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rejection of this precise offer does not authorize us to leap at once to the conclusion, that "no compromise which the United States ought to accept can be effected.” If our Government has thus far made no offer, except one which“ any man of com. mon sense might have known would be rejected precisely as it has been,” I trust it will bethink itself of making another offer hereafter, which will afford to Great Britain a less reasonable pretext for so summary a proceeding.
But, Mr. Speaker, it is certainly possible that, with the best intentions on both sides of the water, all efforts at negotiating a compromise may fail. It may turn out hereafter, though I deny that it is yet proved, that no compromise which the United States ought to accept can be effected. What then? Is there no resort but war? Yes, yes; there is still another easy and obvious mode of averting that fearful alternative. I mean arbi. tration; a resort so reasonable, so just, so conformable to the principles which govern us in our daily domestic affairs, so con. formable to the spirit of civilization and Christianity, that no man will venture to say one word against it in the abstract. But then we can find no impartial arbiter, say gentlemen; and, therefore, we will have no arbitration. Our title is so clear and so indisputable, that we can find nobody in the wide world impartial enough to give it a fair consideration !
Sir, this is a most unworthy pretence; unworthy of us, and offensive to all mankind. It is doing injustice to our own case and to our own character, to assume that all the world are prejudiced against us. Nothing but a consciousness of having giving cause for such a state of feeling, could have suggested its existence. The day has been when we could hold up our heads and appeal confidently, not merely for justice, but for sympathy and succor, if they were needed, to more than one gallant and generous nation. We may do so again, if we will not wantonly outrage the feelings of the civilized world. For myself, there is no monarch in Europe to whom I should fear to submit this question. The King of France, the King of Prussia, the Emperor of Russia, either of them would bring to it intelligence, impartiality, and ability. But, if there be a jealousy of crowned heads, why not propose a commission of civilians ? If you will
put no trust in princes, there are profound jurists, accomplished historians, men of learning, philosophy, and science, on both sides of the water, from whom a tribunal might be constituted, whose decision upon any question would command universal confidence and respect. The venerable Gallatin, (to name no other American name,) to whose original exposition of this question we owe almost all that is valuable in the papers by which our title has since been enforced, would add the crowning grace to his long life of patriotic service, by representing his country once more in a tribunal to which her honor, her interests, and her peace might safely be intrusted. At any rate, let us not reject the idea of arbitration in the abstract; and, if the terms cannot be agreed upon afterwards, we shall have some sort of apology for not submitting to it. General Jackson, sir, did not regard arbitration as a measure unfit either for him or his country to adopt. Indeed, it is well understood that he was so indignant at the King of Holland's line not being accepted by us, that he declined to take any further steps on the subject of the northeastern boundary.
I cannot but regret, Mr. Speaker, that the President, in mak. ing up an issue before the civilized world, upon which he claims to be relieved from all responsibility which may follow the failure to settle this question, has omitted all allusion to the fact that arbitration on this subject of Oregon has been once solemnly tendered to us by Great Britain. I am willing, however, to put the very best construction on this omission of which it is sus. ceptible, and to believe that the President desired to leave himself uncommitted upon the point. Without some such explanation, it certainly has a most unfortunate and disingenuous look. This omitted fact is, indeed, enough to turn the scale of the public judgment upon the whole issue. Arbitration offered by Great Britain, and perseveringly rejected by us, leaves the responsibility for the preservation of peace upon our own shoulders. The Administration cannot escape from the burden of that responsibility. And a fearful responsibility it is, both to man and to God!
Before concluding my remarks, as the clock admonishes me I soon must, I desire to revert to one or two points to which I alluded briefly at the outset. I have already declared myself opposed to the views of my honorable colleague, (Mr. Adams,) as to giving the notice to Great Britain. I honestly believe that the termination of that convention of joint occupation, (I call it by this name for convenience, not perceiving that it makes any material difference as to the real questions before us,) at this moment, under existing circumstances, and with the view, which my honorable colleague has expressed, of following it up by the immediate occupation of the whole of Oregon, would almost unavoidably terminate in war. I see no probable, and hardly any possible, escape from such a consequence. And to what end are we to involve our country in such a calamity? I appeal to my honorable colleague, and to every member on this floor, to tell me what particular advantage is to be derived from giving this notice and terminating this convention at this precise moment, and in advance of any amicable adjustment. The honorable member from Pennsylvania (Mr. C. J. Ingersoll) has said that this convention is the own child of my honorable col- . league. It has been twice established under his auspices, and with the advice and consent of statesmen as patriotic and discriminating as any who now hold the helm of our Government. What evil has it done? What evil is it now doing ?
The honorable member from Pennsylvania has given us a rich description of the rapid influx of population into that territory. He has presented us with a lively picture of I know not how many thousand women and children on their winding way to this promised land beyond the mountains. Let them go! God speed them! There is nothing in the terms of this convention which impedes their passage, nor any thing which prevents us from throwing over them the protection of a limited territorial government. I am ready to go as far as Great Britain has gone, in establishing our jurisdiction there; and no interest, either of those who are going there, or of those who are staying here, calls on us to go further at present. The best interests of both parties, on the contrary, forbid any such proceeding. Gentlemen talk about following up this notice by taking immediate possession of the territory. This is sooner said than done. What if Great Britain should happen to get the start of us in that proceeding?
Such a thing would not be matter of very great astonishment to those who remember her celerity in such movements, and her power to sustain them when once made. Where should we be then ? Would there be no war?
And what would be the consequences of a war under such circumstances; the consequences, not upon cotton or upon commerce, not upon Boston, or Charleston, or New York, but what would be the consequences so far merely as Oregon itself is concerned ? The cry is now “ the whole of Oregon or none,” and echo would answer, under such circumstances, "none!” I see not how any man in his senses can resist the conviction, that, whatever compensation we might console ourselves with, by a cut out of Canada, or by the whole of Canada, - that under whatever circumstances of success we might carry on the war in other quarters of the world or of our own continent, — the adoption of such a course would result in the immediate loss of the whole of the territory in dispute. This, at least, is my own honest opinion.
As a friend, then, to Oregon, with every disposition to maintain our just rights to that territory, with the most sincere desire to see that territory in the possession of such of our own people as desire to occupy it - whether hereafter as an independent nation, as was originally suggested by a distinguished Senator from Missouri, (Mr. Benton,) and more recently by a no less distinguished Senator from Massachusetts, (Mr. Webster,) or as a portion of our own wide-spread and glorious Republic - I am opposed to the steps which are now about to be so hotly pursued.
Sir, I feel that I have a right to express something more than an ordinary interest in this matter. There is no better element in our title to Oregon than that which has been contributed by Boston enterprise. You may talk about the old navigators of Spain, and the Florida treaty, and the settlement at Astoria, and the survey of Lewis and Clarke, as much as you please, but you all come back, for your best satisfaction, to “Auld Robin Gray” in the end. Captain Robert Gray, of Boston, in the good ship Columbia, gave you your earliest right of foothold upon that soil.
I have seen, within a few months past, the last survivor of his hardy crew, still living in a green old age, and exhibiting with pride a few original sketches of some of the scenes of that now memorable voyage. My constituents all feel a pride in their connection with the title to this territory. But in their name I protest against the result of their peaceful enterprise being turned to the account of an unnecessary and destructive war. I protest against the pure current of the river which they discovered, and to which their ship has given its noble name, being wantonly stained with either American or British blood!
But while I am thus opposed to war for Oregon, or to any measures which, in my judgment, are likely to lead to war, I shall withhold no vote from any measure which the friends of the Administration may bring forward for the defence of the country. Whether the Bill be for two regiments or for twenty regiments, it shall pass for all me. To the last file, to the uttermost farthing, which they may require of us, they shall have men and money for the public protection. But the responsibility for bringing about such a state of things shall be theirs, and theirs only. They can prevent it, if they please. The Peace of the country and the Honor of the country are still entirely com patible with each other. The Oregon question is still perfectly susceptible of an amicable adjustment, and I rejoice to believe that it may still be so adjusted. We have had omens of peace in the other end of the Capitol, if none in this. But if war comes, the Administration must take the responsibility for all its guilt and all its disgrace.