Ch. V.]

in so unsatisfactory a manner, that, in his next communication, after giving a very full and complete resume of the question as viewed by his government, Mr. Buchanan withdrew his proposal; preserving, however, the conciliatory tone of his first statement, and expressing the hopes of the president that the controversy might be soon and safely adjusted.

Our readers, most of them certainly, will remember the intense excitement which sprang up in connection with this subject; and had there not been a strong conservative feeling in the bosoms of a large portion of our countrymen, we might have been engaged again in a bloody strife with England, to the infinite harm of both countries, and to the disgrace of the two foremost civilized Christian nations of the world. Happily, such men as Daniel Webster, were willing to exert their influence to bring about a settlement on terms fair and honorable to both parties, and to repress that spirit, more or less rampant, which would lead us to battle in a cause unworthy of our countrymen.

On the 1st of December, 1845, the twenty-ninth Congress began its first session. Mr. John M. Davis was elected speaker, and the president's message was received the next day. It was very long, and contained a great variety of recommendations on topics of interest and importance, among which Oregon, and the state of our relations with Mexico, occupied a prominent place. Mr. Polk recommended a revision of the tariff laws, for the purpose of reducing the rates of duty, and abolishing the protective system; and


the establishment of a constitutional treasury for the custody of the public money,—the employment of state banks as depositories being in effect the conversion of that money into banking capital, and the loaning of it to the banks without interest, to be loaned by them at interest to their borrowers. The employment of steam in the navy was also suggested; and a glowing panegyric was pronounced upon Andrew Jackson, who died on the 8th of June, 1845.

The question relative to Oregon was discussed in the Senate early in the session, and General Cass made a speech looking plainly to the chances of war with England. In the House, Stephen A. Douglas, and others, advocated similar views and claims in respect to Oregon; and at the same time, a joint resolution of the two Houses, giving the requisite notice to Great Britain for terminating the joint occupation of the territory, as the president had recommended, was pressed forward.

The excitement of the debate, and the vast variety of considerations urged, some pertinent but more wholly irrelevant, we need not attempt to describe. Fierce appeals were made to popular passions, and to judge from what was said on the floor of Congress, there would seem to have been great wrongs and outrage committed by England, which could be atoned for only by blood and by extrusion from the continent of America. Meanwhile negotiations had been recommenced between the secretary of state and the British minister, and were urged forward as rapidly as was consistent with the nature of the subject.


On the 23d of April, 1846, the joint resolujtion authorizing the president, if he considered it discreet to do so, to give notice to Great Britain for terminating the joint occupation of Oregon, finally passed both Houses by large majorities. But, happily, the question was settled without giving rise to any collision between the two countries. Correspondence was actively carried on through the British minister at Washington, and Mr. M'Lane, the American minister at London; and at length, on the 10th of June, the Senate was called upon to discuss a proposal, in the form of a convention, presented to the secretary of state by Her Majesty's minister, for the adjustment of the Oregon question; on the 12th, the Senate, by a vote of thirtyeight to twelve, advised the acceptance of the proposal; three days later, the convention, duly concluded and signed, was transmitted to the Senate for ratification; and on the 18th of June, the ratification was carried by a vote of forty-one to fourteen.

By this convention, the forty-ninth parallel of north latitude was adopted as the boundary between the territory of the United States and the British possessions, but Vancouver's Island was given up to Great Britain; the navigation of Fuca's Straits, and of the Columbia Biver, was declared free to both American and British navigators, and rights of actual possessors of land on both sides of the boundary line were to be respected by both parties. Thus, we may hope, as Mr. M'Lane said to the New York Chamber of Commerce, in September, after his return from En

gland "that the settlement of the Oregon question will soon come to be universally regarded as the knell of those inveterate jealousies and feuds which, it may be apprehended, have so long excited a mischievous influence over the people, if not upon the councils, of both countries."

General Taylor, who commanded the "army of occupation" in Texas, was ordered, early in the year 1846, to march to the Bio Grande, which was claimed as the western boundary of the new state. He set out for this purpose in March, reached Point Isabel on the 25th, and on the 28th encamped on the Bio Grande opposite Matamoras. The Mexicans looked upon this advance of Taylor as an invasion of their territory, and from the indications of their feelings towards the Americans, it became apparent, that a collision must speedily follow. Taylor was waiting, in obedience to orders, for the Mexicans to strike the first blow, which they did towards the latter part of April, by attacking and capturing Captain Thornton with a squadron of dragoons. Intelligence of this rencontre reached Washington on the 9th of May. The subject was immediately taken up, and a bill was passed, by large majorities, declaring, that, "by the act of the republic of Mexico, a state of war exists between that government and the United States,"* and placing the military and naval forces of the

* As Senator Benton justly states, the truth of history demands, that this assertion be pronounced untrue. The annexation of Texas was the real causo of the war. See his " Thirty TearS View," vol il, p. 678.

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country at the president's disposal to enable him to prosecute the war to a speedy conclusion. On the 13th of May, Mr. Polk gave his approval to the war bill, which provided for the services of fifty thousand volunteers, and appropriated $10,000,000 for the carrying on the war, and which was supported and strengthened by other bills on the same subject, all passed before the end of June.

A new tariff bill, by which ad valorem duties were imposed instead of specific imposts, gave rise to much discussion. It was eventually carried by a vote of a hundred and fifteen to ninetythree, in the House, but by a majority of only one in the Senate, (and on one question by the casting vote of the vice-president,) where Mr. Webster vigorously opposed it, for bringing into dangerous competition with domestic produce, in the home market, the manufactures of Europe. Another bill, supplemental in its nature to this, for the warehousing of imports, in public stores, and for limited periods, without payment of duties, until they were required for home consumption or re-exportation, was also passed. Both these acts produced great dissatisfaction in the manufacturing states, particularly in Pennsylvania, where the iron trade was largely affected by them.

In accordance with the president's recommendation, Congress took up for consideration, and finally established anew, the sub-treasury arrangement. In its main features it resembled the plan adopted during Mr. Van Buren's presidency; but many of the objections to that scheme were obviated in this,

and despite the opposition of such men as Daniel Webster, the sub-treasury system has continued in use to the present day.

Near the close of the session, the "Wilmot proviso" was originated. A bill was before the House, authorizing the president to use the sum of $3,000,000, if he deemed it expedient, in negotiating a treaty of peace with Mexico, when David Wilmot, a Representative from Pennsylvania, moved to add this proviso', "That there shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in any territory of the continent of America which shall hereafter be acquired by, or annexed to, the United States, by virtue of this appropriation, or ir any other manner whatsoever, except for crimes whereof the party shall have been duly convicted; Provided always, that any person escaping to such territory, from whom labor or service is lawfully claimed, in any one of the United States, such fugitive may be lawfully reclaimed, and conveyed out of said territory to the person claiming his or her labor or service."

There was not much discussion on this proviso, although deep feeling was aroused; the northern members generally voted in its favor, while those from the south opposed it. On the last day of the session, the bill, as amended, was sent to the Senate; but it was too late to secure its passage there, and so it was lost.

Preliminary acts were passed for admitting Iowa and Wisconsin into the Union; and by special enactments Senators and Representatives from Texas took their seats in Congress. Two bills

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