Register of Debates in Congress, Comprising the Leading Debates and Incidents of the Second Session of the Eighteenth Congress Page: 37
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OF DEBATES IN CONGRESS.
Dec. 21, 1824-3
Occupation of the Month of the Oregon.
[H. of R.
tigated the subject, that he should take the lead in
bringing it before the House, and that it should be de-
cided on his bill and report, already in possession of the
House. I have, (said Mr. S.) some remarks to make
which may be now properly made, on the motion to
strike out the 5th section of the bill. My colleague has
shown the expediency of establishing a military post;
but I differ with the gentleman from Kentucky, (Mr.
Trimble) as to the expediency of establishing a post at
the mouth of Columbia river. The surrender of the
post at that place, to our agent, at the close of tlie war,
could not affect the right ,of either nation. The surren-
der was made in compliance with a stipulation of the
treaty of peace, that all places taken by either party dur-
ing the war, should be given lip ; but it left the question
of*right to the territory undecided. Great Britain has, at
this moment, a military post on the Columbia river,
which, under the convention, I presume, she has a right
to retain until the expiration of the ten years. The spot
whereon a British post is now situated, is a very impro-
per one to select for placing one of ours. I therefore
approved of the amendment offered by the gentleman
from South Carolina, (Mr. Poinsett.) But the principal
question to be now settled is, Shall the plan of my col-
league, to establish a territorial government, be adopted?
or, Shall we adopt the proposition of the President, to
establish a military post only ? This question ought to
depend on the answer to be given to another. Do we
contemplate the eventual establishment of a.state go-
vernment on the Northwest coast of America ? This de-
pends on another question of importance, and-worthy of
serious consideration, to wit: Where shall the western
limits of the United States be fixed ? I do not mean the
limits of their territory, or the extent of their power.
We may have establishments on distant shores; but
where shall the limits of the states, the members of this
confederacy, be fixed ? The institutions of nations should
be adapted to their extent, and other circumstances.
The federative system offers advantages for governing
well an extensive nation ; but there is some limit, be-
yond which it should not be extended. It will not be
contesded, that Hits system of government is adapted to
include the whole earth, nor the whole continent of Ame-
rica; perhaps not even the whole of North America.
There was evidently a limit to it, in the very nature of
things. The representatives of the states and people,
under this system, must meet together once a year for '
the purpose of legislation; and the confederacy might
be so extended that this would be impossible. All the
Institutions of this country depend on the will of the
people, and cannot exist a moment but by the appro-
bation of a majority Our system may be properly ex-
tended to include all who have a mutual interest in re-
maining united; but no further. Beyond this there is
no bond of union sufficiently strong to keep the confe-
deracy together. lie conceived that this principle of
union from mutual interest, might bind together all those
who inhabit the waters of the Mississippi; as their pro-
ducts would seek one sea port; and that country would
be bound to the Atlantic states, by commercial interests,
and especially for naval protection. But I apprehend,
that if this union included Mexico, it would be dissolved
by mutual consent to-morrow. There would be no tie
of mutual interest to hold us together. The exact point to
which the confederacy might be extended for the mu-
tual advantage of all, it might be difficult to ascertain.
Perhaps we may safely include one or twe tiers of states
beyond the Mississippi; but, in my judgment, we ought
not to extend our federative system further; and I would
particularly recommend it to the gentlemen who repre-
sent tlie Atlantic states to consider the possible effects
of a furthe extension, when the Western states shall be-
come filled with people.
There is another consideration to be taken into view.
We have a considerable Indian population, which it is I
not intended to exterminate. We have a large popula-
tion of another description, which it is not intended to
exterminate. These, on failure of other plans, might be
removed to the country beyond the limits of the states,
and let the population of the states be homogeneous-
On the whole, I think that, if aline is drawn far enough
beyond the Mississippi, to include two tiers of states, it
might be wise and proper to declare it unchangeable.
Those beyond this line might be in alliance with us, or
under our protection, and live under governments of
their own, suited to their circumstances, but form no
part of our confederacy. The effect of a too rapid in-
crease of states, and bringing too much land into mar-
ket, is already severely felt by the old states on the sea
board, which are perpetually drained of the flower of
their population. That must continue to be so, and the
evil will increase the further we extend our limits. If
we open, on the western coast, a fertile country, offering
temptations to emigrants from among us—it will carry
oft' many of our enterprizing and valuable people; the
country will rapidly increase in population, until it will
drop off and become a separate nation.
All that was asked for by the President, was the sanc-
tion of Congress to the establishment of a military post.
He did not ask for an appropriation of money, and it was
not important whether it was made or not. The mea-
sure recommended by the President would be a proper
one—possession would strengthen our claim in our nego-
tiations with foreign powers. In our arrangement with
Russia, we gave up all claim to the country north of 54
degrees 40 minutes. Perhaps we might have justly
claimed as far as the 58th degree north. We have suc-
ceeded to the claim of Spain, who held by the right of
first discovery. Humboldt, who, when at Mexico, inves-
tigated the subject, speaking of the voyage of discovery
the Spanish navigator Perez made in *1774, he says,
"On the 9th of August they anchored, the first of all the
European Navigators, in Nootka road, which they called
the port of San Lorenzo, and which the illustrious Cook,
four years afterwards, called King George's Sowul." He
also tells us, that, in the following jear, 1775, the Span-
ish navigator, Gvatlra, discovered the mouth of the Co-
lumbia river, and Mount Edgecumbe ; and he adds, " I
possess two very curious small ir.aps, engraved in 1788,
in the city of Mexico, which give the bearings of the
coast from the 17th to the 58th degree of latitude, as
they were discovered in the expedition of Guadra."
Sir, (said Mr. S.) let the post which we establish, be
purely military ; a navy yard might constitute a part of
the establishment. So far I deem it wise and fit to go;
but let not our citizens be invited to that country by
grants of land, or the expectation of a state govern-
ment being established there.
The question was then taken on strikiig out the fifth
section of the bill, and carried.
The question then recurring on the amendment offer-
ed by Mr. A. SMYTH—
Mr. FLOYD rose in reply to the remarks of that gen-
tleman. He recapitulated some of the reasons before
urged by him, against placing the numerous and mixed
population on the Oregon river, under the control of a
military commander. He appealed to the gentleman
himself, (one of the most uniform republicans this coun-
try had ever seen,) whether it was possible that so many
ships, with their crews, stopping, and refitting, &c. at
the post to be established, involving the interest of a
property afloat often millions, a mass of1,600 or 2,000
traders, farmers, and fishermen, would, with propriety,
be placed under the despotism of a military law ? He
had all due confidence in the officers of our army ; but
he knew it was so easy to feel power and forget right,
that he did not like to confide too much to them. So
difficult was it for citizens to conform themselves to army
regulations, See. no American would submit long to be
put under martial law- As to the danger of erecting
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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/m1/23/: accessed April 29, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.