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 3 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 3 of 11)
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jurisdiction, but under this clause ought to confine
themselves to such cases as are of that nature.

" To controversies between citizens of different States."

The Court has made a decision which it will be
obliged to reverse, namely, that a citizen of a Terri
tory is not a citizen of a State within the meaning
of this clause. But they have decided that within
the clause providing for uniform taxation he is a
citizen of a State ; that he is for taxation but not


for judicial purposes. They have got to reverse this

" The citizens of each State shall be entitled to all privileges
and immunities of citizens in the several States."

This clause is confined to civil rights, and does
not extend to political privileges. The word
"State" includes Territory.

" No person held to service or labor in one State, under the
laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of
any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service
or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to
whom such service or labor may be due."

This clause defines who may be slaves, what a
slave is, where he may exist as such, and by what
authority. In a State only and under the laws
thereof, and not under the Constitution of the
United States. By virtue of State authority, not
Federal. No person can be a slave under any other
circumstances. The word State includes Territory,
and every other political community recognized by
law, and existing under the Constitution of the
United States.

"New States maybe admitted by the Congress into this

" New States " means what are now called Ter-


ritories. According to present phraseology it would
read, " Territories may be admitted," in the same
sense in which Mr. Jefferson used it in his plan of
1784, and in which Mr. Madison used it in the
Convention, in his proposition of powers to be

The Dred Scott case decides that this is the only
clause of the Constitution which authorizes the en
largement of the boundaries of the United States,
and the acquisition of territory, for the purpose of
making new States. That the power to acquire,
includes the power to apply tile territory to the
purposes for which it was acquired, and to institute
governments for the inhabitants living therein, and
that these powers are all embraced within the clause
authorizing Congress to admit new States. That
this clause authorizes the acquisition of territory for
the purpose of making new States, which is not in
a condition at the time to be admitted into the
Union, but may be retained until it has the requi
site population, and is in a condition to be admitted.

The requisite population is not fixed by the
Constitution. The rule of Mr. Jefferson, in his plan
of 1784, was, that the population of the new State
to be admitted should be equal to that of the small
est of the original thirteen. The rule now gener-


ally considered correct is, that it should contain a
population equal to that requisite for members of
Congress under the existing ratio.

The first time that the doctrine was advanced,
that the right to acquire territory was included
within the power to admit new States, was in a
speech made by me on the annexation of Texas ; and
the first time the doctrine was advanced that the
power to establish territorial governments was like
wise so included, was in a report made by me as
chairman of the Committee on Territories, in Senate
of the United States, on the 12th day of March, 1856.
The general impression had previously been that the
power to institute territorial governments was in
cluded within the power " to dispose of and make
all needful rules and regulations respecting the ter
ritory or other property belonging to the United
States," which has been exploded by the Supreme
Court in the Dred Scott case, and the power traced
to the provision to admit new States. The Supreme
Court had previously recognized, or rather inti
mated, but not expressly decided, the latter princi
ple ; and some laughed at my report of 1856.

" The Congress shall have power to dispose of and make
all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or
other property belonging to the United States ; and nothing in


this Constitution shall be so construed as to prejudice any
claims of the United States, or of any particular State."

Tliis clause relates to property, and not to per
sons or communities. Its original form, as intro
duced by Mr. Madison in the Convention, was,
" Congress shall have power to dispose of the waste
and unappropriated lands of the United States."
It was referred, in this form, to the committee of
detail, to be revised and incorporated into the Con
stitution. The committee of detail changed " lands "
into "territory," and added "other property," so
that Congress should have the same power to dis
pose of the old ships, munitions of war, and every
other description of property belonging to the
United States, which was no longer needed for
public use. The committee also added the right to
make " needful rules and regulations," in order that
Congress might protect and regulate all such prop
erty until it was disposed of. The history of this
power clearly shows that it relates to property, and
not to persons or communities.

In the Dred Scott case, the Supreme Court say
that this clause was confined in its operation to the
territory which the United States then owned at the
time of the adoption of the Constitution, and has no
force in Florida, the Louisiana purchase, or the Mexi-


can or any other territory subsequently acquired.
This is clearly an error, for unless the clause is in
force in all the new Territories and States acquired
since the- adoption of the Constitution, Congress
would have no power to provide for the surveys and
sales of the public lands, or for the appointment of
land offices, t and the issuing of land patents, nor
could Congress authorize the sale of military sites
and other property not needed for public uses.



THE first foreign territory acquired by the
United States is known as the Louisiana Purchase.
It was purchased of France in 1803, and comprises
the whole country west of the Mississippi, as far as
the Eocky Mountains, and, taken in connection with
the explorations of Lewis and Clarke, was one of
the sources of our claim to Oregon.

When Mr. Jefferson instructed our ministers,
Monroe and Pinckney, to acquire from Napoleon,
then First Consul, a tract of country near the
mouth of the Mississippi Eiver, they were only
authorized to purchase that portion lying east of
the Mississippi Eiver, and known as the Island of
New Orleans, being bounded by the Gulf of Mexico,
the Mississippi, the Iberville Eiver, or Pass Man-



chac, as now called, and Lakes Ponchartrain and

"When our ministers made the proposition to
Napoleon, he refused to sell the Island of New Or
leans by itself, on any terms, but told them that they
could have the whole of the province of Louisiana.
They replied that their instructions limited them to
the country east of the Mississippi, as the United
States only desired the free navigation of that river,
and possession of one of its banks, in order to secure
that right. Napoleon persisted in his refusal to sell
a part, but insisted upon their taking the whole, and
it is said that he subsequently gave as a reason, that
England and the other European powers were form
ing a new combination against him, and that the
British navy were about to sail against Louisiana,
at a time when he had no means to prevent its cap
ture ; that he was reduced to the alternative of per
mitting that vast province to be captured by his
most formidable enemy, or to transfer it to the
United States upon whatever terms they would ac
cept it, adding, whatever nation held the Valley of
the Mississippi, would eventually be the most power
ful on earth, and that, consequently, he preferred
that a friendly nation should possess it, instead of
the national, implacable enemy of France.


Monroe and Pinckney took the responsibility of
making the treaty for the whole country, without
authority from the Government; and when it was
presented to Mr. Jefferson, he hesitated in accept
ing it, upon the ground that there was no authority
in the Constitution for the acquisition of foreign
territory ; and while he was willing to take the re
sponsibility of acquiring a small district, which was
necessary for the common defence, as well as the
navigation of the Mississippi, which was the channel
of commerce for at least one-half of the Eepublic, he
doubted whether he ought to accept a grant of such
gigantic proportions, which, when subdivided and
formed into States, would change the character of
the entire Confederacy. When he determined to
accept the provisions of the treaty, he still hesitated
whether he should not first submit the question to
the several States, in the form of a proposition to
t amend the Constitution for that purpose. At last he
gave his own consent to accept the treaty, and send
it to the Senate for ratification.

This acquisition of territory became a partisan
issue between the Federal and Eepublican parties
of that day the former opposing, and the latter
sustaining. The Senate ratified the treaty by the
constitutional majority, and Congress immediately


passed a law authorizing the President to accept
the possession of the territory, and to preserve order
therein, and protect the inhabitants in their rights
of person, property, and religion, until a regular ter
ritorial government should be established.

In 1805 so much of the Louisiana purchase as
is embraced within the present State of Louisiana,
was organized into a Territory, under the title and
style of the Territory of Orleans, and the provisions
of the Ordinance of 1787, for the government of the
territory northwest of the Ohio Eiver, with the ex
ception of the Sixth Article, prohibiting slavery,
were adopted as the basis of that government.
The residue of the purchase, including the present
States of Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, the greater part
of Minnesota, the Territories of Kansas and Nebraska,
and what is known as the Dakota country, was
formed into a separate Territory, under the name
of the Territory of Louisiana. In 1812 the Terri
tory of Orleans was admitted into the Union, under
the name of the State of Louisiana, and the name
of the Territory of Louisiana was changed to that
of Missouri.



In 1811 Congress in secret session passed an act,
in vague and doubtful terms, to authorize the Presi
dent of the United States, in certain contingencies,
to take possession of a district of country south of
the thirty-first parallel of latitude, and on the east
of the Mississippi and Iberville Rivers, having refer
ence to that portion of Alabama and Mississippi
which fronts on the Gulf of Mexico, and so much of
the State of Louisiana (I speak of the present State)
as was not included within the Louisiana purchase,
and which country was at the time not in the actual
possession of any civilized power, although claimed
by Spain as part of the Floridas, and upon which
several lawless communities were residing; some
deriving their titles from Spanish, and others from
English grants, made while England was in tempo
rary occupation of Florida, while the greater portion
of them held by no other title than actual posses

Under this act Mr. Madison fitted out an expe
dition on the Ohio River, which floated down the
Mississippi, and took possession of the country, part
of which was subsequently annexed to the State of


Louisiana, and the residue was incorporated into the
States of Mississippi and Alabama, by which those
States were extended to the Gulf.


In 1819 a treaty was made between the United
States and Spain for the acquisition of the Floridas,
which was ratified in this country the same year,
and rejected by Spain, but was subsequently recon
sidered and ratified by Spain in 1821, by which our
title to Florida takes effect from the date of the
treaty in 1819. Florida was immediately organized
into a Territory, and governed herself in that condi
tion until 1838, when she called a convention, framed
a Constitution, and applied for admission into the
Union. Congress took no notice of this application,
leaving Florida under the territorial government
until 1845, when the State was admitted under the
Constitution adopted in 1838.

In the treaty of 1819, for the acquisition of
Florida, was a provision establishing and defining
the boundaries between the Spanish Mexican prov
inces and the United States, by a line up the Sabine
River; thence due north to the Red River ; thence
up the Red River to a point where the one hundredth


degree of longitude, west from Greenwich, crossed
tlie same ; thence clue north on said meridian to the
Arkansas Eiver; thence up the Arkansas to its
source ; thence due north to the forty-second parallel
of latitude ; thence due west on said parallel to the
Pacific Ocean or South Sea thus ceding to Spain,
in part payment for Florida, the claim of the United
States, which had been previously supposed to be
valid, to the country between the Sabine and Eio
Grande, and which was afterwards formed into the
Eepublic of Texas.

By the resolutions of the Democratic National
Convention at Baltimore in 1844, when Mr. Polk
was nominated for the Presidency, the Democratic
party declared the ^-annexation of Texas, and the
re-occupation of Oregon, to be objects which they
intended to accomplish in the event of success.
Much comment and ridicule has been indulged in,
because of the BE-annexation and EE-occupation.
By the ^-annexation of Texas, reference was had to
the fact that it was originally embraced within the
French province of Louisiana, and consequently be
came the property of the United States, by virtue
of the treaty of 1803, by which that province was
acquired, and was subsequently ceded to Spain by
the Florida treaty of 1819. By the ^-occupation


of Oregon, reference was had to the first discovery
and navigation of the Columbia River, in or about
the year 1789, by Captain Grey, of Boston, with his
ship Columbia, and to the exploration of Lewis and
Clarke in the year 1805, and to the settlements and
establishments of John Jacob Astor and his asso
ciates, under the protection and authority of the
United States, in the years 1809, 1810, 1811, 1812,
and 1813.

During the war of 1812, a British ship-of-war
entered the Columbia River and captured Astoria,
hauled down the American flag, raised the British,
and named the post Fort George, and held exclu
sive possession of the country until after the treaty
of peace.

In 1818 a treaty was formed between the
United States and Great Britain in respect to
Oregon, by which it was agreed that the disputed
title and boundary to the country should remain in
abeyance, and that neither party would make any
permanent settlements or establishments within the
same during the period of the treaty, which was for
twenty years, and until abolished.

Notwithstanding the stipulations of this treaty,
the Hudson Bay Company kept up their settlements
throughout the valley of the Columbia, and estab-


lished new ones, under the protection of British
laws, and, in fact, held the actual occupation of the
country, with the exception of the Wilhamette Valley,
in which American settlements commenced forming
about 1832 or 1833, and gradually increased from
that period. The American Government did not
feel itself at liberty, under the existing stipulations
of the treaty, to extend the protection of our laws
over the American settlements ; and the American
citizens finding themselves without government or
protection, established a provisional government for
themselves, upon the principle of popular sover
eignty^ composed of executive, legislative, and judi
cial departments, after the model of our State
governments. The inhabitants lived peaceably and
prosperously under this provisional government,
maintaining order and preserving friendly relations
with the Indians, until the month of August, 1848,
when Congress organized the territorial government
of Oregon, notice having been previously given to
Great Britain for the termination of the treaty of
joint occupation, as it was usually called, but more
properly of ?i<m-occupation ; and a treaty of settle
ment and boundaries having been made in 1846
between Great Britain and the United States, by
which the forty-ninth parallel of latitude was made


the permanent boundary between the two countries,
Great Britain ceding all claims south, and the United
States all claims north of that line.

This was an exciting controversy in our domestic
politics. Polk had been pledged to fifty-four, forty.
I proposed to institute a territorial government for
Oregon without defining the boundaries or accept
ing any line; and as OUT settlements were agri
cultural^ and the British WVCQ fur-traders, we would
have squatted them out. Vancouver's Island, with
excellent harbors, well timbered, good soil and cli
mate, abounding in coal, and therefore an excellent
coal depot for us on the Pacific, and possessing an
area as large as that of Great Britain, was given up
by us. Polk, to avoid the ruin of the Democratic
party, precipitated the country into the Mexican
war, thus avoiding and distracting attention. The
British have organized that island, and the shores
opposite, into British Columbia, and the gold dis
covered there recently lies ten miles on the other
side of the line, and in the British territory. I had
prepared a bill, according to my plan, read it to Mr.
Polk, and he had assented to it, and it was about to
pass the Senate, when he and his whole cabinet came
down, and it was barely defeated on the ground that
it would bring on a war with Great Britain.


In 1852 Oregon Territory was divided by a line
commencing in the Pacific Ocean, and running up
the main channel of the Columbia River to a point
where the forty-sixth parallel of north latitude
crossed the same, above the Cascades ; thence due
east on said parallel to the summit of the Rocky
Mountains ; and all between that line and the British
possessions was organized into a territory under the
name of Washington Territory. In 1857 and 1858
the people of Oregon Territory called a convention,
under a law of their Legislature, and formed a State
government, embracing the west half of Oregon
Territory, and applied for admission into the Union,
and were admitted at the session of Congress in
1859 ; and at the same time the east half was added,
and incorporated within the Territory of Washing
ton, until Congress should otherwise provide.

After the election of Mr. Polk, in 1844, and be
fore his inauguration as President, Congress passed
a joint resolution, making propositions to the Re
public of Texas for her annexation to the United
States, with the condition that she should be admit
ted into the Union as one State, with the privilege
of forming not exceeding four other States, making
five in all, out of the said State of Texas ; and the

further condition that such of these States as should


be situated south of the line of thirty-six degrees
thirty minutes, known as the Missouri Compromise
line, should be admitted into the Union with or
without slavery, as each State should determine for
itself; and the State or States which should be formed
out of the State of Texas, north of said line, should
forever prohibit slavery. Texas agreed to these
propositions, and became annexed to the United
States in 1845 ; and in December of that year a law
was passed, declaring the State of Texas to be one
of the States of the Union, on an equal footing with
the original States.

The Republic of Mexico, still claiming Texas as
a portion of that Republic, to w r hich she had never
relinquished her title, considered and treated the
act of the United States, in annexing and taking
possession of Texas, as an act of war against that
Republic, and accordingly marched her armies
across the Rio Grande, within the limits of Texas,
for the purpose of reconquering and occupying the
country. In anticipation of this movement on the
part of Mexico, President Polk had ordered a de
tachment of the American army, under the com
mand of General Taylor, into the western portion
of Texas. General Taylor landed and established
his headquarters at Corpus Christi, near the mouth


of the fences River, which was by some considered
the western boundary of Texas, instead of the Rio
Gran de. After remaining some time (several months)
at Corpus Christi, General Taylor took up his line
of march for the Bio Grande, and established his
headquarters at Point Isabel, a few miles from that

On the 8th of May, 1846, the two armies came
in collision, the attack being made by the Mexicans
at Palo Alto, where they were defeated and routed ;
and the next day, May 9th, another battle was fought
and another victory won at Resaca de la Palnia, still
nearer to the Rio Grande. On the 13th of May, after
these battles had been fought, but before the fact
was known at Washington although information
had been received that the Mexicans had crossed the (
Rio Grande, and killed several Americans, who were
detached from the main army as scouting parties,
and were preparing with superior force to attack
the American army Congress passed a law with a
preamble, reciting, " whereas war exists by the acts
of Mexico," proceeded to appropriate men and
money for the vigorous prosecution of the war.

The war was sustained by the Democratic party
with almost entire unanimity, and was opposed bit
terly by a large portion of the Whigs, particularly


that section of the party which cherished anti-
slavery proclivities.

By the treaty of peace, February 2d, 1848, we
acquired the Mexican provinces of New Mexico and
California, and paid for them $15,000,000, three and
a quarter of which were to be applied by this Gov
ernment to the payment of such claims as should be
adjudged by a joint commission, and which citizens
of the United States might have against the Re
public of Mexico for previous wrongs. By this
treaty a new boundary was fixed between the
United States and Mexico, beginning at a point
north of the Rio Grande River, instead of the Sa-
bine, as had been previously fixed, and running up
the Rio Grande to El Paso, which was near the
thirty-second parallel of latitude, thence west to the
head of the Gila River, thence down the Gila to its
junction with the Colorado, thence in a direct line
to the Pacific, to a point two or three leagues south
of San Diego ; by which boundary Mexico surren
dered her claim to the whole of Texas, and ten de
grees of latitude, including California and New



IN 1819 the people of the Territory of Missouri
made application to Congress for permission to form
a State government, preparatory to admission into
the Union, with boundaries substantially the same
as those defining the present State of Missouri, the
variation consisting in the omission to include
within the proposed State the district since known
as the Platte country, which lay on the north
east side of the Missouri Eiver and west of the
limits of the State, and which, by an act of Con
gress in 1835 or 1836, was annexed and included
within the limits of the State, and now comprises
seven of its wealthiest counties. It was proposed
at the same time that Congress should grant au
thority to the people of Missouri to form a State
government ; also to organize the country between


the State of Louisiana and the proposed State

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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 3 of 11)