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HOUSTON, JOHN WALLACE.
-I- HIS gentleman represents the State of Delaware, comprising but one Congressional District. He was born at Concord, Sussex county, and at an early age commenced his education at the Newark Academy, in Newcastle county, an old and respectable institution, then under the charge of the Reverend Andrew K. Russell, a scholar of fine classical attainments. Having remained there three years, he entered Yale College, where he graduated in 1834. He studied law for three years in the office of John M. Clayton, in the town of Dover, and was admitted to the bar in 1837. Two years afterward he removed to Georgetown in his native county, and devoted himself to the practice of his profession. His success, both as a lawyer and an advocate, was such as in a short time to attract favorable notice. To this circumstance is to be attributed his early entrance into public life. In 1841 ho was appointed Secretary of State by Governor Cooper, which office he held during the administration of that highly-respected functionary. Before its expiration in 1844, the Whig party of the state nominated and elected him representative in Congress; and in 1846, under the unanimous renominatinn of a convention of the same party, he was re-elected. His first Republican ancestor was an influential Whig of 1776, and a Democrat in 1790. His father embraced also the Democratic faith, to which he undeviatingly adhered until, in his opinion, the party had lost all its title even to the name in the utter extinction of its principles. The son was educated in the genuine principles of the old Republican party, and became a Whig before he became a voter. Sustaining uniformly all the great principles of his party, he has evinoed a frank and liberal disposition toward his political opponents, while, with all parties at home, he has maintained the reputation of a consistent and an upright politician.
It is to be noted that he was the only representative from the slaveholding states who voted in favor of the Wilmot Proviso. This vote preceded the passage of an act by the House of Representatives of his own state, abolishing slavery within its limits, but which was defeated in the Senate. It is understood that the question of the abolition of this institution in the State of Delaware has never been mooted before the people, and that, if it were so, they would be found, at present, in favor of sustaining it.
The reasons of Mr. Houston for the vote to which we have referred, are thus cogently stated by himself in answer to an inquiry which we addressed to him:
"I had very strong objections to the bill, as originally reported to the House, without the proviso, and I could not vote for the passage of it with or without the amendment embodying the slavery restriction. I had voted against the bill proposing a similar appropriation at the preceding session of Congress, and I have since discovered nothing to mitigate my opposition to it. The messages of the President recommending the measure simply advised the appropriation of two millions of dollars to meet any expenditure which it might be necessary to make in advance, for the purpose of settling our difliculties with Mexico, without stating the mode in which the money was to be used, and without the slightest intimation on his part of the basis on which he proposed to adjust those difficulties; while the strong suspicion which prevailed of the venal purposes to which it was to be applied, rendered the recommendation highly repugnant to the feelings of many members with whom I conversed on the occasion. Though not asked for as secret service money, the imagination could not fail, in the absence of any definite information upon the subject, and in the mysterious silence of the executive as to the mode in which it was to be expended, to connect it in some manner with the recent remarkable return of General Santa Anna to Mexico, and the obvious intrigue by which that return had been effected. Entertaining these sentiments myself, I could not, as anxious as I have ever been for a restoration of peace between the two countries, consent to commit myself to the unknown purposes and policy of the executive, by voting for the appropriation either with or without the proviso, and you will accordingly find my vote recorded against
the passage of the bill in either of these conditions. The House of Representatives has no control over the treaty-making power of the government, and it is even contended, upon very high authority, that it has no discretion over appropriations called for by a treaty, when made and ratified pursuant to the provisions of the Constitution. This, it must be confessed, is an extreme principle; and, so long as I remain one of the representatives of the people, I can never consent to see it extended in its operation; and I shall, accordingly, always vote against any appropriation asked in advance for a treaty which has, as yet, no existence except in the secret views and purposes of the President.
"These were my principal reasons for voting against the bill with or without the slavery restriction.
"I now proceed to state, more particularly, my reasons for voting for the amendment incorporating the proviso; and, in the first place, I would remark, that the amendment presupposed, not only in the mind of the executive, but also of the mover of it, that the war was prosecuted with a view to the acquisition of a portion of the territory of Mexico. If such was the object of it, and there is certainly no longer any room to doubt it, it is evident that the design originated with the President and his immediate advisers, in order to strengthen and extend the peculiar institution of the South, and to secure and perpetuate the ascendency of Southern interests and Southern influences in the councils of the nation. It was the same motive which induced the annexation of Texas; and I regarded it as a mere continuation of the iniquitous scheme of the authors and abettors of that measure further to increase and extend their power, at the expense of the legitimate and constitutional rights of the other sections of the country. Convinced that such was the bold and fraudulent purpose of the President, and of those who have ever been willing to pander to the lust of the South for further territorial acquisitions, and the ambitious projects by which a certain class of her unscrupulous politicians are now seeking to consolidate her supremacy in the administration of the affairs of the Federal government, I deemed it perfectly fair and legitimate to thwart their policy and defeat their object by embarrassing the appropriation with the proviso; that is, by declaring, that if they were determined to persist in their base and selfish purpose of despoiling Mexico of a portion of her right