We Are Not A Sectional Party
John Franklin Farnsworth of Illinois
United States House of Representatives, December 23 1859

There is another question in which the Northwest - indeed the whole country - is deeply interested; and I wish to put that to those gentlemen who represent the States of California and Oregon. I refer to the Pacific railroad. On the reference of the President's message last Congress, it was moved by the gentleman from Missouri, [Mr. PHELPS,] who was a friend of the measure, that a special committee of fifteen be appointed, to whom would be referred so much of the message and accompanying papers as referred to the Pacific railroad. In moving the resolution, he expressly stated that his object was to get a committee that would be favorable to the objects for which it was to be raised. On that question being taken by yeas and nays, the votes of these two Virginia gentlemen were recorded in the negative. After the resolution was adopted, and the committee was appointed, the gentleman who is now the chief candidate of the Democratic party [Mr. MILLSON] was placed on that committee, and it was well known that in his constitutional scruples he opposed the whole matter of governmental aid to that enterprise.

Now, I understand that the Pacific states are chiefly interested in this question. It is the great overshadowing interest with them. It rises above all others. Shall they have communication with the Atlantic by railroad? Will these gentlemen, will other gentlemen fom the Northwest, vote for a Speaker who will, according to party tactics in this House and the Senate, constitute the committees so as to throttle and strangle at its birth this Pacific railroad?

Sir, there is another question - the question of cheap postage. It is well known that, during the last session of Congress, the Senate ingrafted on the Post Office appropriation bill a provision increasing the rates of postage. When that bill came into this House, and a resolution was offered that it was an invasion of the privileges of the House for the Senate to originate a measure of that kind, both the gentlemen from Virginia voted against that resolution - voted that it was not a violation of the privileges of the House; and, in the Senate of the United States, both the Senators from Virginia voted to increase the rates of postage.

Sir, my constituents, and the people of the Northwest in mass, Democrats as well as Republicans, are opposed to the increase of the rates of postage. It is a great, an important, question with them. We of the North are in the habit of writing letters and reading letters. We read newspapers. Our people universally take newspapers, and universally correspond with their friends. Now, I wish to know whether the members of Congress from the Northwest are disposed to vote for a man as Speaker who is in favor of increasing the rates of postage, and of thereby imposing an onerous burden upon their constituents?

These are questions of vital importance; they are living questions; they will come before the House and before the Senate. The question of John Brown will not come before the House and Senate. The question as to whether Helper's book is a good, bad, or indifferent pamphlet, will not come before Congress. But these questions as to rivers and harbors, as to postage, as to the Pacific railroad, and as to homesteads, will come before us. How is the gentleman from Virginia [Mr. MILLSON] in regard to a homestead bill?


Precisely; he voted against the homestead bill last session, and is well known to be opposed to it. A homestead bill is of some earthly use; it is of great importance ot the people of Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, the entire Northwest, and the country generally. We of the West have felt the evils imposed on us by non-resident speculators on our soil. We know that it retards the settlement of the country and its development. We believe that the division of the public lands, into homesteads to be set apart for actual settlers who shall till the soil for themselves and posterity, will develop the wealth and strength of the country. We believe that every settler on the public soil of the United States is better than two soldiers in a standing army; and that the best standing army we can have in the United States is a hardy, strong, industrious, intelligent yeomanry. We believe that these people can never be so patriotic, never have the same love of country, when they are tilling the land that does not belong to them, as those who till their own land. Now, I ask these Democrats from the Northwest, and from the Pacific, whether they will vote for a candidate for Speaker who will throttle this measure also? Or will they vote for the candidate who is in favor of homesteads, in favor of cheap postage, in favor of protection to commerce, in favor of all those questions, and of all that policy which is of practical use? Is it profitable for this House to stand off and war on this miserable, contemptible question about Helper's book, to the neglect and abandonment and killing off of all these great questions that interest the country?

Sir, I am happy to say, that the candidate of the Republican party for Speaker is in favor of homesteads for actual settlers; in favor of cheap postage for the people; in favor of protecting the commerce, not only of the Northwest, where he resides, but of the whole country; and in favor of the Pacific railroad. The gentleman from Virginia, who is the candidate of the Democracy, is opposed to every one of these measures.

We are told by gentlemen upon the other side of the House that the Republican party is a sectional party, and that it does not agree upon certain questions. How is it with the Democracy? Do they agree upon these questions which I have just been discussing? How is it that we are a sectional party? We are not sectional upon these questions; for they are as wide and deep as the whole land; they concern the people of the whole country.


The Congressional Globe, The Official Proceedings of Congress, Published by John C. Rives, Washington, D. C.
Thirty-Sixth Congress, 1st Session, New Series...No. 15, Monday, December 26, 1859, page 230