexation of delay and suspense-the most tormenting state of the mind. It would arrest improvement, and it would not be unmixed with apprehension. Great exertions, therefore, under the operation of proper inducements, would be made to prevent forfeiture. Men form attachments to the chosen spots-they But the privilege of transfer merely-of remov- are endeared by a thousand agreeable and powering payments made on a tract surrendered, and ful associations and much would be sacrificed to applying them to the discharge of the debt on the preserve them from risk. Yes, sir, the settler has tract retained-does not equalize conditions, and fixed his heart on the spot of his choice. It is his put purchasers under the old system on the footing home. It is improved by his labor, embellished of those who buy for cash, because each and every by his taste, in part paid for by his money. It conpurchase was bottomed on the indefinite credit tains the cabin which shelters his wife and chilallowed for the three last instalments; and because dren, and which may have been their tower of the minimum price, and consequently the current | refuge from the tomahawk and scalping-knife.
The privilege of transfer is of the first importance. It is an admirable expedient for lessening the debt, without sacrificing the interest of either party; and it will be worth more, especially to Alabama, than all the other provisions of the bill. It will afford great relief to thousands. It will enable them to save some portion of their lands; it will release them from debt, by abandoning what they cannot pay for; it will save their money from being swallowed up for nothing; it will prevent forfeiture, and the distress and odium attendant on forfeiture-distress to the citizen and odium to the Government; while it puts at once into the hands of the United States land which will bring its fair value in cash, and which may thus be resold without exciting public sympathy for the first purchaser, who would always profit by it in cases of involuntary forfeiture; and, above all, it will diminish the great land debt more than any other feature of the bill. This principle, I shall hope, then, will receive the unanimous sanction of the Senate.
Relief to Land Purchasers.
The little orchard is of his own planting; the little garden smiles from the culture of his wife; his old friends, who have followed him to the wilderness, neighbor around him. These are items of that strong passionate predilection with which you have to deal'; but this predilection has its limits. These ties are strong, but they may be broken.
Mr. President, Congress can fix the value of lands in the new States and Territories. You can raise and depress it at pleasure. The price between individuals must bear some relation to that of the Government. Mr. Crawford admits this frankly, and argues from it, with truth and force, proving that this immense domain of the Union must leave this power for a long time to come in your hands. Of that immense domain, what a small speck has been sold! How little, comparatively, has been even surveyed! Vast regions In Alabama, for instance, eight years from the remain still covered by Indian title. Your official date of the purchase, had been already granted to agents estimate the total number of acres to which debtors in Madison county, and on the Tombigbee; the Indian title has been extinguished at 191,978,- and at the unfortunate sales of 1817 and 1818 no 536! the number of acres surveyed at 72,805,092! man calculated on a shorter term. Congress was and the number sold at 18,601,930! The differ- considered to be pledged, in good faith and equal ference in these aggregates is prodigious. You dealing, to indulge them as much as it had indulged are still, and must long remain, a mighty monop- others. This cry was in everybody's mouth. This olist. You can regulate the price of your commod- was regarded as a tacit condition of the contract; ity at will. You do so regulate it. The entire and it was a consideration which, whether true or minimum now is less by one-sixth than three- false, operated powerfully and universally: I need fourths of the old minimum; and, where the lands not say how ruinously, if you now refuse what are of equal value, must effectually disable the you never refused before. But this you will not credit purchaser from entering the market as your do. You will not subject yourselves to the impucompetitor, unless at the absolute loss of three-tation of hard-heartedness and partiality. To reeighths of his capital. Can individuals sell their fuse time now to those who have had no indulgence, land for two dollars, when your price is one dollar would be unequal and unjust; and this is the case and a quarter? Their certificates, with the first with nearly all Alabama, who needs relief the payment made, would not be received as a present, most, and has the strongest claims upon you for it. under the condition of completing the purchase The credit purchasers calculated on the indefiaccording to the terms of the original contract, as nite continuance, if not the perpetuity, of the systhere would remain to be paid one dollar and a At any rate, they were innocent purchasers, half, and the donee would be a clear loser by for a fair consideration, and they have a fair equitwenty-five cents the acre! The same relation of table claim to be relieved and protected against an prices exists, whatever may be the cost of the land. act of the other party to the contract, which lessens The diminution of actual current value is real and directly and necessarily, in their hands, the value absolute, and universal. And this diminished value of the property which they had purchased. proceeds from the act of the Government. Yes, sir, from your own act. Will you thus vitally affect the condition of your debtor, and afford him no redress? Will you suddenly lessen the value of the article, after the sale, and still exact the full price? Will you lessen his ability to pay, and yet require "the utmost mite ?" Will you insist on the pound of flesh," because it is so written "in the bond?" I think you will not: I am sure you ought not.
What sort of comparison, then, can there be between the motives to afford relief heretofore, and those which call for it now? Then, there was no chance of system, no reduction of price, no diminution of value; and the amount of the debt was annually increasing; yet you never refused relief. Now, the system is changed by your act; the price is reduced by your act; the value of the article sold is diminished in the hands of the purchaser, by your act; and the debt cannot be further increased; it has reached its maximum; and will you now, for the first time, refuse relief?
ment. Here was a great change, highly favorable to the purchaser, and certainly not demanded by such powerful motives as now cry aloud for a further change. The former was matter of mere grace: the latter grows out of a strong equity, fastening itself upon you in consequence of your own subsequent act, for your own advantage.
We come now, sir, to the credit. And what was the credit under the old system? We have seen that it was nominally for five years, in the first instance. Then three more were granted: then three more: then forfeitures were suspended from year to year: and there the matter rests at present. The credit was, in fact, indefinite. Congress never refused indulgence: and lands are still in part unpaid for, which were sold soon after the credit system was adopted.
In this view, the remission of interest now proposed, cannot be more than equivalent to the diminished value effected by the change of system from credit to cash; and that, even on low priced lands; on others, it is nothing like an equivalent. Sir, the remission of interest is not a new principle. It is only an extension of the principle on which Congress has long acted. At first the interest accrued, by the term of the contract, on each instalment, from the date of the purchase, abso-way of verification: lutely; afterwards this principle was relaxed, and Total number of acres of land sold, up to 30th of Sepinterest accrued only on failure of punctual. pay- tember, 1819
This, Mr. President, is a general view of the subject, and these arguments will reach and cover the case of the debtors in all the new States. But, I have said, that the situation of Alabama was peculiar. Sir, it is deeply distressing and deplorable. It stands out from the canvass in bold relief. Suffer me to call your attention to a few facts, by
Deduct number of acres sold in
Leaves number sold in all other
Total amount of
sales Deduct amount of sales in Alabama
Relief to Land Purchasers.
acre; while at Cahawba it is about three dollars $3,646,857 and seventy cents; and, at Huntsville, about five dollars and ninety cents! A single township in the Tennessee valley was sold for half a million of 14,955,073 dollars-upwards of twenty dollars the acre.Many tracts, for actual settlement, were sold at thirty and forty dollars, and one as high as seventy-eight dollars; sites for towns, still higher.
Nine hundred and fifty-one thousand one hundred and thirty-one acres have been sold, at St. Stephens, for $2,266,076. Suppose that, of this sum, there is due, in Mississippi, $834,270; and this is perhaps near the truth, it certainly does not exceed it. This would reduce the debt of Alabama, in round numbers, to ten millions of dollars, and would reduce the number of acres sold in Alabama to three thousand two hundred and ninety-six thousand, six hundred and ninety-three; calculating all lands sold at St. Stephens at the same average price, while, in fact, the portion $17,759,553 44 which lies in Mississippi was sold before the era
of distraction, and at scarcely more than the old minimum price. Could we speak in exact terms, the number of acres sold lying in Cahawba would be still fewer, and the relative price greater; and the excess of price which has been given and promised there, over that for an equal number of acres elsewhere, would be still further increased. Say, however, that it is eight millions, and it cannot be made less, from the tables, by any practical calculation, and what shall be said of it? A debt of ten millions from a single State-of which eight millions is mere excess of price-a sum given, or rather promised, in Alabama, beyond the sum given or promised, anywhere else, for the same number of acres. Does it not make a strong claim upon your clemency? And will you refuse all manner of relief? You will not, you cannot. But this bill is general. It affords no special re15,312,565 lief to Alabama."
22,000,657 64 10,834,270 76 Leaves am'nt due in all other States $11,166,386 88
According to the returns, there has been actually paid in other States, per acre, not quite one dollar and twenty cents: and there remains due, per acre, in those States, not quite seventy-five
There has been paid, per acre, in Alabama, not quite one dollar and twenty-five cents; and remains due there, per acre, not quite two dollars and seventy-five cents.
It appears, then, that 14,955,073 acres in other States, have been sold for $28,741,886
While only 3,646,857 acres in Alabama, have been sold for
I fear, sir, that I have already trespassed too long on the patience of the Senate, fatiguing others even more than I fatigue myself. But the deep interest of my constituents in the subject must plead my apology. Indulge me, therefore, a few moments longer, and let us see if we cannot unravel the mystery of these high prices in Alabama-the causes of this enormous debt. Sir, there is no mystery in it; the causes are obvious, and the finger of the Government is visible throughout the whole transaction.
But, if lands in Alabama had been sold at the same average price per acre, as in other States, the amount of sales there would have been only about $6,650,000; nothing like half the actual amount; and making the enormous difference of eight millions and a half of dollars. For the debt of Alabama, according to the returns up to 30th September, 1819, is $10,834,270, being less than the debt of all the other States and Territories only by the trifling sum of $332,116. But, had only equal prices been given, the debt of Alabama would be only about $2,180,000, making a differ-ruary and March, 1818. It was an era, not merely ence of debt in the two cases, as before, of eight of plenty, but of superabundance; and it begat a thousand wild schemes of every sort and character. The spirit of speculation possessed almost the entire mass of society. You yourselves were infected with the contagion of extravagance. The national coffers were overflowing, and you busied yourselves in devising new modes of ex
Almost the whole of the debt of Alabama has been contracted since the war, and during the period of our highest apparent prosperity. The first sales took place in August, 1817, and in Feb
millions and a half.
This, according to the returns up to September, 1819. But, it is proper to remark, that a portion of the lands sold at St. Stephens, lie in the State of Mississippi. The amount, however, due for them in that State is not very great, and the lands sold at that office are by far the lowest in Ala-pending your excessive wealth. You gave the bama. The price given there is, on the average, tone, the people caught and echoed it. Everyonly about two dollars and thirty-eight cents the where visions of magnificence occupied and heated
Leaving a difference in amount of only