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Abridgment of the Debates of Congress, from 1789 to 1856. From Gales and Seatons' Annals of Congress; from their Register of debates; and from the official reported debates, by John C. Rives online

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Online LibraryUnited States. CongressAbridgment of the Debates of Congress, from 1789 to 1856. From Gales and Seatons' Annals of Congress; from their Register of debates; and from the official reported debates, by John C. Rives → online text (page 118 of 162)
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the blood of American citizens has been spilt
on our soil. This may be so. It may he true.
But in the same Message we are told that there
is a question of boundary between us and Mex-
ico, and an unsettled question ; and that the
Miuister was sent there from here for the pur-
pose of negotiating that very question. Well,
now, the President may mean, for aught I
know, that this question of debatable ground
does not exist where the army is at present
located. It is said, also, in the Message, that
there are certain proofs of action on the part
of this Government, tending to show that this
territory is ours. If I recollect right, it was
said that ports of entry had been established,
and an officer of the revenue appointed. If
that be so — if it were true that there was an
intention on the part of this Government, by
these acts, to spread its revenue laws in-
definitely over any thing which they might
call Texas, I, for one, misapprehended the
tenor of the act altogether. I never supposed
that any revenue system was to be established
on debatable ground. I never imagined that
the revenue laws of the United States were to
be extended indefinitely over a disputed terri-
tory, but that they were to be limited to that
portion of the country which was acknowledged
to be Texas. That was my idea of the act. I
may have entirely misapprehended it, but that
was the view taken of it by me.

Mr. Westcott said a port of entry is estab-
lished at Corpus Ohristi.

Mr. Davis. I was under the impression that
it was on the east side of the river, that it was
to be limited to undebatable ground, without
intending to advance any opinion in this stage
ofthe mattter. It is necessary that we proceed
to the examination of this subject with deliber-
ation and candor, as was so well expressed by
the gentleman from South Carolina, (Mr. Oal-
HODN.) For one, I enter on the examination
of this question without any previous prejudice
whatever, with an honest disposition to ascer-
tain the truth. But if it turns out that this
territory is debatable ground, a serious respon-
sibility rests somewhere, and presents the ques-
tion of war in a very different aspect from what
it would have possessed had the invasion been
made within the acknowledged limits of this
country. This is all I wish at present to say
on the subject.

Mr. Seviee. I have only one word to say in
reply : and that is, that whenever the day of
reckoning comes in regard to the action of the
Administration in ordering the army to the
Del Norte, I am ready to meet any opponent.
The Executive has done precisely what the
national interests required, and what the con-

stitution and laws justified. The President has
done his duty manfully. As to the constitu-
tionality of the procedure, I would only at
present revert to what was done under the late
administration, when my friend on the right
(Mr. Calhoun) was a member of it, with respect
to the sending of a fleet to Vera Wuz, and an
army into Texas, and that before we had passed
upon the admission of Texas into the Union.
But I shall not go into this subject now. I am
quite content with the declaration of the Sena-
tor, that he is willing to vote supplies to repel
an invasion of a territory which he says is not
our own.

Mr. J. M. Clatton said : The remarks of the
Senator from Arkansas (Mr. Seviee) render it
necessary for me to say something in reply.
The President of the United States has ordered
the army to take up a position on the left bank
of the Rio Grande ; and in obedience to instruc-
tions from the Executive, the general com-
manding has taken up a position in front of the
town of Matamoras. I understand, and there
is no disjiute about the fact, that the general
who established his camp there, has a battery
of eighteen-ponnders pointing at the town, and
that the Bio Grande has in fact been blockaded,
so as to exclude supplies from the Mexican
forces. It is well known that this was done
without consulting Congress ; it was done with-
out consulting the Senate of the United States,
and, so far as I understand, without even com-
municating the movements of the army to the
Committee on Military Affairs, or any other
committee of this body. Before I proceed fur-
ther, I wish to put one question to the chair-
man ofthe Committee on Military Affairs, (Mr.
Benton.) I desire to know whether, on any
former occasion during this session, any in-
formation has been received by that committee
from which he could form an opinion of the
motives or objects of the Executive in sending
an army to that place ? I desire to know if he
has any information of the object of sending
the troops thither? Is there any settlement
to be protected there ? I await a reply.

Mr. Benton answered that nothing more
was known to him, as chairman of the Com-
mittee on Military Affairs than was in the pos-
session of every other Senator. All the knowl-
edge he had on the subject was derived from
the documents before the Senate.

Mr. Clayton proceeded: There has been,
then, I presume, no communication. No com-
mittee is in possession of the views of the
Executive ; so that the Senate is not at all m
any way responsible for the conduct ot the
Executive, or for the moving of an army to
that point. Now, I say, so far as I understand
the subject-that I am impelled to make the
remark in consequence of the observations of
the Senator from Arkansas, (Mr. Seviee,)— that
the whole conduct of the Executive m this case
has been utterly unjustihable. If the acts of
the Executive do not amount to acts ol war,
they are acts which necessarily tended to pro-



AY, 1846.]

President's Message — Mexico.

[29iH Cong.

)ke war, and to bring on war, and that with-
it consulting Congress or the constitutional
Ivisers of the Executive of the United States.
3r that reason I take the occasion to say now
id at the time to which he refers, when the
scussion is to come oflF, I will repeat that I
indemn the conduct of the Executive. I do
)t see on what principle it can be shown that
.e President, without consulting Congress and
)taining its sanction for the procedure, had a
ght to send an army to take up a position,
here, as it must have been foreseen, the inev-
ible consequence would be war. But I will
)t go on with this debate. I think it out of
ace. My justification, however, will, I hope,
) found in the necessity of replying to the
marks of the Senator from Arkansas.
Mr. Sevier rejoined : One word of reply to
.e Senator from Delaware, and a very brief
ply indeed is all that is required. He seems
express some surprise that an army should
i sent to the Rio del Norte. I need not tell
m that the army of the United States is al-
ays moved from one point to another in the
nited States without asking Congress. We
ive a Commander-in-Chief, a Secretary of
'ar, and a President, who always decide on
e proper disposition of the army. We have
Imitted Texas into the Union. Its frontier
as threatened with invasion, and the Legis-
ture and Executive of the State called on our
d. Was it then necessary to pass an act of
Dngress before any portion of the army could
i sent on that service ? How would it have
!en with Delaware, his own State, or any
her State of the Union, in a similar case ?
'ould all aid have been refused till application
as made to Congress, and till it authorized the
der sending a portion of the army to defend
le frontier? And then the Senator may
■avely ask the chairman of the Committee on
ilitary Affairs, whether he had been called
1 and informed of the motives of the Execu-
te in so disposing of the army. I think when
y friend from Delaware looks at this matter
ith his accustomed calmness and ability, he
iU see less to find fault with than he now
ems to perceive. My own opinion always
IS been that the army is under the direction
' the President and Commander-in-Chief, and
be placed were they think proper. I have
iver known an act of Congress placing the
my anywhere.

Mr. J. M. Clayton. The Senator from Ar-
rasas has not addressed himself at all to the
lief point which I presented. I have no ofli-
al information as to whether any of the gen-
ala had any thing to do with the location of
e posts. I have nothing to do with that. I
) not suppose, however, that it will be found,
1 investigation, that the information of the
snator from Arkansas is correct.
Mr. Sevier. So I was told this morning.
at I did not mean to say that it was from an
Bcial sonrce.
Mr. Clayton. I rather think that it will be

found, when the matter is properly investigated
that the President informed them that it was
decided to take possession of the Rio Grande
and asked where the post should be located-
and that the point opposite Matamoras was
suggested, to which they may have assented.
But I doubt much whether the generals have
recommended in advance of the Executive any
position whatever on this river, or that they
even recommended that the left hank of it
should be occupied at all. But that is neither
here nor there. If they had, that does not ex-
onerate the President and his Administration
of the responsibility under which they labor.
The question is. Was it proper ? was it right ?
The honorable Senator from Arkansas said that
it was proper for the defence of the frontier of
Texas, and necessary for the defence of Texas.
Let us look at that for a moment. Was it ne-
cessary to take up a position on the left bank
of the Del Norte ? Was not the former posi-
tion at Corpus Christi quite sufficient? Why
was it necessary to cross the desert, and take
up a position immediately in front of the friendly
town of Matamoras? Why was it necessary
to take up that position, with the batteries
pointed against the town at a distance of not
more than five hundred yards from its envi-
rons ? It was an aggressive act ; an act which
the civilized world will so designate. It was
as much an act of aggression on our part as is
a man's pointing a pistol at another's breast.
But there is another matter to which I alluded,
and to which the Senator did not think proper
to pay any attention, and that is the blockade
of the river. The honorable Senator with, I
must be allowed to say, amusing naivete, en-
deavored to throw the responsibility of all this
on the officer in command of the army. Now
I am well persuaded that, whenever the facts
are fully developed, it will appear that General
Taylor has done nothing but what he was or-
dered to do ; that he will be fully justified by
the instructions which he received in every
part of his conduct. I protest against th the delay was
their own. Mr. C. should create none. He
was prepared to vote the supplies on the spot,
and -without an hour's delay ; but it was just
as impossible for him to vote for that preamble
as it was for him to plunge a dagger into his
own heart, and more so. He could not ; he
was not prepared to affirm that war existed be-
tween the United States and Mexico, and that
it existed by the act of that Government. How
could he affirm this, when he had no evidence
on which to affirm it ? How did he know that
the Government of Mexico would not disavow
what had been done? Was he to be called
upon to give a vote like this? It would be
impossible for him to utter it, consistently with
that sacred regard for truth in which he had
been educated.

He had no difficulty as to his course. His
mind was made up ; it was made up unalter-
ably ; he could neither vote affirmatively nor
negatively. He had no certain evidence to go
on. AVhether any one would go with him in
this course he did not know ; he had made no
inquiries, and he did not know that a single
friend would be found at his side. As to what
might be said on such a course, and all that
was called popularity, he did not care the snap
of his finger. If he could not stand and brave
so small a danger, he should be but little
worthy of what small amount of reputation he
might have earned. He could not agree to
make war on Mexico by making war on the
constitution ; and the Senate would make war
on the constitution by declaring war to exist
between the two Governments when no war
had been declared, and nothing had occurred
but a slight miUtary conflict between a portion
of two armies. Yet he was asked to affirm, in
the very face of the constitution, that a local
rencontre, not authorized by the act of either
Government, constituted a state of war be-
tween the Government of Mexico and the Gov-
ernment of the United States — to say that, by
a certain military movement of General Taylor
and General Arista, every citizen of the United
States was made the enemy of every man la
Mexico. It was monstrous. It stripped Con-
gress of the power of making war ; and, what
was more and worse, it gave that power to
every officer, nay, to every subaltern command-
ing a corporal's guard. Did gentlemen call
upon him to do this ? Did they expect he was
going to vote for a position so monstrous ? If
they forced the question upon him, he should
take his own course. If they wanted unanim-
ity, they could have it ; but if they chose to
proceed on their own petty party views, be it so. .

Mr. J. M. Clayton said that he was aa sin-



lAY, 1846.]

The MeMcan War.

[29th Cong.

erely interested in having speedy and united
otion on this bill as any gentlemen on the
ther side of the chamber possibly could be ;
nd be hoped they would suffer it to be pre-
ented in such a shape that all could vote for
;. What was desired by them, was equally de-
ired by Mr. 0. and his friends. All they wanted
^as an opportunity of voting supplies to the
Ixecutive without being called upon, at once,
nd without time even to read the documents,
3 declare that a state of war did exist. Why
ould not gentlemen so far accommodate them
s to postpone this question of war or no war,
□ d so modify their bill as to let gentlemen on
oth sides of the chamber give it a unanimous
ote ? Let the bill go to the Military Oom-
littee ; in five minutes they could report it
ack to the Senate with the requisite modifica-
ons. They were willing to sit till midnight
'necessary, and not rise till it was passed. They
'eve willing, ready, anxious to pass it.

The President had sent to the Senate a mass
f documents containing that evidence which
■as to be the basis of their action ; but these
ad not yet been printed, and Senators had no
pportunity to examine them. Was it justice
ther to them or to the President of the United
tates to call on them to pass the bill without
iren seeing what he had deemed it proper and
Bcessary to send them as the basis of their
3tion ! He had not asked the Senate to de-
de in haste like this. Had any gentlemen
!ad these documents? They could not, be-
luse they were yet in the hands of the printer,
.nd had the President desired the Senate to
;t as blind, without looking at one of the
ipers he had sent them ? No. Mr. 0. would
5 the Executive the justice to believe that,
ben he sent documentary evidence he meant

to be read ; and yet here were they asked to
joide without even a glance at it. Mr. C.
raid not say whether a state of war did or did
Dt exist. He desired to examine the evidence
ibmitted ; and so, he should suppose, must
rery member of the Committee on Foreign
elations desire. He would proceed as rapidly
i voting supplies as any other gentleman, be
3 who he might. Why would not gentlemen
iflfer the question to be decided as they did
jsterday ?

There was another objection to the bill,
hioh he wished to state, and which lie desired
I be duly weighed. Why this liot haste ?
hey had the day before them : why not take
le requisite time to deliberate on what they
ere doing? This bill appropriated ten mil-
3ns of dollars. Of this he did not complain ;
3 had not the slightest objection to it ; he was
iady to vote twenty millions, but it appeared
3J actionable to him because it stated no
lecific objects to which the money was to be
)plied. The appropriation was general, inde-
aite. The President was vested at once with
le absolute disposal of ten millions of dollars,
ithout declaring that so much was to be ap-
ied to the army, so much to the navy, so

rnuch for provisions, so much for transporta-
tion, &o. Mr. 0. held thfs not to be in con-
formity with the constitution. He appealed
to gentlemen of the Democracy to say whether
this was democratic. The Old Democratic
party made this one of the great principles of
their action. They insisted on specific ap-
propriations as one of the great distinctions of
democratic government. It was emphatically
recommended by Mr. Jeft'erson, and was one
of the watchwords of the party of which he
was the acknowledged head. Whosoever op-
posed it was at once set down as an enemy of
that party. And yet did any man ever behold
a more sweeping appropriation than this often
millions without a single specification? The
whole power of Congress over the subject was
here delegated in a single line to the President
of the United States. Were gentlemen wiUing
to do this? Were they not bound, by the
doctrines of their own party, as well as by the
Constitution of the United States, to render it
a little more specific ? To say so much shall
be applied to the building, so much to the
equipping, of vessels, so much for provisions,
so much for forage, so much for transportation, ■
&c. ? Was there one among the powers dele- ■
gated to Congress in the constitution which
Congress could transfer to the President, or to
any other individual body ? If it could dele- -
gate one of its powers, it might another ; and ^
might delegate them all away. The power to •
appropriate money was one of their peculiar ■
powers: could they give this to the President? ■
This was a subject which had been often and
elaborately discussed, and Mr. 0. had supposed 1
the question had long been settled. He was .
ready to vote the ten milhons, but he wished -
it divided under specific heads according to the i
Jeffersonian doctrine of political orthodoxy; j
otherwise, the Senate would be guilty of a :
gross departure from the constitution. r

Mr. C. again expressed his desire that the :
bill should be referred to the Committee on -
Military Affairs. By modifying it, as they were ■
prepared to do, they might secure unanimity j,
ill the vote of the Senate. And was not this ...
highly desirable? He did not know all the -^,
facts which ought to be placed before him in .^^
acting on so solemn a matter ; but he should j|
feel greatly relieved by a concurrent vote of aU .,|
his brother Senators. Let the Military Com- ^'^
mittee report it back to the Senate imme- (^
diately, (as he believed they were prepared to .,
do,) and Mr. C. and his friends would pledge .'^
themselves to sit here till midnight and pass ,
the bill. He moved that tlie bill be retunei ^
to the Committee on Military Atfairs.

Mr. Alleu said that, on behalf of theMili- >
tary Committee, he understood the chairman ,
to say that he was ready to report the bill back -^■
in its present shape. He asked the yeas and ^i
nays on the question to refer. ','

The question was now taken by yeas and ,^'
nays, and decided as follows : J

Yeas.— Messrs. Archer, Barrow, Berrien, Cal- ^^



The Mexican War.

[May, 1846

in, T. Clayton, JohnM. Clayton, Corwin, Critten-
1, Davis, Dayton, Evans, Huntington, Jarnagin,
Mson of Maryland, Johnson of Louisiana, Man-
n, Morehead, Simmons, Upham, and Wood-
dge— 20.
[(ats. — Messrs. Allen, Ashley, Atchison, Ather-

I Bagby, Benton, Breese, Bright, Cameron, Cass,
Iquitt, i)ix, Houston, Jcnness, Lewis, McDuffie,
les, Pennybaclier, Rusk, Semple, Sevier, Speight,
irgeon, Turney, Westoottj'and Yulee — 26.

So the Senate refused to refer.

Mr. CLATTOif asked Mr. Benton whether he

id meant to report these amendments, if the

II had been referred ?

Mr. Bentos replied, that the committee had
solved that they would act subordinately to
,e will of the Senate. If the Senate should
loide that war did actually exist, then they
lonld report in one way ; hut if the Senate
lould decide to give the President the means
)t to prosecute the war, but only to repel in-
isioD, then the committee would modify their
iport in another way, so as to provide for re-
Blling invasion instead of prosecuting the war.
Mr. J. M. Clayton said it seemed also that
16 committee could not close their eyes to
ttother fact, and that was, that the war came
'om the Government of Mexico. The com-
littee, however, had had tlie manuscripts he-
jre them. The Senate all knew how volumi-
ODS these were. Mr. C. presumed that the
omjnittee had read them ; and, if so, they
Mist have been very laborious indeed. But
fhat opportunity had Mr. 0. and the rest of
he Senate enjoyed of looking at these docu-
nents? The committee had enjoyed this — the
ieimte had not. He, for one, desired to have
lie same opportunity of forming a correct judg-
nent which the Senator from Ohio had had.
le had not had access to these papers. But
ihe committee asked him and his friends to go
t blindly, without looking at the evidence in
;he case. He must receive their inferences
torn that evidence as being infallibly correct,
ffow, he thought it was requiring rather too
mich to ask this.

Mr. 0. here again put the question to Mr.
BEMoif whether he intended to move the
imendtnents which he had read ? Mr. 0. pre-
ferred that he should do it; but, if not, he
iliould move them himself.

Mr, Benton declining —

Mr. J. M. Clayton proceeded to move the

The first amendment was to strike out the
preamble of the bill.

The Chair decided that the preamble was
"le last thing to be considered, and the motion
fas therefore not now in order.

Mr. Benton explained that the committee
tad proposed to strike out the preamble, not in
f'gard to the political question, but only in ref-
erence to the direction which the Senate had
Siven to that committee.

Mr. B. had received, in a Mexican paper, the
""Py of a proclamation made by the President

ad interim of the Mexican Eepublic, to his fel-
low-citizens on hearing of the advance of the
American troops to the banks of the Rio del
Norte. There was one paragraph in this mes-
sage, or proclamation, which referred directly
to the question how far the march of our army
was or was not an act of war ; and it went to show
the correctness of the doctrine, that there might
be hostilities without a state of war, as there
might be a state of war without actual hostili-
ties. The President ad interim stated in this
paper that " it was not his right, as such, by
his own act, to declare war ; but that the
august Mexican Congress would take into con-
sideration the state of conflict in which they
found themselves, and that a magnanimous and
suflTering people would not be attacked with
impunity ; but in the meanwhile, it might be
necessary to repel acts of hostility, and talce
the initiative in regard to the invaders, by
rolling back upon them the guilt of disturbing
the peace of the world ; that Mexico would not
submit to any hostile act committed by the
people or Government of the United States;
but that every such act would be met and re-
pulsed by all the power of the Piepublic." Mr.
B. had repeated this passage from a proclama-
tion from the present President of Mexico, with
a view to show that the door was open for an
adjustment of our difficulties ; and he thought
he could see, in the language of this officer,
that a peaceable adjustment of them might be
effected. So far as he could see from this dec-
laration, the Government ot Mexico seemed to
be willing and ready for such a result ; it
seemed to consider the hostilities as proceeding
from our troops only, and there appeared to be
an opinion that Mexico ought to adopt some
other preliminary measures before she drew
the sword.

Mr. J. M. Clayton said that he drew the
same inference from this paper Avith the gentle-
man from Missouri, that hostilities did not ne-
cessarily imply a state of war. In fact there
was no treatise on the law of nations which
did not definitively declare that the one might
exist without the other ; that letters of marque
and reprisal might be issued and acted upon,
and yet no state of war exist, unless they were
issued generally. Military measures of mere
defence did not constitute a war. But Mr. 0.
purposely abstained from entering into the
question whether war did or did not exist;
perhaps it did, but he was not willing to say so

Online LibraryUnited States. CongressAbridgment of the Debates of Congress, from 1789 to 1856. From Gales and Seatons' Annals of Congress; from their Register of debates; and from the official reported debates, by John C. Rives → online text (page 118 of 162)