Register of Debates in Congress, Comprising the Leading Debates and Incidents of the Second Session of the Eighteenth Congress Page: 189
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OF DEBATES IN CONGRESS.
Jan. 12, 1825.]
Western National Road.
[H. of R.
planation of these amendments, they were ordered to
be printed, and the farther consideration of the bill was
postponed to Monday next.
WESTERN NATIONAL ROAD.
Mr. BEECHER moved that the House go into com-
mittee of the whole on the bill for the continuation
of the Cumberland road. The mstion prevailed—ayes
57, noes 55.
The House went, into committee accordingly, Mr.
STERLING in the chair, on the bill; which was read.
Mr. BEECHER, of Ohio, rose, and observed, that the
subject to which he was now about to call the attention
of the House, was one whieh had been before Congress,
in one form or other, for nearly a quarter of a century.
The object of the present bill was merely the continua-
tion of a great national road, long since planned, and in
part executed. It was ail undertaking that did honor to
this nation, which, even in its incipient stage, had al-
ready been productive of great utility; but which, when
completed, would be of the highest importance to the
public welfare. He would not devote any time to a dis-
cussion of the constitutionality of the object proposed.
The power of Congress to appropriate money for pur-
poses of internal improvement had lately undergone a
very full discussion on this floor, and it would be only a
waste of time to travel again over the arguments which
had been adduced. He took it for granted that the ques-
tion was now at rest. He conceived that the sense of
/ the nation was by this time well understood as being in
✓ favor of a system of internal improvement, to be con-
ducted on enlarged principles, and with a view to the
good of the whole Union. The wisdom of such a system
was acknowledged by many who were opposed to com-
mencing it in any particular part of (he country, but who
thought that there must first be a general survey of the
whole ground, and then that the various parts of the
plan should be begun in different parts of the Union at
the same time. He was of opinion that such a scheme
was altogether impracticable, and that it was impossible
that every object should be delayed till all of them could
go on together. Was there any necessity of this mumal
suspicion ? Could the members of this confederacy,
and of this House, think so injuriously of each other as to
suppose that they would abandon the system as soon as
each district of the country had secured its own object ?
For himself, he should blush at such an idea. He knew
of no valid objection to making a beginning of the sys-
tem now. The object he advocated was not the thought
of a moment. As early as the year 1800, Congress had
set about the design of consolidating, by the means of
mutual and easy intercourse, the interests of the South
and the West with those of the Eastern parts of our
Union. The design had met with much opposition; but
the good sense of the House had seen the propriety of
the measure—it had met the exigency; and, triumphing
over prejudice, had accomplished the beginning of an
object which, if pursued and carried out, would lead to
results of the most important and valuable nature. This
; was not to be viewed as a merely Western object.
Thus far, it had been of more benefit to the East than to
the West. It must be viewed, so far, as an Eastern ex-
penditure. Although the funds out of which it had been
i made were collected in part from the- scattered and
scanty pecuniary resources of the Western states, who,
feeling an interest in the success of a great national ob-
ject, had willingly contributed to aid it, yet, it had been
to them an Eastern object. The people who first settled
in Ohio had to make great sacrifices to do this ; but they
had cheerfully put their hands into their pockets—and
they had done so on great national principles.
It had been said by some, that what they contributed
was not a gift. True, it was not. Neither was the road
a gift on the part of the United States. The considera-
tion on the part of the state was the exoneration of the
public lands within it from taxes for a time; but the
amount thus remitted was not equal to what the state
had paid out. They had been told that a great amount
of school lands had been given by the General Govern-
ment to the Western states. He denied the position:
not a foot of school land had ever been given to the state
of Ohio: they had all been purchased. He granted that
the reservation of the lots for education out of the public
lands, originated,in a benevolent principle en the part
of the General Government. But, it was also true, that
that reservation had been a benefit to the Government.
The object of it was to aid the sale of the public lands,
by holding out to settlers the benefits of a provision for
the education of their children. The buyer looked at
this provision, and considered it as a part of what he was
purchasing when he paid for his land. This gave value
to the public land, and brought money into the Trea-
sury of the General Government. These school lands
were, therefore, not to be considered as a gift. The re-
servation, no doubt, operated as a great benefit to the
West. Yet the benefit was strictly mutual. There were,
indeed, some cases where land had been granted to en-
dow colleges, and the like, which had more the appear-
ance of a gift; but still it was done on the same principle.
This intention was made known, when the lands were
set up for sale, and it helped to raise their price, and led
to a more rapid improvement of the public property. Mr.
B. said he had made these observations because it had
been said, not only out of doors, but on the floor of this
House, and at the last session of Congress, that the Ge-
neral Government had done every thing for the Western
States; that it had been most liberal towards them j nay,
that it had civilized them—and, therefore, the West must
not even ask for any thing more. He did not ask the
road in this bill as a donation to the Western States—but
he asked it as a great national object, and on principles
of national policy. In the first place, it would prove a
connecting link between the country on the Missis-
sippi and the Atlantic seaboard. Its importance on this
ground had been too often discussed, and too long and
universally admitted, to be disputed now. In the next
place, he would consider it in relation to an objection
whieh had been urged in the debate on internal improve-
ments, viz. that that system would give general offence
by leading to an unequal distribution of the public mo-
neys ; that revenue would be collected at one extremity
of the Union, and expended at another. It was true
that every government ought to be just as well as libe-
ral, and dispense its benefits with an equal hand. But
how does the principle apply to the actual state of
things I What has already been done in the expenditure
of the public funds ? Fifteen millions of dollars were
expended annually, and what proportion of it went west
of the Allegany mountain ? Go into the states of Ken-
tucky, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, and see what propor-
tion of what those states paid into the Treasury, was ex-
pended within their own bounds. He would not enu-
merate the expenditures of the Government—all must
know that almost the whole of them were on this side
of the mountains—though the population was not as
one to fifteen. The whole of the public money expend-
ed in Kentucky would not amount to what the mere
collection cost on the east of the Allegany. Many of
the objects of the expenditure had no existence to the
West. Your forts, your light-houses, your navy, the
whole civil list, with the exception of one or two judges,
and the Representatives in Congress, existed to the East,
and there went the greater part of all that was expended
for the army. What equality was here ? It could not
be maintained for a moment. But now a great national
work was proposed, which, so far as it went, was calcu-
lated to make the balance less unequal, and as such it
was deserving of the favorable regard of this House.
The mere expenditure of the money which this road
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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/m1/99/: accessed April 26, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.