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Relief to Land Purchasers.

JANUARY, 1821.

according to the contract, is not expired. It is in the bond.” Your faith is pledged, and you evident that they have received no indulgence, and are bound, in all fair construction of the contract, can receive none, if this proposition should succeed. to make no such distinction. I speak now of the Would this be fair? would it be equal ? would it Union. With regard to the new States, the quesbe just? I think not. Their condition would be tion assumes a totally different aspect and charworse than that of those going before or coming acter. Population is their strength. They deafter them. It would be an odious anomaly, mar- sire, for the most obvious and cogent reasons, to ring the harmony and beauty of your system. increase it. Every immigrant not only adds to

The gentleman from Tennessee contends that their numerical force, but he brings from abroad the late purchasers, particularly those in Alabama, an accession to their wealth. He improves the are better entitled to relief than others, because they soil; he supports the local government; he imparts have purchased at enormous prices. This is very new vigor to the body politic; he gives new value true, and I concur entirely in his opinion. Sir, to every thing around him. Well may the new the situation of Alabama is peculiar, is critical, States, therefore, be ready to welcome him. Thay, is deplorable. Relief that will be efficient and indeed, might very naturally be willing to make adequate for the other new States, would be much distinctions in his behalf. But can they do so ? less so for her. Time alone would do nothing for Have you left them at liberty to pursue a course her, except in the cases of the fortunate few who so obviously advantageous to them ? You have made their purchases at reasonable rates. For done no such thing. As if foreseeing this very others we must resort to very different provisions, result, you have taken the precaution, as far as in which I shall take the liberty to suggest in the fur- you lay, to tie up their hands. You have looked ther progress of this bill.

at the interest of the whole, and not of a part. But, Mr. President, this is a great national ques. You have regarded the public lands as the domain tion, which, however deeply and pre-eminently it of the nation. Your object has been to sell them may concern Alabama, does not concern Alabama for the highest price. You invite all the world to alone;

it embraces the Union. When we act on the auction. The only condition of the sale is, it, we must look at the paramount interests of the that the highest bidder shall be the purchaser. entire Confederacy. We must frame a system You do not inquire whether he live in Maine, or which shall be general, which shall take in the on the lakes, on the Gulf of Mexico, or at the foot whole, and particular hardships are incident to all of the Stony mountains. He may reside in terra such general measures. They may be deplored, incognita, or the moon. You ask not, you canbut they must be submitted to. But I shall have not. All you ask is his money. You want a more to say on this point in its proper place.chapman, who will give the highest price for your Meantime, I content myself with repeating that commodity. You do not limit the quantity which this object of the honorable gentleman from Ten- an individual may buy.. His purse and his judgnessee may be obtained directly by an amendment, ment are left to fix the limit. You do not require more conveniently than by the circuitous process him to erect a cabin, or girdle a tree. of recommitment.

erty is his, and he is allowed to manage


own The second object of a recommitment is to con- concern in his own way." But do you stop here? fine the relief proposed by the bill to actual settlers Do you content yourselves with this negative leonlyto those who had made an actual settlement gislation? You do not, sir. You go still furbefore the 30th October, 1820. Those who have ther, and, lest the new States, in their sovereign not made such settlement are denounced as specu- capacities, and for their local interests, should lators, and speculators are entitled to no redress. make discriminations in the burdens which they Speculation ought to be repressed and discounte- may see proper to impose on the soil, you caunanced, and subjected to the ban of penalty and tiously restrain them, and you declare " that the forfeiture. I know this Senate too well; I have lands of non-residents shall never be taxed higher too high a respect for its intelligence and liberality than the lands of residents.” This article enters to suppose, for a moment, that it is in danger of into every act by which any of your Territories being misled by a name. I can see nothing in the has been authorized to become a State. It is part nature and reason of the thing which calls upon of the consideration of admission into the federal Congress, acting for the United States at large, to family. It is of permanent obligation, and cannot make the discrimination proposed. It is in the be rescinded without your consent. Thus careful nature of a premium on actual settlement, a bounty have you been to protect the rights of purchasers, for removing from the old States to the new. It let them live where they may; and this policy insupposes that there is something of positive merit creased the number of bidders, and enhanced the in such removal, which is entitled to reward. If value of your lands. But when have you required this be so, why not proclaim the fact? Why not actual settlement as a condition of the purchase ? embody it in your system? Why not make the When have you made distinctions in favor of acadvantage known before the sale? Why not draw tual settlers ? How often have you refused any your line of distinction prospectively, and not ret- particular advantages to squatters ? And will you rospectively? Why hold out the same terms to make a difference after the sale which you did not all, if you do not intend to mete out to all the same make before? And will you tie the hands of the equal measure of justice ? Sir, it seems to me new States, lest they should follow their particular that you are foreclosed, in all equity and good con- interests, to your prejudice, while you yourselves science, from making this distinction. It is not commit a gratuitous injustice—an' injustice the

The prop

JANUARY, 1821.

Relief to Land Purchasers.


more cruel, from the very pains which you have off in townships of six miles square, each contain taken to mask it? But, whatever may be the de- ing thirty-six sections; which, again, were subdicision of the Senate on this point, it should not be vided into quarters, of one hundred and sixty acres forgotten that a recommitment is not necessary to each. This was the smallest subdivision known attain it.

to your law until 1817, when six sections in each The third object of a recommitment is, to ex- township were made divisible, at the option of the clude town sites from the operation and benefits purchaser, into tracts of eighty acres, or halfof the bill. These, again, have been matter of quarter sections. So much for the mode of survey, speculation and profit, and ought to be beyond the and the size of the tracts: and so far your system pale of relief; and the gentleman tells us that the was beautiful and excellent. It still remains withiown companies and other companies of specula- out alteration, except that every section is now tors, bid up the lands to enormous prices, and ex- divisible into half quarters: an alteration which, cessively enhanced their value in the market. And while it did not impair the beauty and harmony he quotes a case, in Alabama, where a town com- of the system, was of the highest political importpany gave upwards of eighty thousand dollars for ance, as tending directly to increase the number less than three thousand acres. Here, then, the of freeholders—the strength and glory of a nation. speculators gave more than twenty-four dollars The land, so divided, was sold at public auction the acre; and must have paid for the first instal- to the highest bidder. One fourth of the purchase ment only, upwards of twenty thousand dollars- money was paid in hand, and the residue was when the fee-simple, at the minimum price, would payable in three instalments, of two, three, and have been less than six thousand. And who was four years, bearing interest from the date of the the receiver of this enormous sum? Your Treas- purchase, if not punctually paid; and, if any, porury, sir. It has already in its vaults more than tion of the purchase money remained unpaid at the entire value of the land. Yes, sir, the Gov- the expiration of five years from the date of the ernment is, in reality, the great land speculator. purchase, the land became forfeited to the United Your system is built upon speculation. You have States, and was re-sold for their benefit. It could encouraged and fostered it; you have lent it aid not be sold for less than the whole sum remaining and inducement; you have shared in its gains; unpaid, including interest: but if sold for more your cryers have set forth your commodity with than that sum, the excess was paid to the former all the art and eloquence of auctioneers. All the purchaser. I forbear to mention other particulars blandishments of description have been lavished ; of detail, as unnecessary to my present purpose. the eager excitement of public competition has What was the practical result of this system? been employed; and now you stigmatize your An enormous debt, sir, continually accumulating, dupes and repel them from your clemency. But, growing with the growth of the new Slates, until, if it shall be the good pleasure of the Senate to on the 30th of September, 1819, it had amounted exclude town sites from the benefits of the bill, 1 up to the frightful sum of upwards of twenty-two shall acquiesce. I do not object. But let this be millions of dollars! Half of which had been adddone by a direct amendment; and do not send ed during the last two years immediately preceback the bill to a committee for such a purpose. ding that date. This was the radical defect of This is, in fact, but a trifling matter—a mere affair the system. The debt was always growing, with of detail; and' I am ashamed to have occupied an accelerating ratio, at an average of more than your attention on it so long. I will pass to con- a million a year, until it hung like an ugly excressiderations of higher import.

cence over half the Republic. You began to reLet us look, then, Mr. President, at the bill it-gard it with an eye of apprehension. You saw in self; let us examine, a little more nearly, the sys- the relation of debtor and creditor something untem of relief which it proposes ; let us inquire into befitting the relation of the citizen towards the its inducements and its objects, and estimate the Government. Too much might be expected on force of the motives by which it appeals to our the one hand, and too much or too little refused support. This is the more necessary at this time, or granted on the other. The very magnitude of since to recommit with specific instructions is to the debt was alarming, especially when considered pass on its merit or demerit; is to fix principles; in connexion with its inherent vice of continual is, in short, to decide the fate of the bill. I con- increase. Its locality, too, was not without intersider the whole question as now fairly and fully est. It was not diffused 'in equal ratio over all before us; and I am encouraged to go on by the parts of the Union. It was confined to the new wish of certain gentlemen near me, to whom the States. These, standing in the same situation, subject of the public lands, in its multiform char- must be supposed to have a common feeling, as acter and interest, is not very. familiar.

well as a common interest, on this subject. Their The national domain is of immense extent, and number was increasing, their population augmentstretches over regions of every variety of soil. I ing with unparalleled rapidity: Their representashall not enter into the history of its acquisition. tion in the councils of the Union were increasing, It is with your mode of disposing of it, that we pari passu, with their population. Already it was have to do. This was, for a considerable period, nearly one-third of this body. What might not variant and irregular. But in 1802 you adopted be feared from this debt when it should have a regular, well-defined, and comprehensive system, reached a hundred millions, when the which continued to be in operation until the 1st of should constitute half your numerical force, and July, 1820. By this system, the lands were laid occupy the largest and fairest portion of your em

16th Con. 2d Sess.-9

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pire? The apprehension of evil seemed natural value, was greater than it is now, in the proporand reasonable; and rational patriots, loving the tion of eight to five. But transfer and deduction of Union, and desiring to perpetuate it, could not but three-eighths from the original price would do this wish to arrest the march of a system carrying in in a great degree; and purchasers would only get its bosom so much of inquietude and danger for the same quantity and the same tracts which they the future. This you have done. You have per- would have bought originally, had the sales been formed your duty. You have accomplished the made for cash only. I shall therefore at a proper first great object of your wishes. You abolished time move an amendment combining these printhe system; and you have instituted a new one, ciples. which excludes credit altogether from all future The second section of the bill allows a deducpurchasers of the public lands. Cash, and cash tion for prompt payment. It is to be observed that alone, is received in payment. The danger from a very large portion of this enormous sum of twentythe further increase of the debt no longer exists. five millions outstanding and unpaid is not yet The debt has reached its maximum. We must due, especially in Alabama. The day of grace is look at the debt, then, as it now exists, divested of still distant-in many cases several years. The its most odious features. is a monster still; but object of this on is to hasten the extinction of it is no longer dangerous to you; it threatens, now, these future debts, by holding out to your debtors only those who are its subjects, on whom it presses inducements to make such a course desirable to with a mountainous weight, and whom it must them on the score of interest. They may “owe crush as victims unless they shall be rescued from you a debt, but they would be loth to pay you beimpending ruin by some timely act of clemency fore your day." If you wish to anticipate that day, on your part.

you must appeal to their interest; you must offer What, then, is the measure now proposed by the some consideration-some motive-and this is preCommittee on the Public Lands? The bill allows sented in the shape of this allowance or discount. to purchasers, 1st, a right to surrender any legal This is still in blank. It is obvious that the amount subdivision of their purchases, to transfer the to be derived immediately from this section will money paid on the part surrendered, and apply it depend very much upon the rate of discount. The to the discharge of the sum due or unpaid on such more liberal the deduction, the greater the prompt legal subdivisions as they may choose to retain; payments. This is the opinion of the Secretary 2d, a deduction for prompt payment; 3d, instal of the Treasury, who proposes the principles of ments for the sums due or unpaid; and, 4th, re- this bill in aid of the finances. Of one thing I am mission of interest to all who comply with the convinced—that more money will be obtained by terms proposed. Its objects seem to be to hasten the bill than ever would be obtained without it. the extinction of the debt, to get money, and to Five-eighths of the purchase-money is much more grant adequate relief.

than Alabama lands could be sold for. The amount The privilege of transfer is of the first import- of the first payment—the first instalment, as it is ance. It is an admirable expedient for lessening popularly called—could not, in innumerable inthe debt, without sacrificing the interest of either stances, be had for them. This is not an idle party; and it will be worth more, especially to i conjecture; it is a fact proved recently by actual Alabama, than all the other provisions of the bill. sales. The lands in Colbert's reserve were sold at It will afford great relief to thousands. It will Huntsville last autumn under your new cash law; enable them to save some portion of their lands; and, although their situation is superior to any in it will release them from debt, by abandoning the Tennessee valley, they did not on the average what they cannot pay for; it will save their money bring so much as the first instalment of adjoining from being swallowed up for nothing; it will pre- lands of equal quality sold two years before. In vent forfeiture, and the distress and odium attend- very many cases, indeed, I have no doubt that it ant on forfeiture-distress to the citizen and odium would be more advantageous to purchasers to incur to the Government; while it puts at once into the a forfeiture, and buy again, rather than seek relief hands of the United States land which will bring under this bill

. They would make money by it its fair value in cash, and which may thus be re- in the end. But this course would require patience sold without exciting public sympathy for the first and courage. It must encounter the vexation of purchaser, who would always profit by it in cases delay and suspense—the most tormenting state of of involuntary forfeiture; and, above all, it will the mind. It would arrest improvement, and it diminish the great land debt more than any other would not be unmixed with apprehension. Great feature of the bill. This principle, I shall hope, exertions, therefore, under the operation of proper then, will receive the unanimous sanction of the inducements, would be made to prevent forfeiture. Senate.

Men form attachments to the chosen spots—they But the privilege of transfer merely—of remov- are endeared by a thousand agreeable and powering payments made on a tract surrendered, and ful associations and much would be sacrificed to applying them to the discharge of the debt on the preserve them from risk. Yes, sir, the settler has tract retained-does not equalize conditions, and fixed his heart on the spot of his choice. It is his put purchasers under the old system on the footing home. It is improved by his labor, embellished of those who buy for cash, because each and every by his taste, in part paid for by his money. It conpurchase was bottomed on the indefinite credit tains the cabin which shelters his wife and chilallowed for the three last instalments; and because dren, and which may have been their tower of the minimum price, and consequently the current refuge from the tomahawk and scalping-knife.

JANUARY, 1821.
Relief to Land Purchasers.

SENATE. The little orchard is of his own planting; the little ment. Here was a great change, highly favorable garden smiles from the culture of his wife; his old to the purchaser, and certainly not demanded by friends, who have followed him to the wilderness, such powerful motives as now cry aloud for a neighbor around him. These are items of that further change. The former was matter of mere strong passionate predilection with which you have grace: the latter grows out of a strong equity, to deal; but this predilection has its limits. These fastening itself upon you in consequence of your ties are strong, but they may be broken.

own subsequent act, for your own advantage. Mr. President, Congress can fix the value of We come now, sir, to the credit. And what lands in the new States and Territories. You can was the credit under the old system ?' We have raise and depress it at pleasure. The price be seen that it was nominally for five years, in the tween individuals must bear some relation to that first instance. Then three more were granted : of the Government. Mr. Crawford admits this then three more: then forfeitures were suspended frankly, and argues from it, with truth and force, from year to year : and there the matter rests at proving that this immense domain of the Union present. The credit was, in fact, indefinite. must leave this power for a long time to come in Congress never refused indulgence: and lands are your hands. Of that immense domain, what a still in part unpaid for, which were sold soon after small speck has been sold! How little, compar- the credit system was adopted. atively, has been even surveyed ! Vast regions In Alabama, for instance, eight years from the remain still covered by Indian title. Your official date of the purchase, had been already granted to agents estimate the total number of acres to which debtors in Madison county, and on the Tombigbee; the Indian title has been extinguished at 191,978,- and at the unfortunate sales of 1817 and 1818 nó 536 ! the number of acres surveyed at 72,805,092! man calculated on a shorter term. Congress was and the number sold at 18,601,930! The differ- considered to be pledged, in good faith and equal ference in these aggregates is prodigious. You dealing, to indulge them as much as it had indulged are still, and must long remain, a mighty monop- others. This cry was in everybody's mouth. This olist. You can regulate the price of your commod- I was regarded as a tacit condition of the contract; ily at will. You do so regulate it. The entire and it was a consideration which, whether true or minimum now is less by one-sixth than three- false, operated powerfully and universally: I need fourths of the old minimum; and, where the lands not say how ruinously, if you now refuse what are of equal value, must effectually disable the you never refused before. But this you will not credit purchaser from entering the market as your do. You will not subject yourselves to the impucompetitor, unless at the absolute loss of three- tation of hard-heartedness and partiality.

To reeighths of his capital. Can individuals sell their fuse time now to those who have had no indulgence, land for two dollars, when your price is one dollar would be unequal and unjust; and this is the case and a quarter ? Their certificates, with the first with nearly all Alabama, who needs relief the payment made, would not be received as a present, most, and has the strongest claims upon you for it. under the condition of completing the purchase The credit purchasers calculated on the indefiaccording to the terms of the original contract, as nite continuance, if not the perpetuity, of the systhere would remain to be paid one dollar and a tem. At any rate, they were innocent purchasers, half, and the donee would be a clear loser by for a fair consideration, and they have a fair equitwenty-five cents the acre! The same relation of table claim to be relieved and protected against an prices exists, whatever may be the cost of the land. act of the other party to the contract, which lessens

The diminution of actual current value is real and directly and necessarily, in their hands, the value absolute, and universal. And this diminished value of the property which they had purchased. proceeds from the act of the Government. Yes, What sort of comparison, then, can there be sir, from your own act. Will you thus vitally between the motives to afford 'relief heretofore, and affect the condition of your debtor, and afford him those which call for it now? Then, there was no redress? Will you suddenly lessen the value no chance of system, no reduction of price, no of the article, after the sale, and still exact the diminution of value; and the amount of the debt full price? Will you lessen his ability to pay, and was annually increasing; yet you never refused yet require "the utmost mite ?" Will you insist relief. Now, the system is changed by your act; on “the pound of flesh,” because it is so written the price is reduced by your act; the value of the "in the bond ?" I think you will not: I am sure article sold is diminished in the hands of the puryou ought not.

chaser, by your act; and the debt cannot be further In this view, the remission of interest now pro- increased; it has reached its maximum; and will posed, cannot be more than equivalent to the di- you now, for the first time, refuse relief? minished value effected by the change of system This, Mr. President, is a general view of the from credit to cash; and that, even on low priced subject, and these arguments will reach and cover lands; on others, it is nothing like an equivalent. the case of the debtors in all the new States. But, Sir, the remission of interest is not a new princi- I have said, that the situation of Alabama was ple. It is only an extension of the principle on peculiar. Sir, it is deeply distressing and deplowhich Congress has long acted. At first the inter- rable. It stands out from the canvass in bold relief. est accrued, by the term of the contract, on each Suffer me to call your attention to a few facts, by instalment, from the date of the purchase, abso- way of verification : lutely; afterwards this principle was relaxed, and Total number of acres of land sold, up to 30th of Sepinterest accrued only on failure of punctual, pay- tember, 1819

18,601, 930


Relief to Land Purchasers.

JANUARY, 1821.

Deduct number of acres sold in


while at Cahawba it is about three dollars Alabama

$3,646,857 and seventy cents; and, at Huntsville, about five

dollars and ninety cents! A single township in Leaves number sold in all other

the Tennessee valley was sold for half a million of States and Territories

14,955,073 dollars-upwards of twenty dollars the acre.Total amount of

Many tracts, for actual settlement, were sold at sales $44,054,452 83%

thirty and forty dollars, and one as high as sevDeduct amount

enty-eight dollars; sites for towns, still higher. of sales in Al

Nine hundred and fifty-one thousand one hunabama 15,312,565 191

dred and thirty-one acres have been sold, at St. Leaves for am'nt

Stephens, for $2,266,076. Suppose that, of this of sales in all

sum, there is due, in Mississippi, $834,270; and other States,

this is perhaps near the truth, it certainly does not &c. 28,741,886 921

exceed it. This would reduce the debt of AlaTotal amount actually paid by pur.

bama, in round numbers, to ten millions of dollars, cbasers

22,229,180 631 and would reduce the number of acres sold in Deduct amount paid by purchasers

Alabama to three thousand two hundred and in Alabama

4,469,626 194 ninety-six thousand, six hundred and ninety-three;

calculating all lands sold at St. Stephens at the Leaves amount paid by purchasers

same average price, while, in fact, the portion in all other States

$17,759,553 443 which lies in Mississippi was sold before the era

of distraction, and at scarcely more than the old Total amount of debt outstanding 22,000,657 64 minimum price. Could we speak in exact terms, Deduct amount due in Alabama 10,834,270 76 the number of acres sold lying in Cahawba would

be still fewer, and the relative price greater; and the Leaves am’nt due in all other States $11,166,386 88

excess of price which has been given and promised

there, over that for an equal number of acres elseAccording to the returns, there has been actu- where, would be still further increased. Say, ally paid in other States, per acre, not quite one however, that it is eight millions, and it cannot be dollar and twenty cents: and there remains due, made less, from the tables, by any practical calcuper acre, in those States, not quite seventy-five lation, and what shall be said of it? A debt of cents.

ien millions from a single State-of which eight There has been paid, per acre, in Alabama, not millions is mere excess of price-a sum given, or quite one dollar and twenty-five cents; and re- rather promised, in Alabama, beyond the sum mains due there, per acre, not quite iwo dollars given or promised, anywhere else, for the same and seventy-five cents.

number of acres. Does it not make a strong claim It appears, then, that 14,955,073 acres in other upon your clemency? And will you refuse all States, have been sold for

$28,741,886 manner of relief? You will not, you cannot. While only 3,646,857 acres in Ala

But this bill is general. It affords no special rebama, have been sold for

15,312,565 lief to Alabama.

I fear, sir, that I have already trespassed too Leaving a difference in amount of

long on the patience of the Senate, fatiguing othonly

$13,429,321 ers even more than I fatigue myself. But the

deep interest of my constituents in the subject But, if lands in Alabama had been sold at the must plead my apology. Indulge me, therefore, same average price per acre, as in other States, a few moments longer, and let us see if we cannot the amount of sales there would have been only unravel the mystery of these high prices in Alaabout $6,650,000; nothing like half the actual bama—the causes of this enormous debt. Sir, amount; and making the enormous difference of there is no mystery in it; the causes are obvious, eight millions and a half of dollars. For the debt and the finger of the Government is visible of Alabama, according to the returns up to 30th throughout the whole transaction. September, 1819, is $10,834,270, being less than Almost the whole of the debt of Alabama has the debt of all the other Siates and Territories been contracted since the war, and during the only by the trifling sum of $332,116. But, had period of our highest apparent prosperity. The only equal prices been given, the debt of Alabama first sales took place in August, 1817, and in Feb would be only about $2,180,000, making a differ- i ruary and March, 1818. It was an era, not merely ence of debt in the two cases, as before, of eight of plenty, but of superabundance; and it begat a millions and a half.

thousand wild schemes of every sort and charThis, according to the returns up to September, acter. The spirit of speculation possessed almost 1819. But, it is proper to remark, that a portion the entire mass of society. You yourselves were of the lands sold at St. Stephens, lie in the State infected with the contagion of extravagance. of Mississippi. The amount, however, due for The national coffers were overflowing, and you them in that State is not very great, and the lands busied yourselves in devising new modes of 'exsold at that office are by far the lowest in Ala- pending your excessive wealth. You gave the bama. The price given there is, on the average, tone, the people caught and echoed it. Everyonly about two dollars and thirty-eight cents the where visions of magnificence occupied and heated

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