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The amendment of the honorable member from Georgia was
supported by the votes of twenty-four members of the Senate.
Twenty-nine members voted against it. Of these twenty-nine,
there were six gentlemen representing Northern and Eastern
States; viz. one from Maine, one from New Hampshire, one
from Connecticut, two from New York, and one from Pennsyl
vania. If these six members had voted for the resolution, they
would have changed the majority, and there would, from that
moment, have been no apprehension of new slave territory or
new slave States. Against the resolution, also, we heard the
voices of five members from the free States in the Northwest ;
viz. one from Ohio, two from Indiana, one from Michigan, and
one from Illinois.


So it is evident that, if all the Senators from the free States
had voted for this amendment, and against the acquisition of
territory, such acquisition would have been denounced, in ad
vance, by nearly two thirds of the whole Senate, and the ques
tion of more slave States settled for ever. For, let me say to
you, Sir, and to the country, that, whenever this question is set
tled, it must be settled in the Senate. It might have been set
tled here this night, and settled finally and for ever.

Mr. President, I arraign no men and no parties. I take no
judgment into my own hands. But I present this simple state
ment of facts and consequences to the country ; and ask for it,
humbly but most earnestly, the serious consideration of the peo
ple. Shall we prosecute this war for the purpose of bringing
on a controversy which is likely to shake the government to its

And now, Sir, who are the twenty-four members who sup
ported the amendment of the member from Georgia ? They are
the Whigs of the Senate, Whigs from the North and the South,
the East and the West. In their judgment it is due to the best
interests of the country, to its safety, to peace and harmony, and
to the well-being of the Constitution, to declare at once, to pro
claim now, that we desire no new States, nor territory to form
new States out of, as the end of conquest. For one, I enter into
this declaration with all my heart. We want no extension of
territory, we want no accession of new States. The country is
already large enough. I do not speak of any cession which
may be made in the establishment of boundaries, or of the acqui
sition of a port or two on the Pacific, for the benefit of naviga
tion and commerce. But I speak of large territories, obtained
by conquest, to form States to be annexed to the Union ;_ and I
say I am opposed to such acquisition altogether. I am opposed
to the prosecution of the war for any such purposes.

Mr. President, I must be indulged here in a short retrospec
tion. In the present posture of things and of parties, we may
well look back upon the past. Within a year or two after Tex
as had achieved its independence, there were those who already
spoke of its annexation to the United States. Against that
project I felt it to be my duty to take an early and a decided
course. Having occasion to address political friends in the city
of New York, in March, 1837, I expressed my sentiments as


fully and as strongly as I could. From those opinions I have
never swerved. From the first I saw nothing, and have seen
nothing, but evil and danger to arise to the country from such
annexation. The prudence of Mr. Van Buren stifled the project
for a time ; but in the latter part of the administration of Mr.
Tyler it was revived. Sir, the transactions and occurrences from
that time onward, till the measure was finally consummated in
December, 1845, are matters of history and record. That history
and that record can neither be falsified nor erased. There they
stand, and must stand for ever; and they proclaim to the whole
world, and to all ages, that Texas was brought into this Union,
slavery and all, only by means of the aid and active cooperation
of those who now call themselves the " Northern Democracy "
of the United States ; in other words, by those who assert their
own right to be regarded as nearest and dearest to the people,
among all the public men of the country. Where was the hon
orable member from New York, where were his Northern and
Eastern friends, when Texas was pressing to get into the Union,
bringing slaves and slavery with her? Where were they, I
ask ? Were they standing up like men against slaves and slav
ery? Was the annexation of a new slave State an object
which " Northern Democracy " opposed, or from which it averted
its eyes with horror ? Sir, the gentleman from New York, and
his friends, were counselling and assisting, aiding and abetting,
the whole proceeding. Some of them were voting here as eager
ly as if the salvation of the country depended on bringing in
another slave State. Others of us from the North opposed an
nexation as far as we could. We remonstrated, we protested,
we voted ; but the " Northern Democracy " helped to outvote
us, to defeat us, to overwhelm us. And they accomplished their
purpose. Nay, more. The party in the North which calls it
self, by way of distinction and eminence, the " Liberty Party,"
opposed with all its force the election of the Whig candidate*
in 1844, when it had the power of assisting in and securing the
election of that candidate, and of preventing Mr. Folk s elec
tion ; and when it was as clear and visible as the sun at noon
day, that Mr. Folk s election would bring slave-holding Texas
into the Union. No man can deny this. And in the party

* Mr. Clav.


of this " Northern Democracy," and in this " Liberty Party "
too, probably, are those, at this moment, who profess themselves
ready to meet all the consequences, to stand the chance of all
convulsions, to see the fountains of the great deep broken up,
rather than that new slave States should be added to the
Union ; but who, nevertheless, will not join with us in a declara
tion against new States of any character, thereby shutting the
door for ever against the further admission of slavery.

Here, Sir, is a chapter of political inconsistency which de
mands the consideration of the country, and is not unlikely to
attract the attention of the age. If it be any thing but party
attachment, earned, recklessly, to every extent, and party antip
athy maddened into insanity, I know not how to describe it.

Sir, I fear we are not yet arrived at the beginning of the end.
I pretend to see but little of the future, and that little affords
no gratification. All I can scan is contention, strife, and agita
tion. Before we obtain a perfect right to conquered territory,
there must be a cession. A cession can only be made by treaty.
No treaty can pass the Senate, till the Constitution is over
thrown, without the consent of two thirds of its members. Now
who can shut his eyes to the great probability of a successful
resistance to any treaty of cession, from one quarter of the Sen
ate or another? Will the North consent to a treaty bringing
in territory subject to slavery ? Will the South consent to a
treaty bringing in territory from which slavery is excluded?
Sir, the future is full of difficulties and full of dangers. We
are suffering to pass the golden opportunity for securing harmo
ny and the stability of the Constitution. We appear to me to
be rushing upon perils headlong, and with our eyes wide open.
But I put my trust in Providence, and in that good sense and
patriotism of the people, which will yet, I hope, be awakened
before it is too late.


ALTHOUGH laboring under deep depression,! I still feel it my
duty, at as early a moment as I may be able, to address the
Senate upon the state of the country, and on the further prose
cution of the war. I have listened, Sir, silently, but attentively,
to the discussion which has taken place upon this bill, and upon
other connected subjects ; and it is not my purpose to enter into
the historical narrative, or the historical argument which has ac
companied its discussion, on the one side or on the other. New
events have arisen, bringing new questions ; and since the re
sumption of the discussion upon this measure, two or three days
ago, these events have been alluded to, first by the honorable
Senator who conducts this bill through the Senate, and again
by the Senator before me from South Carolina. By both these
honorable members these events have been declared to be well
known to all the world, and by one of them J it was remarked
that there need be no affectation of mystery. Since these state
ments were made, I have heard the gentleman from South Caro
lina express his views on the question. I have heard him on
various and momentous subjects, on many interesting occasions,
and I desire to say, Sir, that I never heard him with more un
qualified concurrence in every word he uttered. The topics
which he discussed were presented, it appears to me, in their
just light, and he sustained his views in regard to them with that

* Remarks in the Senate of the United States, on the 17th of March, 1848,
on the Bill to raise for a limited time an additional Military Force, commonly
called the " Ten Regiment Bill."

f Intelligence had lately been received of the death, in Mexico, of Major Ed
ward Webster, an officer in the Massachusetts Regiment of Volunteers.

t Mr. Cass.

$ Mr. Calhoun.


clearness and power of argument which always characterize his
efforts in debate. I thank him.

I thank him especially for the manly stand he took upon one
point, which has not been so much discussed here as others ; I
mean the plain, absolute unconstitutionally and illegality of the
attempt of the executive to enact laws by executive authority
in conquered territories out of the United States. Sir, whether
the power exists in the President or not may be inferred by an
swering another question, Does he wear a crown? That is the
only question. If he wears a crown, if he is the king of the
country, if we are his subjects, and they who are conquered by
the arms of the country become his subjects also and owe him
allegiance, why, then, according to well-established principles,
until the interference of the legislature, but no longer even then,
he may conquer, he may govern, he may impose laws, he may
lay taxes, he may assess duties. The king of England has
done it, in various cases, from the conquest of Wales and Ire
land down to the conquest of the West India Islands, in the
war of 1756, and in the \vars growing out of the French Revo
lution. The king of England has done it; done it by royal
prerogative ; done it in the government of his own subjects,
existing in or inhabiting territories not under the protection of
English law, but governed by him until Parliament puts them
under that protection.

Now, Sir, there was laid before us, at the commencement of
the session, a system of legislation for Mexico as for a conquered
country. Let us not confound ideas that are in themselves sep
arable and necessarily distinct. It is not the question, whether
he who is in an enemy s country at the head of an army may
not supply his daily wants ; whether he may not, if he choose
so to conduct the war, seize the granaries and the herds of the
enemy in whose country he is. That is one thing; but the
question is here, whether, sitting in the Presidential house, by an
act of mere authority, when the country is conquered and sub
dued, the President of the United States may, by, and of, and
through his own power, establish in Mexico a system of civil
law. We have read, Sir, and some of us have not forgotten
it, in books of authority treating of the law of nations, that,
when a country is conquered or ceded, its existing laws are not
changed till the competent authority of the conquering power


changes them. That I hold to be the universal doctrine of pub
lic law. Well, here is a system of levying taxes, repealing
old laws, and making new ones, and a system behind that, of
which I read with pain and mortification ; for I find in this com
munication of the Secretary, sanctioned by the President, that
our brave troops (as they are always called, ten times in ev
ery page) were directed to lay hold on all the little municipal
treasures, all the little collections for social purposes, that sup
ported the interior, the municipal, what we should call the par
ish concerns of Mexico ! they were directed to seize them all !
The War Department issued orders to chase the government
of Mexico like a partridge on the mountain, from place to place,
to give it no rest for the sole of its foot; and another order
issued from the Treasury Department at the same time directed
this seizure of all these small and petty sums of public money.
I am obliged, therefore, to the gentleman from South Carolina,
for having brought this subject to the attention of the Senate.

I am happy in having an opportunity of expressing my re
pugnance to all the doctrine and all the practice. Where will it
lead to ? What does the President do with this money ? Why,
he supports the army ! But this money never passes under any
appropriation of law. The Constitution of the United States
says that the executive power shall have no appropriations for
military purposes for more than two years. But here there is
a standing appropriation, put at the disposal and discretion of
the President of the United States, of all the money he can col
lect by this system of personal executive legislation over sev
en millions of people, and that under the Constitution of the
United States ! If the statement of this case does not attract
the attention of the community, in short, if the question is not
argued before an American Senate when it is stated, it is be
yond my power to illustrate it by any further argument.

Sir, while I rejoice that the honorable member from South
Carolina has done so important a service* as to put this ques
tion in a proper and clear light before the community and the
Senate ; and while I agree, as I have said, in all that he has
uttered on the topics which he has treated; that topic which
weighs upon my mind and my conscience more than all the
rest is one which he did not treat, and in regard to which I
fear I may not expect (would to God that I might!) his


concurrence, and the strength of his arm ; I mean the object,
plain and manifest, original in the inception of this war, not
always avowed, but always the real object ; the creation of new
States on the southern border of the United States, to be formed
out of the territory of Mexico, and the people inhabiting that
territory. If, after a service of thirty years in these councils, he
could ^ have taken a lead; if his convictions of duty, I mean to
say, could have allowed him to take a lead and make a stand
for the integrity of the United States, even with these large re
cent accessions, which I am willing to consider as brotherly
accessions that I have no disposition to reject, discourage, or
discountenance, in the existing circumstances of the case ; if, I
say, Sir, at the end of our common service, now for thirty
years, the honorable member could have seen his line of duty
to lie in such a direction that he could take a stand for the in
tegrity of the United States, these United States into whose
service he and I entered in early life, with warm and equally
warm patriotic affections, the love of a known country, a de
fined country, an American country ; if he had found it con
sistent with his duty to take such a stand, and I had perished
in supporting him in it, I should feel that I had perished in a
service eminently connected with the prosperity and true honor
of the country.

Mr. President, I am obliged to my friend from Georgia* for
having taken that view of some topics in this case, with his
usual clearness and ability, which will relieve me from the ne
cessity of discussing those subjects which he has treated. I
feel, Sir, the great embarrassment which surrounds me, brought
about by those events which have taken place and been advert
ed to in the Senate. It has been stated by the gentleman al
ready alluded to,f that the whole world knows that a treaty has
come hither from Mexico, that it has been acted upon here,
and is sent back; that a member of this body, occupying an em
inent position in its deliberations and conduct, has been sent
out as a minister, with full powers to make explanations ; of
course, not explanations of what was done in Mexico, but ex
planations of what has been done here. There has been such
a paper here. I allude to none of its particulars, although, fol-

* Mr. Berrien. -j- Mr. Cass.

VOL. v. 23


lowing the example of the honorable member from Michigan,
who says that all the world knows there is a treaty, I might
say that all the world knows, too, exactly what the treaty is ; for
the details are as well known as the principal fact. I feel, Sir, as
I said, a new embarrassment. On the events that have occurred
here within three weeks, political friends to some extent differ,
and that goes nearer to my heart than any shaft that political
adversaries could direct.

The war is odious. Generally speaking, taking the whole
country together, the war is odious in a high degree. The coun
try is distressed. A treaty has been offered. It has been here,
and it has been sent back. Now I feel, Sir, that there has been
manifested throughout the country a very strong desire, for the
sake of peace, that this treaty, or any treaty, should be ratified.
The business of the country is disorganized and obstructed.
Men know not what to calculate upon. The occupations of
life are embarrassed. The finances of individuals, as well as of
the country, are much deranged, the circumstances of individuals
placing them in great exigency and necessity of immediate re
lief; and there has come up a strong expression in favor of any
treaty, on any terms, if it will bring peace. Now, Sir, I am not
for any treaty, on any terms, though it bring peace. In my
judgment, with entire diffidence therein and entire deference to
the better judgment of others, this indiscriminate demand of
peace, under any circumstances and on any terms, is either an
effusion of ecstatic delight at the prospect of getting rid of an
abominated war, or else the result of a feeling for which I have
not so much respect, that we are to take this, whatever it may
be ; or, I will rather say, that we are to take whatever may be
offered, lest our masters should give us harder terms. It is either
an overflow of joy at the prospect of putting an end to the war,
or else a proof that men s resolution cools.

I believe, Sir, that the press on all sides, with very few excep
tions, perhaps, uniting for once, have for the last three weeks
pressed the Senate, by their daily counsels and advice, to take
the treaty, whatever it may be. All these considerations, which
seem to me to spring from the first impulse, and not from the
sober second thought of the people, appear to be designed, I will
not say designed, but calculated, as they have been calculated,
to press forward the counsels of the Senate ; and to induce us


to take any bit of parchment, or any bit of paper, which could be
called or concluded to be a treaty, to clench it, and confirm it,
with our eyes blindfolded ; no, Sir, with our eyes dead, sightless
as the eyes of a marble statue, to all the future.

On these subjects, Sir, to the extent to which it may be prop
er for me to discuss them, I wish to declare my sentiments once
for all ; not going back to the origin of the war, not reexamin-
ing orders of the executive, not pausing to consider, as my hon
orable friend from Georgia has done, the various stages in the
progress of the campaigns, in which it might seem to have been,
and I think he has proved that it was, the duty of the execu
tive to consider the propriety of arresting the war. Without
attempting any of this sort of discursive dissertation upon the
case, I nevertheless desire to express my opinions upon the state
of the country, upon the further prosecution of the war, and
upon that most important, and, if not vital, most interesting
question, the revenue, and the ability of the country, under
the existing legislation of Congress, to supply the public de
mands. An understanding, however, was entered into yester
day, to which I was a party, that the question upon the final
passage of this bill should be taken to-day. I do not propose to
depart from that understanding. If I had strength, which I have
not, and health, which I have not, there is not time, without
forcing the Senate into a very late session, to say what I wish
to say. I will, therefore, with the permission of the Senate, and
I hope not without the concurrence of the honorable member
who is at the head of the Finance Committee, postpone what
I have further to say upon this subject until the early part of
next week, when I understand the loan bill will be before us.
This measure is to raise men ; that measure is to pay them.
The object, therefore, of both is one, the further prosecution of
the war with Mexico. What I have to say, then, may as appro
priately be said on one bill as the other, and therefore I shall not
now detain the Senate ; but if an opportunity should be offered,
upon the earliest introduction of the loan bill, I shall claim the
privilege of expressing myself on the several points to which I
have now alluded.

General Cass followed, at considerable length, in defence of the prin
ciples on which the war had been conducted. At the conclusion of his
speech Mr. Webster made the following remarks :


I entertain no intention of discussing the general topics intro
duced in the speech of the honorable gentleman. On one point
only I wish to say a few words, and that is with regard to the
remarks which he made upon the speech of the honorable
member from South Carolina,* and some observations of my
own upon this assumed authority by the executive of the
United States to levy and collect taxes in Mexico. Now, Sir,
when gentlemen of experience and character debate these grave-
questions, the first thing is to ascertain what these questions
are, and to present them truly, according to their character, for
discussion. The honorable member from Michigan supposes
that this levying of taxes and imposts in the territories of Mexi
co, by the authority of the President of the United States, is an
act of war. It is no such thing.

MR. CASS (in his scat). It is a right of war.

It is neither an act nor a right of war, according to the law
of nations. He calls it a contribution. It is no contribution.
It is a legislative act ; and when the honorable member quoted
those portions of the United States Constitution which he
thought applicable to the case, he might without impropriety
have quoted another passage, which says that all legislative
power is vested in the Senate and House of Representatives.

Now, it comes exactly to this : Is the establishment of a code
of customs in Mexico an act of war, or an act derived from war,
or an act of legislation ? Why, clearly, it is the latter. I want
to know how the President of the United States can overturn
the revenue law of Mexico, and establish a new one in its stead,
any more than he can overturn the law of the descent of prop
erty, the law of inheritance, the criminal code, or any other
portion of Mexican law? A contribution levied upon Mex
ico ! It is no such thing. What is it ? It is a code of custom
duties, framed here in the Treasury Department, and sent to
Mexico, to be exercised upon whom, and upon whose property?
Upon the Mexicans ? Why, no, Sir. Very little of it upon Mex
icans, because it is a law of imposts. It is a law upon those
who import goods and merchandise into Mexico, upon all the
neutrals of the world, upon all non-combatants ; and not only

* Mr. Calhoun.


that, but it is a law levying a duty of imposts upon goods and
merchandise carried thither by citizens of the United States;
and that the honorable gentleman calls a " contribution " !

MR. CASS. I do.

Well, then, I think he calls things by names which have no
more relation to them than black has to white. It is not a
contribution at all.

MR. FOOTE. I would ask the honorable gentleman whether he con
ceives it to be the duty of the government of the United States to pro
tect the revenue officers of Mexico in the collection of duties ; or should

Online LibraryDaniel WebsterThe works of Daniel Webster (Volume 05) → online text (page 26 of 53)