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Relief to Land Purchasers.
Senate and House of Representatives, of which they the settlement of any quarter section, a settlement of are members.
all contiguous and adjoining land, not exceeding two “ Attest: J. C. BRECKENRIDGE, entire sections.
"Secretary." 3d. And with instructions to extend the contempla
ted relief to no section on which any town may have MONDAY, January 22.
been laid off, and the lots sold by any individual or Mr. ROBERTS presented the memorial of John
company of individuals. Bioren, of Philadelphia, and Fielding Lucas, jr., his motion, and to show that the bill,
Mr. EATON spoke at some length in support of of Baltimore, booksellers, proposing to sell to Government a certain number of copies of the edition in the mode he proposed, would be defective. of the laws of the United States, published by said because it would produce delay.
Mr. Thomas briefly opposed the recommitment, Bioren and others, and to print a sixth volume, to because it would produce delay. contain all subsequent laws to the close of the
Mr. Johnson, of Kentucky, opposed the motion present session of Congress, under the authority to recommit, and advocated the bill at considerand patronage of Congress ; and the memorial was
able length. Mr. J. spoke as follows: read, and referred to the Committee on the Judi
The system of relief, said Mr. JOHNSON, which ciary.
the bill provides, is embraced in two propositions: Mr. ROBERTS presented the petition of Ann First, the power to relinquish that portion of the Hodge, relict of George Hodge, deceased, late a land which is entered, but not paid for, and to obboatswain in the Navy of the United States, pray- tain a patent for what is paid for; secondly, ining to be remunerated for the loss of household dulgence for eight or ten years, by annual instalfurniture, occasioned by the burning of the navy ments, without interest, ' to those who prefer yard at Washington, in the year 1814; and the retaining the whole amount purchased. In the petition was read, and referred to the Committee former case, it is so constructed as not to derange of Claims.
the surveys, or to produce any loss or inconveniMr. Lowrie presented the petition of Thomas ence by interfering with the system upon which Dobson and son, booksellers of Philadelphia, pray
sales are now made. Under the present laws, our ing that an act may be passed authorizing the public lands are surveyed in ranges of six miles purchase from them of six hundred copies of wide, and, by transverse lines, at the same distances, Seybert's Statistical Annals of the United States," divided into townships, as they are technically for the use of Government; and the petition was called, of six miles square, numbered from a line read, and referred to the Committee on Commerce of latitude taken for the basis, and a meridian of and Manufactures.
longitude. These townships are each subdivided Mr. PLEASANTS, from the Committee on Naval into thirty-six sections, of a mile square, or six Affairs, to whom was referred the petition of hundred and forty acres, and these sections again Thomas Shields, made a report, accompanied by subdivided into oblong rectangles of one-eighth of a bill concerning Thomas Shields and others;
a section, or eighty acres each, and all divided by and the report and bill were read, and the bill lines running with the four cardinal points. When passed to a second reading.
the sales are made for which moneys are now due, Mr. King, of Alabama, gave notice that, to- the smallest sub-division was one hundred and morrow, he should ask leave to bring in a bill to sixty, acres, the fourth part of a section; and, if a establish a port of entry at Blakeley, in the State purchaser is now indebted for the smallest purof Alabama.
chase which he could then make, he may now The Senate proceeded to consider the motion relinquish one-half of that purchase, without deof the 18th instant, instructing the Committee on rangement to the present system. The provision Public Lands to inquire into the expediency of made in the bill which is now proposed, carefully amending the act for the relief of the inhabitants guards this point. If the purchaser shalí choose to of the late county of New Madrid, in the Missouri avail himself of the provision, he can relinquish Territory, who suffered by earthquakes ; and agreed only such aliquot part of a section as shall form thereto.
the proper division, agreeably to the present sys
tem. The purchases made, which this bill will RELIEF TO LAND PURCHASERS. embrace, are either a section, six hundred and forty The Senate resumed the consideration of the acres; three-fourths of a section, four hundred and bill to extend relief to the purchasers of the public eighty acres; a half section, three hundred and lands prior to the 1st of July, 1820.
twenty acres; or a quarter section, one hundred When the bill was last under consideration, Mr. and sixty acres. In every case, at least one-fourth Eaton moved to recommit the bill to the Com- part of the purchase money was paid within forty mittee on the Public Lands, with instructions to-days of the time of application; another fourth
Ist. Make the provisions of the bill applicable to part was required to be paid in two years; another those purchasers of public lands only who have
in three the remainder in four years; and, pur
years; chased at public sale since the 30th day of December, in case any part shall be delayed till the expi1816.
ration of five years from the day of application, 2d. And with instructions to extend the contempla- the land is re-sold; and, unless some person shall ted relief to none but those who, on or before the 30th advance cash in hand for what is due, the land day of October last, had made a settlement on the reverts to the United States, and the whole of the lands by them so purchased, defining and considering money paid upon it, improvements and all, are
Relief to Land Purchasers.
forfeited, and the industrious, frugal, but more un- to every other, and from whose persevering enterfortunate husbandman, sent adrift with his family, prise our country derives all its treasures. These and deprived of all the fruits of his honest labors. citizens have left their homes, to subdue the wilNow, sir, the bill before you proposes, that, in such derness, and make it subservient to the welfare of cases, the purchaser may still be rescued from the man, there to provide a home for themselves and grasp
of penury and famine, in a land of plenty, their numerous offspring. With this class of citby permitting him to retain so much of the land izens the security of our liberties, and the energies as the moneys paid by him will actually purchase, of the Government rest. To them we owe our at the price of the original entry, not varying in national safety and prosperity. Virtue and indequantity or form from the present legal sub-divi- pendence, when exiled from every other class, find sion, and to relinquish the remainder-a proposition an asylum with them. They already form an imthat every honorable member of this House would pregnable barrier against territorial invasion; and accede to, under similar circumstances, in his own it is a duty which the Government owes no less individual transactions with a poor and unfortu- to itself than to them, to protect them from injustnate debtor.
ice, from injury, from ruin. Withhold the relief The second proposition is equally necessary to which their peculiar necessities now demand, and screen the purchaser from loss, and will equally, you give a deadly blow to the brightest hopes of secure the Government against any sacrifice. If the nation. It will be like refusing the kind offices a purchaser shall have entered a quarter section, of paternal care to a perishing child, who, if nour(one hundred and sixty acres,) and shall have paid ished, is destined to be your support and comfort thereon only eighty dollars, the first instalment, it in declining age. will not entitle him to a patent for any part of his There may be some exceptions to this descrippurchase, as it will not have paid for eighty acres; tion of character, but the proportion is very small; or, if he shall have entered three-quarter sections, and a good man will not leave all his children to (four hundred and eighty acres,) and paid thereon starve, lest the sons of strangers eat their crumbs. only one instalment, two hundred and forty dollars, All have paid their money, all are citizens, and he will be entitled to a patent for eighty acres, we can make no discrimination. None will reamounting to one hundred and sixty dollars; but ceive relief beyond what jus warrants; the the remaining eighty dollars must be lost to him, Government will lose nothing by any, and the unless relief be extended, by granting him time to measure, even in relation to the least meritorious, complete his payment for an additional quantity is founded in reason and equity. If any difficulty of land. But most of these purchasers have paid shall seem to exist in correctly designating the more than the first instalment. They are generally part to be relinquished, it is casily surmounted by an industrious, economical class of citizens, who, the proposition which I have the honor to make; when they have been fortunate enough to collect that when actual settlements are made, the part small sums in return for their labor, pay them over retained shall include the improvements, or such to the land offices, as partial liquidations of the part of them as shall be contained within a reguinstalments due, or becoming due, for their lands, lar legal division of the section; and when no cheered by the animating prospect of being able improvements are made the division to be decided one day to call that little portion of the wilderness by lot. This will remove every difficulty which on which their industry is creating perpetual smiles, might arise from submitting the decision to either their own. But all payments which either exceed of the parties. or fall short of equal sums of one hundred and Those citizens have a claim to the consideration eighty dollars, the amount of purchase money for of the Government founded in equity. The amount the smallest legal division of public land, must be due to the Government for sales of public lands is forever lost to them and their families, unless the something less than twenty-four millions of doltime shall also be extended, by which they may lars. For lands on which that amount is due, complete their payment for these aliquot parts of there cannot have been paid less than eight mila section. One other course, it is true, might se- lions of dollars—one-fourth part of the purchasecure these over payments, which would be, to money. And if one-half has been paid, then the grant them certificates for such surpluses, receiv- money actually received is equal to the whole able in payment for public lands; but no such amount due. It is most probable that at least twelve provision is contained in the bill, and the relief millions have been paid; and if the relief shall be proposed will be more for the interest of the Gov- denied, this amount—the fruit of honest industry, ernment, and quite as accommodating to the gen- drawn from the most virtuous and useful class of erality of those interested.
the community, the laboring husbandmen, into the Let us have some regard to the character of public Treasury—must be forfeited and lost forthose who need this relief. I mean the great body ever. Now, sir, let me inquire who among us is of this population, which must suffer without it. so lost to justice—so hardened against the cries of The question may seem to be local, from the par- suffering innocence—that he would give his voice ticular interests which it involves ; but no subject thus to fill the cup of misery, by replenishing the can, in reality, have more extensive operation. national coffers with twelve millions of dollars It embraces the citizens of every section of every from this meritorious class of citizens, and then State in the Union; and the most useful and vir- deprive them of the very lands which were designed tuous class of citizens, the honest, industrious far- to be purchased by that money? Let us bring this mers, by whose labors life and vigor are imparted to a case betwixt individuals. Suppose one man
Relief to Land Purchasers.
sells to another a tract of land for four thousand at this hour of unparalleled pressure and distress ? dollars, to be paid in four annual instalments. On a more auspicious day, these citizens became The purchaser pays the two first instalments, (two purchasers of the public domain, when the prosthousand dollars,) and is unable to pay the bal- pect of a fair remuneration invited to industry. ance. In such a case, what would be the course They cheerfully endured the toils and privations of an honorable man-one who loved justice—who incident to their undertakings, in prospect of hapacted upon the golden rule, “Whatsoever ye would pier days. Returning to their shelter, from the that men should do unto you, do ye even so unto labors of the day, gladness sparkled in their eyes, them ?" Would he deprive the honest laborer of and the smile of hope beamed in their countenanthe hard-earned money which he had paid him, ces, as their little ones hailed their approach, beand triumphing in the misfortune of his neighbor, cause fortune promised them a long and comfortdrive him, with his helpless babes, a houseless, able abode. Śhall these smiles of innocence be homeless vagrant, upon the charities of an unfriend- followed with tears of anguish and disappointly world? No, sir; he would first inquire whether ment? Shall the labor of the parent be forfeited the failure to pay the residue had operated so as and the hope of infancy be blasted forever, when to subject him to any considerable loss. He would we can, without detriment to the public interest
, next inquire whether the land could be divided, still fan the heavenly flame? The voice of juswithout injury, so as to convey to the purchaser tice, the voice of mercy, the voice of God, forbid it. the worth of the money he had actually paid. He The times are now changed. The products of would then investigate the cause of the failure their labor and their lands find no place in market, whether it had originated in a fraudulent design or will command no money, in comparison with of the purchaser. Being satisfied on all these points, what they once would do. It would be the height that no special injury had arisen to himself in of injustice and oppression to seize upon this occonsequence of the failure; that the premises might casion to deprive them of their homes, and reduce be divided without injury or inconvenience; that them to all the horrors of wretchedness and desthe purchaser had failed to complete the payment pair. They can still live, and exhibit all the joys through pure misfortune,—he would, without a of contentment, if you will afford them this relief. moment's hesitation, either return him the money If they cannot get money, they can furnish the or divide the land, and convey so much as the pay- comforts of life without it, and cheerfulness will ment made would cover. Such, sir, is precisely still rest in their bosoms. They are now waiting the case before us. The purchasers of public lands in awful suspense the result of this proposition do not solicit your charity: Donations are not in anxious solicitude, betwixt hope and despair, called for. A batement in the price of the land is whether the arrival of the courier will sound the not expected. But they implore what they have a trump of their jubilee, or ring the knell of their moral right to demand—they implore your justice departed happiness. Confirm them in the possession of what they have It is necessary for us to look into the reasons for paid for, at the price stipulated in the purchase, fixing this penalty to the law under which these and give them the privilege of relinquishing the purchases were made. It originated in a policy remainder; and where their payments do not exact- to influence punctuality on the part of purchasers, ly cover the legal rectangle, for where they have and to prevent an accumulation of the debts due extended improvements over the different parts of from individuals to the Government. That reathe purchase, that they may receive quid pro quo son exists no longer. The old system of credit is for their moneys, or, that they may enjoy the ben- abolished, and the debts, therefore, never can acefit of their improvements, extend the time for cumulate. In doing away this reason, you have paying the balance. This is what justice warrants also diminished the means of payment; by requirthem to expect, and is only continuing the princi- ing, prompt payment for all lands sold, which ple which the Government has acted upon in drains the money from those sections of the counformer cases.
try, and by diminishing the price of lands in reWhen times were more propitious than at pres- ducing the minimum from two dollars to one dolent, relief has been repeatedly extended to others. lar and twenty-five cents per acre. Purchasers of lands between the Miami rivers, to bave at once renewed the objections to relief, and whom a right of preëmption was given in consid- by the same act increased the necessity of that eration of their contract with John Cleves Symmes, relief. were at first required to pay the whole purchase- When the purchases were made, there existed a money in three annual instalments. The inabil- stronger pretext for the enforcing of the penalty. ity of many to comply, rendered it necessary to The law provides, that when those lands shall be forfeit their claims, or extend the time. The lib- offered for sale, if they fetch more than the balance eral course was adopted; and, after several years due the United States, including interest and costs, had elapsed, and relief more than once had been the surplus shall be repaid to the original purchaser; granted them, a law was passed which permitted and when the circulating medium was great, and them to hold the lands and liquidate the balances but few forfeitures were made, the lands might by six annual instalments, without interest. On command a price which would partially remuneseveral occasions, relief has been granted to other rate him for his improvements; but now, when purchasers, by extending the time of payment, the circulating medium is almost entirely withwhen their claims to indulgence were far less than drawn, nearly all the lands must be forfeited, and at present. But why should we withhold reliefl there is not one-twentieth part of the money in all
Thus you SENATE.
Relief to Land Purchasers.
the States and territories together, where these actually paid for at the original price. The chanlands lie, necessary to pay the balances due upon cellor would
as no fraud has been committhem.
“ted by the purchaser; as the means of payment The Government is bound in justice to grant are cut off by the withdrawal of the circulating the relief; and these citizens have a moral right medium, producing great calamity and distress, to demand it. It may be classed among the im- beyond both the control and foresight of either perfect rights; imperfect, only because they have party; and as the Government, by changing the not the legal nor physical power to enforce the de- system and reducing the price of lands, has conmand; but the right, in its binding efficacy upon tributed much more than the purchaser to his the conscience, is perfect and complete; the same inability to pay, the loss to the purchaser is still as a father's perfect right, in morality and religion, sufficiently great; for, had he saved his money to demand honor and gratitude from his son ; but 'till this time, one hundred dollars would have the right is imperfect in law, because he cannot purchased all that he now claims for the paylegally enforce it.
ment of 160 dollars; he shall therefore be conIn the case of the purchaser of the public land, 'firmed in his claim.” there is an equity of redemption in his favor. This The provision for extending the time of payword is technical in the language of the law, and ment might be more doubtful in a court of equity, is referred to a principle established between mort- but not less necessary to secure to the honest gagers and mortgagees. In the case of a mortgage laborer the reward of his industry, and measure between citizens, a court of equity will not con- out to him the full cup of justice. The Governsider the mortgaged premises vested in the mort- ment will thereby receive a higher price for the gagee, though the party who has given the mort- lands thus obtained than to suffer them to revert, gage fails to pay the money on a day certain, fixed and at the same time promote the interests of the by express contract in writing. So uniform have most deserving class of the community. In many been the decisions of courts of equity in these cases injustice will be done to the purchasers, and cases, that the principle is universally established, ruin will fall upon their families without it. The even beyond controversy, that whatever number benefit will be almost exclusively in favor of the of years may have elapsed, the party has a right to poor, whom it is a public duty to protect. A perredeem his mortgaged premises, by paying the son has purchased one hundred and sixty acres, and principal and interest of the sum for which the paid the first instalment, according to law, at the mortgage was given; and in no case, can the time of purchase. By the sweat of his brow he property mortgaged bé sold, nor the fee simple has since raised forty dollars, with which he has vested in the mortgagee, but by a foreclosure of made a partial payment upon the second instalthe mortgage, and a decree of the court of chan- ment. The price was two dollars per acre, and cery. The cases may not be exactly similar; but he has paid one hundred and twenty: The presthe resemblance is sufficiently strong to show that sure of the times renders it impossible for him to the equity of redemption, if we may use the ex- procure money; and as the sum paid will not pression, is as great in favor of the purchasers of cover the purchase of eighty acres, he must lose all public lands, and against the right of the Govern- that he has paid, unless you extend the time. This, ment to deprive them of their domains.
sir, is not an imaginary, but a real case: not a According to the former system of our land solitary case, for hundreds, and even thousands, of laws, the purchaser had the right to purchase by such cases do exist; and tens of thousands of our prompt payment, or by instalments; but he could fellow citizens, of every age and sex, must inevitnot purchase even the smallest subdivision by ably be reduced to misery and ruin, if the provision prompt payment, so as to procure a patent for his shall be denied them. land, and thus secure it to himself and his heirs, If their own imprudence had brought these disa sfor less than $264 40, exclusive of discount. The ters upon them, they would have a slighter claim poor man, then, who could command but a little to consideration ; but, unless we ascribe to them sum, was under the necessity of purchasing upon angelic foresight, or more sagacity than has ever the terms of credit which the law provided. Now yet fallen to the lot of man, we cannot justly he can purchase the amount of a legal subdivi- l charge them with imprudence. If no change had sion, 80 acres, so as to obtain his patent, for $100. taken place in the circulating medium of the Suppose, sir, the poor man, four years since, enter-country; if our markets had remained the same ed the smallest quantity which could then be pur- at home and abroad ; if the price of labor had not ehased, 160 acres, and paid upon it 80 dollars at depreciated; if the same amount of exportation the time of entry, and two years thereafter he and importation had continued ; their ability to paid the second instalment, 80 dollars more, mak- meet the instalments would have continued, and ing together 160 dollars; there is no doubt that, the forfeitures would have been in as small a ratio could he have the right of bringing his case into to the purchasers as at any former period. The a court of equity, as he might do against an indi- disorders in our currency, and the consequent devidual, the court would establish this principle- pression of all our moneyed concerns, originated that the failure, being without fraud, and the point in the struggles of the late war—events which no being ceded, as in this case, that the division was human sagacity could foresee. Before that event, neither injurious nor inconvenient to the seller, no general pecuniary embarrassments threatened the unfortunate purchaser should be confirmed in us, and we could anticipate no extraordinary fluchis claim to 80 acres, the amount which he had I tuations. The banks had the confidence of the
SENATE. people; and in all their operations they maintain- As their claim is founded in justice; as they are ed the specie standard. Contracts were sacredly among the most valuable of our citizens ; as the executed, or the remedy was within our own con- relief will not injure the Government, while it trol; and confidence between citizens was unim- will impart happiness to thousands and contribute paired. But war was proclaimed, and our national to increase the wealth and resources of the nation, expenditures were necessarily increased to an it is devoutly hoped that the unanimous voice of amount beyond the power of taxation to meet the Senate will sanction the measure. Loans were resorted to, which were confined prin- Mr. Noble followed in a short speech on the cipally to New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, same side of the question, and of the same purport. and Washington, the greater part of which was Mr. King, of Alabama, also opposed the recomdrawn from banks disposed to aid the Government mitment, at some length, and incidentally defendin its efforts to sustain the independence and glory ed the object and general provisions of the bill. of the nation. An excessive issue of notes was Mr. Walker, of Alabama, addressed the Chair the consequence; and as confidence began to be as follows: shaken on account of the internal divisions which Mr. President: I can see no sufficient reason for existed, the circulation of those notes became cal, recommitting this bill, especially at this stage of and caused them to return upon the banks. At the discussion. If the Senate concur in opinion this moment, as by a kind of inspiration, to sustain with the honorable gentleman from Tennessee, all their own credit and their country's cause, the his objects may be obtained in the usual mode, banks simultaneously suspended the payment of and in the shape of amendments. At any rate, a specie; and the causes which produced this sus- recommitment should not take place until some pension were so identified with the honor, the general principles are fixed, until we have agreed rights, and the independence of the country, that on the leading features of that system of relief there was a general and almost universal ac- which we may deem it expedient to grant. That quiescence in the measure.
some relief is necessary, seems to be universally When peace returned, the whole country be- conceded; we differ only as to the mode and the came impatient for the resumption of specie pay- degree. ments; and, to satisfy the general call which was Let us notice the objects for which a recommitunfortunately pressed upon the banks, specie ment is asked. The first is, to limit the relief payments were resumed at least five years too proposed by the bill to those purchasers of the pubsoon for the general good, unless it had been very lic land who have bought since the 30th Decemgradually introduced, so as to give time for loans ber, 1816, leaving those who bought lands before to have been collected more leisurely and as the that day to abide as they may the terms of their people could meet the calls. At the same moment contracts, and the tender mercies of the law of forEurope was laboring to effect the same object. feiture. In support of this proposition it is said, that France and the United States were the only specie they have had sufficient indulgence already; that countries in all our commercial relations. The they have repeatedly had the advantages of relief ; general peace of Europe had produced a total that their years of grace have been many, and that revolution in the labor and commercial intercourse they have no reasonable claim to more. Let us of the civilized world. Russia was making bon- inquire a little into this matter. Why have you fires of her paper. England was making every given time heretofore? Because these persons exertion to substitute a specie currency for her were unable to comply with their engagements, paper, and inundating this country with her mer- and because you did not deem it politic to drive chandise to supply her coffers with bullion; and them from the lands which they had improved, the nation was almost drained of specie to supply and for which they had made partial payment ; other countries with which we had intercourse. because, in short, you would not involve them in Such was the state of affairs when the vaults of distress and ruin. But this indulgence was merely our banks were opened to sustain their solvency. an extension of time, and these purchasers paid The thirteen millions of surplus money in the the price of it. You exacted interest still
, and a Treasury was soon exhausted in payment of the portion of the principal annually. Those who floating debt. Paper flowed like torrents into the could not pay this price, reaped not the benefit of banks, by which the circulating medium was your indulgence. On this unfortunate class the almost entirely withdrawn; and, to meet the de- law of forfeiture took its course, and was consummand, the banks called upon their debtors, who mated; and those who had the means made final were by that very circumstance deprived of the payment, for the purpose of freeing themselves means of payment. Property was sacrificed for from the increasing load of interest. It would want of purchasers
, because the means of raising seem then that the purchasers anterier to the year funds were at an end. The banks were crushed, 1817, are not so clearly beyond the pale of an individuals were ruined, and the community has equitable clemency, as the gentleman supposes. sustained a loss of not less than fifty millions of They have paid the price of the indulgence which dollars. In this state of things, there is an utter they have received ; and it should be shown that impossibility of the purchasers of public land meet- they are in a condition now to do what they were ing claims against them. Coercion will be fruit- confessedly unable to do heretofore. I say nothing less; and by tearing from them their lands you of the situation of those who bought only a short will only fill up to them the cup of misery without time before this golden era of mercy-in the year relieving others.
1816 for instance, and whose year of grace, even