John A. (John Adams) Dix.

Speeches and occasional addresses (Volume 1) online

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been entertained of establishing a mon- in Mexico for matters belonging to the
archy in Mexico, and to place a Span- service, §100,000.' But miicli greater
ish prince on the throne. This project, than this was the authority our minis-
conceived in the time of the Conde ter in Mexico possessed for disposing
Aranda, would have saved our colonics of the public funds. I do not know
from the sad fate they have sutfered ; whetlier he has made use of it. I do
but brought forward on this occasion, not even know his name. I suppose
it was the most absurd idea that could he will employ them with scrupulous
have been conceived. But we have not honesty ; but is tlie Spanish people so
only to deplore having excited political bountifully supplied with millions that
animosities and the consequences this they can afford to send them to the
has produced in that country, we have New World, for the purpose of sustain-
also to lament the money lost and ing political intrigues in that distant
thrown away upon Mexican soil. And region 1 How many meritorious miU-
in order that the Cortes may not be- tary men, who have shed tiieir blood
lieve I am about to make accusations for the good of their country, and whose
of so grave a character without possess- means of support have been cut down
ing proofs to corroborate them, I now to the lowest possible point, might have
hold in my hand a statement of the been aided by these large sums 1 How-
sums expended and drawn from the much misery might have been allevi-
treasury in Havana in the year 1846, ated by the money which has been
signed by the Senor Navarro as audi- thrown away in tliis manner ? And
tor, and Mugica as treasurer. In this where do they find authority for squan-
statement there is an item which says : dering millions to foster foreign in-
' Paid bills of exchange remitted by the trigues ? "


by the United States are regarded by M. de Mofras as
preferable to the commercial monopoly and the " species of
political sovereignty," as he denominates it, which England
has exercised in that country, the first object of France,
according to him, should be a reconstruction of monarchy
in Mexico, with a foreign prince on the throne, and this
prince from some branch of the Bourbon family. The opin-
ions contained in this book are not put forth as the mere
speculations of a private person. They are the opinions of
an agent of the government : the publication is made by
order of the king, and under the' auspices of his two chief
ministers, and so stated in the title-page. I do not mean
to hold the government of France responsible for all the
opinions contained in that work ; but can we believe that
those I have quoted, concerning as they do so grave a sub-
ject as the international relations of France with Mexico,
and of Mexico with the United States, would have been put
forth without modification under such high official sanctions,
if they had been viewed with positive disfavor ? It appears
to me that we are constrained to view them, like the decla-
ration of M. Guizot, though certainly to a very inferior
extent, as possessing an official character which we are not
at liberty wholly to disregard, when we consider the one in
connection with the other.

And now, sir, I ask, do not these opinions and declara-
tions, especially when we look to the open and direct inter-
ference of Great Britain and France, by force of arms, in
the domestic affairs of some of the South American republics
within the last two years, furnish a just ground of appre-
hension, if we should retire from Mexico without a treaty
and as enemies, that it might become a theatre for the exer-
cise of influences of a most unfriendly character to us ?
With the aid of the monarchical party in Mexico, would
there not be danger that the avowed design of establishing a
throne might be realized 1 The chances of open interjjosi-
tion are unquestionably diminished by the results of the war ;



but I am constrained to believe the chances of secret inter-
ference are increased by the avidity imputed to us for terri-
torial extension. Ought not this danger to influence, to
some extent, our own conduct, at least so far as to dissuade
us from abandoning, until a better prospect of a durable
peace shall exist, the advantage we have gained as belliger-
ents ? We know, a great majority of the Mexican people
are radically averse to any other than a republican form of
government ; but we know, also, the proneness of a people
among whom anarchy reigns triumphant, to seek any refuge
which promises the restoration of tranquillity and social

Mr. President, any attempt by a European power to
interpose in the aflfiiirs of Mexico, either to establish a
monarchy, or to maintain, in the language of M. Guizot,
" the equilibrium of the great political forces in America,"
would be the signal for a war far more important in its
consequences, and inscrutable in its issues, than this. We
could not submit to such interposition if we would. The
public opinion of the country would compel us to resist it.
We are committed by the most formal declarations, first
made by President Monroe in 1S23, and repeated by the
present Chief Magistrate of the Union. We have pro-
tested, in the most solemn manner, against any further
colonization by European powers on this continent. We
have protested against any interference in the political con-
cerns of the independent states in this hemisphere. A pro-
test, it is true, does not imply that the ground it assumes is
to be maintained at all hazards, and, if necessary, by force
of arms. Great Britain protested against the interference
of France in the affairs of Spain in 1S23 ; she has more
recently protested against the absorption of Cracow by
Austria as a violation of the political order of Europe,
settled at Vienna by the allied sovereigns, and against the
Montpensier marriage as a violation of the treaty of
Utrecht ; but I do not remember that in either case she did



anything more tlian to proclaim to the world her dissent
from the acts against which she entered her protest. It has
always seemed to me to be unwise in a government to put
forth manifestoes without being prepared to maintain them
by acts, or to make declarations of abstract principle until
the occasion has arrived for enforcing them. The declara-
tions of a President, having no power to make war without
a vote of Congress, or even to employ the military force of
the country except to defend our own territory, is very dif-
ferent from the protest of a sovereign holding the issues of
peace and war in his own hands. But the former may not
be less effectual when they are sustained, as I believe those
of Presidents Monroe and Polk are, in respect to European
interference on the American continent, by an undivided
public o])iiiion, even though they may not have received a
formal response from Congress. I hold, therefore, if any
such interposition as that to which I have referred should
take place, resistance on our part would inevitably follow,
and we should become involved in controversies of which
no man could foresee the end.

Before I quit this part of the subject, I desire to advert
to some circumstances recently made public, and, if true,
indicating significantly the extent to which Great Britain is
disposed to carry her other encroachments on this continent,
as in every other quarter of the globe. On the coast of
Honduras, in Central America, commonly called the Mos-
quito coast, there is a tribe of Indians bearing the same
name, numbering but a few hundred individuals, and in-
habiting some miserable villages in the neighborhood of
Cape Gracias a Dios, near the fifteenth parallel of north
latitude. Several hundred miles south is the river San
Juan, running from Lake Nicaragua to the Caribbean sea,
a space of about two degrees of longitude, with the town of
Nicaragua at its mouth, and a castle or fort about midway
between the town and the lake. The lake is only fifteen
leagues from the Pacific, and constitutes, with the river San


Juan, one of the proposed lines for a ship-canal across the
Isthmus. Great Britain has recently laid claim to the river
San Juan and the town of Nicaragua, if she has not act-
ually taken possession of the latter. I have seen a com-
munication from the British consul-general at Guatemala,
asserting the independence of the Mosquitoes as a nation. I
have also seen a communication from the British consul at
Bluefield, on the Mosquito shore, asserting that " the Mos-
quito flag and nation are under the special protection of the
crown of Great Britain," and that " the limits which the
British government is determined to maintain as the right
of the king of the Mosquitoes " " comprehend the San Juan
river." By Arrowsmith's London Atlas, published in 18^0,
the Mosquito territory covered about 40,000 square miles,
nearly as large an area as that of the state of New York ;
but it did not extend below the twelfth parallel of latitude,
while the river San Juan is on the eleventh. I have seen
the protest of the state of Nicaragua against the occupation
of the town of Nicaragua on the river San Juan, which, as
the protest declares, has been from time immemorial in her
quiet and peaceable possession. The state of San Salvador,
one of the Central American republics, also unites in the pro-
test, and declares her determination, if the outrage shall be
carried into effect, to exert her whole power until the usurper
" shall be driven from the limits of Central America."

I understand, for I speak only from information, that
Great Britain has for some time claimed to have had the
Mosquitoes, a mere naked tribe of Indians of a few hundred
persons, under her protection.^ Through her influence, they
appointed a king, who was taken to Balize, a British station

1 Extract of a Letter from the Stipreme one of her feet upon the Atlantic coast

Gouerrment of the State of Nicaragua of this State ; or rather, for the pur-

to the Supreme Government of the State pose of taking possession of tlie port

<f A -T' '^"''■"^"'■- for communication between Europe,

A tribe witli no recognized form of America, and Asia, and otlier impor-

government, without civilization, and taut countries at the point where the

entirely abandoned to savage life, is grand inter-oceanic canal is most prac-

suddenly made use of by enlightened ticable."

England for the purpose of planting

2j20 speeches in the senate.

on the bay of Yucatan, and there crowned. It is said, also
that, on the decease of the king, he was found to have
bequeathed his dominions to her Britannic Majesty. It
appears to be certain that she has, under this pretence of
protection, extended her dominion over an immense surface
in Central America ; that she has at least one vessel of war,
the Sun, commanded by an officer bearing an English name,
" Commander Trotter, of the Mosquito navy," as he is
styled in a letter written by the British consul at Bluefield ;
and that she is still further extending herself, against the
remonstrance of the Central American states. But these
states, besides being physically weak, are distracted by in-
ternal feuds ; and if the proceedings complained of be not
the unauthorized acts of British agents, which Great Britain
will disavow, it is hardly to be expected that a usurpation,
so unjustifiably consummated, will be abandoned on an ap-
peal to the justice of the wrong-doer. Whether our gov-
ernment should remain quiescent under this encroachment
upon near and defenceless neighbors, is a question worthy of
consideration. Under any circumstances, it seems to me
to afford little assurance of non-interference with the affairs
of Mexico, if our forces were to be withdrawn without a

There is another consideration which ought not to be
overlooked. In July last, Lord George Bentinck made a
motion for an address to her Britannic Majesty, praying her
to take such measures as she might deem proper to secure
the payment of the Spanish government bonds held by
British subjects. Those bonds amount to about three hun-
dred and eighty millions of dollars, and on about three hun-
dred and forty millions no interest whatever has been paid ;
and, including this debt, nearly seven hundred and thirty mil-
lions of dollars are due to British subjects by foreign gov-
ernments, — a sum equal to about one fifth of her national
debt. He contended, that, "by the law of nations, from
time inmiemorial, it has been held that the recovery of just


debts is a lawful cause of war, if the country from which
payment is due refuses to listen to the claims of the country
to whom money is owing." He quoted authorities to show
that the payment of the debt, or the interest on it, might be
enforced without having recourse to arms, though asserting
the right to resort to force to compel it. He referred to the
rich colonies of Spain, and especially Cuba, to show that
there was wealth enough in its annual produce and revenue
"to pay the whole debt due by Spain to British bond-
holders." He referred to the naval force which Spain pos-
sessed, to show that there would not be " any very effective
resistance," and that " the most timid minister " need not
fear it. Having, in the course of his remarks, called the
attention of the Minister of Foreign Affairs to the subject,
Lord Palmerston, in responding to his call, entered into an
extended statement in respect to the foreign debt due to
British subjects. He drew distinctions between transac-
tions by one government with another, by British subjects
with a foreign government, by British subjects with the sub-
jects of another government, and between debts and acts of
injustice and oppression. These distinctions, however, he
treated as matters of expediency and established practice.
He assented to the doctrine laid down by the noble lord who
made the motion for an address, and he said, if it were the
wise policy of England to lay down a rule that she would
enforce obligations of this character with the same rigor as
those of a different character, she would have a full and fair
right, according to the laws of nations, to do so. And he
concluded by saying that England had not refrained from
taking the steps urged by his noble friend, because she was
" afraid of these states, or all of them put together " ; that
it was not to be supposed the British Parliament, or the
British nation, would long remain patient under the wrong,
and that they had ample power and means to obtain justice.
I pass over the doctrines put forth in the speech of Lord
George Bentinck, and sanctioned by Lord Palmerston,


though I believe it not perfectly clear that they can be main-
tained to the full extent by an appeal to any well-established
principles of international law. You know, sir, that we
have sometimes found British statesmen, even those holding
places nearest to the throne, at fault, both in respect to mat-
ters of principle and matters of fact, though it is certainly
but justice to concede to them the possession of more en-
larged views of policy, combined with greater practical
talent and tact, than is often to be found in the councils of
European sovereigns. I also pass over an offensive allusion
to the failure of two or three of the states of this Union to
pay their debts, " as a stain upon the national character," (I
quote the exact words,) w^hen it is well known that the sus-
pension of payment was temporary, and from overruling
necessity ; that in most instances resumption has taken
place ; and that, in all, the most earnest efforts have been
made to resume the discharge of their obligations. This
imputation was cast upon us at the moment when our peo-
ple, with one heart, w^ere sending abroad their agricultural
surplus to feed the famished population of Ireland, not
merely in the way of commercial exchange, but in the form
of donations, in shiploads, public and private. And so far
as the commercial portion is concerned, I believe our mer-
chants have for months been draining our banks of specie,
to send abroad to meet their own pecuniary obligations,
while for a time at least they were unable to draw on their
debtors in England for the proceeds of the breadstuffs by
which her subjects had been fed. But I pass by all this,
and come to the important fact that Mexico was among the
indebted foreign states enumerated in a report, on which the
motion of Lord George Bentinck was founded. What is
the extent of her indebtedness I do not know, but I under-
stand about seventy millions of dollars ; and I believe it
was but recently that the public domain in California was
mortgaged to the creditors for a portion of this amount,
though the lien is now said to be discharged.


I appeal to honorable Senators to say, with these facts
before them, and in view of tiiis public and official assertion
of a principle, which, according to Lord Palmerston, the
British government has only abstained from practically en-
forcing through mere considerations of policy, whether, if
our forces were withdrawn from Mexico, and that country
should become a prey, to the anarchy and confusion which
has reigned there so long, and which, if renewed, would
in all probability become universal and hopeless, — whether,
I say, there would not be a temptation too strong to be re-
sisted to reduce the principle thus proclaimed to practice ;
whether some portion of the Mexican territory might not be
occupied as a guaranty for the payment of the debt due to
British subjects, and thus another principle be violated
W'hich we are committed to maintain 1 I do not mean to
say that this consideration, if it stood alone, should abso-
lutely control our conduct. But as auxiliary to the graver
considerations to which I have referred, it may properly be
allowed some weight, — enough, sir, perhaps, to turn the
scale, if it were already balanced, — though, I think, there is
sufficient without it to incline us decisively to the side of
continued occupation.

Besides, British subjects have other extensive pecuniary
interests in Mexico : they have large commercial establish-
ments, and heavy investments of capital in the mining dis-
tricts. If the political affairs of that country should fall
into inextricable confusion, it is not to be supposed that these
great interests will be abandoned by Great Britain ; and yet
it is extremely difficult to see by what interposition on her
part they could be secured without the danger of collision
between her and us.

Mr. President, in what I have said in respect to the dan-
ger of foreign interposition, I have not relied upon the
ephemeral opinions of the day, or on opinions expressed in
public journals abroad, however intimately those journals
may be supposed to be connected with governments, as the


organs of the views which it is deemed advisable to throw
out, from time to time, for the pubhc consideration or guid-
ance. I have resorted to no irresponsible sources. I have
presented opinions and declarations proclaimed with more or
less of official sanction, and, for the most part, with the
highest, — I mean the declarations of ministers, speaking for
their governments to the popular body, and as the respon-
sible representatives of sovereigns, holding in their own
hands the authority to enforce, or attempt to enforce, what
they proclaim. How far these declarations, taken in connec-
tion with the acts referred to, should influence our conduct,
is a question on which we may not all agree. But it appears
to me that it would be a great error in statesmanship to
treat them as wholly unworthy of our consideration. Jeal-
ousy of our increasing power, commercial rivalry, political
interests, all combine to give them importance. It is the
province of a wise forecast to provide, as far as possible, that
these adverse influences shall find no theatre for their exer-
cise. To abandon Mexico would, it seems to me, throw wide
open all the avenues for their admittance, — to one power for
commercial monopoly, and to the other for political control, —
and perhaj)s impose on us the difficult and dangerous task
of removing evils which a proper vigilance might have

It may be, Mr. President, that we shall have an early
peace. I sincerely hope so. In this case, we must withdraw
from Mexico ; and it may perhaps be said that the dangers
I have referred to, as likely to result from our absence
at the present moment, may possibly be realized. These
dangers, whatever they may be, we must incur whenever
she shall tender us a peace which we ought to accept. But
there is a wide difference between retiring as belligerents and
enemies without a treaty, and as friends under an amicable
arrangement, with solemn obligations on both sides to keep
the peace. In the former case, probably one of the first acts
of Mexico would be to reassemble her army, and her gov-


ernment might fall under the control of her military leaders.
In the latter, amicable relations being restored, and military
forces being unnecessary, at least to act against us, the peace
party would have better hopes of maintaining themselves, of
preventing the army, which is now regarded as responsible
for the national disasters, from gaining the ascendency, and
also of excluding influences from abroad, which would be
hostile to her interests and fatal to the common tranquillity
of both countries.

In the references I have made to France and Great
Britain, I have been actuated by "no feeling of unkindness
or hostility to either. Rapid and wide-spread as has been
the progress of the latter, we have never sought to interfere
with it. She holds one third of the North American conti-
nent. She has established her dominion in the Bermudas,
the West Indies, and in Guiana, on the South American
continent. She holds Balize, on the bay of Yucatan, in
North America, with a district of about fourteen thousand
square miles, if we may trust her own geographical delinea-
tions. We see her in the occupation of territories in every
quarter of the globe, vastly, inordinately extended, and still
ever extending herself. It is not easy to keep pace with her
encroachments. A few years ago, the Indus was the western
boundary of her Indian empire. She has passed it. She
has overrun Affghanistan and Beloochistan, though I be-
lieve she has temporarily withdrawn from the former. She
stands at the gates of Persia. She has discussed the policy
of passing Persia, and making the Tigris her western boun-
dary in Asia. One stride more would place her upon the
shores of the Mediterranean ; and her armies would no
longer find their way to India by the circumnavigation of
Africa. Indeed, she has now, for all government purposes
of communication, except the transportation of troops and
munitions of war, a direct intercourse with the east. Her
steamers of the largest class run from England to Alexan-
dria ; from Alexandria there is a water-communication with



Cairo, — some sixty miles ; from Cairo it is but eight hours
overland to Suez, at the head of the Red Sea; from Suez
her steamers of the largest class run to Aden, a military
station of hers at the mouth of the Red Sea ; from Aden to
Ceylon, and from Ceylon to China. She is not merely con-
quering her way back from Hindoostan. She has raised her
standard beyond it. She has entered the confines of the
Celestial Empire. She has gained a permanent foothold
within it ; and who that knows her can believe that pretexts
will long be wanting to extend her dominion there 1 Though
it is for commerce mainly that she is thus adding to the
number and extent of her dependencies, it is not for com-
merce alone. The love of power and extended empire is one
of the efficient principles of her gigantic efforts and move-
ments. No island, however remote, no rock, however barren,
on which the cross of St. George has once been unfurled, is
ever willingly relinquished, no matter how expensive or in-
convenient it may be to maintain it. She may be said liter-
ally to encircle the globe by an unbroken chain of depend-
encies. Nor is it by peaceful means that she is thus extend-
ing herself. She propagates commerce, as Mohammedanism
propagated religion, by fire and sword. If she negotiates,
it is with fleets and armies at the side of her ambassadors,

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