Imágenes de páginas

them the next day at Resaca de la Palma, driving the enemy across the Rio Grande.

On May 11, the President sent to Congress a message declaring that war had been begun by Mexico in that she "had passed the boundary of the United States and shed American blood on American soil.” On the following day the Senate passed an act "providing for the prosecution of the existing war between the United States and Mexico.” On the question of whether this was in accordance with fact, or the situation required a formal declaration of war, a spirited discussion arose, which, while interesting to students of diplomatic controversy, is here omitted as not bearing upon the subject in hand of slavery." | The Whigs, while opposed to the manner in which the Administration had plunged the country into war, were willing to support the army now that hostilities had begun. One Representative, however, an Ohio Abolitionist, Joshua R. Giddings, refused to vote a dollar for the prosecution of the unlawful invasion of a sister republic, and the seizure of territory which would be converted from free soil to slave, and thus aggrandize the power of slavery in the Union.

Sketch of Giddings. Joshua Reed Giddings was a native of Pennyslvania, who removed in boyhood with his parents to a farm in Ashtabula County, Ohio. Here he devoted his evenings to study. He was a volunteer in the War of 1812. After the war he became a teacher, studied law, and was admitted to the bar in 1820. After a term in the State legislature, he was elected as a

a Whig to Congress in 1838, serving until 1859. At once he became prominent as a passionate speaker against

* For a report of the debate see Great Debates in American History, vol. ii., p. 345.

slavery and the treatment of the Indians. In 1841 the Creole sailed from Virginia to Louisiana with a cargo of slaves, who got possession of the vessel, and ran it into Nassau of the Bahamas, where, by British law, they were set free. Daniel Webster, Secretary of State, wrote to Edward Everett, our minister to Great Britain, saying we would demand indemnification for the owners of the slaves. Thereupon Mr. Giddings offered in the House resolutions declaring that, as free dom was a natural right, slavery had no force beyond the territorial jurisdiction which created it, and that the Creole mutineers were justified in resuming their natural right to be free. The House passed a resolution of censure on Mr. Giddings by a vote of 125 to 69, and, moving the previous question, denied him a right to speak. He thereupon resigned, and was reëlected by a great majority. The claim against Great Britain was not prosecuted.

In 1843 Giddings united with John Quincy Adams and seventeen other representatives in an address to the country against the annexation of Texas, as tantamount to dissolution of the Union. He heartily contended for “the whole of Oregon” in the boundary dispute with Great Britain, and rightly predicted that Polk would not keep his ante-election pledge in the matter. In 1848 he broke with the Whig party on its nomination of Zachary Taylor, a slaveholder, for President, and became a Free-Soiler, and in 1849 he and others of the

a new party accomplished the defeat of the Whig candidate for Speaker, Robert C. Winthrop (Mass.), because of his unsatisfactory position on slavery, and the election of the Democratic candidate Howell Cobb (Ga.). He was prominent in opposition to the Clay Compromise of 1850. In 1861 he was appointed Consul-General to Canada, which position he held until his death in Montreal in 1864. He was thus described by a contemporary:

He was six feet one inch in height, and considered the most muscular man on the floor of the House. Whenever he spoke he was listened to with great attention, the members frequently gathering around him. He had several affrays on the floor, but invariably came out ahead. On one occasion he was challenged by a Southern member, and selected two rawhide whips as weapons. A look at Mr. Giddings's stalwart frame influenced the Southerner to back out.

He published under the name of “Pacificus" a notable series of political essays, chiefly against the annexation of Texas, in 1843; a volume of his speeches in 1853; The Exiles of Florida, a defense of the Seminole Indians, in 1858; and The Rebellion: its Authors and Causes, in 1864.

On the question of voting supplies to our soldiers in Mexico he said, on May 13, 1846:

Sir, no man regards this war as just. The civilized world is conscious that it has resulted from a desire to extend and sustain an institution on which the curse of the Almighty most visibly rests.

He extolled Mexico for her determination to resist to the last extremity our unjust aggression, citing a report of General Taylor of the people of the invaded territory applying the torch to their dwellings and flying to arms against the invaders.

I confess I was struck with deep solemnity when that communication was read at your table, and, in imitation of William Pitt, I was ready to swear that, if I were a Mexican, as I am an American, I would never sheathe my sword while an enemy remained upon my native soil.

But it is said, "we must stand by our country." He only is a true friend of his country who maintains her virtue and justice. It is true that we should not abandon our country because our government is badly administered; but we should use our efforts to correct the evil and place the government in just and able hands.

He foretold retribution to the United States if the war were prosecuted.

As sure as our destiny is swayed by a righteous God, our troops will fall by the sword and the pestilence; our widows will mourn; and our orphans, rendered such by this unholy war, will be thrown upon public charity."

But it is said war is always popular. I deny this assertion. Nine tenths of our people regarded the Florida (Seminole) war with disgust, because it was cruel and unjust and arose from an effort to sustain slavery. This war is equally unjust, and was begun for a similar purpose, and must in the end be viewed in the same light by the people. You may for a moment excite the young, the giddy, and the thoughtless, but their “sober second thoughts" will lead them to inquire for the cause of the war in which they are asked to engage. The true answer to that inquiry must overwhelm its authors with disgrace.

The prescience of the speaker was thoroughly justified. Revulsion of sentiment began before the war was ended, and after its close many Democrats even admitted that it was a page of dishonor in our nation's

· The number of Americans who died of disease and wounds was upward of 30,000.

a For the debates on the Seminole war see Great Debates in American History, vol. viii., chapter vi.

history, Albert Gallatin declaring that it was "the one blot on our escutcheon." As the war progressed, a number of Senators and Representatives plucked up courage to stand with Giddings to vote against further appropriations for what they termed the “conquest of a sister republic." Among these was Senator Thomas Corwin (O.), who justified such a vote by a long and able speech of which the peroration is one of the gems of American eloquence found in most collections.

Sketch of Corwin. Corwin was a native of Kentucky whose parents, when he was four years old, removed to Lebanon, Ohio. The son worked on the home farm until he was twenty years of age, when he began the study of law. During the War of 1812 he carted supplies for the American troops.

Admitted to the bar in 1818, his ability and eloquence soon brought him a lucrative practice, and caused him to be elected to the State legislature. He served in Congress from 1831 until 1840, when he was elected Governor of Ohio on the Whig ticket over Wilson Shannon. It was in the Harrison “campaign of song," and the Whigs Sang:

“Oh, Wilson Shannon will get a tannin'

From Tom, the Wagoner-Boy."

Two years later he was defeated for reëlection by Shannon. In 1844 he was sent to the Senate where he remained until 1850, when he was appointed Secretary of the Treasury by President Fillmore. At the end of Fillmore's term he resumed the practice of law at Lebanon. In 1858 he was elected to Congress, serving until 1861, when he was appointed minister to Mexico. On the arrival of Maximilian he came home on leave of absence, and did not return, but set up law practice at

« AnteriorContinuar »