Copyright
Daniel Webster.

The works of Daniel Webster (Volume 05) online

. (page 14 of 53)
Online LibraryDaniel WebsterThe works of Daniel Webster (Volume 05) → online text (page 14 of 53)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


you will bring destruction on yourselves " ; I say, Sir, this en
tire detail is imaginary, and altogether destitute of foundation
in fact.

The following are the circumstances as they actually occurred.
When McLeod was arrested, there was a good deal of conver
sation in Washington and elsewhere about what would happen.
It was a subject of very considerable conversation, and certainly
of embarrassment to the government. It was hoped and ex
pected by me, and I believe by the President and other members
of the Cabinet, that the Governor of New York would see that
it was a case in which, if he were invested with authority by
the constitution and the laws of the State, he would recom
mend the entering of a nolle prosequi by the prosecuting officer
of the State of New York. It was expected that he woufu
do so, and General Harrison one day said to me, that he had
received a letter from a friend, in which he was informed that
the Governor of New York had made up his mind to take
that course, and that he was very glad of it, as it relieved the
general government from its embarrassment. It was about
the time that the Attorney- General was to proceed to New
York to see how the matter stood, or perhaps a day or two after
he had left Washington. The case was to be tried within ten
days, at Lockport, in the western part of that State. Having
received this information, General Harrison directed me to
write a note of thanks to the Governor, stating that he thought
he had done exactly what was proper, and by so doing had re
lieved the government from some embarrassment, and the coun
try from some danger of collision with a foreign power. And
that is every thing said in that letter, or any other letter written

VOL. v. 12



134 DEFENCE OF THE TREATY OF WASHINGTON.

by me to the Governor of the State of New York, marked pri
vate. The letter is here if any one wishes to see it, or to hear it
read.

Mr. Crittendcn suggested that the letter should be read.
Very well. Here it is, I will read it.

" (Private.) " Department of State,

Washington, March 17 th, 1841.

"Mr DEAR SIR, The President has learned, not directly, but by
means of a letter from a friend, that you had expressed a disposition to
direct a nolle pro sequi in the case of the indictment against McLeod, on
being informed by this government that the British government has offi
cially avowed the attack on the Caroline as an act done by its own
authority. The President directs me to express his thanks for the
promptitude with which you appear disposed to perform an act, which
he supposes proper for the occasion, and which is calculated to relieve
this government from embarrassment, and the countiy from some dan
ger of collision with a foreign power.

"You will have seen Mr. Crittenden, whom I take this occasion to
commend to your kindest regard.

" I have the honor to be, yours, truly,

" DANIEL WEBSTER.
" His EXCELLENCY, WM. H. SEWARD,

Governor of New York"

MR. MANGUM. Was that the only letter written ?

Yes, the only letter; the only private letter ever written by me
to the Governor of New York in the world.

The speech quoted by the gentleman from New York pro
ceeds : " The next step taken by the administration was to
appoint a district attorney, who was to be charged with the de
fence of Alexander McLeod, the gentleman who was lately
removed from office, and a fee of five thousand dollars was put
into his hands for this purpose." This statement, Sir, is entirely
unfounded. The government of the United States had no more
to do than the government of France with the employment of
Mr. Spencer for the defence of McLeod. They never interfered
with his appointment in the slightest degree. It is true, they
furnished to Mr. Spencer, as they would have furnished to any
other counsel, the official correspondence, to prove that the gov
ernment of Great Britain avowed the act of the destruction of



DEFENCE OF THE TREATY OF WASHINGTON. 135

the Caroline as their own. The speech continues : " Applica
tion was afterwards made to the chief justice of the State of
New York for the release of McLeod. The judge did not think
proper to grant the application. The marshal was about to let
him go, when he was told that he must do it at his peril ; and
that, if McLeod went out of prison, he should go in." I do not
know what the marshal had to do with the case. McLeod was
in prison under the authority of the State of New York. I do
not know how it was possible that the marshal, an officer of the
United States, could interfere.

But there are some other matters in the speech to which I
must refer. " He would call on the honorable member from
Massachusetts* to sustain him in what he was about to say."
I do not find that the honorable member from Massachusetts
has yet sustained him in these statements, and I rather think he
never will. He asserts that I wrote to the Committee on For
eign Affairs of the House on that subject, asking an outfit and
a salary for a special minister to England to settle the Oregon
question. This statement is as destitute of foundation as those
to which I have already alluded. I never wrote such a letter, to
the best of my recollection. " These are facts," he says, " which
no one will dispute." I dispute them. I say I have no recol
lection of them at all. I do not believe Mr. Adams has any rec
ollection of any such note being written by me. If I had written
such a note, I think I should remember it.

The author of the speech next proceeds to a topic no way
connected with what he has been discussing.

Here Mr. Webster read an extract from the speech of Mr. Ingersoll,
charging him (Mr. W.) with offering to give Oregon for free trade with
England, in a speech made at a public dinner, in Baltimore, May, 1843.

Here by me sits a Senator from Maryland,! who was present
at that dinner, and heard my speech ; and if I needed a witness
beyond my own statement and printed speech, I could readily
call upon him. In that speech, I did not mention Oregon, nor
allude to it in the remotest degree. The statement that I did
so is wholly unfounded in fact. The author of this speech was
not there. If he knew any thing about it, he must have acquired

* Mr. Adams. f Mr. Johnson.



136 DEFENCE OF THE TREATY OF WASHINGTON.

his knowledge from the printed speech ; but in that there is not
the slightest reference to Oregon. He says further, that my
speech at Baltimore contained a strong recommendation of a
commercial treaty with England. Why, Sir, a commercial
treaty with England to regulate the subjects upon which I was
talking at Baltimore, the duties laid on goods by the two coun
tries, was just the thing that I did not recommend, and which I
there declared the treaty-making power had no right to make,
no authority to make. He would represent me as holding out
the idea, that the power of laying duties for revenue was a
power that could be freely exercised by the President and Sen
ate, as part of the treaty-making power! Why, I hope that I
know more of the Constitution than that. The ground I took
was just the reverse of that, exactly the reverse. Sir, my corre
spondence, public and private, with England, at that time, led
me to anticipate, before long, some change in the policy of Eng
land with respect to certain articles, the produce of this country ;
some change with respect to the policy of the corn-laws. I sug
gested in that speech how very important it would be, if things
should so turn out, that that great product of ours, Indian
corn, of which we raise five times as much as we do of wheat,
(principally the product of the West and Southwest, especially
of the State of Tennessee, which raises annually I do not know
how many millions,) I suggested, I say, how fortunate it would
be, if an arrangement could be made by which that article of
human food could be freely imported into England. I said that,
in the spirit that prevailed, and which I knew prevailed, (for I
knew that the topic had been discussed in England,) if an ar
rangement could be made in some proper manner to produce
such a result, it would be a piece of great good fortune. But,
then, did I not immediately proceed to say, that it could not be
done by treaty ? I used the \vord " arrangement," studiously
used it, to avoid the conclusion that it could be done by treaty.
I will read what I said :

" But with regard to the direct intercourse between us and England
great interest is excited, many wishes expressed, and strong opinions
entertained in favor of an attempt to settle duties on certain articles by
treaty or arrangement. I say, gentlemen, by arrangement, and I use
that term by design. The Constitution of the United States leaves with
Congress the great business of laying duties to support the government.



DEFENCE OF THE TREATY OF WASHINGTON. 137

It has made it the duty of the House of Representatives, the popular
branch of the government, to take the lead on such subjects. There
have been some few cases in which treaties have been entered into,
having the effect to limit duties ; but it is not necessary, and that is an
important part of the whole subject, it is not necessary to go upon the
idea that, if we come to an understanding with foreign governments upon
rates of duties, that understanding can be effected only by means of a
treaty ratified by the President and two thirds of the Senate, according
to the form of the Constitution.

" It is true a treaty is the law of the land. But, then, as the whole
business of revenue and general provision for all the wants of the
country is undoubtedly a very peculiar business of the House of Repre
sentatives or of Congress, I am of opinion, and always have been, that
there should be no encroachment upon it by the exercise of the treaty-
making power, unless in case of great and evident necessity."

There have been some cases of necessity, like that of the con
vention with France for the acquisition of Louisiana.* And yet
he says that in this speech, in which Oregon was not mentioned
at all, in which I repudiated the raising of revenue by treaty,
I offered Oregon to England for free trade, and recommended
a treaty with her for the purpose of laying duties.

The author of the speech further says : " By this treaty, the
good old Bay State, which he loved with filial reverence, was
disintegrated, torn asunder." Massachusetts torn asunder ! Sir,
Massachusetts and Maine owned in common a tract of wild land
on the northern and eastern boundary of the latter State. The
jurisdiction was exclusively in Maine. The boundary had never
been run ; and after fifty-nine years of ineffectual attempts, as
we have seen, to settle the adverse claims of the United States
and Great Britain, all parties concerned, Maine and Massachu
setts, and the two national governments, united in the conven
tional line laid down in the treaty of Washington. By this
line Massachusetts, for a just and reasonable equivalent, parted
with her interest in a portion of the wild lands on the frontier;
and by this step, the author of the speech says, Massachusetts
" is disintegrated and torn asunder/ Can absurdity go further ?

* By the eighth article of this convention, it was stipulated that for twelve
years the vessels of France and Spain, laden with the produce of those countries
respectively, should be admitted into the port of New Orleans, in the same man
ner as the ships of the United States coming directly from France or Spain.

12*



138 DEFENCE OF THE TREATY OF WASHINGTON.

Mr. President, I will now take some further notice of what
has been said by the member from New York.* I exceedingly
regret, that the observations of the gentleman make it my duty
to take some notice of them. Our acquaintance is short, but
it has not been unpleasant. I have always thought him a
man of courteous manners and kind feelings, but it cannot be
expected that I shall sit here and listen to statements such as
the honorable member has made on this question, and not an
swer them. I repeat, it gives me great pain to take notice of
the gentleman s speech. This controversy is not mine ; all can
bear witness to that. I have not undertaken to advance, of my
own accord, a single word about the treaty of Washington. I
am forced, driven to it ; and, Sir, when I am driven to the wall,
I mean to stand up and make battle, even against the most for
midable odds.

The gentleman says that we made a very important conces
sion of territory to England under that treaty. Now, that treaty
proposed to be a treaty of concession on both sides. The gen
tleman states concessions made by the United States, but en
tirely forgets to state those made on the other side. He takes
no notice of the cession of Rouse s Point ; or of a strip of land a
hundred miles long, on the border of the State of New York.
But, Sir, what I wish principally to do now, is to turn to another
part of this speech. I before gave the gentleman notice that I
would call upon him for the authority upon which he made
such a statement, as that an attempt was made at Washington
by members of the government to stop the course of justice in
New York; and now, if the gentleman is ready with the proofs,
I would be glad to have them.

MR. DICKINSON. I will reserve what I have to say until the gentle
man has done, when I shall produce it to his satisfaction.

I undertake to say, no authority will be produced, or is produ
cible, that there were attempts made at Washington to interfere
with the trial of McLeod. I have already gone over the circum
stances as they occurred. It was suggested by the President to
Governor Seward, that the President was gratified that he had
come to the conclusion to enter a nolle prosequi in the case of

* Mr. Dickinson.



DEFENCE OF THE TREATY OF WASHINGTON. 139

McLeod. Was that a palpable interference with judicial au
thority? Was that a resistance of the ordinary process of law ?
The government of the United States had nothing at all to do
with the trial of McLeod in the New York courts, except to see
that he was furnished with the proof of facts necessary to his
defence. But I wish to know in what school the gentleman has
learned that, if a man is in prison, and his counsel moves to have
him brought up on the writ of habeas corpus, that step is any
resistance of judicial process in favor of the prisoner? It is easy
to give to any thing the name of a direct and palpable interfer
ence. He may apply the term to the journey of the Attorney-
General to Albany, or to any other act or occurrence. But that
does not prove it so. To make good his statement he must
prove that the government did some act, or acts, which the com
mon sense of men holds to be a palpable and direct interference.
I say there was none. He quotes the letter of instructions to
the Attorney- General. That proposes no interference. That
letter says to the Attorney- General, that, if the case were pend
ing in the courts of the United States, so that the President
could have control over it, he would direct the prosecuting offi
cer to enter a nolle prosequi; but as it is within the jurisdiction
of New York, it is referred to the Governor of that State.
That is the substance, in this respect, of the letter which the
Attorney-General carried to the Governor of New York, and
there was not another act done by authority at Washington in
this matter, and I call upon the gentleman at his leisure to pro
duce his authority for his statements.

After a few more remarks upon the use made by Mr. Dickinson of
the speech of Mr. Ingcrsoll, and explanations on this subject between
Mr. Webster and Mr. Dickinson, Mr. Webster proceeded as follows :

I will now allude, Mr. President, as briefly as possible, to
some other provisions of the treaty of Washington. The arti
cle for the delivery of fugitives from justice has been assailed.
It has been said that an innocent woman had been sent back to
Scotland, under its provisions. Why, I believe the fact is, that
a woman had murdered her husband, or some relative in Scot
land, and fled to this country. She was pursued, demanded,
and carried back, and from some defect in the testimony, or
from some other cause, such as not un frequently occurs in



140 DEFENCE OF THE TREATY OF WASHINGTON.

criminal trials, she was acquitted.* But, Sir, I undertake to
say, that the article for the extradition of offenders, contained
in the treaty of 1842, if there was nothing else in the treaty J>f
any importance, has of itself been of more value to this country,
and is of more value to the progress of civilization, the cause of
humanity, and the good understanding between nations, than
can be readily computed. What were the state and condition
of this country, Sir, on the borders and frontiers, at the time of
this treaty? Why, it was the time when the " patriot societies"
or " Hunters Lodges " were in full operation, when companies
were formed and officers appointed by secret associations, to
carry on the war in Canada ; and, as I have said already, the
disturbances were so frequent and so threatening, that the Unit
ed States government despatched General Scott to the frontier,
to make a draft on New York for militia in order to preserve
the peace of the border. And now, Sir, what was it that re
pressed these disorders, and restored the peace of the border?
Nothing but this agreement between the two governments, that,
if those " patriots " and " barn-burners " went from one side to
the other to destroy their neighbors property, trying, all the time,
to bring on a war, (for that was their object,) they should be de
livered up to be punished. As soon as that provision was agreed
to, the disturbances ceased, on the one side and on the other.
They were heard of no more. In the formation of this clause
of the treaty I had the advantage of consultation with a ven
erable friend near me, one of the members from Michigan.f He
pressed me not to forego the opportunity of introducing some
such provision. He examined it; and I will ask him if he
knows any other cause for the instantaneous, suppression of
these border difficulties than this treaty provision ?

Mr. Woodbridge rose, and spoke, in reply, as follows:
" Mr. President, I may not disregard the allusion which the gentleman
has done me the honor to make to me, in reference to the inconsider
able part which I deemed it my duty to take in the matter in question.
A brief statement of some facts which occurred, and a glance, simply,
at the condition of that border country from which I come, will be all
that the occasion seems to demand.

* The verdict on the trial was one known to the law of Scotland, though not
to our law, namely, " not proven."
f Mr. Woodbridge.



DEFENCE OF THE TREATY OF WASHINGTON. 141

"That part of Canada with which the people of Michigan are brought
more immediately in contact, extends from the head of Lake Erie to
Point Edwards, at the lower extremity of Lake Huron, a distance of
about one hundred miles. Along this intermediate distance, the straits
of Detroit and of St. Clair furnish every imaginable facility for the es
cape of fugitives. For their entire length, the shores of those straits, on
either side, exhibit lines of dense and continuous settlement. Their
shores are lined, and their smooth surface covered, with boats and ves
sels of all dimensions and descriptions, from the bark canoe to the
steamer of a thousand tons. If the perpetrator of crime can reach a
bark canoe or a light skiff, and detach himself from the shore, he may
in a few minutes defy pursuit, for he will be within a foreign jurisdic
tion. In such a condition of things, no society can be safe unless there
be some power to reclaim fugitives from justice. While your territorial
government existed there, and its executive administration, under the
control of this national government, was in the hands of my honorable
colleague,* a conventional arrangement, informal undoubtedly in its
character, was entered into by him with the authorities of Canada, sus
tained by local legislation on both sides, by which these evils were great
ly lessened. When the present State government took the place of the
territorial government, this arrangement of necessity ceased ; and then
the evils alluded to were greatly aggravated, and became eminently
dangerous. Shortly before the first session of Congress, at which I at
tended, after the inauguration of General Harrison, a very aggravated
case of crime occurred, and its perpetrators, as usual, escaped into Can
ada. It was made the subject of an official communication to the State
legislature. And soon after my arrival here, I deemed it to be my duty
to lay the matter before the Secretary of State, with a view to the adop
tion of some appropriate convention with Great Britain.

" The honorable Senator, then Secretary of State, was pleased to
receive the suggestion favorably ; but suggested to me the expediency
of obtaining, if practicable, the sense of the Senate on the subject. Ac
cordingly, I afterwards introduced a resolution here, having that object
in view, and it was referred to the consideration of the Committee on
Foreign Relations, of which an honorable Senator from Virginia,! not
now a member of the Senate, was chairman.

" Mr. Rives expressed himself very decidedly in favor of the prop
osition. But negotiations having been begun, or being about to com
mence, with Lord Ashburton, it was not deemed expedient, I believe,
that it should then be made matter of discussion in the Senate. I had
not ceased to feel very earnest solicitude on the subject ; and, as the

* General Cass. f Mr. Rives.



142 DEFENCE OF THE TREATY OF WASHINGTON.

negotiation approached its termination, Mr. Webster did me the honor
to send to me the project of that article of the treaty which relates to
the subject. He desired me to consider it and to exhibit it, confiden
tially perhaps, to such Senators as came from border States, for their
consideration, and for such modification of its terms and scope as they
might deem expedient. This I did. The form and scope of the article
met, I believe, with the approbation of all to whom I showed it. Nor
was any modification suggested, except, perhaps, one very immaterial
one, suggested by an honorable Senator from New York. Of all this I
advised Mr. Webster, and the project became afterwards an article of
the treaty, with but little if any variation. I believe I can throw no more
light on the subject, Sir. But the honorable Senator, having intimated
to me that, in his discussion of the subject, he might perhaps have oc
casion to refer to the part I took in the matter, I have provided myself
with the copy of the message to the legislature of Michigan, of which
I had in the beginning made use, and which, in order to show the extent
of the evil referred to, and the necessity which existed for some treaty
stipulation on the subject, I ask the Secretary to read." *

The extract having been read, Mr. Woodbridge then proceeded : " I
have now only to add my entire and unqualified conviction, that no act
of the legislative or treaty-making power, that I have ever known, has
been more successful in its operation than this article of the treaty ; nor
could any provision have been attended by more happy consequences to
the peace and safety of society in that remote frontier."

After this statement from Mr. Woodbridge, Mr. Webster proceeded
as follows :

I am happy to find that, in its operation, the provision has
satisfied those who felt an interest in its adoption. But I may now
state, I suppose without offence and without cavil, that since the
negotiation of this treaty, containing this article, we have nego
tiated treaties with other governments of Europe containing
similar provisions, and that between other governments of Eu
rope themselves treaties have been negotiated containing that
provision, a provision never before known to have existed in any

* The Secretary here read an extract from the message of Mr. Woodbridge,
when Governor of Michigan, to the legislature of that State, calling its attention
earnestly to the facilities which exist along the interior boundaries of the United
States for the escape of fugitives from justice ; and saying, that a very recent
occurrence, of the most painful and atrocious character, had drawn his own
attention to it, and recommending-, in strong terms, that the peculiar situation of
Michigan, in this respect, should be laid before Congress, with a view of urg
ing the expediency of some negotiation on the subject between the United States
and England.



DEFENCE OF THE TREATY OF WASHINGTON. 143



Online LibraryDaniel WebsterThe works of Daniel Webster (Volume 05) → online text (page 14 of 53)