The Great Speeches and Orations of Daniel Webster
Daniel Webster

Part 20 out of 25

What do we propose? There is no army to fight. I suppose there are not
five hundred men under arms in any part of Mexico; probably not half
that number, except in one place. Mexico is prostrate. It is not the
government that resists us. Why, it is notorious that the government of
Mexico is on our side, that it is an instrument by which we hope to
establish such a peace, and accomplish such a treaty, as we like. As far
as I understand the matter, the government of Mexico owes its life and
breath and being to the support of our arms, and to the hope, I do not
say how inspired, that somehow or other, and at no distant period, she
will have the pecuniary means of carrying it on, from our three
millions, or our twelve millions, or from some of our other millions.

What do we propose to do, then, with these thirty regiments which it is
designed to throw into Mexico? Are we going to cut the throats of her
people? Are we to thrust the sword deeper and deeper into the "vital
parts" of Mexico? What is it proposed to do? Sir, I can see no object in
it; and yet, while we are pressed and urged to adopt this proposition to
raise ten and twenty regiments, we are told, and the public is told, and
the public believes, that we are on the verge of a safe and an honorable
peace. Every one looks every morning for tidings of a confirmed peace,
or of confirmed hopes of peace. We gather it from the administration,
and from every organ of the administration from Dan to Beersheba. And
yet warlike preparations, the incurring of expenses, the imposition of
new charges upon the treasury, are pressed here, as if peace were not in
all our thoughts, at least not in any of our expectations.

Now, Sir, I propose to hold a plain talk to-day; and I say that,
according to my best judgment, the object of the bill is patronage,
office, the gratification of friends. This very measure for raising ten
regiments creates four or five hundred officers; colonels, subalterns,
and not them only, for for all these I feel some respect, but there are
also paymasters, contractors, persons engaged in the transportation
service, commissaries, even down to sutlers, _et id genus omne_, people
who handle the public money without facing the foe, one and all of whom
are true descendants, or if not, true representatives, of Ancient
Pistol, who said,

"I shall sutler be
Unto the camp, and profits will accrue."

Sir, I hope, with no disrespect for the applicants, and the aspirants,
and the patriots (and among them are some sincere patriots) who would
fight for their country, and those others who are not ready to fight,
but who are willing to be paid,--with due respect for all of them
according to their several degrees and their merits, I hope they will
all be disappointed. I hope that, as the pleasant season advances, the
whole may find it for their interest to place themselves, of mild
mornings, in the cars, and take their destination to their respective
places of honorable private occupation and of civil employment. They
have my good wishes that they may find the way to their homes from the
Avenue and the Capitol, and from the purlieus of the President's house,
in good health themselves, and that they may find their families all
very happy to receive them.

But, Sir, to speak more seriously, this war was waged for the object of
creating new States, on the southern frontier of the United States, out
of Mexican territory, and with such population as could be found
resident thereupon. I have opposed this object. I am against all
accessions of territory to form new States. And this is no matter of
sentimentality, which I am to parade before mass meetings or before my
constituents at home. It is not a matter with me of declamation, or of
regret, or of expressed repugnance. It is a matter of firm, unchangeable
purpose. I yield nothing to the force of circumstances that have
occurred, or that I can consider as likely to occur. And therefore I
say, Sir, that, if I were asked to-day whether, for the sake of peace, I
would take a treaty for adding two new States to the Union on our
southern border, I would say, _No!_ distinctly, No! And I wish every man
in the United States to understand that to be my judgment and my

I said upon our _southern_ border, because the present proposition takes
that locality. I would say the same of the western, the northeastern, or
of any other border. I resist to-day, and for ever, and to the end, any
proposition to add any foreign territory, south or west, north or east,
to the States of this Union, as they are constituted and held together
under the Constitution. I do not want the colonists of England on the
north; and as little do I want the population of Mexico on the south. I
resist and reject all, and all with equal resolution. Therefore I say,
that, if the question were put to me to-day, whether I would take peace
under the present state of the country, distressed as it is, during the
existence of a war odious as this is, under circumstances so afflictive
as now exist to humanity, and so disturbing to the business of those
whom I represent,--I say still, if it were put to me whether I would
have peace, with new States, I would say, No! no! And that because, Sir,
in my judgment, there is no necessity of being driven into that dilemma.
Other gentlemen think differently. I hold no man's conscience; but I
mean to make a clean breast of it myself; and I protest that I see no
reason, I believe there is none, why we cannot obtain as safe a peace,
as honorable and as prompt a peace, without territory as with it. The
two things are separable. There is no necessary connection between them.
Mexico does not wish us to take her territory, while she receives our
money. Far from it. She yields her assent, if she yields it at all,
reluctantly, and we all know it. It is the result of force, and there is
no man here who does not know that. And let me say, Sir, that, if this
Trist paper shall finally be rejected in Mexico, it is most likely to be
because those who under our protection hold the power there cannot
persuade the Mexican Congress or people to agree to this cession of
territory. The thing most likely to break up what we now expect to take
place is the repugnance of the Mexican people to part with their
territory. They would prefer to keep their territory, and that we should
keep our money; as I prefer we should keep our money, and they their
territory. We shall see. I pretend to no powers of prediction. I do not
know what may happen. The times are full of strange events. But I think
it certain that, if the treaty which has gone to Mexico shall fail to be
ratified, it will be because of the aversion of the Mexican Congress, or
the Mexican people, to cede the territory, or any part of it, belonging
to their republic.

I have said that I would rather have no peace for the present, than have
a peace which brings territory for new States; and the reason is, that
we shall get peace as soon without territory as with it, more safe, more
durable, and vastly more honorable to us, the great republic of the

But we hear gentlemen say, We must have some territory, the people
demand it. I deny it; at least, I see no proof of it whatever. I do not
doubt that there are individuals of an enterprising character, disposed
to emigrate, who know nothing about New Mexico but that it is far off,
and nothing about California but that it is still farther off, who are
tired of the dull pursuits of agriculture and of civil life; that there
are hundreds and thousands of such persons to whom whatsoever is new and
distant is attractive. They feel the spirit of borderers; and the spirit
of a borderer, I take it, is to be tolerably contented with his
condition where he is, until somebody goes to regions beyond him; and
then he is all eagerness to take up his traps and go still farther than
he who has thus got in advance of him. With such men the desire to
emigrate is an irresistible passion. At least so thought that sagacious
observer of human nature, M. de Talleyrand, when he travelled in this
country in 1794.

But I say I do not find anywhere any considerable and respectable body
of persons who want more territory, and such territory. Twenty-four of
us last year in this house voted against the prosecution of the war for
territory, because we did not want it, both Southern and Northern men. I
believe the Southern gentlemen who concurred in that vote found
themselves, even when they had gone against what might be supposed to be
local feelings and partialities, sustained on the general policy of not
seeking territory, and by the acquisition of territory bringing into our
politics certain embarrassing and embroiling questions and
considerations. I do not learn that they suffered from the advocacy of
such a sentiment. I believe they were supported in it; and I believe
that through the greater part of the South, and even of the Southwest,
there is no prevalent opinion in favor of acquiring territory, and such
territory, and of the augmentation of our population by such an
accession. And such, I need not say, is, if not the undivided, the
preponderating sentiment of all the North.

But it is said we must take territory for the sake of peace. We must
take territory. It is the will of the President. If we do not now take
what he offers, we may fare worse. Mr. Polk will take no less, that he
is fixed upon, He is immovable. He--has--put--down--his--foot! Well,
Sir, he put it down upon "fifty-four forty," but it didn't stay. I speak
of the President, as of all Presidents, without disrespect. I know of no
reason why his opinion and his will, his purpose, declared to be final,
should control us, any more than our purpose, from equally conscientious
motives, and under as high responsibilities, should control him. We
think he is firm, and will not be moved. I should be sorry, Sir, very
sorry indeed, that we should entertain more respect for the firmness of
the individual at the head of the government than we entertain for our
own firmness. He stands out against us. Do we fear to stand out against
him? For one, I do not. It appears to me to be a slavish doctrine. For
one, I am willing to meet the issue, and go to the people all over this
broad land. Shall we take peace without new States, or refuse peace
without new States? I will stand upon that, and trust the people. And I
do that because I think it right, and because I have no distrust of the
people. I am not unwilling to put it to their sovereign decision and
arbitration. I hold this to be a question vital, permanent, elementary,
in the future prosperity of the country and the maintenance of the
Constitution; and I am willing to trust that question to the people. I
prefer that it should go to them, because, if what I take to be a great
constitutional principle, or what is essential to its maintenance, is to
be broken down, let it be the act of the people themselves; it shall
never be my act. I, therefore, do not distrust the people. I am willing
to take their sentiment, from the Gulf to the British Provinces, and
from the ocean to the Missouri: Will you continue the war for territory,
to be purchased, after all, at an enormous price, a price a thousand
times the value of all its purchases, or take peace, contenting
yourselves with the honor we have reaped by the military achievements of
the army? Will you take peace without territory, and preserve the
integrity of the Constitution of the country? I am entirely willing to
stand upon that question. I will therefore take the issue: _Peace, with
no new States, keeping our own money ourselves, or war till new States
shall be acquired, and vast sums paid._ That is the true issue. I am
willing to leave that before the people and to the people, because it is
a question for themselves. If they support me and think with me, very
well. If otherwise, if they will have territory and add new States to
the Union, let them do so; and let them be the artificers of their own
fortune, for good or for evil.

But, Sir, we tremble before executive power. The truth cannot be
concealed. We tremble before executive power! Mr. Polk will take no less
than this. If we do not take this, the king's anger may kindle, and he
will give us what is worse.

But now, Sir, who and what is Mr. Polk? I speak of him with no manner of
disrespect. I mean, thereby, only to ask who and what is the President
of the United States for the current moment. He is in the last year of
his administration. Formally, officially, it can only be drawn out till
the fourth of March, while really and substantially we know that two
short months will, or may, produce events that will render the duration
of that official term of very little importance. We are on the eve of a
Presidential election. That machinery which is employed to collect
public opinion or party opinion will be put in operation two months
hence. We shall see its result. It may be that the present incumbent of
the Presidential office will be again presented to his party friends and
admirers for their suffrages for the next Presidential term. I do not
say how probable or improbable this is. Perhaps it is not entirely
probable. Suppose this not to be the result, what then? Why, then Mr.
Polk becomes as absolutely insignificant as any respectable man among
the public men of the United States. Honored in private life, valued for
his private character, respectable, never eminent, in public life, he
will, from the moment a new star arises, have just as little influence
as you or I; and, so far as I am concerned, that certainly is little

Sir, political partisans, and aspirants, and office-seekers, are not
sunflowers. They do not

"turn to their god when he sets
The same look which they turned when he rose."

No, Sir, if the respectable gentleman now at the head of the government
be nominated, there will be those who will commend his consistency, who
will be bound to maintain it, for the interest of his party friends will
require it. It will be done. If otherwise, who is there in the whole
length and breadth of the land that will care for the consistency of the
present incumbent of the office? There will then be new objects.
"Manifest destiny" will have pointed out some other man. Sir, the
eulogies are now written, the commendations are already elaborated. I do
not say every thing fulsome, but every thing panegyrical, has already
been written out, with _blanks_ for names, to be filled when the
convention shall adjourn. When "manifest destiny" shall be unrolled, all
these strong panegyrics, wherever they may light, made beforehand, laid
up in pigeon-holes, studied, framed, emblazoned, and embossed, will all
come out; and then there will be found to be somebody in the United
States whose merits have been strangely overlooked, marked out by
Providence, a kind of miracle, while all will wonder that nobody ever
thought of him before, as a fit, and the only fit, man to be at the head
of this great republic!

I shrink not, therefore, from any thing that I feel to be my duty, from
any apprehension of the importance and imposing dignity, and the power
of will, ascribed to the present incumbent of office. But I wish we
possessed that power of will. I wish we had that firmness. Yes, Sir, I
wish we had adherence. I wish we could gather something from the spirit
of our brave forces, who have met the enemy under circumstances most
adverse and have stood the shock. I wish we could imitate Zachary Taylor
in his bivouac on the field of Buena Vista. He said he "would remain for
the night; he would feel the enemy in the morning, and try his
position." I wish, before we surrender, we could make up _our_ minds to
"_feel_ the enemy, and try his position," and I think we should find
him, as Taylor did, under the early sun, on his way to San Luis Potosi.
That is my judgment.

But, Sir, I come to the all-absorbing question, more particularly, of
the creation of New States.

Some years before I entered public life, Louisiana had been obtained
under the treaty with France. Shortly after, Florida was obtained under
the treaty with Spain. These two countries were situated on our
frontier, and commanded the outlets of the great rivers which flow into
the Gulf. As I have had occasion to say, in the first of these
instances, the President of the United States[1] supposed that an
amendment of the Constitution was required. He acted upon that
supposition. Mr. Madison was Secretary of State, and, upon the
suggestion of the President, proposed that the proper amendment to the
Constitution should be submitted, to bring Louisiana into the Union. Mr.
Madison drew it, and submitted it to Mr. Adams, as I have understood.
Mr. Madison did not go upon any general idea that new States might be
admitted; he did not proceed to a general amendment of the Constitution
in that respect. The amendment which he proposed and submitted to Mr.
Adams was a simple declaration, by a new article, that "the Province of
Louisiana is hereby declared to be part and parcel of the United
States." But public opinion, seeing the great importance of the
acquisition, took a turn favorable to the affirmation of the power. The
act was acquiesced in, and Louisiana became a part of the Union, without
any amendment of the Constitution.

On the example of Louisiana, Florida was admitted.

Now, Sir, I consider those transactions as passed, settled, legalized.
There they stand as matters of political history. They are facts against
which it would be idle at this day to contend.

My first agency in matters of this kind was upon the proposition for
admitting Texas into this Union. That I thought it my duty to oppose,
upon the general ground of opposing all formation of new States out of
foreign territory, and, I may add, and I ought to add in justice, of
States in which slaves were to be represented in the Congress of the
United States. I was opposed to this on the ground of its inequality. It
happened to me, Sir, to be called upon to address a political meeting in
New York, in 1837, soon after the recognition of Texan Independence. I
state now, Sir, what I have often stated before, that no man, from the
first, has been a more sincere well-wisher to the government and the
people of Texas than myself. I looked upon the achievement of their
independence in the battle of San Jacinto as an extraordinary, almost a
marvellous, incident in the affairs of mankind. I was among the first
disposed to acknowledge her independence. But from the first, down to
this moment, I have opposed, as far as I was able, the annexation of new
States to this Union. I stated my reasons on the occasion now referred
to, in language which I have now before me, and which I beg to present
to the Senate.

Mr. Webster here read the passage from his speech at Niblo's
Saloon, New York, which will be found in a previous part of this
work, pages 429, 430, beginning, "But it cannot be disguised,
Gentlemen, that a desire, or an intention, is already manifested to
annex Texas to the United States."

Well, Sir, for a few years I held a position in the executive
administration of the government. I left the Department of State in
1843, in the month of May. Within a month after, another (an intelligent
gentleman, for whom I cherished a high respect, and who came to a sad
and untimely end) had taken my place, I had occasion to know, not
officially, but from circumstances, that the annexation of Texas was
taken up by Mr. Tyler's administration as an administration measure. It
was pushed, pressed, insisted on; and I believe the honorable gentleman
to whom I have referred[2] had something like a passion for the
accomplishment of this purpose. And I am afraid that the President of
the United States[3] at that time suffered his ardent feelings not a
little to control his more prudent judgment. At any rate, I saw, in
1843, that annexation had become a purpose of the administration. I was
not in Congress nor in public life. But, seeing this state of things, I
thought it my duty to admonish the country, so far as I could, of the
existence of that purpose. There are gentlemen at the North, many of
them, there are gentlemen now in the Capitol, who know that, in the
summer of 1843, being fully persuaded that this purpose was embraced
with zeal and determination by the executive department of the
government of the United States, I thought it my duty, and asked them to
concur with me in the attempt, to make that purpose known to the
country. I conferred with gentlemen of distinction and influence. I
proposed means for exciting public attention to the question of
annexation, before it should have become a party question; for I had
learned that, when any topic becomes a party question, it is in vain to
argue upon it.

But the optimists and the quietists, and those who said, All things are
well, and let all things alone, discouraged, discountenanced, and
repressed any such effort. The North, they said, could take care of
itself; the country could take care of itself, and would not sustain Mr.
Tyler in his project of annexation. When the time should come, they
said, the power of the North would be felt, and would be found
sufficient to resist and prevent the consummation of the measure. And I
could now refer to paragraphs and articles in the most respectable and
leading journals of the North, in which it was attempted to produce the
impression that there was no danger; there could be no addition of new
States, and men need not alarm themselves about that.

I was not in Congress, Sir, when the preliminary resolutions, providing
for the annexation of Texas, passed. I only know that, up to a very
short period before the passage of those resolutions, the impression in
that part of the country of which I have spoken was, that no such
measure could be adopted. But I have found, in the course of thirty
years' experience, that whatever measures the executive government may
embrace and push are quite likely to succeed in the end. There is always
a giving way somewhere. The executive government acts with uniformity,
with steadiness, with entire unity of purpose. And sooner or later,
often enough, and, according to my construction of our history, quite
too often, it effects its purposes. In this way it becomes the
predominating power of the government.

Well, Sir, just before the commencement of the present administration,
the resolutions for the annexation of Texas were passed in Congress.
Texas complied with the provisions of those resolutions, and was here,
or the case was here, on the 22d day of December, 1845, for her final
admission into the Union, as one of the States. I took occasion then to
say, that I hoped I had shown all proper regard for Texas; that I had
been certainly opposed to annexation; that, if I should go over the
whole matter again, I should have nothing new to add; that I had acted,
all along, under the unanimous declaration of all parties, and of the
legislature of Massachusetts; that I thought there must be some limit to
the extent of our territories, and that I wished this country should
exhibit to the world the example of a powerful republic, without
greediness and hunger of empire. And I added, that while I held, with as
much faithfulness as any citizen of the country, to all the original
arrangements and compromises of the Constitution under which we live, I
never could, and I never should, bring myself to be in favor of the
admission of any States into the Union as slave-holding States; and I
might have added, any States at all, to be formed out of territories not
now belonging to us.

Now, as I have said, in all this I acted under the resolutions of the
State of Massachusetts, certainly concurrent with my own judgment, so
often repeated, and reaffirmed by the unanimous consent of all men of
all parties, that I could not well go through the series, pointing out,
not only the impolicy, but the unconstitutionality, of such annexation.
If a State proposes to come into the Union, and to come in as a slave
State, then there is an augmentation of the inequality in the
representation of the people; an inequality already existing, with which
I do not quarrel, and which I never will attempt to alter, but shall
preserve as long as I have a vote to give, or any voice in this
government, because it is a part of the original compact. Let it stand.
But then there is another consideration of vastly more general
importance even than that; more general, because it affects all the
States, free and slave-holding; and it is, that, if States formed out of
territories thus thinly populated come into the Union, they necessarily
and inevitably break up the relation existing between the two branches
of the government, and destroy its balance. They break up the intended
relation between the Senate and the House of Representatives. If you
bring in new States, any State that comes in must have two Senators. She
may come in with fifty or sixty thousand people, or more. You may have,
from a particular State, more Senators than you have Representatives.
Can any thing occur to disfigure and derange the form of government
under which we live more signally than that? Here would be a Senate
bearing no proportion to the people, out of all relation to them, by the
addition of new States; from some of them only one Representative,
perhaps, and two Senators, whereas the larger States may have ten,
fifteen, or even thirty Representatives, and but two Senators. The
Senate, augmented by these new Senators coming from States where there
are few people, becomes an odious oligarchy. It holds power without any
adequate constituency. Sir, it is but "borough-mongering" upon a large
scale. Now, I do not depend upon theory; I ask the Senate and the
country to look at facts, to see where we were when we made our
departure three years ago, and where we now are; and I leave it to the
imagination to conjecture where we shall be.

We admitted Texas,--one State for the present; but, Sir, if you refer to
the resolutions providing for the annexation of Texas, you find a
provision that it shall be in the power of Congress hereafter to make
four new States out of Texan territory. Present and prospectively, five
new States, with ten Senators, may come into the Union out of Texas.
Three years ago we did this; we now propose to make two States.
Undoubtedly, if we take, as the President recommends, New Mexico and
California, there must then be four new Senators. We shall then have
provided, in these territories out of the United States along our
southern borders, for the creation of States enough to send fourteen
Senators into this chamber. Now, what will be the relation between these
Senators and the people they represent, or the States from which they
come? I do not understand that there is any very accurate census of
Texas. It is generally supposed to contain one hundred and fifty
thousand persons. I doubt whether it contains above one hundred

MR. MANGUM. It contains one hundred and forty-nine thousand.

My honorable friend on my left says, a hundred and forty-nine thousand.
I put it down, then, one hundred and fifty thousand. Well, Sir, Texas is
not destined, probably, to be a country of dense population. We will
suppose it to have at the present time a population of near one hundred
and fifty thousand. New Mexico may have sixty or seventy thousand
inhabitants; say seventy thousand. In California, there are not supposed
to be above twenty-five thousand men; but undoubtedly, if this territory
should become ours, persons from Oregon, and from our Western States,
will find their way to San Francisco, where there is some good land, and
we may suppose they will shortly amount to sixty or seventy thousand. We
will put them down at seventy thousand. Then the whole territory in this
estimate, which is as high as any man puts it, will contain two hundred
and ninety thousand persons, and they will send us, whenever we ask for
them, fourteen Senators; a population less than that of the State of
Vermont, and not the eighth part of that of New York. Fourteen Senators,
and not as many people as Vermont, and no more people than New
Hampshire! and not so many people as the good State of New Jersey!

But then, Sir, Texas claims to the line of the Rio Grande, and if it be
her true line, why then of course she absorbs a considerable part, nay,
the greater part, of the population of what is now called New Mexico. I
do not argue the question of the true southern or western line of Texas;
I only say, that it is apparent to everybody who will look at the map,
and learn any thing of the matter, that New Mexico cannot be divided by
this river, the Rio Grande, which is a shallow, fordable, insignificant
stream, creeping along through a narrow valley, at the base of enormous
mountains. New Mexico must remain together; it must be a State, with its
seventy thousand people, and so it will be; and so will California.

But then, Sir, suppose Texas to remain a unit, and but one State for the
present; still we shall have three States, Texas, New Mexico, and
California. We shall have six Senators, then, for less than three
hundred thousand people. We shall have as many Senators for three
hundred thousand people in that region as we have for New York,
Pennsylvania, and Ohio, with four or five millions of people; and that
is what we call an equal representation! Is not this enormous? Have
gentlemen considered this? Have they looked at it? Are they willing to
look it in the face, and then say they embrace it? I trust, Sir, the
people will look at it and consider it. And now let me add, that this
disproportion can never be diminished; it must remain for ever. How are
you going to diminish it? Why, here is Texas, with a hundred and
forty-nine thousand people, with one State. Suppose that population
should flow into Texas, where will it go? Not to any dense point, but
to be spread over all that region, in places remote from the Gulf, in
places remote from what is now the capital of Texas; and therefore, as
soon as there are in other portions of Texas people enough within our
common construction of the Constitution and our practice in respect to
the admission of States, my honorable friend from Texas[4] will have a
new State, and I have no doubt he has chalked it out already.

As to New Mexico, its population is not likely to increase. It is a
settled country; the people living along in the bottom of the valley on
the sides of a little stream, a garter of land only on one side and the
other, filled by coarse landholders and miserable _peons_. It can
sustain, not only under this cultivation, but under any cultivation that
our American race would ever submit to, no more people than are there
now. There will, then, be two Senators for sixty thousand inhabitants in
New Mexico to the end of our lives and to the end of the lives of our

And how is it with California? We propose to take California, from the
forty-second degree of north latitude down to the thirty-second. We
propose to take ten degrees along the coast of the Pacific. Scattered
along the coast for that great distance are settlements and villages and
ports; and in the rear all is wilderness and barrenness, and Indian
country. But if, just about San Francisco, and perhaps Monterey,
emigrants enough should settle to make up one State, then the people
five hundred miles off would have another State. And so this
disproportion of the Senate to the people will go on, and must go on,
and we cannot prevent it.

I say, Sir, that, according to my conscientious conviction, we are now
fixing on the Constitution of the United States, and its frame of
government, a monstrosity, a disfiguration, an enormity! Sir, I hardly
dare trust myself. I don't know but I may be under some delusion. It may
be the weakness of my eyes that forms this monstrous apparition. But, if
I may trust myself, if I can persuade myself that I am in my right mind,
then it does appear to me that we in this Senate have been and are
acting, and are likely to be acting hereafter, and immediately, a part
which will form the most remarkable epoch in the history of our country.
I hold it to be enormous, flagrant, an outrage upon all the principles
of popular republican government, and on the elementary provisions of
the Constitution under which we live, and which we have sworn to

But then, Sir, what relieves the case from this enormity? What is our
reliance? Why, it is that we stipulate that these new States shall only
be brought in at a suitable time. And pray, what is to constitute the
suitableness of time? Who is to judge of it? I tell you, Sir, that
suitable time will come when the preponderance of party power here makes
it necessary to bring in new States. Be assured it will be a suitable
time when votes are wanted in this Senate. We have had some little
experience of that. Texas came in at a "suitable time," a _very_
suitable time! Texas was finally admitted in December, 1845. My friend
near me here, for whom I have a great regard, and whose acquaintance I
have cultivated with pleasure,[5] took his seat in March, 1846, with his
colleague. In July, 1846, these two Texan votes turned the balance in
the Senate, and overthrew the tariff of 1842, in my judgment the best
system of revenue ever established in this country. Gentlemen on the
opposite side think otherwise. They think it fortunate. They think that
was a suitable time, and they mean to take care that other times shall
be equally suitable. I understand it perfectly well. That is the
difference of opinion between me and these honorable gentlemen. To their
policy, their objects, and their purposes the time was _suitable_, and
the aid was efficient and decisive.

Sir, in 1850 perhaps a similar question may be agitated here. It is not
likely to be before that time, but agitated it will be then, unless a
change in the administration of the government shall take place.
According to my apprehension, looking at general results as flowing from
our established system of commerce and revenue, in two years from this
time we shall probably be engaged in a new revision of our system: in
the work of establishing, if we can, a tariff of specific duties; of
protecting, if we can, our domestic industry and the manufactures of the
country; in the work of preventing, if we can, the overwhelming flood of
foreign importations. Suppose that to be part of the future: that would
be exactly the "suitable time," if necessary, for two Senators from New
Mexico to make their appearance here!

But, again, we hear another halcyon, soothing tone, which quiets none of
my alarms, assuages none of my apprehensions, commends me to my nightly
rest with no more resignation. And that is, the plea that we may trust
the popular branch of the legislature, we may look to the House of
Representatives, to the Northern and Middle States and even the sound
men of the South, and trust them to take care that States be not
admitted sooner than they should be, or for party purposes. I am
compelled, by experience, to distrust all such reliances. If we cannot
rely on ourselves, when we have the clear constitutional authority
competent to carry us through, and the motives intensely powerful, I beg
to know how we can rely on others. Have we more reliance on the
patriotism, the firmness, of others, than on our own?

Besides, experience shows us that things of this sort may be _sprung_
upon Congress and the people. It was so in the case of Texas. It was so
in the Twenty-eighth Congress. The members of that Congress were not
chosen to decide the question of annexation or no annexation. They came
in on other grounds, political and party, and were supported for reasons
not connected with that question. What then? The administration sprung
upon them the question of annexation. It obtained a _snap_ judgment upon
it, and carried the measure of annexation. That is indubitable, as I
could show by many instances, of which I shall state only one.

Four gentlemen from the State of Connecticut were elected before the
question arose, belonging to the dominant party. They had not been here
long before they were committed to annexation; and when it was known in
Connecticut that annexation was in contemplation, remonstrances,
private, public, and legislative, were uttered, in tones that any one
could hear who could hear thunder. Did they move them? Not at all. Every
one of them voted for annexation! The election came on, and they were
turned out, to a man. But what did those care who had had the benefit of
their votes? Such agencies, if it be not more proper to call them such
instrumentalities, retain respect no longer than they continue to be

Sir, we take New Mexico and California; who is weak enough to suppose
that there is an end? Don't we hear it avowed every day, that it would
be proper also to take Sonora, Tamaulipas, and other provinces of
Northern Mexico? Who thinks that the hunger for dominion will stop here
of itself? It is said, to be sure, that our present acquisitions will
prove so lean and unsatisfactory, that we shall seek no further. In my
judgment, we may as well say of a rapacious animal, that, if he has made
one unproductive hunt, he will not try for a better foray.

But further. There are some things one can argue against with temper,
and submit to, if overruled, without mortification. There are other
things that seem to affect one's consciousness of being a sensible man,
and to imply a disposition to impose upon his common sense. And of this
class of topics, or pretences, I have never heard of any thing, and I
cannot conceive of any thing, more ridiculous in itself, more absurd,
and more affrontive to all sober judgment, than the cry that we are
getting indemnity by the acquisition of New Mexico and California. I
hold they are not worth a dollar; and we pay for them vast sums of
money! We have expended, as everybody knows, large treasures in the
prosecution of the war; and now what is to constitute this indemnity?
What do gentlemen mean by it? Let us see a little how this stands. We
get a country; we get, in the first instance, a cession, or an
acknowledgment of boundary, (I care not which way you state it,) of the
country between the Nueces and the Rio Grande. What this country is
appears from a publication made by a gentleman in the other house.[6] He
speaks of the country in the following manner:--

"The country from the Nueces to the valley of the Rio Grande is
poor, sterile, sandy, and barren, with not a single tree of any
size or value on our whole route. The only tree which we saw was
the musquit-tree, and very few of these. The musquit is a small
tree, resembling an old and decayed peach-tree. The whole country
may be truly called a perfect waste, uninhabited and uninhabitable.
There is not a drop of running water between the two rivers, except
in the two small streams of San Salvador and Santa Gertrudis, and
these only contain water in the rainy season. Neither of them had
running water when we passed them. The _chaparral_ commences within
forty or fifty miles of the Rio Grande. This is poor, rocky, and
sandy; covered with prickly-pear, thistles, and almost every
sticking thing, constituting a thick and perfectly impenetrable
undergrowth. For any useful or agricultural purpose, the country is
not worth a _sous_.

"So far as we were able to form any opinion of this desert upon the
other routes which had been travelled, its character, everywhere
between the two rivers, is pretty much the same. We learned that
the route pursued by General Taylor, south of ours, was through a
country similar to that through which we passed; as also was that
travelled by General Wool from San Antonio to Presidio on the Rio
Grande. From what we both saw and heard, the whole command came to
the conclusion which I have already expressed, that it was worth
_nothing_. I have no hesitation in saying, that I would not hazard
the life of one valuable and useful man for every foot of land
between San Patricio and the valley of the Rio Grande. The country
is not now, and can never be, of the _slightest value_."

Major Gaines has been there lately. He is a competent observer. He is
contradicted by nobody. And so far as that country is concerned, I take
it for granted that it is not worth a dollar.

Now of New Mexico, what of that! Forty-nine fiftieths, at least, of the
whole of New Mexico, are a barren waste, a desert plain of mountain,
with no wood, no timber. Little fagots for lighting a fire are carried
thirty or forty miles on mules. There is no fall of rain there, as in
temperate climates. It is Asiatic in scenery altogether: enormously high
mountains, running up some of them ten thousand feet, with narrow
valleys at their bases, through which streams sometimes trickle along. A
strip, a garter, winds along, through which runs the Rio Grande, from
far away up in the Rocky Mountains to latitude 33 deg., a distance of three
or four hundred miles. There these sixty thousand persons reside. In the
mountains on the right and left are streams which, obeying the natural
tendency as tributaries, should flow into the Rio Grande, and which, in
certain seasons, when rains are abundant, do, some of them, actually
reach the Rio Grande; while the greater part always, and all for the
greater part of the year, never reach an outlet to the sea, but are
absorbed in the sands and desert plains of the country. There is no
cultivation there. There is cultivation where there is artificial
watering or irrigation, and nowhere else. Men can live only in the
narrow valley, and in the gorges of the mountains which rise round it,
and not along the course of the streams which lose themselves in the

Now there is no public domain in New Mexico, not a foot of land, to the
soil of which we shall obtain title. Not an acre becomes ours when the
country becomes ours. More than that, the country is as full of people,
such as they are, as it is likely to be. There is not the least thing in
it to invite settlement from the fertile valley of the Mississippi. And
I undertake to say, there would not be two hundred families of persons
who would emigrate from the United States to New Mexico, for
agricultural purposes, in fifty years. They could not live there.
Suppose they were to cultivate the lands; they could only make them
productive in a slight degree by irrigation or artificial watering. The
people there produce little, and live on little. That is not the
characteristic, I take it, of the people of the Eastern or of the Middle
States, or of the Valley of the Mississippi. They produce a good deal,
and they consume a good deal.

Again, Sir, New Mexico is not like Texas. I have hoped, and I still
hope, that Texas will be filled up from among ourselves, not with
Spaniards, not with _peons_; that its inhabitants will not be Mexican
landlords, with troops of slaves, predial or otherwise.

Mr. Rusk here rose, and said that he disliked to interrupt the
Senator, and therefore he had said nothing while he was describing
the country between the Nueces and the Rio Grande; but he wished
now to say, that, when that country comes to be known, it will be
found to be as valuable as any part of Texas. The valley of the Rio
Grande is valuable from its source to its mouth. But he did not
look upon _that_ as indemnity; he claimed that as the _right_ of
Texas. So far as the Mexican population is concerned, there is a
good deal of it in Texas; and it comprises many respectable
persons, wealthy, intelligent, and distinguished. A good many are
now moving in from New Mexico, and settling in Texas.

I take what I say from Major Gaines. But I am glad to hear that any part
of New Mexico is fit for the foot of civilized man. And I am glad,
moreover, that there are some persons in New Mexico who are not so
blindly attached to their miserable condition as not to make an effort
to come out of their country, and get into a better.

Sir, I would, if I had time, call the attention of the Senate to an
instructive speech made in the other house by Mr. Smith of Connecticut.
He seems to have examined all the authorities, to have conversed with
all the travellers, to have corresponded with all our agents. His speech
contains communications from all of them; and I commend it to every man
in the United States who wishes to know what we are about to acquire by
the annexation of New Mexico.

New Mexico is secluded, isolated, a place by itself, in the midst and at
the foot of vast mountains, five hundred miles from the settled part of
Texas, and as far from anywhere else! It does not belong anywhere! It
has no _belongings_ about it! At this moment it is absolutely more
retired and shut out from communication with the civilized world than
Hawaii or any of the other islands of the Pacific sea. In seclusion and
remoteness, New Mexico may press hard on the character and condition of
Typee. And its people are infinitely less elevated, in morals and
condition, than the people of the Sandwich Islands. We had much better
have Senators from Oahu. They are far less intelligent than the better
class of our Indian neighbors. Commend me to the Cherokees, to the
Choctaws; if you please, speak of the Pawnees, of the Snakes, the
Flatfeet, of any thing but the _Digging_ Indians, and I will be
satisfied not to take the people of New Mexico. Have they any notion of
our institutions, or of _any_ free institutions? Have they any notion of
popular government? Not the slightest! Not the slightest on earth! When
the question is asked, What will be their constitution? it is farcical
to talk of such people making a constitution for themselves. They do not
know the meaning of the term, they do not know its import. They know
nothing at all about it; and I can tell you, Sir, that when they are
made a Territory, and are to be made a State, such a constitution as the
executive power of this government may think fit to send them will be
sent, and will be adopted. The constitution of our _fellow citizens_ of
New Mexico will be framed in the city of Washington.

Now what says in regard to all Mexico Colonel Hardin, that most lamented
and distinguished officer, honorably known as a member of the other
house, and who has fallen gallantly fighting in the service of his
country? Here is his description:--

"The whole country is miserably watered. Large districts have no
water at all. The streams are small, and at great distances apart.
One day we marched on the road from Monclova to Parras thirty-five
miles without water, a pretty severe day's marching for infantry.

"Grass is very scarce, and indeed there is none at all in many
regions for miles square. Its place is supplied with prickly-pear
and thorny bushes. There is not one acre in two hundred, more
probably not one in five hundred, of all the land we have seen in
Mexico, which can ever be cultivated; the greater portion of it is
the most desolate region I could ever have imagined. The pure
granite hills of New England are a paradise to it, for they are
without the thorny briers and venomous reptiles which infest the
barbed barrenness of Mexico. The good land and cultivated spots in
Mexico are but dots on the map. Were it not that it takes so very
little to support a Mexican, and that the land which is cultivated
yields its produce with little labor, it would be surprising how
its sparse population is sustained. All the towns we have visited,
with perhaps the exception of Parras, are depopulating, as is also
the whole country.

"The people are on a par with their land. One in two hundred or
five hundred is rich, and lives like a nabob; the rest are _peons_,
or servants sold for debt, who work for their masters, and are as
subservient as the slaves of the South, and look like Indians, and,
indeed, are not more capable of self-government. One man, Jacobus
Sanchez, owns three fourths of all the land our column has passed
over in Mexico. We are told we have seen the best part of Northern
Mexico; if so, the whole of it is not worth much.

"I came to Mexico in favor of getting or taking enough of it to pay
the expenses of the war. I now doubt whether all Northern Mexico is
worth the expenses of our column of three thousand men. The
expenses of the war must be enormous; we have paid enormous prices
for every thing, much beyond the usual prices of the country."

There it is. That's all North Mexico; and New Mexico is not the better
part of it.

Sir, there is a recent traveller, not unfriendly to the United States,
if we may judge from his work, for he speaks well of us everywhere; an
Englishman, named Ruxton. He gives an account of the morals and the
manners of the population of New Mexico. And, Mr. President and
Senators, I shall take leave to introduce you to these soon to be your
respected _fellow-citizens_ of New Mexico:--

"It is remarkable that, although existing from the earliest times
of the colonization of New Mexico, a period of two centuries, in a
state of continual hostility with the numerous savage tribes of
Indians who surround their territory, and in constant insecurity of
life and property from their attacks, being also far removed from
the enervating influences of large cities, and, in their isolated
situation, entirely dependent upon their own resources, the
inhabitants are totally destitute of those qualities which, for the
above reasons, we might naturally have expected to distinguish
them, and are as deficient in energy of character and physical
courage as they are in all the moral and intellectual qualities. In
their social state but one degree removed from the veriest savages,
they might take a lesson even from these in morality and the
conventional decencies of life. Imposing no restraint on their
passions, a shameless and universal concubinage exists, and a total
disregard of morality, to which it would be impossible to find a
parallel in any country calling itself civilized. A want of
honorable principle, and consummate duplicity and treachery,
characterize all their dealings. Liars by nature, they are
treacherous and faithless to their friends, cowardly and cringing
to their enemies; cruel, as all cowards are, they unite savage
ferocity with their want of animal courage; as an example of which,
their recent massacre of Governor Bent, and other Americans, may be
given, one of a hundred instances."

These, Sir, are soon to be our beloved countrymen!

Mr. President, for a good many years I have struggled in opposition to
every thing which I thought tended to strengthen the arm of executive
power. I think it is growing more and more formidable every day. And I
think that by yielding to it in this, as in other instances, we give it
a strength which it will be difficult hereafter to resist. I think that
it is nothing less than the fear of executive power which induces us to
acquiesce in the acquisition of territory; fear, _fear_, and nothing

In the little part which I have acted in public life, it has been my
purpose to maintain the people of the United States, what the
Constitution designed to make them, _one people_, one in interest, one
in character, and one in political feeling. If we depart from that, we
break it all up. What sympathy can there be between the people of Mexico
and California and the inhabitants of the Valley of the Mississippi and
the Eastern States in the choice of a President? Do they know the same
man? Do they concur in any general constitutional principles? Not at

Arbitrary governments may have territories and distant possessions,
because arbitrary governments may rule them by different laws and
different systems. Russia may rule in the Ukraine and the provinces of
the Caucasus and Kamtschatka by different codes, ordinances, or ukases.
We can do no such thing. They must be of us, _part_ of us, or else

I think I see that in progress which will disfigure and deform the
Constitution. While these territories remain territories, they will be a
trouble and an annoyance; they will draw after them vast expenses; they
will probably require as many troops as we have maintained during the
last twenty years to defend them against the Indian tribes. We must
maintain an army at that immense distance. When they shall become
States, they will be still more likely to give us trouble.

I think I see a course adopted which is likely to turn the Constitution
of the land into a deformed monster, into a curse rather than a
blessing; in fact, a frame of an unequal government, not founded on
popular representation, not founded on equality, but on the grossest
inequality; and I think that this process will go on, or that there is
_danger_ that it will go on, until this Union shall fall to pieces. I
resist it, to-day and always! Whoever falters or whoever flies, I
continue the contest!

I know, Sir, that all the portents are discouraging. Would to God I
could auspicate good influences! Would to God that those who think with
me, and myself, could hope for stronger support! Would that we could
stand where we desire to stand! I see the signs are sinister. But with
few, or alone, my position is fixed. If there were time, I would gladly
awaken the country. I believe the country might be awakened, although it
may be too late. For myself, supported or unsupported, by the blessing
of God, I shall do my duty. I see well enough all the adverse
indications. But I am sustained by a deep and a conscientious sense of
duty; and while supported by that feeling, and while such great
interests are at stake, I defy auguries, and ask no omen but my
country's cause!

[Footnote 1: Mr. Jefferson.]

[Footnote 2: Mr. Upshur.]

[Footnote 3: Mr. Tyler.]

[Footnote 4: Mr. Rusk.]

[Footnote 5: Mr. Rusk.]

[Footnote 6: Major Gaines.]



[In the course of the first session of the Thirtieth Congress, a bill
passed the House of Representatives to organize a government for the
Territory of Oregon. This bill received several amendments on its
passage through the Senate, and among them one moved by Mr. Douglass of
Illinois, on the 10th of August, by which the eighth section of the law
of the 6th of March, 1820, for the admission of Missouri, was revived
and adopted, as a part of the bill, and declared to be "in full force,
and binding, for the future organization of the territories of the
United States, in the same sense and with the same understanding with
which it was originally adopted."

This, with some of the other amendments of the Senate, was disagreed to
by the House. On the return of the bill to the Senate, a discussion
arose, and continued for several days, on the question of agreement or
disagreement with the amendments of the House to the Senate's

The principal subject of this discussion was whether the Senate would
recede from the above-mentioned amendment moved by Mr. Douglass, which
was finally decided in the affirmative. In these discussions, a
considerable portion of which was of a conversational character, Mr.
Webster took a leading part; but of most of what was said by him, as by
other Senators, no report has been preserved. The session of the Senate
at which the last and most animated discussion of this subject took
place, nominally on Saturday of the 12th of August, was prolonged till
ten o'clock, A.M., of Sunday, the 13th. In the course of the debate on
this day Mr. Webster spoke as follows.]

I am very little inclined to prolong this debate, and I hope I am
utterly disinclined to bring into it any new warmth or excitement. I
wish to say a few words, however, first, upon the question as it is
presented to us, as a parliamentary question; and secondly, upon the
general political questions involved in the debate.

As a question of parliamentary proceeding, I understand the case to be
this. The House of Representatives sent us a bill for the establishment
of a territorial government in Oregon; and no motion has been made in
the Senate to strike out any part of that bill. The bill purporting to
respect Oregon, simply and alone, has not been the subject of any
objection in this branch of the legislature. The Senate has proposed no
important amendment to this bill, affecting Oregon itself; and the
honorable member from Missouri[1] was right, entirely right, when he
said that the amendment now under consideration had no relation to
Oregon. That is perfectly true; and therefore the amendment which the
Senate has adopted, and the House has disagreed to, has no connection
with the immediate subject before it. The truth is, that it is an
amendment by which the Senate wished to have now a public, legal
declaration, not respecting Oregon, but respecting the newly acquired
territories of California and New Mexico. It wishes now to make a line
of slavery, which shall include those new territories. The amendment
says that the line of the "Missouri Compromise" shall be the line to the
Pacific, and then goes on to say, in the language of the bill as it now
stands, that the Ordinance of 1787 shall be applicable to Oregon; and
therefore I say that the amendment proposed is foreign to the immediate
object of the bill. It does nothing to modify, restrain, or affect, in
any way, the government which we propose to establish over Oregon, or
the condition or character of that government, or of the people under
it. In a parliamentary view, this is the state of the case.

Now, Sir, this amendment has been attached to this bill by a strong
majority of the Senate. That majority had the right, as it had the
power, to pass it. The House disagreed to that amendment. If the
majority of the Senate, who attached it to the bill, are of opinion that
a conference with the House will lead to some adjustment of the
question, by which this amendment, or something equivalent to it, may be
adopted by the House, it is very proper for them to urge a conference.
It is very fair, quite parliamentary, and there is not a word to be said
against it. But my position is that of one who voted against the
amendment, who thinks that it ought not to be attached to this bill; and
therefore I naturally vote for the motion to get rid of it, that is, "to

So much for the parliamentary question. Now there are two or three
political questions arising in this case, which I wish to state
dispassionately; not to argue, but to state. The honorable member from
Georgia,[2] for whom I have great respect, and with whom it is my
delight to cultivate personal friendship, has stated, with great
propriety, the importance of this question. He has said, that it is a
question interesting to the South and to the North, and one which may
very well also attract the attention of mankind. He has not stated any
part of this too strongly. It is such a question. Without doubt, it is a
question which may well attract the attention of mankind. On the
subjects involved in this debate, the whole world is not now asleep. It
is wide awake; and I agree with the honorable member, that, if what is
now proposed to be done by us who resist this amendment is, as he
supposes, unjust and injurious to any portion of this community, or
against its constitutional rights, that injustice should be presented to
the civilized world, and we, who concur in the proceeding, ought to
submit ourselves to its rebuke. I am glad that the honorable gentleman
proposes to refer this question to the great tribunal of Modern
Civilization, as well as the great tribunal of the American People. It
is proper. It is a question of magnitude enough, of interest enough, to
all the civilized nations of the earth, to call from those who support
the one side or the other a statement of the grounds upon which they

Now I propose to state as briefly as I can the grounds upon which I
proceed, historical and constitutional; and will endeavor to use as few
words as possible, so that I may relieve the Senate from hearing me at
the earliest possible moment. In the first place, to view the matter
historically. This Constitution, founded in 1787, and the government
under it, organized in 1789, do recognize the existence of slavery in
certain States then belonging to the Union, and a particular description
of slavery. I hope that what I am about to say may be received without
any supposition that I intend the slightest disrespect. But this
particular description of slavery does not, I believe, now exist in
Europe, nor in any other civilized portion of the habitable globe. It is
not a predial slavery. It is not analogous to the case of the _predial_
slaves, or slaves _glebae adscripti_ of Russia, or Hungary, or other
states. It is a peculiar system of personal slavery, by which the person
who is called a slave is transferable as a chattel, from hand to hand. I
speak of this as a fact; and that is the fact. And I will say further,
perhaps other gentlemen may remember the instances, that although
slavery, as a system of servitude attached to the earth, exists in
various countries of Europe, I am not at the present moment aware of any
place on the globe in which this property of man in a human being as a
slave, transferable as a chattel, exists, except America. Now, that it
existed, in the form in which it still exists, in certain States, at the
formation of this Constitution, and that the framers of that
instrument, and those who adopted it, agreed that, as far as it existed,
it should not be disturbed or interfered with by the new general
government, there is no doubt.

The Constitution of the United States recognizes it as an existing fact,
an existing relation between the inhabitants of the Southern States. I
do not call it an "institution," because that term is not applicable to
it; for that seems to imply a voluntary establishment. When I first came
here, it was a matter of frequent reproach to England, the mother
country, that slavery had been entailed upon the colonies by her,
against their consent, and that which is now considered a cherished
"institution" was then regarded as, I will not say an _evil_, but an
entailment on the Colonies by the policy of the mother country against
their wishes. At any rate, it stands upon the Constitution. The
Constitution was adopted in 1788, and went into operation in 1789. When
it was adopted, the state of the country was this: slavery existed in
the Southern States; there was a very large extent of unoccupied
territory, the whole Northwestern Territory, which, it was understood,
was destined to be formed into States; and it was then determined that
no slavery should exist in this territory. I gather now, as a matter of
inference from the history of the time and the history of the debates,
that the prevailing motives with the North for agreeing to this
recognition of the existence of slavery in the Southern States, and
giving a representation to those States founded in part upon their
slaves, rested on the supposition that no acquisition of territory would
be made to form new States on the southern frontier of this country,
either by cession or conquest. No one looked to any acquisition of new
territory on the southern or southwestern frontier. The exclusion of
slavery from the Northwestern Territory and the prospective abolition of
the foreign slave trade were generally, the former unanimously, agreed
to; and on the basis of these considerations, the South insisted that
where slavery existed it should not be interfered with, and that it
should have a certain ratio of representation in Congress. And now, Sir,
I am one, who, believing such to be the understanding on which the
Constitution was framed, mean to abide by it.

There is another principle, equally clear, by which I mean to abide; and
that is, that in the Convention, and in the first Congress, when
appealed to on the subject by petitions, and all along in the history of
this government, it was and has been a conceded point, that slavery in
the States in which it exists is a matter of State regulation
exclusively, and that Congress has not the least power over it, or right
to interfere with it. Therefore I say, that all agitations and attempts
to disturb the relations between master and slave, by persons not living
in the slave States, are unconstitutional in their spirit, and are, in
my opinion, productive of nothing but evil and mischief. I countenance
none of them. The manner in which the governments of those States where
slavery exists are to regulate it, is for their own consideration, under
their responsibility to their constituents, to the general laws of
propriety, humanity, and justice, and to God. Associations formed
elsewhere, springing from a feeling of humanity, or any other cause,
have nothing whatever to do with it, nor right to interfere with it.
They have never received any encouragement from me, and they never will.
In my opinion, they have done nothing but delay and defeat their own
professed objects.

I have now stated, as I understand it, the condition of things upon the
adoption of the Constitution of the United States. What has happened
since? Sir, it has happened that, above and beyond all contemplation or
expectation of the original framers of the Constitution, or the people
who adopted it, foreign territory has been acquired by cession, first
from France, and then from Spain, on our southern frontier. And what has
been the result? Five slave-holding States have been created and added
to the Union, bringing ten Senators into this body, (I include Texas,
which I consider in the light of a foreign acquisition also,) and up to
this hour in which I address you, not one free State has been admitted
to the Union from all this acquired territory!

MR. BERRIEN (in his seat). Yes, Iowa.

Iowa is not yet in the Union. Her Senators are not here. When she comes
in, there will be one to five, one free State to five slave States,
formed out of new territories. Now, it seems strange to me that there
should be any complaint of injustice exercised by the North toward the
South. Northern votes have been necessary, they have been ready, and
they have been given, to aid in the admission of these five new
slave-holding States. These are facts; and as the gentleman from Georgia
has very properly put it as a case in which we are to present ourselves
before the world for its judgment, let us now see how we stand. I do not
represent the North. I state my own case; and I present the matter in
that light in which I am willing, as an individual member of Congress,
to be judged by civilized humanity. I say then, that, according to true
history, the slave-holding interest in this country has not been a
disfavored interest; it has not been disfavored by the North. The North
has concurred to bring in these five slave-holding States out of newly
acquired territory, which acquisitions were not at all in the
contemplation of the Convention which formed the Constitution, or of the
people when they agreed that there should be a representation of three
fifths of the slaves in the then existing States.

Mr. President, what is the result of this? We stand here now, at least I
do, for one, to say, that, considering there have been already five new
slave-holding States formed out of newly acquired territory, and only
one non-slave-holding State, at most, I do not feel that I am called on
to go further; I do not feel the obligation to yield more. But our
friends of the South say, You deprive us of all our rights. We have
fought for this territory, and you deny us participation in it. Let us
consider this question as it really is; and since the honorable
gentleman from Georgia proposes to leave the case to the enlightened and
impartial judgment of mankind, and as I agree with him that it is a case
proper to be considered by the enlightened part of mankind, let us see
how the matter in truth stands. Gentlemen who advocate the case which my
honorable friend from Georgia, with so much ability, sustains, declare
that we invade their rights, that we deprive them of a participation in
the enjoyment of territories acquired by the common services and common
exertions of all. Is this true? How deprive? Of what do we deprive them?
Why, they say that we deprive them of the privilege of carrying their
slaves, as slaves, into the new territories. Well, Sir, what is the
amount of that? They say that in this way we deprive them of the
opportunity of going into this acquired territory with their property.
Their "property"? What do they mean by "property"? We certainly do not
deprive them of the privilege of going into these newly acquired
territories with all that, in the general estimate of human society, in
the general, and common, and universal understanding of mankind, is
esteemed property. Not at all. The truth is just this. They have, in
their own States, peculiar laws, which create property in persons. They
have a system of local legislation on which slavery rests; while
everybody agrees that it is against natural law, or at least against the
common understanding which prevails among men as to what is natural law.

I am not going into metaphysics, for therein I should encounter the
honorable member from South Carolina,[3] and we should find "no end, in
wandering mazes lost," until after the time for the adjournment of
Congress. The Southern States have peculiar laws, and by those laws
there is property in slaves. This is purely local. The real meaning,
then, of Southern gentlemen, in making this complaint, is, that they
cannot go into the territories of the United States carrying with them
their own peculiar local law, a law which creates property in persons.
This, according to their own statement, is all the ground of complaint
they have. Now here, I think, gentlemen are unjust towards us. How
unjust they are, others will judge; generations that will come after us
will judge. It will not be contended that this sort of personal slavery
exists by general law. It exists only by local law. I do not mean to
deny the validity of that local law where it is established; but I say
it is, after all, local law. It is nothing more. And wherever that local
law does not extend, property in persons does not exist. Well, Sir, what
is now the demand on the part of our Southern friends? They say, "We
will carry our local laws with us wherever we go. We insist that
Congress does us injustice unless it establishes in the territory in
which we wish to go our own local law." This demand I for one resist,
and shall resist. It goes upon the idea that there is an inequality,
unless persons under this local law, and holding property by authority
of that law, can go into new territory and there establish that local
law, to the exclusion of the general law. Mr. President, it was a maxim
of the civil law, that, between slavery and freedom, freedom should
always be presumed, and slavery must always be proved. If any question
arose as to the _status_ of an individual in Rome, he was presumed to be
free until he was proved to be a slave, because slavery is an exception
to the general rule. Such, I suppose, is the general law of mankind. An
individual is to be presumed to be free, until a law can be produced
which creates ownership in his person. I do not dispute the force and
validity of the local law, as I have already said; but I say, it is a
matter to be proved; and therefore, if individuals go into any part of
the earth, it is to be proved that they are not freemen, or else the
presumption is that they are.

Now our friends seem to think that an inequality arises from restraining
them from going into the territories, unless there be a law provided
which shall protect their ownership in persons. The assertion is, that
we create an inequality. Is there nothing to be said on the other side
in relation to inequality? Sir, from the date of this Constitution, and
in the counsels that formed and established this Constitution, and I
suppose in all men's judgment since, it is received as a settled truth,
that slave labor and free labor do not exist well together. I have
before me a declaration of Mr. Mason, in the Convention that formed the
Constitution, to that effect. Mr. Mason, as is well known, was a
distinguished member from Virginia. He says that the objection to slave
labor is, that it puts free white labor in disrepute; that it causes
labor to be regarded as derogatory to the character of the free white
man, and that the free white man despises to work, to use his
expression, where slaves are employed. This is a matter of great
interest to the free States, if it be true, as to a great extent it
certainly is, that wherever slave labor prevails free white labor is
excluded or discouraged. I agree that slave labor does not necessarily
exclude free labor totally. There is free white labor in Virginia,
Tennessee, and other States, where most of the labor is done by slaves.
But it necessarily loses something of its respectability, by the side
of, and when associated with, slave labor. Wherever labor is mainly
performed by slaves, it is regarded as degrading to freemen. The freemen
of the North, therefore, have a deep interest in keeping labor free,
exclusively free, in the new territories.

But, Sir, let us look further into this alleged inequality. There is no
pretence that Southern people may not go into territory which shall be
subject to the Ordinance of 1787. The only restraint is, that they shall
not carry slaves thither, and continue that relation. They say this
shuts them altogether out. Why, Sir, there can be nothing more
inaccurate in point of fact than this statement. I understand that one
half the people who settled Illinois are people, or descendants of
people, who came from the Southern States. And I suppose that one third
of the people of Ohio are those, or descendants of those, who emigrated
from the South; and I venture to say, that, in respect to those two
States, they are at this day settled by people of Southern origin in as
great a proportion as they are by people of Northern origin, according
to the general numbers and proportion of people, South and North. There
are as many people from the South, in proportion to the whole people of
the South, in those States, as there are from the North, in proportion
to the whole people of the North. There is, then, no exclusion of
Southern people; there is only the exclusion of a peculiar local law.
Neither in principle nor in fact is there any inequality.

The question now is, whether it is not competent to Congress, in the
exercise of a fair and just discretion, considering that there have been
five slave-holding States added to this Union out of foreign
acquisitions, and as yet only one free State, to prevent their further
increase. That is the question. I see no injustice in it. As to the
power of Congress, I have nothing to add to what I said the other day.
Congress has full power over the subject. It may establish any such
government, and any such laws, in the territories, as in its discretion
it may see fit. It is subject, of course, to the rules of justice and
propriety; but it is under no constitutional restraints.

I have said that I shall consent to no extension of the area of slavery
upon this continent, nor to any increase of slave representation in the
other house of Congress. I have now stated my reasons for my conduct and
my vote. We of the North have already gone, in this respect, far beyond
all that any Southern man could have expected, or did expect, at the
time of the adoption of the Constitution. I repeat the statement of the
fact of the creation of five new slave-holding States out of newly
acquired territory. We have done that which, if those who framed the
Constitution had foreseen, they never would have agreed to slave
representation. We have yielded thus far; and we have now in the House
of Representatives twenty persons voting upon this very question, and
upon all other questions, who are there only in virtue of the
representation of slaves.

Let me conclude, therefore, by remarking, that, while I am willing to
present this as showing my own judgment and position, in regard to this
case, and I beg it to be understood that I am speaking for no other than
myself, and while I am willing to offer it to the whole world as my own
justification, I rest on these propositions: First, That when this
Constitution was adopted, nobody looked for any new acquisition of
territory to be formed into slave-holding States. Secondly, That the
principles of the Constitution prohibited, and were intended to
prohibit, and should be construed to prohibit, all interference of the
general government with slavery as it existed and as it still exists in
the States. And then, looking to the operation of these new
acquisitions, which have in this great degree had the effect of
strengthening that interest in the South by the addition of these five
States, I feel that there is nothing unjust, nothing of which any honest
man can complain, if he is intelligent, and I feel that there is nothing
with which the civilized world, if they take notice of so humble a
person as myself, will reproach me, when I say, as I said the other day,
that I have made up my mind, for one, that under no circumstances will I
consent to the further extension of the area of slavery in the United
States, or to the further increase of slave representation in the House
of Representatives.

[Footnote 1: Mr. Benton.]

[Footnote 2: Mr. Berrien.]

[Footnote 3: Mr. Calhoun.]



[The following correspondence explains the occasion of the meeting at
Marshfield, at which the following speech was delivered.

"_Marshfield, Mass., Aug. 2, 1848._


"Dear Sir,--The undersigned, Whigs and fellow-citizens of yours, are
desirous of seeing and conferring with you on the subject of our
national policy, and of hearing your opinions freely expressed thereon.
We look anxiously on the present aspect of public affairs, and on the
position in which the Whig party, and especially Northern Whigs, are now
placed. We should be grieved indeed to see General Cass--so decided an
opponent of all those measures which we think essential to the honor and
interests of the country and the prosperity of all classes--elected to
the chief magistracy. On the other hand, it is not to be concealed, that
there is much discontent with the nomination made by the late
Philadelphia Convention, of a Southern man, a military man, fresh from
bloody fields, and known only by his sword, as a Whig candidate for the

"So far as is in our humble ability, we desire to preserve the Union and
the Whig party, and to perpetuate Whig principles; but we wish to see
also that these principles may be preserved, and this Union perpetuated,
in a manner consistent with the rights of the Free States, and the
prevention of the farther extension of the slave power; and we dread the
effects of the precedent, which we think eminently dangerous, and as not
exhibiting us in a favorable light to the nations of the earth, of
elevating a mere military man to the Presidency.

"We think a crisis is upon us; and we would gladly know how we may best
discharge our duties as true Americans, honest men, and good Whigs. To
you, who have been so long in public life, and are able from your great
experience and unrivalled ability to give us information and advice, and
upon whom, as neighbors and friends, we think we have some claims, we
naturally look, and we should be exceedingly gratified if, in any way,
public or private, you would express your opinion upon interesting
public questions now pending, with that boldness and distinctness with
which you are accustomed to declare your sentiments. If you can concur
with our wishes, please signify to us in what manner it would be most
agreeable to you that they should be carried into effect.

"With very great regard, your obedient servants,

and many others."

To this invitation Mr. Webster returned the following reply:--

"_Marshfield, Aug. 3, 1848._

"GENTLEMEN,--I have received your letter. The critical state of things
at Washington obliges me to think it my duty to repair thither
immediately and take my seat in the Senate, notwithstanding the state of
my health and the heat of the weather render it disagreeable for me to
leave home.

"I cannot, therefore, comply with your wishes at present; but on my
return, if such should continue to be your desire, I will meet you and
the other Whigs of Marshfield, in an unceremonious manner, that we may
confer upon the topics to which your letter relates.

"I am, Gentlemen, with esteem and friendship,

"Your obliged fellow-citizen,



Soon after Mr. Webster's return from Washington, it was arranged that
the meeting should take place at the "Winslow House," the ancient seat
of the Winslow family, now forming a part of Mr. Webster's farm at
Marshfield, on Friday, the first day of September.]

Although it is not my purpose, during the present recess of Congress,
frequently to address public assemblies on political subjects, I have
felt it my duty to comply with your request, as neighbors and townsmen,
and to meet you to-day; and I am not unwilling to avail myself of this
occasion to signify to the people of the United States my opinions upon
the present state of our public affairs. I shall perform that duty,
certainly with great frankness, I hope with candor. It is not my
intention to-day to endeavor to carry any point, to act as any man's
advocate, to put up or put down anybody. I wish, and I propose, to
address you in the language and in the spirit of conference and
consultation. In the present extraordinary crisis of our public
concerns, I desire to hold no man's conscience but my own. My own
opinions I shall communicate, freely and fearlessly, with equal
disregard to consequences, whether they respect myself or respect

We are on the eve of a highly important Presidential election. In two or
three months the people of this country will be called upon to elect an
executive chief magistrate of the United States; and all see, and all
feel, that great interests of the country are to be affected, for good
or evil, by the results of that election. Of the interesting subjects
over which the person who shall be elected must necessarily exercise
more or less control, there are especially three, vitally connected, in
my judgment, with the honor and happiness of the country. In the first
place, the honor and happiness of the country imperatively require that
there shall be a chief magistrate elected who shall not plunge us into
further wars of ambition and conquest. In the second place, in my
judgment, the interests of the country and the feeling of a vast
majority of the people require that a President of these United States
should be elected, who will neither use official influence to promote,
nor feel any desire in his heart to promote, the further extension of
slavery in this community, or its further influence in the public
councils. In the third place, if I have any just estimate, if an
experience not now a short one in public affairs has enabled me to know
any thing of what the public interest demands, the state of the country
requires an essential reform in the system of revenue and finance such
as shall restore the prosperity, by prompting the industry and fostering
the labor of the country, in its various branches. There are other
things important, but I will not allude to them. These three I hold to
be essential.

There are three candidates presented to the choice of the American
people. General Taylor is the Whig candidate, standing upon the
nomination of the Whig Convention; General Cass is the candidate of the
opposing and now dominant party in the country; and a third candidate is
presented in the person of Mr. Van Buren, by a convention of citizens
assembled at Buffalo, whose object, or whose main object, as it appears
to me, is contained in one of those considerations which I have
mentioned, and that is, the prevention of the further increase of
slavery;--an object in which you and I, Gentlemen, so far as that goes,
entirely concur with them, I am sure.

Most of us who are here to-day are Whigs, National Whigs, Massachusetts
Whigs, Old Colony Whigs, and Marshfield Whigs, and if the Whig
nomination made at Philadelphia were entirely satisfactory to the people
of Massachusetts and to us, our path of duty would be plain. But the
nomination of a candidate for the Presidency made by the Whig Convention
at Philadelphia is not satisfactory to the Whigs of Massachusetts. That
is certain, and it would be idle to attempt to conceal the fact. It is
more just and more patriotic, it is more manly and practical, to take
facts as they are, and things as they are, and to deduce our own
conviction of duty from what exists before us. However respectable and
distinguished in the line of his own profession, or however estimable as
a private citizen, General Taylor is a military man, and a military man
merely. He has had no training in civil affairs. He has performed no
functions of a civil nature under the Constitution of his country. He
has been known and is known, only by his brilliant achievements at the
head of an army. Now the Whigs of Massachusetts, and I among them, are
of opinion that it was not wise, nor discreet, to go to the army for the
selection of a candidate for the Presidency of the United States. It is
the first instance in their history in which any man of mere military
character has been proposed for that high office. General Washington was
a great military character; but by far a greater civil character. He had
been employed in the councils of his country, from the earliest dawn of
the Revolution. He had been in the Continental Congress, and he had
established a great character for civil wisdom and judgment. After the
war, as you know, he was elected a member of that convention which
formed the Constitution of the United States; and it is one of the most
honorable tributes ever paid to him, that by that assembly of good and
wise men he was selected to preside over their deliberations. And he put
his name first and foremost to the Constitution under which we live.
President Harrison was bred a soldier, and at different periods of his
life rendered important military services. But President Harrison,
nevertheless, was for a much greater period of his life employed in
civil than in military service. For twenty years he was either governor
of a Territory, member of one or the other house of Congress, or
minister abroad; and discharged all these duties to the satisfaction of
his country. This case, therefore, stands by itself; without a precedent
or justification from any thing in our previous history. It is for this
reason, as I imagine, that the Whigs of Massachusetts feel dissatisfied
with this nomination. There may be other reasons, there are others; they
are, perhaps, of less importance, and more easily to be answered. But
this is a well-founded objection; and in my opinion it ought to have
prevailed, and to have prevented this nomination. I know enough of
history to see the dangerous tendency of such resorts to military

But, if I may borrow a mercantile expression, I may now venture to say,
that there is another side to this account. The impartiality with which
I propose to discharge my duty to-day requires that it should be stated.
And, in the first place, it is to be considered, that General Taylor has
been nominated by a Whig convention, held in conformity with the usages
of the Whig party, and, so far as I know, fairly nominated. It is to be
considered, also, that he is the only Whig before the people, as a
candidate for the Presidency; and no citizen of the country, with any
effect, can vote for any other Whig, let his preferences be what they
might or may.

In the next place, it is proper to consider the personal character of
General Taylor, and his political opinions, relations, and connections,
so far as they are known. In advancing to a few observations on this
part of the case, I wish everybody to understand that I have no personal
acquaintance whatever with General Taylor. I never saw him but once, and
that but for a few moments in the Senate. The sources of information are
open to you, as well as to me, from which I derive what I know of his
character and opinions. But I have endeavored to obtain access to those
sources. I have endeavored to inform and instruct myself by
communication with those who have known him in his profession as a
soldier, in his associations as a man, in his conversations and opinions
on political subjects; and I will tell you frankly what I think of him,
according to the best lights which I have been able to obtain.

I need not say, that he is a skilful, brave, and gallant soldier. That
is admitted by all. With me, all that goes but very little way to make
out the proper qualifications for President of the United States. But
what is more important, I believe that he is an entirely honest and
upright man. I believe that he is modest, clear-headed, of independent
and manly character, possessing a mind trained by proper discipline and
self-control. I believe that he is estimable and amiable in all the
relations of private life. I believe that he possesses a reputation for
equity and fair judgment, which gives him an influence over those under
his command beyond what is conferred by the authority of station. I
believe that he is a man possessing the confidence and attachment of all
who have been near him and know him. And I believe, that, if elected
President, he will do his best to relieve the country from present
evils, and guard it against future dangers. So much for what I think of
the personal character of General Taylor.

I will say, too, that, so far as I have observed, his conduct since he
has been a candidate for the office of President has been
irreproachable. I hear no intrigue imputed to him, no contumelious
treatment of rivals. I do not find him making promises or holding out
hopes to any men or any party. I do not find him putting forth any
pretensions of his own, and therefore I think of him very much as he
seems to think of himself, that he is an honest man, of an independent
mind and of upright intentions. And as for the subject of his
qualifications for the Presidency, he has himself nothing to say about

And now, friends and fellow-townsmen, with respect to his political
opinions and relations, I can say at once, that I believe him to be a
Whig; I believe him to hold to the main doctrines of the Whig party. To
think otherwise would be to impute to him a degree of tergiversation and
fraudulent deception of which I suppose him to be entirely incapable.

Gentlemen, it is worth our while to consider in what manner General
Taylor has become a candidate for the Presidency of the United States.
It would be a great mistake to suppose that he was made such merely by
the nomination of the Philadelphia Convention. He had been nominated for
the Presidency in a great many States, by various conventions and
meetings of the people, a year before the convention at Philadelphia
assembled. The whole history of the world shows, whether in the most
civilized or the most barbarous ages, that the affections and admiration
of mankind are at all times easily carried away towards successful
military achievements. The story of all republics and of all free
governments shows this. We know in the case now before us, that so soon
as brilliant success had attended General Taylor's operations on the Rio
Grande, at Palo Alto, and Monterey, spontaneous nominations of him
sprang up.

And here let me say, that, generally, these were Whig nominations. Not
universally, but generally, these nominations, made at various times
before the meeting of the Philadelphia Convention, were Whig
nominations. General Taylor was esteemed, from the moment that his
military achievements brought him into public notice, as a Whig general.
You all remember, that when we were discussing his merits in Congress,
upon the question of giving thanks to the army under his command, and to
himself, among other objections, the friends and supporters of Mr.
Polk's administration denounced him as being, and because he was, a Whig
general. My friends near me, whom I am happy to see here, belonging to
the House of Representatives, will remember that a leading man of the
party of the administration declared in his place in Congress, that the
policy of the administration, connected with the Mexican war, would
never prosper, till the President recalled those Whig generals, Scott
and Taylor. The policy was a Democratic policy. The argument was, that
the men to carry out this policy should be Democratic men; the officers
to fight the battles should be Democratic officers; and on that ground,
the ordinary vote of thanks was refused to General Taylor, on the part
of the friends of the administration.

Let me remark, in the next place, that there was no particular purpose
connected with the advancement of slavery entertained, generally, by
those who nominated him. As I have said, they were Whig nominations,
more in the Middle and Northern than in the Southern States, and by
persons who never entertained the slightest desire, by his nomination,
or by any other means, to extend the area of slavery of the human race,
or the influence of the slave-holding States in the councils of the
nation. The Quaker city of Philadelphia nominated General Taylor, the
Whigs all over the Union nominated him, with no such view. A great
convention was assembled in New York, of highly influential and
respectable gentlemen, very many of them well known to me, and they
nominated General Taylor with no such view. General Taylor's nomination
was hailed, not very extensively, but by some enthusiastic and not very
far-seeing people in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. There were, even
among us, in our own State, Whigs quite early enough, certainly, in
manifesting their confidence in this nomination; a little too early, it
may be, in uttering notes of exultation for the anticipated triumph. It
would have been better if they had waited.

Now the truth is, Gentlemen,--and no man can avoid seeing it, unless, as
sometimes happens, the object is too near our eyes to be distinctly
discerned,--the truth is, that in these nominations, and also in the
nomination at Philadelphia, in these conventions, and also in the
convention at Philadelphia, General Taylor was nominated exactly for
this reason;--that, believing him to be a Whig, they thought he could be
chosen more easily than any other Whig. This is the whole of it. That
sagacious, wise, far-seeing doctrine of availability lies at the bottom
of the whole matter. So far, then, from imputing any motive to these
conventions over the country, or to the convention in Philadelphia, as
operating on a majority of the members, to promote slavery by the
nomination of General Taylor, I do not believe a word of it,--not one
word. I see that one part of what is called the Platform of the Buffalo
Convention says that the candidates before the public were nominated
under the dictation of the slave power. I do not believe a word of it.

In the first place, a very great majority of the convention at
Philadelphia was composed of members from the Free States. By a very
great majority they might have nominated anybody they chose. But the
Free States did not choose to nominate a Free State man, or a Northern
man. Even our neighbors, the States of New England, with the exception
of New Hampshire and a part of Maine, neither proposed nor concurred in
the nomination of any Northern man. Vermont would hear of nothing but
the nomination of a Southern and slave-holding candidate. Connecticut
was of the same mind, and so was Rhode Island. The North made no demand,
nor presented any request for a Northern candidate, nor attempted any
union among themselves for the purpose of promoting the nomination of
such a candidate. They were content to take their choice among the
candidates of the South. It is preposterous, therefore, to pretend that
a candidate from the Slave States has been forced upon the North by
Southern dictation.

In the next place, it is true that there were persons from New England
who were extremely zealous and active in procuring the nomination of
General Taylor, but they were men who would cut off their right hands
before they would do any thing to promote slavery in the United States.
I do not admire their policy; indeed I have very little respect for it,
understand that; but I acquit them of bad motives. I know the leading
men in that convention. I think I understand the motives that governed
them. Their reasoning was this: "General Taylor is a Whig: not eminent
in civil life, not known in civil life, but still a man of sound Whig
principles. Circumstances have given him a reputation and _eclat_ in the
country. If he shall be the Whig candidate, he will be chosen; and with
him there will come into the two houses of Congress an augmentation of
Whig strength. The Whig majority in the House of Representatives will be
increased. The Democratic majority in the Senate will be diminished."
That was the view, and such was the motive, however wise or however
unwise, that governed a very large majority of those who composed the
convention at Philadelphia. In my opinion, this was a wholly unwise
policy; it was short-sighted and temporizing on questions of great
principles. But I acquit those who adopted it of any such motives as
have been ascribed to them, and especially of what has been ascribed to
them in a part of this Buffalo Platform.

Such, Gentlemen, are the circumstances connected with the nomination of
General Taylor. I only repeat, that those who had the greatest agency
originally in bringing him before the people were Whig conventions and
Whig meetings in the several States, Free States, and that a great
majority of that convention which nominated him in Philadelphia was from
the Free States, and might have rejected him if they had chosen, and
selected anybody else on whom they could have united.

This is the case, Gentlemen, as far as I can discern it, and exercising
upon it as impartial a judgment as I can form,--this is the case
presented to the Whigs, so far as respects the personal fitness and
personal character of General Taylor, and the circumstances which have
caused his nomination. If we were weighing the propriety of nominating
such a person to the Presidency, it would be one thing; if we are
considering the expediency, or I may say the necessity (which to some
minds may seem to be the case), of well-meaning and patriotic Whigs
supporting him after he is nominated, that is quite another thing.

This leads us to the consideration of what the Whigs of Massachusetts
are to do, or such of them as do not see fit to support General Taylor.
Of course they must vote for General Cass, or they must vote for Mr. Van
Buren, or they must omit to vote at all. I agree that there are cases in
which, if we do not know in what direction to move, we ought to stand
still till we do. I admit that there are cases in which, if one does not
know what to do, he had better not do he knows not what. But on a
question so important to ourselves and the country, on a question of a
popular election under constitutional forms, in which it is impossible
that every man's private judgment can prevail, or every man's private
choice succeed, it becomes a question of conscientious duty and
patriotism, what it is best to do upon the whole.

Under the practical administration of the Constitution of the United
States, there cannot be a great range of personal choice in regard to
the candidate for the Presidency. In order that their votes may be
effective, men must give them for some one of those who are prominently
before the public. This is the necessary result of our forms of
government and of the provisions of the Constitution. The people are
therefore brought sometimes to the necessity of choosing between
candidates neither of whom would be their original, personal choice.

Now, what is the contingency? What is the alternative presented to the
Whigs of Massachusetts? In my judgment, fellow-citizens, it is simply
this; the question is between General Taylor and General Cass. And that
is the only question. I am no more skilled to foresee political
occurrences than others. I judge only for myself. But, in my opinion,
there is not the least probability of any other result than the choice
of General Taylor or General Cass. I know that the enthusiasm of a
new-formed party, that the popularity of a new-formed name, without
communicating any new-formed idea, may lead men to think that the sky is
to fall, and that larks are suddenly to be taken. I entertain no such
expectations. I speak without disrespect of the Free Soil party. I have
read their platform, and though I think there are some unsound places in
it, I can stand on it pretty well. But I see nothing in it both new and
valuable. "What is valuable is not new, and what is new is not
valuable." If the term Free Soil party, or Free Soil men, designate
those who are fixed, and unalterably fixed, in favor of the restriction
of slavery, are so to-day and were so yesterday, and have been so for
some time, then I hold myself to be as good a Free Soil man as any of
the Buffalo Convention. I pray to know who is to put beneath my feet a
freer soil than that upon which I have stood ever since I have been in
public life? I pray to know who is to make my lips freer than they
always have been, or to inspire into my breast a more resolute and fixed
determination to resist the advances and encroachments of the slave
power, than has inhabited it since I for the first time opened my mouth
in the councils of the country? The gentlemen at Buffalo have placed at
the head of their party Mr. Van Buren, a gentleman for whom I have all
the respect that I ought to entertain for one with whom I have been
associated, in some degree, in public life for many years, and who has
held the highest offices in the country. But really, speaking for
myself, if I were to express confidence in Mr. Van Buren and his
politics on any question, and most especially this very question of
slavery, I think the scene would border upon the ludicrous, if not upon
the contemptible. I never proposed any thing in my life of a general and
public nature, that Mr. Van Buren did not oppose. Nor has it happened to
me to support any important measure proposed by him. If he and I now
were to find ourselves together under the Free Soil flag, I am sure
that, with his accustomed good nature, he would laugh. If nobody were
present, we should both laugh at the strange occurrences and stranger
jumbles of political life that should have brought us to sit down cosily
and snugly, side by side, on the same platform. That the leader of the
Free Spoil party should so suddenly have become the leader of the Free
Soil party would be a joke to shake his sides and mine.

Gentlemen, my first acquaintance in public life with Mr. Van Buren was
when he was pressing with great power the election of Mr. Crawford to
the Presidency, against Mr. Adams. Mr. Crawford was not elected, and Mr.
Adams was. Mr. Van Buren was in the Senate nearly the whole of that
administration; and during the remainder of it he was Governor of the
State of New York. It is notorious that he was the soul and centre,
throughout the whole of Mr. Adams's term, of the opposition made to him.
He did more to prevent Mr. Adams's re-election in 1828, and to obtain
General Jackson's election, than any other man,--yes, than any _ten_
other men in the country.

General Jackson was chosen, and Mr. Van Buren was appointed his
Secretary of State. It so happened that in July, 1829, Mr. McLane went
to England to arrange the controverted, difficult, and disputed point on
the subject of the colonial trade. Mr. Adams had held a high tone on
that subject. He had demanded, on the ground of reciprocity and right,
the introduction of our products into all parts of the British
territory, freely, in our own vessels, since Great Britain was allowed
to bring her produce into the United States upon the same terms. Mr.
Adams placed this demand upon the ground of reciprocity and justice.
Great Britain would not yield. Mr. Van Buren, in his instructions to Mr.
McLane, told him to yield that question of right, and to solicit the
free admission of American produce into the British colonies, on the
ground of privilege and favor; intimating that there had been a change
of parties, and that this favor ought not to be refused to General
Jackson's administration because it had been demanded on the ground of
right by Mr. Adams's. This is the sum and substance of the instruction.

Well, Gentlemen, it was one of the most painful duties of my life, on
account of this, to refuse my assent to Mr. Van Buren's nomination. It
was novel in our history, when an administration changes, for the new
administration to seek to obtain privileges from a foreign power on the
assertion that they have abandoned the ground of their predecessors. I
suppose that such a course is held to be altogether undignified by all
public men. When I went into the Department of State under General
Harrison, I found in the conduct of my predecessor many things that I
could have wished had been otherwise. Did I retract a jot or tittle of
what Mr. Forsyth had said? I took the case as he had left it, and
conducted it upon the principles which he left. I should have considered
that I disgraced myself if I had said, "Pray, my Lord Ashburton, we are
more rational persons than our predecessors, we are more considerate
than they, and intend to adopt an entirely opposite policy. Consider, my
dear Lord, how much more friendly, reasonable, and amiable we are than
our predecessors."

But now, on this very subject of the extension of the slave power, I
would by no means do the least injustice to Mr. Van Buren. If he has
come up to some of the opinions expressed in the platform of the Buffalo
Convention, I am very glad of it. I do not mean to say that there may
not be very good reasons for those of his own party who cannot
conscientiously vote for General Cass to vote for him, because I think
him much the least dangerous of the two. But, in truth, looking at Mr.
Van Buren's conduct as President of the United States, I am amazed to
find that he should be placed at the head of a party professing to be,
beyond all other parties, friends of liberty and enemies of African
slavery in the Southern States. Why, the very first thing that Mr. Van
Buren did after he was President was to declare, that, if Congress
interfered with slavery in the District of Columbia, he would apply the
veto to their bills. Mr. Van Buren, in his inaugural address, quotes the
following expression from his letter accepting his nomination: "I must
go into the Presidential chair the inflexible and uncompromising
opponent of every attempt on the part of Congress to abolish slavery in
the District of Columbia against the wishes of the slave-holding States;
and also with a determination equally decided to resist the slightest
interference with it in the States where it exists." He then proceeds:
"I submitted also to my fellow-citizens, with fulness and frankness, the
reasons which led me to this determination. The result authorizes me to
believe that they have been approved and are confided in by a majority
of the people of the United States, including those whom they most
immediately affect. It now only remains to add, that no bill conflicting
with these views can even receive my constitutional sanction."

In the next place, we know that Mr. Van Buren's casting vote was given
for a law of very doubtful propriety,--a law to allow postmasters to
open the mails and see if there was any incendiary matter in them, and,
if so, to destroy it. I do not say that there was no constitutional
power to pass such a law. Perhaps the people of the South thought it was
necessary to protect themselves from incitements to insurrection. So far
as any thing endangers the lives and property of the South, so far I
agree that there may be such legislation in Congress as shall prevent
such results.

But, Gentlemen, no man has exercised a more controlling influence on the
conduct of his friends in this country than Mr. Van Buren. I take it
that the most important event in our time tending to the extension of
slavery and its everlasting establishment on this continent, was the
annexation of Texas, in 1844. Where was Mr. Van Buren then? Let me ask,
Three or four years ago, where was he THEN? Every friend of Mr. Van
Buren, so far as I know, supported the measure. The two Senators from
New York supported it, and the members of the House of Representatives
from New York supported it, and nobody resisted it but Whigs. And I say
in the face of the world, I say in the face of those connected with, or
likely to be benefited by, the Buffalo Convention,--I say to all of
them, that there has been no party of men in this country which has
firmly and sternly resisted the progress of the slave power but the

Why, look to this very question of the annexation of Texas. We talk of
the dictation of the slave power! At least they do, I do not. I do not
allow that anybody dictates to me. They talk of the triumph of the South
over the North! There is not a word of truth or reason in the whole of
it. I am bound to say on my conscience, that, of all the evils inflicted
upon us by these acquisitions of slave territory, the North has borne
its full part in the infliction. Northern votes, in full proportion,
have been given in both houses for the acquisition of new territory, in
which slavery existed. We talk of the North. There has for a long time
been no North. I think the North Star is at last discovered; I think
there will be a North; but up to the recent session of Congress there
has been no North, no geographical section of the country, in which
there has been found a strong, conscientious, and _united_ opposition to
slavery. No such North has existed.

Pope says, you know,

"Ask where's the North? At York, 'tis on the Tweed;
In Scotland, at the Orcades; and there,
At Greenland, Zembla, or the Lord knows where."

Now, if there has heretofore been such a _North_ as I have described, a
North strong in opinion and united in action against slavery,--if such a
_North_ has existed anywhere, it has existed "the Lord knows where," I
do not. Why, on this very question of the admission of Texas, it may be
said with truth, that the North let in Texas. The Whigs, North and
South, resisted Texas. Ten Senators from slave-holding States, of the
Whig party, resisted Texas. Two, only, as I remember, voted for it. But
the Southern Whig votes against Texas were overpowered by the Democratic
votes from the Free States, and from New England among the rest. Yes, if
there had not been votes from New England in favor of Texas, Texas would
have been out of the Union to this day. Yes, if men from New England had
been true, Texas would have been nothing but Texas still. There were
four votes in the Senate from New England in favor of the admission of
Texas, Mr. Van Buren's friends, Democratic members: one from Maine; two
from New Hampshire; one from Connecticut. Two of these gentlemen were
confidential friends of Mr. Van Buren, and had both been members of his
cabinet. They voted for Texas; and they let in Texas, against Southern
Whigs and Northern Whigs. That is the truth of it, my friends. Mr. Van
Buren, by the wave of his hand, could have kept out Texas. A word, a
letter, though it had been even shorter than General Cass's letter to
the Chicago Convention, would have been enough, and would have done the
work. But he was silent.

When Northern members of Congress voted, in 1820, for the Missouri
Compromise, against the known will of their constituents, they were
called "Dough Faces." I am afraid, fellow-citizens, that the generation
of "dough faces" will be as perpetual as the generation of men.

In 1844, as we all know, Mr. Van Buren was a candidate for the
Presidency, on the part of the Democratic party, but lost the nomination
at Baltimore. We now learn, from a letter from General Jackson to Mr.
Butler, that Mr. Van Buren's claims were superseded, because, after all,
the South thought that the accomplishment of the annexation of Texas
might be more safely intrusted to Southern hands. We all know that the
Northern portion of the Democratic party were friendly to Mr. Van Buren.
Our neighbors from New Hampshire, and Maine, and elsewhere, were Van
Buren men. But the moment it was ascertained that Mr. Polk was the
favorite of the South, and the favorite of the South upon the ground I
have mentioned, as a man more certain to bring about the annexation of
Texas than Mr. Van Buren, these friends of Mr. Van Buren in the North
all "caved in,"--not a man of them stood. Mr. Van Buren himself wrote a
letter very complimentary to Mr. Polk and Mr. Dallas, and found no fault
with the nomination.

Now, Gentlemen, if they were "dough faces" who voted for the Missouri
Compromise, what epithet should describe these men, here in our New
England, who were so ready, not only to change or abandon him whom they
most cordially wished to support, but did so in order to make more sure
the annexation of Texas. They nominated Mr. Polk at the request of
gentlemen from the South, and voted for him, through thick and thin,
till the work was accomplished, and Mr. Polk elected. For my part, I
think that "dough faces" is an epithet not sufficiently reproachful.
Such persons are dough faces, with dough heads, and dough hearts, and
dough souls; they are _all_ dough; the coarsest potter may mould them to
vessels of honor or dishonor,--most readily to vessels of _dis_honor.

But what do we now see? Repentance has gone far. There are among these
very people, these very gentlemen, persons who espouse, with great zeal,
the interests of the Free Soil party. I hope their repentance is as
sincere as it appears to be. I hope it is honest conviction, and not
merely a new chance for power, under a new name and a new party. But,
with all their pretensions, and with all their patriotism, I see dough
still sticking on the cheeks of some of them. And therefore I have no
confidence in them, not a particle. I do not mean to say, that the great
mass of the people, especially those who went to the Buffalo Convention
from this State, have not the highest and purest motives. I think they
act unwisely, but I acquit them of dishonest intentions. But with
respect to others, and those who have been part and parcel in the
measures which have brought new slave territory into this Union, I
distrust them all. If they repent, let them, before we trust them, do
works worthy of repentance.

I have said, Gentlemen, that in my opinion, if it were desirable to
place Mr. Van Buren at the head of government, there is no chance for
him. Others are as good judges as I am. But I am not able to say that I
see any State in the Union in which there is a reasonable probability
that he will get the vote. There may be. Others are more versed in such
statistics than I am. But I see none, and therefore I think that we are
reduced to a choice between General Cass and General Taylor. You may
remember, that in the discussions of 1844, when Mr. Birney was drawing
off votes from the Whig candidate, I said that every vote for Mr. Birney
was half a vote for Mr. Polk. Is it not true that the vote of the
Liberty party taken from Mr. Clay's vote in the State of New York made
Mr. Polk President? That is as clear as any historical fact. And in my
judgment, it will be so now. I consider every Whig vote given to Mr. Van
Buren, as directly aiding the election of Mr. Cass. Mark, I say, _Whig_
vote. There may be States in which Mr. Van Buren may draw from the other
side largely. But I speak of Whig votes, in this State and in any State.
And I am of opinion, that any such vote given to Mr. Van Buren inures to
the benefit of General Cass.

Now as to General Cass, Gentlemen. We need not go to the Baltimore
platform to instruct ourselves as to what his politics are, or how he
will conduct the government. General Cass will go into the government,
if at all, chosen by the same party that elected Mr. Polk; and he will
"follow in the footsteps of his illustrious predecessor." I hold him, I
confess, in the present state of the country, to be the most dangerous
man on whom the powers of the executive chief magistracy could well be
conferred. He would consider himself, not as conservative, not as
protective to present institutions, but as belonging to the party of
Progress. He believes in the doctrine of American destiny; and that that
destiny is, to go through wars and invasions, and maintain vast armies,
to establish a great, powerful, domineering government over all this
continent. We know that, if Mr. Cass could have prevented it, the treaty
with England in 1842 would not have been made. We know that, if Mr. Cass
could have prevented it, the settlement of the Oregon question would not
have been accomplished in 1846. We know that General Cass could have
prevented the Mexican war; and we know that he was first and foremost in
pressing that war. We know that he is a man of talent, of ability, of
some celebrity as a statesman, in every way superior to his predecessor,
if he should be the successor of Mr. Polk. But I think him a man of rash
politics, pushed on by a rash party, and committed to a course of
policy, as I believe, not in consistency with the happiness and security
of the country. Therefore it is for you, and for me, and for all of us,
Whigs, to consider whether, in this state of the case, we can or cannot,
we will or will not, give our votes for the Whig nomination. I leave
that to every man's conscience. I have endeavored to state the case as
it presents itself to me.

Gentlemen, before General Taylor's nomination, I stated always, when the
subject was mentioned by my friends, that I did not and could not
recommend the nomination of a military man to the people of the United
States for the office of President. It was against my conviction of what
was due to the best interests of the country, and to the character of
the republic. I stated always, at the same time, that if General Taylor
should be nominated by the Whig Convention, fairly, I should not oppose
his election. I stand now upon the same declaration. General Taylor has
been nominated fairly, as far as I know, and I cannot, therefore, and
shall not, oppose his election. At the same time, there is no man who is
more firmly of opinion that such a nomination was not fit to be made.
But the declaration that I would not oppose General Taylor, if nominated
by the Whig party, was of course subject, in the nature of things, to
some exceptions. If I believed him to be a man who would plunge the
country into further wars for any purpose of ambition or conquest, I
would oppose him, let him be nominated by whom he might. If I believed
that he was a man who would exert his official influence for the further
extension of the slave power, I would oppose him, let him be nominated
by whom he might. But I do not believe either. I believe that he has
been, from the first, opposed to the policy of the Mexican war, as
improper, impolitic, and inexpedient. I believe, from the best
information I can obtain,--and you will take this as my own opinion,
Gentlemen,--I believe, from the best information I can obtain, that he
has no disposition to go to war, or to form new States in order to
increase the limits of slavery.

Gentlemen, so much for what may be considered as belonging to the
Presidency as a national question. But the case by no means stops here.
We are citizens of Massachusetts. We are Whigs of Massachusetts. We have
supported the present government of the State for years, with success;
and I have thought that most Whigs were satisfied with the
administration of the State government in the hands of those who have
had it. But now it is proposed, I presume, on the basis of the Buffalo
Platform, to carry this into the State elections, as well as into the
national elections. There is to be a nomination of a candidate for
Governor, against Mr. Briggs, or whoever may be nominated by the Whigs;
and there is to be a nomination of a candidate for Lieutenant-Governor,
against Mr. Reed, or whoever may be nominated by the Whigs; and there
are to be nominations against the present members of Congress. Now, what
is the utility or the necessity of this? We have ten members in the
Congress of the United States. I know not ten men of any party who are
more zealous, and firm, and inflexible in their opposition against
slavery in any form.

And what will be the result of opposing their re-election? Suppose that
a considerable number of Whigs secede from the Whig party, and support a
candidate of this new party, what will be the result? Do we not know
what has been the case in this State? Do we not know that this district
has been unrepresented from month to month, and from year to year,
because there has been an opposition to as good an antislavery man as
breathes the air of this district? On this occasion, and even in his own
presence, I may allude to our Representative, Mr. Hale. Do we want a man
to give a better vote in Congress than Mr. Hale gives? Why, I undertake
to say that there is not one of the Liberty party, nor will there be one
of this new party, who will have the least objection to Mr. Hale, except
that he was not nominated by themselves. Ten to one, if the Whigs had
not nominated him, they would have nominated him themselves; doubtless
they would, if he had come into their organization, and called himself a


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