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created, and a mighty impulse will be given to commerce. No small portion of the share that would fall to us with this populous and indus. trious portion of the globe is destined to pass through the ports of the Oregon Territory to the valley of the Mississippi, instead of taking the circuitous and long voyage roand Cape Horn, or the still longer round the Cape of Good Hope. It is mainly because I place this high estimate on its prospective value that I am so solicitous to preserve it, and so ad. verse to this bill, or any other precipitate measure which might terminate in its loss. If I thought less of its value, or if I regarded our title less clear, my opposition would be less decided.
Having now, I trust, satisfactorily shown that, if we should now attempt to assert and maintain
our exclusive right to the territory against the ad. verse claim of Great Britain, she would resist; and that, if shere sisted, our attempt would be unsuccessful, and the territory be lost, the question presents itself, How shall we preserve it?
There is only one means by which it can be preserved, but that, sortunately, is the most powerfuì of all-time. Time is acting for us; and if we shall have the wisdom to trust its operation, it will assert and maintain our right with resistless force, without costing a cent of money or a drop of blood. There is osten, in the affairs of government, more efficiency and wisdom in non-action than in action. All we want to effect our object in this case is "a wise and masterly inactivity.” Our population is rolling towards the shores of the Pacific with an impetus greater than what we realize. It is one of those forward movements which leaves anticipation behind. In the period of thirty-two years which have elapsed since I took my seat in the other house, the Indian frontier has receded a thousand miles to the West. At that time our population was much less than half what it is now. It was then increasing at the rate of about a quarter of a million annually; it is now not less than six hundred thousand, and still increasing at the rate of something more than three per cent. compound annually. At that rate, it will soon reach the yearly increase of a million. If to this be added that the region west of Arkansas and the State of Missouri, and south of the Missouri River, is occupied by half.civilized tribes, who have their lands secured to them by treaty (and which will prevent the spread of population in that direction), and that this great and increasing tide will we forced to take the comparatively narrow channel to the north of that river and south of our northern boundary, some conception may be formed of the strength with which the current will run in that direction, and how soon it will reach the eastern gorges of the Rocky Mountains. I say some conception, for I feel assured that the reality will outrun the anticipation. In illustration, I will repeat what I stated when I first addressed the Senate on this subject. As wise and experienced as was President Monroe-as much as he had witnessed of the growth of our country in his time, so inadequate was his conception of its rapidity, that near the elose of his administration, in the year 1824, he proposed to colonize the Indians of New York, and those north of the Ohio River and east of the Mississippi, in what is now called the Wisconsin Territory, under the impression that it was a portion of our territory so remote that they would not be disturbed by our increas. ing population for a long time to come. It is now but eighteen years since ; and already, in that short period, it is a great and flourishing territory, ready to knock at our door for admission as one of the sovereign members of the Union. But what is still more striking-what is really wonderful and almost miraculous is, that another territory (lowa), still farther west (beyond the Mississippi), has sprung up, as if by magic, and has already outstripped Wisconsin, and may kaock for entrance before
she is prepared to do so. Such is the wonderful growth of a population which has attained the number ours has, and is still yearly increasing at the compound rate it is, and such the impetus with which it is forcing its way, resistlessly, westward. It will soon-far sooner than anticipated-reach the Rocky Mountains, and be ready to pour into the Oregon Territory, when it will come into our possession without resistance or struggle ; or, if there should be resistance, it would be feeble and ineffectual. We should then be as much stronger there, comparatively, than Great Britain, as she is now stronger than we are; and it would then be as idle in her to attempt to assert and maintain her exclusive claim to the territory against us, as it would now be in us to attempt it against her. Let us be wise and abide our time, and it will accomplish all that we desire with more certainty, and with infinitely less sacrifice than we can without it.
But if the time had already arrived for the suecessful assertion of our right against any resistance which might be made, it would not, in my opinion, be expedient in the present condition of the government. It is weak-never more so; weak politically, and from the state of the finances. The former was so ably and eloquently described by my colleague, that I have nothing to add but a single remark on the extraordinary state of parties at present. There are now three parties in the Union ; of which one is in possession of the executive department, another of the legislative, and the other, judging by the recent elections, of the country, which has so locked and impeded the operations of the government, that it is scarcely able to take measures necessary to its preservation.
In turning from this imbecile political condition of the government, and casting my eyes on the state of its finances, I behold nothing but disorder and einbarrassment; credit prostrated ; a new debt contracted, already of considerable amount, and daily increasing ; expenditures exceeding income; and the prospect, instead of brightening, growing still more gloomy. Already the debt falls not much short of thirty millions of dollars, to which will be added, from present appearances, by the end of the year (if the appropriations are not greatly curtailed and the revenue improved), not less, probably, than ten millions, when the interest would be upward of two millions of dollars annually-a sum more than equal to the nett revenue from the public lands. The only remaining revenue is derived from the foreign commerce of the country, and on that such heavy duties are imposed that it is sinking under the burden. The imports of the last quarter, it is estimated, will be less than mine millions of dollars-a falling off of about two thirds, compared with what it ought to be, according to the estimate made at the last session by those who imposed the burden. But as great as it is, the falling off will, I understand, be still greater, from present indications, during the present quarter; and yet, in the face of all this, we are appropriating money as profusely, and projecting schemes of expenditure as thoughtlessly, as if the treasury were full to overflowing. So great is the indifference, that even the prostrated condition of the treasury attracts no attention. It is scarcely mentioned or alluded to. No one seems to care anything about it. Not an inquiry is made how the means of supplying the acknowledged deficit to meet the current demands on the treasury, or to cover the extraordinary expenditures which will be incurred by this measure, should it be adopted, are to be raised. I would ask its advocates, Do you propose to borrow the funds necessary for its execution ? Our credit is already greatly impaired, and our debt rapidly increasing ; and are you willing still farther to impair the one and add to the increase of the other? Do you propose to raise them by increasing the duties? Can you hope to derive additional revenue from
such increase, when the duties are already so high as not oniy to paralyze the commerce, agriculture, and industry of the country, but to diminish, to an alarming extent, the revenue from the imports? Are you prepared to lay a duty on tea and coffee, and other free articles? If so, speak out, and tell your constituents plainly that such is your intention ; that money must be had ; and that no other source of revenue is left which can be relied on but a tax on them. It must come to that; and, before we incur the expense, it is but fair that our constituents should know the consequence.
But we are told the expense will be small-not exceeding one or two hundred thousand dollars. Let us not be deceived. What this bill appropriates is but the entering-wedge. Let it pass, and no one can tell what it will cost. It will depend on circumstances. Under the most favourable, on the supposition that there will be no resistance on the part of Great Britain, it would amount to millions; but if she should resist, and we should make it a question of force, I hazard nothing in saying it would subject the country to heavier expenditures, and expose it to greater danger, than any measure which has ever received the sanction of Congress.
Many and great are the acts of folly which we have committed in the management of our finances in the last fourteen or fifteen years. We doubled our revenue when our expenditures were on the eve of being reduced one half by the discharge of the public debt. We reversed that act of folly, and doubled our expenditures when the revenue was in the course of reduction under the Compromise Act. When the joint effects of the operation of the two had exhausted the treasury, and left the gov. ernment without adequate means to meet current demands, by an aptitude in folly unexampled, we selected that as the fit moment to divest the government of the revenue from the public domain, and to place the entire burden of supporting it on the commerce of the country. And then, as if to consummate the whole, we passed an act at the close of the last session which bids fair to cripple effectually this our only remaining source of revenue. And now what are we doing? Profiting by the disastrous consequences of past mismanagement ? Quite the reverse : committing, if possible, greater and more dangerous acts of folly than ever. When the government and the country are lying prostrate by this long series of errors and mismanagement; when the public credit is deeply impaired; when the people and the states are overwhelmed by debt, and need all their resources to extricate themselves from their embarrassments, that is the moment we select to bring forward a measure which, on the most favourable supposition, if adopted, cannot fail to subject the government to very heavy expenditures, even should events take the most favourable turn; and may-no, that is not strong enough-would, probably, subject it to greater than it ever has heretofore been. Where would the government find resources to meet them ? Not in its credit, for that would be extinct. Not in the impost, for that is already overburdened. Not in internal taxes, the indebted condition of the states forbids that. More than half the states of the Union are in debt; many deeply, and several even beyond their means of payment. They require every cent of the surplus means of their citizens, which can be reached by taxes, to meet their own debts. Under such a state of things, this government could not impose internal taxes, to any considerable amount, without bankrupting the indebted states or crushing their citizens. What would follow should the government be compelled, in consequence of this mensure, to resort to such taxes, I shall not undertake to trace. Suffice it to say, that all preceding disasters, as great as they are, which followed the preceding acts of folly, would be as nothing compared to the overwhelm
ing calamities which would follow this. Our system might sink under the shock.
Il, senators, you would hearken to the voice of one who has some experience, and no other desire but to see the country free and prosperous, I would say, Direct your eyes to the finances. There, at present, the danger lies. Restore, without delay, the equilibrium between revenue and expenditures, the want of which has done so much to destroy our credit and derange the whole fabric of the government. If that should not be done, the government and country will be involved, ere long, in overwhelming difficulties. Cherish the revenue from the lands and the imports. They are our legitimate sources of revenue. When the period arrives—come when it may-that this government will be compelled to resort to internal taxes for its support in time of peace, it will mark one of the most difficult and dangerous stages through which it is destined to pass. If it should be a period like the present when the states are deeply in debt, and need all their internal resources to meet their own engagements-it may prove fatal; and yet it would seem as if systematic efforts are, and have been making for some time, to bring it about at this critical and dangerous period. To this all our financial measures tend—the giving away the public lands; the crushing of the customs by high protective, and, in many instances, prohibitory duties; the adoption of hazardous and expensive measures of policy, like the present; and the creation of a public debt, without an effort to reduce the expenditures. How it is all to end time only can disclose.
But if our finances were in ever so flourishing a state ; if the political condition of the country were as strong as it could be made by an administration standing at the head of a powerful dominant party; and if our population had reached the point where we could successfully assert and maintain our claim against the adverse claim of Great Britain, there would still remain a decisive objection to this bill. The mode in which it proposes to do it is indefensible. If we are displeased with the existing arrangement, which leaves the territory free and open to the citizens and subjects of the two countries; if we are of opinion it operates practically to our disadvantage, or that the time has arrived when we ought to assert and carry into effect our claim of exclusive sovereignty over the territory, the treaty provides expressly for the case. It authorizes either party, by giving a year's notice, to terminate its existence whenever it pleases, and without giving reasons. Why has not this bill consormed to this express and plain provision? Why should it undertake to assert our exclusive ownership to the whole territory, in direct violation of the treaty? Why should it, with what we all believe to be a good title on our part, involve the country in a controversy about the violation of the treaty, in which a large portion (if not a majority) of the body believe that we would be in the wrong, when the treaty itself might so easily, and in so short a time, be terminated by our own act, and the charge of its violation be avoided? Can any satisfactory reason be given to these questions? I ask the author of the measure, and its warm advocates, for
None has been given yet, and none, I venture to assert, will be attempted. I can imagine but one answer that can be given that there are those who will vote for the bill that would not vote to give notice, under the delusive hope that we may assert our exclusive ownership, and take possession, without violating the treaty or endangering the peace of the country. Their aim is, to have all the benefit of the treaty, without being subject to its restrictions; an aim in direct conflict with the only object of the treaty—to prevent conflict between the two countries, by keeping the question of ownership or sovereignty in abeyance till the question of boundary can be settled. That such is the object appears
to be admitted by all except the senator from New Hampshire (Mr. Woodbury), whose argument, I must say, with all deference for him, was on that point very unsatisfactory. The other advocates of the bill, accordingly, admit that a grant of lands to emigrants settling in the territory, to take effect immediately, would be a violation of the treaty; but contend that a promise to grant hereafter would not be. The distinction is, no doubt, satisfactory to those who make it; but how can they rationally expect it will be satisfactory to the British government, when so large a portion of the Senate believe that there is no distinction between a grant and a promise to grant lands, as it relates to the treaty, and hold one to be as much a violation of it as the other? We may be assured that the British government will look to the intention of the bill, and, in doing so, will see that its object is to assert our exclusive claim of sovereignty over the entire territory against their adverse claim, and will shape their course accordingly. Our nice distinction between actual grants and the promise to grant will not be noticed. They will see in it the subversion of the object for which the treaty was formed, and take their measures to counteract it. The result will be that, instead of gaining the advantage aimed at, we shall not only lose the advantages of the treaty, but be involved in the serious charge of having violated its provisions.
I am not, however, of opinion that Great Britain would declare war against us. If I mistake not, she is under the direction, at this time, of those who are too sagacious and prudent to take that course. She would probably consider the treaty at an end, and take possession adverse to us, if not of the whole territory, at least to the Columbia River. She would, at the same time, take care to command that river by a strong fortification, manned by a respectable garrison, and leave it to us to decide whether we shall acquiesce, or negotiate, or attempt to dislodge her. To acquiesce, under such circumstances, would be a virtual surrender of the territory; to negotiate with adverse and forcible possession against us would be almost as hopeless; and to dislodge her at present would, as has been shown, be impracticable.
Such, in my opinion, would be the probable result, should this bill be passed. It would place us, in every respect, in a situation far less eligible than at present. The occupation of British subjects in the territory, as things now stand, is by permission, under positive treaty stipulation, and cannot ripen into a title, as it was supposed it would by the senator from Illinois (Mr. M.Roberts).
But if their occupancy was adverse (as it would be should this measure be adopted), and Great Britain should resist, then his argument would be sound, and have great force. In that case, the necessity of taking some decisive step on our part to secure our rights would be imperious. Delay would then, indeed, be dangerous. But as it is, no length of time can confer a title against us; and it is that, considering what advantage Great Britain has over us at present, either to take or hold possession, which ought to give to the treaty great value in our estimation. It is a wise maxim to let well enough alone. We can do little at present to better our condition. Even the occupation and improvement by British subjects, against which so much has been said, will in the end, if we act wisely, be no disadvantage. Neither can give any claim against us, when the time comes to assert our rights, if we abide faithfully by the treaty. They are but preparing the country for our reception; and should their improvements and cultivation be extended, it would only enable us to take possession with more ease if it should ever become necessary to assert our claims by force, which I do not think probable, if we shall have the wisdom to avoid hasty and precipitate action, and leave the question to the certain operation of time.