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itary Affairs "to inquire into the expediency of requesting the President of the United States to withdraw to the east bank of the Rio Grande our armies now in Mexico, and to propose to the Mexican Government forthwith a treaty of peace on the following basis, namely: That we relinquish all claim to indemnity for the expenses of the war, and that the boundary between the United States and Mexico shall be established at or near the desert between the Nueces and the Rio Grande; that Mexico shall be held to pay all just claims due to our citizens at the commencement of the war, and that a convention shall be entered into by the two nations to provide for the liquidation of those claims and the mode of payment."
This was a test question on abandoning the war, without any material result accomplished. Mr. Lincoln voted with the minority, in favor of laying this resolution on the table. On the question of adopting the resolution, which was defeated, yet voted for by John Quincy Adams, Ashmun, Vinton, and many others on the Whig side, Mr. Lincoln voted in the negative. (See Congressional Globe, first session, 30th Congress, page 94.)
On the same day, almost immediately following the above action, joint resolutions of thanks to General Zachary Taylor and our troops in Mexico, having been offered, an amendment was proposed by Mr. Henley, a Democratic member from Indiana, as an adroit political maneuver, by which it was designed to secure an indorsement of the war from the Whigs, or a refusal of the vote of thanks. He moved the addition of this clause to the resolutions: "engaged, as they were, in defending the rights and honor of the nation." As an amendment to the amendment, in order to defeat its underhand purpose, Mr. Ashmun promptly moved to add the words: "In a war unnecessarily and unconstitutionally begun by the President of the United States," Mr. Lincoln voted for Ashmun's amendment to Henley's amendment. So also did Messrs. Clingman and Barringer, of North Carolina; A. H. Stephens, Robert Toombs and Thomas Butler King, of Georgia; Goggin, of Virginia; Gentry, of Tennessee; and a majority of
all those voting. [See page 95, as above.] The object intended, of defeating the brilliant movement of Mr. Henley, was accomplished. The amendment, as amended, was not carried. The resolutions in their original shape, were subsequently re-introduced by Mr. Stephens, and adopted without opposition. (Congressional Globe, page 304.)
On the 12th day of January, 1848, Mr. Lincoln expressed his views, frankly and fully, in regard to the war with Mexico. It was the first speech made by Mr. Lincoln in Congress, and is subjoined entire, as reported in the Appendix to the Congressional Globe [1st session, 30th Congress, page 93]:
MR. LINCOLN'S SPEECH ON THE MEXICAN war. (In Committee of the Whole House, January 12, 1848.) Mr. Lincoln addressed the Committee as follows:
MR. CHAIRMAN: Some, if not all, of the gentlemen on the other side of the House, who have addressed the Committee within the last two days, have spoken rather complainingly, if I have rightly understood them, of the vote given a week or ten days ago, declaring that the war with Mexico was unnecessarily and unconstitutionally commenced by the President. I admit that such a vote should not be given in mere party wantonness, and that the one given is justly censurable, if it have no other or better foundation. I am one of those who joined in that vote; and did so under my best impression of the truth of the case. How I got this impression, and how it may possibly be removed I will now try to show. When the war begun, it was my opinion that all those who, because of knowing too little, or because of knowing too much, could not conscientiously approve the conduct of the President (in the beginning of it), should, nevertheless, as good citizens and patriots, remain silent on that point, at least till the war should be ended. Some leading Democrats, including ex-President Van Buren, have taken this same view, as I understand them; and I adhered to it, and acted upon it, until since I took my seat here; and I think I should still adhere to it, were it not that the President and his friends will not allow it to be so. Besides, the continual effort of the President to argue every silent vote given for supplies into an indorsement of the justice and wisdom of his conduct; besides that singularly candid paragraph in his late message, in which he tells us that Congress with great unanimity (only two in the Senate and fourteen in the House dissenting) had declared that "by the
act of the Republic of Mexico a state of war exists between that Government and the United States;" when the same journals that informed him of this, also informed him that, when that declaration stood disconnected from the question of supplies, sixty-seven in the House, and not fourteen merely, voted against it; besides this open attempt to prove by telling the truth, what he could not prove by telling the whole truth, demanding of all who will not submit to be misrepresented, in justice to themselves, to speak out; besides all this, one of my colleagues (Mr. Richardson), at a very early day in the session, brought in a set of resolutions, expressly indorsing the original justice of the war on the part of the President. Upon these resolutions, when they shall be put on their passage, I shall be compelled to vote; so that I can not be silent if I would. Seeing this, I went about preparing myself to give the vote understandingly, when it should come. I carefully examined the President's messages, to ascertain what he himself had said and proved upon the point. The result of this examination was to make the impression, that, taking for true all the President states as facts, he falls far short of proving his justification; and that the President would have gone further with his proof, if it had not been for the small matter that the truth would not permit him. Under the impression thus made I gave the vote before mentioned. I propose now to give, concisely, the process of the examination I made, and how I reached the conclusion I did.
The President, in his first message of May, 1846, declares that the soil was ours on which hostilities were commenced by Mexico; and he repeats that declaration, almost in the same language, in each successive annual message-thus showing that he esteems that point a highly essential one. In the importance of that point I entirely agree with the President. To my judgment, it is the very point upon which he should be justified or condemned. In his message of December, 1846, it seems to have occurred to him, as is certainly true, that title, ownership to soil, or anything else, is not a simple fact, but is a conclusion following one or more simple facts; and that it was incumbent upon him to present the facts from which he concluded the soil was ours on which the first blood of the war was shed.
Accordingly, a little below the middle of page twelve in the message last referred to, he enters upon that task; forming an issue and introducing testimony, extending the whole to a little below the middle of page fourteen. Now, I propose to try to show that the whole of this-issue and evidence-is, from beginning to end, the sheerest deception. The issue, as
he presents it, is in these words: "but there are those who, conceding all this to be true, assume the ground that the true western boundary of Texas is the Nueces, instead of the Rio Grande; and that, therefore, in marching our army to the east bank of the latter river, we passed the Texan line, and invaded the territory of Mexico." Now, this issue is made up of two affirmatives and no negatives. The main deception of it is, that it assumes as true that one river or the other is necessarily the boundary, and cheats the superficial thinker entirely out of the idea that possibly the boundary is somewhere between the two, and not actually at either. A further deception is, that it will let in evidence which a true issue would exclude. A true issue made by the President would be about as follows: "I say the soil was ours on which the first blood was shed; there are those who say it was not.'
I now proceed to examine the President's evidence, as applicable to such an issue. When that evidence is analyzed, it is all included in the following propositions :
1. That the Rio Grande was the western boundary of Louisiana, as we purchased it of France in 1803.
2. That the Republic of Texas always claimed the Rio Grande as her western boundary.
3. That, by various acts, she had claimed it on paper. 4. That Santa Anna, in his treaty with Texas, recognized the Rio Grande as her boundary.
5. That Texas before, and the United States after annexation, had exercised jurisdiction beyond the Nueces, between the two rivers.
6. That our Congress understood the boundary of Texas to extend beyond the Nueces.
Now for each of these in its turn:
His first item is, that the Rio Grande was the western boundary of Louisiana, as we purchased it of France in 1803; and, seeming to expect this to be disputed, he argues over the amount of nearly a page to prove it true; at the end of which, he lets us know that, by the treaty of 1819, we sold to Spain the whole country, from the Rio Grande eastward to the Sabine. Now, admitting for the present, that the Rio Grande was the boundary of Louisiana, what, under heaven, had that to do with the present boundary between us and Mexico? How, Mr. Chairman, the line that once divided your land from mine can still be the boundary between us after I have sold my land to you, is, to me, beyond all comprehension. And how any man, with an honest purpose only of proving the truth, could ever have thought of introducing such a fact to prove such an issue, is equally incomprehensible. The out
rage upon common right, of seizing as our own what we have once sold, merely because it was ours before we sold it, is only equaled by the outrage on common sense of any attempt to justify it.
The President's next piece of evidence is, that "The Republic of Texas always claimed this river (Rio Grande) as her western boundary." That is not true, in fact. Texas has claimed it, but she has not always claimed it. There is, at least, one distinguished exception. Her State Constitutionthe public's most solemn and well-considered act; that which may, without impropriety, be called her last will and testament, revoking all others-make no such claim. But suppose she had always claimed it. Has not Mexico always claimed the contrary? So that there is but claim against claim, leaving nothing proved until we get back of the claims, and find which has the better foundation.
Though not in the order in which the President presents his evidence, I now consider that class of his statements, which are, in substance, nothing more than that Texas has, by various acts of her Convention and Congress, claimed the Rio Grande as her boundary--on paper. I mean here what he says about the fixing of the Rio Grande as her boundary, in her old Constitution (not her State Constitution), about forming congressional districts, counties, etc. Now, all this is but naked claim; and what I have already said about claims is strictly applicable to this. If I should claim your land by word of mouth, that certainly would not make it mine, and if I were to claim it by a deed which I had made myself, and with which you had nothing to do, the claim would be quite the same in substance, or rather in utter nothingness.
I next consider the President's statement that Santa Anna, in his treaty with Texas, recognized the Rio Grande as the western boundary of Texas. Besides the position so often taken, that Santa Anna, while a prisoner of war-a captivecould not bind Mexico by a treaty, which I deem conclusive; besides this, I wish to say something in relation to this treaty, so called by the President, with Santa Anna. If any man would like to be amused by a sight at that little thing, which the President calls by that big name, he can have it by turning to Niles' Register, volume 50, page 336. And if any one should suppose that Niles' Register is a curious repository of so mighty a document as a solemn treaty between nations, I can only say that I learned, to a tolerable degree of certainty, by inquiry at the State Department, that the President himself never saw it anywhere else. By the way, I believe I should not err if I were to declare, that during the first ten