Imágenes de páginas

its navies. Very early in the history of the government, it was decided by congress, on the report of a highly respectable committee, that the transfer by the states to congress of the power of collecting tonnage and other duties, and the grant of authority to regulate commerce, charged congress, necessarily, with the duty of maintaining such piers and wharves and lighthouses, and of making such improvements, as might have been expected to be done by the states, if they had retained the usual means, by retaining the power of collecting duties on imports. The states, it was admitted, had parted with this power; and the duty of protecting and facilitating commerce by these means had passed, along with this power, into other hands. I have never hesitated, therefore, when the state of the treasury would admit, to vote for reasonable appropriations, for breakwaters, light-houses, piers, harbors, and similar public improvements, on any part of the whole Atlantic coast or the Gulf of Mexico, from Maine to Louisiana.

But how stands the inland frontier ? How is it it along the vast lakes and the mighty rivers of the north and west ? Do our constitutional rights and duties terminate when the water ceases to be salt ? or do they exist, in full vigor, on the shores of these inland seas? I never could doubt about this; and yet, gentlemen, 1 remember even to have participated in a warm debate, in the senate, some years ago, upon the constitutional right of congress to make an appropriation for a pier in the har bor of Buffalo. What! make a harbor at Buffalo, where nature never made any, and where therefore it was never intended any ever should be made ! Take

money ple to run out piers from the sandy shores of Lake Erie, or deepen the channels of her shallow rivers! Where was the constitutional authority for this ? Where would such strides of power stop? How long would the states have any power at all left, if their territory might be ruthlessly invaded for such unhallowed purposes, or how long would the people have any

from the peo

money in their pockets, if the government of the United States might tax them, at pleasure, for such extravagant projects as these? Piers, wharves, harbors, and breakwaters in the lakes! These arguments, gentlemen, however earnestly put forth heretofore, do not strike us with great power, at the present day, if we stand on the shores of Lake Erie, and see hundreds of vessels, with valuable cargoes and thousands of valuable lives, moving on its waters, with few shelters from the storm, but havens created, or made useful, by the aid of government. These great lakes, stretching away many thousands of miles, not in a straight line, but with turns and deflections, as if designed to reach, by water communication, the greatest possible number of important points through a region of vast extent, cannot but arrest the attention of any one who looks upon the map. They lie connected, but variously placed ; and interspersed, as if with studied variety of form and direction, over that part of the country. They were made for man, and admirably adapted for his use and convenience. Looking, gentlemen, over our whole country, comprehending in our survey the Atlantic coast, with its thick population, advanced agriculture, extended commerce, its manufactures and mechanic arts, its varieties of communication, its wealth and its general improvements; and looking then, to the interior, to the immense tracts of fresh, fertile, and cheap lands, bounded by so many lakes, and watered by so many magnificent rivers, let me ask if such a MAP was ever before presented to the eye of any statesman, as the theater for the exercise of his wisdom and patriotism? And let me ask, too, if any man is fit to act a part, on such a theater, who does not comprehend the whole of it within the scope of his policy, and embrace it all as his country?

Again, gentleman, we are one in respect to the glorious constitution under which we live. We are all united in the great brotherhood of American liberty. Descending from the same ancestors, bred in the same school, taught in infancy to imbibe the same general political sentiments, Americans all, by birth, education, and principle, what but a narrow mind, or woeful ignorance, or besotted selfishness, or prejudice ten times ten times blinded, can lead any of us to regard the citizens of any part of the country as strangers and aliens ?

The solemn truth, moreover, is before us, that a common political fate attends us all.

Under the present constitution, wisely and conscientiously administered, all are safe, happy, and renowned. The measure of our country's fame may fill all our breasts. It is fame enough for us all to partake in her glory, if we will carry her character onward to its true destiny. But if the system is broken, its fragments must fall alike on all. Not only the cause of American liberty, but the grand cause of liberty throughout the whole earth, depends, in a great measure, on upholding the constitution and union of these states. If shattered and destroyed, no matter by what cause, the peculiar and cherished idea of United American Liberty will be no more forever. There may be free states, it is possible, when there shall be separate states.




many loose, and feeble and hostile confederacies, where there is now one great and united confederacy. But the noble idea of United American Liberty, of our liberty, such as our fathers established it, will be extinguished forever. Fragments and shattered columns of the edifice may be found remaining; and melancholy and mournful ruins will they be. The august temple itself will be prostrate in the dust. Gentlernen, the citizens of this republic cannot sever their fortunes. A common fate awaits us. In the honor of upholding, or in the disgrace of undermining the constitution, we shall all necessarily partake. Let us then stand by the constitution as it is, and by our country as it is, one, united, and entire ; let it be a truth engraven on our hearts, let it be borne on the flag under which we rally, in every exigency, that we have ONE COUNTRY, ONE CONSTITUTION, ONE DESTINY.

Gentlemen, of our interior administration, the public lands constitute a highly important part. This is a subject of great interest, and it ought to attract much more attention than it has hitherto received, especially from the people of the Atlantic states. The public lands are public property. They belong to the people of all the states. A vast portion of them is com. posed of territories which were ceded by individual states to the United States, after the close of the revolutionary war, and before the adoption of the present constitution. The history of these cessions, and the reasons for making them, are familiar. Some of the Old Thirteen possessed large tracts of unsettled lands within their chartered limits. The revolution had established their title to these lands, and as the revolution had been brought about by the common treasure and the common blood of all the colonies, it was thought not unreasonable that these unsettled lands should be transferred to the United States, to pay the debt created by the war, and afterward to remain as a fund for the use of all the states. This is the well-known origin of the title possessed by the United States to lands northwest of the Ohio river.

By treaties with France and Spain, Louisiana and Florida, with

many millions of acres of unsold public land, have been since acquired. The cost of these acquisitions was paid, of course, by the general government, and was thus a charge upon the whole people. The public lands, therefore, all and singular, are national property ; granted to the United States, purchased by the United States, paid for by all the people of the United States.

The idea that, when a new state is created, the public lands lying within her territory become the property of such new state in consequence of her sovereignty, is too preposterous for serious refutation. Such notions have heretofore been advanced in




congress, but nobody has sustained them. They were rejected and abandoned, although one cannot say whether they may not be revived, in consequence of recent propositions which have been made in the senate. The new states are admitted on express conditions, recognizing, to the fullest extent, the right of the United States to the public lands within their borders; and it is no more reasonable to contend that some indefinite idea of state sovereignty overrides all these stipulations, and makes the lands the property of the states, against the provisions and conditions of their own constitution, and the constitution of the United States, than it would be, that a similar doctrine entitled the state of New York to the moneys collected at the customhouse in this city ; since it is no more inconsistent with sovereignty that one government should hold lands, for the purpose of sale, within the territory of another, than it is that it should lay and collect taxes and duties within such territory. Whatever extravagant pretensions may have been set up heretofore, there was not, I suppose, an enlightened man in the whole west who insisted on any such right in the states, when the proposition to cede the lands to the states was made, in the late session of congress. The public lands being, therefore, the common property of all the people of all the states, I shall never consent to give them away to particular states, or to dispose of them otherwise than for the general good, and the general use of the whole country.

I felt bound, therefore, on the occasion just alluded to, to resist at the threshold a proposition to cede the public lands to the states in which they lie, on certain conditions. I very much regretted the introduction of such a measure, as its effect must be, I fear, only to agitate what was well settled, and to disturb that course of proceeding in regard to the public lands, which forty years of experience have shown to be so wise and so sat isfactory in its operation, both to the people of the old states and to those of the new.

« AnteriorContinuar »