Remarks of Mr. Brown of Pennsylvania
In the House of Representatives,
Thursday, July 1, 1841.
Mr. Brown [Charles Brown (September 23, 1797 – September 4, 1883) (D)] addressed the committee as follows:
Mr. Chairman: This is an extraordinary session of Congress called at an extraordinary time organized in an extraordinary manner and governed by rules and resolutions of an extraordinary character; and, judging of its future by its past course of action, I much mistake public opinion if, when its full story shall be told, it will not be remarkable in the legislative history of the country, not only as an extraordinary session, but as an extraordinary Congress !
From the accession of the present Administration party to power until the meeting of Congress, I never heard any other reason given or urged for the necessity of its being called together at so early and unpropitious a period, but the necessity that was said to exist to provide ways and means to carry on the Government. The late president and his advisers, it was urged, had ascertained that great deficiencies existed in the Treasury, and that it could not meet the necessary demands upon it, and therefore, and therefore only, was it necessary to call Congress together. This was the cause assigned.
I am aware, sir, that no such cause did exist, or does exist; that there never, was, is not now, and could not be, under an economical and prudent management, any demand upon the Treasury previous to the regular meeting of Congress, that could not be fully met by the resources placed within the control of the Government. The deficit which the Secretary of the Treasury has made in justification of this extra session of Congress, and to endeavor to show that the late Administration has left the Government in debt, and without sufficient provisions for its wants, has been clearly shown, at the other end of the Capitol, and will be here ere long, to be but the baseless fabric of a vision; that it had no other existence than the Secretary's own imaginings is evidenced by the fact, that neither that officer nor any of his friends and supporters, in or out of Congress, has made any attempt to gather together the scattered fragments of the structure he had raised, and that has been so effectually demolished; or even to make an effort to try to sustain or support himself or his report.
I therefore deny that there is, or ever has been, any debt or demand upon the Treasury that could or ought to have induced any President to call Congress together before the regular day of its meeting, under the Constitution. But Congress was to be called together this was decreed by the then leaders of the Administration party; and a national debt a want of means to carry an the Government, was the only grounds it was supposed that would be a justification before the people for so unpopular and expensive a measure; and whether the causes assigned were true or false, according to Whig tactics, it mattered not it was only one more link in the long chain of deceptions by which they had obtained power; and by which, if no honest means could be found; they intended to perpetuate it.
That I am justified in saying the causes assigned for the extraordinary session were not the true ones, but only made and published to deceive the people, has been, and is being proved, by every word and deed of the majority since Congress has assembled. It is in the acts of men, and not in their professions, we are to look for their motives. If, therefore, there is, as the Secretary says, a deficiency in the Treasury if there are demands upon it that cannot be paid by any money now there, or that will be there if the revenues of the Government are not equal to its expenditures, as he says is the case if, as he intimates, the Government can get on no longer, unless Congress shall provide more money immediately more revenue obtain money somewhere to supply the Treasury, how is it that we have been more than five weeks in session, and there has not the first step been taken to increase the revenue to provide for that deficiency, or to obtain money, unless the bill lately introduced to create a loan, may be considered as such ?
How happens it, if the Administration party, (if there be any Administration or Administration party, for it is difficult to find out what, or where it is) those who claim to be the majority in these halls, really believe the Treasury is bankrupt; that it requires a loan of twelve millions of dollars to pay its present debts, and that there will be at the end of the year a still further debt to provide for of four or five millions of dollars more; that they have not only refused or neglected to propose any bill to increase the revenue, or to reduce the expenditures, but have thus far gone on in full view of such deficiency, further to exhaust the Treasury by extraordinary appropriations ?
What a spectacle we must exhibit to our countrymen and, to the world ! Look at our acts. We have passed but two bills during all this session. The first was to take out of the Treasury the sum of twenty-five thousand dollars to give to the widow of General Harrison certainly an extraordinary appropriation under any circumstances, but the more so when given at a time, to use the language of the gentleman from Georgia, [Mr. Alford] when we are not able to pay our just debts.
The next bill we passed, was one to pay the expenses of this session of Congress to pay ourselves before we have earned it. This, though an extraordinary course of legislation, is, nevertheless, a wise one; for if there is to be such a deficiency in the Treasury, as the Secretary says there will, it is certainly the part of wisdom to get our own pay in time, while there is some money to be had.
And now we are in consideration of the third great Whig measure of the session a bill to take two and a half or three millions of dollars out of the Treasury, which, according to the Secretary, will be, at the time it is to be taken out, minus sixteen millions; and instead of paying the debts of the Government, to be distributed among the States. Surely this is extraordinary legislation, and will entitle us to the appellation of the extraordinary Congress.
But I said all this talking and figuring out a debt or a deficiency in the Treasury was a deception, and that we had been called here for other, far more important purposes; to carry into effect measures that will change the whole character of our Government and institutions under it. Let any one listen but for a single hour in either end of the Capitol to a speech from any one of those who compose the majority let him read any Whig newspaper published any where from one end of the Union to the other, and he will find that the burden of them all is a "National Bank" and a "distribution of the proceeds of the sales of the public lands."
These we are now told are the objects for which we have assembled; and we have made rules and passed resolutions to keep out of our view all other matters, and day after day, and hour after hour, are we urged on, by speeches and papers, in and out of these halls, to move on without consideration, deliberation, or delay, to their consummation.
And why this haste ? Or why should they be consummated at all ? The only, or at least the great argument that is given, is, the people have willed it ! Go into the other end of the Capitol any hour when a Whig orator is speaking, and you will hear it repeated almost in every sentence he utters, that the people have called for a "National Bank" that they have debated the question and determined it, and therefore a Bank must be made, or Congress will be recreant to its duty. Come back to this Hall, and here you will hear the same potent power invoked in favor of the bill under consideration.
Here, the people have willed the distribution of the public lands; and thus every measure brought forward by the majority is to be carried through Congress, and be forced upon the Executive for his assent, not by their own intrinsic merit, but by an appeal to the popular decision, to which, when it has fairly and fully been made, none will bow with more readiness and cheerfulness than I will.
But, Mr. Chairman, when I am asked to bow submissively to the people's will, it must be shown to me that it is their will. The "voice of the people," it is said, "is the voice of God." If so, when they speak it will be clearly understood and clearly communicated, through true, and not false prophets; and it is my purpose, before I proceed to the examination of the provisions of the bill we have now before us, to show to the committee that there are false prophets in the Whig party, who are falsely representing that to be the people's voice, which is not their voice, and that the measures they are urging here, as asked for by them, have not been asked for, but are a violation both of their will and their desires.
And when I speak of the people, I wish to be understood as speaking of the Whig people the people whose representatives are in a majority in Congress, and have the execution of the laws, and who, we are told, in the arguments of these representatives, willed the distribution of the proceeds of the sales of the public lands a National Bank, and the other measures that are to follow them.
The Whig Executive and Whig members of Congress have been elected by the people of several States; any measure therefore determined by their election must have been either asserted by them previous to their election, or have been made a question for the people's approval or disapproval at the polls, otherwise the people can not be said to have declared one way or the other in relation to them.
The late President, we all know, refused to make any declarations of opinions for the public eye; and the present Executive was known to hold very different ones from those now set up as those of the Whig party, or by the leaders of that party as a rule for his Administration. And may I ask in what other mode during the late contest, the question of the Public Lands and a National Bank divided parties ?
The gentleman from Georgia, [Mr. Alford] told us that the people of Georgia are opposed to the distribution that they never would submit to it that it was monstrous iniquitous in violation of the Constitution the rights of the States, and of moral honesty; and yet the people of Georgia gave their vote in favor of the present political party in power !
And it is well known that other gentlemen on this floor of the same politics as the gentleman from Georgia, hold the same language in relation to this bill. How is it, then; do they not know the wishes of their constituents ? or is it not rather that there are false Whig prophets, who are attempting to mislead the judgment of this House by misrepresentation of public opinion ?
There was one sentiment expressed by the gentleman from Georgia, so remarkable in its character, I can not pass it by without notice, though irrelevant to the subject. It was this; that though the Whig party should distribute the sales of the public lands, much as he and his constituents condemned the measure, and though they should make a Bank, that he said would be broken down immediately, by the "Loco Focos," and though they should do all they ought not to do, and leave undone all they ought to do, still they could not drive him from the Whig party.
Now, sir, I submit if this is not an adhesiveness to party of a very strong, if not a very strange character, and particularly for so great a stickler for State Rights, as is the gentleman from Georgia; it is certainly very characteristic of the party; it is not like principles that unites them, but a mere name.
Leaving, however, the gentleman from Georgia, and his Whig associates, to settle those matters of dispute among themselves in their own way and I have only referred to them to show that while they all profess to be the exponents of the people's will, they all differ in its object and direction I shall proceed to what I at first intended when I digressed in search of that public opinion, which the Whig majority claim as their shield and their guide, and that was to show how it developed itself in Pennsylvania, and to place my Whig associates from that State, in their true position with their Whig brethren here.
It will be remembered that the Whig voice of Pennsylvania, like that of Georgia, was given in favor of the present Administration; it is right therefore that it should be heard in the direction of that Administration, unless she is to be made the mere instrument of its creation, and not the recipient of its care and regard. And what was the Whig voice of Pennsylvania, as spoken at the last election ? Was it in favor of a distribution of the proceeds of the sales of the public lands and a National Bank ? Will any gentleman tell me where and when either of these questions was brought into the issue of her elections ? When such was the avowed object of the Whigs of Pennsylvania in changing the Administration ?
Sir, I deny that either of these questions was ever submitted to them and approved. On the contrary, I will prove beyond contradiction, her Whig citizens had far different objects in view, and that so far as the latter is concerned a National Bank it was condemned by them; and that all and every of the measures for which they swelled your triumph, have been most decidedly repudiated by the majority in this House, and the Administration elsewhere.
And what were these measures ? I will begin at Philadelphia. There, at its Whig head quarters, day after day, and week after week, floated the banner of the party. On it was inscribed not "Distribution and Bank," but
"No National Debt."
"No Executive Bank."
"A Protective Tariff."
First. "No national debt." And what have we here ? One bill for a loan to begin a national debt of twelve millions; another bill for a Bank to increase this debt ten or twenty millions more; and the distribution bill, which will require the debt to be increased still farther this year, three millions.
Second. No "Executive Bank." And what kind of a bank is now proposed ? Is it not an Executive Bank I mean either "the Bank" or the "Fiscal Agent" the "Rascality" or the Fiscality, as they have been called. Are they not both, or either, to be, so far as the Government has any control over them by the appointment of directors, or otherwise, under the Executive ? And are they not essentially and declaratively to be part of the Executive power of your Government ?
Our Government is composed of three departments, Legislative, Executive, and Judicial. That of keeping and paying out the public money belongs to the Executive. If you make a Bank, it will be an Executive Bank such a bank as the Whigs of Philadelphia have condemned.
But it is the third inscription on the banner to which I wish most particularly to call the attention of the committee, because it was the most potent at the polls, as an appeal to the interests of all classes of the citizens of Pennsylvania, from the Delaware to Lake Erie, as that which would bring the "better times" and the "higher wages" they were promised, and because it was associated with what was once considered peculiarly the favorite policy of Pennsylvania, and for which many of her citizens still have some lingering affection. And how has this great leading object of the Whigs of Pennsylvania and if I am wrong in saying this was the leading object of the Whigs there in giving their support to the present majority, I trust some Pennsylvania Whig on this floor will set me right how has it been met ? Look at the fate of the petition of the citizens of Montgomery county, presented a few days since by my colleague, [Mr. Fornance] and his resolution, only asking the committee to consider the propriety of an increase of duties; it received only sixty votes, and a large part of them not Whig votes.
Listen to the speeches made on this floor yesterday by the gentleman from Georgia, [Mr. Alford] or by any other Whig from the South, how full of deep anathemas are they all against a "protective tariff." Here a hundred Whig voices are raised against the cherished doctrines of the Whigs of Pennsylvania, that before the election were silent or in their favor. Have I not heard, sir, night after night, gentlemen from the South, in this same Whig headquarters in Philadelphia, in eloquent tones denouncing the late Administration as having prostrated the interests of Pennsylvania and the business of the country, and call on the citizens of Philadelphia to join them in the glorious work of reform to put in power the Whig party, and it would restore confidence, and revive business ? Thither came in the labor of love distinguished Senators and Representatives from the South; and it may be among them was my friend from Virginia, [Mr. Wise] for I know he sometimes honored my Whig fellow-citizens with the eloquent tones of his voice. There, under the banner of a "protective tariff," did they, in sweet communion, do battle for their common cause. Did, I ask, these Southern gentlemen then and there denounce a protective tariff ? or did they not rather, by their very presence, if not otherwise, give sanction to it as that which was to be a part of the Whig policy of the whole country ? The flag under which a man is found fighting, indicates the cause for which he is fighting. These Southern gentlemen must either have fought for a protective tariff, or were hypocritically deceiving the Whig citizens of Pennsylvania.
Mr. Wise remarked that the gentleman had made an attack on him.
Mr. Brown. I did not mean to attack the gentleman from Virginia. I only alluded to him playfully, for I did not know that he had been at any meeting in Philadelphia before the last election.
Mr. Wise remarked that it was a serious play; and he must be permitted to say, not only for himself, but for that Senator, that he was never with him at Philadelphia. It was true he [Mr. Wise] had addressed a Whig meeting at Masonic Hall; and he must say that the same opinions he maintained in the South he maintained in the North. There had been no deception on his part, and he confessed that he did talk of a Bank and of the tariff; but he put the contest far above Bank and tariff as a social and moral question and as opposed to the last Administration. During the last contest, throughout, he was well aware that he differed from members of his own party on the subject of a National Bank, tariff, and distribution. These differences were merged among themselves in the South, where there was Bank and anti-Bank, tariff and anti-tariff. And now one of the first acts of his party and its press was the endeavor to excommunicate him for the principles which he professed. An attempt too had been made, most ungratefully, tyrannically, and oppressively, to excommunicate and denounce him for those very principles which brought the present party in power some adherence. He stood where he had always stood on these great questions, and had taken the same ground before as well as after the election in regard to them. He had been a hypocrite towards neither party, and he could not, therefore, sit quietly and hear himself implicated in a charge of a want of consistency.
Mr. Brown. I did not know, sir, certainly that the gentleman from Virginia ever was present at the place alluded to. I have always known him [Mr. Wise] to be one of the strongest opponents of the late Administration, but have always believed him to be actuated by honest motives, and the strictest integrity of character. But the gentleman has verified the fact I was endeavoring to prove that the Whig party held different opinions at different places.
Mr. Wise said it was true what the gentleman from Pennsylvania had stated that he [Mr. Wise] had been at meetings at the North when Bear, the blacksmith, and others, had advocated a protective tariff, and other measures inimical to the South, but that he had advocated only the doctrines sustained by the South; and that his father in-law, [Mr. Sergeant] and Judge Upshur had addressed the same meeting together in Virginia; but, in all these speeches, they had abstained from touching upon any thing offensive to the people they were addressing, either at the North or South.
Mr. Brown. I am sorry the gentleman from Virginia has made the explanation; it makes matters worse for him; it is then true that he [Mr. Wise] had really been at public meetings at the North, and had heard his Whig friends there advocate, as a part of the principles of the Whig party, a protective tariff. Why, where then was that fearless spirit that chivalric independence that has so often here, in the midst of the Representatives of the people, poured forth its indignation when Southern principles were attacked; and in sickness and in health, was found in the hottest of the battle fighting for Southern rights and Southern principles ? Why quailed his manly voice then ? That was the time, the hour, the place, to have bearded, not the lion, but the Bear, in his den. To have dealt the lightning flash of his eye and the thunders of his voice on Northern ground in the face of Northern Whigs, who dared to wage war upon the South.
And, sir, let me tell the gentleman, that while he was in the enemies camp under his piratical flag, aiding that enemy against his own people; I was and the whole Democratic party of the North were, nobly, but, unfortunately, unsuccessfully, sustaining the cause of the South, which I believed, and they believed, was the cause of the North the cause of our common country; not under the piratical flag, hoisted only to allure victims for plunder, but under that other glorious flag, that waved over our common fathers, in their common battles, ever since the days of the Revolution the Republican flag the Democratic flag the stars and stripes of our Union.
But, sir, I rejoice that the gentleman from Virginia has found out, late though it be, that he has been with the enemy, and I doubly rejoice that he is now with his friends his people's friends his country's friends the true Democracy and I tender him the right hand of fellowship, and assure him that though he comes back at the eleventh hour, he shall have as great reward as the best and oldest laborer in the vineyard of Democracy.
This, Mr. Chairman, is digressing rather too far; yet, sir, it is of some importance, to show, even by these digressions, the fallacy attempted here, to make out of the recent elections a public opinion favorable to the bill under consideration, or any other measure; a public opinion, too, which is to control the judgment of the members of the committee, and the final action of all branches of the Government.
The next indication of public opinion I shall give, is taken from a country newspaper in Pennsylvania. It is a call for a "great Whig meeting," previous to the late election, in Montgomery county, Pennsylvania. It reads thus:
"Harrison and Tyler Celebration. All the friends of American liberty, opposed to the outrageous and wanton usurpations of the Federal Administration, are requested to meet at Whitehall, on the Columbia railroad, in Lower Merion township, Montgomery county, Pa. at 10 o'clock, a.m. on Monday, the 14th day of September.
"All who, without distinction of party, are opposed to the Executive scheme of establishing a standing army of 200,000 men, in a time of profound peace; opposed to uniting the purse with the sword, by erecting a Government Bank, termed a Sub-Treasury, which is to be independent of the popular will; to taking away the protection of our manufacturers, by destroying the tariff; to the prostration of credit; to the reduction of wages, and the ruin of our farmers, and the hardy yeomanry of the country, will attend. The meeting will be addressed by the following distinguished gentlemen, who have kindly volunteered to deliver addresses on the occasion John C. Montgomery, esq. Hon. Charles Naylor, Col. M'Kenney, of Philadelphia, J. Hall Bready, esq. of Philadelphia; Francis J. Grund, esq. of Philadelphia; Governor Call of Florida, the Hon. Mr. Prentiss of Mississippi, and several others.
J.R. Jones,Sept. 9, 1840."
Committee of Invitation.
Thus you will see, with the addition of the "standing army," and the general story of "prostration of credit," "reduction of wages," &c &c. it is the same as the Philadelphia banner. There was no distribution of the sales of the public lands, or a National Bank upon it. And what a set of patriots too were to address the meeting. Mr. Montgomery is now Postmaster at Philadelphia; Col. M'Kenney, I understand, is an applicant for a high office in the Indian Department; Francis J. Grund is likewise said to want a consulship or charge de Affaires; Governor Call is Governor of Florida; whether appointed for his speechifying, or for importing the "blood hounds," I know not; and there, too, was the Honorable Mr. Prentiss, fighting under the flag of a "protective tariff," like his other Southern brethren, in Philadelphia may I ask of all this motley crowd of orators how many of them then advocated, or now care, for the "distribution of the proceeds of the public lands" or a "National Bank?" They wanted change that they might get office office is what they agitated for talked for voted for give them but this and you will not hear from them any other petition.
And, sir, is this not true of the fifteen hundred, who the gentleman from Maryland [Mr. Johnson] told us the other day were applicants for office at one of the Departments, and of the one hundred and fifty thousand other applicants for office throughout the country ? It is easy to understand their public voice for a change of Administration, without claiming for it the support of the distribution bill, or that for a National Bank.
Here, sir, is another call for a Democratic Whig meeting:
"All those who are in favor of the Log Cabin candidate all who are in favor of a President that can perform the duties of his office without old spoons all who are in favor of the farmer of North, Bend all who are opposed to the extravagance of Martin Van Buren all who are in favor of protecting home industry and high wages are requested to attend a Democratic Whig meeting, &c. &c.
This is embellished with the "gold spoons." I have observed there is always a general smile on the faces of members whenever the gold spoons are mentioned, and yet these gold spoons did good service to the Whigs in their day when connected with the "household furniture" and "kitchen utensils" of the White House, done up with French names, and ingeniously written into a speech, the people were "Ogled" out of many a vote by them and honest votes too. Those who were thus influenced to vote for a change, the change they wanted was a more economical and plain Republican President, as the above call says, who could perform the duties of his office without gold spoons. But alas! the "gold spoons" are said to be still in the "White House," "tabourets" and all; and what have these "honest voters?" gained by the "change?" We shall see.
The extravagance of Mr. Van Buren is also condemned. This was a standing and general theme. The expenditures of his administration were every where loudly proclaimed and magnified, and promises of "retrenchment, economy, and reform," were then made. In this the Whig party did agree North and South, East and West; and it is almost the only common ground they occupied. Not withstanding this, since the election we have heard no more of economy, retrenchment, or reform, unless it was in the speech of the gentleman from Georgia, [Mr. Alford] yesterday, in which he told his party, and told them truly, that they had violated all their pledges, made before the election, on this subject.
Economy! Where is it ? Where is there a single officer dispensed with ? They have been changed, but all are filled. Retrenchment ! Where is it ? Can any Whig put his hand upon a single item of retrenchment ? I would like to see it. There has been none. None is now recommended by the President, or any of his Cabinet. On the contrary, the Secretary of the Treasury has shown us already that the expenses of the Government have increased, and are increasing over that of Mr. Van Buren's administration; and the Secretary of War, to show his sincerity in retrenchment, asks of Congress, at this extra session, an appropriation of two millions and a half of dollars more than was deemed necessary by the last Administration.
Such are the first fruits of Whig economy, retrenchment, and reform. Thus all the charges of extravagance made against Mr. Van Buren's administration were false, as proved by the fact that the expenses have not been reduced in any of the Departments of the Government. If the Whigs believed what they asserted before the election, that the Government was paying more officers than it had need of, why have they not been reduced in number ? If their salaries were too high, why not have them lowered ? If there were any wasteful or unnecessary appropriations, why not repeal them ? None of this is asked for none will be asked for; and those who made the charges of extravagance against the late Administration, made them, knowing them to be false, or they have proved recreant to their trust, and illustrate, in a remarkable manner, the truth of what General Harrison said in relation to the "remark of a Roman consul in an early period of that celebrated Republic, that a most striking contrast was observable in the conduct of candidates for offices of power and trust, before and after obtaining them, they seldom carrying out in the latter case the pledges and promises made in the former."
And to prove that "however much the world may have improved in many respects in the lapse of upwards of two thousand years since the remark was made by the virtuous and indignant Roman," the "annals" of the Whig party, before and since the election, "will develope similar instances of violated confidence."
One more, and I am done with Whig meetings in Pennsylvania, and I only introduce this the more fully to show how determined the Whigs are to prove the truth of the remark of the Roman consul; and it will further serve "to point a moral and adorn a tale." It is an extract from the proceedings of a "Whig meeting at Valley Forge," in Pennsylvania, and forms part of the preamble; after speaking of the blessings they enjoyed in the olden time, these Whigs say
"But, in the midst of all these blessings, supplied by a bounteous Providence, we are on the verge of destruction. How can this be ? Aspirants have twined themselves into public favor they crowd the heads of Government fill our offices supply their wants, their wants, and abuse their constituents. Unless a moral reformation can be effected, we shall shortly cease to exist as a Republic and that reformation can only take place by the removal from office of persons who are incompetent or unwilling to honestly discharge their duties.
"We love our country we will abide by its Constitution its welfare is our welfare.
"Therefore, resolved, That Martin Van Buren, through political misrule and unprecedented corruption, has brought unparalleled suffering upon the people of this country, and is no longer fit to be its Chief Magistrate.
"Resolved, That in William Henry Harrison, the farmer of North Bend, the Chieftain of the West, the civilian of his country, we recognise those important virtues, which are suited to any condition of life, those valuable talents which qualify him for any station, and that we will do our best endeavors to secure his election.
"Therefore, resolved, That a Convention of the people favorable to the election of Harrison and Tyler, will be held at the Valley Forge encampment ground on Thursday, the first day of October next, at 10 o'clock, a.m. for said purpose.
"Resolved, That the ground whereon the meeting is proposed to be held, hallowed by sacred associations as the spot whereon our fathers struggled to throw from their necks the yoke of a foreign despot, is best fitted to be the rallying point where freedom should assemble to wrest their Constitution and their country from the usurpation of a domestic tyrant.
"Resolved, That Martin Van Buren's late letter in relation to the standing army of 200,000 men is in direct contradiction to his recommendation contained in his annual message to Congress, and we are fully convinced that he prefers policy to principle.
"Resolved, That for the purpose of carrying the above into effect, David Zook, Samuel H. Davis, William M. Stephens, Maurice Richardson, Joseph Pastorius, Isaac Richardson, Nicholas Bean, Isaiah Thropp, William Bitter, H. Jones Brooks, J.M. Davis, and James Stephens, compose a Committee of Arrangement. That
Edward Garrigues, jr. James F. Latta, M.D. Jacob Pennypacker, M.D. and Townsend Haines, of Chester, John Elliott, jr. Wm. H. Slingluff, and George Richards, of Montgomery, John K. Zeilen, of Delaware, Abijah E. Stephens, of Philadelphia, John M. Keim, of Berks, R.W. Middleton, of Lancaster, E.T. M'Dowell, of Bucks,
Be a Committee of Invitation and Correspondence, and that Joseph E. Anderson, Joseph Whitaker, and James M'Farland be a Committee for Advertising.
"Resolved, That all editors favorable to the cause of Harrison and Tyler be requested to publish the proceedings of this meeting, and to lend their aid in making general the invitation to attend it.
"On, motion, adjourned.
Matthew Roberts, President.
Joseph E. Anderson,
Samuel H. Davis,
Edwards Garrigues, jr.
There is nothing in all these proceedings in favor, of "distribution," or a "National Bank." Their objects, besides opposition to a "standing army of 200,000 men," seems to have been generally and particularly for "moral" reform. And how has their object, in changing the Administration, been realized ? Let them look to the appointments in the custom house at Philadelphia, many of which were made under the authority of their own neighbor, Jonathan Roberts for he comes from not far from Valley Forge.
There they have fair specimens of moral reform! from Bela Badger down. Why, sir, there have been appointments then made of men, it is said, not long out of the Penitentiary, and some of whom, if report speaks truth, will soon be there again; some, I know, ought to be there now. When these 'moral reformers' were appointed, it produced the utmost consternation among the honest portion of the Whig party; the whole city became alarmed as much so as did the people of Rome when the Goths and Vandals entered the city or as ever did the citizens of Philadelphia themselves when the cholera or other pestilential disease came among them.
I speak what I have heard the Whigs themselves say, and what their newspapers have proclaimed to the world; and yet there are your "moral reformers" still in office, as the guardians of the public revenue. If such are the men who are to be the collectors of the revenue that is to be levied in lieu of the proceeds of the public lands, when they are distributed, I fear a large portion of it will never get into the Treasury. But such, sir, has been, and I suppose, will be, what is meant, by Whig moral reform.
I might go into New Jersey and ask the gentlemen who represent that State, what was the public voice in the late election there. I attended some of the Whig meetings, but I never heard one word about "distribution" or a "National Bank." There the people were called upon to vindicate their "broad seal" every change was rung on the broad seal the violated sovereignty of the State; but the "standing army" was held up the most conspicuously there, and was most potent in alarming her peaceful Quaker citizens, inasmuch as in New Jersey all militia trainings have been abandoned. In deed, if I had time and disposition, I might go from county to county, and from State to State, piling evidence upon evidence, that in few or no places, were the subjects of the "distribution of the proceeds of the sales of the public lands," or a "National Bank" ever brought to the view of the people at the late election; on the contrary; that an infinite number of other objects, some of them as ambiguous as the Sybil's leaves, were held out to them by the Whig orators and newspapers to gain their votes to each audience or person, or district or county, as was best suited to alarm, please, or win. They were all things to all men; and in very truth, as their banner at the great Baltimore Convention indicated, they "stooped to conquer."
In the North, the Whig candidates were Abolitionists and tariffites; in the South, for Southern rights and free trade every where did they exhibit a holy horror of a standing army and the extravagance of Mr. Van Buren's Administration, and many were the plausible tales they told of the "retrenchment, economy, and reform" they would make, and the high prices, and high wages, and better times they would create, if the dear people, for whom they were laboring, would but give them the power.
They have got the power; but, alas ! for their retrenchment, economy, and reform! at the rate they have thus far gone, as I have already said, they will have increased the expenditure of the Government, millions above what it really was under the former Administration; and the restoration of confidence, the higher wages, and the better times they are yet to come ! But I must hasten on, and leave the inconsistencies of the Whig party for another time.
There has been, however, one voice from Pennsylvania in favor of the "equal distribution of the sales of the public lands," the apparent object of this bill. It comes from the Legislature. Legislative instructions have no binding force on me. My immediate constituents, and they only, have the right to instruct me. But I would pay great respect to the opinions of the Legislature of my State when they are fairly given, and are the true exponents of the popular will. But the Legislature of Pennsylvania is not that exponent. The members of the Legislature in the majority at the time these instructions were passed, had been elected by nearly seven thousand of a minority of the people. This was caused by the most infamous apportionment of the members of the Legislature in 1835,-'6, when the Whig party obtained a temporary ascendancy in one branch of the Legislature, through the schism of the Democratic party at the polls, and in the other by the treachery of some six or seven Senators, occasioned by the recharter of the Bank of the United States.
By that apportionment, the Democratic county of Philadelphia, with 31,000 taxables, was given only eight representatives, when the Whig city of Philadelphia, with only 18,000 taxables, had seven. The Democratic county of Bradford, with 4,721 taxables, and the Democratic county Columbia, with 4,818 taxables, had each of them but one representative, whilst the Whig county of Bedford, with only 4,712 taxables, and the Whig county of Adams, with only 5,167 taxables, had each two representatives. Thus was it, by an apportionment over the State such as this, that the Whig party was able to get an ascendancy in the Legislature of Pennsylvania, and pass their instructions.
Mr. Dawson rose to a point of order. The gentleman was going into an account of a local quarrel, and he would submit it to the House whether they ought to allow it to be made the political arena for the discussion of this question, and whether it was the question before the House. The gentleman had been going on an hour and a half, confining himself but little to the subject before us. He would ask the gentleman to confine himself to the subject.
The CHAIRMAN said the gentleman from Pennsylvania had been requested to confine his argument to the subject before the committee. The gentleman had been called to order several times, and he could not be allowed to go into the discussion of subjects which had nothing to do with that before the committee. The gentleman must confine himself to the question to strike out the enacting clause.
Mr. Brown resumed. I know, sir, that these reminiscences are unpleasant for the Whig party to hear, and would be out of order; but that the majority, on every occasion, every day, tell us that the public voice, at the late election, had determined in favor of their favorite measures; and it seemed to me to be necessary to show how fallacious was the argument how little was it entitled to regard; and yet it is the strong and almost only argument given in favor of the bill under consideration. But, sir, as it seems to be so displeasing to Whig gentlemen, I will leave it at this time, and come back to the bill itself.
When I left the subject in chase of public opinion, I was showing that, according to the President's message, and the report of the Secretary of the Treasury, there would be a deficiency in the means of the Treasury, at or about the time the first distribution of the proceeds of the sales of the public lands would take place by the present bill (Dec. 31, 1841) of sixteen millions of dollars and upwards. This sum is made up of a large amount of unexpended appropriations, two and a half millions of dollars, which the present Administration asked for as additional appropriations, over and above what was thought by the last Congress necessary for the wants of the Government for the present year, and four millions which the Secretary says ought always to be on hand as surplus.
I am aware, as I have stated, that no such deficit will exist, nor is any such surplus wanted; but the party in power have so stated to the public, and with this deficiency fall before them, they propose to take out of the Treasury three millions of dollars receivable for the sales of the public lands. Besides, there is said to be an actual deficiency in the means of the Post Office Department of half a million, which ought also to be provided for. This is the view given of the probable state of the Treasury as estimated by the Secretary. Is it the part of wisdom or justice, when the Treasury is thus bankrupt, to take from it any part of its resources ? Is it not a fraud, as the gentleman from Georgia [Mr. Alford] has called it ? But there is another matter that connects itself with this subject, which, to my mind, gives to the act of distribution the character of insanity. It is the utterly defenceless situation of our entire frontier, and particularly that of the Atlantic sea board. The President says in his Message at the opening of this session:
"True wisdom would, nevertheless, seem to dictate the necessity of placing in perfect condition those fortifications which are designed for the protection of our principal cities and roadsteads. For the defence of our extended maritime coast, our chief reliance should be placed on our navy, aided by those inventions which are destined to recommend themselves to public adoption. But no time should be lost in placing our principal cities on the seaboard and lakes in a state of entire security from foreign assault."
And the Secretary of War, in his report, repeats and enforces the recommendation of the President thus:
"The many considerations which invite the immediate attention of Congress to the subject of the public defences generally, and particularly to the public works absolutely necessary to the security of our great commercial emporiums, and the keys to our most valuable resources of every kind, must be so generally understood and appreciated that nothing this department can urge could add any thing to their force and conclusiveness. To say nothing of the destruction of property, and our weakened condition in a military point of view, attendant upon the carrying of any of our most assailable points, the penetration of our territory and the seizure of even one of our strongholds by a powerful enemy, upon the sudden outbreak of war, it would seem to be equally the dictate of patriotism and wisdom to make due provision against the infliction of such insults to the national honor and character."
And yet we find the Administration party in Congress taking from the Treasury the means of accomplishing what that Administration recommends. It is not, however, because the Administration recommends it, that I have called the attention of the committee to it, but because it recommends itself to the judgment and patriotism of every American citizen. It was the admonition of the father of his country in his last address to his countrymen "in time of peace to prepare for war;" and he urged it, not that we might be conquerers in the war, but that we would thereby best maintain peace. And I ask you, now, sir, and the committee, if you, or they, were to put the question on this day to any and every citizen of this country, looking to the attitude this country is now placed in towards Great Britain, if that citizen would not tell you, before you distribute any of your revenues, your first duty as their representatives was to put the country in a state of defence.
Suppose, sir, we should be ere long forced into a war; and I intend to show directly that such is not improbable, but very likely to be, would not the destruction of life and property, in consequence of our defenceless situation, be fearfully great ? On the whole Delaware bay and river there is not a gun mounted. Nor do I know that there is a place to mount one. The whole of the States of Delaware and New Jersey bordering on that bay and river, and the commercial metropolis of Pennsylvania, are all exposed to the unchecked depredations of an enemy. And is there no danger of war ? What mean the menaces of Great Britain if McLeod shall not be released ? Are they idle boasting ? And will he be given up ? Who knows that ? What if he should be hung? and he may be. Will we apologize for it, and plead forgiveness ? And will we be forgiven ? What power, and where is the power of the General Government to take him out of the jurisdiction of the Government of New York ? It is against the laws of the State of of New York he has offended they have caught him will try him, and if condemned will hang him ! Then will we have war ? But suppose he shall be acquitted, released, or given up. What then ? Has not the British Government acknowledged the atrocious act the burning of the steam boat Caroline, and the murder of the crew for which McLeod would be hung if tried and found guilty as the act of that Government ? Then, whether McLeod shall be cleared or hung, it does not change the relations of the two Governments, so far as we are concerned. Whether we give up McLeod, the murderer, or not, we must take the British Government as the murderers. What atonement will they make us ? They will never apologize or atone; they have already told us so. What will we do ? Quietly submit to this desecration of our soil, destruction of our property, and murder of our citizens ! I much mistake the temper of the American people if they will not cry aloud for vengeance; and we will be forced to adopt retaliatory or war measures.
With a state of things like this pending over us, ought we not to be prepared for war ? While we are defenceless, Great Britain may well bully and threaten us. But, if our whole frontier and sea coast was fully fortified, and it was known that we had sufficient munitions of war, and arms to put in the hands of every citizen, she would take a very different ground in her language towards us, and in her negotiations with us. Let us show to her, and all the world, that we are prepared to defend our rights by an appeal to arms, and we stand a thousand times better chance to have them peacefully respected. Our defenceless state invites aggression. Our weakness will compel us to submit to indignity, while we ought to be able to compel our lights to be respected. And how can we do this, if we take from the public Treasury the last dollar that is there no, it is not there but which ought to be put and kept there, or to be appropriated towards the defences of the Country.
It may be said, however, that there is really no danger of war; that the present Administration are in favor of peace; that the Secretary of State has it all in train. "True 'tis, and pity 'tis, 'tis true," that the Secretary of State has attempted to deprecate the wrath of the British Government, by what I consider a betrayal of the honor of his country, but the people of the United States may not choose to consider the Secretary of State as the best depository of their interest or their honor. I have misread the history of my country, if in years gone by, the people and the Secretary have not differed, and widely, about national honor, and the causes of war. The Secretary did not, before the war of 1812, think the impressment of American seamen, and other outrages committed on the American flag, causes of war the people did.
The Secretary may not think the murder of American citizens, and the outrages committed on American soil, now causes of war the people may and, sir, for one, I have not the confidence in the American head and heart of the Secretary that the gentleman from Virginia [Mr. Wise] expressed the other day. The history of the late war, the records of this House, must be obliterated from my memory, before I can have any confidence in his American head or heart, when Great Britain is her antagonist. He sued for peace.
Mr. Proffit called Mr. Brown to order. He inquired of the Chair whether, during the consideration of the present bill, it was in order to enter into a personal attack upon the Secretary of State, impugning his patriotism and honor. If the member from Pennsylvania was indulged in this wanton and unjustifiable departure from decorum, he (Mr. P.) would repel the slander. He felt able to answer not only the member who has uttered it, but any man who would make an insinuation against the probity, the honor, the noble patriotism of Daniel Webster.
The CHAIRMAN reminded the gentleman from Pennsylvania that he was departing from the subject under consideration in discussing the question of war or peace.
Mr. Brown. The gentleman may reply when he pleases, and as he pleases, and vindicate the Secretary where he pleases; but what he calls slanders I tell him are stubborn facts, written here upon the journals of this House, and deeply in the hearts of every American; and I tell him now, that the Secretary of State, in his letter to Mr. Fox, has cast a stain on the honor of this country; brought down the eagle of America (that symbol of our country's proud and noble spirit, which spreads its wings over your chair, Mr. Chairman) and has prostrated that bird of liberty beneath the feet of the British lion. His American head ! His American heart ! The "noble patriotism of Daniel Webster !" Ye gods ! Let the American people hear this, and let them remember his "noble patriotism" during the last war.
Sir, I was sorry to hear the gentleman from Virginia give the sanction of his name to the course of the Secretary of State in the McLeod case as true to American feeling. That gentleman [Mr. Wise] every one knows has an American head and heart, and loves, and would defend his country and his country's honor as his own, and it must have been more in consideration of the kindly relations that exist between them at this time, than his recollections of the past history of the Secretary of State, that induced him to vouch for his American head and heart.
This I know, Mr. Chairman, is all out of order, but it is spoken, and so let it go; and I will return to the distribution of the proceeds of the public lands once again.
The bill is unjust and unequal. It professes to distribute the proceeds of the public lands equally, when in fact it gives a much larger share to some States than to others. It provides that Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Alabama, Missouri, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Michigan, shall hereafter have, over and above the millions of acres they have already had, ten per cent. of the nett proceeds of all sales made within them, and then to have their equal share with the other States afterwards. What equality is there in such a division as this? or what right have these States, or any of them, to any portion of these lands more than the other States ? It is said by the advocates of distribution, that these lands do not belong to the General Government, but are only held by it in trust for the several States, to be divided among them equally. Then what right has our trustee the trustee of Pennsylvania to take any part of our portion and give it to Ohio ?
Pennsylvania has given to the General Government no such power she acknowledges no such power in her trustee. I deny, however, altogether, that the public lands are held by the General Government for the use of the States. I believe, both by the deeds of cession and the national character of the purchase, they are held for the use of the States as a whole, as a nation, and in this way only can the several States be equally benefited by them. They are the property of the United States, held for the use of the United States, as all their other property is, and the proceeds of their sales are in no wise different from money received from customs, direct taxes, or in any other way, and ought not otherwise to be used or appropriated.
But it is not my intention to discuss this part of the subject this has been and will be done by other and abler hands. My object now is to show the injustice of the bill, under the distribution plan, of giving to one State more than another, and then call it an equal division.
I have said, you have no right to take from the trust fund of one State and give it to another from Pennsylvania and give it to Ohio; and I now ask what is the propriety or reason for such inequality ? Is Ohio poorer than Pennsylvania, or has she more need of a large share ? The bill states, the object of giving Ohio more than Pennsylvania, is to aid the former in making internal improvements. Ohio already has an extensive system of internal improvements, partly paid for by donations of land; and has not Pennsylvania expended millions of dollars in internal improvements, and for which she is now deeply in debt, and her soil and citizens heavily taxed and for whose benefit are they made ? More for Ohio than for Pennsylvania. A large portion of Pennsylvania is not in the least benefited by any of her public works, while all Ohio is largely benefited by them, yet Pennsylvania, according to the provisions of the bill, is to have a large part of her share of the public lands taken away from her and given to Ohio to enable her to complete her public works. Pennsylvania will never submit to this. If she has any right to any portion of the public lands, she has a right to a full share, and as one of her Representatives, I will consent to take nothing less.
But she wants none of it. She is suffering now under the curse inflicted upon her by what she has already received from the Government the surplus revenue. That, and the amount received as a bonus for the charter of the Bank of the United States, was the cause of the expenditure of millions of dollars more with it, in the wildest schemes of public improvements that ever entered into the heads of men to conceive, and to which, more than to any thing else, is to be attributed her present large debt, unfinished works, and broken credit. Let any one who imagines so much good will be derived from these donations from the General Government in the way of internal improvements, go to Pennsylvania and behold her abandoned works the offspring of the surplus revenue. Beginning nowhere, and ending nowhere "made over mountains," (to use the language of one of her legislative reports,) "so high that it would make the head of the stoutest man dizzy to look down from, and running through caverns so deep, that the light of day can never penetrate them."
Nor is it in Pennsylvania alone that we are to look for the evils that resulted from the distribution of the revenues of the General Government among the States. It is to be seen almost in every State. It was felt deeply, and injuriously felt, throughout the Union, and was the main, if not the only cause, of the inflation of the currency and wild speculations that followed it, and brought ruin on the country. If you pass this bill, the same effects will be felt to a degree again and again. It cannot be otherwise. It is in the very nature of the thing to derange the business and the currency of the country. No matter where the money comes from, the distribution annually, or occasionally, of large sums of money, not in payment of any of the products of labor or of the soil among the several States, will lead to the derangement of all regular business and certain prosperity.
It is not contended, however, that there will be any surplus in the Treasury at any time to divide, but that the vacuum that will be made by the abstraction and distribution of the proceeds of the public lands will have to be supplied by an increase of duties on foreign merchandise or products. Thus, what is given to the States by distribution is to be repaid to the General Government by customs, and the consumers of the articles on which the duties are laid will pay the customs. In plain terms, what is given to the States by the General Government must be paid back, by the people to the General Government.
If it should be paid back by the same people who receive it, there would then be no other injustice in it than compelling them to pay for collecting and paying it out twice, and having to make up all the loss that will accrue by smuggling in the first place, and, subsequently, by defrauding and defaulting collectors and keepers of the public money. But should it not be paid back by the same people who receive it, then it is doubly unjust. First, it is unjust to give to the States the proceeds of the public lands which belong to the whole people, to be by them appropriated to pay State debts, or otherwise perhaps to the benefit of but a portion of the people of the State; and secondly, by indirect taxation, collect from a portion, and a different portion from those who receive the benefits of that distributed, the same or a larger amount of money to supply its place in the Treasury of the United States, it is indirectly taking from the pockets of one part of the people to put into those of another, and, in many cases, taking ten dollars from the pocket of the same individual to put one back again.
But let us examine a little more closely the plan proposed to raise revenue in lieu of that distributed. It is proposed by the Secretary of the Treasury to impose a duty of 20 per cent, ad valorem on all articles that are now imported free of duty; and you hear the advocates of distribution every where proclaiming that this revenue is to be raised by duties on "luxuries" on "wines" and "silks." Wines and silks are trumpeted forth as the luxuries on which they intend to lay a tax equal to that taken from the revenue by distribution.
The Whigs always have gone, and seem still disposed to go, on the humbug principle. They never stop at deception, and finding that they deceived the people on a large scale, and were successful at the late election, they think they can always play the same game with success. Thus is it that they are attempting to tickle the public ear with the idea that those who drink wine and wear silks will have to repay the amount distributed among the State, by this bill. The gentleman from Maine [Mr. CLIFFORD] has proved by calculations, made upon data furnished from the Treasury Department, that this is all a fallacy; that all the revenue that could be raised by the 20 per cent. duty on wines, would be less than two hundred and fifty thousand dollars per annum, and on all silks not over a million and a half.
The other articles on which this duty is to be imposed, was shown by the same gentleman to be the necessaries of life tea, coffee, sugar, molasses, hides, &c. On tea and coffee alone will be levied upwards of two millions of dollars, and on the rest of the undutiable articles, mostly all of which may be considered as necessaries, entering into the daily consumption of every man, the poor as well as the rich, and in many instances the poor consuming as much as the rich, is there to be raised, according to the recommendation of the Secretary of the Treasury, the amount of near twelve millions of dollars.
If any Pennsylvanian will look at the articles that are thus to be taxed, tea, coffee, sugar, molasses, hides, &c. and calculate how much will be, nay, must be, consumed of them in Pennsylvania, he will see that she will have to pay dearly, very dearly, for her share of the proceeds of the public lands; it is indeed "paying too dear for the whistle." To carry the calculation closer, he will find that it will operate most oppressively on the operative, middling, and poorer classes. These consume as much tea, coffee, sugar, and molasses, and wear as many shoes made out of foreign hides as the rich do, if not more, for they generally have better appetites and are obliged to walk more; as they consume more, they will have to pay more duty, and there is not one of them who will not pay from ten to one hundred times as much into the Treasury in duties as he will receive out of it by this distribution bill.
If these duties were to be so laid as to be a protection to the products of the mines, the soil, the manufactures, or the labor, of Pennsylvania, the loss to her might not be so great; but this is no where proposed; indeed, the idea of a protective tariff seems to be entirely repudiated by the present Administration, and the present majority in Congress. Pennsylvania has, therefore, nothing to expect from those now in power, that will promote her interests. She must, therefore, look at the naked question of distribution as it is proposed, and the duties recommended by the Secretary of the Treasury, for in this shape will both these measures be carried, if carried at all.
And it is under this view of the question that I have attempted to show that the whole scheme is against the interest of Pennsylvania. I have not thought it worth notice, the argument used by many, that what is paid in duties is paid indirectly and voluntarily, and therefore not felt. The British corn laws are upon the same principle. Are the duties paid on the bread stuffs of that country not felt by the citizens ? Yet they are paid indirectly and voluntarily. The argument is unworthy an enlightened statesman; and I am satisfied my constituents would just as soon pay their share of the public expenses directly, as indirectly. They will do both voluntarily, but they will choose that which causes them to pay the least; and will not deem that just, which takes from the many to give to the few from the poor to give to the rich.
It is against the interest of the people of Pennsylvania generally to pay to the General Government, in the way of duties, millions of dollars annually, to get from the General Government, in the way of distribution, hundreds of thousands for all they will ever get as their share of the proceeds of the public lands will not be more than from two to three hundred thousand dollars per annum. Pennsylvania, it is true, is in debt, and has annually to pay a portion of the interest on that debt by direct taxes. The share she would receive from the proceeds of the public lands, would, doubtless, be applied, as far as it would go, and this would be but a very little way, towards the payment of that interest, and to that extent relieve those who are now, by the laws of the State, taxed for that purpose. This debt has been principally incurred for her internal improvements. These have not benefited all her citizens equally; many have not been benefited any. In the imposition of taxes to pay for them, respect has therefore been had to those who have been most benefited, so far as it could be; thus has real estate been taxed moderately; capitalists, banks, corporations, corporation and State officers, merchants, traders, professional men, and others with large incomes, high; laborers, mechanics, manufacturers, and producers, very lightly. This, we are to suppose, is laying the burden of the State debt upon those who have received the most advantage from it, and who are best able to bear it. Of this the Legislature of the State is certainly the best judge.
This bill, however, proposes to take from those on whom the burden is specially imposed by the State a part of that burden, and impose it on the food and clothing of all her citizens; thus making the man who has no land no capital no merchandise, to be benefited by the public works, pay as much as the man who has his profits doubled by them on his thousands of acres his millions of dollars or his warehouse, filled with merchandise because the former will consume as much of the articles on which duties are laid, as the latter.
Pennsylvania has not asked this Government to aid her in the payment of her debt she is able to pay it herself; and, most of all, would she refuse to accept aid on terms like these. And whether she is able to pay it or not, she will never agree to have it paid for her by indirectly taking from any portion of her citizens the rewards of their honest industry, by taxing, tea, coffee, and sugar, and silks; as if it were a crime to drink the one or wear the other.
Before I leave this part of the subject, I cannot but advert to two short sentences I find in the report of the Secretary of the Treasury; which though they may not be strictly applicable to the subject under consideration, will show that the Secretary is playing the politician more than the financier in many of his recommendations. His notions of trade and commerce, and revenue, and expenditures, are, to say the least of them, somewhat confused. For instance, take the following, which is from page six of his report on the finances:
"The undersigned would respectfully recommend, as a temporary measure, the levy of a duty of 20 per cent. ad valorem on all articles which are now free of duty; or which pay a less duty than 20 per cent. except gold and silver, and the articles specifically enumerated in the 5th section of the act of March 2d, 1833.
"If this measure be adopted, it is estimated that there will be received into the Treasury from customs, in the last quarter of the present year and about $5,300,000; in all the year of 1842, about $22,500,000; in the year 1843, after the final reduction under the act of March 2d, 1833, about $20,800,000."
And then the following, which is from page 7, of same report:
"The currency of the country should be restored, and commerce and industry relieved from their present state of embarrassment and depression, and a benign and liberal policy on the part of the General Government should call forth once more the hardy industry and active enterprise of our people, and the vast resources of our country."
Thus would the Secretary, by his recommendation in the first of these extracts, impose a burden on commerce of two millions three hundred thousand dollars the last three months of this year, and of eleven and a half millions the next year, in addition to those now imposed upon it. This is one way of relieving commerce !
But perhaps the Secretary thinks commerce is like chamomile; it will thrive best the more you trample upon it. I have always understood that high duties, or duties of any kind, were inimical to commerce, and that the best way to relieve commerce of its burdens, was to take off the duties and exactions levied upon it.
But what does the Secretary mean by "relieving commerce and industry ?" Does he mean what the President in his message says, that there will be "a gradual expansion of trade growing out of a restoration of confidence?" If he does, I should like to know with what country our trade is to be increased ! Where our old markets are to be enlarged, or new ones opened ? And if this will be best accomplished by imposing more duties? will the imposition of duties on wines and silks enlarge the market for our tobacco or cotton, or will an increase of duty on coffee and sugar and molasses, enlarge the market for our lumber and flour ?
But this is the way I presume we are to get the better times and higher prices that were promised before the election. Duties are to be imposed for the purpose of reviving commerce, and these duties are to be on such luxuries and necessaries as do not come in competition with those of American growth and manufacture, for the purpose of relieving American industry ! The Secretary will prove himself a great man it he can thus relieve commerce and industry by the same process increase a market at home for foreign productions, and a market abroad for American productions.
But, sir, I am wandering, and must return to this distribution bill again, to present it to the consideration of the committee in another point of view.
The demoralizing effects of this distribution scheme upon the action of Congress, cannot escape the foresight of the committee. Heretofore our legislation in relation to the public lands has had one common object the best interest of the United States. We have had a unity of purpose. The representatives from Maine have had the same feelings and the same interest in the matter as those of Louisiana, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky. As soon, however, as this bill shall pass, each State will have its own policy and its own interests to control the course of its representatives here. The States that are heavily in debt, or that shall embark largely in internal improvements, or otherwise have immediate and pressing demands for money, will be clamorous for the rapid sales of the lands while those States who have no such pressing demands for money, but who are carefully investing their income, will be more anxious for a high price for the lands than for rapid sales. Thus will grow up in the States antagonist interests and feelings, that will not only produce discord in relation to the sales of the lands themselves, but may, ultimately, involve and endanger their general harmony.
The new States, in which large portions of these lands may be, will become the victims of these antagonistical State interests. They will not be as now under the guardian care of a common parent, but of separate heirs prodigal sons, who will demand their share of the heritage at once, and careful ones who want it to remain in the common stock until it will command the highest price. The seat of all their contest, will be these Halls. Nor will these be the only conflicting interests. There has been, is now, and there will be, a band of land speculators, who, ever ready for their prey, will provoke these conflicts and too often decide them not for the interest of any of the old States or the new States, but for their own interest. These land speculators have now many millions of the public lands in their possession; pass this bill and who can tell how much they will have in years to come; and are they to be the future guardians of the Western frontier ? Do the new States desire to have their destinies placed in their hand ? Yet such may be the result of the passage of this bill.
In every aspect the subject presents itself to my mind, it seems to be the true interest of all the States that the control of the public lands should remain in the General Government, and the interest in the United States, to whom they were first ceded, or by whom they were purchased. Nor do I believe it to be wise policy to keep them merely for profit. The amount that may be received for sales always has been, and always ought to be, but a secondary object. I do not believe that we should throw them away upon all the worthless of the world, but I do think that the sooner they are cultivated by an honest, industrious, and hardy population American in character and feeling, come from where they may the better will it be for our common defence, and general welfare.
Our frontier will be comparatively decreased and strengthened. The general expenses of the Government will be but little augmented, either at home or abroad; and all that is necessary to our protection on the seaboard or on the ocean, will remain the same as now; whilst the settlement of the Great West will add largely to the defenders of the whole country.
Nor will this be the only advantage that will be derived from the increase of population there. In a few years these settlers will become tax-payers, consumers of the articles on which duties are laid; and they will pay into the Treasury, in customs, far more than ever has been, or ever can be, obtained from the sales of lands. This is the case now with Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana, and others of the new States; and who would exchange their brave, industrious, and patriotic sons for waste lands. As it is with them now, so will it be in a few years with the whole of the "Far West," if this Government shall not turn itself in to a land-office for the States, and take upon itself to sell its lands to pay their debts.
It often happens, Mr. Chairman, in the course of human events, that the secret springs of the actions of individuals and public bodies are concealed from the actors, who are but the instruments of others, while they seem to the eyes of the world the principals. It is not my purpose to impute to any member of the committee other than patriotic motives in the advocacy of this or any other measure that way come before Congress. But whatever may be the motive of anyone here or elsewhere, it must be apparent to every impartial observer that the whole scope and tendency of the bill under consideration, and those other bills which are behind it and will follow it, if a majority can be found to give them their sanction, I mean that creating a National Bank or Fiscal Agent, and that creating a twelve million loan, or national debt, is to enure to the benefit of land speculators and the holders of State, corporation, or other stocks and loans on this and the other side of the ocean.
The proceeds of your lands the capital of your Bank the amount of your loans, is all to go to Europe, not to be returned in gold and silver, but to pay the interest on loans, or be returned in merchandise. This will be the natural and obvious result; and will but add to our present indebtedness to that amount; and the producing portion of the people of the United States will be the sufferers. The whole scheme seems devised only to increase the value, and to add to the amount of State and corporation stocks and loans, and consequently to add to our indebtedness to Europe; and to enable those who are now indebted to Europe, and who are otherwise unable, to pay by indirect taxation, or exactions from the people of the whole United States.
The distribution of the proceeds of the sales of the public lands among the States will raise the credit of the States. Those who are now heavily in debt, and have unfinished public improvements, and most of the indebted States have, will be induced by this temporary aid and restoration of their credit, to go on in their wasteful course, and involve themselves still farther in debt. The other States will be tempted to embark in a like career, or assist, with the portion they may receive, railroad and canal companies to embark in it, and thus will begin, or be pursued, that same career which, for the ten years previous to 1839 created a fictitious prosperity, which ended in leaving us in debt to other parts of the world two hundred millions of dollars.
Yes, sir, for these ten years we imported from Europe and other countries, the products of their soil and manufactures, to the value of some twenty millions of dollars annually more than we paid for by exportation to other countries of the produce of our soil and manufactures. A large part of this difference was paid for by State and other stocks. For the last year or two the scene has changed; other countries will not take in payment for their products our stocks or loans, and instead therefore of importing twenty millions of dollars in merchandise annually more than we pay for by our products, we have been obliged to pay to Europe and other countries ten millions annually as interest on the debt we owe them for the products received from them and consumed, and paid for by these stocks.
This makes a difference of thirty millions annually against us compared with the ten years before 1839, and may well account for the difference in the times. But we were promised better times, and here we have the Whig plan of making times better; and I suppose it is in this way that the President means to effect "an expansion of trade." We are, it seems, again to run the round of madness and folly to go deeper and deeper in debt to Europe to import millions upon millions of her manufactures, to the destruction of our own, and thus beget among us habits of idleness and extravagance, and then, at the end of another five years awaken out of the dream of better times our gold and silver all gone to Europe our banks suspended, and we left another hundred millions of dollars in debt. Against such a course of legislation, in parliamentary language, I enter my solemn and protest and I warn the majority here that such will be the effect of the measures they propose to adopt.
The idea of this Government directly assuming the payment of the State debts, it is true has been rejected by the present Administration, but it is more than hinted by the President that the same consequences will flow from the distribution among the States of the proceeds of the public lands. He is willing to do that indirectly which he will not do directly.
But the gentleman from Georgia [Mr. Alford] told us yesterday that he was willing openly to assist the States to pay their debts, by assuming a part of them. As I do not pretend to understand the State Rights doctrines as well as it is understood in Georgia, I suppose this is orthodox; but, if that gentleman is willing to assume a part of the debts of the States now, I apprehend he might be induced ultimately to assume them all men or Governments do not often stop half way in measures of this kind. And, when this shall be done, have gentlemen ever calculated the amount of the national debt it will make ?
Pennsylvania is now in debt nearly forty millions. Putting her down as about one-tenth of the United States, if these debts are assumed, the national debt will be four hundred millions. It may require more, for I believe several of the States are proponionably more in debt than she is. Sir, any attempt directly to assume the debts of the States, or indirectly to provide for their payment, as is the avowed object of this bill, can end in nothing else than entailing upon the people of the United States an overwhelming national debt; the interest on which will have to be paid by the producers of the country by the farmers, the mechanics, the manufacturers and laborers.
Mr. Chairman, I warn you, and I warn this committee, before you take the first step on this broad road to ruin, to pause. I know you promised the people, before your election, that you would make times better, and that you are anxious to fulfil your promises; but I warn you and them that if you do it by the course you are pursuing, it will be at a fearful cost. Pursue the path that wisdom, prudence, and patriotism all dictate begin at once to reduce the expenses of the Government wherever they can be reduced raise, by an increase of duties, levied in such a manner as will best promote American prosperity, as much revenue as will be necessary to meet the economical wants of the Government make the necessary appropriations to defend the country, and then go home, and you will best have relieved the community, leaving the business and the currency of the country to be taken care of by the people themselves.
Time is all that is necessary to restore confidence and revive business it is fast doing it and, if left alone, it will be sooner and better done than you can do it with all your legislation. By the measures you propose, you may make an artificial prosperity of a year or two, or even more you may make the fortunes of a few speculators and stockjobbers here and in Europe; but, as certain as there shall be summer and winter, instead of restoring the currency you will further derange it instead of promoting domestic industry, you will destroy it instead of promoting the happiness of the people, you will lead them into extravagance, and debase their morals, and, in the end, leave them to groan under a load of direct taxes.
The gentleman from Georgia [Mr. Alford] said that I was ready as soon as a Bank was made to pounce upon its back with the ominous word "repeal." Sir, I am ready, and upon this bill also; and if my voice, and those who act with me shall be unavailing here, to stop the fatal measures you and your party are urging upon the country, I will raise the standard of the people once and again in the first Congressional district of Pennsylvania, and gather to the rescue that Democracy which never knew defeat. Nor there alone, but from the ocean to the lakes; from Maine to Louisiana, will that same standard be raised, and never lowered until a voice shall be heard responding to the call of the true friends of the country, that will make these halls ring to the echo again, and banish hence the betrayers of American interests and American honor, her prosperity and her happiness, to promote the interests of American speculators, stockjobbers, British manufacturers, and British-American fundholders.