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tinue in force until positively disapproved of by Congress — a liinitation which we all know, from our experience in regard to other Territories, is practically inoperative. This discretionary dominion of these two officers is to last until there shall be five thousand free white male American citizens of twenty-one years of age in Oregon to authorize the establishment of a legislative body for themselves. This will be no brief term for such a Duarchy. The tide of emigration is now setting towards California, and not towards Oregon. There has been a great deal of delusion as to the prospect of an early colonization of Oregon. It is now pretty well understood that there are as good lands on this side of the Rocky Mountains as on the other, so far, at least, as the country north of the 420 degree of latitude is concerned. The day is still distant, when there will be five thousand free white male American citizens in Oregon. I am told that there are not two thousand there now. And I do not believe that these American citizens will thank you for breaking up the little temporary organization upon which they have agreed among themselves, in order to make way for so arbitrary a system as is provided for them by this bill.
One limitation upon the discretion of these two irresponsible lawgivers ought certainly to be imposed, if the bill is to pass. As it now stands, there is nothing to prevent them from legalizing the existence of domestic slavery in Oregon. It seems to be understood that this institution is to be limited by the terms of the Missouri compromise, and is nowhere to be permitted in the American Union above the latitude of 36° 30'. There is nothing, however, to enforce this understanding in the present case. The published documents prove that Indian slavery already exists in Oregon. I intend, therefore, to move, whenever it is in order to do so, the insertion of an express declara. tion that “ there shall neither be slavery, nor involuntary servitude, in this Territory, except for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.” *
But I am in hopes, Mr. Chairman, that the bill will not be come a law at the present session, in any shape. Every thing
* This amendment was subsequently offered by Mr. Winthrop, and adopted by a vote of 131 to 69.
conspires, in my judgment, to call for the postponement of any such measure to a future day. We ought not to contemplate the possibility of a question like this being settled otherwise than by peaceful negotiations. We ought to give ample time for those negotiations, and do nothing which can interrupt or embarrass them. We have nothing to regret in our past negotiations with Great Britain ; we have nothing to fear from those in which we are now engaged. Reproaches as to the former, and menaces as to the latter, are alike but the ebullitions of party heat or personal hate, and will perish with the breath in which they are uttered. Mr. Webster has dared to preserve the peace of the country by abating something of our extreme territorial claims on the Northeast, and he has earned the gratitude of all good citizens by doing so. I trust Mr. Calhoun will not be frightened out of that kindred spirit of conciliation and concession, which he has already manifested on this subject in the Senate, by the bluster and braggardism of this debate. We have twice offered to compromise with Great Britain on the 49th parallel of latitude, and such a compromise would be the very best result that we have a right to anticipate now. And even if some slight deviations from this line should be found necessary for effecting a peaceful settlement of the question, the sober judgment of the nation would not hesitate to approve the concession.
But, Mr. Chairman, if gentlemen will insist on contemplating the necessity of a resort to arms upon this question — if they have come to the conclusion that, inasmuch as the 49th parallel has been twice offered and twice refused, there is a point of honor between the two nations which can only be settled by a fight -- if they are converts to the syllogism of the honorable member from Illinois, that no English Minister dares to accept the 49th parallel, and no American Secretary dares to offer more, ergo, they both dare to involve the world in war — still, still, I say, postpone the present proceeding. We enter, to-day, upon the last month of an expiring administration. A new President is about to enter upon the four years' term to which the people have elected him. A new Congress will soon be in existence to act upon his recommendations. Upon this new
administration has been solemnly devolved the responsibility of conducting both the domestic and foreign affairs of the nation during its next Olympiad. Let us leave that responsibility undisturbed. Let us not employ the last moments of our power in creating difficulties which others must encounter, and exciting storms which others must breast. Rather let us do what we may, to secure for those upon whose shoulders the government has fallen, a serene sky and a calm sea at the outsct of their voyage, that they may take their observations, and shape their course deliberately; and let all our good wishes go with them,as my own certainly will, — that they may complete their career, without striking either on Domestic Discord or Foreign War! If they fail in doing so, let the responsibility be wholly their own.
ARBITRATION OF THE OREGON QUESTION.
A SPEECH DELIVERED IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE
UNITED STATES, JANUARY 3, 1846.
I UNDERSTAND the Chair to have decided that, upon the pend. ing motion to refer to the Committee of the Whole on the state of the Union a bill for raising two regiments of riflemen, the whole question of Oregon is open to debate. The House, too, has virtually sanctioned this decision, by declining to sustain the previous question a few moments since. I cannot altogether agree in the fitness of such a decision, but I am unwilling to omit the opportunity which it affords for expressing some views upon the subject.
My honorable colleague (Mr. Adams) in his remarks yester. day, and the chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs (Mr. C. J. Ingersoll) this morning, have alluded to the course pursued by them last year, and have told us that they both voted for giving immediate notice to Great Britain of our intention to terminate, at the earliest day, what has been called the conven. tion of joint occupation. Though a much humbler member of the House, I may be permitted to allude to the fact that I voted against that proceeding last year, and to add that I intend to do so again now. I may be allowed, also, to remind the House of a series of resolutions upon this subject, which I offered to their consideration some days ago. I know not whether those resolutions will ever emerge from the pile of matter under which they now Jie buried upon your table. If they should, however, I am by no means sure that I shall not propose to lay them aside again without discussion. Nothing, certainly, was further from my purpose in offering them, than to involve this House in a stormy debate about peace and war. Such debates, I am quite sensible, are of most injurious influence on the public quiet and prosper. ity, and I have no disposition to render myself responsible for a renewal of them. I desired only then, and I desire only now, to place before the House and before the country, before it is too late, some plain and precise opinions, which are sincerely and strongly entertained by myself, and which I believe to be no less strongly entertained by many of those with whom I am politi. cally associated, in regard to the present most critical state of our foreign relations.
I desire to do this on many accounts, and to do it without delay. An idea seems to have been gaining ground in some quarters, and to have been somewhat industriously propagated in all quarters, that there is no difference of sentiment in this House in reference to the course which has thus far been pursued, or which seems about to be pursued hereafter, in regard to this unfortunate Oregon controversy. Now, Sir, upon one or two points connected with it, there may be no difference of opinion. I believe there is none upon the point, that the United States have rights in Oregon which are not to be relinquished. I believe there is none upon the point, that, if the controversy with Great Britain should result in war, our country, and the rights of our country on both sides of the Rocky Mountains, are to be maintained and defended with all the power and all the vigor we possess. I believe there is none either upon the point, that such is the state of this controversy at the present moment, that we owe it to ourselves, as guardians of the public safety, to bestow something more than the ordinary annual attention — I might better say the ordinary annual inattentionupon our national desences, and to place our country in a posture of preparation for meeting the worst consequences which may befall it
So far, Mr. Speaker, I believe there are common opinions, united thoughts and counsels, in both branches of Congress, and indeed throughout the country, without distinction of party. But certainly there are wide differences of sentiment among ourselves and among our constituents, upon other no less interesting and substantial points. And I am not one of those who