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would. We see there is a rush of people from Europe to America that exceeds, in a single month, and at the single port of New York, the population of many single cities on the Atlantic coast. This is the case, and it is to be met and to be considered. It would be foolish to attempt to obstruct it, if obstruction were possible. The thing cannot be done. You may remember, Gentlemen, (though I ought not to suppose that you remember much about it,) that, in the correspondence with Lord Ashburton, who came out here to negotiate the treaty of 1842, we examined the subject of the impressment of American citizens. Up to that day, England had insisted on the right to visit every American ship in time of war, and, if she found any Englishmen, Irishmen, or Welshmen on board of her, to press them into her service, on the ground that they could not transfer their allegiance. I need not say that this subject had often been a matter of negotiation. It was at one time suggested by the British minister, that the right should be exercised only within certain latitudes. At another time, it was suggested that this right should not be extended to the deprivation of any American vessel of her crew. Gentlemen, I don't know that I ought to say it, but with your permission I will say, that on that occasion the ground was taken that every man on board of an American vessel, either mercantile or naval, was protected by the flag of America. No matter if his speech did betray him, no matter what brogue was on his tongue, if the stars and stripes were over him, he was for that purpose, while on board an American vessel, an American citizen. Well, Gentlemen, from that day to this, we have heard of no pretensions on the part of the British government that it could send an officer on board of any American ship and take from her any human being whatever, and, I venture to add, we never shall. Lord Ashburton, with whom I negotiated and corresponded on that occasion, was a judicious and wise man. He had been a good deal in this country. He was married in this country. He knew something of it; and he saw various relations between this country and England in a far more philanthropical point of view than most others. He stated in a letter, which forms part of the correspondence: “I must admit that, when a British subject, Irish, English, or Welsh, becomes an American, and claims no longer the protection of his own country, his own country has no right to call him a subject, and to put him in a position to make war on his adopted country; and it appears to me,” he added, “that we may count it among the dispensations of Providence, that these new facilities of transporting men from country to country, by the power of steam, and quickly, are designed by a high wisdom.” He said, “We have more people than land, and you have more land than people. Take as many from us as you please, or as please to come. That seems to be the order of things; and it is not to be stopped.” I told him that was my opinion too. Gentlemen, this immigration is not to be stopped; we must keep things as they are; we must inculcate upon all who come here the necessity of becoming Americans; we must teach them; we must endeavor to instil American sentiments into their bosoms. Gentlemen, if it were not so late, I would say a few words more about the public lands of this country, and the best disposition to be made of them. What shall we do with them 2 They spread over a vast extent of territory, rich in its natural fertility; but can any one tell me what is the value of land unconnected with cultivation and social life? A thousand acres would not, in such a case, be worth a dollar. What is land worth in the remote interior? Land is a theatre for the application and exhibition of human labor; and when human labor goes upon it, and is exerted, then it creates its value. Without this, it is not worth a rush, from “Dan to Beersheba.” I do not wish to say, that on every acre of land there must be a settlement; but there must be human labor somewhere near it; there must be something besides the mathematical division apportioning it into sections, half-sections, and quarter-sections, before land is of any value whatever. But, Gentlemen, we have had a series of wonderful events in our commercial relations. The commerce of the country is filling the coffers of the country. It has supplied, and now supplies, every want of the government. What, then, shall we do with the public lands? During the last Congress, acts were passed, distributing large quantities of them, varying from one hundred and sixty acres, or more, down to forty acres, to those who had rendered military service to the country. This was all very well; nobody goes further than I do, in desiring to make happy those who have borne arms in their country's cause, as WOL. II. 46
well as their widows and orphans; but this does not appear to me to answer the exigencies of the case. What is to be done? What is to become of those who come to this country and have nothing to buy land with ? That is the question, Gentlemen. The last measure proposed by me while in the last Congress was the short and simple proposition, that every man of twenty-one years of age, who would go on any uncultivated land in the . country, and take up one hundred and sixty acres and cultivate it for five years, should thereby make it his own, to the extinction of the public right; and if his widow and children did the same, they should have it. One of the great evils of this military bounty business is, that, when warrants are issued, manage it as you will, they fall into the hands of speculators, and do not accrue to those whom it was designed to benefit. Let me relate an anecdote on this subject. I brought forward this matter in the Senate of the United States, and soon afterwards I received a letter from Europe stating that it was wrong and unjust, because it would interfere with the rights of those who had purchased warrants to settle on the public lands, as a matter of speculation. I wrote back that it was just the thing I wished. I was glad it was so, and I had desired it should be so. My proposition was, that these lands should not be alienated; that they should be free of claims for debt; that they should not be transferable; and if a man left his land before five years, that he should lose it. My object was, simply, as far as the object could be accomplished by such an arrangement, to benefit those in the Northern States who were landless, and the thousands in the Southern States who were willing to toil if they had any thing of their own to toil upon. It was also to benefit the immigrant, by giving him a home; to let him feel that he had a homestead; that he trod upon his own soil; that he was a citizen, a freeholder. On his own good behaviour he must rely to make up all else to which he would aspire. I may have been wrong in my opinions, but they are my opinions still; and if ever an opportunity is given me, I shall endeavor to carry them out. Well, Gentlemen, I revert once more to your great State. I see all her works, all her gigantic improvements, the respectability of her government. I hear of her greatness over the whole world. Your merchants have a character everywhere, which realizes my youthful idea of the character of a British merchant.
A friend of mine, in the days of the French Republic, had so much confidence in the men who stood at the head of affairs, that he invested largely in assignats. But after a while he found them to be worthless. His creditors would not touch them; and there they were, dead upon his hands. One day, after using some very extravagant language, he concluded by saying, “that if he were travelling in the deserts of Arabia, and his camel should kick up a British bill of exchange out of the sands, it would be worth ten per cent. premium, while these French government assignats were not worth a farthing.” So your commercial character stands. Your vessels traverse every sea, and fill all the rivers. You invite Commerce to you from every region, and she comes. You call her from the vasty deep, and she responds to your call.
But, Gentlemen, I will conclude by offering a sentiment, for I am sure you are anxious to hear from others, from whom I have too long detained you. Permit me to give
The State of New York: not the envy, but the admiration, of her sister States.
RECEPTION AT BUFFAL0.*
FELLow-CitizeNs of the City of BUFFALo, - I am very glad to see you; I meet you with pleasure. It is not the first time that I have been in Buffalo, and I have always come to it with gratification. It is at a great distance from my own home. I am thankful that circumstances have enabled me to be here again, and I regret that untoward events deprived me of the pleasure of being with you when your distinguished fellow-citizen, the President of the United States, visited you, and received from you, as he deserved, not only a respectful, but a cordial and enthusiastic welcome. The President of the United States has been a resident among you for more than half his life. He has represented you in the State and national councils. You know him and all his relations, both public and private, and it would be bad taste in me to say any thing of him, except that I wish to say, with emphasis, that, since my connection with him in the administration of the government of the United States, I have fully concurred with him in all his great and leading measures. This might be inferred from the fact that I have been one of his ordinary advisers. But I do not wish to let it rest on that presumption; I wish to declare that the principles of the President, as set forth in his annual message, his letters, and all documents and opinions which have proceeded from him, or been issued by his authority, in regard to the great question of the times, – all these principles are my principles; and if he is wrong in them, I am, and always shall be.
Gentlemen, it has been suggested to me that it would be agreeable to the citizens of Buffalo, and their neighbors in the
* A Speech delivered before a large Assembly of the Citizens of Buffalo and the County of Erie, at a Public Reception on the 22d of May, 1851.