William Ellery Channing.

The complete works of W.E. Channing: with an introduction online

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men. women, and children, raising the stan-
dard of war, and proposing to dismember a
mighty empire 1 It is very possible that
there are suburbs of London containing an
equal number of discontented people, who
suffer under and have reason to complain of
municipal or national injustice. And may
these fly to arms, set up for a nation, and
strive to break the unity of the British do-
minions? It should also be remembered that
the Texans were not only a drop of the bucket
compared with the Mexican population, bttt

that they were a decided minority in the par-
ticular State to which they belonged; so that
their revolt may be compared to the rising of
a county in Massachusetts or Virginia for the
purpose of establishing a separate sovereignty,
on the groimd of some real or imagined vio-
lation of right on the part of the Federal or
the State government. Still more, this little
knot of Texans were far from bemg unani-
mous as to the revolt. The older and
wealthier inhabitants favoured peace. " There
were great differences of opinion among the
colonists, and even violent party dissensions.
Many, who were in the quiet enjoyment of
their property, were opposed to all these
hostile movements. The first public declara-
tion of independence was adopted, not by
persons assuming to act in a representative
capacity, but by about ninety individuals^
all, except two, Americans, if we may judge
by their names, acting for themselves, and
recommending a similar course to their fel-
low-citizens. That declaration furnishes
proofs of the dissensions and jealousies of
which we have spoken. — It proves another
fact, that the ancient population of the pro-
vince was favourable to the new views of the
government of Mexico." In some letters
written by Colonel S. T. Austin, the founder
of the colony, in the year 1834, whilst im-
prisoned in Mexico on the charge of en-
couraging revolutionary movements in Texas,
we have some remarkable passages, shovring
the aversion of the sounder part of the popu-
lation to violent meastu-es. "I wish my
friends and all Texas to adopt and firmly
adhere to the motto and rule I have stated
in this letter. The rule is, to discountenance,
in the most unequivocal and efficient manner,
all persons who are in the habit of speaking
or writing hi violent or disrespectful terms of
the Mexican people or authorities. — I have
been led into so much difficulty, and Texas
has been so much jeopardized in its true and
permanent interests, by inflammatory men,
political fanatics, political adventurers, would-
be-great men, vain talkers, -and visionary
fools, that I begin to lose all confidence ex-
cept for those who seek their living between
the plough-handles ; and, alas for them I
they are too often sacrificed before they know
it— Tolerate no more violent measures, and
you will prosper, and obtain from the govern-
ment ^1 that reasonable men ought to ask
for."* It is very plain that, of this diminu-
tive colony, the more reasonable men, had
they not been overborne by the more violent,
would have averted the civil war. Such was
the number which set up for a nation !

I have no disposition to den^ that Texas
had grievances to justify complamt. In proof

• •• Histoiy of Texas,** p. «o, Aostl&'s Cotr ea po B denee,


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of this 1 need no doouments. That she was
not always wisely governed, that her rights
were not always respected, who can doubt?
What else could be expected? Mexico is
not wise. Mexico is not skilled in the science
of human rights. Her civilization is very
imperfect, as we and the Texans have always
known ; and a good government is one of
the slowest fruits of ciialiaation* In ^uth. a
good government exists nowhere. The errors
and vices of rulers entail evils on every state.
Especially in an extensive community, some
districts wiU always suffer from unwise,
partial, unjust legislation. If eveiy town or
county may start up into a sovereign state,
whenever it is wronged, society will be given
vp to perpetual convulsion, and history be
«De bloody record of revolt. The right of
insurrection is to be exercised most rarely,
fearfriUy, reluctantly, and only in cases of
fixed, pronounced, persevering oppression,
liom wnich no relief can be found but in
force. Nothing is easier than for any and
•very people to draw up a list of wrongs ;
nothing more ruinous than to rebel because
every claim is not treated with respect. The
United Stales did not throw off the British
yoke because every human right which
CQidd be detnonatrated by moral science was
not gcanted them, but because they were
denied the rights which their fathers had
vnjc^fed, and which had been secured to the
rest of the empire. They began with plead-
ing precedent They took their fijst stand
on ttne British constitution. They claimed
the rights of £ngliahmen. They set up the
case of peculiar oppression: and did not
•ppeal to arms until they had sought redress
jnr years, by patient and respectful remon-
•tcance; until they had ejibausted every
means of conciliation which wisdom could
devise or a juaC self-respect would allow.
Such was the code of national morality to
wfaidi our fathecs bowed; and in so doing
H^y acknowledged the sacredness of aUegi-
anoe, and manifested their deep conviction of
the fearful lesponsibility of subverting a
goveinment and of rupturing national ties.
A province, in estimating its grievances,
■bould have respect to the general condition
sf the countiy to which it belong. A colony,
emigrating from a highly civilued country,
has no right to expect m a less favoured state
tbe privilraes it has left behind. TheTexans
must have been insane if, on entering Mexico,
ttMy looked for an administration as fi an l t le ss
as that under which they had lived. They
might with equal reason have planted them-
selves in Russia, and then have imfurlsd the
Imnner of hidependeoce near the throne of
the Cmr, because denied the ijnmunities of
their native land.
Kttving jUhu ooniidered the grierEanoea of

the Tezans, I now proceed to consider the
real and great causes of the revolt. These
are matters of notoriety, so as to need no
minute exposition. The first great cause was
the unbounded, imprincipled spirit of land
speculation which so tempting a prize as
Texas easily kindled in multitudes in the
United States, where this mode of gambllog
is too common a vice. Large grants of land
in Texas were originally made to individuals,
chiefly citizens of our country, who, in many
cases, transferred their claims to joint-stock
companies in some of our cities. A quota-
tion will illustrate the nature of these grants,
and the frauds and speculations to whidi
they gave birth. "The nominal grantee is
called the empresario. He is considered, I7
the terms of the contract, merely as a trustee
0^ the government, having no title himseilf
to the land within the limits of his future
colony, except upon condition of settlii^
a number of families [within a given tiraej
The settlers themselves receive a title for
each family for a league square, upon the
express condition of settlement and cul-
tivation, and the payment of certain very
moderate charges within a hmited period.
It is believed that these conditions were, by
the colonization laws oi Mexico, the basis
of all the land-titles in Texas, together with
the further condition, that all right and title
should be forfeited if the grantee [or new
settler] should abandon the country, or sell
his land before having cultivated it An
inspection of the various maps of Texas
wiU show how numerous have been these
privileges conceded to various tmpraari^x.
The face of the province, from Nueces to
Red River, and from the Gulf to the moun-
tains, is nearly covered by them. It became
at last a matter of greedy speculation ; and
it is a notorious fact that many of the «98-
firesariost forgetting the contingent character
of their own rights to the soil, aiui the con-
ditions upon which theii; future colonists wete
to receive allotments of land, proceeded at
once to make out scrip, which has been
sold in the United States to an incalculabfe
amount. In addition to this, we are in-
formed, on the best authority, tbat the
manufacture of land-titles, havii^ no roun-
dation whatever, has been carried on as
a regular business. That frauds of dmse
different kinds have been practised on tile
QUiMdity and credulity of the people ci tbe
United States, is beyond doubt Had tftie
close of the present campaign been what
its opening seemed to portend, and tile
colonies been broken up, it would be »>
possible to calculate the losses whi<^ wqjSd
be sustained by those who have never SMn
the land which they have bought. Icfe
Bol hacarding too much to say, ^uit mflHom

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htLve been expended in the Southern and
South-western States."

Texas, indeed, has l)een regarded as a prey
for land speculators within its own boiders
and in the United States. To show the scale
on whidi this kind of phinder has been
carried on. it may be stated that the legis-
lature of Coahuila and Texas, in open viola-
tion of the laws of Mtsxico, were induced
"by a company of land speculators, never
distinctly known, to grant them, in con-
sideration of twenty thousand dollars, the
extent of four hundred square leagues of
the public land.* This transaction was dis-
avowed, and the grant annulled, by the Mex-
ican government, and led to Uie dispersion
of the legislature and the imprisonment of
the governor, Viesca. And yet this unau-
thorized and, perhaps, corrupt grant of
public lands formed the basis of new specu-
ktion and frauds. A new scrip was formed ;
send, according to the best information we
have been able to obtain, four hundred
teagues became, in the hands of speculators,
as many thousands. The extent of these
frauds is yet to be ascertained ; for such is
the blindness of cupidity, that anything which
looks fair on paper passes without scrutiny
for a land-title in Texas." The indignation
excited in the Mexican government by this
enormous grant, and the attempt to seize the
legislators who perpetrated it, were among
the immediate excitements to the revolt. In
consequence of these lawless proceedings,
great numbers in this country and Texas
have nominal titles to land, which can only
be substantiated by setting aside the authority
of the General Congress of Mexico, and are,
of consequence, directly and strongly inte-
rested in severing this province from the Mex-
ican confederacy. Texan independence can
alone legalize the mighty frauds of the land
speculator. Texas must be wrested from the
country to which she owes allegiance, that
her soil may pass into the hands of cheating
and cheated foreigners. We have here one
explanation of the zeal with which the Texan
cause was embraced in the United States.
From this country the great impulse has been
given to the Texan revolution ; and a prin-
cipal motive has been, the unappeasable
hunger for Texan^ land. An interest in that
soil, whether real or fictitious, has been spread
over our country. Thus "the generous zeal
for freedom," which has stirred and armed so
many of our citizens to fight for Texas, turns
out to be a passion for unrighteous spoil.

I proceed to another cause of the revolt ;
■od this was, the resolution to throw Texas
open to slave-holders and slaves. Mexico,
at the moment of throwing off the Spanish

* AMdieracco«tnys,4nkiipMt for 90,000 doUm.

yoke, gave a noble testimony of her loyalty to
free principles, by decreeing *' that no person
thereafter should be bom a slave or intro-
duced as such into the Mexican States ; that
all slaves then held should receive stipulated
wages, and be subject to no punishment but
on trial and judgment by the magistrate."
The subsequent acts of the government
carried out fully these constitutional provi-
sions. It is matter of deep grief and humili-
ation, that the emigrants from this cotmtry,
whilst boasting of superior civilization, re-
fused to second this honourable policy, in-
tended to set limits to one of the greatest
social evils. Slaves were brought into Texas
vrith their masters from the neighbouring
States of this country. One mode of evaf
ing the laws was, to introduce slaves under
formal indentures for long periods, in some
cases it is said for ninety-nine years. By a
decree of the State Legislature of Cocdiuila
and Texas, all indentures for a longer period
than ten years were annulled, and provision
was made for the freedom of children bom
during this apprenticeship. This settled, in-
vincible purpose of Mexico to exclude slavery
from her hmits, created as strong a purpose
to annihilate her authority in Texas. By this
prohibition, Texas was virtually shut against
emigration from the Southern and Western
portions of this country ; and it is well known
that the eyes of the South and West had for
some time been turned to this province, as a
new market for slaves, as a new field for slave
labour, and as a vast accession of political
power to the Slave-holding States. That
such views were prevalent, we know ; for,
nefarious as they are, they found their way
into the public prints. The project of dismem-
bering a neighbouring republic, that slave-
holders and slaves might overspread a region
which had been consecrated to a free popula-
tion, was discussed in newspapers as coolly as
if it were a matter of obvious right and un-
questionable humanity. A powerful interest
was thus created for severing from Mexico her
distant province. We have here a powerful
incitement to the Texan revolt, and another
explanation of the eagerness with which men
and money were thrown from the United
States into that region to cany on the war
of revolution.

I proceed to another circumstance which
helped to determine, or at least to hasten, the
insurrection ; and that was the disappointment
of the Texans in their efforts to obtain for
themselves an organization as a separate State.
Texas and Coahuila had hitherto formed a
single State. But the colonists, being a
minority in the joint legislature, found them-
selves thwarted in their plans. Impatient
ctf this 'restraint, and probably suffering at
times from a itnioa which gave the superi-

SS 9

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only to others, they prepared for themselves
a constitution, by which they were to be
erected into a separate State, neglecting in
their haste the forms prescribed by the Mexi-
can law. This instrument they forwarded to
the capital for the sanction of the General
Congress, by whom it was immediately re-
ject^. Its informality was a sufficient reason
for its finding no better reception; but the
omission of all provision to secure the coun-
try against slavery was a more serious ob-
stacle to its ratification. The irritation of the
Texans was great. Once invested with the
powers of a State, they would not have found
It difficult, in their remoteness from the capi-
tal, and in the unsettled state of the nation,
to manage their affairs in their own way. A
virtual independence might have been secured,
and the laws of Mexico evaded with impunity.
Their exasperation was increased by the im-
prisonment of the agent who had carried the
instrument to Mexico, and who had advised
them, in an intercepted letter, to take matters
into their own hands, or to organize a State
Government without authority from the
National Congress. Thus denied the privi-
lege of a separate State, and threatened with
new attempts on the part of the General
Government to enforce the laws, they felt
that the critical moment had arrived ; and,
looking abroad for help, resolved to take the
chances of a conflict with the crippled power
of Mexico.

Such were the chief excitements to the re-
volt. Undoubtedly, the Texans were insti-
gated by the idea of wrongs, as well as by
mercenary hopes. But had they vielded true
obedience to the country of which they had,
with their own free will, become a part ,* had
they submitted to the laws relating to the
revenue, to the sale of lands, and to slavery ;
the wrongs of which they complained might
never have been experienced, or might never
have been construed into a plea for insurrec-
tion. The great motives to revolt on which
I have insisted are so notorious, that it is
wonderful that any among us could be cheated
into sympathy with the Texan cause, as the
cause of freedom. Slavery and fraud lav at
its very foundation. It is notorious that land
speculators, slave-holders, and selfish adven-
turers were among the foremost to proclaim
and engage in the crusade for " Texan
liberties." From the hands of these we are
invited to receive a province, torn from a
country to which we have given pledges of
amity and peace. — In these remarks, I do
not, of course, intend to say that every in-
vader of Texas was carried thither by selfish
motives. Some, I doubt not, were impelled
by a generous interest in what bore the name
of liberty ; and more by that natural sym-
pathy which incites a man to take part with

his countrymen against a stranger, withodt
stopping to ask whether they are right or
wrong. But the motives which rallied the
great efficient majority round the standard of
Texas were such as have been exposed, and
should awaken any sendment but respect.

Having considered the motives of the revo-
lution, I proceed to inquire. How was it
accomplished ? The answer to this question
will show more fully the criminality of the
enterprise. The Texans, we have seen, were
a few thousands, as unfit for sovereignty as
one of our towns ; and, if left to themselTes,
must have utterly despaired of achieving m-
dependence. They looked abroad; and to
whom did they look ? To any foreign state?
To the government under which they had
formerly lived? No; their whole reliance
was placed on selfish individuals in a neigh-
bouring republic at peace with Mexico.
They looked wholly to private individuals, to
citizens of this country, to such among^ us as,
defying the laws of the land, and hungry for
sudden gain, should be lured by the scent of
this mighty prey, and should be ready to stain
their hands with blood for spoil. They held
out a country as a prize to the reckless, law-
less, daring, avaricious, and trusted to the
excitements of intoxicated imagination and
insatiable cupidity to supply them with part-
ners in their scheme of violence.

By whom has Texas been conquered ? By
the colonists ? By the hands which raised the
standard of revolt ? By foreign ^governments
espousing their cause? No; it has been
conquered by your and my countrymen, by
citizens of the United States, in violation il
our laws and of the laws of naticms. We.
we have filled the ranks which have wrested
Texas from Mexico. In the army of eight
hundred men who won the victory which
scattered the Mexican force, and made its
chief a prisoner, •' not more than fifty were
citizens of Texas having grievances erf" their
own to seek relief from on that field." The
Texans in this warfare are little more than a
name, a cover, under which selfish adren-
turers from another country have prosecuted
their work of plunder.

Some crimes, by their magnitude, have a
touch of the sublime; and to this dignity tbe
seizure of Texas by our citizens is entitled.
Modem times furnish no example of imfi-
vidual rapine on so grand a scale. It is
nothing less than the robbery of a r^lin.
The pirate seizes a ship. The colonists and
their coadjutors can satisfy themselves wiCk
nothing short of an empire. They have kit
their Anglo-Saxon ancestors behind tfaec^
Those barbarians conformed to the '"q^^ff
of their age, to the rude code of natiwm
time of thickest heathen darkness. TlM
invaded England imder thdr sovereigm^ ana

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with the sanction of the gloomy religion of
the North. But it is in a civilized age, and
amidst refinements of manners ; it is amidst
the lights of science and the teachings of
Christianity^ amidst expositions of the law of
nations and enforcements of the law of uni-
versal love, amidst institutions of religion,
learning, and hiunanity, that the robbery of
Texas has found its instruments. It is from
a free, well-ordered, enlightened Christian
country, that hordes have gone forth, in open
day, to perpetrate this mighty wrong.

Let me now ask, are the United States pre-
pared to receive from these hands the gift of
Texas? In annexing it to this country, shall
we not appropriate to ourselves the fruits of a
rapine which we ought to have suppressed ?
We certainly should shrink from a proposi-
tion to receive a piratical state into our con-
federacy. And of whom does Texas consist ?
Very much of our own citizens, who have
won a coimtry by waging war against a
foreign nation, to which we owed protection
against such assaults. Does it consist with
national honour, with national virtue, to re-
ceive to our embrace men who have prospered
by crimes which we were bound to reprobate
and repr^s?

Had this coimtry resisted with its whole
power the lawlessness of its citixens; had
these, notwithstanding such opposition, sue*
ceeded in extorting from Mexico a recognition
of independence ; and were their sovereignty
acknowledged b^ other nations; we should
stand acquitted, m the sight of the civilized
world, of participating in their crime, were
considerations of pohcy to determine us to
admit them into our Union. Unhappily, the
United States have not discharged the obli-
gations of a neutral state. They have suf-
fered, by a culpable negligence, the violation
of the Mexican territory by their citizens; and
if now, in the midst of the conflict, whilst
Mexico yet threatens to enforce her claims,
they should proceed to incorporate Texas
with themselves, they would involve them-
selves,-before all nations, in the whole infamy
of the revolt. The United States have not
been just to Mexico. Our citizens did not
steal singly, silently, in disguise, into that land.
Their purpose of dismembering Mexico, and
attaching her distant province to this country,
was not wrapped in roysteiy. It was pro-
claimed in our pubUc prints. Expeditions
were openly fitted out within our borders for
the Texan war. Troops were organized,
equipped, and marched for the scene c^
action. Advertisements for volunteers, to be
enrolled and conducted to Texas at the ex-
pense of that territory, were inserted in oiu:
newspapers. The government, indeed, issued
Its proclamation, forbidding these hostile pre-
pfuutlons; but this w^s a de^ letter. Mill*

tary companies, vrith officers and standards,
in defiance of proclamations, and in the face
of day, directed their steps to the revolted
province. We had, indeed, an army near
the frontiers of Mexico. Did it turn iMck
these invaders of a land with which we were
at peace ? On the contrary, did not its pre-
sence give confidence to the revolters ? After
this, what construction of our conduct shall
we force on the world, if we proceed, espe-
cially at this moment, to receive into our
Union the territory which, through our
neglect, has fallen a prey to a lawless inva-
sion? Are we wiUing to take our place
among robber-states? As a people, have we
no self-respect? Have we no reverence for
national moraUty? Have we no feeling of
responsibility to other nations, and to Him
by whom the fates of nations are disposed ?

II. Having unfolded the argument against
the annexation of Texas from the criminality
of the revolt, I proceed to a second very
solemn consideration, namely, that by this
act our country will enter on a career of en-
croachment, war, and crime, and will merit
and incur the punishment and woe of aggra-
vated wrong-doing. The seizure of Texas
will not stand alone. It will darken our
future history. It will be linked by an iron
necessity to long-continued deeds of rapine
and blood. Ages may not see the catas-
trophe of the tragedy, the first scene of which
we are so ready to enact. It is strange that
nations should be so much more rash than
individuals ; and this, in the face of experi-
ence, which has been teaching from the be-
ginning of society, that of all precipitate and
criminal deeds, those perpetrated by nations
are the most fruitful of misery.

Did this country know itself, or were it
disposed to profit by self-lcnowledge, it would
feel the necessity of laying an immediate
curb on its passion for extended territory.

Online LibraryWilliam Ellery ChanningThe complete works of W.E. Channing: with an introduction → online text (page 138 of 169)