Register of Debates in Congress, Comprising the Leading Debates and Incidents of the Second Session of the Eighteenth Congress Page: 185
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OF DEBATES IN CONGRESS.
Jan. 11, 12, 1825.] Accounts of the President.—Territorial Land Taxes.
[H. of R.
a seat on this floor, I will not consent to act in any capa-
city which might subject me to an imputation, remote
or near, strong or weak, against the purity of my Repre-
Mr. LINCOLN entertained no doubt but that the most
rigid scrutiny into the transactions, referred to by the
President, would redound to the honor of that elevated
officer. But the question was as to the propriety of ac-
companying the commitment of the message to a select
committee with instructions. Were it referred to a stand-
ing committee, the House would know what course it
might expect such committee to take, in relation to the
subject. The House had every confidence in the dis-
cretion of its standing committees, and were acquaint-
ed with the forms and customary modes of proceed-
ing in those committees. But, said Mr. L. should we
commit the subject to a committee without instructions,
we do not know, with the same clearness, the views
which will actuate and guide that committee. Mr. L.
knew it was the opinion of many members in this
House, and of many persons out of it, that when a citi-
zen had served his country long and faithfully, in impor-
tant trusts, it was just that he should not retire without
receiving some distinguished and signal mark of the pub-
lic gratitude. He presumed no such purpose was enter-
tained now ; if it was, it should be presented distinctly.
Mr. L. did not view this as a question of particular deli-
cacy. It was an affair of business, which might, without
any impropriety, go to a standing committee. But, if
not—if it was thought more proper, or respectful, to re-
fer it to a select committee, let the sense or wishes of
the House go with it, in the shape of instructions. I,
said Mr. L. feel no distrust of any committee, or of any
member of this House. We are all, I hope, honorable
men. But governments were established on the pre-
sumption of the imperfection of human discretion, and
human honesty. If men were perfect, why any laws;
why juries; why any tribunals for exacting justice?
Why not say to all, Do what is right—we fear not injus-
tice nor indiscretion. For my part, said Mr. L. though
feeling every proper confidence in the members of this
body," I do not think an election to this House an indu-
bitable certificate of honesty and discretion, or a proof
that a member's views must necessarily be correct. Why
should the H"use, composed of so many, give up its
judgment, and the power of deciding, to so small a por-
tion of it, as a committee of five or six ? Why not the
whole House judge for itself? and then say to the com-
mittee to which it delegates the investigation, We
think you should be limited to a certain extent, in the
fulfillment of the will of the whole. Mr. L. thought the
limitations, or instructions, proposed by the gentleman
from Georgia, were, in fact, conformable with the inten-
tions of the President himself; and he really could see
nothing exceptionable in them, whatever.
In another view of this subject, said Mr L. though it
presents no question of delicacy in regard to the Presi-
dent—being a mere affair of business—yet it does pre-
sent a question of delicacy in regard to ourselves. It
was well known that the people had always apprehend-
ed danger to the purity of this House, from a subservi-
ency to Presidential influence. This arose from the
great patronage of the President, and from so many of
the Representatives always looking to him for office, for
themselves or their friends. We know that members of
this House have often heretofore been applicants to the
President for office : we know that some of them now
are. Such applications were viewed'by the people with
jealous eyes; and we should be cautious, said Mr. L.
to give no color to the suspicion of improper influence,
in the present case, by the manner in which we act on
this subject There is danger of corruption should we
go far beyond what justice claims, and confer by favor
on a President what could not be claimed as a right.
Such a course would lead to the danger hereafter of mu-
tual corruption between the President and this HOuse.
Mr. L. in this point of view, deemed the question of
vital importance, as it involved the purity of the repre-
sentative character. His own opinion was, that the
matter ought not to be acted on here at all; that it
had better go to the Supreme Court, to a Comptroller,
to an Auditor—to any other tribunal for investigation;
but as it was before the House, he wished it to be dis-
posed of in a manner compatible with duty, with justice,
and with the character of the House. These were his
opinions; and, averse as he always was to obtruding his
views on the House, he could not do less on this occa-
sion, than submit the brief remarks he had made on the
The question was then taken on agreeing to the in-
structions proposed by Mr. FORSYTH, by way of amend-
ment to Mr. INGHAM'S motion to refer the Message to
a select commmittee, and decided in the affirmative.
For the instructions 90,
Against them 70.
The question on Mr. INGHAM'S motion, as thus
amended, was then decided in the affirmative, with-
out a division, and a committee of seven members or-
dered to be appointed accordingly.
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES—Jaw. 12, 1825.
TERRITORIAL LAND TAXES.
Mr. TAYLOR, of N. Y., offered the following:
" Resolved, That the Committee on the Public Lands
be instructed to inquire into the expediency of provid-
ing by law that sales for non-payment of taxes laid by
authority of the territorial Governments, shall not take
place in a shorter period than one year after the same
shall become payable ; that one year shall be allowed
for redemption upon payment of a penalty not exceed-
ing SO per cent, on the amount of tax. That the Com-
missioner of the General Land Office, or other proper
officer of the Government, residing at the city of Wash-
ington, be authorized to receive the tax and penalty
from non-resident owners, which he shall deposite in
Bank to the credit of the proper territorial officer, and
make to him quarterly returns of the sums thus depo-
sited, and that a limitation be fixed upon the amount of
tax to be annually assessed Upon each quarter section of
land in the territories."
In support of this resolution, Mr. TAYLOR observed,
that, since the resolution had been offered by the gen-
tleman from Kentucky, (Mr. Wicki.ikf>:,) some days
ago, he had turned his attention more particularly to
the subject, and was, on reflection, convinced that it
would not do to take from the territorial Governments
the power of taxing the public lands. But, that the
subject required, in some shape, the interposition of
Congress, was very certain. None could doubt it, when
he stated that, on a recent occasion, at a single sale of
land for the non-payment of taxes, three thousand
quarter sections had been sold, amounting to half a
million of acres, and that the taxes for which they
were sold amounted to about seven thousand dollars.
He proposed to refer the subject to the Committee on
Public Lands, because he was well assured that the
great difficulty which now operates on the minds of
capitalists to prevent their imvestirig more money in the
public lands, was the amount of taxes, and the difficulty
in the mode of paying them. As to the amount to
which the taxes should be allowed to go, he was not in
favor of restricting it too far. He would leave to the
territorial Governments a liberal discretion, but same
limit ought to be set. Another subject of the resolution
was the place where payment was to be made. In one
of the territories, a redemption was provided for on con-
dition of paying the tax, and one hundred per cent, upon
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Gales, Joseph, 1761-1841. Register of Debates in Congress, Comprising the Leading Debates and Incidents of the Second Session of the Eighteenth Congress, book, 1825; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc30752/m1/97/: accessed March 29, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.