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SALE OF PUBLICK LANDS - William Leggett, Democratick Editorials: Essays in Jacksonian Political Economy 
Democratic Editorials: Essays in Jacksonian Political Economy, Foreword by Lawrence H. White (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1984).
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SALE OF PUBLICK LANDS
January 14, 1837.
Will the editor of the Plaindealer oblige us by an exposition and application of his free trade principles, as they may or should be adapted to the sale of the Publick Lands? More concisely, will he inform us whether he does or does not deem a restriction of the sales of publick lands to actual settlers on the same, constitutional, salutary and proper?
The above is from a weekly contemporary print, published in this city, called the New Yorker. Without acknowledging any right which that or any other journal has to catechize us on subjects on which we have offered no opinions, we yet have no objection whatever to answer the question put to us.
Free trade we take to consist in the buyer and seller being left to make their own bargain; it would therefore be no violation of the principles of free trade for the Government, which is the seller in the case stated, to ask any price, or make any conditions it thought proper, in disposing of the publick lands. So much for the free trade part of the question.
The constitutionality of such a restriction as is stated depends upon the fact whether there is or is not any clause in the Constitution of the United States stipulating the mode and terms of sale in regard to the publick lands. The Constitution of the United States says that “the Congress shall have power to dispose of, and make all needful rules and regulations respecting, the territory or other property belonging to the United States.” As there is here no limitation of power as to the mode or terms of the sale of the publick lands, we should think the constitutionality of the restriction about which we are asked could not be doubted.
With regard to the propriety of the restriction, the question, in our view, should be decided by a careful consideration of it solely as it will tend to promote the greatest good of the greatest number. That this object would be most certainly effected by that mode of disposal which would lead to the largest amount of actual settlement upon, and cultivation of, the publick lands, we do not doubt.
Having thus been drawn out to express our views on this subject, which we certainly had no desire to withhold, may we take the liberty to ask the New Yorker a question? We understand it to be in favour of special legislation in regard to banking, insuring against losses from fire and the perils of the sea, &c. Will it be good enough to inform us why the business of manufacturing gilt ginger bread and sugar whistles is not as much entitled to be protected by special charters and the provisions of a restraining law, as that of bankers and insurers?