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I assume then, to-day, Mr. Chairman, no character of a pacificator. I have no new plan of adjustment or reconciliation to offer for the difficulties and dissensions in which we are unhappily involved.

Still less, Sir, have I sought the floor for the purpose of entering into fresh controversy with anybody in this House or elsewhere. Not even the gratuitous imputations, the second-hand perversions and stale sarcasms, of the honorable member from Connecticut, (Mr. Cleveland,) a few days ago, can tempt me to employ another hour of this session in the mere cut and thrust of personal encounter. I pass from that honorable member with the single remark, that it required more than all his vehement and turgid declamation against others, who, as he suggested, were shaping their course with a view to some official promotion or reward, to make me, or, as I think, to make this House, forget, that the term of one of his own Connecticut Senators was soon about to expire, that the Connecticut Legislature was just about to assemble, and that the honorable member himself was well understood to be a prominent candidate for the vacancy!

And I shall be equally brief with the distinguished member from Pennsylvania, (Mr. Wilmot,) who honored me with another shaft from the self-same quiver on Friday last. I will certainly not take advantage of his absence to deal with him at any length. But I cannot forbear saying, that as I heard him pouring forth so bitter an invective, so pitiless a philippic, against Southern arrogance and Northern recreancy, and as I observed the sleek complacency with which he seemed to congratulate himself that he alone had been proof against all the seductions of patronage and all the blandishments of power, I could not help remembering that his name was an historical name more than a century ago, and the lines in which a celebrated poet had embalmed it for immortality, came unbidden to my lips :

“Shall parts so various aim at nothing new?
He'll shine a Tully and a Wilmot too !”

My object to-day, Mr. Chairman, is the simple and humble one of expressing my own views on matters in regard to which I have, in some quarters, been, either intentionally or unintention

ally, misunderstood and misrepresented. The end of my hour will find me, I fear, with even this work but half accomplished; and I must rely on being judged by what shall be printed hereafter, rather than by what I may succeed in saying now. I will not, however, make my little less, by wasting any more of my time in an empty exordium, but will proceed at once to the business in hand.

And, in the first place, Sir, I desire to explain, at the expense of some historical narrative and egotistical reference, the position which I have heretofore occupied in relation to a certain antislavery proviso, which has been the immediate occasion of most of those sectional dissensions by which our domestic peace has been of late so seriously disturbed.

I need not say, Sir, that I am no stranger to that proviso, though, during the whole of the last Congress, I was precluded, by my position in the chair of the House, from giving any vote, or uttering any voice, in regard to it.

There are those here to-day, and I might single out, in no spirit of unkindness certainly, the present chairman of the Committee of Ways and Means, (Mr. Bayly,) as one of them, who have often taken pains to remind the House and the country, that this proviso was formally proposed by me to a bill for establishing a government in the Oregon territory, before the honorable member from Pennsylvania, whose name it now bears, (Mr. Wilmot,) had entered upon his Congressional career.

I have never denied this allegation. I have never desired to deny it. The fact is upon record; and I would not erase or alter that record if it were in my power to do so. But, Sir, I have often desired, and always intended, whenever I should again be free to take part in the discussions of this body, to recall to the remembrance of the House and of the country, the circumstances under which, and the views with which, that proposition was made.

It was made, Mr. Chairman, on the 1st day of February, 1845. And what was the condition of the country, and of the public affairs of the country, on that day?

Oregon was then a disputed territory. We were engaged at that time, Sir, in negotiations with Great Britain, in respect to the conflicting claims of the two countries to that remote region. Those negotiations had been long protracted, and had engendered a spirit of restless impatience on the subject, in the minds of a great portion of the American people. The question, too, had been drawn, - as, I regret to say, almost every question in this country seems destined to be drawn, - into the perilous vortex of party politics ; and a Democratic Presidential triumph had just been achieved, under a banner on which were legibly inscribed the well-remembered figures 54° 40', and the wellremembered phrase," the whole or none."

Under these circumstances, Sir, a bill was introduced into this House, to extend the jurisdiction of the United States over the whole territory in dispute, and to authorize the assumption and exercise of one of the highest attributes of exclusive sovereignty, by granting lands to settlers.

The bill was in other respects highly objectionable. It provided for carrying on a government by the appointment of only two officers - a governor and a judge - who were to have absolute authority to promulgate and enforce, throughout the territory of Oregon, any and all laws which they might see fit to select from the statutes of any State or Territory in the Union. The whole destinies of Oregon were thus to be confided to the discretion of two men, who were to make up a code of laws to suit themselves, by picking and culling at pleasure from all the statute books of the country. They were at liberty, as the bill stood — although the entire territory was above the latitude of 36° 30'— to adopt a slave code or a free code, as might be most agreeable to their own notions; and there was, at that very moment, lying upon the tables before us, a report from the Indian agent or sub-agent in that quarter, from which it appeared, that a number of the native Indians had already been captured and enslaved by the white settlers, and that they were held in a state of absolute and unjustifiable bondage.

It was under these circumstances, Mr. Chairman, that I moved the proviso in question ; and I now read, from a speech printed at the time, the remarks which I made on the occasion :

"One limitation upon the discretion of these two irresponsible law-givers ought cer tainly to be imposed, if this bill is to pass. As it now stands, there is nothing to pre

vent 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 declaration, that there shall neither be slavery nor involuntary servitude in this Territory, except for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.'”

I did not stop here, however, Sir. The whole argument of my speech on that occasion, with the exception of the single sentence which I have cited, was against the passage of the bill in any form.

“I am in hopes, Mr. Chairman, (such was my distinct avowal,) that the bill will not become a law at the present session in any shape. Every thing conspires, in my judgment, to call for the postponement of any such measure to a future day."

The great and paramount objection to the bill, in my mind, was that it would jeopard the peace of the country; that it would break up the amicable negotiations in which we were engaged, and would leave no other alternative for settling the vexed question of title between us and Great Britain, but the stern arbitrament of war.

Entertaining this opinion, I aimed at defeating the measure by every means in my power; and it was well understood, at the time, that this very proviso was one of the means upon which I mainly relied for the purpose. I deliberately designed, by moving it, to unite the Southern Democracy with the conservative Whigs of both the North and the South, in opposition to the bill, and thus to insure its defeat.

The motion prevailed. The proviso was inserted by a vote of 131 to 69. And I, for one, then carried out my opposition to the bill by voting against it, proviso and all. The Southern Democracy, however, did not go with me on this vote. Not a few of them, - the present Speaker of the House among the number, — all of them, indeed, who were present, except four, voted in favor of the bill, notwithstanding the anti-slavery clause; and accordingly it passed the House. But there can be little doubt that this clause had its influence in arresting the bill in the other wing of the Capitol, where it remained unacted upon until the close of the session, and was thus finally lost.

Sir, a bill to create a territorial government in Oregon, containing this identical proviso, has since been passed through both Houses of Congress, and has received the sanction and signature of a Southern Democratic President; and I do not suppose, therefore, that this original motion of mine will be hereafter so frequent a subject of Southern Democratic censure, as it hitherto has been. But I have desired to place upon record, in perpetuam memoriam rei, this plain, unvarnished history of the case; and having done so, I willingly submit myself to whatever measure of censure or reproach such a state of facts may fairly subject me to, either from the South or from the North. If the offering of this proviso to this bill, under these circumstances, with these views, and with this result, be the unpardonable offence which it has sometimes been styled, I can only say, “adsum, qui feci; in me convertite ferrum!Nay, Sir, I will say further, that if it be fairly traceable to this movement of mine, that it is no longer an open question whether domestic slavery shall find a foothold in the Territory of Oregon, I shall feel that it has not been entirely in vain, that I have been for ten years associated with the public councils of my country.

I come next, Mr. Chairman, to the proviso, which has more legitimately received the name of the honorable member from Pennsylvania, (Mr. Wilmot.) And it is not less important in this case, than in the other, to recall to the remembrance of the House and of the country the circumstances under which this proviso, also, was proposed.

I think, Sir, that no one, who was a member of Congress at the time, will soon forget the eighth day of August, 1846. The country was at war with Mexico, and Congress was within eightand-forty hours of the appointed close of a most protracted and laborious session. We were already almost exhausted by hot weather and hot work, and all the energies which were left us were required for winding up that great mass of public business which always awaits the closing hours, whether of a longer or a shorter session. Under these circumstances, a message was received by this House from President Polk, calling for an appropriation of money to enable him to negotiate a treaty of peace, , and intimating, by a distinct reference to the precedent of the


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