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Letter From Gen. Cass

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Letter to the Editor
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Washington, Üec. Í4, 1847. Dear Sir.: - I have received your letter, and símil answer it, as frankly as it is writien. i You ask m ivhelher í atri in favor of íhe acquisilion of Mexican terriiory,and what are my sentimenis with regard to ihe Wilmot Prov'sa? I Have so ofien and so explicilly stated my views of the first question, in the Senate, that il seems almost ünneceseary to repent therri here. As you rnquest t, however, I shall briefly give thetn. I think, then, that no peace should be granted lo Mexico, tul a reasonable indemnity isobtained Por the injuries which she has done us. The territorial extent of this nderriniiy is, in the first instance, a subject of executive consideraron. - There the constitulioh has placed 5t,an(í there I am willingto leave it; not on!y because I have full confidente in ;ts judicious oxercisp, but because, in the ever-varyingcircumstar.ces of a war,1 it would be indiscreet, by a public declaration, tocommit thè country to any line of indemnity, which might otherwise be enlarged,as the obstinate injustice cf the enemy, prolongs the contest, with ils loss of blood and trèasufe. It appeffrs ío mè that the lcirtd ofmrtaphysical magnanimity,which would rejectnll indemnity at the close of a bloody and expensive war, brought en by a direct atfack üpoi) our tíoops by the enemy, and preceede 1 by a succession of unjust acts for a series ofyenrs, is as unworthy of the nge in which we live, as it is revo'tingto the common sense and practice of If would conduce but lillle toour future secunty,'deed to our present reputaticm, ta declare that we repudíate aÜ expectation of compensation from the Mexican govorr.ment,and are fighting, nnt for any practical result, but foT some vague, perhaps philanthropic object, which escapes my penetration, and must be defined by those who assume this new principie of r.ational intercommunication. All wars are tobe deprecated, as well by the statesman, as by the philanlhropist. They are great evils; but there are greator evils than these, and submission to injustice is among them. The naíion, which should refuse to defend its rights and its honor, when assailed, would soon have neither to defend, and when driven to war, it snot by professio'n's o'f dfsfnferestfeness and declarations of mngnanimity, tliat its rationa! object, can be best obtained, or other naiion'3 toiíg'ht a lessoh of forbearance - the strongest security for permanent peace. We are at war vvith Mexico, and its vigorous prosecución' is the surest meafcs of its speedy tcrmination, and ampie indemnitythe au rest guaranty against the recurrènce of such injustice as provoked it. The Wilmot Proviso has been before the country some time'. It has been repeatedly discilssed in CongVess; a'nd by the public press. I aro strongly impressed with the opinión, that a great chnnge has been going on ih the public mind upon thiá subject - in m'y öiri ris well as oiliers, and that doubts are resolving tbemselves into cu'svictions, ihaL the principie it involves should be kept out of the national legis mlure, and lèft (o the people of the confederncy in their respective local governments. The whole subject is a comprehensiva onc, and fruitful of important consequences. ít wou'ld be ill-timed to discuss it hera. I shall not assume that re-spituiblo task, but shall confine myself to such general views, ns aré necessary tb thé fair ehibition of my opihions; We mny well regret the existence of slavery in the soiithern States, and wish they hid been sa vêd f rom' ili intioducliori. Bilt there it is; and h'ot by ihe act of the present gcnèrniion; and we must deal ',viih it as á reát practical question, inyolving the rhosl m'omentoiis córisequences. We have neither the right ridr ihe power to touch it wher6 it exists; and ifwe had both, their fexercise, by any means heretofore suggested, miglit leád tb results, which 110 wise rrian would willingly encounler, and which no goód man could contémplale without anxiety. The theory ofour government presupposes, that its various members have reserved to thènriselves the regulátion, of all Sübjccts relatingto what may be termed their internal pólice. They are sovereign within their boundaries. ezcept in those case?, where they have surrendered to the genet-al government a portion of their rights, in order to give effect to th objects of the Ühiotl, whèther these concero foreign nationsorth séveral States themselveS. ijocal frttituUon; if I mar so speak, whether they have reTerencë to slavéry, or to any other relations, domeslic or public, are left to local authority, either orginal or derivative.- Congress has no right td iay, (hat there shall be slavery in New York, or that thefe shnll benoslavery in Georgia; nor s Ihere nny other humnfi oowèr, but the people of those Staies, respectively,which cnn change the relations exisüng therein ; and th.ey can say, ifthey will. - Wë will have s!avery in the former, and we will abolish i! in the látter. In various respecis the Territories dif!er from th States. Some of their righls are inchote, and they do not possess the peculiar attributes of sovereignty. Their reJdtion to the general government is vry imperfectly defended by the constitution ; and it will be found, upon exaoiinatiofl, that iri that instrument the only grnnt of power cohcerning them is conveyed in the phrase, " Congress shall have the power to dispose of and ma'ke all rieedful rules and regulations, respCtlrg thé territory ancí o'.her property belonging to the United States." - Certainly this phraseology is very loose, if it were designed to include in the grant the wh'o?ë power of legislntion over persons, as well as things. The expression, the " territory and other prö perty," fairly cönstrued, relates to the public lands, as such, to arsehals, dockyards, fort, ships, and all the various kinds of property, which the U. S. may and must pCssess. But surély the simpïe nulhority {o dispose nf and regúlate these, does not extend to the unlimited power pf legislation; to the passage of oll hars, in the most generar acception ef the word; which, by the by, is carefaily excluded from' thé sentsnee. And, indeed, ff this were so, it would rer.der unnecessary anoiher provisión of the constitution, Which grants to Congress the power to legislate, with the consent of the Staters, respectively, over all places purchased foT the ':erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dockyardi3,&c." These being the 'properly'" of thé Unïted State? }f the power to inake "needful rules and regülations concerning" Ihem ncludes the general power of lejfislation, then the grant of autho-rhy to regúlale " the territory and other property of the United States" is unlimited, wherevei sobjects are found for itsoperation, and its exercise nee&'ed no nuxiliary provisión. Il', on the other hnnd, it does not include such power of legislation over the "other property" of the United Staies, then it doei not include it over their "lerriiorv}" fbï tfie same terms which grnnf the one. gránt the other. "Territórjj" is tíere classed with property, and tronted as such; and the object ivas évidently to' è'ft'ttblö the general government, as a property holder - which, froííí rfecëssily, t must be - to mannge, preservé and "dispose of" such property as it íh'íg'h'i possess, and which authority is essential nlmost IQ its being. But the Iives and persona of our citizens, with the Vast vaiiety of objects connected with ihem, cannot be controlled by uirauthónty, which is merely called ínlo éxistcnce io'r the purpose of making rules and regulations for the dispositien and mandgcmtnt ofpropetty. Stlch, h áppears to me, would be the conslruction put uoon ihis provisión of the cohstitutiofí, wère his qucstion now first presented for consideration, ana not controHèd by irripérious circumstancës. - Thé originnl ordiriaftce of the Congress of the Confedera! ion, ps'ssed irl Í787,ánd which was the only dct u'pon ihis subject n forcé at the' ndopiiori df the constitution, provided i corriple'íe frámé ofgovernm'eilt fdr the country north óf the öhió, h'ilfe ih a territorial condition,and or its eventual admíssion ih separate state iiito' the Union. And the persuasión; that this ordinnnce cohtainèd within :tsfelfa!l the necessáry means of ëxecution, probably preventëd áhy tjirecrreference to ihe subject in the constituiion.further than vesting in Congrèss He rigHt td admit the states formad under it into the Union. However, circumstahces arose, which required legislation, Ss Well over tbo terrilory riorthofthe Ohio, as over other territory, bolH #ithin and without the original Union, ceded to the genera] jovernment; and,át various timès.n rhore enlargetl ptíwer has been eiercised over the Terrilories - meaning thèreby the different Territorial Governmentg - than is cdhvëyed by the limited grant referred to. How far an existing necessity may have operated ih prodücirig this legislation, and thds eilériding, by rather a violent implication, powersnot directly given, I know not Butcertain it is.that the principie of ihterference should bot be carried bevond the necessnry implication, which produces it. lt shouid be limited to the creation of proper governments for nev countries; acquired dr settled, and to tho necessáry provisión for their eventual admission into the union: leaving, in the meantimr, to the people inhabiting them, o regúlate their internal concerns in their own wsy. - They are just as capnble of doing so, na the pooph of the states: and they can do so, at arty rale, as soori ás their political independence is rbcognized by cdmission inlo the union. During this temporary condition, it is hardly expedient to cali into exercise a doubtful aud individual authority, which quèstion the intelligence óf a respectable portion ofour ciiizens, and whbsë limitation, whatever it may be will be rapidly appioaching its termination - an auihority which would give to Congress despol c power, uncontrolled by the constitution, over most important sections of oor commori country. For, f the relatidri of master and seryant may bé reguiated or annihilated by iis legislation, sd may the relation of husbanrland wife, ofparènt and child, and of any other condition which our institutions and the habits o'foür aocië'ty reconise. What would be thoughl if Congress should undertake to proscribe the terms of marriage in New York.or to regj'.nte the authority of parents over their chilaren in Pennsylvania! And yét it woulJ be as vsin to seek oné ju'stifying {hè interfefence of ihe législature in the cases referred to in the original States of the Union. I speak here of the inherent power ofCongress, and do not touch the questio'n of such contracts, as may bc formëd wiih' new States Whën admitted into the confederacy. Of all questions that csn ngiiate us, those which are merely sectional in their cliaracter are the most dangerous, and the most to be deprecated. The warnifrg Voiöe of hinï who, frorri hia character and services, and Virtue, hád ths best right to warm U3, proclaimed la his in his Farewell AJdress - that monument of wisdom for him, as I hope it will be of safety fof them - how m'uch we had to np'preheftd fröm fneasüres poculiarly anVcting geagraphical portions of our country. The grave circumstance's in tfhich Ve avé now ]aced make these Words, words of saffcty; for I am satisfied, for all I have tfeen and heard here, that asuccessful nttempt to engraft the principies of tho Wilmot Proviso upoh tlie legislation of this government, nnd to apply them tonew territory.should new tei ritory be acqfuired, would seriously aflect our tranquilty. I do not suffer myself to foresee or to fortell the consequences that would ensue ; for I trust and bnlieve there is good senseand good feeling enough in the couatry to avoid therí), by a'voicfing all occasions which miglit lêad to them. Brieffyv th'en, I am opposed to the exercíso óf nhy jufisdiclion by Congreso over thia malter; and1 I am in favor of leaving to ihe péo'ple of any territory, which may be hereafier acquired, the right lo regúlale it P r thennelves,under Ihe general principies of tlie constitution. Because- 1. I do not see in the constitufion ány graht of lie rèquisite power to Congress; nhd I am nut disposea tö extend tí ddubtfiíl precedent beyond ils necelsíiy-the establishment of territorial goverrïments when nèeded- leaving to the inhabitants all thë rightá cö'rripatiblè' with thé relations they Ijeartothè' confedeiation'. 2. Because I bèliévè ihis measure, if döpted, would weaken, if not impair, the unio'n bT the States; and woüld Sow the sèeds of future discord, which would grow up nnd ripen into'dn abundantharvesi of cáínmity. á. Bécaüsë I believe a general convíctioti lhat süch a próposition woüldsucöeed, would lead tó an immediaté ithho'lding of supplies, and thus ó á dishonbrable terminatiori óf the wer; I think -nd dis passiona'ë observer at the seat of goyernrrient can doubt this rèsult. 4. If; hoviëver, ih this tata ühder a misnpprehension, I ám uhder none in the practical operatión of this restrictíon, i f ttdobtèd by Congress, üpoH a trèaty of pëace making any acquisitiori ofMexican térritory. SÜch a treáty would be rëjected just a ëfertainly ds pre&entiid to thé Senate. More thán one third of that body wdüld votoágainst it, vicwing such a principie osan exclusión bfthé citizéns of thë slaveholding states from a párticipatioh ih the benefits acquired by the treasure and exertions of all, and which should be commón to all. I am repeating - neither ádvatícing ridr dèfendirig these views. ííiat branch of the subject does not lie iri my way, and I sháll not turn aside to serk it. In this aspect of thë matter, the peopie of tl o United States must chooo betweeh tuis rc&trictioü, nnd the extensión of their territorial limits. They connot háve both; and v.'hich they wi'l ur.ehdsr must depend upon their representatives first, ond then, if these fail them, upon ' Ihemselves. 0. Bul oñerall, n wetril to 'uë generaly conceded, that this restriction, if carried into effect, could not opérate upon atiy State to be formed from newly acquirëd terriiory. The well known atributes ofsovreignty, re.-ognized by us asbelonging to the StiJe governments would sweep before them any such ■ rier, and would leave the people to expressand exert their w 111 at pleasure. Is lie object, then of temporary exclusión or so short a period ás the dilratlori of he Territorial governments, worth the jrice at which it Would be purchased ? - worth the discord it would engender; the trial to which il would exposé óur Uniori, and the evils that would be the certain consequencë, let that trial result as il miglil. As to the course, whch has been ntimaled, rather than proposed, óf enjraftingsuch a rëslriction upon atiy tren:y of ácqcisition, I persuade mysélf it would fini but little favor in any portion of this country. Such an arrangemeri would rendëf Mexico a party, hnvinga right to interfëre iti oiir n'ernl institutions Jn quëstions lëfi by thé co'nstitution to thë State g'overnmen Is, and woüld irflict a seíious blow upon our fundamental principies. Pëw indeed, Í trust therë are am'ong' us, who would thus grant to a foreign power the right to inquirë ihto thè constitution and condüct of the Sóveielgn States of this Union; and ifthere are any, I am no't among thöm, lind never shall bè. To the people of this country, under God,now and liereafter,are its destinies coni'mittëd; a'nd ws want no eign power to interrógate us, treaty in hand, and lo say, Why liave you done ihis, orwhy have you left thnt undone ? Our o'wri oignity and the principies of national independetice unite to repel such a pïoposi'ion. Bui there is nnother important considerntion which ought not to be lost sight of, in the investigaron of this subject. - The question that presents itself is not a questionoftho increase, bui ofthodifTusion ofslavery. Whether its sphere be stationary or progressive, its amount will be the same. The rejection of this restriction will not add one to thu class or servitude, nor will its adoption give freedom to a single bcing who is now plnccd therein. The same numbers will be spread over greater tcrnton-: nnd so far as comprossion, with less abundance of the necessaries of life, is an evil, so far will that evil be rnitigatei by transportingslaves to a new country, and giving them a large spnee to occupy. l say this in the event of the extensión ofslavery over cny new acquisition. - Büt can it yo ther? This mny we 11 be düubled. All the deserción, which rench us of the condition of the Coliforninsnnd of New Mexico, to the acquisition of which our eflbna seem at present directed, unite in representing thoe couutries as agricultural región, similar in their producís toour middle States,nnd generMly nnfit for thíí pfoduetion of tho great slapls, vhich can alone render slave labor Valuable. If we nre nut grossly deceived- and it is difficnlt t conceive how we can be - the nhabiiams of those rëgions, whether they depend upoti their ploughs or their herds, cannot be slavé holders. Involunlary labor, re quiring the invpstment of large capital, can only be profitable when ëmployed iri theproduction of a few favoreJ oriicles confinad by naiurfc to special disirici. and pnying larger returns '.han the usual ngricultural producís spread oTer mora contiiierablë portion of earth In the nble letter of Mr. Ëuchnah upon this subject, not long since giren to the public, lie presents similar considera{ons -rt-ith great farce. "Neithèr," say thé d.'siinguished writer, " the soil, the climate, not thë próductions of California south of 36 deg. ÖÖ min. nor indetc ofány portion óf il, north or south is - dapted to slave labor : and beides every faciliiy wouid be thefe afforded for the slavë td escape from his master. Such property would be ehtirely insecure in nny part of California. It is morally impoisible, therefore, that a müjority of the eraigrants to that porlion ofthe territory sotith of 30 deg. 30 min., Whioh wil! be chiefly cdrriposed of our citizens, will erer re-establish slávery within iu limita. "In regard to New Mexico, east of the Rio Grande.thë questioh has already baen settled by the admission of Texas into ihs Union. " Shduld we acquiie territory beyond ihe Rio Grande and ea.t of the Rocky mountains, it is still more impossibln that a tnajority of the people wnuld consent to re-establish slavery. They are them■ Ivés a coloreó pnbúlstion, rnJ nmong them thé negro ddeá hot belong socially to a degraded race." With this last rernark Walker ÍMly coincides in his letter writlen in 1844, upon 'hi nnnesation of Tcjum and hich every wííere produced so favorable an impression upoh the public mind, asto have cohd JcbiJ very rntteriajly to Ihe aecomplishment of that great mensure. - "Bevond tjië beí Norte," says Mr. WalScer, "slavery will not pass : not only because it is forbidden by law, but because the colored race there préponderatea in thtt ralio of ten to one uve r the whitet , and holding as they do the gnvernment and mot of thé offices ih their posseis'on, they will not perinit the enslavement of atiy portion of the Colored race, which makeS and e.xécuies the !ws of ihe country. The quesüon, it wül therefore be seen dn exámihátidn, does not regard the exclus'Ön of slaVery from á fpgion whera i: now ex's'fj but a próhibition ngiinst is introduction where it does not ex'st, and whire, from the feëlings of the inhabitants and the laws of nature, it is ''rnorally impossible," as Mr. Ruchntian says, that it can ever re-estabüsh itself. It augurs well for the permnnenee of our bunfedérali. n, that during more ihan half a century, which has elopred sinco the e'3tablishment of this governmfint, rriah'y serioUs queuions, and some of th highest irnportance, hfve asitated th1 public mind, and more than once thrpatenfd the gravest consequences ; tut that they have ll in sucesjsion pnssed away, leavinj our institutions unscathed, and our country advancing in numbers, power, and wealth, and in all the o'.her elements of national prosperity, with a rapiditjr unknown in nncient or in modern days. In times of po'itical esciiemen', when difficult and delicate questions prsent t'iFtmelves f.)r solution, there is rne aik of safety for us ; and thal is, au horest appeal to the fundn mental principias of our Union, and a stern determinntion. to abide thir dictates. This course of proceeding bas carried us in sifetv ihrough nany a trou'.ile, and l trust will carry ut safely througli many mnrr, sbould many more be destined to nssail us. Tlio Wilmot Proviso sceks to take from its legitímate tribunal a rjuéstion of domestic policy, having no relation to the Union, ni such, and to trnr.sfer il to nnother creaied bv the penple for a special, nd foreign lo the subject mntier involred il this issue. Bv ging bick to our trua principies, we go back to the rrad of pence nnd snfety. Lenve to the penple, who wül be afectad by this quraiion, t atj ist it on thoir own rpspnnibility, ana in thsir own manner, nnd we sha1.! rtnSee nnother tribute lo the nriginn] pffnciples of our goverriment, and fuiiiish anoiher guaranly lor its perm.inencn and prosprity. I am, dear ir, ieSeclfu.Uy, youp