Stephen Arnold Douglas.

A brief treatise upon constitutional and party questions and the history of political parties, as I received it orally from the late Senator Stephen A. Douglas online

. (page 11 of 11)
Online LibraryStephen Arnold DouglasA brief treatise upon constitutional and party questions and the history of political parties, as I received it orally from the late Senator Stephen A. Douglas → online text (page 11 of 11)
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serted, by which Great Britain and the United


States pledged their faith, each to the other, that
neither of them would ever colonize, annex, fortify,
or exercise exclusive dominion over any portion of
Central America. After the terms of this treaty
were agreed to by Clayton and Bulwer, Mr. Clayton
refused to sign it until he could procure from two-
thirds of the Senators a private pledge that they
would ratify it, which being done, he signed the
treaty, and sent it to the Senate for ratification.
Mr. Douglas was the only man in the Senate who
made any active opposition to the ratification of the
treaty. He opposed it upon the ground that he
wanted no partnerships with Great Britain in re
spect to the transit route ; that such a partnership
would be productive of constant misunderstanding
and disputes, instead of being a bond of peace ; and
he urged that the Senate reject the treaty, and call
upon the Executive to send to the Senate the Hise
treaty, that it might be ratified, with such amend
ments as the Senate might see fit to make, in order
that we should have the exclusive control over the
transit route, and might open it to the world on
such terms as were compatible with American in
terests. Mr. Douglas especially opposed the treaty,
upon the ground that he would never enter into any
compact with Great Britain or any other European


power in respect to the American continent, by
which the faith of the nation should be pledged, for
all time to come, never to annex or colonize such
portions of the continent as our interest and safety
would inevitably compel us to annex at some future
day. He did not desire to annex the country then,
but insisted that the time would come when we
would be compelled to exercise jurisdiction over
that transit route. All objection, however, to the
treaty proved useless, as nearly the whole Senate
had been committed to it privately, in advance, and
when the vote was taken there were but eight votes
recorded in the negative in the whole Senate.

The main argument urged in favor of the ratifi
cation of the treaty, was that it drove Great Britain
out of Central America, by abolishing the British
protectorate over the Mosquito coast. To this Mr.
Douglas replied, that while Great Britain had no
right to any protectorate over that coast, such pre
tended right was not abolished by the treaty, but on
the contrary, equivocal language was used in it,
which, when ratified, Great Britain would claim
recognized the existence of such protectorate, and
gave her the right to maintain it in the future.

The treaty had been no sooner ratified, than
Great Britain did claim that her protectorate was


still in existence, recognized and acknowledged by
the United States, and she has from that day to
this persisted in this claim to a protectorate.

All this occured in secret session in 1850, and
within the next three years I tried often to get the
Senate to remove the injunction of secrecy, so that
I might publish my views. In 1853, three years
afterwards, the English extended their influence,
and took possession of Ruatan. Cass, in the Senate,
began to get frightened. All that I had predicted
had come to pass. Cass made a speech denouncing
Clayton and the treaty. This was occurring about
the time when Clayton retired from the office of
Secretary of State. Soule entered into the discus
sion, and in the course of their speeches, both he
and Cass, forgetting that the injunction of secrecy
had not been removed, quoted what had occurred
during the secret session of 1850, or thereabouts.
Nobody interrupted them, and I thought now is the
time to get my speech and my views before the
public, so I went to a Senator and said to him,
" Look here, Soule and Cass are quoting what occur
red in secret session ; suppose you move the Senate
to go into secret session, and have the injunction
removed, so that they can do so." The Senator
started up, mischievously ; Soule apologized, said he


was not aware that the injunction had not been re
moved; the Senate went into secret session, and the
injunction was removed.

Clayton retired from the office of Secretary of
State, went back to Delaware, and said Cass had
been abusing and slandering him, and that it was
necessary for him to reply, in order to vindicate
himself, promising to annihilate Cass. He was re-
elected to the Senate, and could have annihilated
Cass, for the latter had taken the wrong ground,
and Clayton was very powerful in debate.

Cass vanished, said his wife was sick, and that
he had to go home to Detroit. Clayton came on
ready with a speech, which would have just fitted
Cass, and asked where he was. He was told Cass's
wife was sick, and that he had gone home, and
then turning to me, said, " No matter, what he had
to say could equally be addressed to me as Cass's
follower." When Clayton got through, I made my
speech, which used him up. I stated all that I had
previously said in the secret session, when the treaty
was ratified, and a good deal more. The speech
made a great impression upon the country, and
gained me great fame and reputation, and the
treaty has been odious ever since.


THE first idea of a railroad to the Pacific origi
nated more than twenty years ago, and the first
demonstration, that I am aware of in favor of the
project was in a public meeting at Dubuque, Iowa,
about 1838. A man by the name of Eli Whitney
some fifteen years ago petitioned Congress to make
a grant of one hundred millions of acres of land to
him, to enable him to construct a railroad to the
Pacific, and offered, as security for the faithful appli
cation of the lands to that object, the pledge of his
honor, he being a broken-down merchant at the
time, and having no means of support, and he
now keeps a dairy farm near this city. His
application was renewed for several sessions, and
was backed by a large number of speculators in
and out of Congress, but it received very little

The measure was more seriously entertained


after the acquisition of New Mexico and California,
and the settlement of the northern boundary of
Oregon, and the organization of the Oregon Terri
tory. As early as 1845, Mr. Douglas proposed a
grant of alternate sections of land to the States of
Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa, to aid in the con
struction of a railroad from Lake Erie, via Chicago
and Rock Island, to the Missouri River, and pre
pared a bill to organize the Territory of Nebraska,
extending from the Missouri River to the summit
of the Rocky Mountains, and the Territory of Ore
gon, to extend from the same summit to the Pacific
Ocean, and to reserve to each of said Territories the
alternate sections of land for forty miles on each
side of a line of railroad, from such point on the
Missouri River as the road from Lake Erie should
cross the same, and thence to the navigable waters
of the Pacific, in the Territory of Oregon, or on the
Bay of San Francisco, in the event that California
should l>e annexed in time. Not that this annexa
tion was then improbable, but -this was inserted to
attract public attention to the subject. With a
view of calling public attention to the importance
of this road, Mr. Douglas issued an address to the
people of Illinois, in support of the measure, which
was widely circulated throughout the country.


Since the admission of California into the Union
in 1850, a project for a Pacific Railroad has been
introduced into both Houses of Congress at each
session, and has been favorably reported upon by a
select committee in each House. The main pro
visions of these bills were, that Congress should
make an appropriation of lands, varying in the dif
ferent bills from fifteen to forty sections per mile,
from the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean, and
then providing that the President of the United
States should receive sealed proposals from contract
ors for the construction of the road ; the contract
ors to construct the road at their own expense, and
to own it as their property, when constructed ; and
that the United States would make a donation of
the lands to be conveyed to the company so far and
so fast as the road should be completed through the
same ; and that the United States would make a con
tract in advance for the transportation of the United
States mails, army and navy supplies, and all other
freights for the use of the Government at fair prices
to be determined by the bids. These bids were to
be received on the following points : first, within
how short a time will the contractors complete the
road ? second, at what rate per annum will the con
tractors carry the mails and other Government


freight, for a period of twenty years, from the com
pletion of the road ? When all the bids were re
ceived, it was made the duty of the President, in
the presence of his Cabinet, and such other persons
as chose to be present, to open the bids and assign
the contract to those contractors whose bids should
be most favorable to the interests of the United
States, having in view the shortness of time within
which they would construct the road, and the cheap
ness of transportation upon it. The last bill reported
to the Senate also proposed that the United States
should loan to the contractors their five per cent,
bonds to the amount of twelve thousand five hundred
dollars per mile, for each mile of the road, which
was to be repaid to the United States in mail and
other Government service upon the road.

During the Presidential canvass of 1856, the
Democratic party pledged itself, by a resolution of
the Cincinnati Convention, to support a Pacific
Railroad ; and the Republican party, by a resolution
of their National Convention at Philadelphia, gave
a similar pledge ; and during the canvass, each of
the Presidential candidates, Buchanan, Fremont,
and Fillmore, wrote letters advocating the measure.
But notwithstanding these pledges by all the par
ties and all the candidates, the friends of the rneas-


ure have never been able to get a majority vote in
its favor in either House of Congress. I doubt
whether there has been a majority for the measure ;
not a majority in fact, only a professing majority.
They are divided on routes and plans.

Can a great work like this go in advance of the
growth and settlement of the country ?

No, it will hardly be executed in advance of the
growth and settlement of the country,






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Book Slip-35w-7,'62(D296s4)458

Douglas , S.A.

Brief treatise upon
constitutional and party
and the

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Online LibraryStephen Arnold DouglasA brief treatise upon constitutional and party questions and the history of political parties, as I received it orally from the late Senator Stephen A. Douglas → online text (page 11 of 11)