« PreviousContinue »
THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES.
FREEDOM IN THE NEW TERRITORIES.
MARCH 11, 1850.
FOUR years ago, California, a Mexican province, scarcely inhabited and quite unexplored, was unknown even to our usually immoderate desires, except by a harbor, capacious and tranquil, which only statesmen then foresaw would be useful in the oriental commerce of a far distant, if not merely chimerical, future.
A year ago, California was a mere military dependency of our own, and we were celebrating with unanimity and enthusiasm its acquisition, with its newly-discovered but yet untold and untouched mineral wealth, as the most auspicious of many and unparalleled achievements.
To-day, California is a state, more populous than the least and richer than several of the greatest of our thirty states. This same California, thus rich and populous, is here asking admission into the Union, and finds us debating the dissolution of the Union itself.
No wonder if we are perplexed with ever-changing embarrassments! No wonder if we are appalled by ever-increasing responsibilities! No wonder if we are bewildered by the ever-augmenting magnitude and rapidity of national vicissitudes!
SHALL CALIFORNIA BE RECEIVED? For myself, upon my individual judgment and conscience, I answer, Yes. For myself, as an instructed representative of one of the states, of that one even of the states which is soonest and longest to be pressed in commercial
and political rivalry by the new commonweath, I answer, Yes. Let California come in. Every new state, whether she come from the east or from the west, every new state, coming from whatever part of the continent she may, is always welcome. But California, that comes from the clime where the west dies away into the rising 'east; California, that bounds at once the empire and the continent; California, the youthful queen of the Pacific, in her robes of freedom, gorgeously inlaid with gold-is doubly welcome.
And now I inquire, first, Why should California be rejected? All the objections are founded only in the circumstances of her coming, and in the organic law which she presents for our confirmation.
1st. California comes UNCEREMONIOUSLY, without a preliminary consent of Congress, and therefore by usurpation. This allegation, I think, is not quite true; at least, not quite true in spirit. California is here not of her own pure volition. We tore California and New Mexico violently from their places in the confederation of Mexican states, and stipulated, by the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, that the territories thus acquired should be admitted as states into the American Union as speedily as possible.
But the letter of the objection still holds. California does come without having obtained a preliminary consent of Congress to form a constitution. But Michigan and other states presented themselves in the same unauthorized way, and Congress waived the irregularity, and sanctioned the usurpation. California pleads these precedents. Is not the plea sufficient?
But it has been said by the honorable senator from South Carolina, [Mr. CALHOUN,] that the ordinance of 1787 secured to Michigan the right to become a state, when she should have sixty thousand inhabitants, and that, owing to some neglect, Congress delayed taking the census. This is said in palliation of the irregularity of Michigan. But California, as has been seen, had a treaty, and Congress, instead of giving previous consent, and instead of giving her the customary territorial government, as they did to Michigan, failed to do either, and thus practically refused both, and so abandoned the new community, under most unpropitious circumstances, to anarchy. California then made a constitution for herself, but not unnecessarily and presumptuously, as Michigan did. She made a constitution for herself, and she comes here under the law, the paramount law, of self-preservation.
In that she stands justified. Indeed, California is more than justified. She was a colony, a military colony. All colonies, especially military colonies, are incongruous with our political system, and they are equally open to corruption and exposed to oppression. They are, therefore, not more unfortunate in their own proper condition than fruitful of dangers to the parent democracy. California, then, acted wisely and well in establishing self-government. She deserves not rebuke, but praise and approbation. Nor does the objection come with a good grace from those who offer it. If California were now content to receive only a territorial charter, we could not agree to grant it without an inhibition of slavery, which, in that case, being a federal act, would render the attitude of California, as a territory, even more offensive to those who now repel her than she is as a state, with the same inhibition in the constitution of her own voluntary choice.
A second objection is, that California has assigned her own boundaries without the previous authority of Congress. But she was left to organize herself without any boundaries fixed by previous law or by prescription. She was obliged, therefore, to assume boundaries, since without boundaries she must have remained unorganized.
A third objection is, that California is too large.
I answer, first, there is no common standard of states. California, although greater than many, is less than one of the states.
Secondly. California, if too large, may be divided with her own consent, and a similar provision is all the security we have for reducing the magnitude and averting the preponderance of Texas.
Thirdly. The boundaries of California seem not at all unnatural. The territory circumscribed is altogether contiguous and compact. Fourthly. The boundaries are convenient. They embrace only inhabited portions of the country, commercially connected with the port of San Francisco. No one has pretended to offer boundaries more in harmony with the physical outlines of the region concerned, or more convenient for civil administration.
But to draw closer to the question, What shall be the boundaries of a new state? concerns
First. The state herself; and California, of course, is content.
Secondly. Adjacent communities; Oregon does not complain
of encroachment, and there is no other adjacent community to complain.
Thirdly. The other states of the Union; the larger the Pacific states, the smaller will be their relative power in the Senate. All the states now here are either Atlantic states or inland states, and surely they may well indulge California in the largest liberty of boundaries.
The fourth objection to the admission of California is, that no census had been taken, and no laws prescribing the qualifications of suffrage and the apportionment of representatives in convention, existed before her convention was held.
I answer, California was left to act ab initio. She must begin somewhere, without a census, and without such laws. The pilgrim fathers began in the same way on board the Mayflower; and, since it has been objected that some of the electors in California may have been aliens, I add, that all of the pilgrim fathers were aliens and strangers to the commonwealth of Plymouth.
Again, the objection may well be waived, if the constitution of California is satisfactory, first to herself, secondly to the United States.
Not a murmur of discontent has followed California to this place.
As to ourselves, we confine our inquiries about the constitution of a new state to four things
1st. The boundaries assumed; and I have considered that point in this case already.
2d. That the domain within the state is secured to us; and it is admitted that this has been properly done.
3d. That the constitution shall be republican, and not aristocratic and monarchical. In this case, the only objection is, that the constitution, inasmuch as it inhibits slavery, is altogether too republican
4th. That the representation claimed shall be just and equal. No one denies that the population of California is sufficient to demand two representatives on the federal basis; and, secondly, a new census is at hand, and the error, if there is one, will be immediately corrected.
The fifth objection is, that California comes under executive influence.
1st. In her coming as a free state.