Register of Debates in Congress, Comprising the Leading Debates and Incidents of the Second Session of the Eighteenth Congress Page: 17
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OF DEBATES IN CONGRESS.
Occupation of the Mouth of the Oregon.
[H. of R.
markets of India and China than silver and gold, cannot
be left untenanted. Moreover, the law of nations, which
we respect, would go far to justify them in taking posses-
sion of it. Would we, in that case, wage war to recover
it? if so, that war would cost much more than the occu-
pation proposed by this bill. Would you abandon it?
Then say so, and let the enterprize of your citizens
choose the course. Many now go to Mexico and to Ca-
nada, where they get land for the asking: the induce-
ment to Oregon would not be confined to that poor pros-
pect of a piece of land.
Mr. Chairman, this river must be occupied; so noble
a stream, watering with its branches a tract of country
from the 42d to the Sod degree of north latitude, and
from the Pacific Ocean a thousand miles in the interior,
with a climate, though north of this city several degrees
of latitude, yet as mild as this, cannot remain unoccupi-
ed- This country, too, if there is a spot on the face of
the globe destined to feel less of the calamity of war
than'another, it is this place : this, I should think, would
be another strong inducement for its settlement.
All the wars which have agitated Ihe world, have
been in, or had their rise in Europe—all the wars we
have had, and perhaps will have for ages, can only be
from Europe. All the defences we have planned, and
are planning, is to secure ourselves against the wars of
Europe—from all this, Oregon will be comparatively
freed. If there is a man, whose religion, or whose judg-
ment or feelings disapproves of war, then let him settle
in Oregon, where himself, and his descendants for ages
to come, will be unmolested, by the'din of arms. Rus-
sia, from the situation of her capital, her commanding
interests, ami the mass of her population, will remain an
Kuropean power—she cannot disturb us at so distant a
point. Tin- coast of Asia is too distant, too wild and j
unimproved, to become the seat of Royalty ; and should
war arise with that power, Europe and the Atlantic must
feel its effects. Should England be the enemy, the re'
suit would be the same—-that territory is too distant by
sea to enable them to fit out any thing like a heavy
force:, wherefore, the danger of molestation would be
small. From the coast of China, we know there is no
danger. The experience of many centuries of exemp-
tion from war, has taught her die wisdom of peace. She
will not, cannot war with us. From Mexico, Pent, Co-
lombia, and Chili, there will belittle danger; as the
products of the two countries are totally different, we
cannot compete in the market; and they have no timber
. to become a naval power: from that quarter we are safe.
If, however, the Republic should be plunged in war, it
must be on the Atlantic shore, where it can defend it-
self; that coast would ask no protection. The whole
shore of the ocean is almost a perpendicular rock, only
approached through the mouths of the rivers, easily se-
cured, and easily defended, which leaves all at ease with-
in, tranquillity and peace.
There is, Mr. Chairman, another point of view in
which this subject presents itself, still more important to
us, and one which ought to engage the most serious at-
tention of the Republic.
This river is the largest which empties itself into the
Pacific Ocean on the whole coast of •Ymerica, or on the
coast of Asia, as far, at least, as China. It has soil and
timber, to any extent, One harbors, and much health.
From this point, the whole Pacific ocean can be com-
njanded; and is the only point on the globe, where a na-
val power can reach the East India possessions of our
eternal enemy, Great Britain. It is well known to every
member of the House, that through all her struggles
with Napoleon, and amidst all the gigantic schemes and
exhaustiess resources of that great man, her trade to In-
dia remained untouched and secure. It is well known
that he had planned a descent u, on her East India pos-
sessions ; but as he himself declared in his conversations
with Mr. O'Meara, at St. Helena, a book all have seen,
Yoi. I,—No. It.
the truth of which, none doubt, that he was never able
to accomplish it: because, on consultation with his
ablest naval commanders, and on various calculations,
he found that the fleet would be deficient, as he observ-
ed, in one month's supply of water. If, then, we secure
the possession of Oregon, and avail ourselves of the fine
harbors and ship timber which we know how. to use,
which fact, the English, at least, ought not to doubt, we
take the strongest and surest security of Britain, for her
future good behaviour. She will be very cautious how
' she evinces that wantonness and injustice, and utter
disregard of the rights of this Republic, which led to the
last war with her, when she knows that, in thirty or forty
days, we can, at any .time, strike a blow on her East In-
dia possessions, which, of all others, she would feel the
most sensibly and sorely. This would be a better guar-
antee for our future peace, than her faith in the obser-
vance of treaties, or her impressions of justice. We
should, too, obtain the entire control of that ocean,
where we have, even now, annually, eight or ten mil-
lions of property. Mexico, Peru, Chili, and Colombia
cannot, and Britain, in those seas, must forever remain
toa weak to cope with us. We will be in good ports at
home; they have all the dangers of a voyage round a
cape proverbial for its storms, and two oceans, making
a distance of perhaps thirty thousand miles, it, in any
future war, a ship should be taken from the enemy in
that sea, instead of burning it, or suffering it to rot, as
was done by the intrepid Porter, we would have a near
and safe port to enter, where all prizes could be secured,
anil, by a court of admiralty, the property changed,
which could be sold to the merchants of any, or all of the
powers below, or even to the Russian. This, then, gives
| us the command of that ocean, from the Bay of Bengal,
to (Jape Horn, and to Behring's Straits, Kamtschatka and
From this bill will result all these important consi-
derations. We procure and protect the fur trade, worth
to England, three millions of dollars a year. We en-
gross the whale tra;ie, a most valuable branch .of com-
merce, so plenty on that coast, that Portlock, an Eng-
lish navigator, states, that in 1787,. when in latitude 57°
he saw the'ocean covered with whales as far as the eye
could see. We control the South Sea trade, as it is call-
ed—-the trade in Seals, and in the islands of the Pacific.
We must govern the Canton trade. All this rich com-
merce could be governed, if not engrossed, by capital-
ists at Oregon, making it the Tyre of Amei'ica, to supply
the whole coast below, and thus obtain the silver and
gold of those rich countries on that coast, more valuable
to us than the mines themselves; for the nation which
works in iron, and labors in commerce, has always, and
will forever, govern those who work in gold. Here is a
way, then, to' supply the market of Canton with all it
wants, without a dollar in specie from the Republic.
What flour, and cotton, and tobacco, is taken from the
United States, by ships in that trade, on what they call
indirect voyages, are first disposed of in Europe or the
Mediterranean, for silver, opium, &c. and these are ship-
ped to China, where the opium is better than silver. The
ginseng of the Oregon, the fur of that river and that sea,
with sandal wood, and other valuable productions of the
islands, will purchase all we want, not only to supply
our own wants, but to dispose of in Europe, and return
the proceeds to our own country. Much can be taken
to Oregon, and from thence, shipped to the governments
below," or furnished to the merchants of Mexico, Gua-
timala, and others, as they may find it convenient to ap-
ply for them, by so short a voyage—from ten to twenty-
The trade to Canton has never been properly regarded
by us; when viewed in a proper light, it is of great va-
lue to the United States, and ought to be cherished, or,
as sometimes happens, the best thing that can be done,
is, to do nothing; and this is emphatically one of these
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Gales, Joseph, 1761-1841. Register of Debates in Congress, Comprising the Leading Debates and Incidents of the Second Session of the Eighteenth Congress, book, 1825; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc30752/m1/13/: accessed March 18, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.