IN SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES
FEBRUARY 8, 1830
Read, and ordered to be printed.
Mr. Barton made the following
The committee on Public Lands, in obedience to a resolution of the Senate, have had under consideration the expediency of modifying the act to aid the State of Ohio in completing the Miami Canal from Dayton to Lake Erie, and for other purposes; and, after mature deliberation, beg leave to report:
That it appears, from the last annual report of the Ohio canal Commissioners, that 180 miles of the eastern Canal, in that State, will be opened for navigation early in the ensuing Spring; and that the residue, being 130 miles, is under contract, to be finished in the year 1831. It also appears, that 8,759,666 have been expended on the Western or Miami Canal.
The enterprise and zeal manifested by the State, in carrying on her arduous undertaking, and the great progress already made towards its accomplishment, justifies a belief, that the State will progress with the work, and will complete it as soon as her ability will permit, without the ungracious penalty imposed by the law in question.
It appears that the land granted by Congress, to the State of Ohio, to aid in the construction of the Miami Canal, has not been located, and that the proceeds of it will constitute but a comparatively small portion of the entire sum required to complete the work. From the best estimate that can now be made, the completion of the Canal will require a disbursement of more than a million dollars, in addition to the grant of the Government, and the sum already expended by the State. This consideration, in connexion with the fact, that the State has already incurred a debt, in the construction of her Canals, exceeding three millions and a half of dollars, renders it imprudent for her to encounter the risque of becoming a debtor to the United States in consequence of contingencies or accidents, which cannot be foreseen or guarded against. The Committee are of opinion, that, in this case, as in every other of a similar character, the State ought to be bound to a faithful application of the proceeds of the land to the object designated, and to refund the money to the United States, in case of misapplication; but they do not consider it just to require her to refund it, after it has been appropriated in good faith, to the object intended; nor do they believe it to be good policy to legislate with a view of creating debts against the States. They consider it equally exceptionable to annex grants, made for purposes of public improvement, such conditions as may be calculated to defeat their object. The condition and the penalty in the law referred to, are of that character; and, in the opinion of the Committee, ought to be so modified as to be placed on the same ground with a similar provision, in the law of the same session, granting lands to the State of Alabama.
It appears from the statement of the Commissioner of the General Land Office, that the entire sum received by the United States, on the sale of public lands, is 837,597,615; and that there has been paid, of that sum, by purchasers within the State of Ohio, $16,410,115; the principal part of which was paid while the minimum price of land was $2 per acre, from which appears that the purchasers in that State have paid to the Government about $6,000,000 more than they now ask for the same quantity of land in other States.
In addition to these sales, it will be recollected, that, from the lands within the limits of Ohio, the United States have satisfied the Virginia Military Land Warrants; the military land warrants granted by Congress, to the officers and soldiers of the Army of the Revolution; the lands promised by Congress to the refugees from Canada and Nova Scotia; and the claim of the State of Connecticut, for her relinquishment of right to Western lands, alleged to be within her charter. These appropriations of land, amounting in the whole to about nine millions of acres, were in satisfaction of just and legal claims on the Government, and are, therefore, equivalent to a sale of the same quantity of land for cash. This statement presents to the Senate, at a single view, the extent to which the Government has availed herself of that portion of her domain, which lies within the State of Ohio.
It will be recollected that, when the immigrants from the old States commenced their settlements in the Northwestern Territory, the country was a wilderness, in the possession of numerous and powerful tribes of Indians who claimed the soil, and opposed the occupancy of it by citizens of the United States, with all the violence belonging to their character. The consequence was, that those adventurers, who were pioneers of the country Northwest of the Ohio, and opened the way to the interior of the public domain, were subjected to the calamities and cruelties of a seven years' war; which terminated in the defeat of the savages, gave the undisturbed possession of the country to the Government, and ensured comparative safety to subsequent adventurers.
Taking into consideration the quantity of land disposed of in Ohio; the price at which it was sold; the amount of money paid by her citizens to the Government; and the privations and distresses which were endured in effecting the settlement of the country; it would seem that Ohio is entitled to the favorable consideration of Congress, and to have the grant in question put on as easy a footing as any of those which have been made to other States.
The improvements and experiments recently made in the construction and use of rail roads, has produced a favorable impression on the public mind; and the more intelligent part of the community seem to be adopting the opinion, that they are, in many, if not in all respects, preferable to canals. On that account, the Committee think it advisable to authorize the Legislature either to continue the Miami Canal, or to apply the proceeds of the Canal in the construction of a rail road, as may be judged more advantageous.