« AnteriorContinuar »
very House of Commons of which the gentleman from South Carolina has spoken with such commendation, how was it received ? Not only, Sir, with approbation, but, I may say, with no little enthusiasm. While the leading minister* expressed his entire concurrence in the sentiments and opinions of the American President, his distinguished competitor † in that popular body, less restrained by official decorum, and more at liberty to give utterance to all the feeling of the occasion, declared that no event had ever created greater joy, exultation, and gratitude among all the free men in Europe; that he felt pride in being connected by blood and language with the people of the United States; that the policy disclosed by the message became a great, a free, and an independent nation; and that he hoped his own country would be prevented by no mean pride, or paltry jealousy, from following so noble and glorious an example.
It is doubtless true, as I took occasion to observe the other day, that this declaration must be considered as founded on our rights, and to spring mainly from a regard to their preservation. It did not commit us, at all events, to take up arms on any indication of hostile feeling by the powers of Europe towards South America. If, for example, all the states of Europe had refused to trade with South America until her states should return to their former allegiance, that would have funished no cause of interference to us. Or if an armament had been fur. nished by the Allies to act against provinces the most remote from us, as Chili or Buenos Ayres, the distance of the scene of action diminishing our apprehension of danger, and diminishing also our means of effectual interposition, might still have left us to content ourselves with remonstrance. But a very different case would have arisen, if an army, equipped and maintained by these powers, had been landed on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, and commenced the war in our own immediate neighborhood. Such an event might justly be regarded as dangerous to ourselves, and, on that ground, call for decided and immediate interference by us. The sentiments and the policy announced by the declaration, thus understood, were, therefore, in strict conformity to our duties and our interest.
Sir, I look on the message of December, 1823, as forming a bright page in our history. I will help neither to erase it nor tear it out; nor shall it be, by any act of mine, blurred or blotted. It did honor to the sagacity of the government, and I will not diminish that honor. It elevated the hopes, and gratified the patriotism, of the people. Over those hopes I will not bring a mildew; nor will I put that gratified patriotism to shame.
* Mr. Canning.
+ Mr. Brougham.
But how should it happen, Sir, that there should now be such a new-born fear on the subject of this declaration? The crisis is over; the danger is past. At the time it was made, there was real ground for apprehension; now there is none. It was then possible, perhaps not improbable, that the Allied Powers might interfere with America. There is now no ground for any such fear. Most of the gentlemen who have now spoken on the subject were at that time here. They all heard the declaration. Not one of them complained. And yet now, when all danger is over, we are vehemently warned against the sentiments of the declaration.
To avoid this apparent inconsistency, it is, however, contended, that new force has been recently given to this declaration. But of this I see no evidence whatever. I see nothing in any instructions or communications from our government changing the character of that declaration in any degree. There is, as I have before said, in one of Mr. Poinsett's letters, an inaccuracy of expression. If he has recited correctly his conversation with the Mexican minister, he did go too far, farther than any instruction warranted. But, taking his whole correspondence together, it is quite manifest that he has deceived nobody, and that he has not committed the country. On the subject of a pledge, he put the Mexican minister entirely right. He stated to him distinctly, that this government had given no pledge which others could call upon it to redeem. What could be more explicit? Again, Sir, it is plain that Mexico thought us under no greater pledge than England; for the letters to the English and American ministers, requesting interference, were in precisely the same words. When this passage in Mr. Poinsett's letter was first noticed, we were assured there was and must be some other authority for it. It was confidently said he had instructions authorizing it in his pocket. It turns out otherwise. As little ground is there to complain of any thing in the Secretary's letter to Mr. Poinsett. It seems to me to be precisely what it should be. It does not, as has been alleged, propose any coöperation between the government of Mexico and our own. Nothing like it. It instructs VOL. III.
our ministers to bring to the notice of the Mexican government the line of policy which we have marked out for ourselves, acting on our own grounds, and for our own interests; and to suggest to that government, acting on its own ground, and for its own interests, the propriety of following a similar course. Here, Sir, is no alliance, nor even any coöperation. So, again, as to the correspondence which refers to the
appear. ance of the French fleet in the West India seas.
Be it remembered that our government was contending, in the course of this correspondence with Mexico, for an equality in matters of com
It insisted on being placed, in this respect, on the same footing as the other Spanish American states. To enforce this claim, our known friendly sentiments towards Mexico, as well as to the rest of the new states, were suggested, and properly suggested. Mexico was reminded of the timely declaration which had been made of these sentiments. She was reminded that she herself had been well inclined to claim the benefit resulting from that declaration, when a French fleet appeared in the neighboring seas; and she was referred to the course adopted by our government on that occasion, with an intimation that she might learn from it how the same government would have acted if other possible contingencies had happened. What is there in all this of any renewed pledge, or what is there of any thing beyond the true line of our policy? Do gentlemen mean to say that the communication made to France, on this occasion, was improper? Do they mean to repel and repudiate that declaration? That declaration was, that we could not see Cuba transferred from Spain to another European power. If the House mean to contradict that, be it so. If it do not, then, as the government had acted properly in this case, it did furnish ground to believe it would act properly, also, in other cases, when they arose.
And the reference to this incident or occurrence by the Secretary was pertinent to the argument which he was pressing on the Mexican government.
I have but a word to say on the subject of the declaration against European colonization in America. The late Presiden, seems to have thought the occasion used by him for that purpose to be a proper one for the open avowal of a principle which had already been acted on. Great and practical inconveniences, it was feared, might be apprehended from the establishment of
new colonies in America, having a European origin and a European connection. Attempts of that kind, it was obvious, might possibly be made, amidst the changes that were taking place in Mexico, as well as in the more southern states. Mexico bounds us, on a vast length of line, from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean. There are many reasons why it should not be desired by us, that an establishment, under the protection of a different power, should occupy any portion of that space. We have a general interest, that, through all the vast territories rescued from the dominion of Spain, our commerce may find its way, protected by treaties with governments existing on the spot. These views, and others of a similar character, rendered it highly desirable to us, that these new states should settle it, as a part of their policy, not to allow colonization within their respective territories. True, indeed, we did not need their aid to assist us in maintaining such a course for ourselves; but we had an interest in their assertion and support of the principle as applicable to their own territories.
I now proceed, Mr. Chairman, to a few remarks on the subject of Cuba, the most important point of our foreign relations. It is the hinge on which interesting events may possibly turn. I pray gentlemen to review their opinions on this subject before they fully commit themselves. I understood the honorable member from South Carolina to say, that if Spain chose to transfer this island to any power in Europe, she had a right to do so, and we could not interfere to prevent it. Sir, this is a delicate subject. I hardly feel competent to treat it as it deserves; and I am not quite willing to state here all that I think about it. I must, however, dissent from the opinion of the gentleman from South Carolina. The rights of nations, on subjects of this kind, are necessarily very much modified by circumstances. Because England or France could not rightfully complain of the transfer of Florida to us, it by no means follows, as the gentleman supposes, that we could not complain of the cession of Cuba to one of them. The plain difference is, that the transfer of Florida to us was not dangerous to the safety of either of those nations, nor fatal to any of their great and essential interests. Proximity of position, neighborhood, whatever augments the power of injuring and annoying, very properly belong to the consideration of all cases of this kind. The greater or less facility of access itself is of consideration in such questions, because it brings, or may bring, weighty consequences with it. It justifies, for these reasons and on these grounds, what otherwise might never be thought of. By negotiation with a foreign power, Mr. Jefferson obtained a province. Without any alteration of our Constitution, we have made it part of the United States, and its Senators and Representatives, now coming from several States, are here among us. Now, Sir, if, instead of being Louisiana, this had been one of the provinces of Spain proper, or one of her South American colonies, he must have been a madman that should have proposed such an acquisition. A high conviction of its convenience, arising from proximity and from close natural connection, alone reconciled the country to the measure. Considerations of the same sort have weight in other cases.
An honorable member from Kentucky" argues, that although we might rightfully prevent another power from taking Cuba from Spain by force, yet, if Spain should choose to make the voluntary transfer, we should have no right whatever to interfere. Sir, this is a distinction without a difference. If we are likely to have contention about Cuba, let us first well consider what our rights are, and not commit ourselves. And, Sir, if we have any right to interfere at all, it applies as well to the case of a peaceable as to that of a forcible transfer. If nations be at war, we are not judges of the question of right in that war; we must acknowledge in both parties the mutual right of attack and the mutual right of conquest. It is not for us to set bounds to their belligerent operations so long as they do not affect ourselves. Our right to interfere in any such case is but the exercise of the right of reasonable and necessary selfdefence. It is a high and delicate exercise of that right; one not to be made but on grounds of strong and manifest reason, justice, and necessity. The real question is, whether the possession of Cuba by a great maritime power of Europe would seriously endanger our own immediate security or our essential interests. I put the question, Sir, in the language of some of the best considered state papers of modern times. The general rule of national law is, unquestionably, against interference in the transactions of other states. There are, however, acknowledged
* Mr. Wickliffe.