John A. (John Adams) Dix.

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terminated at last, perhaps, by the renewed arbitrament of

I have thus stated with frankness the views I entertain in
respect to the future conduct of the war. Notwithstanding
the anxious consideration I have given to the subject, they
may be erroneous. It is a question of great difficulty, on
which differences of opinion may well exist, and on which
a mistaken course of policy may lead to the most unpleasant
consequences. Whatever faith I may entertain in the sound-
ness of the opinions I have advanced, I certainly should
have more, if they were not totally at variance with those of
gentlemen possessing, from longer experience, much higher
claims than myself to public confidence. But I have not on
this account thought proper to withhold them, knowing, as
we do, that, from the very contrariety and conflict of thought
and conviction, valuable deductions may sometimes be drawn.

Mr. President, I feel that I have already trespassed too
long on the indulgence of the Senate ; but I am unwilling
to close without asking its attention for a very few moments
to some considerations connected with our future growth
and progress, and with the influence we nmst, in spite of
ourselves, exert over the destinies of Mexico. They are no
new opinions : they have been expressed years ago, both in
public and private.

Sir, no one who has paid a moderate degree of attention
to the laws and elements of our increase, can doubt that our
population is destined to spread itself across the American
continent, filling up, with more or less completeness, accord-
ing to attractions of soil and climate, the space that inter-
venes between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. This event-
ual, and, perhaps, in the order of time, this not very distant



extension of our settlements over a tract of country, with
a diameter, as we go westward, greatly disproportioned to
its length, becomes a subject of the highest interest to us.
On the whole extent of our northern flank, from New Bruns-
wick to the point where the northern boundary of Oregon
touches the Pacific, we are in contact with British colonists,
having, for the most part, the same common origin with
ourselves, but controlled and moulded by political influences
from the eastern hemisphere, if not adverse, certainly not
decidedly friendly to us. The strongest tie which can be
relied on to bind us to mutual offices of friendship and good
neighborhood, is that of commerce ; and this, as we know,
is apt to run into rivalry, and sometimes becomes a fruitful
source of alienation.

From our northern boundary, we turn to our southern.
What races are to border on us here, what is to be their
social and political character, and what their means of annoy-
ance ? Are our two frontiers, only seven parallels of lati-
tiite apart when we pass Texas, to be flanked by settlements
having no common bond of union with ours 1 Our whole
southern line is conterminous, throughout its whole extent,
with the territories of Mexico, a large portion of which is
nearly unpopulated. The geographical area of Mexico is
about 1,500,000 square miles, and her population about
7,000,000 souls. The whole northern and central portion,
taking the twenty-sixth parallel of latitude as the dividing
line, containing more than 1,000,000 square miles, has about
650,000 inhabitants, — about two inhabitants to three square
miles. The southern portion, with less than 500,000 square
miles, has a population of nearly six and a half millions of
souls, or thirteen inhabitants to one square mile. The ab-
original races, which occupy and overrun a portion of Cali-
fornia and New Mexico, must there, as everywhere else,
give way before the advancing wave of civilization, either to
be overwhelmed by it, or to be driven upon perpetually con-
tracting areas, where, from a diminution of their accustomed


sources of subsistence, they must ultimately become extinct
by force of an invincible law. We see the operation of this
law in every portion of this continent. We have no power
to control it, if we would. It is the behest of Providence
that idleness, and ignorance, and barbarism, shall give place
to industry, and knowledge, and civilization. The European
and mixed races which possess Mexico are not likely, either
from moral or physical energy, to become formidable rivals
or enemies. The bold and courageous enterprise which over-
ran and conquered Mexico, appears not to have descended
to the present possessors of the soil. Either from the influ-
ence of climate or the admixture of races, — the fusion of
castes, to use the technical phrase, — the conquerors have, in
turn, become the conquered. The ancient Castilian energy
is, in a great degree, subdued ; and it has given place, with
many other noble traits of the Spanish character, to a pecu-
liarity which seems to have marked the race in that country,
under whatever combinations it is found, — a proneness to
civil discord, and a suicidal waste of its own strength.

With such a territory and such a people on our southern
border, what is to be the inevitable course of empire ? It
needs no powers of prophecy to foretell. Sir, I desire to
speak plainly : why should we not, when we are discussing
the operation of moral and physical laws, which are beyond
our control 1 As our population moves westward on our
own territory, portions will cross our southern boundary.
Settlements will be formed within the unoccupied and
sparsely peopled territory of Mexico. Uncongenial habits
and tastes, differences of political opinion and principle, and
numberless other elements of diversity, will lead to a separa-
tion of these newly-formed societies from the inefficient gov-
ernment of Mexico. They will not endure to be held in
subjection to a system which neither yields them protection
nor offers them any incentive to their proper development
and growth. They will form independent states on the
basis of constitutions identical in all their leadino^ features


with our own ; and they will naturally seek to unite their
fortunes to ours. The fate of California is already sealed :
it can never be reunited to Mexico. The operation of the
great causes to which I have alluded must, at no distant
day, detach the whole of northern Mexico from the southern
portion of that republic. It is for the very reason that she
is incapable of defending her possessions against the elements
of disorder within and the progress of better influences from
without, that I desire to see the inevitable political change,
which is to be wrought in the condition of her northern de-
partments, brought about without any improper interference
on our part. I do not speak of our military movements.
I refer to the time when our difficulties with her shall be
healed, and when she shall be left to the operation of pacific
influences, — silent, but more powerful than the arm of force.
For the reason that she is defenceless, if for no other, I
should be opposed to all schemes of conquest. Acquisition
by force is the vice of arbitrary governments. I desire
never to see it the reproach of ours. For the sake of the
national honor, as well as the permanency of our political
institutions, I desire not to see it. The extension of free
government on this continent can only be arrested, if arrested
at all, by substituting war for the arts of peace. Leave it to
itself, and nothing can prevent the progress of our popular
tion across the continent. Mr. Jefferson, with his prophetic
forecast, foretold this result forty years ago. He prophesied
the peaceful progress of our people to the Pacific. He fore-
saw them forming new settlements, and, when strong enough
to maintain themselves, organizing independent societies, and
governing themselves by constitutions and laws analogous to
our own. It is true, he believed the area of freedom might
be enlarged, advantageously to ourselves and others, without
extending to the same broad limits the area of our jurisdic-
tion. It was the progress and the triumph of great prin-
ciples of political right to which his philosophical mind
instinctively turned as to the legitimate aim and boundary



of our ambition and desires. Since his day the public mind
in this country has greatly outrun his anticipations of our
progress. It looks to the extension of our Constitution and
laws over regions, which were formerly considered beyond
our reach as integral portions of the same system of govern-
ment. Modern improvements have given great strength to
this prevailing sentiment. It is possible by steam-power, if
we can succeed in making the proper application of it over
so broad a surface, to reach the Pacific Ocean from Lake
Michigan, or the Mississippi, in eight or nine days, — a
period of time less than that which was required to travel
from Boston to Philadelphia, when the Congress of the
American colonies first assembled in the latter city. Under
these circumstances, the extension of our political boundary
so as to embrace all territory we may justly call our own,
seems no longer to be considered a questionable policy. If
other districts, not now within the territories of the Union,
shall found independent governments, and shall desire to
unite themselves to us on terms mutually acceptable, it is
a question which concerns only them and us, and in which
no stranger can be permitted to intrude. When the time
comes for the settlement of any such questions, they will
doubtless be considered with all the solemnity which belongs
to propositions involving the public welfare. To those with
whom the decision belongs let us leave them, with the assur-
ance that the wisdom which has governed and guided us so
long, will still point out to us the path of liberty, tranquil-
lity, and safety.

One position we have assumed, and I trust it will be
maintained with inflexible firmness, — that nations beyond
this continent cannot be permitted to interfere with our prog-
ress, so long as there is on our part no violation of their
rights. I would resist, at the outset, as matter of the
gravest offence, all indications of such interference. If the
abstract right could be asserted on grounds of international
law, there has been nothing in the nature of our extension.


or the means by which it has been accomplished, to warrant
its application to us. From the formation of our govern-
ment, for nearly three quarters of a century, military power
— brute force — has had no agency in the conquests we
have achieved. We have overrun no provinces or countries
abounding in wealth. Our capital has witnessed no tri-
umphal entries of returning armies, bearing with them the
spoils and trophies of conquest. Our ships have not been
seen returning from subjugated districts, freighted with the
tributes of an extended commerce. In the extension of our
commercial intercourse we have not, like our Anglo-Saxon
mother, been seen hewing down with the sword, with unre-
lenting and remorseless determination, every obstacle which
opposed itself to her progress. Our career thus far has
been stained by no such companionship with evil. Our con-
quests have been the peaceful achievements of enterprise and
industry, — the one leading the way into the wilderness, the
other following and completing the acquisition by the formal
symbols of occupancy and possession. They have looked to
no objects beyond the conversion of uninhabited wilds into
abodes of civilization and freedom. Their only arms were
the axe and the ploughshare. The accumulations of wealth
they have brought were all extracted from the bosom of the
earth by the unoffending hand of labor. If, in the progress
of our people westward, they shall occupy territories not our
own, but to become ours by amicable arrangements with the
governments to which they belong, which of the nations of
the earth shall venture to stand forth, in the face of the
civilized world, and call on us to pause in this great work of
human improvement 1 It is as much the interest of Europe
as it is ours, that we should be permitted to follow undis-
turbed the path which, in the allotment of national fortunes,
we seem appointed to tread. Our country has long been a
refuge for those VA'ho desire a larger liberty than they enjoy
under their own rulers. It is an outlet for the political dis-
affection of the Old World, — for social elements which


might there have become sources of agitation, but which are
here silently and tranquilly incorporated into our system,
ceasing to be principles of disturbance as they attain the
greater freedom, which was the object of their separation
from less congenial combinations in other quarters of the
globe. Nay, more ; it is into the vast reservoir of the
western wilderness, teeming with fruitfulness and fertility,
that Europe is constantly pouring, under our protection, her
human surpluses, unable to draw from her own bosom the
elements of their support and reproduction. She is liter-
ally going along with us in our march to prosperity and
power, to share with us its triumphs and its fruits. Hap-
pily, this continent is not a legitimate theatre for the political
arrangements of the sovereigns of the eastern hemisphere.
Their armies may range, undisturbed by us, over the plains
of Europe, Asia, and Africa, dethroning monarchs, parti-
tioning kingdoms, and subverting republics, as interest or
caprice may dictate. But political justice demands that in
one quarter of the globe self-government, freedom, the arts
of peace, shall be permitted to work out, unmolested, the
great purposes of human civilization.

Mr. President, I trust there will be nothing in the final
adjustment of our difficulties with Mexico to impair, in any
degree, the moral of our example in the past. Our course,
heretofore, has been one of perpetual exertion to bring about
an amicable arrangement with her. I trust we shall per-
severe in the same course of conduct, whatever unwillingness
she may exhibit to come to terms. Entertaining the opin-
ions which I have expressed, I naturally feel a deep solici-
tude, as an American citizen, that our public conduct should
comport with the dignity of the part we seem destined to
perform in the great drama of international politics. I desire
to see our good name unsullied, and the character we have
gained for moderation, justice, and scrupulousness in the
discharge of our national obligations, maintained unimpaired.
In these, let us be assured, our great strength consists : for


it is these which make us strong in the opinion of man-

In what I have said concerning the progress of our people
over the unpopulated regions west of us, and in respect to
our responsibilities as a nation, I trust I shall have incurred
no imputation of inconsistency. On the contrary, I trust I
shall be considered consistent in all I have said. I regard
our extension, as I have endeavored to foreshadow it, to be
the inevitable result of causes, the operation of which it is
not in our power to arrest. At the same time, I hold it to
be our sacred duty to see that it is not encouraged or pro-
moted by improper means. While I should consider it the
part of weakness to shrink from extension, under the appre-
hension that it might bring with it the elements of discord
and disunion, as our political boundaries are enlarged, I
should hold it to be the part of folly and dishonor to attempt
to accelerate it by agencies incompatible with our obligations
to other nations. It is the dictate of wisdom and of duty
to submit ourselves to the operation of the great causes
which are at work, and which will work on in spite of us,
in carrying civilization and freedom across the American

In advocating a continued occupation of the cities and
territory we have acquired in Mexico until she shall assent
to reasonable terms of peace, I trust also that I shall be
deemed consistent with myself. Deprecating war as the
greatest of calamities, especially for us, I desire to see this
war brought to a close at the earliest practicable day. I am
in favor of whatever measures are most likely to accomplish
this desirable end. I am opposed to an abandonment of our
position, —

1st. Because I believe it would open a field of domestic
dissension in Mexico, which might be fatal to her existence
as an independent state, or make her take refuge in the arms
of despotism ;

2d. Because it might lead to external interference in her


affairs of the most dangerous tendency both to her and
us ; and

3d. Because I fear that we should only gam a temporary
suspension of hostilities, to be renewed under great disadvan-
tages to us, and with every prospect of a longer and more
sanguinary contest.

Mr. President, it is this last consideration which weighs
most heavily upon my own mind. I hold it to be indispen-
sable to the public welfare, under all its aspects, that we
should have, at the termination of this contest, a solid and
stable peace. Unpromising as the condition of things seems
at the present moment, my hope still is, that firmness tem-
pered with prudence will give us, not a mere outward paci-
fication with secret irritation rankling within, but substantial
concord and friendship, which shall leave no wound unhealed.
And, sir, we should be satisfied with nothing short of an
accommodation of differences which will enable the country
with confidence to lay aside its armor, and to resume the
peaceful pursuits to which, by the inexorable law of our
condition, we must look for prosperity and safety.

My advice, then, (if I may presume to advsie,) is, to
stand firm, holding ourselves ready at all times to make
peace, and carrying into our negotiations for that purpose a
determination to cement a future good understanding with
our adversary, by an adjustment of our differences on terms
of justice, moderation, and magnanimity.


HIARCH 21, 1848.

The motion to strike from the Appropriation Bill the item for a
mission to the Papal States, being under consideration in the Senate,
Mr. Dix said : —

I VOTED yesterday against the amendment of the Senator
from Indiana,^ proposing a resident minister to the Papal
States. I did so, hecause it was brought forward in opposi-
tion to the proposition of the Senator from Missouri,^ to
send out a minister plenipotentiary. If this motion to strike
out fails, and the Senator from Indiana moves his amend-
ment again, I shall vote for it ; and in stating my reasons,
as I propose to do now, without waiting for his motion, I
hope it will not be considered out of place if I present some
statistical details in relation to the condition of the Papal

I desire, in the first place, to say, that I do not regard
this as a political mission, unless the term political be under-
stood in its largest sense. Much less do I consider it a
religious mission, as the honorable Senator from North
Carolina ^ would have us regard it. I consider the Pope,
to all intents, as a temporal sovereign. He has been so for
the last eleven hundred years. I believe the first territorial
possession of the Pope was conferred upon him by Pepin,
the father and predecessor of Charlemagne, in the eighth
century. It consisted of the Duchy of Rome, or, at that
time, more properly called the Exarchate of Ravenna, and
was wrested by the King of France from the Lombards,
who had overrun northern and central Italy. It extended

1 Mr. Hannegan. ^ Mr. Benton. ^ Mr. Badger.


from the present frontier of Naples, on the Mediterranean,
to the mouth of the Tiber, including the Southern Cam-
pagna and the Pontine Marshes, and running back to the
Sabine and Volscian hills. In the twelfth century, the Coun-
tess Matilda, of Tuscany, bequeathed her possessions to the
Pope. They embraced the patrimony of St. Peter, on the
Mediterranean, extending from the mouth of the Tiber to
the present frontier of Tuscany, and the march of Ancona
on the Adriatic, with the adjoining district of Spoleto.
Large accessions were subsequently made by conquest, —
Umbria, Romagna, Perugia, Orvieto, Citta di Castello,
Bologna, Ravenna, and other cities and districts of country.
In the seventeenth century, the Duke of Urbino abdicated
in favor of the Pope ; and at a still later period, some
further additions were made by arms. Thus, the territorial
possessions of the Pope are held, like those of other sover-
eigns, by succession, donation, and conquest. I consider the
territorial possessions of the Church as much the dominions
of the Pope as the territorial possessions of Spain are the
dominions of her Most Catholic Majesty ; and I see no more
reason to decline diplomatic relations in the first case than in
the last, unless there is, in other respects, a propriety in
doing so.

It is true, there is a peculiarity in the form of the Papal
government, from the fact that the temporal head of the
State is also the spiritual head of the Roman Catholic
Church. The Senator from North Carolina very justly
remarked, that his chief ministers were ecclesiastics. As is
well known, the most important political body in the Roman
States is the Sacred College of the Cardinals, who are the
princes of the Church. They are seventy in number, — the
same in number as the disciples sent out by the Great
Founder of the Christian faith to preach the gospel to the
world. Six are cardinal bishops, fifty cardinal priests, and
fourteen cardinal deacons. I believe the number has been
invariable for two hundred and fifty years, though it is not


always full. All vacancies are filled by the Pope, who is
chosen by the cardinals from their own body. The govern-
ment is, therefore, an unlimited elective monarchy, or, if you
please, a hierarchy, of which the Pope is the head.

The government is administered, under the direction of
the Pope, by the Secretary of State, who is a cardinal. He
is aided by several departments, bureaus, or boards, the
chief of which is the Camera Apostolica, corresponding
with our Treasury Department. It is under the charge of
the Chamberlain, who is assisted by a number of cardinals
and subordinates of different grades. There is also the
Buon Governo, charged with the municipal police of the
States ; the Sacra Consulta, to which is intrusted the civil
and political administration of the provinces ; and the Sacra
Ruota, the great court of appeals in judicial proceedings.
There are several more of these boards, of which I do not
remember the names or the functions ; but they are all under
the direction of cardinals. The Chamberlain is the only one
of these executive officers who is appointed for life ; and the
reason for the distinction is, that he administers the govern-
ment on the death of the Pope for nine days, when a new
election takes place ; and during that period he has the
privilege of coining money in his own name. The Secre-
tary of State, who is the Prime Minister and the confi-
dential adviser of the Pope, besides having the general
direction of the administrative functions of the government,
presides especially over the Sacra Consulta, or the depart-
ment for the provinces, — to give it a name suited to its

There is another class of official dignitaries of high rank
under the Papal government, — the prelates. They are
always of noble birth, but not always in holy orders. There
are some two or three hundred of these dignitaries employed
in various departments of the government, civil or ecclesias-
tical. The post of prelate often opens the way to higher
preferment, and is next in importance to a membership



of die Sacred College. These are the great officers of the

Mr. Badger. Will the Senator allow me to ask him, — for my rec-
ollection is not very accurate, and I am taking a great deal of interest
in what he is saying, and listening to him with much pleasure, — whether
I understand him correctly as saying that these prelates are not always
in holy orders ? Are they not either in holy orders or else undergoing
an ecclesiastical apprenticeship, which involves the design to take holy
orders ?

I said they were not always in holy orders, and I believe
I am not mistaken. They usually, if not uniformly, occupy
posts under the government. Some of them are governors
of provinces, under the denomination of delegates ; and

Online LibraryJohn A. (John Adams) DixSpeeches and occasional addresses (Volume 1) → online text (page 22 of 40)