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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 75 of 162)
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who were competitors for the profits of the
trade. England imported every year four hun-
dred and fifty thousand chests of tea, while we
imported two hundred thousand, besides mus-
lins and silks and other commodities of great
value. In this gainful traffic, England regarded
us as a rival Power, and she was by no means
disposed to give it up. The coast of Oregon
fronted that of China, and presented great
facilities for carrying on this important branch
of our commerce. Fully to avail ourselves,
however, of these advantages, we ought to
connect Oregon with the State of Missouri by
the construction of a railroad. This was not
so wild and visionary a scheme as at the first
view some gentlemen might be disposed to
consider it. Let them reflect that it was but
fifteen years since Mr. Husiiisson had lost his
life between Liverpool and Manchester, in an
experimental trip over the first railroad ever
constructed in England. And what was she
doing in that system now ? And then look on
the continent, and see one continuous line of
railroad, extending twenty-seven hundred miles,
entirely across Europe, from Odessa to Bremen,
while another line extended from the Adriatic
for near a thousand miles. And yet gentlemen
stood here and looked aghast when any one
spoke of a railroad across our continent, as if it
were sometliing wondrous and altogether un-
heard-of before. Should such a road be con-
structed, it would become the great highway
of the world ; we should before long monop-
olize the trade of the eastern coasts of Asia.
At present, the sliortest possible voyage from
London to Canton occupies seventy days ; but,
by such a railroad, a traveller might pass from
London to Canton in forty days. There was
no wildness, no extravagance in the idea ; but
it was a matter of sober sense and plain calcu-
lation. What a magnificent idea did it present
to the mind, and who could calculate the re-
sults to which it would lead ? With a route so
short and so direct as this, might we not reason-
ably hope, in a great measure, to command
both the trade and the travel of the world?
Engrafted on this plan, and as its natural ad-
junct, was the extension of a magnetic tele-
graph, which should follow the course of the
road ; unite the t\vo, and where was the imagi-
nation wliioh could grasp the consequences ?

In either of the views he had presented it
was impossible that the importance of Oregon
could be overlooked. He trusted it would be
realized by all, and he hoped to see a mail line
at all events, established across the mountains.
England had been engaged in an experiment
in ascertaining what was the shortest overland
route tliroiigh Germany to the East Indies, and
he believed she had ascertained how it could
best be accomplished ; but if we constructed
this railroad, she would then be dependent on
us for the shortest and most direct route to
China and her East India possessions. 'Was
not the language of Berkeley in the progress
of fulfilment, when he wrote that immortal
line —

*' Westward the star of empire holds his way" ?

When Oregon should be fully in our possession,
when we should have established a profitable
trade with China through her ports, when onr
sails traversed the Pacific as they now crossed
the Atlantic, and all the countless consequences
of such a state of things began to flow in upon
us, then would be fulfilled that vision which
had wrapt and fiUed the mind of Nunez as he
gazed over the placid waves of the Pacific.

Mr. H. had many facts bearing on this
subject which he should be glad to state ; but
his hour was fast elapsing, and he must reserve
them for another opportunity.

He would now address himself to the moral
aspect of this great question. Gentlemen had
talked much and talked eloquently about the
horrors of war. He should regret the necessity
of a war, he should deplore its dreadful scenes;
but if the possession of Oregon should give us
a territory opening upon the nation prospects
as he now described, and if for the simple
exercise of our right in taking possession of
it Great Britain should wage upon us an un-
just war, the regret which every one must feel
would at least have much to counterbalance it.
[Mr. H. here quoted an eloquent passage from
a British writer on the open prospects of the
United States, which the reporter wishes he
was here to give.]

Mr. H. dwelt upon the august conception
there finely imbodied, and expressed his trust
in God that it might at no distant time become
a reality. He trusted that the world might yet
see our people living, not indeed under the " laws
of Alfred," but under a great improvement of
those laws, as he also trusted they would ever
be heard to speak the " language of Shak-
speare." Above all, was it his prayer, that as
long as our posterity should continue to inliabit
these hills and valleys, they might be found
living under the sacred institutions of Chris-
tianity. Put these things together, and what
a picture did they present to the mental eye!
Civilization and intelligence had started in the
East ; they had travelled, and were still travel-
liog, westward ; but when they should have
completed the circuit of the earth, and reached
the extremest verge of the Pacific shores—



it Sess.]


[jAKUAIiT, 1846.

■hen they had realized the fable of the ancients,
nd the bright sun of truth and knowledge
lould have dipped his wheels in the western
fave — then might we enjoy the subhme destiny
f returning these blessings to their ancient
jat ; then might it be ours to give the price-
iss benefit of our free institutions, and the
ure and healthful light of Christianity, back
3 the dark family which had so long lost both
rath and freedom ; then might happy America,
rhile with one hand she pointed to the Polyne-
ian Isles rejoicing in the late recovered treasure
f revealed truth, with the other present the
Jible to the Chinese. It was our duty to do it.
le trusted we would esteem it as much our
lonor as our duty. Let us not, like certain
kitish missionaries, give them the Bible in one
land and opium in the other, but bless them
)Dly with the pure word of truth. He trusted
he day was not far distant : soon, soon might
ts dawn arise, to shed upon the farthest and
,he most benighted of nations the splendors of
Dore than a tropical sun.

Mr. Jacob Thompson rose to make an inquiry
)f the Chair. The 27th rule declared that

"After one hour shall have been devoted to ro-
)Orts from committees and resolutions, it shall be
n order, pending the consideration or discussion
;hereof, to entertain a motion that tlie House do
jow proceed to dispose of the business on the
Speaker's table, and to the orders of the day."

Now, he had called the attention of the Chair
to the rule for this purpose : He wished to
know how it was that this question now took
up more than the morning hour ?

The Speaker said, that the subject had been
brought yesterday before the House, under a
suspension of the rules. If it had come up in
the ordinary course of reports from committees
itwoidd not have been competent for the House
to discuss the subject beyond the morning
hoar; but inasmuch as it came in under a sus-
pension of the rules, the Speaker 'could not
arrest the discussion until the matter was dis-
posed of

Mr. Thompson : I make an appeal, then, to
all sides of the House, to allow this report, by
tinanimous consent, to be referred to the Com-
mittee of the Whole on the state of the Union,
where the discussion can be continued. By
this means the committees may be called for
reports during the morning hour ; the regular
business of the House can proceed ; and the
discussion on the resolution (wliicli I have no
doubt will he continued for several days) can
go on after the expiration of that hour. I
liojie that this proposition will receive the
favorable consideration of the House.

The Speaker said he believed a division of
the question had just been demanded.

It was accordingly ordered.

And no objection manifesting itself —
, Tlie question on the first branch of the mo-
tion of Mr. C. J. Ingersoll was taken, and
beiug decided in the affirmative —

The joint resolution of the Committee on
Foreign Affairs was referred to the Committee
of the Whole on the state of the Union.

And, on the second branch of the motion —
to wit : on making the resolution the special
order for the first Monday in February — the
yeas and nays were ordered.

The question was then taken, and resulted —
yeas 100, nays 87.

So, two-thirds not voting therefor, the House
decided that the resolution sliould mo* be made the
special order for the first Monday in February.

Mr. Price thereupon withdrew the amend-
ment he had submitted, to make the resolution
the special order for to-morrow.

Wednesdat, January 7.
Washington National Monument.

Mr. Holmes rose, as he said, not to mingle
at all in this grave conflict of mind, or this al-
tercation of wits, buttooifer a resolution which
must now be oflfered to be available ; and which,
amidst all the strife and confusion in which
they were involved, would come gratefully over
the heart of every member of this House. He
held in his hand a resolution to authorize a
committee of the Washington National Monu-
ment Society, in conjunction with the President
of the United States, to fix upon a site to erect,
upon the 22d of February, a monument to the
Father of his Country. It was known that
already, by a grateful country, a large sum had
been raised for that purpose. They were now
about to carry this project into execution ; and
he trusted that, amid all this strife of party,
there would be one unanimous pulsation of
gratitude towards General Washington.

Mr. H. sent up the resolution to the Clerk's
table, where it was read, as follows :

Resolved by the Senate and House of liepresen-
taihes of the United Slates of America, in C'on-
r/ress assembled, That the ^Vashington National
Monument Society be, and it is hereby authorized
to erect the proposed monument to the memory
of George Washington upon such portion of the
public grounds or reservations within the city of
Washington, not otherwise occupied, as shall be
selected and designated by the President of the
United States and the Board of Managers of said
society, as a suitable site on which to erect the said
monument, and for the necessary protection thereof.

The resolution was read a second time by its
title, and (by general consent) was read a third
time, and passed.


On motion of Mr. Yaxcet, the House re-
solved itself into a Committee of tlje Whole on
the state of the Union, (Mr. Tibbatts, ot Ken-
tucky, in the chair,) and rosuraed the consider-
ation of the joint resolution providing for the
twelve months' notice of the termination of the
convention of I'^iY.

Mr C. J. Ingkrsoll wished to correct an
error in the resolution. The resolution was



JAH0ARY, 184:6.]


[29th Cong,

now drawn so as to leave it extremely doubtful
whether the notice would not be given for two
years. He wished to correct it by striking out
all after the words " shall be annulled and abro-
gated," and inserting, in lieu thereof, " at the
expiration of the term of twelve months from
and after said notice shall be given, conformably
to the second article of the said convention of
the 6th August, 1827."

Mr. I. moved to amend the resolution accord-

Mr. HiLLiAED now moved the amendment
which he had previously indicated, as fol-
lows :

Strike out the words " forthwith cause notice
to be given," and insert, " be empowered when-
ever, in his judgment, the public welfare may
require it, to give notice."

Mr. Yancey said —

Mr. Chairman : Events of no ordinary mag-
nitude have been rapidly thickening the path
of our progress as a nation. But yesterday, a
magnificent empire, fruitful in all the elements
of moral, political, and commercial greatness,
obtained peaceful ingress within the pale of our
liberties, and a full fruition of our laws and in-
stitutions. But yesterday, and the representa-
tives of a land, which had long been the El
Dorado of Spanish hopes in the palmy days of
that once splendid monarchy, took their seats
in the councils of the Federal Union. Around
me I see the representatives of several sover-
eign States — of States carved from a territory
capable of furnishing to the Union as many
more — a territory which is drained by the
mightiest rivers of the earth, whose sources,
in the beautiful and striking phraseology of
another upon another occasion, are amidst per-
petual snows, but whose outlets are amidst
perennial flowers.

This magnificent picture, sir, is but a group-
ing of the results of peace — of a peace honorably
formed, and honorably kept, with the whole
world — of a peace which is shedding its radiant
influences, and pouring from its "horn of
plenty " its choicest blessings upon institutions
framed to receive them, and over a people
capable, I trust, of appreciating them. It has
been a peace which has enabled our commerce
to explore every sea in search of their treasures,
and our flag to become known to the world as
that of a people whose dominions are extended
by civilization and by reason, and not by arms
and by blood. It has been to us a period of
repose, during which our canvas has been un-
folding and spreading its snowy sheets over
every wave, quietly but efllectually, driving Eng-
land from her commercial supremacy on the
deep. Under its benign and inspiring influences
the energies and intellect of onr people have
been directed iuto channels in which they have
developed many of the hitherto hidden and
mysterious powers of nature, and made tliem
subservient to the great interests of humanity ;
and, as a part of tljese results, we can now see
the magnificent ship, with every sail furled.

moving with silent and terrible majesty into
the very teeth of the wind, as if propelled alone
by the unseen and submerged hand of Neptune
and dashing opposing waves in angry spray
from her prow, while intelligence is spreading
from city to city upon the wings of the light-

It has been a peace, which, as if to laugh to
scorn the bounties of war, has given to us terri-
tory after territory, more magnificent in do-
main, and more pregnant with national gran-
deur, than any that the blood-dripping eagles
of imperial Kome ever flew over in their con-
quering and devastating career.

Yet, though such are the fruits of such a
policy, I see around me crowds of American
statesmen, yearning to break this mighty and
glorious spell ; whose hearts are panting for
war, whose hands itch to grasp the sword,
whose feet are raised to trample the olive-
branch, whose every impulse is to grapple with
England to decide by the terrible law of arms
a territorial right.

Sir, I respect, though I must disapprove of,
the feeling which animates the men of the West
on this question. Sympathy for their friends
in the far-off Oregon ; impatience — indignant
impatience, it may be — at any restraint which
England may have thrown in the way of a fuU
assertion of our rights there ; and a longing,
natural to brave hearts, to avenge the oppres-
sions which that haughty power may have
committed for centuries upon the nations of
the earth, are all, feelings which, however much
I may deem well calculated to cloud the judg-
ment upon a matter of such grave import, are
likewise well calculated to elicit a sympathetic
response from every American heart. Strong,
too, in all the elements of greatness and strength,
we may not fear a contest with any nation.

But we should be careful lest prcsperity and
continued success should blind us to conse-
quences — lest, in our pride, we do not fall. Sir,
it cannot be treason — it cannot be cowardly— it
cannot be unwise, for us calmly and dispas-
sionately to consider our true position in this
matter ; and I beg of our friends— of the West
in particular, (and surely a Southron may well
claim that sacred relationship to the sons of the
West,) that if some of us of the South are dis-
posed to put a curb on tliis hot impetuosity,
we shall not be deemed their enemies on this
great issue. Like them, I am for all of Ore-
gon. With them, I believe our title to it tolje
complete against the world. My only desire is,
that wa so regulate our movements as to be
able to secure it all. To do so is not without
great difliculty. On whichever side you turn,
that difficulty stares you in the face. To over-
come it requires moderation — calcidation as
well as firnmcss. Haste and impetuous valor
may lose us all, or give us but a part.

I desire to give a very brief review of the
manner in which we have become connected
Avith England in this matter. Asserting our
title as derived from discovery, exploi'ation, and



IsT Sess.]


settlement, we were confronted by England,
claiming, through a convention entered into
between her and Spain, and commonly called
the Nootka Sound convention, a right of jointly
occupying the country of Oregon, and therefore
apposing any exclusive possession in us. Un-
able to settle the difference satisfactorily and
amicably, on the 20th of October, 1818, both
parties agreed to a convention, which left the
title in abeyance, but gave to the citizens of
both countries the right of entering, trading,
fee, for the space of ten years.

Shortly afterwards, on the 22d of February,
1819, Spain ceded to the United States all her
rights to any territory on the Pacific coast,
Qorth of latitude forty-two degrees. We thus
became possessed of all the rights to the terri-
tory of Oregon, save such as Great Britain
might deduce from the Nootka Sound conven-
tion ; under which she only claims a right of
joint occupancy, expressly admitting, as I un-
derstand her, that she has no exclusive title to
one inch of the territory.

Two other attempts at settling this question
between us have failed. On the 6th of August,
1827, this joint convention was indefinitely
renewed — a provision being inserted, however,
that either party might terminate it, by giving
to the other twelve months' notice of the in-
tention to do so.

This convention, then, and its renewal, was
the result of a failure to reconcile the conflicting
claims of the two Governments in 1818, 1824,
and 1826. In 1818, Mr. Monroe, and in 1826,
Mr. Adams, offered, as a compromise, to give to
Great Britain the free navigation of the Co-
lumbia, and exclusive title to all of the terri-
tory north of forty-nine degrees of latitude. In
1824, Mr. Monroe also offered to give to Great
Britain all above the forty-ninth degree of north
latitude. Each of these very favorable, and, it
seems to me, conciliatory offers, was promptly
rejected by the English Government. After
the first rejection, if negotiation had then closed,
what would have been the result? Either we
would have had toyoj'ca England from her joint
occupancy,, or have ignominiously "abandoned "
our rights. To avoid such an issue, what did
Mr. Monroe do? He entered into a joint con-
Fention for ten years. I put it now to the
reason and candor of gentlemen, was not that
Doeasure a substitute for war ? or what is far
nore wretched and withering, if war was not
:o ensue, was it not a substitute for national
iisgrace ?

After the second prompt rejection of the
•esult of nine years' negotiation by England,
)ur Government again consents to an indefinite
■enewnl of the treaty — and why? For the
iame cause that induced its original formation
—to avoid the unpleasant alternative of an ap-
peal to arms ; for Great Britain positively, and
-hree times, had refused to yield a joint occu-
Jancy of that territory, and, of course, a failure
» renew the convention would have forced us
iither to drive her from it, or to abandon it to

[Jauuaky, 1846.

her ! I repeat, then, that this convention was
a substitute for war.

It is now proposed to give notice of our de-
sire to terminate this convention, or to substi-
tute results for these terms ; it is now proposed
that we annul this substitute for war, and to
use the sword to cut this " gordian knot,"
which twenty-eight years of negotiation have
been unable to untie — to do that which Mr.
Monroe, under precisely similar circumstances,
deemed it unwise to do in 1818 ; and which
Mr. Adams abstained from doing in 1827, under
far more favorable circumstances. I said, un-
der far more favorable circumstances ; for our
States were not then loaded down with those
enormous debts which the paper-money system
has since bequeathed to them as its dying le-
gacy, and our antagonist was not, as now, armed
to the teeth. It wiU be conceded, I believe,
by all, sir, that Great Britain has never — even
in the moment when placing her foot upon the
prostrate form of that mighty genius of war,
Napoleon — been as completely panoplied in all
the means of defensive and .of aggressive war
as she is now. At peace with all the world,
and having prepared the monarchies of Europe
for her movements — amongst whom it is well
said we have not a friend to whose arbitration
we dare trust this case — she has been husband-
ing her resources, recruiting on a large scale
her naval marine — has built an enormous steam-
fieet, and sent them round the world, in the
peaceful garb of mail-steamers, exploring the
coasts and harbors of other nations ; whilst,
too, she has been constantly augmenting her
already immense military resources.

The question arises, then. Are we prepared
for this issue of arms ? Alas ! sir, " in peace "
we have not " prepared for Avar." From the
very "West, which now seeks to involve the
country in its vicissitudes and horrors, has come
a long-continued opposition, as I am informed,
to any sucli increase of our gallant and glorious
navy as the wants of the country, it seems to
me, imperiously demand. Many of our ships
are rotting on the stocks, or lying idly in the
harbor ; and our officers, of course, jiermitted
to roam over the land, instead of the sea. Our
army is so small that even at this moment, as I
learn from the chairman of the Committee on
Military Affairs, there is not a single United
States soldier in the State of Alabama — none
to light a match, if a hostile force enters the
waters of Mobile Bay.

At this very time, too, when war's dread
horrors are laughed at by young members of
this House— full of courage, doubtless, but with
no experience — even now, when we are about
to dare old England to cross swords with us,
serious opposition is made to passing the bill
of your Military Committee providing for the
raising of a single regiment of riflemen !

Entirely unprepared, then, for such a terrible
conflict as that between ourselves and Great
Britain must inevitably be, will it be deemed
treasonable, dishonorable, or cowardly, in one



Jahuaey, 1846.]


[29Ta CoNo.

who here represents a portion of the people
"who are to he affected by it, to advise that
" discretion, that better part of valor," warns
us to avoid it, if it can be done with honor ?

But I am here met with the assertion that
this notice is a peace measure. Would that I
could beUeve so. But I cannot shut my eyes
to the contrary, written as with a pen of iron,
both on the notice itself, and on the facts at-
tending it. As yet I have listened in vain to
some half-a-dozen hour speeches in its favor,
for a single argument sliowing it to be such.
On the contrary, nearly every advocate of no-
tice being given, runs into enthusiasm in con-
templating the glories to be achieved in reveng-
ing the long unredressed injuries which England
has committed upon the world ! I will not
repeat my argument showing tliat the conven-
tion was adopted as a substitute for war, and
that therefore its termination involves war or
an abandonment of the claim of one or the
other nation. I will now show how it is viewed
by its supporters, peace advocates though they
are asserted to be.,

[After considering this point, Mr. Y. pro-
ceeded as follows :]

This notice, then, if given, would be a war
move. It is argued as such. Mr. Polk evi-
dently deems it as such. In itself, it is such a

What, then, is the object? I am told, to
obtain all of Oregon. I, too, go for all of Ore-
gon. I go for it up to 54:° 40'. I am desirous
of attaining that end in a way most consistent
with the interests and honor of the country,

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 75 of 162)