Page images
PDF
EPUB

are a warlike people, and know how to join action with obedience. Where the aim and purpose of a discipline is clear to every man, they organize themselves and pursue the common purpose with the greatest energy: be their aim political or military, organization is their forte, and success follows them. But, on the other hand, separate the American from his laws, his religion, and his Constitution, and who more harsh and inexorable; his native energy, converted into a destroying power, directed against humanity, makes him the most irresistible of pirates and the most unscrupulous of oppressors. He is the only man that dares, in defiance of all the world, proclaim doctrines peculiarly harsh and aggressive, and with his native insolence mock Heaven itself, claim evil for his good, and instinct for his god. Constitutions of the most severe and conservative character are therefore necessary to the American, not only in military but in civil and religious matters; his freedom is conditional, and requires heavy barriers and severe laws; as the force of the impetuous tide that moves in his veins, so must be the laws that restrain it : conscious of this, he is a lover of law, an organizer, and takes a pride in obeying laws of his own enactment. Fearful of nothing but the excess of his own passions, he is a respecter of sincere opinion, and the consent of great minds; he listens to antiquity, and venerates the voice of age and of wisdom. His favorite characters are those Statesmen, who have risen by the force of a real, God-given energy, to be the repositories, or the sources, of true opinion. He never inquires about their birth, or their office, but only of their ability and native grandeur of character; he does not worship them, he only respects them for what they can do and say: and they, on their part, when they speak, address, not the passions nor the ignorance, but the courage, the knowledge, and reason of their hearers. When they rise to speak, they consider in their minds that they are addressing free citizens, who know and can judge their sentiments, however heroic, and never appeal to the meanness, the conceit or the avarice of a rabble which they despise. Nor, in another particular, are we, the

American people, inferior to any nation that has ever existed, in referring the principles of our laws and social rights for their validity back to the common conscience and common reason of humanity, to that law which the Creator has planted in the hearts of all men. It is in this original law that we have based our free institutions. We refer back for the grounds of the Constitution—or rather for those rights about which it is erected as a convenient barrier—to the sovereignty of Reason, or as we are accustomed to name it, the sovereignty of the People. We, the whole people, minority and majority, sustain the government. It protects us all, legislates for us all, and represents us all. Our only differences are on questions of opinion, as to what men shall be chosen, and what measures be pursued—who can best represent the whole, and what are the best modes of benefitting the whole. Hence, under the Constitution, and expected by it, parties arise, sustaining opposite men and measures,-each party esteeming its own measures the best for the good of both : the choice is thrown, by our fundamental laws, upon the vote of a majority. Such at least is the ideal system of our government; but the organization of this system, from various causes, some inherent in our common nature, and some accidental and temporary, is imperfect. At this very moment, a party in power have formed within themselves another party, which is rapidly corrupting the whole body in which it formed: this inner party, being opposed, not to certain measures of their opposites, but to the spirit of the fundamental laws, their men and measures are alike inimical to the fundamental law, given by the Declaration of Rights and the Constitution of the Union, under which all parties are supposed to exist. The intentions and principles of this party within a party—of this rotten core —are sufficiently well known, and have been sufficiently explained by the journals of the Whig Party. That party, as we have already said, occupies a superior position, as the defender not only of the Constitution, but of the principles of popular liberty, and of all law and organization whatsoever. If ever the consent of great minds should be permitted to sway us in a question of a purely moral nature, such as that of the right or wrong of the measures proposed by the Administration, then was there never any period when it should have more force than at the present moment. The opinions and arguments of Clay, Gallatin, Webster, Calhoun, and others, men of the first mark, -always valuable, is now of the utmost importance to the cause of right and of good policy; for this nation is now about resolving whether to adhere to the original grounds of the Constitution, or whether to commence a new epoch in its history, by subverting those grounds and reducing it to a mere temporary and politic formula, to be changed, wrested and distorted at pleasure, to serve the avarice or the ambition of a dominant party. The people of the Union are about to resolve whether they will admit into their fundamental law the fatal precedent of conquest, by which all the nations of antiquity were corrupted, ruined, and extinguished; a doctrine which includes and sanctions every form and degree of despotism, and which is of so evil a nature, it not only renders the peace of the world generally insecure, but insinuates itself into every part of life, produces a corrupt and tumultuous society, and is in turn produced by a dishonest and vicious life in the people themselves. It is yet to be seen whether the public opinion of this nation is so far fallen as no longer to be called the voice of God; for we know well that then only is the voice of the people the voice of God, when it declares and enforces the laws of God; not as the executioner declares them, or as the villain who destroys another villain, or as the vicious who are strong become instruments of vengeance on the vicious who are weak; but as declaring their adherence to those broad and universal principles of humanity and equity, which, if anything human is divine, are the divinest of human things. At separate times and with unlike arguments, our most eminent citizens have argued against the scheme of conquest supported by the party in power. The arguments of Mr. Calhoun are directed against the policy of the design. He predicts from its adoption the ruin of our present institutions. He advocates the withdraw

al of our troops and the occupation of a

defensive line upon a boundary to be determined by ourselves. He protests against the idea of extending the Union to include the wretched and barbarous Mexicans. He affirms that they are incapable of liberty, and cannot be organized like educated and disciplined white men. He contends farther against extending the power of the Executive, and predicts that the Union will not endure if the system of conquest is carried out. Mr. Calhoun does not indeed attempt to show, that a nation which violates first principles cannot endure, or be endured, ol, that it follows of necessity that if a people disregards the rights and liberties of another people, it spurns down the sole barrier it has against internal oppression and anarchy; but looking at the question rather in a scientific and historical light, he predicts a disarrangement

of the system of the Union, either by the

introduction of uncongenial powers, should new States be erected in Mexico, or by the overbalance of the Executive power in the nation as it now stands, by the additions of conquered military dependencies and the patronage and power of a great army. To understand him better, let us for a moment contemplate our position. Hurried on by a false enthusiasm, and the instigation of the contrivers of the war, who have turned every accident to their own advantage, to delude and excite the ignorant, and to astonish and dishearten the good, we have reached a point from which it is equally difficult to advance or to recede. Our forces occupy the forts and cities of Mexico. We have broken both the military and the civil arm of our neighbor, and annihilated the little that remained to her of a regular government. The poor and half savage inhabitants, a corrupt, feeble people, weak in intellect and weak in courage, cannot organize themselves for any effectual resistance. The question now arises, what shall be done with Mexico 3 and to this, in answer, three distinct plans are offered. The first is, to persevere in conquering and subduing, until the whole people are in our hands, and at our mercy; to re-. duce them to the condition of vassals, and then offer them the liberty of forming States to be finally taken into the Union. The second proposition is, to fix upon a new boundary, to be determined by ourselves; to withdraw the troops from Mexico and to occupy that line, until such time as a peace can be established. The third is, to retire behind the old boundary, giving up northern California and all the territory offered to be ceded to us by the Mexican commissioners, maintaining only such military posts as may defend us against marauders and guerilleros. Mr. Calhoun does not allude to this third proposition. It is entertained by those only who reason against the acquisition of new territory upon abstract principles, who do not believe in the ability of the Union to maintain itself over a territory much larger than that which it holds at present. And yet it is hard to perceive any reason why an hundred States such as Ohio, or Massachusetts, should not hold together as well as thirteen, or twentyfive. The solidity of the Union depends upon the unanimity of the States which compose it; and that unanimity is maintained by likeness of character. Likeness of character will make all alike and harmonious; and were the whole continent occupied by the original race of the old Colonies, it could not but be one vast Union. We dare not, therefore, oppose the extension of the territory of this nation by every just means, for it is our desire to see it grow in numbers and in power to the utmost that the bounds of nature

-T will allow. The nation may as lawfully

desire to extend its limits as the citizen his private bounds ; nor can any objection be urged against the one, not valid against the other. The nations of the world are a community of nations. They have their properties, as individuals have theirs. The boundaries of these properties may be extended by all lawful means; and if one nation is able to occupy more than another, none need complain. What is theirs, is theirs. Nor was it ever doubted that one nation could purchase territory of another. Purchase implies property—all the conditions of “yours and mine"—just as in private bargains. If one nation attempts to wrest land from another, resistance is a matter of course, and justified in all histories. A nation is treated by all historians, but especially by the sacred chroniclers, as if it were an individual, with but one head and one heart, doing right, or doing wrong, misled by passion,

or subject to good advice and abiding by a just conduct. Israel, Egypt, Rome, Tyre, England, France—these names have an individual character, as of moral beings, capable of right and wrong. The nations are land-owners—possessors of the soil of the globe, each with its boundaries and rights; and whichever of them dares forget its character as a moral agent, becomes the enemy of the rest. The Law of Nations is the equity used in the fraternity of nations; it differs not from the fundamental equity of society. Its first principles are, liberty and equality; all the nations that enter into its League are free nations, holding, as such, equal rights before the law, and entitled to an equal representation in a court of International Law, were such a court to be established. This law arose from the contemplation of rights between individuals, in free States. Despotical States neither originated, nor do they abide by it. Witness the division of Poland, and the ravages committed by Algerine and Turkish despots: it was impossible for these States to originate International Law, right and wrong with them being determined by the event, or rather, not inquired about. In this knowledge of right and wrong, of mine and thine, or in other words, of the conditions of liberty and equality, the basis of common and international law, the fathers wished to form the Constitution, and not in the vague idea that the Union would last so long as the territory of the States was kept within certain limits. Even now, then, it is a consolation to know, that while a vestige of a government remains in Mexico, a peace may be concluded, such as shall not violate the laws of nations, or the principles of equality and liberty. We have not yet set the seal of the nation to any violation of the fundamental law of the nation ; the grounds of the Constitution are not yet destroyed by any deliberate act of the whole people; and if an unhappy necessity shall compel us to occupy the territory originally offered us by Mexico, through her commissioners, we have still left the miserable pretext of indemnity and purchase, to save the honor of our principles. Our credit is not wholly lost. We have inflicted a dreadful wound upon our weak neighbor, but we have so far recovered a just temper of mind, as to refrain from trampling upon an injured and brokenspirited people, or from insulting them and the world with offers of liberty and the extension of free institutions. As we have been unjust and violent, even for that very reason we may be the more magnanimous. - The most judicious have inclined, however, to think that we have no prospect of a present peace with Mexico; that a change of rulers will be necessary to secure one. They, therefore, occupy themselves with discussing the alternatives of the entire conquest and occupation of Mexico, or the occupation of a defensive line, to be assumed by us as a line of division.

It is in favor of a defensive line, to be fixed by ourselves, that the distinguished Senator from South Carolina has taken his stand, in a speech not unworthy of himself, or of his reputation: as the occasion, so was the argument; grand, weighty, momentous, and developing the very heart and substance of that system which he has formed to himself, out of the public and private experience of his life. Versed equally in the real and the written history of nations, and observing in their rise and decline, the action of irresistible circum'stances, he predicts boldly, that as States have hitherto fallen, so they must continue to fall, through a neglect of the policy to which they owed their rise. The Senator is no fatalist, no predestinarian; his faith in cause and effect is absolute. It is evident to him, that the moral diseases of states are no less real or fatal than those of the body; that a nation which deserts its o policy rushes to as certain decay and disorganization as a man who deserts his first principles.

“Mr. President, there are some propositions too clear for argument, and before such a body as the Senate, I should consider it a loss of time to undertake to prove that to incorporate Mexico would be i. to, and in conflict with our free popular institutions, and in the end subversive of them.

“Sir, he who knows the American Constitution well—he who has daily studied its character—he who has looked at history, and knows what has been the effect of conquests on free states invariably, will require no proof at my hands to show that it would be entirely hostile to the institutions of the country, to

hold Mexico as a province. There is not an example on record of any free state even having attempted the conquest of any territory approaching the extent of Mexico without disastrous consequences. The free nations conquered have in time conquered the conquerors. That will be our case, sir. The conquest of Mexico would add so vast an amount to the patronage of this government, that it would absorb the whole power of the States of the Union. This Union would become imperial, and the States mere subordinate corporations. “But the evil will not end there. The process will go on. The same process by which the power would be transferred from the States to the Union, will transfer the whole from this department of the government (I speak of the legislature) to the Executive. All the added power and added patronage which conquest will create, will pass to the Executive. In the end you put in the hands of the Executive the power of conquering you. You give to it, sir, such splendor, such means, that the principle of proscription which unfortunately prevails in our country will be greater at every presidential election than our institutions can possibly endure. The end of it will be, that that branch of the government will become all-powerful, and the result is inevitable—anarchy and despotism. It is as certain as that I am this day addressing the Senate. “Sir, let it not be said that Great Britain furnishes an example to the contrary. * * * * Let it be remembered that of all governments that ever existed affording any protection whatever to liberty, the English government far transcends them all in that respect. She can bear more patronage in proportion to her population and wealth than any government of that form that ever existed; nay, to go farther, than can despotism in its lowest form. I will not go into the philosophy of this. That would take me farther from the track than I desire. “But I will say in a very few words, it results from the fact that her Executive and her conservative branch of the legislature are both hereditary. The Roman government may have exceeded and did exceed the British government in its power for conquest; but no people ever did exist, and probably never will exist, with such a capacity for conquest as that people. But the capacity of Rome to hold subjected provinces, was as nothing compared to that of Great Britain, and hence, as soon as the Roman power passed from Italy beyond the Adriatic on one side, and the Alps on the other, and the Mediterranean, their liberty fell prostrate—the Roman people became a rabble—corruption penetrated everywhere, and violence and anarchy ruled the day. Now, we see England with dependent provinces not less numerous, scarcely not less populous, I believe, though I have not examined the records; we see her going on without any serious danger to the governInent. “Yet the English have not wholly escaped. Although they have retained their liberty and have not fallen into anarchy and despotism, yet we behold the o of England crushed to the earth by the superincumbent weight of debt. Reflecting on that government, I have often thought that there was only one way in which it could come to an end—that the weight of the pediment would crush it. Look at the neighboring island of Ireland, and instead of finding in her identity, we find that England has to support her out of her laboring and vigorous population—out of her vast machinery and capital, and keep up a peace establishment almost beyond her means. Shall we, with these certain and inevitable consequences in a government better, calculated to resist them than any other, adopt such a ruinous policy, and reject the lessons of experience 2 So much then, Mr. President, for holding Mexico as a province.” “There are some propositions,” says the distinguished Senator, “too clear for argument, and before such a body as the Senate, I should consider it a loss of time to undertake to prove, that to incorporate Mexico would be hostile to, and in conflict with, our free popular institutions:” but he is here addressing the Senate of the United States, which is the representative body of all the States; can any man doubt the sincerity of the remark 2 Does not the veteran statesman know the sentiments of that august body ? Let us then entertain no fears that Mexico will be seized upon and annexed, for we have his word for it, that the Senate know that such an act would be at variance with the spirit and genius of this nation. The Senator speaks for the nation, in its past, its present and its future; he declares the law that governs the destiny of Republics, but the grandeur of his argument is somewhat diminished by a necessary distinction between the polity of the nation and the polity of individual States.

“The next reason which my resolutions assign, is, that it is without example or precedent, either to hold Mexico as a province, or to incorporate her into our Union. No example of such a line of policy can be found. We have conquered many of the neighboring tribes of Indians, but we never thought of holding them in subjection—never of incorporating them into our Union. I know farther, sir, that we have never dreamt of incorporating into our Union any but the Caucasian race—the

free white race. To incorporate Mexico, would be the very first instance of incorporating an Indian race, for more than half of the Mexicans are Indians, and the other is composed chiefly of mixed tribes. “I protest against such a union as that! Ours, sir, is the government of the white man. The greatest misfortunes of Spanish America are to be traced to the fatal error of placing these colored races on an equality with the white race. That error destroyed the social arrangement which formed the basis of society. The Portuguese and ourselves have escaped— the Portuguese at least to some extent—and we are the only people on this continent which have made revolutions without anarchy. And yet it is professed and talked about to erect those Mexicans into a territorial government, and place them on an equality with the people of the United States. I protest utterly against such a project. “Sir, it is a remarkable fact, that in the whole history of man, as far as my knowledge extends, there is no instance whatever of any civilized colored races being found equal to the establishment of popular rights, although by far the largest portion of the human family is composed of these races. And even in the savage state we scarcely find them anywhere with equal government, except it be our noble savages—for noble I will call them. They for the most part had free institutions, but they are easily sustained amongst a savage people. Are we to overlook this fact? Are we to associate with ourselves as equals, companions, and fellow-citizens, the Indians and half-breeds of Mexico 2 Sir, I should consider such a thing as fatal to our institutions.”

It is the settled policy of a majority of this nation to recognize no political differences among men, excepting those which necessarily arise from age, sex, and mental sanity,+and it is an equally established policy of a minority, to regard no race as capable of liberty but the Caucasian or white race. Because liberty did not originate with the nation as a whole, but was first recognized and established in the individual States, they were regarded—and must be regarded—as the defenders and sources of private liberty; nor was the Constitution itself formed by slaves, its authors were the freemen of the nation, and they could extend it to whom they pleased. And yet, the number of persons of other races to whom liberty has been granted by the States has been too small for a satisfactory proof that they are capable of liberty. It is not yet proved that Republican institutions can exist even

« PreviousContinue »