Abbildungen der Seite

in the discussion. My object (said he) is to vindicate our government and country from the aspersions and calumnies which have been cast upon them by several gentlemen in the course of this debate, in connection with the causes which have led to the existing war with Mexico. I prefer to meet and repel those charges at once, while they are fresh in our minds, and to demonstrate, so far as my feeble abilities will enable me to do so, that our government has not been in the wrong, and Mexico in the right, in the origin and progress of the pending controversy. The gentleman from Ohio has been so kind as to herald my expectant advent before my arrival, and to announce that I was about to follow him in the debate. I suppose he drew such an inference from the fact that I entered the hall while he was speaking, took a seat near him, and listened to his speech with the most respectful attention. He certainly had no other authority for the announcement. Acting on this supposition, he has addressed a large portion of his remarks to me, and invited a special answer from me to the main points of his argument, I propose to gratify him in this request; and while I shall speak with freedom and boldness of his positions and arguments, I shall endeavor to observe that courtesy toward him individually which is consistent with an appropriate reply to such an extraordinary speech. I commend the patriotism, if not the morality of the sentiment which he quoted at the beginning, and repeated several times during the course of his remarks : “I go for my country, right or wrong." I fear, however, that this sentiment, once so much applauded by our countrymen, is about to be brought into ridicule and contempt by the use which that gentleman and his coadjutors are now disposed to make of it. They tell us that they go for their country, right or wrong; but they insist that their country is and has been all the time in the wrong. They profess to support the war, but they vote against the law which recognizes its existence and provides the means—the money and the men-to expel a hostile army that has invaded our country and butchered our citizens. They profess great anxiety for the triumph of our arms, but they denounce the war—the cause in which our country is engaged-as

unholy, unrighteous, and damnable.”

Mr. J. W. Houston. Who made use of that expression? Was it any gentleman on this side of the house?

Mr. Douglas. Yes, sir. The gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Delano), who has just taken his seat, made use of the identical words, and repeated them several times, with great emphasis, in the course of his speech, while the great body of his political friends listened with the most profound respect, and gave every indication of approbation and encouragement by expressions, looks, and nods of assent. Even now I see the venerable gentleman from Massachusetts nodding his approval of the sentiment.

Mr. J. Q. Adams. Yes, sir, I endorse and approve every word and syllable of it.

Mr. Douglas. So I supposed, from the marked indications of approbation which that gentleman and his friends gave to all the attacks which have been made, during this discussion, upon the rights, interests, and honor of our country. He is more bold and less politic in the expression of his opinions.

They, after a little reflection, discover the expediency of concealment; but the lamentable fact is too palpable, that their feelings and sympathies are in perfect unison; since he has had the hardihood to avow the sentiment, I suppose they will consider its profanity and moral treason perfectly consistent with their professions of Christianity and patriotism. What reliance shall we place on the sincerity of gentlemen's professions, that they are for their country, right or wrong, when they exert all their power and influence to put their country in the wrong in the eyes of Christendom, and invoke the wrath of Heaven upon us for our manifold national crimes and aggres


sions ? With professions of patriotism on their lips, do they not show that their hearts are with the enemy? They appeal to the consciences and religious scruples of our countrymen to unite in execration of our government for supporting what they denounce as an unholy, unrighteous, and damnable

They predict that the vengeance of God will fall upon us; that sickness, and carnage, and death will be our portion; that defeat and disgrace will attend our arms. Is there not treason in the heart that can feel, and poison in the breath that can utter such sentiments against their own country, when forced to take up arms in self-defense, to repel the invasion of a brutal and perfidious foe? They for their country, right or wrong! who tell our people, if they rally under their country's standard, their bones will bleach on the plains of Mexico, and the enemy will look down from the mountain-top to behold the destruction of our armies by disease, and all those mysterious elements of death which divine Providence employs to punish a wicked people for prosecuting an unholy and unjust war! Sir, I tell these gentlemen it requires more charity than falls to the lot of frail man to believe that the expression of such sentiments is consistent with the sincerity of their professions—with patriotism, honor, and duty to their country. Patriotism emanates from the heart; it fills the soul ; inspires the whole man with a devotion to his country's cause, and speaks and acts the same language. America wants no friends, acknowledges the fidelity of no citizen who, after war is declared, condemns the justice of her cause and sympathizes with the enemy. All such are traitors in their hearts, and it only remains for them to commit some overt act for which they may be dealt with according to their deserts. The gentleman from Ohio has condemned the action of his own government, not only on account of the war and the causes which produced it, but has assailed with equal virulence all efforts to restore the amicable relations of the two countries by peaceable means. He has arraigned the administration for the appointment of Mr. Slidell as minister to Mexico on an errand of peace, and dwells with apparent delight and triumph on the fruitless results of the mission. He is dissatisfied with both peace and war, is willing to embrace neither alternative, and condemns all efforts to adjust the matters in dispute by either means. He thinks that nothing good can come out of Nazareth, and seems determined to find fault with his own government, whatever its policy. Not content with assailing the administration and all its movements, peaceful and belligerent, he has passed from the Del Norte to 50° 40' for the purpose of paying his respects to myself, in his own peculiar way. He has been pleased to represent me as standing on an iceberg, breathing defiance to the British lion, while abandoned by a portion of my own friends, upon whose support I had a right to rely with confidence. If this be true, it was a grievance personal to myself, which I had a right to avenge in my own way, without the interference of the gentleman from Ohio.

I will assure you that I have never been disappointed in an expectation that he would stand by me in any struggle for maintaining the rights and honor of the country, whether in reference to Texas or Oregon. In regard to that portion of my political friends to whom he alludes, I am free to confess that I did sincerely regret that they did not take the same view of our rights and duties in respect to the Oregon question which I entertained and fearlessly expressed. I made no disguise of my sentiments and feelings. Our disagreement on that question was open and unequivocal. I did condemn their refusal to take up their position on 54° 40', and stand there, regardless of consequences. My opinions have undergone no change in that respect. But it is due to them that I should now say that I never questioned their patriotism, nor doubted for a moment that, the instant war existed, they would rally as one man to their country's standard, merging and ef


facing the slightest trace of a previous difference of opinion. Patriots may differ as to the expediency of a declaration of war, or the wisdom of a course of policy which may probably lead to such a result, but honor and duty forbid divided counsels after our country has been invaded, and American blood has been shed on American soil by a treacherous foe. Party strife and political conflicts should then cease. One sentiment should animate every heart; one object control every movement—the triumph of our country. Mr. Chairman, if I could have anticipated the extraordinary turn which has been given to this discussion, I could have presented to the committee and the country a mass of evidence, from official documents, sufficient to show that, for years past, we have had ample cause of war against Mexico, independent of the recent bloody transactions upon the Rio del Norte. I could have presented a catalogue of aggressions and insults ; of outrages on our national flag-on the persons and property of our citizens; of the violation of treaty stipulations, and the murder, robbery, and imprisonment of our countrymen—the very recital of which would suffice to fill the national heart with indignation. Well do I recollect that General Jackson, during the last year of his administration, deemed the subject of sufficient importance at that time to send a special message to Congress, in which he declared, “The wanton character of some of the outrages upon the persons and property of our citizens, upon the officers and flag of the United States, independent of recent insults to this government and people by the late extraordinary Mexican minister, would justify, in the eyes of nations, immediate war.I have neither the time nor the documents before me to enable me to go into a recital of the details of these Mexican enormities. They were sufficient, however, in the opinion of General Jackson, to justify an immediate resort to

But her weakness and distracted condition softened our resentment, and induced us to endure her aggressions. It is characteristic of our country to be magnanimous where forbearance does not become pusillanimity or a gross dereliction of duty. I fear we carried our magnanimity too far in this instance. Certain it is that it produced no beneficial results; for at the very next session Mr. Van Buren was under the necessity of calling the attention of Congress to the subject, and adding to the old catalogue a long list of new grievances, asking for authority to issue letters of reprisal in case prompt satisfaction should not be made. I have in a book before me an extract from the report of the secretary of state (Mr. Forsyth) to the President, to which I will invite the attention of those who have not examined the subject:

“Since the last session of Congress an embargo has been laid on American vessels in the ports of Mexico. Although raised, no satisfaction has been made or offered for the resulting injuries. Our merchant vessels have been captured for disregarding a pretended blockade of Texas; vessels and cargoes, secretly proceeded against in Mexican tribunals, condemned and sold. The captains, crews, and passengers of the captured vessels have been imprisoned and plundered of their property; and, after enduring insults and injuries, have been released without remuneration or apology. For these acts no reparation has been promised or explanations given, although satisfaetion was, in general terms, demanded in July last."

Aside from the insults to our flag, the indignity to the nation, and the injury to our commerce, it is estimated that not less than ten millions of dollars are due to our citizens for these and many other outrages which Mexico has committed within the last fifteen years. When pressed by our government for adjustment and remuneration, she has resorted to all manner of expedients to procrastinate and delay. She has made treaties acknowledging the justice of our claims, and then refused to ratify them, on the most frivolous pretexts, and, even when ratified, has failed to comply with their stip

ulations. The Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate of the United States in 1837 made a report upon the subject, in which they said, “If the government of the United States were to exact strict and prompt redress from Mexico, your committee might with justice recommend an immediate resort to war or reprisal.". The Committee on Foreign Affairs on the part of the House of Representatives, at the same session, say: “The merchant vessels of the United States have been fired into, her citizens attacked and even put to death, and her ships of war treated with disrespect when paying a friendly visit to a port where they had a right to expect hospitality;" and, in conclusion, the committee observe that “they fully concur with the President that ample cause exists for taking redress into their own hands, and believe we should be justified, in the opinion of other nations, for taking such a step." Such was the posture of our affairs with Mexico in 1837 and 1838, and the opinion of the several departments of our government in regard to the character and enormity of the outrages complained of. These transactions all occurred years before the question of the annexation of Texas was favorably entertained by our government. We had been the first to recognize the independence of Texas, as well as that of Mexico, before the national existence of either had been acknowledged by the parent country. In doing this we only exercised an undoubted right, according to the laws of nations, and our example was immediately followed by France, England, and all the principal powers of Europe. The question of the annexation of Texas to this country was not then seriously mooted. The proposition had been made by Texas, and promptly rejected by our government. Of course, there could be nothing growing out of that question which could have given the slightest cause of offense to Mexico, or can be urged in palliation of the monstrous outrages which for a long series of years previous she had been committing upon the rights, interests, and honor of our country. But our causes of complaint do not stop here. In 1842, Mr. Thompson, our minister to that country, felt himself called upon to issue an address to the diplomatic corps at Mexico, in which, after reciting our grievances, he said:

“Not only have we never done an act of an unfriendly character toward Mexico, but I confidently assert that, from the very moment of the existence of the republic, we have allowed to pass unimproved no opportunity of doing Mexico an act of kindness. I will not now enumerate the acts of that character, both to the government of Mexico and to the citizens, public and pri

If this government choose to forget them, I will not recall them. While such has been our course to Mexico, it is with pain I am forced to say that the open violation of the rights of American citizens by the authorities of Mexico have been greater for the last fifteen years than those of all the governments of Christendom united; and yet we have left the redress of all these multiplied and accumulated wrongs to friendly negotiation, without having ever intimated a disposition to resort to force."

It should be borne in mind that all these insults and injuries were committed before the annexation of Texas to the United States—before the proposition was ever seriously entertained by this government. Of course, the subsequent consummation of that measure can afford no pretext for these atrocities previously committed. The same system of plunder and outrage was pursued, only on a smaller scale, toward France and England. For offenses of the samec haracter, only less aggravated, and not one tenth as numerous, France made her demand for reparation, and proclaimed her ultimatum from the deck of a man-of-war off Vera Cruz. Redress being denied, the French fleet opened their batteries on the castle of San Juan de Ulloa, and compelled the fortress to surrender and the Mexican government to accede to their demands, and pay two hundred thousand dollars in addition, to defray the expenses of enforcing the payment of the claim. The


English government also presented claims for remuneration to her subjects for similar outrages. Wearied of the dilatory action of the Mexican Congress, the British minister presented his ultimatum, and, at the same time, informed the Mexican government that, in the event of non-compliance with the demand, he was instructed to inform the admiral of the Jamaica station of the fact, who had been instructed to act in that case, and employ force in compelling an acquiescence. The affair was speedily arranged to the satisfaction of the Briti government. Thus we find that remuneration and satisfaction were made to England and France for the same injuries of which we complain, where their subjects and our citizens were common sufferers. Still the wrongs of our citizens are unredressed, and the indignity to the honor and flag of the country unavenged. Our wrongs were ten-fold greater than theirs in number, enormity, and amount. Their complaints have been heard in tones of thunder from the mouths of their cannon, and have been adjusted according to the terms dictated by the injured parties. The forbearance of our government to enforce our rights by the same efficient measures which they employed has been considered as evidence of our imbecility, which gave impunity to the past and license to future aggressions. Hence we find that while Great Britain and France, by the energy and efficiency with which they enforced their rights, have commanded the respect of Mexico and re-established their amicable relations, the United States, by an illadvised magnanimity and forbearance toward a weak and imbecile neighbor, has forfeited her respect, and lost all the advantages of that friendly intercourse to which our natural position entitles us. Under the operation of these causes, our commerce with Mexico has dwindled down by degrees from nine millions of dollars per annum to a mere nominal sum, while that of France and England has steadily increased, until they have secured a monopoly of the trade and almost a controlling influence over the councils of that wretched country. Such was the relative position of Mexico toward the United States and other countries when the controversy in regard to the annexation of Texas arose. The first proposition for annexation had been promptly rejected-in my opinion very unwisely—from a false delicacy toward the feelings of Mexico. When the question was again agitated, she gave notice to this government that she would regard the consummation of the measure as a declaration of war. She made the passage of the resolution of annexation by the Congress of the United States the pretext for dissolving the diplomatic relations between the two countries. She peremptorily recalled her minister from Washington, and virtually dismissed ours from Mexico, permitting him, as in the case of all his predecessors, to be robbed by her banditti according to the usages of the country. This was followed by the withdrawal of the Mexican consuls from our sea-ports, and the suspension of all commercial intercourse. Our government submitted to these accumulated insults and injuries with patience and forbearance, still hoping for an adjustment of all our difficulties without being compelled to resort to actual hostilities. Impelled by this spirit of moderation, our government determined to waive all matters of etiquette, and make another effort to restore the amicable relations of the two countries by negotiation. An informal application was therefore made to the government of Mexico to know whether, in the event we should send a minister to that country, clothed with ample powers, she would not receive him with a view to a satisfactory adjustment. Having received an affirmative answer, Mr. Slidell was immediately appointed and sent to Mexico. Upon his arrival he presented his credentials and requested to be formally received. The government of Mexico at first hesitated, then procrastinated, and finally refused to receive him in his capacity of minister. Here, again, the forbearance of our government is most signally displayed. Instead of resenting this renewed insult by the chastisement

« ZurückWeiter »