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POLITICS AND LITERATURE.
CALHOUN’S SPEECH AGAINST THE CONQUEST OF MEXICO.
(SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES, JAN. 4, 1848.)
The Whig Party hold at present a bet- opposed the annexation of Texas because ter position than they have ever held; and of the difficulties it was to bring with it. for the following reasons :-
When those difficulties were realized, they They occupy, as a party, a ground per- opposed the policy which aggravated them; fectly defensible by the usual arguments and always upon moral and constitutional of morality, such as are common to all grounds. First, on the common instinct nations and ages :
and prejudice against inhumanities and They argue, also, from the Constitution wrongs of every description; and second, itself, and from the Declaration of Equality because it is their settled conviction that and Liberty: .
free institutions cannot be maintained by They are in the van of progress, while any but a just and equitable policy. They the opposite party are falling back upon believe, with certain politicians, that “sucthe barbarous and exploded notions of cess is the test of merit," and that this antiquity :
nation will have success in proportion to They defend our own rights and liber- its deserts. The success of our armies in ties, in defending those of a neighbor: Mexico has proved that our “merit” in
They endeavor to legislate for the future military and other matters is greatly supeas well as for the present, and foresee dan- rior to that of the Mexicans ; but justice, gers which threaten the existence of our and not military prowess only, is the safefree institutions :
guard of the nation. Posterity, reading They have predicted successfully the on the one page the history of our wars, consequences of the policy pursued by the will exclaim, “Providence is always on opposite party; their predictions being | the side of courage and discipline ; it favors also fairly recorded.
the strongest battalion :" and on the other, The first of these enumerated advanta- reading of the decline of liberty and the ges of the Whig Party, in its present posi- ) increase of private and public corruption, tion, need not be dwelt upon in this article. it will add, “Providence is also on the They have opposed the whole policy of the side of order and equity; it favors the Administration, from the annexation of the strong constitution, and deserts the uncerwar down to the present time. The Whigs tain and the corrupt.” The Americans are a warlike people, and know how to American people, inferior to any nation join action with obedience. Where the that has ever existed, in referring the prinaim and purpose of a discipline is clear to ciples of our laws and social rights for every man, they organize themselves and their validity back to the common conpursue the common purpose with the science and common reason of humanity, greatest energy : be their aim political or to that law which the Creator has planted military, organization is their forte, and | in the hearts of all men. It is in this origsuccess follows them. But, on the other' inal law that we have based our free instihand, separate the American from his tutions. We refer back for the grounds laws, his religion, and his Constitution, and of the Constitution—or rather for those who more harsh and inexorable; his rights about which it is erected as a native energy, converted into a destroy- convenient barrier-to the sovereignty of ing power, directed against humanity, Reason, or as we are accustomed to name makes him the most irresistible of pirates it, the sovereignty of the People. We, the and the most unscrupulous of oppressors. whole people, minority and majority, susHe is the only man that dares, in defiance of tain the government. It protects us all, all the world, proclaim doctrines peculiarly legislates for us all, and represents us all. harsh and aggressive, and with his Our only differences are on questions of native insolence mock Heaven itself, claim opinion, as to what men shall be chosen, evil for his good, and instinct for his god. and what measures be pursued—who can Constitutions of the most severe and con- | best represent the whole, and what are the servative character are therefore necessary best modes of benefitting the whole. to the American, not only in military but Hence, under the Constitution, and expectin civil and religious matters; his freedom ed by it, parties arise, sustaining opposite is conditional, and requires heavy barriers men and measures,—each party esteeming and severe laws; as the force of the im- | its own measures the best for the good of petuous tide that moves in his veins, so both : the choice is thrown, by our fundamust be the laws that restrain it: con- mental laws, upon the vote of a majority. scious of this, he is a lover of law, an Such at least is the ideal system of our organizer, and takes a pride in obeying government; but the organization of this laws of his own enactment.
system, from various causes, some inheFearful of nothing but the excess of rent in our common nature, and some accihis own passions, he is a respecter of dental and temporary, is imperfect. At sincere opinion, and the consent of great this very moment, a party in power have minds; he listens to antiquity, and vener- formed within themselves another party, ates the voice of age and of wisdom. which is rapidly corrupting the whole body His favorite characters are those States- in which it formed: this inner party, being men, who have risen by the force of opposed, not to certain measures of their a real, God-given energy, to be the re- opposites, but to the spirit of the fundapositories, or the sources, of true opinion. mental Jaws, their men and measures are He never inquires about their birth, or alike inimical to the fundamental law, given their office, but only of their ability and by the Declaration of Rights and the Connative grandeur of character; he does stitution of the Union, under which all not worship them, he only respects them parties are supposed to exist. for what they can do and say : and they, The intentions and principles of this on their part, when they speak, address, party within a party—of this rotten core not the passions nor the ignorance, but are sufficiently well known, and have the courage, the knowledge, and reason been sufficiently explained by the journals of their hearers. When they rise to speak, of the Whig Party. That party, as we they consider in their minds that they are have already said, occupies a superior posiaddressing free citizens, who know and can tion, as the defender not only of the Conjudge their sentiments, however heroic, stitution, but of the principles of popular and never appeal to the meanness, the liberty, and of all law and organization conceit or the avarice of a rabble which whatsoever. they despise.
If ever the consent of great minds should Nor, in another particular, are we, the be permitted to sway us in a question of
a purely moral nature, such as that of the | defensive line upon a boundary to be deright or wrong of the measures proposed | termined by ourselves. He protests against by the Administration, then was there the idea of extending the Union to include never any period when it should have more the wretched and barbarous Mexicans. force than at the present moment. The He affirms that they are incapable of lib. opinions and arguments of Clay, Gallatin, erty, and cannot be organized like educated Webster, Calhoun, and others,--men of and disciplined white men. He contends the first mark,--always valuable, is now farther against extending the power of the of the utmost importance to the cause Executive, and predicts that the Union will of right and of good policy ; for this not endure if the system of conquest is nation is now about resolving whether carried out. Mr. Calhoun does not indeed to adhere to the original grounds of the attempt to show, that a nation which vioConstitution, or whether to commence a new | lates first principles cannot endure, or be epoch in its history, by subverting those endured, oi, that it follows of necessity grounds and reducing it to a mere tempo- that if a people disregards the rights and rary and politic formula, to be changed, liberties of another people, it spurns down wrested and distorted at pleasure, to serve the sole barrier it has against internal the avarice or the ambition of a dominant oppression and anarchy; but looking at party. The people of the Union are about the question rather in a scientific and histo resolve whether they will admit into torical light, he predicts a disarrangement their fundamental law the fatal precedent of the system of the Union, either by the of conquest, by which all the nations of introduction of uncongenial powers, should antiquity were corrupted, ruined, and new States be erected in Mexico, or by the extinguished ; a doctrine which includes overbalance of the Executive power in the and sanctions every form and degree of nation as it now stands, by the additions of despotism, and which is of so evil a nature, conquered military dependencies and the it not only renders the peace of the world patronage and power of a great army. generally insecure, but insinuates itself To understand him better, let us for a into every part of life, produces a corrupt moment contemplate our position. and tumultuous society, and is in turn Hurried on by a false enthusiasm, and produced by a dishonest and vicions life in the instigation of the contrivers of the the people themselves.
war, who have turned every accident to It is yet to be seen whether the public their own advantage, to delude and excite opinion of this nation is so far fallen as no the ignorant, and to astonish and disheartlonger to be called the voice of God; for en the good, we have reached a point from we know well that then only is the voice which it is equally difficult to advance or of the people the voice of God, when it to recede. Our forces occupy the forts declares and enforces the laws of God; and cities of Mexico. We have broken not as the executioner declares them, or both the military and the civil arm of our as the villain who destroys another villain, neighbor, and annihilated the little that or as the vicious who are strong become remained to her of a regular government. instruments of vengeance on the vicious The poor and half savage inhabitants, a who are weak; but as declaring their corrupt, feeble people, weak in intellect adherence to those broad and universal and weak in courage, cannot organize themprinciples of humanity and equity, which, if selves for any effectual resistance. anything human is divine, are the divinest | The question now arises, what shall be of human things.
done with Mexico ? and to this, in answer, At separate times and with unlike argu- | three distinct plans are offered. ments, our most eminent citizens have ar- The first is, to persevere in conquering gued against the scheme of conquest sup- and subduing, until the whole people are ported by the party in power. The argu- in our hands, and at our mercy ; to rements of Mr. Calhoun are directed against duce them to the condition of vassals, and the policy of the design. He predicts then offer them the liberty of forming from its adoption the ruin of our present States to be finally taken into the Union. institutions. He advocates the withdraw. The second proposition is, to fix upon a al of our troops and the occupation of a new boundary, to be determined by ourselves ; to withdraw the troops from Mex- I or subject to good advice and abiding by ico and to occupy that line, until such time a just conduct. Israel, Egypt, Rome, Tyre, as a peace can be established.
England, France-these names have an The third is, to retire behind the old individual character, as of moral beings, boundary, giving up northern California capable of right and wrong. The nations and all the territory offered to be ceded to are land-owners-possessors of the soil us by the Mexican commissioners, main- of the globe, each with its boundaries and taining only such military posts as may de- rights; and whichever of them dares forfend us against marauders and guerilleros. get its character as a moral agent, becomes
Mr. Calhoun does not allude to this the enemy of the rest. The Law of Nathird proposition. It is entertained by tions is the equity used in the fraternity of those only who reason against the acquisi- nations ; it differs not from the fundamention of new territory upon abstract prin- tal equity of society. Its first principles ciples, who do not believe in the ability of are, liberty and equality; all the nations the Union to maintain itself over a territo- that enter into its League are free nations, ry much larger than that which it holds at holding, as such, equal rights before the present. And yet it is hard to perceive | law, and entitled to an equal representation any reason why an hundred States such as in a court of International Law, were such Ohio, or Massachusetts, should not hold | a court to be established. This law arose together as well as thirteen, or twenty- / from the contemplation of rights between five. The solidity of the Union depends individuals, in free States. Despotical upon the unanimity of the States which States neither originated, nor do they compose it; and that unanimity is main- abide by it. Witness the division of Potained by likeness of character. Likeness land, and the ravages committed by Algeof character will make all alike and har- rine and Turkish despots: it was impossimonious; and were the whole continent ble for these States to originate Internaoccupied by the original race of the old tional Law, right and wrong with them Colonies, it could not but be one vast being determined by the event, or rather, Union. We dare not, therefore, oppose not inquired about. In this knowledge of the extension of the territory of this na- right and wrong, of mine and thine, or in tion by every just means, for it is our de- other words, of the conditions of liberty sire to see it grow in numbers and in pow- and equality, the basis of common and iner to the utmost that the bounds of nature ternational law, the fathers wished to form will allow. The nation may as lawfully the Constitution, and not in the vague desire to extend its limits as the citizen his idea that the Union would last so long as private bounds ; nor can any objection be the territory of the States was kept withurged against the one, not valid against the in certain limits. other. The nations of the world are a ! Even now, then, it is a consolation to community of nations. They have their know, that while a vestige of a governproperties, as individuals have theirs. The ment remains in Mexico, a peace may be boundaries of these properties may be ex- concluded, such as shall not violate the tended by all lawful means; and if one laws of nations, or the principles of equalnation is able to occupy more than anoth- ity and liberty. We have not yet set er, none need complain. What is theirs, the seal of the nation to any violation is theirs. Nor was it ever doubted that of the fundamental law of the nation ; one nation could purchase territory of the grounds of the Constitution are not another. Purchase implies property—all yet destroyed by any deliberate act of the conditions of “yours and mine”-just the whole people; and if an unhappy as in private bargains. If one nation at- necessity shall compel us to occupy the tempts to wrest land from another, resist- territory originally offered us by Mexico, ance is a matter of course, and justified in through her commissioners, we have still all histories. A nation is treated by all left the miserable pretext of indemnity historians, but especially by the sacred and purchase, to save the honor of our chroniclers, as if it were an individual, principles. with but one head and one heart, doing Our credit is not wholly lost. We have right, or doing wrong, misled by passion, | inflicted a dreadful wound upon our weak
neighbor, but we have so far recovered a hold Mexico as a province. There is not an just temper of mind, as to refrain from example on record of any free state even trampling upon an injured and broken
having attempted the conquest of any territory spirited people, or from insulting them and
approaching the extent of Mexico without dis
astrous consequences. The free nations the world with offers of liberty and the
conquered have in time conquered the conquerextension of free institutions. As we have ors. That will be our case, sir. The conquest been unjust and violent, even for that very of Mexico would add so vast an amount to the reason we may be the more magnanimous. patronage of this government, that it would The most judicious have inclined, how
absorb the whole power of the States of the ever, to think that we have no pros
Union. This Union would become imperial,
and the States mere subordinate corporations. pect of a present peace with Mexico ; 1
“But the evil will not end there. The prothat a change of rulers will be necessary
| cess will go on. The same process by which to secure one. They, therefore, occupy the power would be transferred from the States themselves with discussing the alternatives to the Union, will transfer the whole from this of the entire conquest and occupation of department of the government (I speak of the Mexico, or the occupation of a defensive | legislature) to the Executive. All the added line, to be assumed by us as a line of
power and added patronage which conquest
will create, will pass to the Executive. In the division.
end you put in the hands of the Executive the It is in favor of a defensive line, to be
power of conquering you. You give to it, sir, fixed by ourselves, that the distinguished such splendor, such means, that the principle of Senator from South Carolina has taken his proscription which unfortunately prevails in our stand, in a speech not unworthy of him country will be greater at every presidential self, or of his reputation : as the occasion,
election than our institutions can possibly en
dure. The end of it will be, that that branch so was the argument; grand, weighty,
of the government will become all-powerful, and momentous, and developing the very heart
the result is inevitable--anarchy and despotism. and substance of that system which he It is as certain as that I am this day addressing has formed to himself, out of the public the Senate. and private experience of his life. Versed “Sir, let it not be said that Great Britain furequally in the real and the written history | nishes an example to the contrary. * * * * of nations, and observing in their rise and
Let it be remembered that of all governments
that ever existed affording any protection decline, the action of irresistible circum
whatever to liberty, the English governstances, he predicts boldly, that as States
ment far transcends them all in that respect. have hitherto fallen, so they must continue She can bear more patronage in proportion to to fall, through a neglect of the policy to | her population and wealth than any government which they owed their rise. The Senator of that form that ever existed; nay, to go faris no fatalist, no predestinarian ; his faith ther, than can despotism in its lowest form. I in cause and effect is absolute. It is evi
will not go into the philosophy of this. That dent to him, that the moral diseases of
would take me farther from the track than I
desire. states are no less real or fatal than those of
“ But I will say in a very few words, it results the body; that a nation which deserts its from the fact that her Executive and her conoriginal policy rushes to as certain decay servative branch of the legislature are both and disorganization as a man who deserts hereditary. The Roman government may have his first principles.
exceeded and did exceed the British government
in its power for conquest; but no people ever * Mr. President, there are some propositions did exist, and probably never will exist, with too clear for argument, and before such a body such a capacity for conquest as that people. as the Senate, I should consider it a loss of But the capacity of Rome to hold subjected time to undertake to prove that to incorporate provinces, was as nothing compared to that of Mexico would be hostile to, and in conflict with Great Britain, and hence, as soon as the Roman our free popular institutions, and in the end power passed from Italy beyond the Adriatic on subversive of them.
one side, and the Alps on the other, and the “Sir, he who knows the American Consti- | Mediterranean, their liberty fell prostrate the tution well-he who has daily studied its char- Roman people became a rabble-corruption acter-he who has looked at history, and penetrated everywhere, and violence and anarknows what has been the effect of conquests ehy ruled the day. Now, we see England with on free states invariably, will require no proof dependent provinces not less numerous, scarcely at my hands to show that it would be entirely not less populous, I believe, though I have not hostile to the institutions of the country, to examined the records; we see her going on