« AnteriorContinuar »
had previously invited Mr. Douglas to deliver the oration on the occasion. As the orator was selected because of his wellknown efforts in the cause of the patriot, and because of the high esteem in which General Jackson held him, the invitation was most appropriately directed to Mr. Douglas. On that occasion Mr. Douglas delivered a most polished and graceful address, in which he reviewed the policy of preserving the memory of the deeds of the great and good by the aid of the highest works of art. He gave, also, a graphic and eloquent sketch of General Jackson's history, personal, military, and political, and pointed with a touching power to his brilliant example as one which could never fail to deserve the approval of the American people. The following extract gives, in a few words, his rapid recapitulation of General Jackson's peculiarities as a statesman.
"The high qualities which, in a different theatre, had sustained him in every emergency, enabled him to rise superior to all resistance, never failed him in his civil administration. Calm, patient, and even deferential in counsel, when his opinion was matured and his resolution formed he threw all the fiery energy of his nature into its execution. The history of his civil career, like that of his military campaigns, consists of a rapid succession of terrific conflicts and brilliant achievements, in which he never lost a battle or failed in a skirmish. His state papers will stand forth, so long as the history of this republic shall be read, as imperishable monuments to his statesmanship."
The candid observer of Mr. Douglas's own course as a statesman will not be at a loss to know whose example he has followed so successfully as a public man and as a statesman.
THE ANNEXATION OF TEXAS AND MEXICAN WAR.
MR. DOUGLAS was one of the most ardent supporters of the annexation of Texas. In 1844 the Democratic convention coupled the annexation of Texas with the Oregon question, and thenceforth Mr. Douglas, as well from his own judgment as because they formed part of the Democratic platform, strenuously supported both measures. A portion of the party sur
rendered 54° 40', much to his regret and against his earnest protest; but he still adhered to the other measure, and was one of the most able advocates it had in Congress. His speech on the annexation of Texas stands upon the record not exceeded, and rarely equaled, in point of ability, by any of the very many elaborate speeches made upon that subject.
While the joint resolution was pending, he proposed that the Missouri line of 36° 30′ should be preserved as a settlement of the slavery question, and that it should be renewed and perpetuated in the resolution of annexation. Though the resolution subsequently adopted was not the one proposed by Mr. Douglas, yet his proposition applying the line of 36° 30′ to the territory acquired by the annexation was incorporated into the measure, and subsequently became part of the law. His course upon this point is sufficiently elucidated in subsequent chapters, and it is unnecessary farther to refer to it here.
THE MEXICAN WAR.
Texas was annexed in 1845, and at the next session was admitted into the Union. The events following that action of the United States resulted in the invasion of American soil by Mexican troops.
On the 11th of May, 1846, President Polk informed Congress that war existed by the act of Mexico, and urged that Congress should authorize the President to call into the service of the United States a force of volunteer troops. In the House of Representatives (of which Mr. Douglas was then a member) the message was read. The reading of the most voluminous correspondence was called for. The message and correspondence were laid on the table, and, pending a motion to print, they were taken from the table and referred to the Committee of the Whole. They were also ordered to be printed. The House then went into Committee of the Whole. On the 27th of January the Committee on Military Affairs had reported a bill authorizing the President to accept the services of volunteers in case of the invasion of the soil of the United States, etc. The bill had not been prepared with any reference to a war with Mexico, but was a general bill, and had stood on the calendar from the day it was reported without any action.
This bill was taken up. The committee rose immediately, and a resolution was offered to close debate in committee on
that bill in two hours. The House adopted the resolution, refusing the yeas and nays on the question. The House again went into committee, and a large portion of the documents were read, occupying an hour and a half in the reading. The peril of General Taylor's little army was imminent, and immediate action was necessary. The bill was amended so as to authorize the raising of 50,000 volunteers, and appropriating ten millions of dollars. The difficulty was in arranging the preamble. Various propositions were made, and the preamble was eventually agreed upon in the following words:
"Whereas, by the act of the Republic of Mexico, a state of war exists between that government and the United States." Mr. Delano, of Ohio, offered a proviso condemning the President in taking armed occupation of the territory lying between the River Nueces and the Rio del Norte. This was rejected. The bill was reported to the House. The vote on adopting the preamble was, yeas 123, nays 67. The bill then passed, yeas 174, nays 14.
The subject of the war was considered and debated on an appropriation bill, and two days thereafter, on May 13th, Mr. Delano having addressed the House, Mr. Douglas, in an impromptu reply, made a most thorough vindication of the war and of President Polk's policy. That speech was never surpassed, and, as it is part of his history, and of the history of the administration he supported so ably, it is here annexed entire. It is the most concise and yet thorough presentation of the title of the United States to the Rio del Norte as the boundary of Texas ever presented in Congress. The speech was regarded then, as it will be now, as a most powerful argument in justification of the war, and of the American title to the whole of Texas. Its effect upon the House was very great. It gave to Mr. Douglas an increased popularity, and added greatly to his rising fame as an orator and debater. His colloquies with the venerable JOHN QUINCY ADAMS drew from that gentleman subsequently the highest commendations for their readiness and ability.
Mr. Douglas rose to reply to the speech of the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Delano), who had just taken his seat. Several members proposed that the committee rise, with a view to adjournment, that he might speak in the morning, if he preferred that course. He declined to avail himself of their courtesy, as his remarks would necessarily be desultory and without preparation, and directed principally to the points which had already been touched
in the discussion. My object (said he) is to vindicate our government and country from the aspersions and calumnies which have been cast upon them by several gentlemen in the course of this debate, in connection with the causes which have led to the existing war with Mexico. I prefer to meet and repel those charges at once, while they are fresh in our minds, and to demonstrate, so far as my feeble abilities will enable me to do so, that our government has not been in the wrong, and Mexico in the right, in the origin and progress of the pending controversy. The gentleman from Ohio has been so kind as to herald my expectant advent before my arrival, and to announce that I was about to follow him in the debate. I suppose he drew such an inference from the fact that I entered the hall while he was speaking, took a seat near him, and listened to his speech with the most respectful attention. He certainly had no other authority for the announcement. Acting on this supposition, he has addressed a large portion of his remarks to me, and invited a special answer from me to the main points of his argument. I propose to gratify him in this request; and while I shall speak with freedom and boldness of his positions and arguments, I shall endeavor to observe that courtesy toward him individually which is consistent with an appropriate reply to such an extraordinary speech. I commend the patriotism, if not the morality of the sentiment which he quoted at the beginning, and repeated several times during the course of his remarks: "I go for my country, right or wrong." I fear, however, that this sentiment, once so much applauded by our countrymen, is about to be brought into ridicule and contempt by the use which that gentleman and his coadjutors are now disposed to make of it. They tell us that they go for their country, right or wrong; but they insist that their country is and has been all the time in the wrong. They profess to support the war, but they vote against the law which recognizes its existence and provides the means-the money and the men-to expel a hostile army that has invaded our country and butchered our citizens. They profess great anxiety for the triumph of our arms, but they denounce the war-the cause in which our country is engaged-as unholy, unrighteous, and damnable."
Mr. J. W. Houston. Who made use of that expression? Was it any gentleman on this side of the house?
Mr. Douglas. Yes, sir. The gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Delano), who has just taken his seat, made use of the identical words, and repeated them several times, with great emphasis, in the course of his speech, while the great body of his political friends listened with the most profound respect, and gave every indication of approbation and encouragement by expressions, looks, and nods of assent. Even now I see the venerable gentleman from Massachusetts nodding his approval of the sentiment.
Mr. J. Q. Adams. Yes, sir, I endorse and approve every word and syllable of it.
Mr. Douglas. So I supposed, from the marked indications of approbation which that gentleman and his friends gave to all the attacks which have been made, during this discussion, upon the rights, interests, and honor of our country. He is more bold and less politic in the expression of his opinions. They, after a little reflection, discover the expediency of concealment; but the lamentable fact is too palpable, that their feelings and sympathies are in perfect unison; since he has had the hardihood to avow the sentiment, I suppose they will consider its profanity and moral treason perfectly consistent with their professions of Christianity and patriotism. What reliance shall we place on the sincerity of gentlemen's professions, that they are for their country, right or wrong, when they exert all their power and influence to put their country in the wrong in the eyes of Christendom, and invoke the wrath of Heaven upon us for our manifold national crimes and aggres
sions? With professions of patriotism on their lips, do they not show that their hearts are with the enemy? They appeal to the consciences and religious scruples of our countrymen to unite in execration of our government for supporting what they denounce as an unholy, unrighteous, and damnable cause. They predict that the vengeance of God will fall upon us; that sickness, and carnage, and death will be our portion; that defeat and disgrace will attend our arms. Is there not treason in the heart that can feel, and poison in the breath that can utter such sentiments against their own country, when forced to take up arms in self-defense, to repel the invasion of a brutal and perfidious foe? They for their country, right or wrong! who tell our people, if they rally under their country's standard, their bones will bleach on the plains of Mexico, and the enemy will look down from the mountain-top to behold the destruction of our armies by disease, and all those mysterious elements of death which divine Providence employs to punish a wicked people for prosecuting an unholy and unjust war! Sir, I tell these gentlemen it requires more charity than falls to the lot of frail man to believe that the expression of such sentiments is consistent with the sincerity of their professions-with patriotism, honor, and duty to their country. Patriotism emanates from the heart; it fills the soul; inspires the whole man with a devotion to his country's cause, and speaks and acts the same language. America wants no friends, acknowledges the fidelity of no citizen who, after war is declared, condemns the justice of her cause and sympathizes with the enemy. All such are traitors in their hearts, and it only remains for them to commit some overt act for which they may be dealt with according to their deserts. The gentleman from Ohio has condemned the action of his own government, not only on account of the war and the causes which produced it, but has assailed with equal virulence all efforts to restore the amicable relations of the two countries by peaceable means. He has arraigned the administration for the appointment of Mr. Slidell as minister to Mexico on an errand of peace, and dwells with apparent delight and triumph on the fruitless results of the mission. He is dissatisfied with both peace and war, is willing to embrace neither alternative, and condemns all efforts to adjust the matters in dispute by either means. He thinks that nothing good can come out of Nazareth, and seems determined to find fault with his own government, whatever its policy. Not content with assailing the administration and all its movements, peaceful and belligerent, he has passed from the Del Norte to 50° 40′ for the purpose of paying his respects to myself, in his own peculiar way. He has been pleased to represent me as standing on an iceberg, breathing defiance to the British lion, while abandoned by a portion of my own friends, upon whose support I had a right to rely with confidence. If this be true, it was a grievance personal to myself, which I had a right to avenge in my own way, without the interference of the gentleman from Ohio.
I will assure you that I have never been disappointed in an expectation that he would stand by me in any struggle for maintaining the rights and honor of the country, whether in reference to Texas or Oregon. In regard to that portion of my political friends to whom he alludes, I am free to confess that I did sincerely regret that they did not take the same view of our rights and duties in respect to the Oregon question which I entertained and fearlessly expressed. I made no disguise of my sentiments and feelings. Our disagreement on that question was open and unequivocal. I did condemn their refusal to take up their position on 54° 40', and stand there, regardless of consequences. My opinions have undergone no change in that respect. But it is due to them that I should now say that I never questioned their patriotism, nor doubted for a moment that, the instant war existed, they would rally as one man to their country's standard, merging and ef