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But, sir, I am unwilling to lose this great measure merely because of a difference of opinion as to what shall be the pass selected in the Rocky Mountains through which the road shall run. I believe it is a great national meas
I believe it is the greatest practical measure now pending before the country. I believe that we have arrived at that period in our history when our great substantial interests require it. The interests of commerce, the great interests of travel and communication—those still greater interests that bind the Union together, and are to make and preserve the continent as one and indivisible all demand that this road shall be commenced, prosecuted, and completed at the earliest practicable moment.
I am unwilling to postpone the bill until next December. I have seen these postponements from session to session for the last eight or ten years, with the confident assurance every year that at the next session we should have abundance of time to take up the bill and act upon it. Sir, will you be better prepared at the next session than now? We have now the whole summer before us, drawing our pay, and proposing to perform no service. Next December you will have but ninety days, with all the unfinished business left over, your appropriation bills on hand, and not only the regular bills, but the new deficiency bill; and you will postpone this measure again for the want of time to consider it then. I think, sir, we had better grapple with the difficulties that surround this question now, when it is fairly before us, when we have time to consider it, and when I think we can act upon it as dispassionately, as calmly, as wisely, as we shall ever be able to do.
I have regretted to see the question of sectional advantages brought into this discussion. If you are to have but one road, fairness and justice would plainly indicate that that one should be located as near the centre as practicable. The Missouri River is as near the centre and the line of this road is as near as it can be made; and if there is but one to be made, the route now indicated, in my opinion, is fair, is just, and ought to be taken. I have heretofore been of the opinion that we ought to have three roads : one in the centre, one in the extreme south, and one in the extreme north. If I thought we could carry the three, and could execute them in any reasonable time, I would now adhere to that policy and prefer it; but I have seen enough here during this session of Congress to satisfy me that but one can pass, and to ask for three at this time is to lose the whole. Believing that that is the temper, that that is the feeling, and, I will say, the judgment of the members of both houses of Congress, I prefer to take one road rather than to lose all in the vain attempt to get three. If there were to be three, of course the one indicated in this bill would be the central; one would be north of it, and another south of it. But if there is to be but one, the central one should be taken ; for the north, by bending a little down south, can join it; and the south, by leaning a little to the north, can unite with it too; and our Southern friends ought to be able to bend and lean a little, as well as to require us to bend and lean all the time, in order to join them. The central position is the just one, if there is to be but one road. The concession should be as much on the one side as on the other. I am ready to meet gentlemen half way on every question that does not violate principle, and they ought not to ask us to meet them more than half way where there is no principle involved, and nothing but expediency.
Then, sir, why not unite upon this bill? We are told it is going to involve the government of the United States in countless millions of expenditure. How is that? Certainly not under this bill, not by authority of this bill, not without violating this bill. The bill under consideration provides that when a section of the road shall be made, the government may advance a portion of the lands, and $12,500 per mile in bonds on the section thus made, in order to aid in the construction of the next, holding a lien upon the road for
the refunding of the money thus advanced. Under this bill it is not possible that the contractors can ever obtain more than $12,500 per mile on each mile of the road that is completed. It is, therefore, very easy to compute the cost to the government. Take the length of the road in miles, and multiply it by $12,500, and you have the cost. If you make the computation, you will find it will come to a fraction over $20,000,000. The limitation in the bill is, that in no event shall it exceed $25,000,000. Therefore, by the terms of the bill, the undertaking of the government is confined to $25,000,000; and, by the calculation, it will be less than that sum. Is that a sum that would bankrupt the Treasury of the United States ?
I predict to you now, sir, that the Mormon campaign has cost, and has led to engagements and undertakings that, when redeemed, will cost more than $25,000,000, if not double that sum. During the last six months, on account of the Mormon rebellion, expenses have been paid and undertakings have been assumed which will cost this government more than the total expenditure which can possibly be made in conformity with the provisions of this bill. If you had had this railroad made you would have saved the whole cost which the government is to advance in this little Mormon war alone. If you have a general Indian war in the mountains, it will cost you twice the amount called for by this bill. If you should have a war with a European power, the construction of this road would save many fold its cost in the transportation of troops and munitions of war to the Pacific Ocean, in carrying on your operations.
In an economical point of view I look upon it as a wise measure. It is one of economy as a war measure alone, or as a peace measure for the purpose of preventing a war. Whether viewed as a war measure, to enable you to check rebellion in a Territory, or hostilities with the Indians, or to carry on vigorously a war with a European power, or viewed as a peace measure, it is a wise policy, dictated by every consideration of convenience and public good.
Again, sir, in carrying the mails, it is an economical measure. As the senator from Georgia has demonstrated, the cost of carrying the mails alone to the Pacific Ocean for thirty years, under the present contracts, is double the amount of the whole expenditure under this bill for the same time in the construction and working of the road. In the transportation of mails, then, it would save twice its cost. The transportation of army aud navy supplies would swell the amount to three or four fold. How many years will it be before the government will receive back, in transportation, the whole cost of this advance of aid in the construction of the road ?
But, sir, some gentlemen think it is an unsound policy, leading to the doctrine of internal improvements by the federal government within the different states of the Union. We are told we must continue the road to the limits of the Territories, and not extend it into the states, because it is supposed that entering a state with this contract violates some great principle of staterights. Mr. President, the committee considered that proposition, and they avoided that objection in the estimation of the most strict, rigid, tight-laced State-rights men that we have in the body. We struck out the provision in the bill first drawn, that the President should contract for the construction of a railroad from the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean, and followed an example that we found on the statute-book for carrying the mails from Alexandria to Richmond, Virginia—an act passed about the time when the resolutions of 1798 were adopted, and the report of 1799 was made—an act that we thought came exactly within the spirit of those resolutions. That act, according to my recollection, was, that the Department be authorized to contract for the transportation of the United States mail by four-horse post-coaches, with closed backs, so as to protect it from the weather and rain, from Al
exandria to Richmond, in the State of Virginia. It occurred to this committee that if it had been the custom, from the beginning of this government to this day, to make contracts for the transportation of the mails in four-horse post-coaches, built in a particular manner, and the contractor left to furnish his own coaches and his own horses, and his own means of transportation, we might make a similar contract for the transportation of the mails by railroad from one point to another, leaving the contractor to make his own railroad, and furnish his own cars, and comply with the terms of the contract.
There is nothing in this bill that violates any one principle which has prevailed in every mail contract that has been made, from the days of Dr. Franklin down to the elevation of James Buchanan to the presidency. Every contract for carrying the mail by horse, from such a point to such a point, in saddle-bags, involves the same principle. Every contract for carrying it from such a point to such a point in two-horse hacks, with a covering to protect it from the storm, involves the same principle. Every contract to carry it from such a point to such a point in four-horse coaches of a particular description, involves the same principle. You contracted to carry the mails from New York to Liverpool in ships of two thousand tons each, to be constructed according to a model prescribed by the Navy Department, leaving the contractor to furnish his own ships, and receive so much pay. That involves the same principle.
You have, therefore, carried out the principle of this bill in every contract you have ever had for mails, whether it be upon the land or upon the water, In every mail contract you have had, you have carried out the identical principle involved in this bill-simply the right to contract for the transportation of the United States mails, troops, munitions of war, army and navy supplies, at fair prices, in the manner you prescribed, leaving the contracting party to furnish the mode and means of transportation. That is all there is in it. I do not see how it can violate any party creed; how it can violate any principle of state-rights; how it can interfere with any man's conscientious scruples. Then, sir, where is the objection ?
If you look on this as a measure of economy and a commercial measure, the argument is all in favor of the bill. It is true, the senator from Massachusetts has suggested that it is idle to suppose that the trade of China is to centre in San Francisco, and then pay sixty dollars a ton for transportation across the continent by a railroad to Boston. It was very natural that he should indicate Boston, as my friend from Georgia might, perhaps, have thought of Savannah, or my friend from South Carolina might have indicated Charleston, or the senator from Louisiana might have indicated New Orleans. But I, living at the head of the great lakes, would have made the computation from Chicago, and my friend from Missouri would have thought it would have been very well, perhaps, to take it from St. Louis. When you are making this computation, I respectfully submit you must make the calculation-from the sea-board to the centre of the continent, and not charge transportation all the way from the Atlantic to the Pacific; for suppose you do not construct this road, and these goods come by ship to Boston, will cost something to take them by railroad to Chicago, and a little more to take them by railroad to the Missouri River, half way back to San Francisco again. If you select the centre of the continent, the great heart and centre, of the Republic—the Mississippi Valley-as the point at which you are to concentrate your trade, and from which it is to diverge, you will find that the transportation of it by railroad would not be much greater from San Francisco than from Boston. It would be nearly the same from the Pacific that it is from the Atlantic; and the calculation must be made in that point of view. There is the centre of consumption, and the centre of those great products that are sent abroad in all quarters to pay for articles imported. The
centre of production, the centre of consumption, the future centre of the population of the continent, is the point to which, and from which, your calculation should be made.
Then, sir, if it costs sixty dollars per ton for transportation from San Francisco to Boston by railroad, half way you may say it will cost thirty dollars
The result, then, of coming from San Francisco to the centre by railroad would be to save transportation by ship from San Francisco to Boston, in addition to the railroad transportation into the interior.
But, sir, I dissent from a portion of the gentleman's argument, so far as it relates to the transportation even from San Francisco to Boston. I admit that heavy articles of cheap value and great bulk would go by ship, that being the cheapest mode of communication; but light articles, costly articles, expensive articles, those demanded immediately, and subject to decay from long voyages and delays, would come directly across by railroad, and what you would save in time would be more than the extra expense of the transportation. You must add to that the risk of the tropics, which destroys many articles, and the process which is necessary to be gone through with to prepare articles for the sea-voyage is to be taken into the account. I have had occasion to witness that evil in one article of beverage very familiar to you all. Let any man take one cup of tea that came from China to Russia overland, without passing twice under the equator, and he will never be reconciled to a cup of tea that has passed under the equator. The genuine article, that has not been manipulated and prepared to pass under the equator, is worth tenfold more than that which we receive here. Preparation is neca essary to enable it to pass the tropics, and the long, damp voyage makes as much difference in the article of tea as the difference between a green apple and a dried apple, green corn and dried corn, sent abroad. So you will find it to be with fruits ; so it will be with all the expensive and precious articles, and especially those liable to decay and to injury, either by exposure to a tropical climate or to the moisture of a long sea-voyage. Then, sir, in a commercial point of view, this road will be of vast import
There is another consideration that I will allude to for a moment. It will extend our trade more than any other measure that you can devise, certainly more than any one that you now have in contemplation. The people are all anxious for the annexation of Cuba as soon as it can be obtained on fair and honorable terms--and why? In order to get the small, pitiful trade of that island. We all talk about the great importance of Central America in order to extend our commerce; it is valuable to the extent it goes. But Cuba, Central America, and all the islands surrounding them put together, are not a thousandth part of the value of the great East India trade that would be drawn first to our western coast, and then across to the Valley of the Mississippi, if this railroad be constructed. Sir, if we intend to extend our commerce-if we intend to make the great ports of the world tributary to our wealth, we must prosecute our trade eastward or westward, as you please; we must penetrate the Pacific, its islands, and its continent, where the great mass of the human family reside--where the articles that have built up the powerful nations of the world have always come from. That is the direction in which we should look for the expansion of our commerce and of our trade. That is the direction our public policy should take-a direction that is facilitated by the great work now proposed to be made.
I care not whether you look at it in a commercial point of view, as a matter of administrative economy at home, as a question of military defense, or in reference to the building up of the national wealth, and power, and glory; it is the great measure of the age-a measure that in my opinion has been postponed too long-and I frankly confess to you that I regard the postponement to next December to mean till after the next presidential election. No
man hopes or expects, when you have not time to pass it in the early spring, at the long session, that you are going to consider it at the short session. When you come here at the next session, the objection will be that you must not bring forward a measure of this magnitude, because it will affect the political relations of parties, and it will be postponed then, as it was two years ago, to give the glory to the incoming administration, each party probably thinking that it would have the honor of carrying out the measure. Hence, sir, I regard the proposition of postponement till December to mean till after the election of 1860.
I desire to see all the pledges made in the last contest redeemed during this term, and let the next president, and the parties under him, redeem the pledges and obligations assumed during the next campaign. The people of all parties at the last presidential election decreed that this road was to be made. The question is now before us. We have time to consider it. We have all the means necessary, as much now as we can have at any other time. The senator from Massachusetts intimates that, the treasury being bankrupt now, we can not afford the money. That senator also remarked that we were just emerging from a severe commercial crisis—a great commercial revulsion—which had carried bankruptcy in its train. If we have just emerged from it, if we have passed it, this is the very time of all others when a great enterprise should be begun. It might have been argued when we saw that crisis coming, before it reached us, that we should furl our sails and trim our ship for the approaching storm; but when it has exhausted its rage, when all the mischief has been done that could be inflicted, when the bright san of day is breaking forth, when the sea is becoming calm, and there is but little visible of the past tempest, when the nausea of sea-sickness is succeeded by joyous exhilaration, inspired by the hope of a fair voyage, let men feel elated and be ready to commence a great work like this, so as to complete it before another commercial crisis or revulsion shall come
Sir, if you pass this bill, no money can be expended under it until one section of the road has been made. The surveys must be completed, the route must be located, the land set aside and surveyed, and a section of the road made, before a dollar can be drawn from the treasury. If you can pass the bill now, it can not make any drain on the treasury for at least two years to come; and who doubts that all the effects of the late crisis will have passed away before the expiration of those two years.
Mr. President, this is the auspicious time, either with a view to the interests of the country, or to that stagnation which exists between political parties, which is calculated to make it a measure of the country rather than a partisan measure, or to the commercial and monetary affairs of the nation, or with reference to the future. Look upon it in any point of view, now is the time; and I am glad that the senator from Louisiana has indicated, as I am told he has, that the motion for postponement is a test question; for I confess I shall regard it as a test vote on a Pacific railroad during this term, whatever it may be in the future. I hope that we shall pass the bill now.