Saturday, April 19, 2014

Andrew Jackson on Land Policy in 1832 and the Manufacturers' Reply

On Tuesday, December 4th, 1832, the then-president of the United States of America, Andrew Jackson, had the opportunity to address both houses of Congress in the moral equivalent of a State of the Union address. Andrew Jackson did this in writing, which was then read before the members, and the Journal of the Senate preserves this document.

When turning to issues of the interior, Jackson addresses the problem of the public lands that had been set aside from the States for the Federal Government.
It cannot be doubted that the speedy settlement of these lands constitutes the true interest of the republic. The wealth and strength of a country are its population, and the best part of that population are the cultivators of the soil. Independent farmers are every where the basis of society, and true friends of liberty. (13)
For this purpose the public lands should be parceled out, surveyed and sold off at cost.
It seems to me to be our true policy that the public lands shall cease, as soon as practicable, to be a source of revenue, and that they be sold to settlers || in limited parcels, at a price barely sufficient to reimburse to the United States the expense of the present system, and the cost arising under our Indian compacts. The advantages of accurate surveys and undoubted titles, now secured to purchasers, seem to forbid the abolition of the present system, because none can be substituted which will more perfectly accomplish these important ends. (13-14)
Jackson is clear that the value of the land comes from the work of the settlers, "that it is their labor alone which gives real value to the lands" (14), and that by pursuing such a course the interests of the Nation coincide with the dreams of the individuals, namely "to afford to every American citizen of enterprise, the opportunity of securing an independent freehold" (14).

The enthusiasm that the US President displayed for the agricultural part of the populace was harshly criticized by the representatives of the manufacturing sector, as indicated by the documents in the appendix of the Congressional Debate records for the 22nd Congress.
That the President of the United States should, in a public document, addressed to the representatives of the whole people of this Union, peremptorily declare one part of the population by them represented better than the rest, appears to the subscribers little compatible with that equality of rights upon which our whole social system is, by them, believed to be founded. If one part of the population, parties to the social compact, is the best, it necessarily follows that another part of the same population is the worst; that there are different degrees of merit in different portions of the same population, estimated no by their moral, but by their social condition; not by their individual qualifications of virtue and understanding, but by their respective occupations and possessions (42).
The subscribers---John Quincy Adams and Lewis Condict---then proceed to interpret the "independent farmers" of Jackson's letter with the wealthy landowners of the feudal system, and from thence with slave-owning landowners of the South (43). The subscribers complained about the criticism levied against the US Bank, the refusal to fund internal improvements, the lack of protection for the output of the internal industries, "whether agricultural, industrial or mechanical", and the giving away of public lands to increase the landowners at the expense of the other members of society (43). And their counter-examples reveal that the focus of internal improvement targets the system of transportation that supports the conveying of goods of commerce.
To benefit the people, by making navigable the river or creek in their neighborhood---by bringing commerce to their doors---and by increasing the value of their property, are among the most important and most valuable services that a representative can render to his constituents. (44)
All of this is viewed in the context of the positive effects of the Constitution:
The constitution itself is but one great organized engine of improvement---physical, moral, political. (45)
The subscribers then go to show that it is their constitutional responsibility to manage the public lands properly, not to throw them away at sale prices:
It appears to the subscribers that Congress could neither give away the public lands to individual settlers, to enable them to acquire independent freeholds, or surrender them to the States in which they are situated, without a threefold violation of the constitution: …. (47)
The subscribers deem it an excellent part of the policy of the Union to welcome the useful liberty and equal rights, and honest subsistence, and the chances of affluence upon our shores; but they conceive it neither politic nor just to bestow upon them, or upon any adventurers, whether of foreign or of domestic birth, the acquisitions of the nation, made with the moneys levied upon all the people in all the States. (47
The underpinning of the problem is the continued protection of the tariffs which support the manufacturing inside the United States from the external world, which Jackson in a separate part of the letter had wanted to limit to articles needed for war.
The necessities of the nation in time of war furnish an unanswerable argument for the protection of its manufacturers---of all its manufacturers in time of peace. (51)
They [i.e. the subscribers, RCK] believe that protection, permanent protection, to the interest of domestic industry, including agriculture, manufacturers and || the mechanic arts, is a right secured to the citizens, whose property and subsistence depend upon that protection, by the constitutions itself, as well as by the laws; …. (51-52
In the end, the subscribers could not resist to point the fingers at the instigators of the stance that Jackson was taking, mainly because they had expected a stronger response to South Carolina.
Before the [State of the Union, RCK] message was delivered, a convention, assuming to represent the people of South Carolina, and to exercise, in their name, an absolute, unlimited, and, therefore, despotic power of sovereignty [sic!], had issued an ordinance, declaring and ordaining that all the several acts and parts of acts of the Congress of the United States, for imposing duties and imposts on the importation of foreign commodities, and now having actual operation and effect within the United States, where null and void, and no law, nor binding upon the State of South Carolina, its officers, or citizens. (52)
And not only was it obvious enough that this was South Carolina---and that its nullification attempts would permanently destroy the Union and thus could not be supported (53)---but that the South's economic dependence on slavery was at the root of this---which South Carolina had admitted.
The foundation of the complaints alleged by the South Carolina convention as the justifying cause of their extra-ordinary proceedings, is a collision of the sectional interests between the slaveholding and the exclusively free portions of the Union. The allegation is, that the protection extended to domestic industry, by the imposition of duties upon the productions of the like industry imported from abroad, necessarily operates to produce inequality in the burden of taxation upon the free and upon the slaveholding portions of the people, to the disadvantage and oppression of the latter … as the labor of slaves cannot be applied to manufactures, and as the agricultural products of the South derive no benefits from this protection, the ultimate result of the impost system is to make it at once a tax upon the slaveholder of the South, and a bounty to the free laborer of the North. (53)
Since thanks to a compromise with the Northern free states, the slaves are already counted in the representation of the popular assemblies, and thus have given the slave holding South the presidency and other key offices of the executive branch in the majority of the administrations (54), it strikes the subscribers as preposterous that the South Carolina assembly only now notices this imbalance. The imbalance at any rate was part of the compromise that settled the representation question in the first place.
[The compromise was, RCK] … that while the free States are represented only according to their numbers, the slaveholders are represented also for their property; and that the equivalent for this privilege is, that they shall bear in like manner a heavier burden of all direct taxation. That, by the ascendancy which their excess of representation gives them in the enactment of the laws, they have invariably, in times of peace, excluded all direct taxation [and rather resorted to duties and imposts, RCK], and thereby enjoyed their excess of representation, without any equivalence whatever. (55)
Thus, Vermont with 280,000 "free souls" has 5 representatives and 7 electors, while South Carolina with less than 260,000 has 9 representatives and 11 electors (55). What then is unfair about the uniform imposts?
All taxation is an assessment upon property---all just taxation bears some proportion to the property of the party taxed. If the rich pays a larger tax than the poor, it is not therefore a tax unequal and oppressive upon the rich. The unequal tax is that which exacts from the poor the same amount of contribution as from the rich. (57)
At two million slaves, at 300 US$ worth each, the slave-holding States are 600 million US$ richer than the free States (57), which give them 25 extra representatives and over 30 more electors.

Even the levying of imposts favors the South, as the duties are primarily on items that the Southern slaves, who from 60% of the community, neither do not receive or do not need:
Nine-tenths, at least, of all the revenue raised by impost duties are levied upon the articles of cotton, wool, and woolens, silks, flax, and hemp, iron, spirits, and molasses, wines, coffee, tea, and sugar. Now, the consumption, by any part of the slave population, of any of these articles, when imported, is exceedingly small; instead of being in the proportion of three to five in comparison with that of the free white population, it is certainly not in the proportion of one to ten. (58
If we analyze the articles upon which the great mass of revenue by impost is raised, we find it to be upon food and raiment; tea, coffee, sugar, wine, molasses, spirits, are of the first kind thus classified; wool, cotton, silk, flax, and leather, are of the second. Now, who does not know that the food and raiment of the slave are almost entirely of domestic growth and production? (58
The subscribers then explain how this report can be considered the product of the Committee on Manufacturing, and put the whole argument into a larger context of needs, protection and productivity.

A sound, uniform, and accredited currency; an inexhaustible and invaluable fund of common property in the public lands; an organized and effective application of the national energies and resources to the great undertakings of internal improvement; and a firm, efficient protection of commerce and navigation against the arm of foreign violence, and of manufacturers and agriculture against the indirect aggressions of foreign legislation and competition: these, the subscribers believe, are the cements which can alone render this Union prosperous and lasting. (59)
He [the Southern planter] is told that the tariff takes money from his pocket, and puts it into that of the Northern manufacturer. (59)
The myth dispelled, the subscribers remind their listeners that these protections are not in place for reasons of Governmental revenue.

The taxation of the country may be reduced to the wants of the Government, at whatever scale the standard of these wants may be fixed by the wisdom of Congress, without at all impairing the principle of protection. The two principles have no necessary connexion with each other; and all this bitter controversy has arisen from the blending of them improperly together. (60)
Jackson reacted to the situation in South Carolina with a statement reprinted here.

PS: Such messages of the president were accompanied by useful reports of other members of the government, such as the one by the US General post master on the total mail transported, categorized by means of transportation.

PPS: The whole issue of nullification is placed into a larger context in this digital history lesson from the University of Houston.

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