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general judgment of the Senate, my own opinion having been
well known from the beginning to be, that it would have been
wiser to proceed with California as a separate measure. Here
is now before us a bill providing for the three objects. That
provision which relates to the establishment of the boundary be
tween the territory of the United States and Texas is under
immediate consideration, and the section embracing that part
of the bill is now open to amendment. The present motion is,
however, to strike out from the bill the whole section ; that is, all
that respects the United States and Texas.

Now, Sir, it appears to me that we shall have no question
more important than this in the course of our deliberations in
the Senate. It seems to me that it is one of the most material
points connected with this subject, which gives us all so much
general anxiety, the disposition of our territories newly acquired
from Mexico.

Mr. President, there are different views entertained with re
spect to the manner in which these territories should be treated,
whether a provision should now be made for establishing in
New Mexico and Utah territorial governments in the common
form, or whether, California being admitted, these territories
should not be left for future consideration. I am most anxious,
Sir, to take that course in this respect which shall be most con
formable to our common practice heretofore, the most suitable to
the occasion, and the most likely to produce a speedy settle
ment of all the various questions.

Now, Sir, before any territorial government can be established
for New Mexico, it is clearly necessary that the boundary of
New Mexico should be ascertained, or else denned by a provision
simultaneous with that which establishes the government. But
that is not all. There is evidently something in this case which
goes much further. Some gentlemen are of opinion that the
Territory of New Mexico should remain as she is until she is
prepared to come in as a State. Well, Sir, it strikes me as
highly improbable, if not impossible, that she ever can come in
as a State, until we define her boundaries and know what really
constitutes New Mexico. If we leave her as she is, how is it
to be known who her people are ? Who are to get together to
form her constitution and apply for admission as a State?
What is New Mexico ? How is she limited and bounded ?


Now I understand it to be admitted by gentlemen here, while
Texas claims all the country east of the Rio del Norte up to the
forty-second degree of north latitude, and while this claim of hers
is not admitted, that she has some title or right, or some claim
or plausible pretence of title or right, to a portion of the country
between the Nueces and the Rio Grande. What portion, and
how far to the north does that pretence or claim of right ex
tend ? How far above the common track which leads from Aus
tin into Mexico, along the Presidio road ? Where are its true
limits ? This is quite unsettled, and Texas, in the mean time,
claims all along the line, not only up to El Paso del Norte, but
still further, on to Santa Fe and Taos, and so to the forty-second
degree of north latitude, embracing all that lies to the eastward
of the Rio del Norte. If that be so, Sir, every body sees that
it takes away a great portion of what has usually been consid
ered as New Mexico. The fact is stated to be, and I suppose
truly, that Texas has organized her civil government, not only
up to El Paso del Norte, but beyond that, and has established
civil jurisdiction some sixty or eighty miles above the Paso del
Norte, claiming the whole of that country, with the right to es
tablish her civil jurisdiction over the \vhole of it, just so soon as
her own convenience requires it.

Now, I submit it to every one, what will be the state of
things in New Mexico if these matters be not immediately ad
justed ? I should suppose all must see that things cannot re
main as they are long, without some interposition by Congress.
It is to be remembered that this territory is becoming Texas
territory, in point of fact, every day. I understand an honora
ble member from Texas to say, that, in that part of the country
which lies above the line contemplated by the committee, there
are many voters who have actually attached themselves to the
Texan government ; that several hundred votes were cast last
year, as in the exercise of municipal and political rights under
the jurisdiction of Texas, by persons, many of whom live as
far as seventy or eighty miles above the Paso del Norte, and
others a little below.

Texas is a State with a regular constitution, a regular execu
tive and legislative and judicial authority, and it is proposed
now to leave New Mexico without any government to resist or
contest the claims of Texas. How can that be considered a


wise and practical mode of settling the question ? The power
is all on one side. There is now no authority, executive, legis
lative, or judicial, that can unitedly call itself the government
of New Mexico. There are alcaldes, I suppose, in the cities
and towns ; but where is the political government, the head, the
leading authority of New Mexico ? Where is there any thing
in New Mexico that can say that it represents the territory ?
There is nothing upon earth that can do so, nothing anywhere
that can remonstrate against Texas. There is nothing that can
assert its own rights against Texas. Who is there even that
can memorialize Congress ? There is nobody but individuals,
and those individuals very much disposed, according to recent
appearances, at least some of them, to attach themselves to
Texas, perhaps from a sort of necessity of having some govern
ment. Now, Sir, under this aspect of the case, the time seems
to me to be far distant when New Mexico will be able to pre
sent herself here as a State, proper to be admitted into this
Union. Our young and amiable sister, Texas, is, even by her
best friends, admitted to be in love with land. She seeks land,
and the immensity of her territory as it is does not satisfy her
appetite in that respect.

Sir, with respect to all that country that lies beyond the outer
settlements of Texas, beyond San Antonio de Bexar, and thence
stretching out to the Paso del Norte in a southwestern direc
tion, I presume it is of little importance to whom it belongs, be
cause I do not suppose that there is a more desert, arid section
of country on the continent. The honorable Senator from
Missouri * made out a pretty good case for what he called the
bucolic region of New Mexico, that is, the banks of the Puerco,
and, according to him, there were formerly a great number
of sheep depastured along the banks of that river. If so,
Sir, that was the exception to the general rule. I suppose
that no one doubts that, in the whole country from the
Nueces to the Rio Grande, and thence along north between
the mountains of Guadalupe, and so also beyond the moun
tains, the land is of but little value to any body. I take it to
be true, as was said by my friend from North Carolina f the
other day, that the great want of the country is the want of
water. It is true, also, that there is almost a total want of tim-

* Mr. Benton. f Mr. Mangum.


ber, although it is possible in that climate to get on somewhat
better without fuel than without water. The expedition that
\vent through there last year found many parts in which there
is not a drop of water, sometimes for twenty miles, sometimes
for thirty miles, sometimes for forty miles, and sometimes for
seventy miles. That there are some few spots more favored is
true ; but it is certain that, throughout that whole region, there
is one fatal want of water ; and I understand that, even above
the Paso del Norte, on the route to Santa Fe and Taos, there
are long stretches where the traveller, be he Indian or be he
white man, is driven away from the river by the near approach
of the mountains, and is obliged to take his course along the
plains ; and that in one instance there is a distance of ninety
miles to be traversed over these plains, in which he does not
find a drop of water. Above this, I believe, the land and the
climate are somewhat better.

Now I think that it will require all the population that we
can secure to New Mexico to make her hereafter either a re
spectable Territory or a respectable State ; and my opinion is,
therefore, that this is of the utmost importance ; and, to speak
out plainly at once, I think this amendment places almost the
whole of New Mexico entirely at the sovereign will and pleas
ure of Texas. I wish to rescue it from the grasp of Texas. I
wish to preserve all of it, so that it may hereafter constitute a
respectable political community. And I put it to gentlemen,
whether they wish this bill to be passed or not ; and, even if they
have made up their minds to go against it, to say on their con
sciences whether it is not better to retain this provision in the
bill, for the purpose of keeping New Mexico out of the hands of
Texas ? That is the precise question presented here to-day, and
I think the country must take that view of it. What can New
Mexico do against Texas, let her right be ever so good ? I en
tertain a strong opinion, though not a decisive one ; I am at
least strongly inclined to the opinion that her right is good.
But then what is right against might? And if this govern
ment neglects her, if she will not define her boundaries, and will
not say what New Mexico has or what she is, but leaves that
to be decided at some indefinite time hereafter, New Mexico
will be pretty likely to disappear from the face of the coun
try, will become Texas. Texas will swallow her up.


Now I fully believe that this could be made a matter of judi
cial control and decision. Others, whose opinions are entitled
to as much respect as mine, gentlemen connected with the gov
ernment, think otherwise ; and therefore, while they think other
wise, that mode of settlement will never be resorted to. The
executive government, probably, would not institute a suit with
out the recommendation of Congress, which could hardly be ob
tained without much opposition. Certainly it would not be
obtained soon ; and if a suit were instituted, nobody can tell
exactly when it would be terminated. In the mean time there
is no reason to suppose that the executive government will take
the responsibility of saying what the line between New Mexico
and Texas legally is, and of maintaining that line by military

Such being the case, I will say that, as a point of practicable
wisdom, it is every way just and expedient for Congress now,
this day, to decide what are and what shall be the boundaries of
New Mexico. For one, I wish that this line had been fixed at
the north passage. Such was not the opinion of the commit
tee ; and such, as it appears, is not the opinion of the Senate ;
and, as the line now stands, it goes twenty miles to the north of
that passage. Well, I had rather take that a great deal than
to leave the whole matter unsettled ; and therefore I repeat, that
I wish most earnestly to call the attention of gentlemen who
may not be in favor of the bill to the question, whether, if the
bill is to be passed, it be not in the highest degree important
now, in this bill, to settle the question of the boundary of New


ON the 3d of June, an amendment to the "Compromise Bill" was
offered by Mr. Soule, one of the Senators from Louisiana, which was
substantially a substitute for some of its most important provisions.
While this amendment was before the Senate, Mr. Webster made the
following remarks, in vindication of some positions taken in his speech
of the 7th of March.

ON the 7th of March, Sir, I declared my opinion to be, that
there is not a square rod of territory belonging to the United
States, the character of which, for slavery or no slavery, is not
already fixed by some irrepealable law. I remain of that opin
ion. This opinion, Sir, has been a good deal canvassed in the
country, and it has been the subject of complaints, sometimes
respectful and decorous, and sometimes so loud and so empty
as to become mere clamor. But I have seen no argument
upon any question of law embraced in that opinion which
shakes the firmness with which I hold it, or which leads me to
doubt the accuracy of my conclusions as to that part of the
opinion which regarded the true construction, or, I might with
more propriety say, almost the literal meaning, of the resolu
tions by which Texas was admitted into the Union. I have
heard no argument calculated in the slightest degree to alter
that opinion. The committee, I believe, with one accord,
concurred in it. A great deal of surprise, real or affected, has
been expressed in the country at the annoum lament by me of
that opinion, as if there were something new in it. Yet there
need have been no surprise, for there was nothing new in it

* Remarks made in the Senate of the United States, on the 17th of June, 1850.


Other gentlemen have expressed the same opinion more than
once ; and I myself, in a speech made here on the 23d of March,
1848, expressed the same opinion, almost in the same words ;
with which nobody here found any fault, at which nobody here
cavilled or made question, and nobody in the country.

With respect to the other ground on which my opinion is
founded, that is, the high improbability, in point of fact, that
African slavery could be introduced and established in any of
the territories acquired by us in pursuance of the late treaty
with Mexico, I have learned nothing, heard nothing, from that
day to this, which has not entirely confirmed that opinion.
That being my judgment on this matter, I voted very readily
and cheerfully to omit what is called the "Wilmot Proviso from
these territorial bills, or to keep it out, rather, when a motion
was made to introduce it. I did so upon a very full and deep
conviction, that no act of Congress, no provision of law, was
necessary, in any degree, for that purpose ; that there were nat
ural and sufficient reasons and causes excluding for ever Afri
can slavery from those regions. That was my judgment, and
I acted on it ; and it is my judgment still. Those who think
differently will, of course, pursue a different line of conduct, in
accordance with their own judgments. That was my opinion
then, and it has been strengthened by every thing that I have
learned since ; and I have no more apprehension to-day of the
introduction or establishment of African slavery in these ter
ritories, than I have of its introduction into and establishment
in Massachusetts.

Well, Sir, I have voted not to place in these territorial bills
what is called the Wilmot Proviso, and by that vote have sig
nified a disposition to exclude the prohibition, as a thing unne
cessary. I am now called upon to vote upon this amendment,
moved by the honorable member from Louisiana,* which pro
vides that the States formed out of New Mexico and Utah
shall have the right and privilege of making their own con
stitutions, and of presenting those constitutions to Congress
conformably to the Constitution of the United States, with
or without a prohibition against slavery, as the people of
those Territories, when about to become States, may see fit.

* Mr. Souk .


I do not see much practical utility in this amendment, I agree.
Nevertheless, if I should vote, now that it is presented to
me, against it, it might leave me open to the suspicion of in
tending or wishing to see that accomplished in another way
hereafter which I did not choose to see accomplished by the
introduction of the Wilmot Proviso. That is to say, it might
seem as if, voting against that form of exclusion or prohibition,
I might be willing still that there should be a chance hereafter
to enforce it in some other way. Now I think that ingenu
ousness and steadiness of purpose, under these circumstances,
compel me to vote for the amendment, and I shall vote for it.
I do it exactly on the same grounds that I voted against the
introduction of the proviso. And let it be remembered that I
am now speaking of New Mexico and Utah, and other terri
tories acquired from Mexico, and of nothing else. I confine
myself to these ; and as to them, I say that I see no occasion
to make a provision against slavery now, or to reserve to our
selves the right of making such provision hereafter. All this
rests on the most thorough conviction, that, under the law of
nature, there never can be slavery in these territories. This is
the foundation of all. And I voted against the proviso, and I
vote now in favor of this amendment, for the reason that all
restrictions are unnecessary, absolutely unnecessary ; and as
such restrictions give offence, and create a kind of resentment,
as they create a degree of dissatisfaction, and as I desire to
avoid all dissatisfaction, as far as I can, by avoiding all meas
ures that cause it, and which are in my judgment wholly un
necessary, I shall vote now as I voted on a former occasion,
and shall support the amendment offered by the honorable
member from Louisiana. I repeat again, I do it upon the
exact grounds upon which I declared, upon the 7th day of
March, that I should resist the Wilmot Proviso.

Sir, it does not seem to strike other Senators as it strikes me,
but if there be any qualification to that general remark which
I made, or the opinion which I expressed on the 7th of March,
that every foot of territory of the United States has a fixed
character for slavery or no slavery ; if there be any qualification
to that remark, it has arisen here, from what seems to be
an indisposition to define the boundaries of New Mexico ; that
is all the danger there is. All that is part of Texas was, by


the resolutions of 1845, thrown under the general condition of
the Texan territory ; and let me say to gentlemen, that if, for
want of defining the boundaries of New Mexico, by any pro
ceeding or process hereafter, or by any event hereafter, any por
tion which they or I do not believe to be Texas should be con
sidered to become Texas, then, so far, that qualification of my
remark is applicable. And therefore I do feel, as I had occa
sion to say two or three days ago, that it is of the utmost im
portance to pass this bill, to the end that there may be a defi
nite boundary fixed now, and fixed for ever, between the terri
tory of New Mexico and Texas, or the limits of New Mexico
and the limits of Texas. Here the question lies. If gentle
men wish to act efficiently for their own purposes, here it is, in
my poor judgment, that they are called upon to act. And the
thing to be done, and done at once, is to fix the boundaries of
New Mexico.

Mr. President, when I see gentlemen from my own part of
the country, no doubt from motives of the highest character
and for most conscientious purposes, not concurring in any of
these great questions with myself, I am aware that I am tak
ing on myself an uncommon degree of responsibility. The
fact, that gentlemen with whom I have been accustomed to act
in the Senate took a different view of their own duties in the
same case, naturally led me to reconsider my own course, to
reexamine my own opinions, to rejudge my own judgment.
And now, Sir, that I have gone through this process, without
prejudice, as I hope, and certainly I have done so under the
greatest feeling of regret at being called upon by a sense of
duty to take a step which may dissatisfy some to whom I
should always be desirous of rendering my public course and
every event and action of my public life acceptable, yet I can
not part from my own settled opinions. I leave consequences
to themselves. It is a great emergency, a great exigency, that
this country is placed in. I shall endeavor to preserve a proper
regard to my own consistency. And here let me say, that
neither here nor elsewhere has any thing been advanced to
show that on this subject I have said or done any thing incon
sistent, in the slightest degree, with any speech, or sentiment,
or letter, or declaration that I ever delivered in my life ; and all
would be convinced of this if men would stop to consider and


look at real differences and distinctions. But where all is gen
eral denunciation, where all is clamor, where all is idle and
empty declamation, where there is no search after truth, no
honest disposition to inquire whether one opinion is different
from the other, why, every body, in that way of proceeding,
may be proclaimed to be inconsistent.

Now, Sir, I do not take the trouble to answer things of this
sort that appear in the public press. I know it \vould be use
less. Those who are of an unfriendly disposition would not
publish my explanations or distinctions if I were to make
them. But, Sir, if any gentleman here has any thing to say
on this subject, though I throw out no challenge, yet if any
gentleman here chooses to undertake the task, and many there
possibly are \vho think it an easy task, to show in w^hat respect
any thing that I said in the debate here on the 7th of March, or
any thing contained in my letter to the gentlemen of Newbury-
port, is inconsistent with any recorded opinion of mine since
the question of the annexation of Texas arose, in 1837, I will
certainly answer him with great respect and courtesy, and shall
be content to stand or fall by the judgment of the country.

Sir, my object is peace. My object is reconciliation. My
purpose is, not to make up a case for the North, or to make up
a case for the South. My object is not to continue useless
and irritating controversies. I am against agitators, North
and South. I am against local ideas, North and South, and
against all narrow and local contests. - I am an American, and
I know no locality in America ; that is my country. My heart,
my sentiments, my judgment, demand of me that I shall pur
sue such a course as shall promote the good, and the harmony,
and the union of the whole country. This I shall do, God
willing, to the end of the chapter.

VOL. v. 33


MR. PRESIDENT, the amendment of the honorable member
from Louisiana! respects that part of the present bill which pro
poses the immediate admission of California into the Union as
a State ; and the amendment is opposed to that immediate ad
mission. It proposes, on the contrary, that the subject shall be
referred back to the people of California ; that certain conditions
and modifications in the constitution of California shall be pro
posed to them, and that, if the people of California in conven
tion shall accede to such conditions and modifications, then the
President of the United States shall issue his proclamation an
nouncing that fact, and thereupon California shall be admitted
into the Union as a State.

The question, therefore, is, whether, upon the whole, it would
be more advisable, under all the circumstances of the case, to
admit California now, or to send her constitution back again,
and postpone to some future and indefinite period her admission
into the Union ? In my opinion, Sir, it is highly expedient to
admit California now. In my opinion, it is highly expedient to
give her now a proper position in the Union, and to give her
such powers as shall enable her to revolve among the other orbs
of our system ; and I really believe that that is the settled judg
ment of a great majority of the people of this country. If
there be any question growing out of these territorial acqui
sitions on which there seems to be a general, I will not say a
unanimous, public opinion, it is that, under the circumstances, it

* Remarks in the Senate on the 27th of June, 1850, the Amendment moved
by Mr. Soule being under consideration,
f Mr. Soule*.


is expedient and proper to admit California into the Union with
out further delay. She presents herself here with a sufficient
population. She presents a constitution to which, in a general
aspect, as a republican constitution, we can make no objection.
The case is urgent and pressing. No new State has ever ap
peared asking for admission into the Union under circumstances
so extraordinary and so striking ; nor have the oldest of us seen
a case presented of so peculiar a character. There is in the his
tory of mankind, within my knowledge, no instance of such an
extraordinary rush of people for private enterprise to one point

Online LibraryDaniel WebsterThe works of Daniel Webster (Volume 05) → online text (page 37 of 53)