John A. (John Adams) Dix.

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May i^S

;\0H UBhA^s^

Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1864, by


in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the Southern District of New York.



You have known for several years my intention to
collect and publish for preservation and reference the
speeches which I deUvered on the leading questions
of the day, while representing the State of New York
in the Senate of the United States. They form the
greater part of the material of these volumes, I have
added several occasional addresses and a few of the
numerous official reports made by me during my con-
nection with public affairs. This collection, designed
chiefly to make those who are to come after us, ac-
quainted with the part I have borne in the national
movement during a quarter of a century of extraor-
dinary activity and excitement, I dedicate to you, as
an imperfect acknowledgment of the intelligent and
•devoted cooperation which you have lent me in all
the vicissitudes and labors of my life.

John A. Dix.





A speech delivered on the 18th and 19th of February, 1846, on the
Resolution giving to Great Britain twelve months notice for the ter-
mination of the joint occupancy of the Oregon Territory.


A speech delivered on the 27th of April, 1846, on the Bill to provide
for the Satisfaction of Claims of American Citizens for Spoliations
on their Property committed by the French.


I. A speech on the bill to amend the Twelfth Section of the Act
of August 30, 1842, dehvered on the 19th of June, 1846.

n. A speech on the same bill in reply to Mr. Huntington of Con-
necticut, delivered on the 9th of July, 1846 124


Remarks on a bill to appoint a Lieutenant-General, delivered
on the 4th of January, 1847.


A speech on the bill to appropriate three millions of dollars for the
expenses of negotiations with Mexico, delivered on the 1st of
March, 1847.


A speech delivered on the 26th of January, 1848.


Remarks on a motion to strike out the appropriation for a mission to
the Papal States, dehvered on the 21st of March, 1848.


A speech delivered on the 29th of March, 1848.


A speech delivered on the Bill to take temporary Military Posses-
sion of Yucatan, delivered on the 17th of May, 1848.




A speech on the amendment offered by Mr. Jefferson Davis, of
Mississippi, to the Bill establishing a territorial government in Oregon,
delivered on the 26th of June, 1848.


A speech on the subject of organizing governments for the territo-
ries acquired from Mexico, delivered on the 26th of July, 1848.


A speech in support of a bill providing for reciprocal trade with
Canada, delivered on the 23d of January, 1849.


A speech on an amendment to an appropriation bill, providing a
government for California, delivered on the 28th of February, 1849.



FEBRUARY 18 and 19, 1816.

The Territory on the northwest coast of America, west of the Rocky
Mountains, known as Oregon, and long in dispute between the United
States and Great Britain, was, by a convention between the two coun-
tries, concluded on the 20th October, 1818, made free to the vessels,
citizens, and subjects of both, for the period of ten years. This agree-
ment was continued in force and indefinitely extended by the conven-
tion of 26th August, 1827. In consequence of collisions between the
people of the two countries within the disputed Territory, resolutions
were introduced into the Senate, in February, 1846, requiring the
President to give notice of the abrogation of the last-mentioned con-
vention, in accordance with one of its stipulations. A portion of the
senators were in favor of adjusting the controversy by adopting the
49th parallel of latitude as the boundary, leaving to Great Britain the
territory north of it ; and the others of insisting on the abandonment
by Great Britain of the whole country as far north as 54' 40', from
which line northward the title of Russia had been acknowledged by
both the parties to the pending dispute. Mr. Dix, while asserting
the title of the United States to the whole Territory derived from the
discoveries and occupation of Spain, was nevertheless in favor of the
compromise line of 49^, which had been ofiered to Great Britain in
previous negotiations.

The question was settled by the adoption of that parallel as the
boundary line, under a treaty negotiated by Mr. Louis McLane, and rat-
ified by the Senate at the same session in which the debate took place.

In entering into the debate on the question under con-
sideration, I feel constrained to differ in opinion with two
distinguished senators who have preceded me, in relation
to the manner in which the discussion should be con-

VOL. I. 1


ducted. I allude to the Senator from Ohlo,^ who opened
the debate, and the Senator from Delaware,^ who followed
him. Both took the ground, and with equally strong lan-
guage, that the title to Oregon ought not to be drawn
into this discussion ; but for totally different reasons :
the Senator from Ohio, because the time for discussing
it had gone by ; and the Senator from Delaware, because
the time for discussing it had not arrived. With the un-
feigned respect which I entertain for both senators, I dis-
sent from their opinions with great diffidence of my own.
But I am constrained to regard the question of our rights
in Oregon as one on which the propriety of the measures
proposed peculiarly and eminently depends. What is the
proposition before the Senate ? It is, to give to Great
Britain the notice of twelve months, by virtue of which
the treaty between her and the United States, stipulating
that the Territory of Oregon shall be free and open to the
people of both countries, is to be abrogated and annulled.
We cannot disg'uise the fact that this is a measure of the
most decided character, and involving the most important
consequences. What is it, sir, but a declaration that the
Territory of Oregon, after the expiration of twelve months,
shall no longer be open to the subjects of Great Britain ?
It is the first step towards the assertion of our right of
empire and domain in Oregon. I can see it in no other
hght, I shall support it. But I cannot assent to the pro-
priety of adopting a measure of such magnitude, without
saying a single word in illustration of our title to the Ter-
ritory, over which we are thus preparing to assert our
paramount rights. I do not feel at liberty to take such a
step, denying summarily all right in others, or abstaining
from the assertion of any right in ourselves.

I propose, therefore, as a preliminary of action on my
own part, to look at our title to Oregon, — not for the
purpose of defining it with critical precision, but so far as

1 Mr. AUen. 2 Mr. J. M. Clayton.


to state the general grounds on which it rests. And I am
disposed to take this course, not only with a view to justify
the vote I intend to give, hut for the further purpose of
correcting extreme misconceptions, both at home and abroad,
on a few points of vital consequence. No purely American
question has, perhaps, excited a stronger interest in other
countries ; and I doubt whether any other has been so
greatly misrepresented. The same misapprehensions exist
at home. The public press, for the last few weeks, has
been teeming with essays disparaging the Spanish title, on
which our own, in some degree, rests. I am unwilling
either to pass by these statements in silence, or to meet
them with summary declarations of right. It is natural that
senators who have been long on this floor, and who have
already borne a part in the discussion of this question, should
feel differently. But for myself, having never even listened
to a debate on the subject, — a subject until recently entirely
new to me, — I feel bound to state the grounds on which
I act. This is what I propose to do, — not by the analjnsis
of any particular treatise, nor by the examination of any par-
ticular view of the subject, but by exhibiting some of the
historical facts on which the Spanish title and our own rest.
I shall endeavor to perform this duty in the plainest manner,
adhering rigidly to the subject, and, if possible, without
addressing a single word to prejudice or passion.

The region wbich now constitutes the Territory of Oregon
was seen, and a part of its coast reconnoitred, — I will
not say explored, — half a century after the discovery of
America. In consequence of its remoteness from the course
of trade which was opened by the voyages of Columbus, the
supposed rigor of its climate, and the certainty derived from
the expeditions sent out from Mexico, that it contained no
sources of wealth like those by which Spain had been en-
riched in the more southern portions of this continent, it
remained, for more than two centuries and a half, without
any permanent settlement by civilized men. During this


long period, Spain constantly asserted her right of propri-
etorship in it by virtue of discovery, and had formed tem-
porary establishments in its neighborhood from time to time.
During the half century which succeeded, it was frequently
visited by ships of other nations, by accident, for purposes
of exploration, or for objects of commerce, and thus there
arose a number of claimants to the right of sovereignty and
domain. The claims of Russia have been adjusted with
Great Britain. She holds, by the acquiescence of the latter,
the whole northwest coast of America north of latitude
54° 40', as far back as the first range of highlands ; and,
by virtue of a convention between her and us, we have
agreed to form no settlements north of that parallel. The
southern line of Oregon we hold to be fixed, by the settle-
ment of the boundary line between the United States and
Mexico, at 42°. The territory in dispute has, therefore, a
coast of twelve parallels and two thirds of latitude, running
back into the interior to the Rocky Mountains ; and the
United States and Great Britain are the only claimants to
the right of proprietorship in it.

Before I proceed to examine their respective claims, it
may be proper, as the subject has been referred to on this
floor, briefly to state the conditions under which, by the
usage of nations, a right of property in lands uninhabited,
or occupied by wandering tribes, may be acquired.

The basis usually relied on to support a right of this
nature is discovery ; but it is a ground of right which be-
comes untenable, unless followed by an actual occupation of
the discovered territory. If a title is not perfected by occu-
pation, a second discoverer may appropriate the territory
thus neglected by the first. But this must be upon reason-
able evidence of the intention of the first discoverer not to
take possession of it. If a second discoverer were to seize
upon and appropriate the discovered territory before the
first had time to form an establishment within it, such an
act of interference would be regarded as an unwarrantable


intrusion, which the latter might justly resist. On the
other hand, if the first discoverer neglects within a reason-
able time to take actual possession of, to form settlements
in, or make some actual use of the regions he has discov-
ered, the law of nations will not acknowledge in him any
absolute right of property in or sovereignty over it, even
though he may have set up monuments or memorials of his
discovery at the time it was made. Such is the spirit of
the rules in relation to the discovery and occupation of un-
inhabited territory, as stated by writers on international law.
It is certainly not easy to lay down any invariable rule in
respect to the time within which, or the circumstances under
which, a title by discovery must be perfected by occupation.
The rules and maxims of international law are but a practi-
cal application of the principles of universal equity and jus-
tice ; and in the settlement of questions of this nature, the
real objects and intentions of the parties are to be sought
for in a reasonable interpretation of their acts. I believe,
however, the doctrine may be fairly deduced from the whole
body of the law on this subject, that rights by discovery
remain good until superseded by rights of occupation.
With regard to Great Britain, I think I may safely say that
her practical rule pushes this doctrine farther. She resists
all attempts by others to acquire rights by occupation in
territories which she has discovered, and thus renders her
own rights by discovery perpetual. Lieutenant Broughton,
in the armed tender Chatham, discovered the Chatham
Islands, in 1791, after parting company with Vancouver,
on their way to the northvv^est coast.^ She has not occupied
them until recently ; and I am not sure that there is now
anything more than a whaling establishment on them ; but
she insists that no other power shall occupy them, because
it would be injurious to her settlements in New Zealand,
which are nearly five hundred miles distant from them.
I propose now to see what acts have been performed in

1 See Vancouver's Journal, Book I. chap. 11.


respect to Oregon by different nations ; or, in other words,
to examine the nature of the discoveries which have been
made, and the estabhshments which have been formed in
that region, applying to them as I proceed the principles I
have concisely stated.

The first discoverer of any part of the northwest coast of
America north of, or in immediate contiguity with, the
boundary between us and Mexico, was Ferrelo. He was
the pilot of Cabrillo, the commander of an expedition fitted
out in Mexico in 1543, fifty-one years after the discovery
of San Domingo by Columbus. Cabrillo died on the voyage,
and Ferrelo succeeded to the command. He examined the
coast from the Santa Barbara Islands, in latitude 34°, to
the 43d parallel of latitude ; but the latter part of his voyage
was made, I believe, without landing, and by a mere in-
spection of the coast from his vessel. In 1535, eight years
before this exploration was made, possession had been taken
of California by Fernando Cortes, in the name of Spain,
and an establishment had been formed in 24° of north
latitude. This establishment was kept up for several years;
and, in the mean time, the Gulf of California to its northern
extremity, with the western coast as high as 38° north lati-
tude, had been explored. These explorations, and the estab-
lishments formed in carrying them on, were all made in pur-
suance of a settled purpose on the part of Spain to extend
her dominion over the uninhabited territory on the northwest-
ern coast of America. The discoveries to which these ex-
plorations led were, therefore, not accidental. The expedi-
tions were fitted out for the single object referred to. In the
prosecution of this design, it is true, the most arrogant and
absurd pretensions were set up by Spain in respect to the
exclusive navigation of the Pacific ; but these must not be
permitted to prejudice her just claims to portions of the con-
tinent washed by its waters, on the ground of discovery and
occupation, and the declared purposes she had in view.

The next navigator who appeared on the northwest coast


was Sir Francis Drake. He left England in 1577^, on a
predatory expedition against the dominions of Spain in the
Pacific. In 1579, after having accomplished his object,
and carried devastation and terror into the unprotected
Spanish settlements on the coast, he landed in 38° north
latitude, in a bay supposed to be that of San Francisco,
and passed five weeks in repairing his vessel. He took
possession of the country, and called it New Albion. It
is pretended that Sir Francis Drake followed the coast as
far north as 48° ; but the best authorities fix the northerly
limit of his examination, which was a mere inspection from
his vessel, at 43°, — the supposed boundary of Ferrelo's in-
spection more than a quarter of a century before. As the
British negotiators have abandoned Drake's expedition as a
part of the basis of their claim, I will not dwell upon it,
excepting to add that his examinations were accidental ;
they were not made in pursuance of any purpose of ex-
ploration or settlement ; they led to the discovery of no
new territory ; and they were not followed up by an actual
occupation of the soil. For two centuries no claim to
territorial rights, that I am aware of, was set up by
Great Britain on the ground of Drake's pretended dis-

The next explorer was the Greek pilot, Juan de Fuca,
who was sent to the northwest coast in 1592, thirteen years
after Drake, by the Viceroy of Mexico, for the purpose of
discovering the imaginary Strait of Anian, supposed, at
that day, to connect the north Pacific with the north At-
lantic Ocean. In the prosecution of his voyage he entered
an extensive inlet from the sea, as he supposed, between
the 47th and 48 th parallels of latitude, and sailed more
than twenty days in it. Such is his own account as de-
tailed by Michael Lock ; and it accords, as well as his de-
scriptions, so nearly with the actual nature of the localities,
that it is now generally conceded to be substantially true ;
and his name is conferred by universal consent on the strait


between the 4*8th and 49tli parallels of latitude. Spain
had thus made discoveries on the northwest coast before
the close of the sixteenth century as far north at least as
the 48th degree of latitude ; and the nature of the explora-
tions, from their extent and the settled purpose in pursu-
ance of which they were made, excludes all claim of dis-
covery by others down to that period of time.

In' 1603, Vizcaino, a distinguished naval commander,
under an order from the King of Spain, made a careful
survey of the coast of California to Monterey, in the S7th
parallel of latitude ; and he also explored the coast as far
north as the 43d parallel, giving names to several bays
and promontories as he advanced. During the seventeenth
century, at least seven different attempts were made by
the Spaniards to form establishments in California ; but,
from the hostility of the natives and other causes, these
attempts failed, so far as any permanent settlement is con-
cerned, excepting the last, which was made in 1697- But,
within sixty years from this time, sixteen principal estab-
lishments were formed by the Jesuits on the western coast
of America, between the Gulf of California and Cape Men-
docino, one of which was in the bay of St. Francisco, near
the SSth degree of latitude. During the whole period
from the landing of Fernando Cortes in California, and
the latter part of the eighteenth century, Spain had uni-
formly asserted her title to the northwest coast of America,
and had, from time to time, made efforts not only to ex-
tend her discoveries there, but to perfect her right of em-
pire and domain by permanent establishments.

In 177^? Perez was ordered by the Viceroy of Mexico
to proceed to 60° north latitude, and explore the coast
south to Monterey, and to take possession, in the name
of the King of Spain, of the places where he should land.
He succeeded in reaching the 54th parallel, within two
thirds of a degree of the northern boundary of the dis-
puted territory, whence he returned along the coast to


Washington's Island, as it was called by Captain Gray,
or Queen Charlotte's Island, as it was afterwards named
by the British navigators. In latitude 4-9° 30' he entered
a capacious bay, where he remained for some time, trading
with the natives, — the same bay, beyond all question, which
was four years afterwards called King George's Sound,
by Captain Cook, and is now known as Nootka Sound.

The next year, (177-5,) Heceta sailed as far north as the
48th degree of latitude, and explored the coast south, filling
up the outline which Perez had left incomplete. He had
previously landed at 4-1° 10'', and erected a cross, with an
inscription setting forth that he had taken possession of the
country in the name of his sovereign. In latitude 46° 17'
he discovered a rapid current outward from the land, oppo-
site to an opening which he immediately pronounced to
be the mouth of a river. From him it was first called the
Entrada de Heceta, and afterwards the river St. Roc. He
made repeated attempts to enter it, but was constantly
baffled by the violence of the current. This is now con-
ceded to have been the mouth of the river Columbia, which
was discovered and entered by Captain Gray, of Boston,
seventeen years afterwards.

During the same year the coast was also explored from
the 56th to the 59th degrees of latitude by Quadra (y
Bodega) and Maurelle, who erected crosses in testimony
of their discoveries. On their return, they visited the coast
at the 47th degree of latitude, and explored it from the
45th southwardly to the 42d.

It will be perceived by these details, which I have deemed
it necessary to state with some particularity, that, previous
to 1778, the year in which Captain Cook visited the north-
west coast, the Spaniards had examined it with great care
and perseverance from 37° to 49° 30'. They had also
examined it from the 54th to the 59th parallels, and visited
It at intermediate points. And in these explorations they
were wholly without competitors, excepting on the part of


some Russian navigators, who had made discoveries north
of the 56th parallel, and Drake, who had visited the coast
at the 38th. During the two centuries which intervened
between the expedition of Drake and the third voyage of
Cook, no attempt had been made, nor any design indi-
cated, on the part of Great Britain, to avail herself of any
pretended claim by virtue of the transient visit of the forjner
to the coast; while Spain constantly asserted her right to
it by virtue of previous and subsequent discoveries. And
in California and its neighborhood she had, after repeated
efforts, succeeded in effecting the permanent occupation of
the country, which was her earnest object, — an object which
no other power during that long period had even in contem-

The third voyage of Captain Cook, undertaken in 1777?
gave the first indication of a desire on the part of Great
Britain to appropriate such parts of the northwest coast of
America as she considered open to settlement, and subject
them to her dominion. He was instructed to take posses-
sion, in the name of the King, of convenient situations in
the countries he might discover that had not been al-
ready discovered or visited by any other European power.
In 1778 he landed at Nootka Sound, in 49° S3' north lati-
tude, where he remained nearly a month, trading with the
natives and refitting his vessel. I believe this was the only
point within the Territory in dispute at wdiich Captain Cook
landed ; and it is proved by its latitude to be the same bay
which Perez discovered four years before, and in which he
passed some time, like Captain Cook, trading with the na-
tives. The subsequent explorations of the latter were made
farther north — I believe he did not see the coast south of
55° — with a view to the discovery of a passage between
the Pacific and Atlantic oceans ; and they have no bearing
on the question under discussion.

The explorations of Captain Cook gave no title whatever
to Great Britain on the score of discovery — the only place


where he landed having been previously visited by Perez.
Besides, if she had gained a contingent right of possession
by virtue of his explorations, she did not proceed to perfect
her title by a formal occupancy. The neglect of Great
Britain to take actual possession of Nootka Sound, even
if she had gained a contingent right by discovery, is con-

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