Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States

Edited by: Lalor, John J.
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New York: Maynard, Merrill, and Co.
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Includes articles by Frédéric Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari, Henry George, J. B. Say, Francis A. Walker, and more.
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FOOT'S RESOLUTION(IN U. S. HISTORY). Dec. 29, 1829, in the senate, S. A. Foot, of Connecticut, introduced a resolution instructing the committee on public lands to inquire into the expediency of limiting the sales of the public lands, for a certain period, to those which had already been offered for sale. This apparently innocent resolution was taken up, discussed at irregular intervals, and gave rise to an intermittent debate, which lasted until May 21, 1830, and which, from the pre-eminent ability of the debaters and the wide range of the discussion, is usually known as "the great debate in the senate." At first the debate consisted of allegations by western senators that the policy of the eastern states. Foot's resolution being an example, had always been to check western growth by limiting land sales, and of argument and denial by eastern senators. Southern senators were strongly inclined to espouse the cause of the west, and some of them suggested that the public lands ought to be given away instead of sold. Jan. 19, 1831, Robert Y. Hayne, of South Carolina, assigned as an additional reason for the adoption of this policy, the necessity of preventing the growth of a permanent government revenue and the "centralization" of the government. The debate then took a new turn, centering upon Hayne and Daniel Webster, of Massachusetts. Hayne is commonly supposed to have been supplied with the substance of his brilliant arguments by Calhoun, who, as vice-president, could take no part in the debate; Webster's share has never been attributed to any one but himself. Webster's first reply to Hayne, Jan. 20, claimed the growth of the Western states as the legitimate fruit of the New England system of land sale and surveying, there adopted, and of the ordinance of 1787, drawn and introduced by Dane, of Massachusetts, Jan. 21 and 25. Hayne replied, and in his reply seized upon the circumstance that Dane was a member of the Hartford convention as a basis for a general attack upon New England and upon the loose construction or "centralizing" theory of government. Jan. 26, Webster delivered his second speech, known by eminence as The Reply to Hayne. In the second part of this speech he stated fully his views upon the nature of the government, and also what he understood to be Hayne's views. (See NULLIFICATION.) As his statement of Hayne's views amounted to a mere right of revolution against insufferable oppression, Hayne interrupted him with the first public declaration by a responsible authority that the asserted right of "nullification" of objectionable acts of congress by state authority was not a mere "right of revolution, but a right of constitutional resistance." Webster having thus obtained a foothold, proceeded, with extraordinary eloquence and force, to the demolition of the new doctrine. This portion of his reply, with his final answer on the following day to Hayne's reply, make up the strongest presentation of the "national" theory of the constitution which had then been made. It is, however, faulty, in modern view, in one point: he defined the constitution as, "not a compact, but an instrument resting on compact"; and his great antagonist, Calhoun, in all his subsequent speeches struck persistently at this one vulnerable point. The power of Webster's speech was so striking that Calhoun was forced, in December, 1832, to take Hayne's place in the arena, and accepted the senatorship from South Carolina, resigning the vice-presidency to do so. After Jan. 27, the other senators, who had stood aside, with the exception of Benton, of Missouri, for the battle between Hayne and Webster, resumed the debate, which drifted off upon questions of slavery, the tariff, and the judiciary, until it died away without action of any kind. Its real importance lay in speeches of Hayne and Webster. (See ORDINANCE OF 1787, NULLIFICATION, CONSTRUCTION.)


—See 10 Benton's Debates of Congress, 418; 1 Benton's Thirty Years' View, 130; 3 Webster's Works, 248, 270; 1 Calhoun's Works; 1 A. H. Stephens' War Between the States, 347; 1 Von Holst's United States, 470.


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