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wrong, and should be silenced, and swept away. If it is right, we cannot justly object to its nationality-its universality; if it is wrong, they cannot justly insist upon its extension -its enlargement. All they ask, we could readily grant, if we thought slavery right; all we ask, they could as readily grant, if they thought it wrong. Their thinking it right, and our thinking it wrong, is the precise fact upon which depends the whole controversy. Thinking it right, as they do, they are not to blame for desiring its full recognition, as being right; but, thinking it wrong, as we do, can we yield to them? Can we cast our votes with their view, and against our own? In view of our moral, social, and political responsibilities, can we do this?
Wrong as we think slavery is, we can yet afford to let it alone where it is, because that much is due to the necessity arising from its actual presence in the nation; but can we, while our votes will prevent it, allow it to spread into the national territories, and to overrun us here in these free States?
If our sense of duty forbids this, then let us stand by our duty, fearlessly and effectively. Let us be diverted by none of those sophistical contrivances wherewith we are so industriously plied and belabored-contrivances such as groping for some middle ground between the right and the wrong, vain as the search for a man who should be neither a living man nor a dead man-such as a policy of "don't care" on a question about which all true men do care-such as Union appeals beseeching true Union men to yield to disunionists, reversing the divine rule, and calling, not the sinners, but the righteous to repentance-such as invocations to Washington, imploring men to unsay what Washington said, and undo what Washington did.
Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the government, nor of dungeons to ourselves. Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty, as we understand it.
THE WAR WITH MEXICO,
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
January 12th, 1848.
On the resolutions referring the President's Message to the various Standing Committees
Mr. LINCOLN addressed the Committee as follows:
MR. CHAIRMAN: Some, if not all, 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 I 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 began, 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 would not allow it to be so. Besides, the continual effort of the President to argue every silent vote given for supplies into an endorsement 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 66 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 endorsing the original justice of the war on the part of the President. Upon these resolutions when they shall be put upon their passage, I shall be compelled to vote; so that I cannot 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 farther 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 negative. 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 be in evidence, which a true issue would exclude. A true issue made by the President would
be about as follows:
66 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 from 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 the land to you, is to me, beyond all comprehension. And how any man, with an honest purpose only of proving the truth, could even have thought of introducing such a fact to prove such an issue, is equally incomprehensible. The outrage upon common rights of seizing as our own what we have once sold, merely because it was ours before we sold it, is only equalled 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 Republic's most solemn and well-considered act-that which may, without impropriety, be called her last will and testament, revoking all others-makes 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 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 of 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 had nothing to do, the claim would be quite the same in substance, or rather, in utter nothing.