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measure. The fur trade, the Asiatic trade, and CHAPTER V.
the preservation of our own territory, were the
advantages proposed. The bill was treated with OREGON TERRITORY.
the parliamentary courtesy which respect for
the committee required: it was read twice, and The session of 1820–21 is remarkable as being committed to a committee of the whole House the first at which any proposition was made in for the next day-most of the members not Congress for the occupation and settlement of considering it a serious proceeding. Nothing our territory on the Columbia River—the only further was done in the House that session, but part then owned by the United States on the the first blow was struck: public attention was Pacific coast. It was made by Dr. Floyd, a re- awakened, and the geographical, historical, and presentative from Virginia, an ardent man, of statistical facts set forth in the report, made a great ability, and decision of character, and, lodgment in the public mind which promised from an early residence in Kentucky, strongly eventual favorable consideration. I had not been imbued with western feelings. He took up this admitted to my seat in the Senate at the time, subject with the energy which belonged to him, but was soon after, and quickly came to the and it required not only energy, but courage, to support of Dr. Floyd's measure (who continued embrace a subject which, at that time, seemed to pursue it with zeal and ability); and at a more likely to bring ridicule than credit to its subsequent session presented some views on the advocate. I had written and published some subject which will bear reproduction at this essays on the subject the year before, which he time. The danger of a contest with Great Brihad read. Two gentlemen (Mr. Ramsay Crooks, tain, to whom we had admitted a joint possesof New-York, and Mr. Russell Farnham, of sion, and who had already taken possession, was Massachusetts), who had been in the employ- strongly suggested, if we delayed longer our own ment of Mr. John Jacob Astor in founding his occupation; "and a vigorous effort of policy, and colony of Astoria, and carrying on the fur trade perhaps of arms, might be necessary to break on the northwest coast of America, were at her hold.” Unauthorized, or individual occupaWashington that winter, and had their quarters tion was intimated as a consequence of governat the same hotel (Brown's), where Dr. Floyd ment neglect, and what has since taken place and I had ours. Their acquaintance was natu- was foreshadowed in this sentence:
mere adrally made by Western men like us—in fact. I venturers may enter upon it, as Æneas entered knew them before; and their conversation, rich upon the Tiber, and as our forefathers came in information upon a new and interesting coun- upon the Potomac, the Delaware and the Hudtry, was eagerly devoured by the ardent spirit son, and renew the phenomenon of individuals of Floyd. He resolved to bring forward the laying the foundation of a future empire.” The question of occupation, and did so. He moved effect upon Asia of the arrival of an American for a select committee to consider and report population on the coast of the Pacific Ocean was upon the subject. The committee was granted thus exhibited: “Upon the people of Eastern by the House, more through courtesy to a re- Asia the establishment of a civilized power on spected member, than with any view to business the opposite coast of America, could not fail to results. It was a committee of three, himself produce great and wonderful benefits. Science, chairman, according to parliamentary rule, and liberal principles in government, and the true Thomas Metcalfe, of Kentucky (since Governor religion,"might cast their lights across the interof the State), and Thomas V. Swearingen, from vening sea. The valley of the Columbia might Western Virginia, for his associates—both like become the granary of China and Japan, and an himself ardent men, and strong in western feel outlet to their imprisoned and exuberant populaing. They reported a bill within six days after tion. The inhabitants of the oldest and the the committee was raised, " to authorize the oc- newest, the most despotic and the freest governcupation of the Columbia River, and to regulate ments, would become the neighbors, and the trade and intercourse with the Indian tribes friends of each other. To my mind the proposition thereon,” accompanied by an elaborate report, is clear, that Eastern Asia and the two Americas, replete with valuable statistics, in support of the ) as they become neighbors should become friends;
and I for one had as lief see American ministers posite the head of the Missouri, ascend it to its going to the emperors of China and Japan, to source in the Rocky Mountains, and then follow the king of Persia, and even to the Grand Turk, the Missouri to the French settlements on the as to see them dancing attendance upon those Upper Mississippi; and thence home.
It was a European legitimates who hold every thing magnificent and a daring project of discovery, American in contempt and detestation.” Thus and on that account the more captivating to the ( spoke; and this I believe was the first time ardent spirit of Ledyard. He undertook itthat a suggestion for sending ministers to the went to St. Petersburg-received the permission Oriental nations was publicly made in the of the Empress—and had arrived in Siberia United States. It was then a "wild" sugges- when he was overtaken by a revocation of the tion: it is now history. Besides the preserva- permission, and conducted as a spy out of the tion of our own territory on the Pacific, the country. He then returned to Paris, and reestablishment of a port there for the shelter of sumed his original design of that exploration of our commercial and military marine, the protec- the Nile to its sources which terminated in his tion of the fur trade and aid to the whaling premature death, and deprived the world of a vessels, the accomplishment of Mr. Jefferson's young and adventurous explorer, from whose idea of a commercial communication with Asia ardour, courage, perseverance and genius, great through the heart of our own continent, was and useful results were to have been expected. constantly insisted upon as a consequence of Mr. Jefferson was balked in that, his first atplanting an American colony at the mouth of tempt, to establish the existence of the Columbia the Columbia. That man of large and useful River. But a time was coming for him to underideas—that statesman who could conceive mea- take it under better auspices. He became Presures useful to all mankind, and in all time to sident of the United States, and in that character come--was the first to propose that commercial projected the expedition of Lewis and Clark, communication, and may also be considered the obtained the sanction of Congress, and sent them first discoverer of the Columbia River. His philo- forth to discover the head and course of the sophic mind told him that where a snow-clad river (whose mouth was then known), for the mountain, like that of the Rocky Mountains, double purpose of opening an inland commercial shed the waters on one side which collected into communication with Asia, and enlarging the such a river as the Missouri, there must be a boundaries of geographical science. The comcorresponding shedding and collection of waters mercial object was placed first in his message, on the other; and thus he was perfectly assured and as the object to legitimate the expedition. of the existence of a river where the Columbia And thus Mr. Jefferson was the first to propose has since been found to be, although no naviga- the North American road to India, and the intor had seen its mouth, and no explorer trod its troduction of Asiatic trade on that road; and all banks. His conviction was complete; but the that I myself have either said or written on that idea was too grand and useful to be permitted subject from the year 1819, when I first took it to rest in speculation. He was then minister to up, down to the present day when I still contend France, and the famous traveller Ledyard, hav- for it, is nothing but the fruit of the sced planting arrived at Paris on his expedition of discov- ed in my mind by the philosophic hand of Mr. ery to the Nile, was prevailed upon by Mr. Jefferson. Honor to all those who shall assist Jefferson to enter upon a fresher and more use in accomplishing his great idea. ful field of discovery. He proposed to him to change his theatre from the Old to the New World, and, proceeding to St. Petersburg upon a passport he would obtain for him, he should there obtain permission from the Empress Cath
CHAPTER VI. arine to traverse her dominions in a high northern latitude to their eastern extremity-cross FLORIDA TREATY AND CESSION OF TEXAS. the sea from Kamschatka, or at Behring's Straits, and descending the northwest coast of America, I was a member of the bar at St. Louis, in the come down upon the river which must head op- then territory of Missouri, in the year 1818,
when the Washington City newspapers made which was equally due to him and to myself. known the progress of that treaty with Spain, The treaty was signed on the anniversary of which was signed on the 22d day of February the birth-day of Washington, and sent to the following, and which, in acquiring Florida, gave Senate the same day, and unanimously ratified away Texas. I was shocked at it—at the ces- on the next day, with the general approbation sion of Texas, and the new boundaries proposed of the country, and the warm applause of the for the United States on the southwest. The newspaper press. This unanimity of the Senate, acquisition of Florida was a desirable object, and applause of the press, made no impression long sought, and sure to be obtained in the pro- upon me. I continued to assail the treaty and gress of events; but the new boundaries, besides its authors, and the more bitterly, because the cutting off Texas, dismembered the valley of the official correspondence, when published, showed Mississippi, mutilated two of its noblest rivers, that this greåt sacrifice of territory, rivers, and brought a foreign dominion (and it non-slave- proper boundaries, was all gratuitous and volunholding), to the neighborhood of New Orleans, tary on our part—" that the Spanish governand esta shed a wilderness barrier between ment had offered us more than we accepted ;" Missouri and New Mexico—to interrupt their and that it was our policy, and not hers, which trade, separate their inhabitants, and shelter the had deprived us of Texas and the large country, wild Indian depredators upon the lives and pro- in addition to Texas, which lay between the Red perty of all who undertook to pass from one to River and Upper Arkansas. This was an enigma, the other. I was not then in politics, and had the solution of which, in my mind, strongly nothing to do with political affairs; but I saw at connected itself with the Missouri controversy once the whole evil of this great sacrifice, and then raging (1819) with its greatest violence, instantly raised my voice against it in articles threatening existing political parties with subpublished in the St. Louis newspapers, and in version, and the Union with dissolution. My which were given, in advance, all the national mind went there—to that controversy—for the reasons against giving away the country, which solution, but with a misdirection of its applicawere afterwards, and by so many tongues, and tion. I blamed the northern men in Mr. Monat the expense of war and a hundred millions, roe's cabinet: the private papers of General given to get it back. I denounced the treaty, Jackson, which have come to my hands, enable and attacked its authors and their motives, and me to correct that error, and give me an inside imprecated a woe on the heads of those who view of that which I could only see on the outshould continue to favor it. “The magnificent side before. In a private letter from Mr. Monvalley of the Mississippi is ours, with all its roe to General Jackson, dated at Washington, fountains, springs and floods; and woe to the May 22d, 1820—more than one year after the statesman who shall undertake to surrender one negotiation of the treaty, written to justify it, drop of its water, one inch of its soil, to any and evidently called out by Mr. Clay's attack foreign power.” In these terms I spoke, and in upon it-are these passages: “Having long this spirit I wrote, before the treaty was even known the repugnance with which the eastern ratified. Mr. John Quincy Adams, the Secre- portion of our Union, or rather some of those tary of State, negotiator and ostensible author who have enjoyed its confidence (for I do not of the treaty, was the statesman against whom think that the people themselves have any intermy censure was directed, and I was certainly est or wish of that kind), have seen its aggransincere in my belief of his great culpability. dizement to the West and South, I have been But the declaration which he afterwards made decidedly of opinion that we ought to be content on the floor of the House, absolved him from with Florida for the present, and until the pubcensure on account of that treaty, and placed lic opinion in that quarter shall be reconciled to the blame on the majority in Mr. Monroe's cabi- any further change. I mention these circumnet, southern men, by whose vote he had been stances to show you that our difficulties are not governed in ceding Texas and fixing the bound- with Spain alone, but are likewise internal, proary which I so much condemned. After this ceeding from various causes, which certain men authoritative declaration, I made, in my place in are prompt to seize and turn to the account of the Senate, the honorable amends to Mr. Adams, their own ambitious views." This paragraph
from Mr. Monroe's letter lifts the curtain which four months after the purchase of Louisianaconcealed the secret reason for ceding Texas, he wrote to Dr. Breckenridge: “Objections are that secret which explains what was incompre- raising to the eastward to the vast extent of our hensible—our having refused to accept as much boundaries, and propositions are made to exas Spain had offered. Internal difficulties, it change Louisiana, or a part of it, for the Floriwas thus shown, had induced that refusal; and das; but as I have said, we shall get the Florithese difficulties grew out of the repugnance of das without; and I would not give one inch of leading men in the northeast to see the further the waters of the Mississippi to any foreign aggrandizement of the Union upon the South nation.” So that Mr. Jefferson, neither in 1803 and West. This repugnance was then taking nor in 1819, would have mutilated Louisiana to an operative form in the shape of the Missouri obtain the cession of Florida, which he knew controversy; and, as an immediate consequence, would be obtained without that mutilation ; nor threatened the subversion of political party lines, would he have yielded to the threatening disconand the introduction of the slavery question into tent in the east. I have a gratification that, the federal elections and legislation, and bring- without knowing it, and at a thousand miles ing into the highest of those elections—those of from him, I took the same ground that Mr. JefPresident and Vice-President—a test which no ferson stood on, and even used his own words: southern candidate could stand. The repug- “Not an inch of the waters of the Mississippi to nance in the portheast was not merely to terri- any nation.” But I was mortified at the time, torial aggrandizement in the southwest, but to that not a paper in the United States backed my the consequent extension of slavery in that quar-essays. It was my first experience in standing ter; and to allay that repugnance, and to pre- "solitary and alone;" but I stood it without vent the slavery extension question from becom- flinching, and even incurred the imputation of ing a test in the presidential election, was the being opposed to the administration-had to true reason for giving away Texas, and the true encounter that objection in my first election to solution of the enigma involved in the strange the Senate, and was even viewed as an opponent refusal to accept as much as Spain offered. The by Mr. Monroe himself, when I first came to treaty was disapproved by Mr. Jefferson, to Washington. He had reason to know before whom a similar letter was written to that sent his office expired, and still more after it expired, to General Jackson, and for the same purpose, that no one of the young generation) had a to obtain his approbation; but he who had ac more exalted opinion of his honesty, patriotism, quired Louisiana, and justly gloried in the act, firmness and general soundness of judgment; or could not bear to see that noble province muti- would be more ready, whenever the occasion lated, and returned his dissent to the act, and permitted, to do justice to his long and illushis condemnation of the policy on which it was trious career of public service. The treaty, as I done. General Jackson had yielded to the have said, was promptly and unanimously ratiarguments of Mr. Monroe, and consented to the fied by the American Senate; not so on the cession of Texas as a temporary measure. The part of Spain. She hesitated, delayed, procraswords of his answer to Mr. Monroe's letter tinated ; and finally suffered the time limited were : "I am clearly of your opinion, that, for for the exchange of ratifications to expire, withthe present, we ought to be contented with the out having gone through that indispensable Floridas.” But Mr. Jefferson would yield to no formality. Of course this put an end to the temporary views of policy, and remained inflexi- treaty, unless it could be revived ; and, therebly opposed to the treaty; and in this he was upon, new negotiations and vehement expostulaconsistent with his own conduct in similar cir- tions against the conduct which refused to ratify cumstances. Sixteen years before, he had been a treaty negotiated upon full powers and in conin the same circumstances—at the time of the formity to instructions. It was in the course acquisition of Louisiana—when he had the same of this renewed negotiation, and of these warm repugnance to southwestern aggrandizement to expostulations, that Mr. Adams used the strong contend with, and the same bait (Florida) to expressions to the Spanish ministry, so enigmatempt him. Then eastern inen raised the same tical at the tiine, “That Spain had offered more objections; and as early as August 1803—only than we accepted, and that she dare not deny
it.” Finally, after the lapse of a year or so, the it, and senators holding themselves committed treaty was ratified by Spain. In the mean time by previous votes; but the progress of events Mr. Clay had made a movement against it in the soon justified my opposition to it. The country House of Representatives, unsuccessful, of course, being in possession of Mexico, and she at war but exciting some sensation, both for the reasons with Spain, no Spanish commissioners could go he gave and the vote of some thirty-odd mem- there to join ours in executing it; and so the bers who concurred with him. This movement act remained a dead letter upon the statutevery certainly induced the letters of Mr. Monroe book. Its futility was afterwards acknowledged to General Jackson and Mr. Jefferson, as they by our government, and the misstep corrected were contemporaneous (May, 1820), and also by establishing the boundary with Mexico hersome expressions in the letter to General Jack- self. This was done by treaty in the year 1828, son, which evidently referred to Mr. Clay's adopting the boundaries previously agreed upon movement. The ratification of Spain was given with Spain, and consequently amputating our October, 1820, and being after the time limited, rivers (the Red and the Arkansas), and disit became necessary to submit it again to the membering the valley of the Mississippi, to the American Senate, which was done at the session same extent as was done by the Spanish treaty of 1820–21. It was ratified again, and almost of 1819. I opposed the ratification of the treaty unanimously, but not quite, four votes being with Mexico for the same reason that I opposed given against it, and all by western senators, its original with Spain, but without success. namely: Colonel Richard M. Johnson, of Ken- Only two senators voted with me, namely, tucky; Colonel John Williams, of Tennessee; Judge William Smith, of South Carolina, and Mr. James Brown, of Louisiana, and Colonel Mr. Powhatan Ellis, of Mississippi. Thus I saw Trimble, of Ohio. I was then in Washington, this treaty, which repulsed Texas, and dismemand a senator elect, though not yet entitled to a bered the valley of the Mississippi—which seat, in consequence of the delayed admission of placed a foreign dominion on the upper halves the new State of Missouri into the Union, and so of the Red River and the Arkansas-placed a had no opportunity to record my vote against foreign power and a wilderness between Misthe treaty. But the progress of events soon souri and New Mexico, and which brought a gave me an opportunity to manifest my opposi- non-slaveholding empire to the boundary line tion, and to appear in the parliamentary history of the State of Louisiana, and almost to the as an enemy to it. The case was this: While southwest corner of Missouri-saw this treaty the treaty was still encountering Spanish pro- three times ratified by the American Senate, as crastination in the delay of exchanging ratifica- good as unanimously every time, and with the tions, Mexico (to which the amputated part of hearty concurrence of the American press. Yet Louisiana and the whole of Texas was to be at- I remained in the Senate to sec, within a few tached), itself ceased to belong to Spain. She years, a political tempest sweeping the land and established her independence, repulsed all Spa- overturning all that stood before it, to get back nish authority, and remained at war with the this very country which this treaty had given mother country. The law for giving effect to away; and menacing the Union itself with disthe treaty by providing for commissioners to solution, if it was not immediately done, and run and mark the new boundary, had not been without regard to consequences. But of this passed at the time of the ratification of the hereafter. The point to be now noted of this treaty; it came up after I took my seat, and treaty of 1819, is, that it completed, very nearly, was opposed by me. I opposed it, not only the extinction of slave territory within the limits upon the grounds of original objections to the of the United States, and that it was the work treaty, but on the further and obvious ground, of southern men, with the sanction of the South. that the revolution in Mexico—her actual inde- It extinguished or cut off the slave territory pendence—had superseded the Spanish treaty in beyond the Mississippi, below 36 degrees, 30 the whole article of the boundaries, and that it minutes, all except the diagram in Arkansas, was with Mexico herself that we should now which was soon to become a State. The Missettle them. The act was passed, however, by a souri compromise line had interdicted slavery in sweeping majority, the administration being for all the vast expanse of Louisiana north of 36