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BOUNDARY OF NEW MEXICO AND TEXAS.
REMARKS IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES, ON THE BILL FOR
ORGANIZING A TERRITORIAL GOVERNMENT IN NEW MEXICO, AUGUST, 14, 1850,
MR. PRESIDENT, —
The Senator from Ohio, (Mr. Chase,) has now for the second time indulged in a course of remark on this subject, which, reluctant as I am to trouble the Senate, I cannot allow to pass without some notice. I understood him to say at the outset, and to repeat at the close of his remarks, that the main objection to the late compromise bill was the boundary line which it proposed to run between New Mexico and Texas, and the ten millions of dollars which it proposed to pay to the State of Texas for agreeing to that boundary line.
Mr. CHASE. The statement which I made was that the main objection to the series of measures proposed by the compromise bill was, as I understood it, the great concession made to Texas of territory believed to belong to the United States; or, to speak more accurately, it was the bargain proposed to be made between the United States and Texas in reference to their reciprocal cession of territory by which the United States were to pay ten millions. I did not say there were not other serious objections to that series of measures. There were other objections. But this was most urged; it was most dwelt upon; it was most considered. The other principal objection to the bill was that it was a bill of incongruous elements.
MR. WINTHROP. Mr. President, I understood the Senator from Ohio pretty distinctly to imply, not merely that members of the Senate who had opposed the compromise bill mainly upon this ground, had now yielded to terms which were much less advantageous to the United States; but that there was something in the fact of a recent change of Administration to which this concession was to be attributed. The Senator even now has hardly modified the idea which he then suggested. He certainly stated that one of the main objections to the compromise bill was the running of this boundary line and the appropriation of these ten millions of dollars. He also intimated, that owing to the influence of some change of administration, gentlemen had been willing to assent to measures which they had previously opposed.
Now, Sir, I had really imagined that the honorable Senator from Ohio would be one of the last Senators on this floor to assert, or even to intimate, that one of the main objections to the compromise bill was this adjustment of boundary between Texas and New Mexico. Certainly, I can conceive that Senators should have objected to that boundary line, and to the consideration which it was proposed to pay for it, as an element in a bill of that mixed and composite character ;- a bill made up, as I think, of many incongruous ingredients, and into which this particular ingredient was liable to the suspicion, to say the least, of having been inserted, for the purpose of carrying through Congress measures which could not have been carried without it. So far, many of us may have objected to that element of the bill.
But, Sir, the honorable Senator knows well, that on the part of his own State of Ohio, and on the part of the State which I have the honor to represent, the main objection to that bill, above all other considerations, and in comparison with which any mere matter of boundary or of bonus, of acres or of dollars, was but as the light dust of the balance, was found in the fact, that it undertook to establish governments for vast territorial possessions which had been acquired to the United States as free soil, without any restriction as to the admission of slavery. The honorable Senator knows that perfectly well. And he knows that upon that subject we have yielded nothing, and proposed to yield nothing, in the passage of this Texan boundary bill, but that, on the other hand, we have taken the first and most indispensable step towards securing the existence of a free State, or indeed of any State, on the Rio Grande.
Mr. President, it required no change of administration to convince any of us, I think, of the absolute necessity of running
a boundary line of some sort between New Mexico and Texas. And that, Sir, not by the slow process of judicial adjustment, nor by the dilatory decision of a board of commissioners, as proposed by the honorable Senator from Maine, (Mr. Bradbury,) but by the prompt and immediate action of the Congress of the United States. You may call it timidity; you may call it cowardice, if you will; but I confess to have believed that upon this question we were brought at last to the alternative of drawing the line, or of drawing the sword. I confess to have believed, that unless some measure of this sort were speedily adopted, we should not have a foot of free soil this side of the Rio Grande, without fighting for it. Now, Sir, for my own part, I had rather that this boundary between sister States should be run by gold than by steel; by money than by blood; and that it should be marked upon the map of our Union in all time to come, by any other lines rather than red lines.
Sir, always from the beginning of the session, I believe that both my colleague and myself have agreed in the idea, that this boundary line must be settled as a separate and independent question, and that it was to be settled, if possible, by the Congress of the United States, upon fair and liberal terms towards Texas,
not in a spirit of unworthy concession, but in a spirit of just and liberal accommodation. And, when it shall be so settled, the only cloud which casts a serious shadow over the domestic peace of our country will, in my judgment, have disappeared. But how is it, Sir, with the precise boundary which the bill which has passed this body has proposed to run ? The Senator from Ohio has alluded to the line proposed by the Senator from Missouri, (Mr. Benton,) as one greatly preferable. I acknowledge that it is so, in many respects; but how far was it a practicable line? It will be remembered by the Senate that I offered that line myself, just before the Senate adjourned on the day before the bill was put on its final passage, and that I withdrew it the next morning. And why did I withdraw it? Because I ascertained, on examination and inquiry, that the convention of New Mexico which framed that State constitution, which it is my earnest hope that Congress will one day or other acknowledge and ratify, had themselves cut off a large portion of the territory included by that boundary line, and had put their own line at about the thirty-second degree of North Latitude. Thus the seventy thousand square miles, spoken of by the Senator from Missouri, around the sources of the river Puerco, had been abandoned by New Mexico herself.
MR. BENTON (in his seat.) A part of it.
MR. WINTHROP. A very large part of it, Sir. I doubt, under these circumstances, whether the Senator himself would have adhered to that part of his proposed line. Certainly he would not have done so, if his views, like my own, had been favorable to receiving New Mexico at once as a State. But what does the Senator from Missouri tell us this morning in regard to another part of this boundary question? He tells us, Sir, — and it is a most important fact to be taken in connection with the remarks of the Senator from Ohio — he tells us that the thirty thousand square miles of Northern territory which the line proposed by the Senator from Maryland (Mr. Pearce) left to Texas, and which his own bill would have secured to the United States, in his judgment belonged rightfully to Texas, and that he had proposed to purchase it outright with a part of those fifteen millions of dollars which his bill appropriated.
MR. BENTON, (in his seat.) Exactly.
MR. WINTHROP. So that, instead of our ceding to Texas, in this quarter, territory which belonged to New Mexico, it is now upon record, from the lips of the distinguished Senator from Missouri, - upon whose testimony I would rather stake a ques. tion of geography than upon that of any other Senator in the chamber, — that these thirty thousand square miles, which the bill of the Senator from Maryland has left to Texas, were already the rightful property of Texas.
Well, now, Mr. President, let me not be supposed to intimate that I am entirely satisfied with the boundary line which has been adopted. I desired a very different line, and I voted uniformly for every one of the amendments which were offered with a view to improve it. Yet I must say that the advantages of that line have not been altogether appreciated, even by the honorable Senator from Maine. Why, Sir, where is the most valuable part of the territory in dispute between the United
States and Texas, - the most valuable for every purpose of a free and prosperous State ? Certainly, it is upon the borders of the Rio Grande. It is upon the banks and along the sources of the Puerco. It is not upon the Llano estacado. It is not upon those barren heaths and buffalo ranges which constitute the greater part of this northern territory which is to be left to Texas. Now, the boundary line proposed by the Senator from Maryland has secured to the future State of New Mexico a large strip of land, - I know not precisely how many square miles, but enough, I have reason to think, to make a State almost, if not quite, as large as the State of Massachusetts, – on the very borders of the Rio Grande, and in the immediate valley of the Puerco.
Sir, this is not a question to be settled by any mere superficial measurement, by any mere calculation of acres or of square miles. It is the character, and not the extent, of the territory which is to be regarded. And, for one, I hold that this triangle of territory on the Rio Grande and the Puerco, which is now secured to New Mexico, and which the compromise bill would have given up to Texas, is worth the whole of the thirty thousand square miles, and of thirty thousand more added to them, upon that dreary and desolate plain, over which (as the Senator from Missouri has told us) one can only find his way by means of the stakes which have been driven down into the soil, to take the place of those natural landmarks, which are to be found in abundance wherever land is fit for the occupation of man.
But, after all, Mr. President, the real question before us is what is to become of New Mexico ? That is the question involved in the bill under consideration. Now, Sir, I do not propose to detain the Senate, at this late hour of the day and of the session, by any formal speech on that subject. But, lest my votes should be misunderstood hereafter, I must state my opinions and purposes briefly but distinctly. During the short time in which I have had the honor of a seat in this body, I have been content with giving votes upon these great questions from day to day, with but little explanation. I have done so from a sincere reluctance to delay the action of the Senate. I had at any time rather“ be checked for silence, than taxed for