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here twenty-five times in fifty years; that is to say, they have appeared in their successive generations, before every Congress since their claims against the United States accrued. Against such claims and such creditors there is no prescription.
It is said, indeed, that the nation is unable to pay these claims now. I put a single question in reply: When will the nation be more affluent than now?
The Senator [Mr. HUNTER] says, again, that, if the debts are just, we should pay the whole, and not a moiety; and that if the claims are unjust, then the bill proposes a gratuity—that in the one case the appropriation is too small, and in the other too great. This is the plea of him who, I think it was in Ephesus, despoiled the statue of Jupiter of its golden robe, saying, Gold was too warm in summer, and too cold in winter, for the shoulders of the god.
Sir, commerce is one of the great occupations of this nation. It is the fountain of its revenues, as it is the chief agent of its advancement in civilization and enlargement of empire. It is exclusively the care of the federal authorities. It is for the protection of commerce that they pass laws, make treaties, build fortifications, and maintain navies upon all the seas. But justice and good faith are surer defences than treaties, fortifications, or naval armaments. Justice and good faith constitute true national honor, which feels a stain more keenly than a wound. The nation that lives in wealth and in the enjoyment of power, and yet under unpaid obligations, dwells in dishonor and in danger. The nation that would be truly great, or even merely safe, must practice an austere and self-denying morality.
The faith of canonized ancestors, whose fame now belongs to mankind, is pledged to the payment of these debts. “Let the merchants send hither well-authenticated evidence of their claims, and proper measures shall be taken for their relief.” This was the promise of Washington. The evidence is here. Let us redeem
. the sacred and venerable engagement. Through his sagacity and virtue, we have inherited with it ample and abundant resources, and to them we ourselves have added the newly discovered wealth of southern plains, and the hidden treasures of the western coasts. With the opening of the half century, we are entering upon new and profitable intercourse with the ancient Oriental states and races, while we are grappling more closely to us the new states on our own continent. Let us signalize an epoch so important in
commerce and politics, by justly discharging ourselves forever from the yet remaining obligations of the first and most sacred of all our national engagements. While we are growing over all lands, let us be rigorously just to other nations, just to the several states, and just to every class and to every citizen ; in short, just in all our administration, and just toward all mankind. So shall prosperity crown all our enterprises—nor shall any disturbance within nor danger from abroad come nigh unto us, nor alarm us for the safety of fireside, or fane, or capitol.
Mr. PRESIDENT: The organization of the American Republic is a political anomaly. Ancient and modern states, rudely constituted within narrow limits, have aggrandized themselves by colonies and conquests, while passing through various revolutions of government. But the world has never before seen a state assume a perfect organization in its very beginning, and extend itself over a large portion of a great continent, without conquests, without colonies, and without undergoing any change of constitution.
The success of Portugal and of the Netherlands in planting profitable commercial colonies in the East Indies, in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, stimulated nearly all the Enropean states to attempt to secure similar advantages, by exploring and appropriating to themselves portions of the New World, then known as the Western Indies. Spain, Britain, and France, divided between themselves nearly all North America. Each of these kingdoms, however, pursued a policy so rigorous as to hinder the growth of the colonies it planted.
The United States, in the Revolution of 1776, supplanted Great Britain in sovereignty over the region lying between the St. Lawrence and Louisiana, and stretching from the Atlantic coast to the banks of the Mississippi.
The conquering states, practically independent of each other, were embarrassed by conflicting boundaries.
The controversy was magnanimously ended, by an agreement that each should release its claim of unappropriated territory for the common use and benefit.
New York led the way, and ceded her claims as well of “polit
ical jurisdiction” as “ of the right of soil," “ to be and inure to the use and benefit of such of the United States as should become members of the Federal Alliance of the said states, and for no other use or purpose whatever.''
Virginia claimed the broad region lying north-west of the Ohio, and relinquished it in 1785, with a declaration that it should“ be considered as a common fund for the use and benefit of such of the United States as have become or shall become members of the Confederation or Federal Alliance of the said states, (Virginia inclusive,) according to their usual and respective proportions in the general charge and expenditure, and shall be faithfully and bona fide disposed of for that purpose, and for no other use or purpose whatsoever.”
Massachusetts soon afterwards released to the United States, "for their benefit, Massachusetts inclusive."
Connecticut conveyed, in 1786, in the same form.
South Carolina, in 1787, ceded, "for the benefit of the United States, South Carolina inclusive."
North Carolina, in 1790, conveyed by a deed containing the same declaration which had been used by Virginia ; and Georgia completed the title of the United States, by a cession on the same terms, attended with other stipulations, which are not now important.
The Constitution of the United States, adopted in the course of this great transaction, sanctioned it as follows:
“ The Congress shall have power to dispose of, and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to prejudice any claims of the United States, or of any particular state.”—Art. 14, Sec. 3.
The Continental Congress had previously adopted the ordinance of 1787, by which they established a government in the Northwestern Territory, and provided for its future subdivision into states. With a view to that great political purpose, the Constitution declared that “New states may be admitted by the Congress into this Union."---- Art. 5, Sec. 3.
The purchase of Louisiana from France in 1803, the acquisition of Florida by a grant from Spain in 1819, the discovery of Oregon, and the recent purchase of New Mexico and Upper California; extended our domain along the shores of the Gulf of Mexico to the Rio Grande, and, from its head waters, across the Rocky
Mountains and the Snowy Hills to the Pacific ocean. The aggregate quantity of this national estate is fifteen hundred and eightyfour millions of acres; of which, one hundred and thirty-four millions have been definitely appropriated, and there remain, including appropriations not yet perfected, fourteen hundred and fifty millions of acres.
Using only round numbers, these lands are distributed among the states and territories as follows:
56,000,000 Northwest Territory
376,000,000 Oregon Territory
218,536,000 Nebraska Territory
87,488,000 Indian Territory
119,789,000 California and Utah
287,162,000 New Mexico
49,727,000 The domain came to the United States encumbered with a right of possession by Indian tribes, which we are gradually extinguishing by purchase, as the necessities of advancing population require.
At the establishment of the federal government, the United States suffered from exhaustion by war, and labored under the pressure of a great national debt, while they were obliged to make large expenditures for new institutions, and to prepare for defence by land and by sea. They therefore adopted a policy which treated the domain merely as a fund or source of revenue. They divided it into townships, sections, and quarter-sections, and offered it at public sale, at a minimum price of two dollars per acre, on credit, and subsequently at private sale, on the same