« PreviousContinue »
tend clear to the Rio Grande, is quite certain by the fact of their joint resolutions for admission expressly leaving all questions of boundary to future adjustment. And, it may be added, that Texas herself is proved to have had the same understanding of it that our Congress had, by the fact of the exact conformity of her new Constitution to those resolutions.
"I am now through the whole of the President's evidence; and it is a singular fact, that if any one should declare the President sent the army into the midst of a settlement of Mexican people, who had never submitted, by consent or by force to the authority of Texas or of the United States, and that there, and thereby, the first blood of the war was shed, there is not one word in all the President has said which would either admit or deny the declaration. In this strange omission chiefly consists the deception of the President's evidence—an omission which, it does seem to me, could scarcely have occurred but by design. My way of living leads me to be about the courts of justice; and there I have some times seen a good lawyer, struggling for his client's neck, in a desperate case, employing every artifice to work round, befog, and cover up with many words some position pressed upon him by the prosecution, which he dared not admit, and yet could not deny. Party bias may help to make it appear so; but, with all the allowance I can make for such bias, it still does appear to me that just such, and from just such necessity, are the President's struggles in this case.
"Some time after my colleague (Mr. Richardson) introduced the resolutions I have mentioned, I introduced a preamble, resolution, and interrogatories, intended to draw the President out, if possible, on this hitherto untrodden ground. To show their relevancy, I propose to state my understanding of the true rule for ascertaining the boundary between Texas and Mexico. It is, that wherever Texas was exercising jurisdiction was hers; and wherever Mexico was exercising jurisdiction was hers; and that whatever separated the actual exercise of jurisdiction of the one from that of the other, was the true boundary between them. If, as is probably true, Texas was exercising jurisdiction along the western bank of the Nueces, and Mexico was exercising it along the eastern bank of the Rio Grande, then neither river was the boundary, but the uninhabited country between the two was. The extent of our territory in that region depended not on any treaty-fixed boundary (for no treaty had attempted it), but on revolution. Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable, a most sacred right-a right which, we hope and believe, is to liberate the world. Nor is this right confined to cases in which the whole people of an existing government may choose to exercise it. Any portion of such people that can may revolutionize,
and make their own of so much of the territory as they inhabit. More than this, a majority of any portion of such people may revolutionize, putting down a minority, intermingled with, or near about them, who may oppose their movements. Such minority was precisely the case of the Tories of our own Revolution. It is a quality of revolutions not to go by old lines, or old laws; but to break up both, and make new ones. As to the country now in question, we bought it of France in 1803, and sold it to Spain in 1819, according to the President's statement. After this, all Mexico, including Texas, revolutionized against Spain; and still later, Texas revolutionized against Mexico. In my view, just so far as she carried her revolution, by obtaining the actual, willing or unwilling submission of the people, so far the country was hers, and no further.
"Now, sir, for the purpose of obtaining the very best evidence as to whether Texas had actually carried her revolution to the place where the hostilities of the present war commenced, let the President answer the interrogatories I proposed, as before mentioned, or some other simiLet him answer fully, fairly and candidly. Let him answer with facts, and not with arguments. Let him remember he sits where Washington sat; and, so remembering, let him answer as Washington would answer. As a nation should not, and the Almighty will not, be evaded, so let him attempt no evasion, no equivocation. And if, so answering, he can show that the soil was ours where the first blood of the war was shed--that it was not within an inhabited country, or, if within such, that the inhabitants had submitted themselves to the civil authority of Texas, or of the United States, and that the same is true of the site of Fort Brown-then I am with him for his justification. In that case, I shall be most happy to reverse the vote I gave the other day. I have a selfish motive for desiring that the President may do this: I expect to give some votes, in connection with the war, which, without his so doing, will be of doubtful propriety, in my own judgment, but which will be free from the doubt, if he does so. But if he can not or will not do this-if, on any pretense, or no pretense, he shall refuse or omit it— then I shall be fully convinced, of what I more than suspect already, that he is deeply conscious of being in the wrong; that he feels the blood of this war, like the blood of Abel, is crying to heaven against him; that he ordered General Taylor into the midst of a peaceful Mexican settlement, purposely to bring on a war; that originally having some strong motive-what I will not stop now to give my opinion concerning-to involve the two countries in a war, and trusting to escape scrutiny by fixing the public gaze upon the exceeding brightness of military glory-that attractive rainbow that rises in showers of bloodthat serpent's eye that charms to destroy-he plunged into it, and has swept on and on, till, disappointed in his calculation of the ease with which Mexico might be subdued, he now finds himself he knows not
where. How like the half insane mumbling of a fever dream is the whole war part of the late message! At one time telling us that Mexico has nothing whatever that we can get but territory; at another, showing us how we can support the war by levying contributions on Mexico. At one time urging the national honor, the security of the future, the prevention of foreign interference, and even the good of Mexico herself, as among the objects of the war; at another, telling us that, 'to reject indemnity by refusing to accept a cession of territory, would be to abandon all our just demands, and to wage the war, bearing all its expenses, without a purpose or definite object. So, then, the national honor, security of the future, and everything but territorial indemnity, may be considered the no purposes and indefinite objects of the war! But having it now settled that territorial indemnity is the only object, we are urged to seize, by legislation here, all that he was content to take a few months ago, and the whole province of Lower California to boot, and to still carry on the war-to take all we are fighting for, and still fight Again, the President is resolved, under all circumstances, to have full territorial indemnity for the expenses of the war; but he forgets to tell us how we are to get the excess after those expenses shall have surpassed the value of the whole of the Mexican territory. So, again, he insists that the separate national existence of Mexico shall be maintained; but he does not tell us how this can be done after we shall have taken all her territory. Lest the questions I here suggest be considered speculative merely, let me be indulged a moment in trying to show they
"The war has gone on some twenty months, for the expenses of which, together with an inconsiderable old score, the President now claims about one half of the Mexican territory, and that by far the better half, so far as concerns our ability to make anything out of it. It is comparatively uninhabited; so that we could establish land offices in it, and raise some money in that way. But the other half is already inhabited, as I understand it, tolerably densely for the nature of the country; and all its lands, or all that are valuable, already appropriated as private property. How, then, are we to make anything out of these lands with this incumbrance on them, or how remove the incumbrance? I suppose no one will say we should kill the people, or drive them out, or make slaves of them, or even confiscate their property? How, then, can we make much out of this part of the territory? If the prosecution of the war has, in expenses, already equaled the better half of the country, how long its future prosecution will be in equaling the less valuable half is not a speculative but a practical question, pressing closely upon us; and yet it is a question which the President seems never to have thought of.
“As to the mode of terminating the war and securing peace, the
President is equally wandering and indefinite. First, it is to be done by a more vigorous prosecution of the war in the vital parts of the enemy's country; and, after apparently talking himself tired on this point, the President drops down into a half despairing tone, and tells us, that 'with a people distracted and divided by contending factions, and a government subject to constant changes, by successive revolutions, the continued success of our arms may fail to obtain a satisfactory peace.' Then he suggests the propriety of wheedling the Mexican people to desert the counsels of their own leaders, and, trusting in our protection, to set up a government from which we can secure a satisfactory peace, telling us that 'this may become the only mode of obtaining such a peace.' But soon he falls into doubt of this too, and then drops back on to the already half-abandoned ground of more vigorous prosecution.' All this shows that the President is in no wise satisfied with his own positions. First, he takes up one, and, in attempting to argue us into it, he argues himself out of it; then seizes another, and goes through the same process; and then, confused at being able to think of nothing new, he snatches up the old one again, which he has some time before cast off. His mind, tasked beyond its power, is running hither and thither, like some tortured creature on a burning surface, finding no position on which it can settle down and be at ease.
Again, it is a singular omission in this message, that it nowhere intimates when the President expects the war to terminate. At its beginning, General Scott was, by this same President, driven into disfavor, if not disgrace, for intimating that peace could not be conquered in less than three or four months. But now at the end of about twenty months, during which time our arms have given us the most splendid successes-every department, and every part, land and water, officers and privates, regulars and volunteers, doing all that men could do, and hundreds of things which it had ever before been thought that men could not do: after all this, this same President gives us a long message without showing us that, as to the end, he has himself even an imaginary conception. As I have before said, he knows not where he is. He is a bewildered, confounded, and miserably-perplexed man. God grant he may be able to show that there is not something about his conscience more painful than all his mental perplexity.”
With this speech on record, it is strange that the genuine literary abilities of the man were so long and so persistently ignored by literary people. There were men who voted for him for the presidency more than twelve years afterwards— twelve years of culture and development to him-who were surprised to find his messages grammatically constructed, and
who suspected the intervention of a secretary whenever any touch of elegance appeared in his writings.
Mr. Lincoln had a position on the Committee on Post-offices and Post-roads, and, from the knowledge in his possession, felt called upon a few days previous to the speech on the war to expose a difficulty between the Postmaster-general and a transportation company, anxious to get the "Great Southern Mail" contract, and to get a better contract than the department had offered. The matter had excited some interest in Congress, and Mr. Lincoln showed a faithful study of the facts of the case in his speech and his freedom from any party feeling in the matter, by supporting the position of the Postmaster-general.
On the 1st of June, 1848, the National Whig Convention met at Philadelphia to nominate a candidate for the presidency, and Mr. Lincoln was among its members. Mr. Polk, by his war with Mexico, had been engaged, much against his inclinations, in manufacturing available if not able candidates for his own place, two of whom afterwards achieved it. General Taylor had become a hero. The brilliancy of his victories and the modesty of his dispatches had awakened in his behalf the enthusiastic admiration of the American people, without distinction of party. He was claimed by the whigs as a member of that party, and regarded by them as the one man in the Union by whose popularity they might hope to win the power they coveted. The majority would doubtless have preferred Mr. Clay, but Mr. Clay had been their candidate, and had been beaten. Mr. Lincoln would have been glad to support Mr. Clay, it is not doubted, but he shared in the feeling of the majority concerning his "availability." It is possible that his visit to Mr. Clay, and its unsatisfactory results, already alluded to, had somewhat blunted his devotion and subdued his enthusiasm on behalf of the great chieftain. Certain it is that he was among those who believed that General Taylor and not Mr. Clay should be the nominee of his party.
Congress had continued its session into the summer, either for purposes of business, or with the design to control, the