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their proceedings have been superseded by proceedings of a similar kind
on the part of the United States ? What would he have done in the
case ?

Just exactly what Congress in its discretion shall think fit to
do. What I say is, that it is an exercise of legislative power,
and no exercise of military power. If there is any analogy be
tween that and the case mentioned by the honorable gentleman,
of the marshals of the French army levying contributions as they
marched from city to ciiy^flagrante bello, at the head of their for
ces, I do not understand the logic which makes the comparison.
Nor can I perceive any analogy in the cases. When an army
marches through an enemy s country, it is supposed to have the
right of supporting itself by the strong hand ; it has the absolute
right of war, whether it choose to exercise it or not, to make
plunder and to seize private property. And what is contribu
tion ? Why, it is a substitute for the law of pillage, the practice
of plunder. When an army approaches a city, the commander
of that army asks so much support, so many thousand crowns,
such and such provisions ; he says he will take them by the
strong hand, unless the authorities compound by giving so much
money, in consideration of which he will forbear the exercise
of that military right.

Let me ask the honorable gentleman another question. A
part of this system sanctioned by the President was, that the
moneys collected by these levies should be paid over to the
military and naval officers. Could they not just as well have
been ordered to be brought here, and put into our treas
ury? Does it make a particle of difference, and is it not a
system of revenue established under executive authority in Mex-
23*



270 THE TEN REGIMENT BILL.

ico ? and will any man call that military contribution ? Let it
be shown by any authentic work on national law, by any decid
ed case, by any course of reasoning or argument, that the levy
ing of a permanent system of revenue, in a conquered territory,
is exactly the same thing as a temporary or occasional military
contribution of a marching army, and then the charge brought
against the administration cannot be maintained.



OBJECTS OF THE MEXICAN WAR.*



ON the 2d of February, 1848, the treaty called a " treaty of peace,
friendship, limits, and settlement, between the United States of America
and the Mexican Republic," was signed at Guadalupe Hidalgo. This
treaty, with the advice and consent of the Senate, was ratified by the
President of the United States on the 16th of March. In the mean
time, a bill, introduced into the House of Representatives on the 18th of
February, to authorize a loan of sixteen millions of dollars for the pur
pose of carrying on the war, passed through that house, and was consid
ered in the Senate. Other war measures were considered and adopted
by the two houses, after the signature and ratification of the treaty. On
the 23d of March, the Sixteen Million Loan Bill being under considera
tion, Mr. Webster spoke as follows.

MR. PRESIDENT, On Friday a bill passed the Senate for
raising ten regiments of new troops for the further prosecution
of the war against Mexico ; and we have been informed that
that measure is shortly to be followed, in this branch of the leg
islature, by a bill to raise twenty regiments of volunteers for
the same service. I was desirous of expressing my opinions
against the object of these bills, against the supposed necessity
which leads to their enactment, and against the general policy
which they are apparently designed to promote. Circumstances
personal to myself, but beyond my control, compelled me to
forego, on that day, the execution of that design. The bill now
before the Senate is a measure for raising money to meet the
exigencies of the government, and to provide the means, as well

* A Speech delivered in the Senate of the United States, on the 23d of
March, 1848, on the Bill from the House of Representatives for raising a Loan
of Sixteen Millions of Dollars.



272 OBJECTS OF THE MEXICAN WAR.

as for other things, for the pay and support of these thirty regi
ments.

Sir, the scenes through which we have passed, and are pass
ing, here, are various. For a fortnight the world supposes we
have been occupied with the ratification of a treaty of peace, and
that within these walls, " the world shut out," notes of peace,
and hopes of peace, nay, strong assurances of peace, and indica
tions of peace, have been uttered to console and to cheer us.
Sir, it has been over and over stated, and is public, that we have
ratified a treaty, of course a treaty of peace, and, as the country
has been led to suppose, not of an uncertain, empty, and delu
sive peace, but of real and substantial, a gratifying and an en
during peace, a peace which would stanch the wounds of war,
prevent the further flow of human blood, cut off these enormous
expenses, and return our friends, and our brothers, and our chil
dren, if they be yet living, from the land of slaughter, and the
land of still more dismal destruction by climate, to our firesides
and our arms.

Hardly have these halcyon notes ceased upon our ears, when,
in resumed public session, we are summoned to fresh warlike
operations ; to create a new army of thirty thousand men for the
further prosecution of the war ; to carry the war, in the lan
guage of the President, still more dreadfully into the vital parts
of the enemy, and to press home, by fire and sword, the claims
we make, and the grounds which we insist upon, against our
fallen, prostrate, I had almost said, our ignoble enemy. If we
may judge from the opening speech of the honorable Senator
from Michigan, and from other speeches that have been made
upon this floor, there has been no time, from the commence
ment of the war, when it has been more urgently pressed upon
us, not only to maintain, but to increase, our military means ;
not only to continue the war, but to press it still more vigor
ously than at present.

Pray, what does, all this mean? Is it, I ask, confessed, then,
is it confessed that we are no nearer a peace than we were
when we snatched up this bit of paper called, or miscalled, a
treaty, and ratified it ? Have we yet to fight it out to the ut
most, as if nothing pacific had intervened ?

I wish, Sir, to treat the proceedings of this and of every de-
partmejit of the government with the utmost respect. The Con-



OBJECTS OF THE MEXICAN WAR. 273

stitution of this government, and the exercise of its just powers
in the administration of the laws under it, have been the cher
ished object of all my unimportant life. But, if the subject
were not one too deeply interesting, I should say our proceed
ings here may well enough cause a smile. In the ordinary
transaction of the foreign relations of this and of all other gov
ernments, the course has been to negotiate first, and to ratify
afterwards. This seems to be the natural order of conducting
intercourse between foreign states. We have chosen to reverse
this order. We ratify first, and negotiate afterwards. We set
up a treaty, such as we find it and choose to make it, and then
send two ministers plenipotentiary to negotiate thereupon in the
capital of the enemy. One would think, Sir, the ordinary
course of proceeding much the juster; that to negotiate, to hold
intercourse, and come to some arrangement, by authorized
agents, and then to submit that arrangement to the sovereign
authority to which these agents are responsible, would be al
ways the most desirable method of proceeding. It strikes me
that the course we have adopted is strange, is even grotesque.
So far as I know, it is unprecedented in the history of dip
lomatic intercourse. Learned gentlemen on the floor of the
Senate, interested to defend and protect this course, may, in
their extensive reading, have found examples of it. I know
of none.

Sir, we are in possession, by military power, of New Mex
ico and California, countries belonging hitherto to the United
States of Mexico. We are informed by the President that it is
his purpose to retain them, to consider them as territory fit to be
attached to these United States of America ; and our military
operations and designs now before the Senate are to enforce this
claim of the executive of the United States. We are to compel
Mexico to agree that the part of her dominions called New
Mexico, and that called California, shall be ceded to us. We
are in possession, as is said, and she shall yield her title to us.
This is the precise object of this new army of thirty thousand
men. Sir, it is the identical object, in my judgment, for which
the war was originally commenced, for which it has hitherto
been prosecuted, and in furtherance of which this treaty is to be
used, but as one means to bring about this general result ; that
general result depending, after all, on our own superior power,



274 OBJECTS OF THE MEXICAN WAR.

and on the necessity of submitting to any terms which we may
prescribe to fallen, fallen, fallen Mexico !

Sir, the members composing the other house, the more pop
ular branch of the legislature, have all been elected since, I had
almost said, the fatal, I will say the remarkable, events of the
llth and 13th days of May, 1846. The other house has passed
a resolution affirming that " the war with Mexico was begun
unconstitutionally and unnecessarily by the executive govern
ment of the United States." I concur in that sentiment ; I hold
that to be the most recent and authentic expression of the will
and opinion of the majority of the people of the United States.

There is, Sir, another proposition, not so authentically an
nounced hitherto, but, in my judgment, equally true and equally
capable of demonstration ; and that is, that this war was begun,
has been continued, and is now prosecuted, for the great and
leading purpose of the acquisition of new territory, out of which
to bring new States, with their Mexican population, into this
our Union of the United States.

If unavowed at first, this purpose did not remain unavowed
long. However often it may be said that we did not go to war
for conquest,

" credat Judaeus Apella,
Non ego,"

yet the moment we get possession of territory we must retain
it and make it our own. Now I think that this original object
has not been changed, has not been varied. Sir, I think it ex
ists in the eyes of those who originally contemplated it, and who
began the war for it, as plain, as attractive to them, and from
which they no more avert their eyes now than they did then or
have done at any time since. We have compelled a treaty of
cession ; we know in our consciences that it is compelled. We
use it as an instrument and an agency, in conjunction with
other instruments and other agencies of a more formidable and
destructive character, to enforce the cession of Mexican -territory,
to acquire territory for new States to be added to this Union.
We know, every intelligent man knows, that there is no stronger
desire in the breast of a Mexican citizen than to retain the terri
tory which belongs to the republic. We know that the Mex
ican people will part with it, if part they must, with regret, with
pangs of sorrow. That we know ; we know it is all forced ; and



OBJECTS OF THE MEXICAN WAR. 275

therefore, because we know it must be forced, because we know
that (whether the government, which we conside? our creature,
do or do not agree to it) the Mexican people will never accede
to the terms of this treaty but through the impulse of absolute
necessity, and the impression made upon them by absolute and
irresistible force, therefore we purpose to overwhelm them with
another army. We purpose to raise another army of ten thou
sand regulars and twenty thousand volunteers, and to pour
them in and upon the Mexican people.

Now, Sir, I should be happy to agree, notwithstanding all this
tocsin, and all this cry of all the Semproniuses in the land, that
their " voices are still for war," I should be happy to agree,
and substantially I do agree, to the opinion of the Senator from
South Carolina. I think I have myself uttered the sentiment,
within a fortnight, to the same effect, that, after all, the v:ar
with Mexico is substantially over, that there can be no more
fighting. In the present state of things, my opinion is that the
people of this country will not sustain the war. They will not
go for its heavy expenses ; they will not find any gratification
in putting the bayonet to the throats of the Mexican people.
For my part, I hope the ten regiment bill will never become
a law. Three weeks ago I should have entertained that hope
with the utmost confidence ; events instruct me to abate my con
fidence. I still hope it will not pass.

And here, I dare say, I shall be called by some a " Mexican
Whig." The man who can stand up here and say that he
hopes that what the administration projects, and the further
prosecution of the war with Mexico requires, may not be carried
into effect, must be an enemy to his country, or what gentlemen
have considered the same thing, an enemy to the President of
the United States, and to his administration and his party. He
is a Mexican. Sir, I think very badly of the Mexican charac
ter, high and low, out and out ; but names do not terrify me.
Besides, if I have suffered in this respect, if I have rendered
myself subject to the reproaches of these stipendiary presses,
these hired abusers of the motives of public men, I have the
honor, on this occasion, to be in very respectable company.
In the reproachful sense of that term, I don t know a greater
Mexican in this body than the honorable Senator from Michi
gan, the chairman of the Committee on Military Affairs.



276 OBJECTS OF THE MEXICAN WAR.

MR. CASS. Will the gentleman be good enough to explain what sort
of a Mexican I am ?

On the resumption of the bill in the Senate the other day,
the gentleman told us that its principal object was to frighten
Mexico ; it would touch his humanity too much to hurt her !
He would frighten her

MR. CASS. Does the gentleman affirm that I said that ?
Yes ; twice.

MR, CASS. No, Sir, I beg your pardon, I did not say it. I did not
say it would touch my humanity to hurt her.

Be it so.

MR. CASS. Will the honorable Senator allow me to repeat my state
ment of the object of the bill ? I said it was twofold : first, that it
would enable us to prosecute the war, if necessary ; and, second, that it
would show Mexico we were prepared to do so ; and thus, by its moral
effect, would induce her to ratify the treaty.

The gentleman said, that the principal object of the bill was
to frighten Mexico, and that this would be more humane than
to harm her.

MR. CASS. That s true.

Well, Sir, the remarkable characteristic of that speech, that
which makes it so much a Mexican speech, is, that the gentle
man spoke it in the hearing of Mexico, as well as in the hearing
of this Senate. We are accused here, because what we say is
heard by Mexico, and Mexico derives encouragement from what
is said here. And yet the honorable member comes forth and
tells Mexico that the principal object of the bill is to frighten
her ! The \vords have passed along the wires ; they are on the
Gulf, and are floating away to Vera Cruz ; and when they
get there, they will signify to Mexico, " After all, ye good Mex
icans, my principal object is to frighten you; and to the end
that you may not be frightened too much, I have given you this
indication of my purpose."

But, Sir, in any view of this case, in any view of the proper
policy of this government, to be pursued according to any man s
apprehension and judgment, where is the necessity for this aug
mentation, by regiments, of the military force of the country?
I hold in my hand here a note, which I suppose to be substan-



OBJECTS OF THE MEXICAN WAR. 277

tially correct, of the present military force of the United States.
I cannot answer for its entire accuracy, but I believe it to be
substantially according to fact. We have twenty-five regiments
of regular troops, of various arms ; if full, they would amount to
28,960 rank and file, and including officers to 30,296 men.
These, with the exception of six or seven hundred men, are now
all out of the United States and in field service in Mexico, or
en route to Mexico. These regiments are not full ; casualties
and the climate have sadly reduced their numbers. If the re
cruiting service were now to yield ten thousand men, it would
not more than fill up these regiments, so that every brigadier
and colonel and captain should have his appropriate and his full
command. Here is a call, then, on the country now for the en
listment of ten thousand men, to fill up the regiments in the
foreign service of the United States.

I understand, Sir, that there is a report from General Scott ;
from General Scott, a man who has performed the most brilliant
campaign on recent military record, a man who has warred
against the enemy, w r arred against the climate, warred against a
thousand unpropitious circumstances, and has carried the flag of
his country to the capital of the enemy, honorably, proudly, hu
manely^ to his own permanent honor, and the great military credit
of his country: General Scott; and where is he? At Puebja!
at Puebla, undergoing an inquiry before his inferiors in rank,
and other persons without military rank ; while the high powers
he has exercised, and exercised with so much distinction, are
transferred to another, I do not say to one unworthy of them,
but to one inferior in rank, station, and experience to himself.

But General Scott reports, as I understand, that, in Febru
ary, there were twenty thousand regular troops under his com
mand and en route, and we have thirty regiments of volunteers
for the war. If full, this would make thirty-four thousand men,
or, including officers, thirty-five thousand. So that, if the regi
ments were full, there is at this moment a number of troops, reg
ular and volunteer, of not less than fifty-five or sixty thousand
men, including recruits on the way. And with these twenty
thousand men in the field, of regular troops, there were also ten
thousand volunteers ; making, of regulars and volunteers under
General Scott, thirty thousand men. The Senator from Michi
gan knows these things better than I do, but I believe this is very

VOL. v. 24



278 OBJECTS OF THE MEXICAN WAR.

nearly the fact. Now all these troops are regularly officered ;
there is no deficiency, in the line or in the staff, of officers. They
are all full. Where there is any deficiency it consists of men.

Now, Sir, there may be a plausible reason for saying that
there is difficulty in recruiting at home for the supply of defi
ciency in the volunteer regiments. It may be said that volun
teers choose to enlist under officers of their own knowledge and
selection; they do not incline to enlist as individual volunteers,
to join regiments abroad, under officers of whom they know
nothing. There may be something in that; but pray what con
clusion does it lead to, if not to this, that all these regiments
must moulder away, by casualties or disease, until the privates
are less in number than the officers themselves.

But, however that may be with respect to volunteers, in re
gard to recruiting for the regular service, in filling up the regi
ments by pay and bounties according to existing laws, or new
laws, if new ones are necessary, there is no reason on earth why
we should now create five hundred new officers, for the purpose
of getting ten thousand more men. The officers are already
there ; in that respect there is no deficiency. All that is wanted
is men, and there is place for the men; and I suppose no gentle
man, here or elsewhere, thinks that recruiting will go on faster
than would be necessary to obtain men to fill up the deficiencies
in the regiments abroad.

But now, Sir, what do we want of a greater force than we
have in Mexico? I am not saying, What do we want of a force
greater than we can supply? but What is the object of bring
ing these new regiments into the field ? What do we propose ?
There is no army to fight, I suppose there are not five hundred
men under arms in any part of Mexico; probably not half that
number, except in one place. Mexico is prostrate. It is not the
government that resists us. Why, it is notorious that the gov
ernment of Mexico is on our side, that it is an instrument by
which we hope to establish such a peace, and accomplish such a
treaty, as we like. As far as I understand the matter, the gov
ernment of Mexico owes its life and breath and being to the
support of our arms, and to the hope, I do not say how inspired,
that somehow or other, and at no distant period, she will have
the pecuniary means of carrying it on, from our three millions,
or our twelve millions, or from some of our other millions.



OBJECTS OF THE MEXICAN WAR. 279

What do we propose to do, then, with these thirty regiments
which it is designed to throw into Mexico? Are we going to
cut the throats of her people ? Are we to thrust the sword
deeper and deeper into the "vital parts" of Mexico? What is
it proposed to do? Sir, I can see no object in it; and yet, while
we are pressed and urged to adopt this proposition to raise ten
and twenty regiments, we are told, and the public is told, and
the public believes, that we are on the verge of a safe and an
honorable peace. Every one looks every morning for tidings of
a confirmed peace, or of confirmed hopes of peace. We gather
it from the administration, and from every organ of the admin
istration from Dan to Beersheba. And yet warlike preparations,
the incurring of expenses, the imposition of new charges upon
the treasury, are pressed here, as if peace were not in all our
thoughts, at least not in any of our expectations.

Now, Sir, I propose to hold a plain talk to-day; and I say
that, according to my best judgment, the object of the bill is
patronage, office, the gratification of friends. This very meas
ure for raising ten regiments creates four or five hundred offi
cers ; colonels, subalterns, and not them only, for for all these I
feel some respect, but there are also paymasters, contractors,
persons engaged in the transportation service, commissaries,
even down to sutlers, et id genus omne, people who handle the
public money without facing the foe, one and all of whom are
true descendants, or if not, true representatives, of Ancient Pis
tol, who said,

"I shall sutler be
Unto the camp, and profits will accrue."

Sir, I hope, with no disrespect for the applicants, and the aspi
rants, and the patriots (and among them are some sincere patri
ots) who would fight for their country, and those others who are
not ready to fight, but who are willing to be paid, with due re
spect for all of them according to their several degrees and their
merits, I hope they will all be disappointed. I hope that, as the
pleasant season advances, the whole may find it for their inter
est to place themselves, of mild mornings, in the cars, and take
their destination to their respective places of honorable private
occupation and of civil employment. They have my good
wishes that they may find the way to their homes from the Ave
nue and the Capitol, and from the purlieus of the President s



280 OBJECTS OF THE MEXICAN WAR.

house, in good health themselves, and that they may find their
families all very happy to receive them.

But, Sir, to speak more seriously, this war was waged for the
object of creating new States, on the southern frontier of the
United States, out of Mexican territory, and with such popula
tion as could be found resident thereupon. I have opposed
this object. I am against all accessions of territory to form
new States. And this is no matter of sentimentality, which
I am to parade before mass meetings or before my constituents
at home. It is not a matter with me of declamation, or of
regret, or of expressed repugnance. It is a matter of firm, un
changeable purpose. I yield nothing to the force of circum
stances that have occurred, or that I can consider as likely to
occur. And therefore I say, Sir, that, if I were asked to-day
whether, for the sake of peace, I would take a treaty for adding
two new States to the Union on our southern border, I would
say, No ! distinctly, No ! And I wish every man in the United
States to understand that to be my judgment and my purpose.

I said upon our southern border, because the present propo
sition takes that locality. I would say the same of the western,
the northeastern, or of any other border. I resist to-day, and for
ever, and to the end, any proposition to add any foreign territo



Online LibraryDaniel WebsterThe works of Daniel Webster (Volume 05) → online text (page 27 of 53)