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The Resolutions referred to in the foregoing speech, and which were offered by Mr. Winthrop in the House of Representatives on the 19th of December, 1845, were as follows:
Resolved, That the differences between the United States and Great Britain, on the subject of the Oregon Territory, are still a fit subject for negotiation and compromise, and that satisfactory evidence has not yet been afforded that no compromise which the United States ought to accept can be effected.
Resolved, That it would be a dishonor to the age in which we live, and in the highest degree discreditable to both the nations concerned, if they should suffer themselves to be drawn into a war, upon a question of no immediate or practical interest to either of them.
Resolved, That if no other mode for the amicable adjustment of this question remains, it is due to the principles of civilization and Christianity that a resort to arbitration should be had; and that this government cannot relieve itself from all responsibility which may follow the failure to settle the controversy, while this resort is still untried.
Resolved, That arbitration does not necessarily involve a reference to crowned heads; and that, if a jealousy of such a reference is entertained in any quarter, a commission of able and dispassionate citizens, either from the two countries concerned or from the world at large, offers itself as an obvious and unobjectionable alternative.
RIVER AND HARBOR IMPROVEMENTS.
A SPEECH DELIVERED IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE
UNITED STATES, IN COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE ON THE STATE OF THE UNION, MARCH 12, 1846.
I am glad of an opportunity, Mr. Chairman, to give something more than a silent vote in favor of the bill now under consideration. I know not how it may be with others, but to me it is not a little refreshing, to find this House once more engaged in the discussion of measures, which look to the immediate interests of our own country, within its rightful and recognized limits. We have been so much occupied of late with questions of foreign relation, - with matters pertaining to recent and remote acquisitions, or distant and disputed territories, – that we have been in danger of forgetting the old and ample homestead which our fathers bequeathed to us. The astrologer, in the fable, is said to have gazed so intently at the stars, that he stumbled into the well. And we, too, have kept our eyes so exclusively on the sister stars, as they have been termed, — the twin comets, let me rather call them, which are sweeping through our political sky, in marvellous coincidence with those which are, at this moment, shooting across the heavens above us, and which would seem to be, even now, according to the old superstition,
shaking from their horrid hair pestilence and war," — that the nearer and dearer interests of the people have been almost abandoned to their fate.
I rejoice, Sir, that we have at last found a moment for withdrawing our eyes from Oregon and Texas, and fixing them upon our own domestic condition. I rejoice in the contemplation of a bill providing, not for the external aggrandizement, but for the
internal improvement, of our country. I trust that no one will be afraid of the name - internal improvement. It is a name, it is a thing, which ought to rally to its support every real friend of the Republic. In every view which can be taken of the true interest of the Republic, this bill, and bills like this, must be regarded as of no other than first-rate importance. To our commerce, to our agriculture, to our manufactures, (if, indeed, this nation is henceforth, under the ruthless policy of the present administration, to have any manufactures of its own,) – to all our material and to all our moral interests, to our prosperity in peace and to our protection in war, to the preservation of our political union, and to the promotion of that more substantial union, whose best and most binding cement must be derived from mutual intercourse and reciprocal interchanges, - to all, alike and equally, the policy of which this measure is a practical illustration, will lend the most effective encouragement and aid.
Sir, it would be a waste of words to enter upon any detailed amplification of these ideas. Nobody denies their abstract just
Every one will readily concur with me in the position, that nothing is calculated to conduce more to the general prosperity and welfare of our country, than the improvement of its landcourses and watercourses, and the increased facilitation of all its ways and means of personal and commercial intercommunication.
Yet this bill meets with opposition; with the sternest and most strenuous opposition from some quarters of the House. It is branded with all sorts of reproachful and ignominious epithets. It is styled a measure of profligacy and plunder. It is denounced as anti-Republican and unconstitutional. Its friends are reproached with resorting to a disgraceful system of logrolling; and a special rule, even, has been summarily adopted, under the lead of the enemies of the bill, for the purpose of de. feating it in detail, and of breaking up what has been stigmatized as the corrupt combination of its friends.
I desire to vindicate the bill from some of these aspersions. I desire to take issue on one or two of the most plausible grounds on which it has been thus rudely and bitterly assailed,
and upon one or two of the artful suggestions which are likely to prove the causes of its failure, if fail it ultimately shall.
I begin with the alleged unconstitutionality of the measure. I have no purpose, however, of entering upon this part of the subject at any great length, or with any particular elaborateness. I decline doing so for two reasons. One, that I could have no hope of adding any thing new to the constitutional views of the subject which have been presented to the House and to the country a thousand times before. The other, that after the experience we have recently had, of the manner in which constitutional impediments, the plainest and most palpable, may be overlooked or overleaped at will, constitutional arguments seem to have lost their whole title to respect. So far as the Constitution goes in establishing a frame of government, and in making specific provisions for the tenure of office or the distribution of duties, so far it may still be cited as an instrument of precise import and established authority. But so far as it leaves any thing for interpretation and construction, any thing for argument, implication, or inference, it has become a charter wide withal as the wind," and one as to whose meaning the weathercocks of the hour are the only trustworthy guides. In the proceedings which have attended the final consummation of the Texan policy, we have seen the doctrine established beyond revocation, that the immediate will of the people, as understood and expressed by the Representatives, Senators, and President for the time be ing — nay, Sir, that the immediate will of a dominant party, as proclaimed at the eleventh hour of some Baltimore Convention - is de facto the Constitution. In other words, a view of the Constitution has been adopted and practised upon, in these latter days, far more latitudinarian, and longitudinarian, too, than was ever dreamed of before; and that, under the immediate auspices, at the direct instigation, and for the peculiar interests, of those, who have been accustomed to plame themselves on being strict constructionists of the straitest sect.
But though the day for elaborate constitutional argument seems thus to have been brought to a close, I cannot deny myself the satisfaction of reminding some of these gentlemen, who, having effected their own darling design by an unmatched out
stretching of power, would now shrink back again within the shell of strict construction, - that the bill under consideration may appeal, for a sanction to its constitutionality, to authority and to example, which even they will hardly venture to dispute.
Mr. Chairman, there has been not a little discussion, for some days past, as to the precise provision of the Constitution under which this bill may be justified. For myself let me say, that whenever I have been able to find a uniform current of example, running through a long series of years, in favor of the exercise of any particular power, I have never thought it important to perplex myself too deeply as to the exact clause from which the power was derived. Yet I could not but listen with more than ordinary pleasure to the able argument of the honorable member from Maryland, (Mr. Constable,) who addressed the committee a few moments since, and who derived the authority of Congress to pass this bill from the power given us expressly by the Constitution “ to regulate commerce.” It was fit, Sir, that the vindication of this particular power should come from such a quarter. It was in the capital of the State which the honorable member in part represents, that the first concerted movement was made to confer this power upon the General Government. It was at Annapolis, that the incipient measures were taken, which resulted in the adoption of the present Constitution of the United States. It was there, in the month of September of the year 1786, that a meeting of commissioners from some of the principal States was held,“ to take into consideration the trade and commerce of the United States; to consider how far a uniform system in their commercial intercourse and regulations might be necessary to their common interest and permanent harmony; and to report to the several States such an act relative to this great object as, when unanimously ratified by them, would enable the United States in Congress assembled effectually to provide for the same."
At this meeting only six of the States were represented : the States of Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Virginia. The meeting was therefore dissolved without having attempted any definite action; but not, however, without having adopted an address to the States recommending a future