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without learning, that it is always in the power of parties, or even of individuals, to perplex and embarrass a presiding officer in the performance of his duties, if they have the disposition to
Let him be ever so able, by frequent appeals from his decisions they may cast a doubt upon his competency. Let him be ever so scrupulous, by repeated insinuations and imputations upon his motives, they may raise a suspicion as to his integrity. Let him be ever so prompt, so patient, so untiring, by constantly cavilling at his course, they may render his position painful to himself, and involve his administration in more or less of popular odium. No length of experience, no degree of diligence, no measure of fidelity, I am persuaded, can arm a Speaker effectually against the persevering assaults of personal malice or partisan malignity. While, on the contrary, in order to render his exertions, in any considerable degree, successful or satisfactory, he must have the confidence of those over whom he presides, and requires a constant exercise of their indulgence, forbearance, and generosity.
It is to such an exercise of generosity, indulgence, and forbearance on your part, Gentlemen, and to the confidence in my official fidelity you have habitually manifested, that I feel myself indebted for whatever success may have attended my efforts during the present winter. Those efforts, I may be pardoned for saying, have been honest, have been arduous, have been unremitted. But I am sensible they must have utterly failed of their object, had they not been seconded and sustained by your confidence and your coöperation. For these, then, even more than for the complimentary tribute you have just been pleased to pay me, I desire to express to you my warmest acknowledg. ments, and to tender you the assurances of my heartfelt gratitude.
And now, Gentlemen, I cannot resume my seat without congratulating you on the comparatively early period at which we have succeeded in bringing our labors to a close. The session of 1838, the first in which I had the honor to occupy the Chair of the House, did not reach its termination, as some of you may remember, until the 25th day of April. It was, of course, considered a matter for general felicitation last year, that
an adjournment was effected as early as the 10th day of the same month. But we have now the satisfaction of having accomplished a far greater reduction in the length of the legislative term, and of having despatched the business of the Commonwealth in a shorter time than any of our predecessors since the June session was abolished. Sitting here as we do, at an expense of not less than twelve or thirteen hundred dollars a day, all the departments of government included, it is no insig. nificant affair, in an economical point of view, if in no other, to cut off thirty or forty days from the duration of the session. And should the example which has thus been given, be imitated and improved upon for a few years to come, as I firmly believe it easily may be without any detriment to the public interests, the treasury of the Commonwealth will soon be relieved of a large part of the burden which has borne on it most oppressively for many years past.
Nor is it only to an abbreviation of the session that we may look for the accomplishment of this most desirable result. If the amendment to the Constitution, which was proposed by the last Legislature and ratified by the present by such large majorities in both branches, should be adopted by the people on the first Monday of April next, as I heartily hope it will be, the number of members in this branch of the Legislature, as you are all aware, will be diminished by mbre than one hundred and fifty, and the daily expenses of the sessions be proportionably reduced.
But, Gentlemen, I will not trespass further on your attention with any dry economical calculations, nor will I detain you with any detailed review of the measures in which we have been engaged. Perhaps the most striking characteristic of the session which is now about to terminate, has been the almost entire omission of any thing like long speeches, and I will not now deviate from a policy which has proved so propitious to an early completion of our duties. Let me only say, in conclusion, that if, in the exercise of authority and the enforcement of order, I have infringed on a single privilege or injured a single feeling, I sincerely regret it, and that every member of the House will carry with him, when we part, my best wishes for his personal health and happiness. May that God who has guarded you all
here preserving you from the pestilence which has walked among us in darkness, and the sickness that has destroyed at noon-day, and to whose mercy we owe it, that disease and death have not obeyed the summons which seems almost to have been served upon them in behalf of us all, through the medium of this thick and poisonous air which we have been daily inhaling — may He now guide you in safety to your homes. May each one of you enjoy a rich portion of the benefits and blessings of those free institutions which you have been called on to administer, and of those equal laws which you have here assisted in enacting. And may you find an ample reward for the exertions you have made and the services you have rendered, in the approbation of your constituents, in the welfare of the whole people, and in the long-continued prosperity and honor of our beloved Commonwealth.
THE PROCEEDS OF THE PUBLIC LANDS.
A SPEECH DELIVERED IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE UNITED STATES, IN COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE ON THE STATE OF THE UNION, JULY 2, 1841.
I have no design, Mr. Chairman, of trespassing at any great length on the time of the Committee. The sin of making a long speech is one which I have never yet committed in this hall, and I certainly shall not suffer myself to be guilty of it at the present session. If I had succeeded in obtaining the floor immediately after the honorable member from South Carolina (Mr. Pickens) had concluded, and before he had left the House, I might have indulged in some comments on one or two parts of his speech. I hardly regret, however, that I failed to do so, as it is quite too warm weather to follow that gentleman far, either in his gloomy forebodings or his eloquent flights. One question which he has propounded, I would not, under any circumstances, have attempted to answer. The gentleman asked, emphatically, " What constitute State rights ?" Sir, the true rights of the States are not difficult to be ascertained, and are the same yesterday, to-day, and always. But “ State rights,” in the partisan sense of the term, seem to me to be one thing to-day, another thing to-morrow, and sometimes nothing at all the next day.
At any rate, I have never met with a definition which could stand the test of time and circumstances.
It is not to be disguised, that, at first sight certainly, there are some difficulties about adopting the measure under consideration, at the present moment, even on the part of those who, under other circumstances, would be disposed to support it. We have been informed by the Secretary of the Treasury, that there is an aggregate of debt and deficit to be provided for in this and the ensuing year of more than twelve millions of dollars. A bill has already been reported, authorizing a public loan to that amount. Another bill may soon be expected to lay new duties on imports, for the purpose of meeting this debt when it shall fall due, and, in the mean time, of supplying the deficiency in the annual revenue. These bills will form a conspi. cuous part of the legislation of the present session. They will occupy a prominent place on the statute book of the present Congress. And it cannot be denied, that it would look a little strange to find in immediate juxtaposition with them, perhaps on the very next page, a bill granting away, by an outright and absolute donation, the funds which are already on hand, or those which are certain to come into our possession, during such a period of the national necessity.
Yet, strange as such a course of legislation may appear, and much as I foresee it will be harped on, for the purpose of exciting hostility towards those who may have assented to it, I intend to give it my vote. I am desirous, therefore, of vindicating that vote, as well as I can, in advance. I wish, in other words, in the few remarks with which I shall trouble the Committee this morning, to take my stand, where so many other gentlemen who have opposed the bill have taken theirs, at the very doors of the Treasury, and with its deplorable condition of emptiness and exhaustion full in my view, - a condition, let me say, which we Sir, had no hand in creating, — to justify, as far as I am able, my assent to an act, by which we shall seem to be literally " taking away from that which has not, even that which it has."
For the purpose of this justification, it seems to me essential to maintain, in the first place, that the moneys which are to be distributed by this bill are held by the national government in some different right, and upon some different conditions, from those which we are about to collect. In other words, it is necessary to establish a broad and clear distinction, so far as the constitutional powers and duties of Congress are concerned, between the proceeds of the public lands and the annual receipts from other sources of revenue.