« AnteriorContinuar »
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.
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
speech.” I have done so, however, the more readily, because I have already had an opportunity of expressing my views else. where. It so happened, Sir, that on the very day on which the compromise bill was introduced into this chamber, I was making a speech on the same subject in the other end of this Capitol. While the distinguished Senator from Kentucky (Mr. Clay) — who is not now among us, but who, we all hope, will soon return to his place reinvigorated by the ocean breezes of New England — was reading the report of the committee of Thirteen here, I was addressing the House there. I remember it the more strongly because that distinguished Senator, with the resistless fascination which belongs to him, had drawn off a large portion of the audience, which, under other circumstances, I might have reasonably expected, and had left me with quite too many empty seats, both on the floor and in the galleries, for the inspiration which is so necessary to success in an effort of that kind. But so far as it may be important to me to inform my constituents of the views and opinions which I entertain on this subject, that speech will answer my purpose.
I will only say, then, here and now, that I have changed no opinion or intention which I then expressed. I am in favor, now as then, of the unconditional and immediate admission of California to the Union, and for that measure, I rejoice to say, I have at last had the satisfaction of voting. I am in favor, now as then, of settling this boundary line between New Mexico and Texas as a separate and independent question, and for that measure, also, my colleague (Hon. John Davis) and myself have already given votes, which proved to be essential to its passage. And with regard to New Mexico herself, for the purpose of avoiding that strife and contention which, I fear, is always destined to spring up in this country, whenever a Territorial Government is proposed to be established on soil now free, and in regard to which any question of slavery can arise, I am in favor, now as then, of pursuing the plan proposed by the late lamented President of the United States, - the plan of admitting New Mexico as a State, as soon as she shall present herself with a republican Constitution, and of postponing all consideration of this Territorial question until that time shall arrive.
To these views, Sir, I still adhere. No change of administra
tion, and no change of my own position, has altered them in the slightest degree. If this bill, therefore, is pressed to a vote, I shall vote against it. If, in the mean time, however, a motion shall be made to apply to New Mexico the principle of the ordinance of 1787, I shall vote in favor of that motion.
I am aware, Sir, that the revival of this principle has been stigmatized in some quarters as odious and offensive to the South. I can only say that I shall vote for it in no spirit of offence. I shall vote for it for no mere purpose of obtaining a sectional preponderance, and with no vain view of crowding slavery out of existence by confining it within its present limits. But shall vote for it because I believe such a restriction to be for the highest and best interests, for the present and for the permanent welfare, of the new Commonwealth, whose destinies are now about to be determined. My own earnest desire, however, would be, that the Congress of the United States should, at no distant day, accept and ratify the Constitution which New Mexico herself has framed; and, should thus settle this question, once and forever, in the only way in which it cau be fully and finally settled. It has already been stated by the President of the United States that this Constitution will come here in the shape of a "petition” to Congress to admit New Mexico into the Union. Now, it would seem to me nothing more than justice that, instead of going on with the bill under consideration, we should wait to receive this petition, in order to have the views and wishes of the people of New Mexico fairly before us, and in order that we may decide intelligently and deliberately upon the suggestions which they may make in regard to their own future condition. At any rate, Sir, these are the views which I expressed elsewhere many months ago, and these are the views upon which I shall act here to-day.