John A. (John Adams) Dix.

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She desired that all the streams of prosperity which ema-
nated from her should be poured back, in enlarged currents,
upon their source. It was a vast system of centralization.
Under its influence the heart became distended and gorged,
while the extremities were left exhausted and cold, and the
whole system fell asunder by force of this inequality.

This is the British system of colonization ; it has been
made more liberal of late, but unless still further relaxed, its
fate will be the same. Its great characteristic is dependence
on the parent state ; its most inflexible formulas, (if I may
be allowed the expression,) colonial governments subservient
to the Crown, commercial regulations framed with an ex-
clusive, and usually (such is the fatality of all selfishness,
individual or national) with a mistaken view to metropolitan

It is not for our advantage that this system should be
extended. We desire freedom in commercial intercourse.
We do not interfere with any colonial systems, however ex-
clusive, where they now exist. We do not oppose their ex-
tension in other portions of the globe. But having no colo-
nies ourselves, desiring none, looking only to an extension by
pacific means, and from the operation of natural laws, over
the unoccupied districts of country west of us, we have a
right to insist that colonial establishments, exclusive in their
character as respects commercial intercourse, shutting out
the world except the parent state, and dependent on distant
governments, shall not be planted in our neighborhood in
violation of the rights of defenceless states. I would not
make this principle the theme of a declaration or a mani-
festo. I would have it quietly announced to those whom it
concerns, and firmly maintained against all infringement.

Before I dismiss this part of the subject I wish to say
that I am not unwillinof to concede to Great Britain some
merit for what she has done for constitutional liberty in the
past, nor am I disposed to deny that her colonial system


may in the end lead to results of great value to the cause
of civilization. She has, in more than one instance, arrayed
herself against the progress of arbitrary government in
Europe, and asserted principles which He at the very basis
of all free institutions. Through her colonial possessions
she is disseminating throughout the globe the intelligence
and the civiUzation by which she is herself distinguished;
and, when the political bonds by which her vast possessions
are held together shall be rent asunder, — a day not distant,
perhaps, — when the sceptre of her empire shall be broken,
the colonies she has planted on every continent and in every
sea will become so many centres from which the lights of
knowledge and freedom will be radiated to the darker por-
tions of the earth. While advocating a determined resist-
ance to her encroachments, I am willing, nevertheless, to do
her this political justice.

Let me now turn to the subject more immediately in
hand — the California claims. The propriety of passing
the bill providing for the payment of them has been fully
shown by the honorable Senator from Michigan. It only
remains for me to consider the subject in connection with
the particular topic which I have discussed.

By the testimony taken before the Committee on Mili-
tary Affairs, it appears, —

1. That Eugenio Macnamara, a Catholic priest, made
application to the government of Mexico for the grant of
land in Upper California, for the establishment of Irish
colonies. The first colony was to be established at San
Francisco ; the second at Monterey ; and the third at Santa
Barbara; and the number of colonists was not to be less
than ten thousand. There is no date to the application ;
but other documents show it to have been previously to the
19th of January, 1846.

2. The avowed objects of Macnamara were to keep the
Californias out of the hands of the Americans, who are
represented, in his memorial to the Mexican government,


as an artful and base enemy, and as abhorring the people
and the religion of Mexico.

I will read to the Senate some extracts from his original
application to the Mexican government. They will be
found in the translation at page 19 of the document con-
taining the testimony taken before the Committee on Mili-
tary Affairs, and in the original Spanish at page 77 ^f the
same document : —

" I, Eugenio Macnamara, Catholic priest and apostolical missionary,
take the liberty of submitting to your Excellency some reflections on a
subject which at this time attracts much public attention. I allude to
the expectations and actual condition of Upper California.

" It does not require the gift of prophecy to foresee, that within a
little time this fertile country will cease to be an integral part of this
republic, unless some prompt and efficacious measures be adopted to
restrain foreign rapacity.

" For this reason I propose, with the aid and approbation of your
Excellency, to carry forward this project, to place in Upper California
a colony of Irish Catholics. I have a triple object in making this
proposition : I wish, in the first place, to advance the cause of Catholi-
cism ; in the second, to contribute to the happiness of my countrymen ;
thirdly, I desire to put an obstacle in the way of further iisurpations on
the part of an irreligious and anti-Catholic nation. I therefore propose
to your Excellency that there be conceded to me an extent of territory
on the coast of Upper California for the purpose I have indicated."

T will also read an extract at page 21 from his second
application, urging attention to the first. It will be found
in Spanish at page 79 '• —

*' Your Excellency will excuse me, that I take the liberty further to
demonstrate that no time ought to be lost in this important affair, if it
is desired to be realized, since your Excellency knows well enough that
we are suiTOunded by an artful and base enemy, who loses no means,
however low, to possess himself of the best territory of this country,
and who abhors to the death its race and its religion.

" If the means which I propose be not speedily adopted, your Excel-
lency may be assured that, before another year, the Californias will
form a part of the American nation. Their Catholic institutions will
become the prey of the Methodist wolves, and the wdiole country will
be inundated with the cruel invaders. Whilst I propose the means of
repelling them, my propositions ought to be the more admissible, inas-


much as I have no personal interest in the affair, save the progress of
the holy religion of God, and the happiness of my countrymen."

The stigmas cast upon us and upon one of our most re-
spectable religious sects, I regard as designed by Macnamara
to minister to the prejudices of Mexico, with a view to the
accomplishment of his purposes, rather than as emanating
from a conviction of their truth.

3. The grant to Macnamara, after being submitted to the
consideration of the Governor of California, was made on
the 4th of July, 1846, and comprised about three thousand
square leagues, containing, besides the bay of San Francisco,
some of the best lands and some of the most important
military and commercial positions in California.

4. Macnamara was taken to California in a British sloop
of war (the Juno) in June, 1846; a British ship of eighty
guns, (the Collingwood,) commanded by Admiral Seymour,
followed in July, and Macnamara was taken away in her.

The extract I am about to read from the affidavit of
Colonel Fremont will show the connection between Macna-
mara's movements and those of the public armed vessels of
Great Britain. It will be found at page 14 of the docu-
ment : —

« The fruits of the revolutionary movement thus passed to the United
States, and have remained with her ever since. These fruits were very
considerable. Besides the peaceable possession of all the northern part
of California, and the actual force in the field under the independent
flag, which immediately went into service under the United States,
there is good reason to believe, and evidence is now at hand to sustain
that belief, that the revolutionary movement prevented a design of the
Californians to put their country under the flag of the British, and also
prevented the completion of the colonization grant of three thousand
square leagues to Macnamara, who was brought to California in the
British sloop of war Juno in the month of June, 1846. Admiral
Seymour, in the Collingwood, of eighty guns, arrived at Monterey on
the 1 6th of July. Macnamara was on board the Collingwood when I
arrived at Monterey on the 19th, and was carried away in that vessel.
The taking possession of that place on the 7th had anticipated him,
and the revolutionary movement had checked the designs of the Califor-



nians to place the country under British protection ; and also prevented
the fulfilment of the great grant to Macnamara, the original papers of
which I now have here, to be shown to the committee and to be deliv-
ered up to the government."

5. In addition to the Macnamara grants, some of the
most valuable missions were sold in May and June, 1846,
to British subjects, for very inconsiderable sums, showing
an evident design, in case the United States should get pos-
session of the Californias, to keep some of the most valu-
able districts out of the hands of the government, by con-
verting them, through fraudulent conveyances, into British
property. •

6. It appears also that a plan was set on foot by the
British vice-consul in California, Mr. Forbes, Macnamara,
and others, to put that country under the protection of
Great Britain, and at the very moment when it was ex-
pected that a war would break out between the United
States and Mexico. The time, the circumstances, the actors,
all indicate a deliberate design to get possession of Califor-
nia, for the purpose of keeping it out of the hands of the
United States. The auspices under which a junta was
planned and convoked for the purpose of asking the protec-
tion of Great Britain are shown by an extract which I
will read from the affidavit of Captain Gillespie, of the Ma-
rine Corps, and which will be found at page 28 of the doc-
ument : —

"About this time (June 30) I learned that the junta which was to
have assembled at Santa Barbara upon the 15th June, and which had
been planned and arranged by and through the agency of Mr. Forbes,
the British vice-consul, and an Irish Catholic priest, by the name of
Macnamara, had been prevented from assembling in consequence of the
rising of the settlers. This junta was proposed for the purpose of
asking the protection of England, and of giving an immense tract of
land in the valley of the San Joaquin for the settlement of ten thou-
sand Irishmen, to be brought to California under the direction of Mac-
namara. All this intrigue of British agents was broken up by the
timely and prompt operations of the settlers, under the direction of
Captain Fremont."



By Lieutenant Minor's testimony, which will be found at
pages 43 and 44, it appears that the convention or junta
was held, and that a majority were in favor of claiming the
protection of England, — a decision naturally to have been
expected, when it is considered under what auspices it was
convoked. The extracts I am about to read contain also
some interesting facts connected with the movements of the
British admiral : —

" The undersigned, a lieutenant in the navy of the United States,
has the honor to make the following answers to the interrogatories
put to him by your honorable committee :

" The undersigned being in command of the southern district of Cali-
fornia during the latter part of 1846, was informed by Pedro C. Carilla
(and he believes the information thus obtained is founded on facts)
that he, the said Carilla, was a member of a junta that assembled at
Santa Barbara in Jvme, 1846, for the purpose of declaring the inde-
pendence of California, and of asking the protection of the United States
or Great Britain ; that the junta was represented by all of the inhab-
ited poi-tions of California ; that a majority of the same were for claim-
ing the protection of England ; that their resolves would probably have
been executed had it not been for the war and their fears of an armed
force, then on the north side of the bay of San Francisco, under the
command of Captain Fremont. The undersigned has understood from
other sources, entitled to confidence, tliat a majority of the people of
California desired the protection of England. The opinion he thus
formed was strengthened by the fact that an English frigate (the Juno)
had, about the time the junta met, landed an English subject named
Macnamara at Santa Barbara, of whom it was said that he had ob-
tained a grant from the Mexican government of a large and fertile
•portion of California, embracing the whole valley of the San Joaquin,
from its source to its mouth, — a valley, as the undersigned believes,
comprising one third of the richest portion of California. The under-
signed believes that the British squadron in the Pacific, commanded by
Rear-Admiral Sir George T. Seymour, composed then of a larger
force than they ever had upon that ocean, were employed in closely
watching the movements of the American commodore. Being aware
of this fact, Commodore Sloat, when he heard of the first battle on the
Rio Grande, got under way in the frigate Savannah, then anchored
off Mazatlan, for the ostensible purpose of proceeding to California.
An English vessel of war weighed soon after the Savannah, and stood
in the direction of San Bias, where it was known the admiral was.
After cruising in the gulf two days, the commodore returned to his


anchorage off Mazatlan, when another English ship got under way and
stood in the direction of San Bias. The undersigned believes that
this manoeuvre of Commodore Sloat was intended for the deception of
the English admiral. On the 8th of June, 1846, the Savannah again
made sail, and after a passage of twenty-three days, during which a
press of canvas was carried, she arrived at the port of Monterey, in
Upper California. The CoUingwood, of eighty guns, the flag-ship of
Admiral Seymour, entered the harbor on the loth of July, and the
undersigned believes that the admiral was disappointed when he saw
the American flag flying on shore."

The testimony of Captain Hensley, from which I will
g-ive a brief extract, and which will be found at page 33,
fully sustains the statement of Lieutenant Minor : —

" I am a resident in California, where I have resided since the
autumn of 1843. In the month of May, 1846, I went to San Fran-
cisco, where I met with General Vallejo, one of the most prominent
and influential men in Upper California. I understood from liiin that he
had recently attended a convention, composed of General Castro, him-
self, and five others, delegates from the different districts in California,
at which the proposition liad been made and debated to separate from
Mexico, and establish a government in California, under the protection
of some foreign power, believed by us to be England ; but, as the
general positively stated, the majority was not in favor of placing the
country under the protection of the United States, though he himself
was. General Vallejo was of course guarded in conversing on so dan-
gerous a subject as this was at that time ; but the above is the sub-
stance of his remarks, as undei'stood by myself and others who heard

The grant to Macnaniara is so connected with the move-
ments of the public vessels and public agents of Great
Britain as to raise a strong presumption that he was secretly
countenanced by the British government. Doctor John
Baldwin, whose testimony will be found at pages 46 ef
scq.^ states that Macnamara lived in the house of the
British consul, or charge d'affaires^ in Mexico, and that
he understood in that city, in September and October,
ISiy? a plan had been projected, under the auspices of the
British legation, to colonize California with emigrants from
Ireland. These facts will be more fully shown by his affi-


davit at pages 46 and 47 of the document, from which I
will read a single paragraph : —

"I resided in the Republic of Mexico from the year 1822 until
1838, a period of sixteen years, during wliich I made the acquaintance
of many of the leading men of the country.

"I again entered Mexico (city) on the 14th of September, 1847,
and remained there until the 1st of November ; during that time I
made the acquaintance of the priest Macnamara, and from sources
entitled to credit I was informed that he had, under the auspices of the
British legation, projected a plan to colonize California with emigrants
from Ireland. His project had met the approbation of the Mexican
government, and he went to California to perfect his plans. In the
mean time, it was ascertained that the ulterior views of Macnamara
were to promote the interest of the British government and not the
Mexican government. A fierce opposition was contemplated by the
republican members of Congress, when he should return with his ma-
tured plans from California ; this resistance became unnecessary in con-
sequence of the conquest of California by the arms of the United
States. Macnamara lived in the family of either the British consul
or charge d'affaires in Mexico."

I have referred to the connection of Macnamara's move-
ments with the public vessels of Great Britain as presump-
tive evidence of the connection of the British government
with them. I do not inquire whether Admiral Seymour
had special instructions or not. From the declaration of
Admiral Purvis, in the intervention of La Plata, it is highly-
probable that British naval officers cruising in distant seas
have general instructions " to protect British interests at all
hazards," (I believe that is the phrase,) leaving an unlimited
discretion to the officer, and giving to the government the
advantage of being able to approve or disavow his conduct
in special cases, according to its own interest. From all
the circumstances connected with the transactions in Cali-
fornia, we are constrained to believe that the British naval
commander was fully apprised of Macnamara's objects, as
well as the design to place that country under the protection
of Great Britain, and that he was there cooperating in the

one, and ready to cooperate in the other. Indeed, by refer-


ring to the testimony of Mr. Loker, at page 39, it will be
seen that his arrival there had been talked about and ex-
pected with a view " to take possession of California."

I have oriven, Mr. President, a mere outline of the trans-
actions of British subjects and British agents in California.
The leading facts are verified by the affidavits of Colonel
Fremont, Captain Gillespie, of the marine corps, Lieutenant
Minor, and Midshipman Wilson, of the navy, Colonel Rus-
sel, Captain Hensley, Doctor Baldwin, and many gentlemen
connected with the civil and military transactions of the
Californias after the rupture between the United States and
Mexico ; and some of the most important circumstances are
authenticated by the public records of California which fell
into our possession.

It is impossible that the success of these movements should
not have brought us into direct collision with Great Britain.
We could not have failed to regard them, considered in con-
nection with her proceedings in Oregon, and more recently
in Central America, as part of a deliberate design to environ
us with her colonies, and especially to shut us out from the
Pacific and its extending commerce. From all the facts, we
can hardly doubt either that she would have taken possession
of the country in her own name, or, what is perhaps more
probable, that she would, in the first instance, have taken it
under her protection. In this case the drama of the Mos-
quito coast, the performers only being changed, would have
been acted over again. A Californian governor, somewhat
above the grade of the king of the Mosquitoes in respecta-
bility, but on the same level with him in subservience to the
protecting power, would have been put in the foreground,
while British subjects would have occupied the country, and
gradually reduced it into the possession of Great Britain.
Thus shut out from the Pacific, our own people would have
been met at the Sierra Madre, or perhaps still further east,
and the tide of emigration and settlement would have been
turned back upon the Atlantic coast. It is in this point of


view that these transactions possess the greatest interest and
importance, and that the sagacity, promptitude, and decision
of our youthful commander in California, at the time the dis-
turbances broke out, have given him the strongest claims on
his countrymen. Any faltering on his part — any hesitancy
in acting and in acting promptly — might have cost us mil-
lions of dollars and thousands of lives ; and it might also
have cost us a contest of which the end is not readily fore-


A BILL to take temporary military possession of Yucatan was intro-
duced into the Senate, in pursuance of a recommendation of the Presi-
• dent that our naval forces in the Gulf of Mexico should be employed
to afford relief to the white population, who were in danger of extermi-
nation by the Indians, and to prevent that province from becoming a col-
ony to a European power. The provisions of the bill went far beyond
the suggestions of the President. Mr. Dix, in his speech, which was
delivered on the 17th INIay, 1848, opposed the military occupation of
Yucatan as provided for by the bill, but advocated the President's recom-

Mr. President : I said yesterday, when I offered the
amendment which you have just announced as the question
first to be decided by the Senate, I should be quite wilhng"
that the vote should be taken upon it without discussion ;
but that if the debate proceeded, I should have something to
say in support of my motion. I find the whole subject is to
be further discussed ; and so many inquiries have been ad-
dressed to me, by members of this body, in relation to the
particular object of the amendment, that I feel myself called
on to explain it. I shall, at the same time, avail myself of
the opportunity to make some remarks upon the general
question. In doing so, I feel that I shall labor under some
disadvantage, as I was not present during the first week
of the discussion, and have not had time since to read the
printed report ; so that it is possible I may, in the remarks
I shall make, cover ground which has already been better
occupied by others.

The question presented to us by the bill we are consid-
ering is not in itself a very simple one ; and it appears to


me that it has been converted, perhaps not unnecessarily,
into one of still greater complexity. I shall endeavor, in
what I have to say, to divest it of some, at least, of its com-

The State of Yucatan is distracted by an internal conflict
between the different classes of which her population consists.
She has applied to us and to other nations for aid ; and she
tenders her political sovereignty to any power which will
take her under its protection. Sir, there can be no higher
evidence of the hopelessness of the condition to which she
is reduced, and I recollect no other instance, in modern times
at least, in which a State has offered to surrender its nation-
ality to a foreign power, for the purpose of being protected
asrainst itself. The President has called our attention to the
subject in a special message ; and I think he would have
been indefensible if he had not done so. He submits no
proposition to us, but leaves it to the judgment of Congress
to determine what measures shall be adopted to prevent
Yucatan from becoming the colony of a European power,
and to rescue the white race from extermination or expul-
sion. The Committee on Foreign Relations, in pursuance
of the suggestion of the President, has reported a bill au-
thorizing him to take temporary possession or occupation of
the country, and providing arms, munitions of war, ord-
nance, and troops for that purpose.

The first suffsfestion which occurs to us is, that this is
an internal dispute in which, under ordinary circumstances,

Online LibraryJohn A. (John Adams) DixSpeeches and occasional addresses (Volume 1) → online text (page 25 of 40)