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the six months vacation, between the first and second terms of the 16th congress, the nation had remained in a tranquil and prosperous state. Very few new subjects of legislation had occurred, and congress might have found it difficult to employ the whole time, which the early commencement of the session gave them, for the public good, had not the Missouri subject presented itself again in a new and unexpected shape.
Debate respecting Missouri. Two senators and one representative from that state, presented a constitution, formed the preceding summer, by a convention of delegates, in pursuance, as they claimed, of the act of the last session authorizing the measure, and demanded its acceptance, and their seats in the respective houses. One of the articles of that instrument, made it the duty of the legislature to pass laws, prohibiting free negroes and mulattoes from settling or residing in the state. This, it was contended, was in direct violation of that article in the federal constitution, which provides, that “the citizens of each state shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states.” In the course of the discussion, it was admitted that the two provisions were inconsistent with each other. The committee of the house of representatives, to whom the subject was referred, a majority of whom were from the slave-holding states, going upon the ground that the objectionable clause was unconstitutional, and of course of no validity, reported that it was advisable to admit the state into the union, leaving the question as to the exclusion of the free people of color coming from other states, to be. settled by the judicial tribunals whenever it should occur. The acceptance of the report was opposed on the ground of the impropriety of admitting a state into the union, with a constitution not conformable to the principles of the general government, and depriving a portion of the citizens of other states of their equal privileges of emigrating to, and settling in the new state. The relief proposed, it was said, would be inadequate, expensive, and ineffectual. It would be unwise, and embarrassing to legislate in such manner as should involve a portion of the emigrants in lawsuits, the expenses of which they would be little able to sustain. The United States were owners of large portions of land in the new state, which it was desirous should be open to purchasers of all descriptions. Considerations of this nature induced a rejection of the report. In the senate, a resolution passed admitting the new state into the union, with a pro
viso that nothing therein contained should be construed to give the assent of congress to any provision in the constitution, if any such there be which contravenes any clause in the constitution of the United States. This resolution was negatived in the house of representatives, and the subject referred to a select committee of thirteen. They reported a resolution admitting Missouri into the union upon the fun. damental condition, that the state should never pass any law preventing any descriptions of persons, who then were, or thereafter might be, citizens of any state in the union, from coming to, or settling in that state, and provided its legislature should declare their assent to the proposed condition, and transmit the same to the president, by the fourth Monday of the succeeding November; and this being announced by proclamation of the president, the admission of the new state was to be considered as complete. This resolution passed both houses, was complied with on the part of Missouri, and she became a member of the union on the fourth Monday of November, 1821.
The discussion of this question brought up the same sectional divisions in congress, as appeared on the original Missouri question the last session; but was conducted with much less asperity. The description of inhabitants who were attempted to be excluded by the constitution of Mis. souri, were considered by the citizens of the slave-holding states as of a very dangerous character; and more so in those sections of the country where the number of slaves approached to an equality with that of free citizens. As a general description of character, with many exceptions indeed, the free people of color, were considered as idle, profligate, abandoned to vice, and disposed to encourage slaves in disobedience and desertion. It was deemed an important object to prevent the increase of this species of inhabitants, and their congregating in the slave-holding states.
Reduction of salaries proposed. A strenuous but ineffectual attempt was made this session, to reduce the compensation of the legislative and executive departments of government. In every discussion of this subject, the ascent has been found much more practicable, than the descent. At periods when the means of living are high, pressing reasons are at hand for the increase of salaries. On a reduction of prices, and the increase of the value of money, the reasons for the reduction of salaries, are equally obvious, though much less operative. It appeared in the course of the debate, that
when the present rates of compensation were fixed, the means of living were much higher than at present; and that the revenue was then adequate to meet the expendi. ture. Now it fell considerably short, and a resort to loans had become necessary. But however urgent the reasons, a reduction of the civil list could not be accomplished.
Reduction of the army. The object of lessening the public expenditure, and bringing it more nearly within the compass of the revenue, was effected, by an important reduction of the military establishment. By a resolution of the house of representatives, at the last session, the secre. tary at war was directed to report a plan for the reduction of the army to six thousand. His report, in pursuance of this resolution, recommended a reduction of the number of privates in the companies and regiments of which the army was composed, instead of reducing the number of regi. ments. The reasons assigned by the secretary in favor of this plan, were, that in case of war, the government would have an experienced corps of officers in service, on whom they could depend ; that by filling up the regiments, the recruits would be distributed in small numbers, among experienced soldiers, and under the commanu of officers acquainted with their duty, and would be immediately fitted for active service. In the other mode, whenever it became necessary to augment the army, it must be done by raising new regiments, and appointing a new corps of officers to their command. In the first stages of a war, new levies of this description, the secretary remarked, would be of little service. He then went into a comparative estimate of the expenses of the different modes, making the peace establishment, on the principle of retaining the whole number of officers, something more expensive; but stating that, in case. of a war, it would be the most economical and efficient. The plan of the secretary did not, however, meet the views of
congress. The prospect of any future war, other than occasional Indian hostilities, was considered too remote to render it necessary to maintain a corps of supernumerary officers, to meet such a contingency. It was said, that an army of officers, with high pay and emoluments, and with. out employment, would be a mighty engine of executive influence. A judicious distribution of such a corps in the several states, with proper instructions, might have a controlling effect on the elections; and in the hands of an ambitious military character, might seal the destinies of the country. The immediate objects of the United States military establishment, being the preservation of the fortifie
cations on the sea board, and the defense of the frontier from Indian depredations, fighting men were considered of more consequence, than supernumerary officers : and the plan of having full regiments, and no more officers than were requisite to command them, was adopted.
Land debtors. In compliance with a resolution of the senate, the secretary of the treasury presented to that body, a detailed statement of the situation of the public lands, or national domain, from the close of the revolutionary war, to the commencement of the year 1820 ; from which it appeared, without regarding fractional numbers, that one hundred and ninety-one millions of acres had been purchased of the Indians, for two millions and a half of dollars, or about one cent and a third per acre. That the moneys expended in surveying and locating, a little exceeded four millions : that seventy millions had been surveyed, and twenty millions sold, for forty-five millions of dollars, or an average of two dollars and a quarter per acre; one half of which sum had been paid into the treasury, the other half remained due from the purchasers, for which the lands were pledged. The report exhibited a debt due, principally from settlers on the public lands, of upwards of twenty-two millions of dollars, and their inability to pay, according to the terms of the purchase. To prevent the further accumulation of debts of this description, a law had been passed at the last session, authorizing the sale of lands for cash only, and at the reduced price of a dollar and twenty-five cents per acre.
This act manifestly bore hard upon former purchasers, who were still debtors for their lands. Without any means of payment but a resale, they must sell at a great sacrifice, as the government prices would necessarily regulate theirs. Many had purchased when lands and their produce were high, and the rage for emigration great, cal. culating upon a resale at a profit. Persons of this description, lost their all in the speculation. The disposition to emigrate had now subsided, and traffic in new lands had become hazardous. It was obvious that a liberal relief must be granted to this class of government debtors, or a numerous and valuable portion of settlers lose their improvements, and the advances they had already made upon their lands, and the settlement of the vacant territory, always an important object with the government, be greatly impeded. After a variety of propositions, having for their object some relief to this class of citizens, an act was
passed, allowing any purchaser to relinquish such portion of his land, remaining unpaid for, as he chose, at the purchase price, and retain the residue ; or retain the whole, and pay for it in hand, at a discount of twenty-five per cent, or pay the contract price at future instalments.
Convention for counting the electoral votes. In pursuance of the report of a joint committee, the two houses met in convention on the 14th of February, to count the votes and declare the election of a president and vice president of the United States for the presidential term commencing the 4th of March, 1821. On this occasion the Missouri question again presented itself in a new form. The people of that territory, having formed a constitution, as they claimed, not inconsistent with that of the United States, considered themselves as members of the union, fehose their electors, and sent on their votes for president and vice president. It was known that their reception or rejection would not vary the result; it was therefore rather a matter of etiquet, than of any practical importance how they should be disposed of. The joint committee had endeavored to remove any difficulty on this subject by providing in their report, that the presiding officer should declare how the votes would stand, if those of Missouri were counted, and how if they were not, and to declare who were elected. The counting proceeded without interruption until it came to the votes of Missouri, when a member of the house of representatives objected to the counting of those votes, on the ground that there was no such state. The constitution directs that the votes shall be opened by the president of the senate, and counted in the presence of both houses; but makes no provision how or by whom the question on the reception of a contested vote shall be determined. As in the present case the result of the election did not depend on the decision of this question, the omission occasioned no great embarrassment. The senate withdrew; and the speaker having resumed the chair, a motion was submitted by a member that Missouri is one of the states of the union, and that her votes ought to be received and counted. After a debate of considerable length, the house, without coming to a decision on the political standing of Missouri, ordered the motion to lie on the table, and a message to be sent to the senate that they were ready to finish the business of counting the votes. The two houses again met in convention, and the president of the senate declared the result to be two hundred and thirty one votes