John A. (John Adams) Dix.

Speeches and occasional addresses (Volume 1) online

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will constantly grow more embittered by the repetition of
acts of violence. Peace alone, uniting the sovereign power
of both countries in the maintenance of order, can termi-
nate a state of things disastrous to both, and at war with
all the interests of humanity.

I have said that I see no hope but in a vigorous prose-
cution of the war. I believe that with proper energy it
may be brought to a close. The opposition which has been
made to us in Mexico has, I believe, come wholly from
the army. There has been no uprising of the people, as
there would be with us if our soil were to be invaded by
a foreign power. There are two reasons why it is so.
Our military operations have been carried on chiefly in a
sparsely populated country, and the great body of the
Mexicans are nearly disarmed. I have a paper before me,
published in the city of Mexico, containing an article from
Zacatecas, showing a most extraordinary fact. If Sena-



tors will look at their maps, they will find the department
of Zacatecas, southwest of New Leon, of which Monterey
is the chief town, southeast of Durango, and northwest of
San Luis Potosi, — lying? in a word, in the very centre
of the territory of Mexico. And yet the frontiers of the
department and those of Durango are subject to the con-
stant incursions of bands of savages, from twenty, thirty,
fifty, to two hundred in number. Let me read an extract
from this article : —

" Zacatecas, October 25, 1846.
" In our last number we announced that, besides the one hundred
men who had gone out in the direction of the northern frontier of the
State, to free the inhabitants from the depredation of the savages, his
Excellency the commanding general would go out in person on the first
of the next month, with the rest of the force of the sixth regiment of
permanent cavalry. But having received the day before yesterday
news, which was communicated by extraordinary express from the
political chiefs of Sombrerete and Nieves, that a party of savages,
whose number they estimated at two hundred, had shown themselves
in the neighborhood of Mateo Gomez, Santa Catarina, and other vil-
lages in that quarter, his Excellency the commanding general hastened
his departure, and yesterday he marched with about two hundred men
of the sixth regiment, a detachment of the active battalion, a company
of the national guard, and a detachment of artillery of the same guard,
with one piece of cannon. Besides, his Excellency has sent orders to
the political chiefs of Nieves, Sombrerete, Fresnillo, and others in that
quarter, to assemble the militia, as far as the excessive scarcity of arms
would permit, and aid the operations of the commandant general. "VYe
believe, then, if the savages succeed in attacking the people of the
frontier, they will be severely punished."

The same paper contains an account of a figlit with the Li-
dians, in Durango, on the 18th of October, in which eleven
Mexicans were killed and twenty-four wounded. The scene
of these Indian depredations is two hundred miles in ad-
vance of our army at Monterey, nearly midway between
Saltillo, in Durango, and Santa Ana's head-quarters, at San
Luis Potosi. It is an extraordinary fact, as indicating the
defenceless condition of the great body of the Mexicans,
and from "the excessive scarcity of arms," the militia could


only be partially employed. The people, it would seem,
are dependent for their protection on the army; and when
this is withdrawn, they are again exposed to outrage and
depredation from the most hisignificant bands of savages.
I will now call the attention of the Senate to two articles
of great interest and importance, as connected with the his-
tory of the contest in which we are engaged with Mexico,
and as casting some light upon the course which it may be
incumbent on us to pursue. I have two Mexican papers,
published in the city of Mexico about the middle of Novem-
ber, and containing what may be regarded as the manifes-
toes of the two great parties in that country, put forth in
anticipation of the meeting of the extraordinary Congress
now in session. The first is the " Monitor Republicano,"
(the Republican Monitor.) of the 14th of November, 184>6,
containing, under its editorial head, an article which I will
read from the Spanish ; and in translating it, as I proceed,
I shall endeavor to follow it with literal accuracy, for any
deviation from the original would impair its strength : —

" Most weighty are tlie questions of which the sohxtion belongs
to the Congress soon to be convened, and their gravity incalcuhible.
One of the most important is the termination or continuation of the
actual war with the United States, a subject on which depends nothing
less than our existence as an independent nation.

" The reasons which exist for terminating the war are most power-
ful ; and not less weighty are those wliich oblige us to continue it. Our
situation is truly critical, and immense the responsibility of those who
are to decide our fate.

" Our country, weakeijed by twenty-five years of intestine wars, can-
not present the energetic and invincible resistance which are the fruit
of peace, of union, and of order in the public administration. Events
common to all youthful nations, and which ours has been unable to
avoid, have brought us to the condition which we to-day deplore, but
from which, unhappily, it is not in our power immediately to escape.
The nations of Europe, attentive to their own interests, all incline to
favor our enemies, because they consider them stronger, and because
from their triumph they anticipate greater advantages for their indus-
try and commerce. Misfortunes, the offspring of the improvidence and
weakness of a few men, are attributed to the whole nation, which


in this manner has incurred reproaches it was far from meritino-.
Finally, everything conspires against us, and on all sides the most
gloomy perspective presents itself. These, and many other reasons
which will readily occur to him who reflects a moment, persuade us of
the imperious necessity of putting an end to so great a calamity as
that which afflicts us.

" But in what manner can we attain it ? What treaties can we
make, which will not cover us with opprobrium ? These wicked men
have usurped our territory, demolished our cities, destroyed our sea-
ports, and rendered our shipping useless: they have committed every
species of violence upon our citizens, and offered every description of
outrage to our country. Can we, without covering ourselves with
ignominy, humble ourselves, and yield what they desire, and wdiat will
be to us, beyond measure, unfavorable? Mexico has suffered grave
injuries from the civil war which has burned without intermission in
her bosom ; but she will not admit that her sons have lost the noble
ardor with which they have always fought to defend their natal soil.
All Mexicans, Avithout any exception, are resolved to sacrifice all their
interests, and their existence, before they will consent to be the slaves
of avaricious adventurers ; and this noble decision is the surest pledge
of triumph. The smallest, the most insignificant people on earth, are
invincible when they combat for their independence. And Mexico, —
will she not maintain her dignity? Will she not know how to avail
herself of any of the great elements of defence with which nature has
endowed her?

" These are powerful motives why we should pursue, at every peril,
a most just contest, — a contest to which we are stimulated by the
greatest incentives that can be imagined.

" What, then, is the issue of this most important matter ? We con-
fess, in good faith, we are unable to foresee ; and that only the most
mature deliberation of wise and experienced men is capable of brino-ino-
to a good termination a question of life or death for Mexico.

" Great, then, should be the circumspection with Avhich the future
Congress should proceed, — a Congress which we shall accuse of our
ruin, or to which we shall be the debtors for our salvation. Every
citizen of those who compose it, when he finds himself in the Hall
of the Representatives of the people, should forget every interest,
every affection, and keep only in view his country, whose fate he is
to decide irremediably."

This, sir, is the declaration of the republican party of
Mexico ; and I cannot, by any words of mine, add to its
force or eloquence. This party I suppose to be far the


most numerous and the most patriotic, but kept down by
the army, the clergy, and the monarchists. Though their
manifesto breathes a noble spirit of patriotism, and denounces
us as invaders of the Mexican soil, I think it will not be
difficult for an attentive reader to perceive that they are
strongly disposed to peace, and that they see nothing but
evil to the republic from the military rule of Santa Ana.
It is the party with which our negotiations were commenced
for an amicable settlement of the Texas question. We have,
I fear, lost much of its confidence since the war commenced.
We are considered as determined to dismember the republic.
The Mexican papers are full of a plan which they attribute
to us, of dividing their territory at the 23d degree of lati-
tude, the parallel of Tampico and San Luis Potosi ; and
wdiile they suppose this to be our determination, it is nat-
ural that they should speak of us with asperity. But let
it be once understood that we are disposed to settle our
differences on just and liberal terms, and I believe there
will be no obstacle with them to a pacification. They
are now powerless ; but it may be that, in the progress
of the war, their condition may be reversed, and that, by
a wise policy on our part, political results of the highest
benefit to Mexico may be secured, and her republican in-
stitutions may be established on a more solid and durable

I will now read to the Senate a paper of a different
character, — a paper which may be fairly considered as
the manifesto of Santa Ana himself. I find it in the
" Diario del Gobierno de la Kepublica Mexicana " (the
Journal of the Government of the Mexican Republic) of
Sunday, the 2!2d November, 1846; but the article is copied
from a paper printed at San Luis Potosi, and entitled "La
opinion del ejercito," (the opinion of the army.) and doubt-
less conducted under his supervision. Indeed, it contains
a reference to his opinions, which may be regarded not
only as authentic, but semi-official : —


" San Luis Potosi, November 13.

" The War with the United States. — Public opinion expressed
through the press has been continually arraigning our rulers, of all
epochs, for the apathy and indifference with which they have viewed
the Texas question since the unfortunate event of San Jacinto. From
that time the IMexican people knew what would be the consequences
of this criminal indifference, and constantly and energetically begged
for the restoration of the constitution of 1824, as the only means of
recovering, with less difficulty and by force, possession of that vast
and rich territory usurped by a small handful of adventurers.

" Unfortmiately, the preceding administration, occupied solely with
keeping themselves in power, turned a deaf ear to the voice of the
people, refusing them even the cooperation of our valiant army in an
enterprise which, singly, they could not have accomplished. They
feared that the citizens, on receiving arms to revenge the outrages
committed upon the nation, would turn them against their rulers,
and hurl them from the posts which they held by means of revolu-
tions. Li this manner they succeeded in weakening the strength of
the people, and putting to sleep their enthusiasm, so as to favor the
rapacity of the Americans, who already meditated the annexation of
Texas to their States.

" Tliis act of perfidy was verified by a decree of the Chamber of
Deputies of the United States ; and the reclamations from our gov-
ernment, and the answers to them, were in great part unknowoi to
the people, from whom they were carefully concealed, in order that
public opinion might not interfere with measures so little favorable
to the interests of the community. Thus have negotiations of the
highest importance to Mexico constantly become more complicated,
until we now see ourselves invaded, and a large portion of our
country occupied, not merely by Texan adventurers, but by the army
of the United States, ordered hither without reason, and with perfidi-
ous views on the part of that government which aspires to overthrow
the independence which we acquired at the cost of so much blood.

" Of all these evils, and of many more sacritices which have been
made, and are still making, by the people to recover the territory of
Texas, and that newly occupied, preceding administrations are the
cause, and more particularly that of the 6th of December, 1844, which,
forgetting its pledges to the nation, confided its arms to a disloyal
general, who planned the ruin of our institutions before marching to
the frontier to punish, as he was ordered, our invaders. To this
administration, we repeat, the country owes the state in which it
now finds itself with our perfidious neighbor ; and it is responsible
for the manner in which our diplomatic relations with that power
now remain.


" The negotiations which the minister, Cuevas, commenced with the
government of the United States, to terminate tlie Texas question in
an amicable manner, gave reason to the cabinet of that republic to
believe that Mexico was feeble, and that they could remain with
impunity in the possession of our territoi-ies as soon as a part of
their army should pi-esent itself on this side of the line that divides
the two territories. All that has happened, the periodical press, as the
most sure organ of public opinion, foretold ; and it reproved severely
the conduct observed by the cabinet of that period for admitting an
envoy of the government of the United States, who came empowered
to arrange our difFei-ence with the Anglo-Saxon peacefully. This same
opinion was manifested by the army of operations, v^^hich, under the
orders of General Paredes, was in this capital ; and there is no doubt
that the nation repudiates all accommodation with the American

" The best proof which can be given of this fact is, that now when we
enjoy liberty, when the nation sees itself governed by the constitution
of 1824, and when it has a government of its own, since it is emi-
nently popular, citizens of all classes present themselves full of en-
thusiasm to offer their services to make war iipon the unjust invader.
In all parts they are contending and disputing the preference to march,
and anxiously await the day of battle to avenge the blood of their
brethren, shed on the fields of Palo Alto, Resaca, and Monterey.

"NO ACCOMMODATION, cry the people: No measures of paci-
jicalion while these rapacious invaders remain in our territory. These
are the sentiments of our army and of the people, of our ILLUS-
TRIOUS CHIEF, — and these will be also the feelmgs of the sover-
eign extraordinary Congress, provided its deliberations are governed
by obedience to the popidar will."

As I liave already said, this article Is from a paper pub-
lished at San Luis Potosi, and it may be regarded as the
organ of Santa Ana, and as speaking his sentiments. The
article was put forth on the 13th of November, about three
weeks before the Congress met. It seems, on its face,
designed to forestall the deliberations of Congress. It
leaves no field for discussion. " No accommodation," is the
command of Santa Ana, at the head of fifteen or twenty
thousand men. What are we to infer 1 That, as war will
continue him in command of the army, he is unwilling to
terminate it ? It would certainly seem so ; and yet this
bold language may be a mere stroke of diplomacy. While


assuming- an attitude of uncompromising- hostility to us, and
before his countrymen, it may be that he is secretly in favor
of peace. But there is enough, it appears to me, in both
manifestoes to counsel us to continue our preparations, and
to pursue the war with vigor, standing ready to terminate
the contest on just and liberal terms, whenever Mexico shall
listen to our overtures.

I have but one word more to say in support of the bill.
The President has asked the appointment of a commander
of the armies in Mexico, with an increased rank. He be-
lieves it to be essential to the proper organization and move-
ment of the army. He believes the success of our military
operations may depend on it. Sir, when the public honor
and reputation are at stake, I am willing to extend to the
administration, on whom rests the whole responsibility of
bringing the war to an honorable termination, any reasonable
aid it requires. If we deny him the means he asks, and
there shall be any failure in the enterprises set on foot,
the responsibility will rest, not on him, but on us. While
I am never in favor of enlarging unduly the sphere of exec-
utive patronage or power, I am in favor of extending- to
the President, within the sphere of his existing powers, the
fullest command of means. It is a necessary incident to
the conduct of war to invest him, in this respect, with a
large discretion. Be it for good or for evil, we must give
him our confidence. It is always possible an Executive
may not respond to it as we think he ought. But it is
quite clear that he cannot without it hope for a successful
execution of his plans. With these impressions, I shall
vote for the men and means which may be asked to carry
on the war with vigor. I shall vote for such an organiza-
tion of the army as is deemed necessary to give it the great-
est efficiency, so long as I see no salutary principle violated.
The honorable Senator from Kentucky ^ expressed the same
determination in respect to men and means at a late meeting

1 Mr. Crittenden.



of the Senate. Sir, no one appreciates the patriotism of
tliat honorable Senator better than myself; and I sincerely
wish the confidence in the Executive, which this determina-
tion implies, could, consistently with his views of duty, be
carried a little farther, — that, while giving- to the govern-
ment all the men and money asked for, he could also vote
for such an organization of the army as is deemed neces-
sary to a vigorous prosecution of the war ; for means and
men avail little without the energy moral and physical of
an efficient organization. For myself, I perceive nothing
objectionable in the measure proposed. On the contrary, I
can readily conceive it to be essential to the successful prose-
cution of our military operations in Mexico. I believe it
to be necessary to a proper organization of the army ; and
I sustain it with cheerfulness, as a measure which is deemed
necessary by the administration to sustain the honor of the
country and to insure the success of its arms.


MARCH 1, 18-17.

On the 8th of August, 1846, the President of the United States
sent a message to Congress, asking an appropriation of two millions of
dollars to provide for any expenditure which might be necessary for
the purpose of settling our difficulties with the Republic of Mexico,
with which we were at war. It was well understood that the object
was to secure a cession of territory from that republic. A bill making
the appropriation was introduced into the House of Representatives on
the same day. Mr. Wilmot, of Pennsylvania, offered an amendment,
which was adopted, asserting as an express and fundamental condition
of the acquisition of territory from Mexico by virtue of any treaty to
be negotiated with that republic, that neither slavery nor involuntary
servitude should exist in any part of said territory except for crime.
This amendment was kno^vn as the Wilmot proviso. The bill passed
the House on the day it was introduced, and was sent to the Senate
late at night. The following day was Sunday. On Monday morning,
the day Congress adjourned, the bill was taken up in the Senate, but
no vote was taken, Mr. Davis of Massachusetts having spoken against
it until the hour of adjournment.

In 1847, a similar bill was introduced into Congress, making an ap-
propriation of three, instead of two millions. On this bill Mr. Dix
delivered the speech which follows.

It may be proper to state, with a view to a more correct understand-
ing of the issue presented by the Wilmot proviso, that its advocates
sustained it on the distinct ground that, as slavery had been abolished
throughout the Mexican republic, the acquisition of territory without
prohibiting slavery would, on the theory asserted by the Southern
States, lead to its restoration where it had ceased to exist, and make
the United States responsible for its extension to districts in which
universal freedom had been established by the fundamental law.

Mr. President: I intended to address the Senate on
the general subject of the war; but being always more


ready to listen than to speak, I have given way to others
who were desirous of presenting their views. And I have
done so with pleasure, because I knew that they were
much more capable than myself of enlightening the judg-
ment of the Senate on the questions before it. I have
thought the occasion an appropriate one for recurring to
the principles on which our government was founded ; of
reviewing its progress ; of entering into a critical survey of
our position as a nation, for the purpose of estimating intel-
ligently our responsibilities to ourselves and others ; of see-
ing wherein our strength consists ; and of determining by
what course of policy the permanent interests of the country
are most likely to be promoted. If I do not mistake pre-
vailing indications, an opportunity may be afforded hereafter
for such a review, and one fully as appropriate as the pres-
ent. I pass by all these grave considerations. I rise for
the purpose of saying a few words in respect to the position
taken by the non-slaveholding States concerning the acqui-
sition of territory, and the admission of future States into
the Union, — a position taken by resolutions passed by the
legislatures of nine of these States. This question is pre-
sented by the bill passed by the House, and now awaiting
the action of the Senate. It has been largely discussed on
both sides. New York is one of the States by which reso-
lutions relating to the question have been adopted. Her
course, as well as that of other States, has been the subject
of censure here. As one of her representatives on this
floor, I wish to say something in her vindication, and in
reference to the vote I may be called on to give, probably
at too late an hour for discussion. And, in the first place,
I desire to state what I understand to be the rights of the
original parties to the Constitution, in respect to the subject
of slavery within their own limits.

The Constitution of the United States recognized the
existence of slavery in the thirteen original States, which
were parties to that compact. The recognition was not in


direct terms, but by force of certain stipulations designed to
provide for exigencies which were the consequences of its
existence. These stipulations are binding upon all the mem-
bers of the Union, — as well those which were so originally,
as those which have since been admitted into it. Whatever
opinions may be entertained with regard to the political or
social influences of slavery, the obligation of those who live
under tlie protection of the Constitution to carry out in good
faith all its stipulations is too plain to admit of doubt or
controv^ersy. It is a solemn obligation, therefore, to leave
the States in which slavery exists, unmolested and free to
deal with it according to their own interests and conceptions
of duty.

Such I understand to be the rights and obligations of the
States which were the original parties to the federal com-
lact ; and they belong equally to those who have since be-
:)me parties to it.

I pass to the consideration of admitting new States into
the Union, with slavery. Whether an organized State,
formed from territory not belonging to the United States,
or, in other words, whether a foreign State, shall be admitted
into the Union at all, is a problem which may be determined

Online LibraryJohn A. (John Adams) DixSpeeches and occasional addresses (Volume 1) → online text (page 16 of 40)