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our troops, Colonel Fremont, exhibited a combination of
energy, promptitude, sagacity, and prudence, which indi-
cates the highest capacity for civil and military command ;
and, in connection with what he has done for the cause of
science, it has given him a reputation at home and abroad
of which men much older and more experienced than him-
self might well be proud. That the country will do justice

1 Mr. Cass.



CALIFORNIA CLAIMS. 263

to his valuable and distinguished services I entertain not
the sliofhtest doubt.

The objects accomplished by Colonel Fremont, as subse-
quent developments have shown, were far more important
than those I have referred to. There is no doubt that his
rapid and decisive movements kept California out of the
hands of British subjects, and perhaps out of the hands of
the British government ; and it is in this point of view
that I desire to present the subject to the Senate. If these
transactions stood alone, if they constituted an isolated case,
I might not deem it necessary to call attention to them.
But as a part of a system to all appearances deliberately en-
tered upon and steadily pursued, it seems to me that they
may justly claim a more extensive consideration than would
otherwise be due to them.

While discussing the bill to raise an additional military
force in January last, I stated some facts in illustration of
the encroachments of Great Britain on the southern portion
of the North American continent. I alluded particularly
to her movements on the Mosquito coast, where she is estab-
lishing herself under the pretence of giving protection to an
insignificant tribe of Indians, but in reality to gain posses-
sion of a territory not only intrinsically valuable on account
of its natural products, but doubly so to her on account
of its advantages of position. This occupation does not
rest upon the ground of an original establishment on terri-
tory unreclaimed from its primeval solitude, or even on
territory not reduced to actual possession by its first dis-
coverer. It is a portion of the old Spanish dominion in
North America, constituting, after the dissolution of the
empire of Spain in the western hemisphere, a part of the
confederation of Central America, and now an integral part
of the states of Honduras and Nicaragua : and if the power
of Spain had continued unbroken, this unjustifiable en-
croachment would not have been heard of. I stated on a for-
mer occasion that the territory occupied in the name of the



264- SPEECHES IN THE SENATE.

Mosquito nation by Great Britain contains about 40,000
square miles, — nearly as large a surface as that of the State
of New York, — and that she had recently sought to ex-
tend her possession by forcible means to the river San Juan
de Nicaragua, near the eleventh parallel of latitude, one
degree further south than the territory actually claimed as
belonging to the Mosquitoes according to her own geograph-
ical delineations.

Nearly a century ago some connection existed between
Great Britain and the Mosquito Indians ; but the territory
was abandoned by her under treaty-stipulations with Spain.
When the connection was renewed I am unable to say ; but
I believe the first open and avowed attempt to exercise rights
of sovereignty over the territory, through consular agents,
was in 1843, when Mr. Patrick Walker was appointed
consul at Bluefields ; and this appointment was instantly the
subject of a protest by at least one of the South American
states.

Before I proceed to give the details of this encroachment,
I wish to call the attention of the Senate to the position
taken by the Executive of the United States, nearly twenty-
five years ago, in respect to the future colonization of this
continent by European powers.

In the annual message of Mr. Monroe to Congress, in
December, 1823, he stated, that, in the discussion of the
respective rights of Great Britain, Russia, and the United
States, on the northwestern coast of America, the occasion
had " been judged proper for asserting as a principle, in
which the rights of the United States are involved, that the
American continents, by the free and independent condition
which they have assumed and maintained, are henceforth
not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by
any European powers." In the same message it was de-
clared, that we should regard any attempt on the part of
European powers to extend their political " system to any
portion of this hemisphere as dangerous to our peace and



CALIFORNIA CLABIS. OQ3

safety." " With existing colonies or dependencies of any
European powers," says the message, " we have not inter-
fered, and shall not interfere. But with the governments
who have declared their independence, and maintained it,
and whose independence we have, on great consideration
and on just principles, acknowledged, we could not view
any interposition for the purpose of oppressing them, or
controlling in any other manner their destiny, by any Euro-
pean power, in any other light than as the manifestation of
an unfriendly disposition towards the United States."

The two positions assumed by the Executive of the
United States were, —

1. That there must be no further colonization on either
of the American continents by any European power ; and,

2. That there must be no interference by European
powers with the independent states in this hemisphere.

And these declarations were accompanied by the disa-
vowal on our part of all intention to interfere with existing
colonies or dependencies of any European power on this
continent.

Of the wisdom or policy of these declarations, I have
nothing to say ; though I must add, that 1 have always
considered the publication of manifestoes, which the govern-
ment putting them forth is not prepared to maintain at all
hazards, as calculated to detract from its dignity and influ-
ence.

Mr. Monroe's declarations have not been maintained.
They applied to South as well as North America; and
during the last five years, the Banda Oriental and the
Argentine Confederation have been the theatre of an armed
intervention, on the part of Great Britain at first, and ulti-
mately of Great Britain and France, which is almost unpre-
cedented in the history of nations, as a violation of the
right of every community to regulate its domestic concerns
in its own way, without external interference. I will not
detain the Senate by entering into the details of these trans-

34



Q66 SPEECHES IN THE SENATE.

actions. Suffice it to say, that, in 1838, in consequence of
internal dissensions in the Banda Oriental, or the Oriental
Republic of Uruguay, fomented by foreign officers and resi-
dents in Montevideo, General Oribe, the President, resigned,
and fled to Buenos Ayres, his rival. General Reveira, suc-
ceeding to his political post. In 18452, Oribe entered the
Banda Oriental, drove Reveira into Brazil, and besieged his
general (Paez) in Montevideo, which was subsequently in-
vested by sea by the Argentine fleet. The interposition of
Admiral Purvis, commanding the British fleet, when the
admiral of the French fleet refused to interfere, on the
ground that such interference would violate well-established
principles of international law, has had the effect of pro-
longing for five years a war which would otherwise have
been speedily decided, and led to a violation of every rule
of international duty, through a further intervention in the
affairs of the Argentine Confederation, by the combined
fleets of France and Great Britain, under the sanction of
their respective governments. Those who desire to know
more of these transactions will find a most interesting dis-
cussion in the British House of Lords, in the Parliamentary
Debates of 1845, Vol. 83, page 1152. In reply to some
inquiries proposed by Lord Beaumont, the Earl of Aber-
deen made the defence of the Ministry. He was followed
by Lord Colchester, who had been at the Rio de la Plata, and
who was thoroughly acquainted with all that had taken place.
He corrected many of the Earl of Aberdeen's statements ;
and I think it will be admitted that he left to the Ministry a
most unsatisfactory ground of defence. On the principles
laid down by Mr. Monroe, it would have been the duty of
the United States to interpose for the purpose of protecting
the Oriental and Argentine republics from this flagrant inva-
sion of their rights as sovereign and independent states.
We have failed to do so, I do not say whether rightly or
not; but the impolicy of making declarations which we
are not prepared to maintain is strongly exemplified in our
inaction.



CALIFORNIA CLAIMS. 26^

In the annual message of the President to Congress, in
December, 184-6, the declarations of Mr. Monroe were
reiterated, but the application of the principles he asserted
was virtually restricted to the continent of North America.
Whatever hesitancy there may be in extending the applica-
tion further, to this extent its assertion and maintenance at
all hazards can afford, it appears to me, no ground for a
difference of opinion ; and, so believing, it was with great
pleasure that I listened to the spirited remarks of the honor-
able Senator from Delaware ^ on this subject, at the close
of the debate on the bill to raise an additional military
force. Our own security depends, in no inconsiderable
degree, on the tranquillity of the states bordering on us,
or in our neighborhood. The interference of European
powers in their affairs can have no other effect but to pro-
duce distractions dangerous alike to them and to us. We
have a right to insist, then, on the principle of non-interven-
tion on this continent, — a principle lying at the very founda-
tion of all national independence, — a principle which cannot
be violated without offending against the common welfare
and the common interest of the whole civilized world. In
connection with this subject, I desire to say that I have
always insisted, in the most earnest manner, on the duty of
non-interference on our part with the affairs of European
states. I consider it the more imperative now, when great
political changes are taking place, and when the whole
continent of Europe may be convulsed to its centre.

In this view of the subject, the encroachments of Great
Britain in North America possess an importance which can-
not be exaggerated. I begin with Central America, and
shall pass on to California, where we have had recent evi-
dence of a deliberate design to obtain possession of the
country, for the purpose of excluding us.

In February last, I received a letter from a friend in
New York, — a gentleman of high respectability, extensively

1 Mr. Clayton.



QQS SPEECHES IN THE SENATE.

engaged in commercial transactions, chiefly with Central and
South America, and who formerly held a seat in the House
of Representatives, — stating that he had noticed my allu-
sion to the affairs of the Mosquito coast, and that he could
give me some information on the subject, if I desired it. I
immediately made the request, and received from him, about
a month ago, a letter, which I will read to the Senate : —

" New York, February 28, 1848.

" Dear Sir : Your ftivor of the 25th instant is received. In compli-
ance with your request, I have hastily drawn up the outlines of the
information alluded to.

"In August, 1845, Mr. James S. Bell visited New York, and was
introduced to me as a person having great commercial advantages at
the English settlement of Bluefields, Mosquito nation. Central America,
and who desired to form a connection with a house at New York, by
which these advantages could be made available for commercial en-
terprise. Having at that time much business at Balize and Truxillo, I
was ready to listen to propositions for increasing my trade with that
country, especially to receive the valuable information which I was
told Mr. B. could impart. Mr. Bell stated he was the Secretary to the
British consulate at Bluefields, which he assured me was really the gov-
ernment de facto of the Mosquito nation, — a tribe of dissolute and de-
graded Indians, whose king, a lad of fourteen, was an inmate of the
consul-house, and dependent on that functionary for the necessaries of
life ; that the Mosquito country had been privately conveyed to the
British government, and that that claim, when questioned, could be
maintained by a legal title of purchase from the king ; that the ob-
ject of the British government was not only the possession of this ter-
ritory, which abounded with rich forests of mahogany, and other valu-
able woods, on the coast, and many miles in the interior on navigable
rivers, but at the proper time to show, prove, and maintain by force of
arms, if necessary, the Mosquito (their own) title to as far south as 10"
of north latitude, comprising San Juan and the rich country of Lake
Nicaragua, thus securing the best route to the Pacific, as well as by far
the most fertile and productive of aU that section of Central America ;
that he (Mr. Bell) had made two visits, accompanied by skilful sur-
veyors and engineers, to San Juan, and thence to the interior, and to the
Lake Nicaragua, for purposes of exploration, &c., by order of the gov-
ernment, conveyed privately to Mr. "Walker, the consul at Bluefields ;
that he came to the United States to effect on his individual account a
connection with some mercantile house, by which to establish branches
at Bluefields and at San Juan, in advance of its becoming a British



CALIFOKNIA CLAIMS. QQQ

port ; tliat he had received an exclusive gi'ant for the cutting of mahog-
any on Bluefields river and adjacent coast ; that this connection with,
and intimate relation to, the consulate at Bluefields, alias the Mos-
quito government, would give him such advantages at San Juan, that he
could nearly monopolize the interior trade of that place, and ship to the
United States large quantities of spice, indigo, cochineal, hides, &c., in
exchange for cotton goods, flour, &c.

" Mr. BeU, by -written documents and letters, satisfied me fully of the
truth of his statements, which recent events have in part confirmed.
I declined the propositions, but another house has accepted them, so
far as to engage the services of about thirty men to return to Blue-
fields with Mr. B. to cut mahogany, one cargo of which has actually
been received at this port. Mr. Bell, whilst here, had a large chair
made, with canopy, &c., gilded profusely, and covered with damask,
which he stated was the throne of the king of the Mosquitoes ; also,
halberds and other paraphernalia of royalty, which he took out with
him to Bluefields. At the time, these statements made but little im-
pression upon me ; but recent events, particularly your speech, have
showed too truly their truth and importance."

In connection with this subject, I will also read a commu-
nication furnished me, at my request, by the head of one of
the foreign embassies in this city, and addressed, by the
British charge d' a f aires at Bogota, to the government of
New Grenada, setting forth the extent of the British claims.
In January last, I furnished other evidence, to the same
point, on the authority of the British consul-general at
Guatemala. I present this as corroborative, and as of higher

authority : —

" British Legation, Bogota, Se-pt. 24, 1847.

" Circumstances having given rise to a question as to the extent of
the coast frontier of the kingdom of Mosquito, her Britannic Majesty's
government, after having carefully examined the various documents
and historical records which exist relative to this subject, have in-
structed the undersigned, her Britannic Majesty's charge d'affaires, to
inform the government of New Grenada that her Majesty's govern-
ment are of opinion that the right of the King of Mosquito sliould be
maintained, as extending from the Cape of Honduras down to the mouth
of the river San Juan.

" The undersigned has likewise been instructed to state that her Maj-
esty's government will not view with indifference any attempt to en-
croach upon the right or territories of the King of Mosquito, who is
under the protection of the British Crown.



270



SPEECHES IN THE SENATE.



" In addressing this communication to his Excellency M. Man. Anci-
zar, Gi-enadian Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs ad interim, the
undersigned begs to assure him of his high and most distinguished con-
sideration. Daniel F. O'Leary."

From the information I have been able to gather, Mos-
quito lias become, for all practical purposes, a British colony.
The real head of the Mosquito nation is Mr. Patrick Walker,
the British consul at Bluefiekls. The nominal king of the
Mosquitoes is a mere boy, living in his house. The Mosquito
nation consists of a few hundred naked Indians, — idle, ig-
norant, and worthless. Under the pretence of giving pro-
tection to this miscalled nation. Great Britain has extended
her sovereignty over a district of country nearly as large as
the State of New York or Pennsylvania. She has ves-
sels of war, commanded by British subjects, under the name
of the Mosquito navy. And, in a word, she has appropriated
to herself a part of the territory of Honduras, and is en-
croaching on the territory of Nicaragua, against the solemn
protest of the Central American states. Her objects are
doubtless threefold : —

1. To extend her political dominion on this continent;

2. To open new fields for commercial enterprise ; and

3. To obtain possession of the most practicable route for
a ship-canal across the Isthmus, and thus to control the com-
mercial communication between the two oceans.

This last object is naturally regarded as the most impor-
tant. The route has been surveyed minutely, thoroughly,
by a British engineer, and its practicability ascertained.
From the Caribbean sea to Lake Nicaragua, the river
San Juan is susceptible of the requisite improvement. The
lake is already navigable for vessels of any burden ; and
from the lake it is less than sixteen miles to the Pacific,
with a mean descent of about one hundred and twenty-
eight feet. The results of this examination will be found at
the end of the first volume of Stephens's work on Central
America.



CALIFORNIA CLAIMS. QJl

But it is not through her connection with the Mosquito
coast alone that Great Britain is extending herself across
the continent. Through her establishment at Balize she is
penetrating to the very heart of the peninsula of Yucatan.
She had at first only a permission to occupy a small district
on the coast for the purpose of cutting logwood, and to en-
joy the use of a fishery for the subsistence of the persons
employed. This permission was given during the Spanish
rule in America. It was confirmed in 1783 by the treaty of
Versailles, under very cautious restrictions, and slightly ex-
tended by the treaty of London in I786. The sovereignty
of Spain over this territory became, by virtue of the inde-
pendence of her colonies, of which Yucatan was one, vested
in Mexico, But the right of Great Britain to Balize, I am
told, has not been recognized either by Mexico or Yucatan.
She not only continues to hold the coast, but she has ex-
tended herself over a district of about fourteen thousand
square miles, embracing one of the most valuable portions
of Yucatan ; and I believe she claims it by conquest. She
is within sixty miles of Chiapas, the southern State of Mex-
ico ; and her chief establishment is said to be a vast depot
of contraband. A fierce contest is now going on between
the Spanish and Indian races of Yucatan; and the latter,
who were once disarmed and harmless, are now found to be
abundantly supplied with powder and firearms, — many of
the latter bearing the stamp of the tower of London. When
this contest, marked, as all such contests are, by murder, and
rapine, and wanton barbarity, shall have exhausted the com-
batants, both parties may be willing to take refuge in the
power, and find tranquillity under the protection, of Great
Britain. Sir, this is the usual issue of her intervention in
the domestic concerns of other States — those especially in
which civilization has made but little progress. This is still
more likely to be the result when semi-barbarous tribes are
intermingled with civilized races, as in the greater portion
of this continent to the south of us, and from numbers or



27^ SPEECHES IN THE SENATE.

local circumstances approaching an equality with each other
in point of strength.

I do not make these statements, Mr. President, for the
purpose of exciting feeling here or elsewhere. It is a suhject
which I desire to see considered with calmness and delibera-
tion ; but it is one which deeply concerns us. Our tranquil-
lity, our political comfort, our commercial interests, are all
involved in the exemption of neighboring states from do-
mestic dissensions and violence ; and we have a right to see
that these mischiefs are not promoted by unauthorized inter-
ference from abroad. I do not propose to speak of the
right of interference in the internal concerns of other states.
On a former occasion I said to the Senate all that I desire
to say on that subject. But I hold it to be our right and
our duty, when we see questionable movements by foreign
powers on this continent, either througii their constituted au-
thorities or through their subjects, supported by the power
of the state, to know what are their objects, and to see
that the political independence of our weak and defenceless
neighbors is not insidiously subverted, and their territorial
possessions wrested from them by unwarrantable encroach-
ment.

One of the peculiarities of the system by which Great
Britain has extended herself over so large a portion of the
globe is, that she usually acts, in the first instance, by pri-
vate rather than by public agents. She employs commerce
to eiiect what other governments accomplish by public au-
thority and force. Instead of sending an army or a fleet
to take possession of a coast, she sends a trading company.
Nothing can be more unsuspicious than the circumstances
under which their first lodgment — the germ, perhaps, of a
future empire — is made. They only wish some fjicilities
for landing and for shelter while they dispose of their mer-
chandise ; they desire to establish a factory (^ which, in the
British acceptation of the term, is a house for traders), and
to enjoy some temporary conveniences for traffic. The per-



CALIFORNIA CLAIMS. Q<JS

mission is given, a foothold is obtained, a house is built, and
a picket, a ditch, an embankment follow. These simple im-
provements (to use an American phrase) grow insensibly
into a settlement, a fortress, and a colony, and the occupation
becomes perpetual. Here are British subjects, British prop-
erty, and British interests to be protected; the honor of
Great Britain is concerned, and it will not permit them to
be abandoned. Her East Indian empire, the most vast and
lucrative of her possessions, was gained through the agency
of a trading company. Through a trading company she
gained her first foothold on the northwest coast of America,
and obtained for herself in the end some of the best portions
of Oregon.

There is another peculiarity in the British system of ex-
tension. Colonization is only desired so far as it is coexten-
sive with political sovereignty. She does not labor to civ-
ilize or improve where she cannot rule. Commercial inter-
est is the principal, and social improvement the incident in
her progress.

Sir, there were two great systems of colonization in an-
cient times, — those of Greece and Rome, — and each dis-
tinct in its character. Greece was actuated by no sordid ref-
erence to self in the extension of her people. When she sent
out her children to colonize distant territories, she let them
go forth independent and free. She did not insist on carry-
ing her political sovereignty along with them, and compelling
them to pay a servile obedience to it. She sent them out
with her benedictions and her prayers, to enjoy, unshared by
herself, whatever prosperity they could earn by their industry
and their valor ; and it was through these migrations that the
foundations of ancient civilization were laid in southern
Italy.

Roman colonization was totally different in its character.
Rome, indeed, did not encourage colonization out of Italy in
the early days of the republic. In its latter days, and dur-
ing the early period of the empire, she sent out colonies to

35



S74.



SPEECHES IN THE SENATE.



distant regions, and retained them in dependence on herself.



Online LibraryJohn A. (John Adams) DixSpeeches and occasional addresses (Volume 1) → online text (page 24 of 40)