John A. (John Adams) Dix.

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has superadded the evils of an unstable and irresponsible
government. The military bodies, wliich have been the in-
struments of those who have thus in succession gained a
brief and precarious control over her affairs, though dis-
persed, still exist, ready to be reunited and to renew the
anarchy which we have superseded, for the time being, by
a military government. And this brings me to the first great
objection to the proposition of withdrawing our armies from
the field.

I have already said that no policy can deserve our support
which does not hold out the promise of a durable peace.
Nothing seems to me more unlikely to secure so desirable a
result than an abandonment of Mexico by us at the present
moment without a treaty, leaving behind a strong feeling
of animosity towards us, with party-divisions as strongly
marked, and political animosities as rancorous, perhaps, as
they have been at any former period. Even when her capital
had fallen, humbled and powerless as she was, party-leaders,
instead of consulting for the common good, were seen strug-
gling with each other for the barren sceptre of her authority.
Our retirement as enemies would, in all probability, be the
signal for intestine conflicts as desperate and sanguinary as


those in which they have been engaged with us, — conflicts
always the most disastrous for the great body of the Mex-
ican people, for, on what side soever fortune turns, they are
certain to be the victims. You know, sir, there are two
great parties in Mexico, (I pass by the minor divisions,)
the " federalistas " and " centralistas." The former, as
their name imports, are in favor of the federative system ;
they are the true republican party. With us, in former
times, the terms " federal " and " republican " designated
different parties ; in Mexico, they are both employed to
designate the friends of the federative system. The cen-
tralists are in favor of a consolidated government, republican
or monarchical in form, and are composed of the army, the
clergy, and I suppose a small portion of the population. T
believe our onlv hope of obtaining a durable peace lies in
the firm establishment of the federal party in power, — the
party represented by Herrera, Anaya, Pena y Pena, Cum-
plido, and others. I understand Herrera has been elected
president of the republic ; and this is certainly a favorable
indication. But, unfortunately, I fear this party would not
succeed in maintaining itself, if Mexico were left to herself
at the present moment with an embittered feeling of hostility
towards us. The military chiefs, who control the army,
and who might rally it again for political uses, if we were
to retire without a treaty, are for the most part enemies of
the federative system, and conservators of the popular abuses,
to which they owe their wealth and importance. Nothing
could be more unfortunate for Mexico than the reestablish-
ment of these men in power. It would bring with it a
hopeless perpetuation of the anarchy and oppression which
have given a character to their supremacy in past years, —
a supremacy without a prospect of amelioration in the con-
dition of the Mexican people, — a supremacy of which the
chief variation has been an exchange of one military despot
for another.

Calamitous as the restoration of this party to their former


ascendency would be for Mexico, it would hardly be less so
for us. Relying on military force for their support, their
policy would be to continue the war as a pretext for main-
taining the army in full strength, or, at least, not to termi-
nate it till peace would ensure their own supremacy. It is
believed that these considerations have been leading motives
in the resistance they have opposed to us. It is true, the
republican party has been equally hostile, so far as external
indications show ; but the fact is accounted for by their de-
sire to see the war continued until the army and its leaders,
the great enemies of the federative system, are overthrown.
Undoubtedly the obstinate refusal of Mexico to make peace
may be very properly referred to the natural exasperation
of every people whose soil is invaded ; but there can be little
doubt that it has been influenced in no inconsiderable degree
by considerations growing out of party divisions, and the
jealousy and animosities to which those divisions have given
rise. My confidence in our ability to make an amicable
arrangement with the federal party, if it were in undisputed
possession of the government, arises from the belief that
their motives are honest, that they have at heart the public
welfare, and that they must see there is no hope for Mexico
but in a solid peace with us. My utter distrust of the cen-
tralists arises from the belief that their objects are selfish,
and that, to accomplish them, they would not hesitate to sac-
rifice the liberties of the people and the prosperity of the
country. But whether I err in these views or not, I feel
quite confident I do not err in believing that if our armies
were to be withdrawn from Mexico, without a peace, the
flames of civil discord would be rekindled in that unhappy
country, and burn with redoubled violence. I should greatly
fear that the military chiefs would succeed in reestablishing
their ascendency, and that no probable limit could be as-
signed to the duration of the war. If I am right, our true
policy is to stand firm, and, if possible, united, until wiser
counsels shall prevail in Mexico, and a disposition shall be


shown to come to an amicable arrangement witli us on rea-
sonable terms.

The objection I have stated to the proposition of with-
drawing our forces from Mexico concerns only the relations
which now exist, or may exist hereafter, between the two
countries. If there were no other objection, the question
might be decided upon considerations touching only their
domestic interests and their mutual rights.

But I come to the second objection, — one perliaps of
graver import than the first, because it supposes the possi-
bility, if not the probability, of an interference in her affairs
by other countries, if we were to retire without a treaty and
without commercial arrangements which it would be in our
power to enforce. The President alluded to the subject in
his annual message at the opening of Congress, and ex-
pressed an apprehension of danger from that source. I par-
ticipate in it. I shall assign the grounds on which it rests ;
and I only regret that, in stating them with the minuteness
necessary to make them fully understood, I shall be com-
pelled to draw much more largely than I desire on the
patience of the Senate.

Senators are doubtless aware that the right of interven-
tion in the affairs of this continent was formally asserted in
the French Chamber of Deputies, in the year 184-5, by M.
Guizot, Minister of foreign affiiirs, as the organ of the
government of France. He regarded the great powers on
this continent as divided into three groups, namely, Great
Britain, the United States, and the states of Spanish origin ;
and he declared that it belonged to France " to protect, by
the authority of her name, the independence of states, and
the equilibrium of the great political forces in America."
To this declaration, I have thought it not out of place, in
connection with the subject under discussion, to call the
attention of the Senate ; not for the purpose of undertaking
the formal refutation, — of which I think the whole doctrine
of intervention, as it has been practically enforced in Europe,


is clearly susceptible, — but for the purpose of denying it as
founded upon any well-established principles of international
law, and, if it had such a foundation, of denying its applicabil-
ity to the political condition of this continent. To enter fully
into the examination of this important subject would require
more time than it would be proper for me to devote to it.
I propose only to pass rapidly over a few of the principal
considerations it suggests.

The declaration of M. Guizot was the first public and
official intimation, by a European government, of an in-
tention to interfere with the political condition of the inde-
pendent communities on the continent of America, and to
influence by moral, if not by physical agencies, their relations
to each other. And if it had been presented in any other
form than that of an abstract declaration, not necessarily to
be followed by any overt act, it would have behooved us to
inquire, in the most formal manner, whether this asserted
right of interposition derived any justification from the
usages of nations, or from the recognized principles of in-
ternational law ; or whether it was not an assumption wholly
unsupported by authority, and an encroachment on the inde-
pendence of sovereign states, which it would have been their
duty to themselves and the civilized world to resent as an
injury and a wrong.

Am I in error in supposing this subject derives new im-
portance from our existing relations with Mexico, one of the
states of Spanish origin, which M. Guizot grouped together
as constituting one of the great political forces of this con-
tinent, among which the " equilibrium " was to be main-
tained ? Sir, more than once, in the progress of the war,
the governments of Europe have been invoked, by leading
organs of public opinion abroad, to interpose between us
and Mexico. Is it not, then, appropriate briefly to state
what this right of intervention is, as it has been asserted in
Europe, what it has been in practice, and what it would be
likely to become, if applied to the states of this continent'?
I trust it will be so considered.



The doctrine of intervention, to maintain the balance of
power, is essentially of modern origin. From the earhest
ages, it is true, occasional combinations have been formed
by particular states for mutual protection against the ag-
gressions of a powerful neighbor. History is full of these
examples. Such a cooperation is dictated by the plainest
principles of self-preservation, for the purpose of guarding
against the danger of being destroyed in detail ; and it is
founded upon such obvious maxims of common sense, that
it would have been remarkable if it had not been resorted
to from the moment human society assumed a regular form
of organization. These defensive alliances were deficient
in the permanence and methodical arrangements which dis-
tinguish the modern system of intervention. Hume saw, or
fancied he saw, in them the principle of the right of inter-
vention to preserve the balance of power which is asserted
at the present day. But it could only have been the prin-
ciple which was developed ; they certainly never attained the
maturity or the efficient force of a regular system.

The modern doctrine of intervention in the affairs of other
states, which has sprung up within the last two centuries, is
far more comprehensive in its scope. It has grown into a
practical system of supervision on the part of the principal
European powers over their own relative forces and those of
the other states of Europe ; and though it may, in some
instances, have been productive of beneficial effects in main*-
taining the public tranquillity, it has as frequently been an
instrument of the grossest injustice and tyranny. From the
first extensive coalition of this nature, which was formed
during the long series of wars terminated by the peace of
Westphalia, in 164*8, down to the interference of Great
Britain, Prussia, Austria, and France, in the contest between
the Sultan and Mehemet Ali, in 1840, a period of nearly
two centuries, — an interference designed, in some degree.
to prevent what was regarded as a dangerous protectorate
over the affairs of the Porte by Russia, — the exercise of



the right has been placed, theoretically, on the same high
ground of regard for the tranquillity of Europe and the in-
dependence of states. Practically, it has often been per-
verted to the worst purposes of aggrandizement and cupidity.

If we look into the writers on international law, I think
we shall find no sufficient ground for the right of interven-
tion. Grotius, who wrote in the early part of the seven-
teenth century, denied its existence. Fenelon, who wrote
about half a century later, denied it, except as a means of
self-preservation, and then only when the danger was real
and imminent. Vattel, who wrote nearly a century after
Fenelon, and a century before our own times, regarded the
states of Europe as forming a political system, and he
restricted the ri^ht of enterino- into confederacies and alli-
ances for the purpose of intervention in the affairs of each
other to cases in which such combinations were necessary to
curb the ambition of any power, which, from its superiority
in physical strength, and its designs of oppression or con-
quest, threatened to become dangerous to its neighbors.
De Martens, who wrote half a century ago, acknowledges,
with Vattel, the existence of the right under certain condi-
tions, though he hardly admits it to be well settled as a rule
of international law ; and he limits its exercise to neighbor-
ing states, or states occupying the same quarter of the
globe. But, according to the last two writers, who have
perhaps gone as far as any other public jurists, of equal
eminence, towards a formal recognition of the right, it only
justifies a union of inferior states within the same imme-
diate sphere of action, to prevent an accumulation of power
in the hands of a single sovereign which would be too great
for the common liberty.

I am confident, Mr. President, that no one can rise from
a review of the history of modern Europe, and from an ex-
amination of the writings of her public jurists, without being
satisfied that the right of intervention, as recognized by civ-
ilized nations, is what I have stated it to be, — a mere right,


on the part of weaker states, to combine for the purpose of
preventing the subversion of their independence, and the
ahenation of their territories, by a designing and powerful
neiglibor ; a right to be exercised only in cases of urgent
and innnediate danger. It is simply a right of self-preser-
vation, undefined, undefinable, having no settled or permanent
foundation in public law, to be asserted only in extreme ne-
cessity, and, when arbitrarily applied to practice, a most fruit-
ful source of abuse, injustice, and oppression. One clear and
certain limitation it happily possesses, — a limitation which,
amid all its encroachments upon the independence of sover-
eign states, has never until our day been overpassed. By
universal consent, by the unvarying testimony of abuse itself,
it is not to be exercised beyond the immediate sphere of the
nations concerned. It pertains rigidly and exclusively to
states within the same circle of political action. It is only
by neighbors, for the protection of neighbors against neigh-
bors, that it can, even upon the broadest principles, be right-
fully employed. When it traverses oceans, and looks to the
regulation of the political concerns of other continents, it
becomes a gigantic assumption, which, for the independence
of nations, for the interests of humanity, for the tranquillity
of the old world and the new, should be significantly re-

Mr. President, a review of the history of Europe during
the last two centuries will bring with it another conviction in
respect to the right of intervention, — that no reliance can
be placed on its restriction in practice to the objects to which
it is limited by every public jurist who admits its existence
at all ; and that nothing could be so discouraging to the
friends of free government as an extension of the system to
this continent, if the power existed to introduce it here.
Though the combinations it is claimed to authorize may, in
some instances, have protected the coalescing parties from
the danger of being overrun by conquering armies, the cases
are perhaps as numerous in which their interposition has


been lent to break down the independence of states, and to
throw whole communities of men into the arms of govern-
ments to which their feelings and principles were alike
averse. The right, as has been seen, (and it cannot be too
often repeated,) with the utmost latitude claimed for it by
any public jurist, goes no further than to authorize a league
on the part of two or more weaker states to protect them-
selves against the designs of an ambitious and powerful
neighbor. In its practical application, it has more frequently
resulted in a combination of powerful states to destroy their
weaker neighbors, for the augmentation of their own domin-
ions or those of their allies. From a mere right to combine
for self-preservation, they have made it in practice a right to
divide, dismember, and partition states at their pleasure, —
not for the purpose of diminishing the strength of a pow-
erful adversary, — but under the pretence of creating a sys-
tem of balances, which is artificial in its structure, and, in
some degree, incongruous in its elements, and which a single
political convulsion may overturn and destroy. Do we need
examples of the abuse of the power, — I will not call it a
right? They will be found in the dismemberment of Saxony,
the annexation of the republic of Genoa to the kingdom of
Sardinia, and the absorption of Venice by Austria. There
is another and a more aggravated case of abuse to which
recent events have given new prominence. In 177^5 Russia,
Prussia, and Austria, under the pretence that the disturbed
condition of Poland was dangerous to their own tranquillity,
seized upon about one third of her territories, and divided it
among themselves. In 1793, notwithstanding her diminished
proportions, she had become more dangerous, and they seized
half of what they had left to her by the first partition. Sir,
she continued to grow dangerous as she grew weak ; and in
two years after the second partition, they stripped her of all
that remained. In 1815, the five great powers, at the Con-
gress of Vienna, from motives of policy, and not from a
returning sense of justice, organized the city of Cracow and


a portion of the surrounding territory, with a population of
about one hundred thousand souls, into a republic, under the
protection of Austria, Russia, and Prussia, with a guaranty
of its independence in perpetuity. Russia pledged herself,
at the same time, to maintain her share of the spoil as the
kingdom of Poland in name and form, with a constitutional
government. At the end of seventeen years, in violation of
her pledge, she virtually incorporated it, as an integral part,
into the Russian empire. The little republic of Cracow was
all that remained as a monument of the dismembered king-
dom. A year ago, it was obliterated as an independent state
by the three great powers of eastern and northern Europe,
in violation of their solenni guaranty, and assigned to Aus-
tria. The name of Poland, the fountain of so many noble
and animating recollections, is no longer to be found on
the map of Europe. The three quarters of a century which
intervened from the inception to the consummation of this
transaction are not sufficient to conceal or even to obscure
its true character. The very magnitude of the space over
which it is spread only serves to bring it out in bolder and
darker relief from the pages of history.

If the United States, in the progress of these usurpa-
tions, have not remonstrated against them, and contributed
by her interposition to maintain the integrity of the states
thus disorganized and dismembered in violation of every rule
of right, and every suggestion of justice and humanity, it is
because we have been faithful, against all movements of sym-
pathy, against the very instincts of nature, to the principle
of abstaining from all interference with the movements of
European powers relating exclusively to the condition of
the quarter of the globe to which they belong. But when
it is proposed or threatened to extend to this continent and
to ourselves a similar system of balances, with all its danger
of abuse and usurpation, I hold it to be our duty to inquire
on what grounds it rests, that we may be prepared to resist
all practical application of it to the independent states in this


Mr. President, the declaration of M. Guizot could hardly
have been made without the previous approbation of the
government of which he was the organ. The same sover-
eign occupies the throne of France, — the same minister
stands before it as the exponent of his opinions. Is the
declaration to be regarded as a mere idle annunciation in
W'Ords of a design never intended to be carried into practiced
Let me answer the question by the briefest possible reference
to circumstances. France was the coadjutor of England in
the attempt to induce Texas to decline annexation to the
Union. Failing in this, she attempted to accomplish the
same object indirectly, by persuading Mexico to recognize
the independence of Texas, on condition that the latter
should remain an independent state. These terms were
offered to Texas, and rejected. In the year 1844, I believe
less than twelve months before M. Guizot's declaration was
made, (and the coincidence in point of time is remarkable,)
a book on Oregon and California was published in Paris by
order of the King of France, under the auspices of Marshal
Soult, President of the Council, and M. Guizot, Minister of
Foreign Affairs, and written by M. de Mofras, who was
attached to the French legation in Mexico. The first part
of the work is devoted to Mexico, and certainly contains
some remarkable passages. He speaks of the establishment
of a European monarchy as a project that had been sug-
gested as the only one calculated to put an end to the divis-
ions and annihilate the factions which desolated that beautiful
country.^ He says, the Catholic religion and family relations

1 The day after this speech was de- M. Guizot's declaration was made, and

livered, Mr. Dix received from a friend two years after M. de Mofras's book was

in New York, who could have had no published, large sums were expended

knowledge of his intention to speak, by Spain for the purpose of establishing

much less of the topics he designed to a monarchy in Mexico, and of placing

discuss, a translation from a speech de- a Spanish prince on the throne. The

livered to the Cortes of Spain on the close connection of the governments of

1st of December, 1847, by Seiior Olo- France and Spain, by the marriage of

zoga, a man of distinction, and sup- the Duke of Montpensier, the son of

posed to be the same individual who Louis Philippe, to the sister of Queen
was a few years since tirst minister of . Isabella, gives additional importance to

the crown. By this speech it appears these developments : —

that, as recently as 1846, a year after " No one, either on this floor or else-


with the ancient possessors of the country would be the first
conditions required of the princes who shoukl be called to
reconstruct there a monarchical government. He then
adds.: —

"The infantas of Spain, the French princes, and the archdukes
of Austria, fulfil these conditions, and we may affirm that, from which-
ever quarter a competitor should present himself, he would be unani-
mously welcomed by the Mexican people.

" AVhat, then, are the interests of France in these questions ?

"The establishment in Mexico of a monarchy of any description
whatever, resting upon a solid basis, should be the first object of our
policy ; for we know that the instability attached to the actual form
of its government brings with it disadvantages for our commerce,
and inconveniences for our people."

He adds, that if Mexico is to preserve her republican form
of government, her incorporation into the Union of the
North would seem more favorable to France than her exist-
ing condition, on account of the development of commerce
and all the guaranties of liberty, security, and justice, which
his compatriots would enjoy ; and that England would lose,
mider such an order of things, what France would gain.
Thus, though the dismemberment and absorption of Mexico

where, can deny that the project has minister plenipotentiary of her Majestv

Online LibraryJohn A. (John Adams) DixSpeeches and occasional addresses (Volume 1) → online text (page 19 of 40)