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who are not connected by any ties of citizenship with that country. English capitalists and other foreign capitalists are the owners of the sugar plantations. If we should accept the newspaper accounts we might suppose that every man in Puerto Rico, poverty-stricken as many of them are, was engaged in shipping sugar and tobacco into the United States. There is not two per cent of the people of Puerto Rico who have any interest in shipping sugar here, and there is not two per cent of them who have any interest in shipping tobacco here. That is done by a few capitalists, and it is those who are interested in this subject. If you let them bring their sugar here at fifteen per cent of the regular tariff which the Cubans, for instance, must pay, the sugar and tobacco planters of Puerto Rico will make a great profit; and, with a twoyears' accumulation of sugar in the hands of those rich people, they will be the ones who will be still more enriched and not the poverty-stricken people of that island. As suggested to me by the senator from Wisconsin [Mr. Spooner), the sugar people pay labor such wages as Americans would starve upon.
The great question to be considered all the time is, How can we treat these islands consistently with the traditions of the American people? How can we do justice to them and justice to ourselves at the same time! If we give to them practically self-government, they have no right to ask us for participation in the affairs of the general government;
and anything that we may do for them, bad as this bill is - and I think it violates some of our traditions as it is — but, bad as it is, is it not better than anything that those people ever heretofore had or anything that they had any hope of having two years ago ?
If we keep steadily in view the idea that if these people are capable of self-government, they shall have it -- and I
have no doubt of their ability to manage their own internal and domestic affairs practically without our supervision, although some senators say that is not the fact if we yield that to them, we have not violated any principle of free government and of a free people; and all of this repeated newspaper clamor that we are about to do something extremely bad if we deny to those people full citizenship, it seems to me, is without any foundation whatever.
Mr. President, I had intended, as I said before, to go into very many phases of this case, and to touch upon even our relations with our Asiatic possessions; but I shall not do so
I shall content myself with saying practically now what I have said that this bill seems to me to be incongruous and unsatisfactory from any standpoint; I do not eare whether it be from that of making Puerto Rico a part of the United States or making it a colony.
(AMES PROCTOR KNOTT, an American congressman, was born at
Lebanon, Kentucky, August 29, 1830. At sixteen he began to study law and removing in 1850 to Memphis, Missouri, was licensed to practice there the following year. In 1858 he entered the State legislature and was made chairman of the judiciary committee. He became attorney-general of the State soon after, but refusing to take the test oath in 1861, regarding it as too stringent in its character, his office was declared vacant and he was disbarred. In 1862 he returned to his birthplace in Kentucky where he practised his profession till his election to Congress in 1866. After some adverse discussion he was permitted to take his seat in the House, where his first speech was directed against the constitutionality of the test oath and its application to members of Congress. He was re-elected in 1868 and served on various important committees, making on one occasion a humorous speech against a bill for the improvement of Pennsylvania avenue, which defeated the bill amid roars of laughter. In the same Congress his famous “ Duluth” speech gave him a national reputation as a humorist. Knott was again a member of Congress, 1875-83, and was governor of Ken. tucky, 1883-87.
DELIVERED IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, JANUARY 11, 1870
R. SPEAKER,- If I could be actuated by any con
ceivable inducement to betray the sacred trust re
posed in me by those to whose generous confidence I am indebted for the honor of a seat on this floor; if I could be influenced by any possible consideration to become instrumental in giving away, in violation of their known wishes, any portion of their interest in the public domain, for the mere promotion of any railroad enterprise whatever, I should certainly feel a strong inclination to give this measure my most earnest and hearty support; for I am assured that its success would materially enhance the pecuniary prosperity of some of the most valued friends I have on earth; friends
for whose accommodation I would be willing to make almost any sacrifice not involving my personal honor or my fidelity as the trustee of an express trust.
And that act of itself would be sufficient to countervail almost any objection I might entertain to the passage of this bill, not inspired by the imperative and inexorable sense of public duty.
But, independent of the seductive influences of private friendship, to which I admit I am, perhaps, as susceptible as any of the gentlemen I see around me, the intrinsic merits of the measure itself are of such an extraordinary character as to commend it most strongly to the favorable consideration of every member of this House, myself not excepted, notwithstanding my constituents, in whose behalf alone I am acting here, would not be benefited by its passage one particle more than they would be by a project to cultivate an orange grove on the bleakest summit of Greenland's icy mountains.
Now, sir, as to those great trunk lines of railways, spanning the continent from ocean to ocean, I confess my mind has never been fully made up. It is true they may afford some trifling advantages to local traffic, and they may even in time become the channels of a more extended commerce. Yet I have never been thoroughly satisfied either of the necessity or expediency of projects promising such meagre results to the great body of our people. But with regard to the transcendent merits of the gigantic enterprise contemplated in this bill, I have never entertained the shadow of a doubt
Years ago, when I first heard that there was somewhere in the vast terra incognita, somewhere in the bleak regions of the great northwest, a stream of water known to the nomadic inhabitants of the neighborhood as the river St. Croix, I be.
Orations. Vol. 2247
came satisfied that the construction of a railroad from that raging torrent to some point in the civilized world was essential to the happiness and prosperity of the American people, if not absolutely indispensable to the perpetuity of republican institutions on this continent.
I felt, instinctively, that the boundless resources of that prolific region of sand and pine shrubbery would never be fully developed without a railroad constructed and equipped at the expense of the government, and perhaps not then. I had an abiding presentiment that, some day or other, the people of this whole country, irrespective of party affiliations, regardless of sectional prejudices, and “ without distinction of race, color, or previous condition of servitude,” would rise in their inajesty and demand an outlet for the enormous agricultural productions of those vast and fertile pine barrens, drained in the rainy season by the surging waters of the turbid St. Croix.
These impressions, derived simply and solely from the eternal fitness of things,” were not only strengthened by the interesting and eloquent debate on this bill, to which I listened with so much pleasure the other day, but intensified, if possible, as I read over, this morning, the lively colloquy which took place on that occasion, as I find it reported in last Friday's “ Globe." I will ask the indulgence of the House while I read a few short passages, which are sufficient, in my judgment, to place the merits of the great enterprise, contemplated in the measure now under discussion, beyond all possible controversy.
The honorable gentleman from Minnesota [Mr. Wilson] who, I believe, is managing this bill, in speaking of the char acter of the country through which this railroad is to pass