Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

ing in the slightest degree with the negotiation now in progress upon the subject; and the committee believed that the United States was asserting only the same jurisdiction over that entire country that Great Britian was now exercising. It was well understood that the laws of the United States now extended over that whole territory. Why, then, might not we do what they proposed ? Our people had gone to that country, to which few, if any, entertained the slightest doubt of our title; and being there, they stood every day in need of our legislation. Great Britian had her magistrates there; she had sent thither her code of laws, her judicial tribunals; she had fortifications studded all over that country; and what was there in existing treaties which forbade our doing the same thing? Should we lag behind-ay, should we longer lag behind on this great question? We did not propose to do more than she had done, but to do as much; and he trusted that this House, would never hesitate to do it, which they might do without violating any existing stipulations between the two countries.

He had never believed that, under the treaty of 1818, or of 1827, Great Britain, or any of her subjects, ever held joint possession or occupancy of that territory with the United States. The Committee on Territories entertained the opinion that we had had, at least since 1812, exclusive right of possession; and Great Britain had never divided that right with the United States at all. The stipulation of the treaty was only that they should have the privilege of entering through the bays and harbors of that country into Oregon, for the purpose of carrying on their trade, for purposes of hunting and fishing, &c.; but while they had this privilege it never was intended by the stipulations of our treaty that they should come in and claim undivided possession of the territory. However that might be, if they claimed joint possession with the United States, and had extended their laws there, was there any reason why the United States might not do the same thing? There might be collisions, to be sure, in joint occupation; and when they arose, they must be provided for; but the question of the probability of collision was not one which addressed itself to this House at all. That was a question for the consideration of the executive, whether he should give the notice contemplated by the convention of 1827. Now, the Committee on Territories believed, when they reported this bill, that they were acting strictly and exclusively within the legislative powers of Congress; that they were leaving the executive to act when and how it pleased with regard to giving this notice to terminate what was usually called the joint possession of this country. That was a question with which they did not intend to interfere. The gentleman from Massachusetts had stated that he had no doubt as to the ownership by the United States of that country from forty-two to forty-nine degrees. Well, over so much of the territory it would be right to extend our laws and our institutions; and the committee believed our title was good from forty-nine degrees to fifty-four degrees forty minutes, and they proposed to extend our jurisdiction over the whole country

Suppose, now, this jurisdiction progressed and terminated by the loss of that portion of the country, (which he supposed only for the sake of the argument, and which he had no idea would be the case,) why, to that extent the treaty stipulations between the two countries would curtail our legislation, and would leave our resolutions in full force, and our laws in full operation over the whole territory south of the line ultimately agreed on by this negotiation. So, that in no possible point of view could he imagine any reason why this House should not go as far as they were called on to go by the Committee on Territories. Let the negotiation terminate as it might, there must be a large portion of the territory to which Great Britain, although she had claims, had yet no just claims; and over that territory our legislation was to be extended.

But inasmuch as Great Britain, as the gentleman from Massachusetts had said, exercised jurisdiction as far as forty-two degrees, could we not as well exercise jurisdiction up to fiftyfour degrees forty minutes, with as much propriety; leaving all questions with regard to settlement of boundary to the negot ation, as now progressing, and leaving this House and the other branch of Congress to establish a territorial government in that country, subject to whatever was the result of the negotiation ?

In this view the bill was reported; and he desired, in order that every gentleman should be fully apprised of the grounds on which the bill was presented to the House, that a few pages of the report of last session accompanying the bill should be read.

They were read by the Clerk accordingly, as follows:

In presenting this bill thus modified, and recommending its passage, it is a source of satisfaction to the committee to know that it is in precise accordance with the avowed opinions not only of the present, but of several preceding Presidents of the United States. As far back as December, 1824, Mr. Monroe, in his annual message to the two Houses of Congress, strongly recommended the propriety of establishing a military post at the mouth of the Columbia river, or at some other point within our acknowledged limits. This he did, not only as a protection to our then increasing commerce, and to our fisheries, but as a protection to all our interests in that quarter, and as a means of conciliating the various tribes of Indians throughout our northwestern possession. He further added, “that it was thought, also, by the establishment of such a post, the intercourse between our western States and Territories and the Pacific, and our trade with the tribes residing in the interior, on each side of the Rocky Mountains, would be essentially promoted. Mr. Adams, in his message to the next succeeding Congress, follows up this suggestion of Mr. Monroe, and recommends not only the establishment of a military post at or near the mouth of the Columbia, but the equipment of a public ship for the exploration of the whole northwestern coast of this continent. If these recommendations are limited to the protection of our commerce and fisheries, to the trade with intermediate Indian tribes, and to the promotion of our intercourse with the Pacific, it must have been only because at that time we had no fixed population there, looking to the permanent settlement of the country for agricultural purposes. Since 1824 and 1825, however, we have advanced far beyond the then necessities of our people, and are now called upon to give the protection of our laws and the benefit of our free institutions to those who have made it their permanent abode,

and whose purposes are to bring into cultivation that vast portion of our empire.

The President of the United States, in his annual message at the commencement of the present session, presented these altered circumstances in the condition of that country to the attention of Congress, and with much cogency recommended the very measure which the committee have reported. He says: “In the mean time, it is proper to remark, that many of our citizens are either already established in the Territory, or are on their way thither, for the purpose of forming permanent settlements, while others are preparing to follow; and, in view of these facts, I must repeat the recommendations contained in previous messages, for the establishment of military posts at such places on the line of travel, as will furnish security and protection to our hardy adventurers against hostile tribes of Indians inhabiting those extensive regions. Our laws should also follow them, so modified as the circumstance of the case may seem to require. Under the influence of our free system of government, new republics are destined to spring up, at no distant day, on the shores of the Pacific, similar in policy and in feeling to those existing on this side of the Rocky Mountains and giving a wider and more extensive spread to the principles of civil and religious liberty.

In the bill which we have reported, it will be found that we have responded not only to the opinions of Mr. Monroe and Mr. Adams in relation to the establishment of military posts but we have adopted the just and proper sentiments of the present executive in reference to the increased settlement of our population in that distant region. Our people have gone to Oregon, and we are only sending our laws after them. It might be greater precision, however, to say that our laws had preceded them; that they had been always there, coeval with our rights to the country; and that we are now only proposing to give them activity and force by government organization. In doing so, we introduce no new policy into the action of the federal government. At the time of the establishment of our national independence, our population was confined to a comparatively narrow slip of country bordering on the Atlantic. As fast, however, as our settlements extended into the West

in sufficient numbers, new Territories were established. These, at first, were confined to the Mississippi river for their common western boundary. After the acquisition of Louisiana, the same wise and necessary policy has been pursued, observing limits, in several cases, but little short of the Rocky Mountains. In the rapid march of our empire-republic, the time has now arrived for the extension of the same policy beyond those mountains, recognising the shores of the Pacific as the only final terminus of our dominions.

The propriety of this extension is dependent, of course, on the validity of the title of the United States to the territory embraced in the bill. This question we were obliged to meet anterior to all action on the subject. In its investigations we have looked into the most authentic histories of voyages and discoveries on the northwestern coast of America. We have consulted the opinions of our most distinguished and best-informed public men, from Mr. Jefferson down to the present time. We have carefully examined all the treaties among the several nations claiming to have an interest in the subject; not neglecting to profit by the reports made by Mr. Baylies to the 19th, and Mr. Cushing to the 25th Congress, and by the several reports and speeches of the late lamented Senator from Missouri, who had devoted so much of the labor of his great mind to the investigation of this subject. The result of all this investigation has been a thorough conviction that the United States has a good and indefeasible title, as against any foreign power, . to the country extending east and west from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific ocean; and north and south from the limits of Mexico, in latitude 42 degrees north, to those of Russia, in latitude 54 degrees 40 minutes north.

The southern boundry was fixed by the treaty with Spain in 1819, commonly called the Florida treaty. By that treaty it is agreed that the boundary line between the possessions of the two nations west of the Mississippi, after reaching the river Arkansas, shall be, "following the course of the southern bank of the Arkansas to its source in lalitude 42 degrees; and thence by that parallel of latitude to the South sea.” In 1828 this line was confirmed by Mexico, as the successor of Spain, in a treaty of limits between herself and the United

« AnteriorContinuar »