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eachusetts Volunteers. This young gentleman had evinced an energy beyond his years, and practical talent of a high order, as a member of the commission for marking the boundary line between Maine and the British Provinces under the treaty of Washington. His friends looked forward with confidence to his running a brilliant military career. These hopes, like those which accompanied so many other gallant and patriotic spirits to the scene of action, were destined to be early blasted. Major Webster fell a victim to the labors and exposures of the service, and to the climate of the country, under the walls of Mexico.
To avoid all misconception, it may be proper to state that Mr. Webster has at all times entertained an unfavorable opinion of the various administrations by which Mexico, almost ever since her revolution, has been successively misgoverned. He has felt constrained to regard the greater part of them as military factions, bent more upon supplanting each other than upon promoting the welfare of their country. He was fully aware of the justice of many of the complaints of citizens of the United States for wrongs inflicted and justice withheld. Both while in the executive government himself, and as a member of Congress, he had uniformly expressed himself in terms of severe condemnation of the conduct of the Mexican government in withholding or delaying redress; and he foresaw and foretold that, in obstinately refusing to recognize the independence of Texas, she was laying up for herself a store of consequences the most humiliating and disastrous. Nothing but the most deplorable infatuation could have led the government of Mexico to suppose, that, after the independence of Texas had been recognized by the United States, Great Britain, France, and Belgium, it would be possible for a power as feeble as that of Mexico to reduce the rebellious province to submission. If any confirmation of these statements is needed, it may be found in Mr. Webster's letter to Mr. de Bocanegra, in the sixth volume of this collection.
The settlement of the controversy with England relative to the boundary of Oregon was effected in the first year of Mr. Folk's administration. The foundations for this adjustment had long been laid; in fact, as long ago as the administration of Mr. Monroe, the United States had offered to England the obvious basis of the extension of the forty-ninth degree of latitude to the Pacific. Great Britain allowed herself to be influenced by the Hudson's Bay Company so far, as to insist upon following the course of the Columbia down to the sea. She even took the extravagant ground that, although the United States, by the Louisiana and Florida treaties, combined the Spanish and the French titles with that of actual contiguity and prior discovery of the Columbia River, they had no exclusive title to any portion of the territory, but that it was all subject to her own joint and rival claim. This unreasonable pretension brought the two countries to the verge of war. The Baltimore Convention, in the year 1844, set up a claim, equally unreasonable, to the whole of the territory. President Polk in his inaugural message, quoting the words of the resolution of the Baltimore Convention, pronounced our title to the territory to be " clear and unquestionable."
The assertion of these opposite extremes of pretension happily resulted in the final adjustment on the forty-ninth degree. Mr. Webster had uniformly been of opinion that this was the fair basis of settlement. Had he supposed that an arrangement could have been effected on this basis with Lord Ashburton, he would gladly have included it in the treaty of Washington. After Mr. Webster's retirement from the Department of State, it is stated by President Polk that Mr. Upshur instructed Mr. Everett to offer that line to the British government; but the negotiation had in the mean time, by the appointment of Mr. Pakenham, been transferred to Washington. The offer of the forty-ninth degree of latitude was renewed to Mr. Pakenham, but accompanied with conditions which led him to decline it, and to express the hope that the United States would make "some further proposal for the settlement, of the Oregon question more consistent with fairness and equity, and with the reasonable expectations of the British government." The offer thus injudiciously rejected was withdrawn by the administration. In this dangerous juncture of affairs, the following incidents occurred, which we give in the words of the " London Examiner" : —
"In reply to a question put to him in reference to the present war establishments of this country, and the propriety of applying the principle of arbitration in the settlement of disputes arising among nations, Mr. McGregor, one of the candidates for the representation of Glasgow, took occasion to narrate the following very important and remarkable anecdote in connection with our recent, but now happily terminated differences with the United States on the Oregon question. At the time our ambassador at Washington, the Hon. Mr. Pakenham, refused to negotiate on the forty-ninth parallel of north latitude as the basis of a treaty, and when by that refusal the danger of a rupture between Great Britain and America became really imminent, Mr. Daniel Webster, formerly Secretary of State to the American government, wrote a letter to Mr. McGregor, in which he strongly deprecated Mr. Pakenham's conduct, which, if persisted in and adopted at home, would, to a certainty, embroil the two countries, and suggested an equitable compromise, taking the forty-ninth parallel as the basis of an adjustment. Mr. McGregor agreeing entirely with Mr. Webster in the propriety of a mutual giving and taking to avoid a rupture, and the more especially as the whole territory in dispute was not worth £ 20,000 to either power, while the preparations alone for a war would cost a great deal more before the parties could come into actual conflict, communicated the contents of Mr. Webster's letter to Lord John Russell, who at the time was living in the neighborhood of Edinburgh, and, in reply, received a letter from Lord John, in which he stated his entire accordance with the proposal recommended by Mr. Webster, and approved of by Mr. McGregor, and requested the latter, as he (Lord John) was not in a position to do it himself, to intimate his opinion to Lord Aberdeen. Mr. McGregor, through Lord Canning, Under-Secretary for the Foreign Department, did so, and the result was, that the first packet that left England carried out to America the proposal, in accordance with the communication already referred to, on which the treaty of Oregon was happily concluded. Mr. McGregor may, therefore, be very justly said to have been the instrument of preserving the peace of the world; and for that alone, even if he had no other services to appeal to, he has justly earned the applause and admiration, not of his own countrymen only, but of all men who desire to promote the best interests of the human race."
Without wishing to detract in any degree from the praise due to Mr. McGregor for his judicious and liberal conduct on this occasion, the credit of the main result is exclusively due to his American correspondent. A powerful influence was ascribed also to an able article in the Edinburgh Review for April, 1845, in which the reasonableness of this basis of settlement was set forth with great ability.
The first session of the Twenty-ninth Congress was signalized by the revival of the sub-treasury system, and the overthrow of the tariff of 1842. At a moment when the public finances were, in reference to the means of collection, custody, and transfer, in a sound and healthy condition, the administration deemed it expedient to subject the country and the treasury to the hazard and inconvenience of a change. Mr. Webster spoke with equal earnestness and power against the renewal of experiments which had already proved so disastrous; but the bill was carried by a party vote. The same success attended the President's recommendation of an entire change in the revenue system, by which, instead of specific duties, ad valorem duties were te be assessed on the foreign valuation. Various other changes were made in the tariff established in 1842, equally tending to depress our own manufactures, and to give a preference to foreign over native labor, and this even in cases where no benefit could be expected to accrue to the treasury from the change. Mr. Webster made a truly Herculean effort against the government project, in his speech of the 25th and 26th of July, 1846, but the decree had gone forth. The scale was turned by the Senators from the new State of Texas, which had been brought into the Union by the votes of members of Congress whose constituents had the deepest interest in sustaining the tariff of 1842.
In the spring of 1847, after the adjournment of Congress, Mr. Webster undertook a tour to the South. His object was to pass by the way of the Atlantic States to New Orleans, and to ascend the Mississippi. He had never seen that part of the Union, and promised himself equal gratification and instruction from an opportunity, however brief, of personal inspection. He was ever of opinion that higher motives than those of curiosity and recreation should lead the citizens of different parts of the country to the interchange of visits of this kind. That they had become so much less frequent than they were in former years he regarded as one of the inauspicious features of the times. He was accompanied on this excursion by his family. They passed hastily through Virginia and North Carolina to South Carolina. At Charleston he was received with the most distinguished attention and cordiality. He was welcomed on his arrival by an assemblage of the most respectable citizens. Entertainments were given him by the New England Society of Charleston and by the Charleston Bar. At these festivals the sentiments and speeches were of the most. Cordial description. Similar hospitalities and honors were paid him at Columbia, Augusta, and Savannah. No trace of sectional or party feeling detracted from the warmth of his reception. His visit was everywhere regarded as an interesting public event. Unhappily, his health failed him on his arrival at Savannah; and the advance of the season made it impossible for him to execute the original project of a journey to New Orleans. He was compelled to hasten back to the North.
Meantime events of higher importance were in progress. Success crowned our arms in the Mexican war. The military skill, gallantry, and indomitable resolution of the great captains to whom the chief command of the war had been committed, (though not by the first choice of the administration,) aided by the spirit and discipline of the troops, achieved the conquest of Mexico. Peace was dictated to her from Washington, and a treaty concluded, by which extensive portions of her territory, comprising the province of New Mexico and a considerable part of California, were ceded to the United States. Mr. Webster, foreseeing that these cessions would prove a Pandora's box of discord and strife between the different sections of the Union, voted against the ratification of the treaty. He was sustained in this course by some Southern Whig Senators, but the constitutional majority deemed any treaty better than the continuation of the war.
With the restoration of peace, the question what should be done with the territories presented itself with alarming prominence. Formidable under any circumstances, it became doubly so in consequence of the discovery of gold in California, and the prodigious rush to that quarter of adventurers from every part of the world. Population flocked into and took possession of the country, its ancient political organization, feeble at best, was subverted, and the immediate action of Congress was necessary to prevent a state of anarchy. The House of Representatives passed a bill providing for the organization of a territorial government, for the provinces newly acquired from Mexico, with the antislavery proviso, borrowed from the Ordinance of 1787. This bill failed to pass the Senate, and nothing was done at the first session of the Thirtieth Congress to meet the existing emergency in California.