A Century of American Diplomacy/Chapter VII

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Andrew Jackson, who followed Adams, is a striking character in our political history, and inaugurated methods which had a marked, and in some respects an unfavorable, influence on the future of parties and the government; but in its foreign relations his administration maintained a dignified and creditable attitude.

His first Secretary of State, Martin Van Buren, a prominent politician of New York, was a loyal supporter of his methods and policy. His public services lie mainly in the domain of domestic politics; but in his short term of two years his name is connected with some diplomatic matters of more than ordinary interest. The commercial relations of Great Britain and its colonies with the United States, owing to the exclusive policy of the former, had, from the independence of this country, been of a very unsatisfactory character. Efforts had been made by successive administrations to place these relations upon a better footing, and notably by President Adams, but his advances had been coupled with such conditions as made them unacceptable to the British government, and as a consequence the British West Indies trade remained closed to us, much to the dissatisfaction of our commercial interests. Mr. Van Buren, soon after he took office, withdrew the untenable conditions of his predecessor, and by means of legislative enactments of Congress 1 and Parliament the ports of the British colonies and of the United States were opened upon a reciprocal basis, which has governed their commercial relations up to the present day. For this achievement the Jackson administration, and particularly the Secretary of State, received much credit, and deservedly so; but it will be seen that soon thereafter his relation to this negotiation was a source of serious embarrassment to him. 2

A noted incident of the early days of General Jack- son's first term ought hardly to be dignified by a notice in this diplomatic review, except for its effect upon the future fortunes of the Secretary of State. Peggy O'Neil, the daughter of a Washington tavern-keeper, and wife of Eaton, the Secretary of War, had been married under circumstances which gave rise to much scandal. The wives of V ice-President Calhoun and of the other members of the Cabinet refused to give her social recognition. The President, having convinced himself that a great injustice was being done Mrs. Eaton, declared with an oath that he would sink or swim with his Secretary of War, and he supported his oath by most severe measures. He followed up and sought to overwhelm all scandal-mongers. An instance is cited of two clergymen whom he had respected and whose stories regarding Mrs. Eaton's chastity reached his ears. The President summoned them to the Executive

1 Act of Congress, 4 Stat. at Large, 419; President's proclamation, Ib. 817.

2 1 Benton's Thirty Years' View, chap. 42.


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Mansion, as they supposed for a private interview; but they were confronted by a meeting of the full Cabinet, at which the President interrogated and berated them so unmercifully, that they marched out in high indig- nation. When his niece, Mrs. Donelson, the mistress of his household, declined to call on Mrs. Eaton, he banished her to his home in Tennessee.

Mr. Van Buren, being a widower with no daughters, had no domestic embarrassments to prevent social courtesies to Mrs. Eaton, and his conduct, in marked contrast to that of his colleagues, greatly pleased and endeared him to the President. The diplomatic corps had taken sides with the wives of the Cabinet and other society ladies; but the Secretary of State applied his art of persuasion (being termed by his party opponents " the magician ") to the British and Russian ministers, who were bachelors, and they each gave a ball to which Mrs. Eaton was invited. When at the British lega- tion she was led out to the cotillion, it instantly dis- solved. At the Russian minister's ball, the Dutch minister's wife left the supper-room on the arm of her husband rather than be seated by Mrs. Eaton's side, which so angered the President that he threatened to have the minister sent home. The matter became the absorbing topic of the day. Affairs went from bad to worse; the Cabinet, torn by dissensions in which this social scandal had no inconsiderable part, went to pieces, all its members resigned, and a complete reorganization took place. 1

Van Buren, who it was said had already been desig-

i 3 Schouler's Hist. U. S. 491.


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nated by the President as his choice for the succession, was nominated minister to England. Congress not being in session, he repaired to his post. When, on the reassembling of Congress, his name came before the Senate for confirmation, a strong opposition was developed against him, inspired, in great measure, by personal hostility to President Jackson and his minis- ter. Three grounds of objection were urged against the confirmation : first, that he had been the chief instru- ment in breaking up the Cabinet; second, that he had inaugurated the vicious " spoils " system in New York politics; and third, that he had given improper instruc- tions when Secretary of State to our minister in Lon- don; and this latter became the chief ground of oppo- sition. These instructions were contained in a dispatch sent to Mr. McLane, our minister in London, during the negotiations which brought about the settlement of our commercial difficulties to which I have just alluded. In that dispatch, dated July 20, 1829, he was author- ized to inform the British Ministry that our government would withdraw from the position taken by the Adams administration, and that it had been condemned on this question by the American people at the late election. As a matter of fact the question scarcely entered into the electoral campaign, and, even if it had, was not a fit subject for correspondence or consideration with a foreign government.

Mr. Webster led the opposition to the confirmation, and in his speech confined himself almost exclusively to the dispatch to Mr. McLane. He specially cited the following from Secretary Van Buren's instructions to


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Mr. McLane : " You will be able to tell the British minister . . . that you and I, and the leading persons in this administration, have opposed the course hereto- fore pursued by the government and the country on the subject of the colonial trade. Be sure to let him know that, on that subject, we have held with England and not with our own government. . . . Their views upon that point have been submitted to the people of the United States; and the counsels by which your conduct is now directed are the result of the judgment expressed by the only earthly tribunal to which the late adminis- tration was amenable for its acts."

From Mr. Webster's criticism of the dispatch, I make the following extract : " I think these instructions de- rogatory, in a high degree, to the character and the honor of the country. I think they show a manifest disposition in the writer of them to establish a distinc- tion between his country and his party; to place that party above the country; to make interest at a foreign court for that party rather than for the country; to persuade the English ministry, and the English monarch, that they have an interest in maintaining in the United States the ascendency of the party to which the writer belongs. ... I cannot be of the opinion that the author of these instructions is a proper representative of the United States at that court. ... In the pre- sence of foreign courts, amidst the monarchies of Europe, the American minister is to stand up for his country; . . . and far less is he himself to reproach either; that he is to have no objects in his eye but American objects, and no heart in his bosom but an American


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heart; that he is to forget self, and forget party, to for- get every sinister and narrow feeling, in his proud and lofty attachment to the republic whose commission he bears." The Senate rejected the nomination, and Mr. Van Buren returned to the United States, only to be re- ceived by his party with new honors, first being elected vice-president and afterwards president. Whatever may be the judgment of posterity as to his conduct in domestic politics, it must be conceded that as secretary of state and as minister to England, he discharged his duties with credit. Washington Irving, who was his secretary of legation, says : " His manners were most amiable and ingratiating." His dispatches show a well- trained mind and a familiarity with international law.

Yan Buren was succeeded as secretary of state by Edward Livingston, of Louisiana, more distinguished for his code of civil law than diplomacy, whose service ended with Jackson's first term. He was followed by Louis McLane, who, as minister to Great Britain, had, under Van Buren's direction, brought about the ad- justment of our commercial relations with the British colonies, and who, in Mr. Folk's term, was again minis- ter to Great Britain during the Oregon boundary set- tlement. After a year's service he gave place to John Forsyth, so that during the presidency of Jackson the State Department was filled by four secretaries.

The only other diplomatic question of importance during this administration, not already noticed, was the French treaty for the payment of indemnity to Ameri- can vessels for losses during the Napoleonic wars. This

1 3 Webster's Works (ed. 1851), 357; 1 Benton's View, chap. 59.


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treaty of 1831, negotiated while Mr. Van Buren was secretary, provided for the payment to the United States of $5,000,000 on account of the losses men- tioned, and contained other stipulations as to favored admission of certain products of the two countries. The United States Congress promptly passed the law necessary to carry the treaty into effect, but in 1834, after various delays, the French Chamber declined to make the appropriation required by the treaty. Presi- dent Jackson thereupon sent a strong message to Con- gress, saying that further negotiations were out of the question; diplomatic relations were broken off by the withdrawal of the respective ministers; and for a time an unpleasant state of relations existed, but open hos- tilities for such a cause were scarcely contemplated. Both governments began to see that want of forbear- ance on each side had been conspicuous, and through the good offices of Great Britain a renewal of relations was brought about in 1836 and the indemnity paid. 1 This event raised the question how far the treaty-mak- ing power may bind a government to stipulations which can only be carried into effect through the action of a legislative branch of the government not consulted as to the treaty.

During President Van Buren's entire term the post of secretary of state was filled by Mr. Forsyth, of Georgia, who had occupied the office during the last two years of Jackson's presidency. He had previously been minister to Spain, during the important negotia- tions resulting in the acquisition of Florida. 1 4 Schouler's Hist. U. S. 184, 239.


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Van Buren's term was mainly one of domestic in- terest, the foreign questions of most importance grow* ing out of similar causes, the Canadian insurrection on the northern frontier and the Texan revolt on the south. The Canadian trouble was occasioned by the unwise policy of the British government in its treat- ment of the provinces, and it culminated, in 1837, in the seizure of Navy Island, in Niagara River, by an expedition organized on United States territory, under insurgent leaders largely aided by American sympa- thizers. The Canadian authorities retaliated by cross- ing to the American side, where they captured and destroyed a vessel, the Caroline, belonging to the in- surgents. Van Buren issued a proclamation, called out the New York state militia, and took other stringent measures to prevent a violation of the neutrality laws. The rebellion was easily put down, and the Canadians reaped the benefit of it in securing from Great Britain a more liberal system of government. But Van Buren suffered much in popularity in his own State by his upright enforcement of the neutrality laws.

While the wisdom of these laws is almost universally recognized by our people, and their enactment has gained us more credit in our international relations than any other kindred act of the government, it rarely happens that the administration adds anything to its popularity by their strict and impartial enforcement, usually because of the sympathy of a large party in our country for the cause against which the laws are enforced.

The independence of Texas had been recognized just


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on the eve of Van Buren's inauguration, and one of the first questions on which he was called to pass was the proposed annexation of the new republic to the Union. The President, foreseeing that annexation would result in a war with Mexico, declined the pro- posal, and thus postponed for eight years the consumma- tion of that project. Owing to his growing anti-slavery convictions he continued, at the expense of his influ- ence and standing in his party, a strong opponent of annexation.

The political campaign of 1840 swept out of power the party which, under the skillful leadership of Jack- son, had controlled the country for twelve years. Presi- dent Harrison invited Mr. Clay to resume the post of secretary of state, but, with his eye on the presidency, he preferred to remain in Congress, and Daniel Webster was chosen. He was then at the height of his fame. The Dartmouth College argument and other noted cases before the Supreme Court had placed him at the head of the American bar. His orations at Plymouth and Bunker Hill, and his reply to Hayne, then fresh in the minds of the people, made him the foremost orator of his country. These and his debates in the Senate had earned for him the title of " The Great Expounder of the Constitution." Although without diplomatic ex- perience, no man had entered the State Department with greater prestige for his work, and it is gratifying to note that his services as secretary did not diminish his reputation.

He was greatly embarrassed in his duties by the fact that he was for the time separated from his party by


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the defection of Tyler, who succeeded to the presi- dency on the sudden death of Harrison, but he felt that the grave question he had in hand required him to continue in the direction of our foreign relations.

This question was the much debated northeastern boundary dispute, growing out of the treaty of peace of 1783. From that date it had been a fruitful source of controversy. The treaty of peace of 1814 sought to settle the matter, but the measures then devised failed. It was in 1827 referred to the arbitration of the king of the Netherlands, but his award was not accepted by either party. Meanwhile the State of Maine had been organized out of the territory of Mas- sachusetts, and between its authorities and those of Canada there was constant turmoil and conflict. When Mr. Webster assumed office, the ill feeling growing out of the Canadian insurrection was still fresh in mind, and at the outset of the negotiations further elements of controversy were added to inflame the passions of both governments and people. It was a time of intense excitement, and it was fortunate that the negotiations on the part of the United States were in the hands of one in whose wisdom and patriotism the country reposed such confidence. The British government, equally im- pressed with the importance of the negotiations, sent to Washington as a special plenipotentiary, Lord Ash- burton, a man of the highest character and well dis- posed toward the United States.

Out of their negotiations came what is known as the Webster-Ashburton treaty of 1842, which settled the northeastern boundary dispute by conceding to Canada


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a strip of territory claimed by Maine and gaining a more important strip for Vermont and New York. The treaty also provided for a joint repressive action against the slave trade, and for the extradition of criminals. In the Jay treaty of 1794, provision had been made for extradition in cases of murder and forgery, but the Webster treaty enlarged the list of crimes for which extradition might be had, and it may be regarded as the first of a long series of treaties for this purpose. Webster's great success in this negotiation is indicated by the fact that notwithstanding the Senate was hostile to the President, the treaty was ratified by a three fourths vote.

While it is regarded as Webster's greatest achieve- ment in diplomacy, and deservedly so, it is also due to President Tyler, who has received scant justice at the hands of the historians of the period, to state that much of the credit of his secretary's success belongs to his chief. No one was more free to recognize this than the secretary himself. In a letter to the President soon after the treaty was signed, he wrote : " Your steady support and confidence, your anxious and intelligent attention to what was in progress, and your exceed- ingly obliging and pleasant intercourse, both with the British minister and the commissioners of the States, have given every possible facility to my agency in this important transaction." l

In England the treaty encountered more serious op- position. It was termed " Ashburton's Capitulation," and Lord Palmerston, who led the opposition, went so

1 2 Webster's Private Correspondence, 147.


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far in his personal assault as to attribute Ashburton's too friendly conduct to his American wife. 1 In this connection it is of interest to note the number of for- eigners, prominent in important diplomatic affairs with the United States, who have had American wives. Without approaching any nearer to recent years than Lord Ashburton's time, we recall that Oswald, the Brit- ish negotiator of the peace treaty of 1782, had ac- quired large interests in America by marriage. Genet, the famous minister of the French Republic in 1792-93, married a daughter of Governor Clinton of New York. Marbois, Napoleon's minister, who signed the treaty for the acquisition of Louisiana, married in the United States while charge of the French legation. Erskine, the British minister in the trying period between 1806 and 1810, and who manifested such a friendly spirit, had an American wife. And Yrujo, the Spanish min- ister, who passed through strange vicissitudes extending from the administration of Washington through Jeffer- son's term, was married to a daughter of Governor McKean of Pennsylvania.

The ratification of the Webster-Ashburton treaty was followed by an interesting international contro- versy known as " The Battle of the Maps." About the time of the pendency of the negotiations Mr. Jared Sparks, the historian, in searching in the French ar- chives of Paris, found a map of America on which the boundary between the British Provinces and the United States was indicated by a red line, in a manner favor- able to the British claim. He also found a letter from

1 Saunders's Palmerston, 91; Francis's Palmerston, 443.


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Dr. Franklin referring to some map upon which the boundary had been delineated. It was taken for granted that the map with the red line was the one referred to in Dr. Franklin's letter, but there was no proof of this identity, and it is now manifest that Sparks was mis- taken as to it. This map, with a vast mass of other material, was put into Webster's hands, and it was used by him to reconcile the commissioners of the State of Maine to the treaty, which deprived their State of a considerable portion of the territory claimed by it. The map was also used in the Senate to secure the rati- fication of the treaty. It was not, however, made known to Lord Ashburton or the British government. When the existence of the map and the use made of it became public, it created a sensation in England, and comments unfavorable to the American negotiator and government were made in Parliament and the press.

This publication led to a search in the Paris archives by the British officials, which resulted in a failure to find the Sparks map, but, strange to say, the search developed another ancient map with the line marked as claimed by the United States. And, still more strange, it appears that orders were given on Lord Ashburton' s departure for America to supply him with all maps in the British Museum bearing upon the negotiations, which it is claimed was done. But after the Sparks map denouement, another examination was made in the British Museum, in the map department, and the origi- nal map used by Oswald, the British negotiator of the treaty of 1783, was found, which laid down the line traced by him, with the indorsement by George III. in


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his own handwriting, showing the boundary as claimed by the United States. This map was used in Parlia- ment to vindicate the conduct of Lord Ashburton in agreeing to the treaty, just as the Sparks map had been used in the Senate to support Mr. Webster. Lord Ash- burton assured Mr. Everett, our minister in London, and also wrote to Mr. Webster, 1 that he had no knowledge of this map till after his return from the United States. Mr. Webster was charged in England with acting a dishonorable part in withholding from Lord Ashburton an inspection of the Paris map and afterwards using it to secure the ratification of the treaty. Webster's answer was : " I must confess that I did not think it a very urgent duty on my part to go to Lord Ashburton and tell him that I had found a bit of doubtful evi- dence in Paris, out of which he might perhaps make something to the prejudice of our claims." 2 Lord Ashburton is reported to have said that it was fortunate for both countries that the maps were not made public till after the treaty was in force, as with a knowledge of the Paris map he never would have consented to the line agreed upon, and the Americans would never have conceded the British claim. In further commenting on the incident he wrote as follows : " The public are very busy with the question whether Webster was bound in honor to damage his own case by telling all. I have put this to the conscience of old diplomatists without getting a satisfactory answer. My own opinion is that in this respect no reproach can fairly be made." 3

1 2 Webster's Private Correspondence, 191.

2 2 Webster's Works, 149. 2 Croker Papers, 200.


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Three other questions were concurrently considered by the negotiators, but not included in the treaty. The first of these grew out of the seizure and destruc- tion of the Caroline, on the American side of the Niag- ara Kiver, in 1837. In 1840, one McLeod, a British subject, came from Canada into the State of New York, and, it being charged that he participated in the seizure and destruction of the vessel which resulted in the death of an American, he was arrested, indicted for murder, and held for trial in one of the state courts. The British government protested against this proceeding, on the ground that the destruction of the Caroline was a national act ordered by the British authorities as a justifiable proceeding of self-defense, and that the government, not its subject, was responsible for the consequences. Webster took the position that McLeod ought not to be held to answer for the offense in the state court, but the court, supported by the governor, refused to discharge him. The Attorney-General of the United States was sent by the President to watch the proceedings and see that the prisoner had a fair trial. Fortunately McLeod proved an alibi, and he was acquitted. But the case brought about the passage of a law by Congress, drawn by Secretary Webster, con- ferring jurisdiction in such cases upon the federal courts, thus bringing them within the control of the national authorities. 1

The second, known as the case of the Creole, arose out of the institution of slavery, which more than once exercised a baleful influence on our diplomacy,

1 5 Stat. at Large, 539.


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and placed us before the world in an attitude incon- sistent with our much-vaunted principles of freedom. The Creole was a vessel engaged in 1841 in carrying one hundred and twenty-five negro slaves from Richmond, Virginia, to New Orleans. While at sea the slaves killed the captain and carried the vessel into the British port of Nassau. Nineteen men were held for murder and the rest set free. Mr. Webster urged the claim for damages upon Lord Ashburton, on the ground that it was the duty of the British authorities to have restored the officers of the vessel to control and allowed them to continue their voyage. Ashburton declined to enter- tain the claim for the reason that he was not empowered to consider it, but it was finally referred in 1853 to a joint claims commission, was allowed by the umpire, and paid. 1

The third unadjusted question considered by the negotiators was the long disputed and irritating subject of impressment and right of search, which was the main cause of the War of 1812, and had continued a fruitful source of controversy. While no formal re- nunciation was made by Great Britain of the right to take seamen out of an American vessel, this practice had virtually been abandoned. The claim contested by Webster was a right of visitation and search of vessels on suspicion of being engaged in the slave trade. The subject was met in the treaty by an agreement to respectively keep a naval force on the coast of Africa to watch this illegal trade. Lewis Cass, then minister to France, appointed by Van Buren, fiercely attacked

1 1 Moore's International Arbitrations, 410; 4 Ib. 4375.


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the treaty for not securing a renunciation from Great Britain of the right of visitation, search, and impress- ment, resigned his post, and engaged Webster in a vig- orous discussion of the treaty. 1 The latter maintained that the negotiation had not left the subject where it found it, but that his declaration made to Lord Ash- burton would stand, to wit, that " in every regularly documented American merchant vessel the crew who navigate it will find their protection in the flag which is over them." 2

A number of other important questions received Secretary Webster's attention, not the least important of which was the establishment of diplomatic relations with China. Soon after the independence of the United States was established, American vessels began to make voyages to the far East, and in a few years a direct trade with China was built up, and an important com- merce with that country was created which called for the fostering care of the government. In 1840, President Van Buren sent a special message to Congress, com- municating information respecting the trade with China; 3 and in 1842, President Tyler transmitted to Congress a message, 4 prepared by Secretary Webster. 5 urging that adequate provision be made for official representation to that empire.

As the result of this latter recommendation an ap- propriation was made by Congress 6 " to establish the

1 Ex. Doc. 223, 27th Cong. 3d Sess. 2 5 Webster's Works, 146.

3 H. Ex. Doc. No. 119, 20th Cong. 1st Sess.; also No. 170, same Con- gress.

4 4 Richardson's Messages, 211. 6 2 Curtis's Webster, 176. 5 Stat. at L. 624.


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future commercial relations between the United States and the Chinese Empire on terms of national equal reciprocity; " and on March 3, 1843, Edward Everett, then minister in London, was appointed commissioner; and on his declination, Caleb Gushing was named. Soon after arrival at his post, he was enabled to celebrate the first treaty, July 3, 1844, which inaugurated our official, political, and commercial relations with that vast empire, and which have continued unbroken. This convention, in addition to fixing the terms of our trade and inter- course, conferred upon American consuls jurisdiction and legal protection over all citizens of the United States in China. In communicating it to the Secretary of State, Mr. Gushing wrote : " By that treaty the laws of the Union follow its citizens, and its banner protects ithem, even within the domain of the Chinese Empire." 1 This is the practice known in international law as " extraterritoriality," which has been conceded to all Christian nations by the independent countries of Asia. Under this treaty it became necessary for Congress to confer judicial powers upon ministers and consuls, to enable them to carry the extraterritorial provision into effect; 2 and various regulations were adopted from time to time by United States ministers in China for the government of consuls in their judicial capacity. 3

1 7 Opinions Attorneys General, 499. For correspondence relating t<? the treaty, S. Ex. Doc. 67, 28th Cong. 2d Sess.

fl For the first statutes on the subject, 9 Stat. at L. 276; 12 Stat. at L. 72.

S. Ex. Doc. Nos. 32 and 92, 34th Cong. 1st Sess.; S. Ex. Doc. No. 6, and H. Ex, Doc. No. 11, 34th Cong. 3d Sess.; S. Ex. Doc., Nos. 9 and 47, 35th Cong. 1st Sess. For action of Senate on regulations, Cong. Globe, 35th Cong. 1st Sess. pp. 1203, 1555.


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Secretary Webster, in his carefully prepared instruc- tions to Mr. Gushing, laid down the policy, which has been ever since followed by our government, of disin- terested friendship for China, but, at the same time, of a strict enforcement of the rights of American citizens; and as the rulers of the Celestial Empire had been accustomed to look upon other nations as dependents and their representatives as tribute-bearers, Mr. Gush- ing was instructed to make known " that you are no tribute-bearer; that your government pays tribute to none and expects tribute from none; and that even as to presents, your government neither makes nor accepts presents." 1

From the beginning of our political intercourse with that country we have discouraged all efforts on the part of Americans to engage in the opium trade, so injuri- ous to its people and forbidden by its laws. As early as 1843 participation in that trade by an American con- sul was made a cause for his dismissal; our ministers were instructed to inform the Chinese government that citizens of the United States would not be sustained by their government in any attempts to violate the laws of China respecting the trade; 2 and by the treaty of 1880 our citizens are prohibited to buy or sell opium in China, or to import it into that country.

In view of the peculiar conditions existing in China, as well as in other Asiatic countries, our government has authorized American ministers to unite with the representatives of other Western powers in joint efforts for the protection of the citizens and business of their

  • 1 Wharton's Int. Dig. 447. 2 Ib. 447, 449.


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respective nations. This practice constitutes a depar- ture from the policy generally pursued by our govern- ment of independent action in foreign affairs, but it has not been carried to the extreme of a resort to mili- tary force to accomplish the object had in view until the extraordinary disorders of 1900.

In 1857, when the troubles arose which resulted in the Anglo-French war against China of 1858-60, Sec- retary Marcy wrote to our minister that " the British government evidently had objects beyond those con- templated by the United States, and we ought not to be drawn along with it, however anxious it may be for our cooperation." And when, the next year, we were invited to " unite with the English and French in their hostile movements," our minister was instructed that we could not cooperate with them beyond "peaceful measures to secure by treaty those just concessions to foreign commerce which the nations of the world had a right to demand." * Two years later President Buch- anan was enabled to report to Congress that " the friendly and peaceful policy pursued by the govern- ment of the United States towards the empire of China has produced the most satisfactory results. The treaty of Tientsin of the 18th June, 1858, has been faithfully observed by the Chinese authorities." 2

Anticipating somewhat events, it may be stated in this connection that under the treaty of 1858 the Chi-

1 5 Richardson's Messages, 497.

  • Ib. 626. For correspondence and reports of these events, S. Ex.

Doc. 22, 35th Cong. 2d Sess.; S. Ex. Doc. Nos. 30 and 39, 36th Cong. 1st Sess.


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nese government paid to the United States the sum of $735,238 in satisfaction of the claims of its citizens against China. On an adjudication of these claims by a domestic commission of the United States, it was found that they had been very considerably exagger- ated, and less than half of the fund proved to be justly due. The balance remained in the Treasury of the United States until 1885, when the sum of $453,400 was returned to China by act of Congress. In ac- knowledging this unusual international proceeding, the Chinese minister in Washington said to the Secretary of State that " this generous return of the balance of the indemnity fund by the United States to China can- not fail to elicit feelings of kindness and admiration on the part of the government of China towards that of the United States, and thus the friendly relations so long existing between the two countries will be strength- ened." 1

During Mr. Webster's incumbency of the Depart- ment of State, another matter relating to the distant Pacific Ocean demanded his attention. Early in the century missionaries had been sent by the Congrega- tional churches of New England to the Sandwich or Hawaiian Islands, and under their influence the natives had been induced to renounce in great measure their heathen practices, and under their guidance the chiefs had organized a government based upon principles similar to those of Christian nations. A delegation of plenipotentiaries from this new nation visited the United States and Europe in 1842, asking for recognition and 1 For. Rel. of U. S. 1885, p. 183.


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the protection of the Christian powers. The recogni- tion was readily given, but in addition thereto an im- portant declaration was made by Secretary Webster to the Hawaiian delegation and by President Tyler to Congress. It was stated that in view of the prepon- derating trade and intercourse of the United States with those islands, and of *the greater interest of our country in their fate, our government would insist that no European nation should take possession of or colo- nize them, nor subvert the native government. 1

This declaration was repeated by successive Secre- taries of State, and in 1851, when for a second time Mr. Webster occupied the office, he found that the French naval forces had made a hostile demonstration against the Hawaiian authorities, and it was feared that that government intended to take possession of the islands, following its occupation of Tahiti. He thereupon instructed our minister in Paris to insist with that government that it desist from measures incom- patible with the sovereignty and independence of Ha- waii $ and to inform it that the United States would never consent to see those islands taken possession of by either of the great commercial powers of Europe, nor could it consent that demands manifestly unjust and derogatory, and inconsistent with a bona fide in- dependence, should be enforced against their govern- ment. 2

Mr. Webster's reputation as secretary, during his first term of service, rests mainly upon the Ashburton treaty, and he felt when that was fully consummated

i 6 Webster's Works, 478. a 1 Wharton's Int. Dig. 419, 420.


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he could retire from the office. He had been restive under the criticism of his party friends for continuing in the Cabinet of President Tyler after the latter had broken with those who elected him, and having ad- justed the important northeastern boundary dispute, he sought an early opportunity to retire, after a service of two years. His relations with President Tyler had been pleasant, but the latter was deeply intent upon accom- plishing the annexation of Texas during his term, and he felt that he could not count upon Mr. Webster's cooperation to that end. His son and biographer writes : " The time had come when it was necessary to have in the office of secretary of state one who would go the full length of the Texas question. Certainly that man was not Webster." l

The latter had manifested a willingness to accept a special mission to London, and it was arranged that application should be made to Congress for an appro- priation to meet the expense. The state of negotiations seemed to call for such a mission. We were pressing upon Mexico the recognition of the independence of Texas. We were likewise seeking to persuade Mexico to sell to us the province of California. The Webster- Ashburton treaty had left unsettled the Oregon ques- tion, and its settlement was becoming urgent. It was proposed that a tripartite convention be negotiated in London, whereby the independence of Texas should be recognized, the British government was to bring its influence to bear on Mexico to cede California to the United States for a handsome money compensation,

1 2 Letters and Times of the Tylers, 263.


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and Great Britain was to receive all that part of Oregon north of the Columbia River in consideration of con- tributing a part of the indemnity to be paid to Mexico on account of the cession of California.

John Quincy Adams was chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House, and he was enlisted to procure the necessary appropriation for the special mission; but when he proposed it in the committee it was voted down by three ayes to six nays. 1 Thus this project came to naught, but there still seemed a way open to accomplish the purpose. Congress had made an appropriation to establish diplomatic and commercial relations with China, and after the failure of the appro- priation for the London special mission, the President nominated Edward Everett, our minister in London, to the Chinese mission. Adams was again pressed into service, and wrote Everett a letter urging him to accept the mission, 2 but the latter preferred to remain in Lon- don and declined the appointment. Lord Ashburton, unconscious that Webster was coveting the London mission, wrote him : " We were in some anxiety that he [Everett] might leave us for the Celestial Empire, but I find, as I anticipated, that he will remain with the Terrestrials. He would be much too fine an instru- ment for such a purpose; it would be cutting blocks with a razor." 3

Being a second time disappointed in his plan for an easy retirement from his post, Mr. Webster submitted

1 11 Adams's Memoirs, 327, 347. 2 Ib. 337.

3 Webster's Pr. Cor. 192. For details as to Webster mission, 2 Tyler's Tyler, 259-263.


FROM JACKSON TO POLK. 297

his resignation, and after a brief interval he resumed his seat in the Senate. His biographer, Mr. Lodge^ says : " No one, with the exception of John Quincy Adams, has ever shown higher qualities, or attained greater success in the administration of the State De- partment than Mr. Webster did while in Mr. Tyler's Cabinet." 1

The State Department was filled, during the ten months following Mr. Webster's resignation, by a series of ad interim appointments, until in March, 1844, John C. Calhoun assumed its duties. He, Clay, and Webster, compose the triumvirate of great statesmen of the sec- ond generation of our national history. His career began in the lower House of Congress as one of the war party, and, as chairman of the Committee on For- eign Affairs, he had a leading part in bringing on the conflict with Great Britain in 1812. Like Webster he had held no diplomatic post, but as cabinet minister, vice-president, and senator he had borne a conspicu- ous part in public affairs. He, more than any other, sowed the seeds of disunion which brought about our Civil War, and as the champion of slavery was the most fit person to do the work upon which the President was so intent, and for which Webster could not be used.

This was the annexation of Texas to the Union. It was largely a question of domestic politics, and one of the absorbing topics of the presidential campaign of 1844, but we have only to do with its diplomatic aspects. It has been seen that Mr. Adams, during the negotiations for the purchase of Florida and the fixa- 1 Lodge's Webster, 261.


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tion of the western boundary of Louisiana, contended for the inclusion of Texas; that is, making the Eio Grande the western boundary. During the latter' s presidential term, Secretary Clay, in 1827, instructed our minister in Mexico to propose the purchase of Texas, 1 but the latter did not deem it prudent to sub- mit the proposition. Ten years later its independence was recognized by the United States. The same year the new republic proposed a union with the United States, but the offer, as we have seen, was not favored by President Van Buren. The project was held in abeyance until Vice-President Tyler had become well seated in the place made vacant by Harrison's untimely death. After the retirement of Mr. Webster from the State Department, in 1843, active efforts to that end were begun. The Mexican government, learning of this movement, in August of that year notified the United States that annexation would be regarded as a cause of war. 2

Mr. Calhoun, the Secretary of State, had, as early as 1836, declared himself in favor of annexation on the ground that the interests of slavery in the Southern States opposed the establishment of an independent state between them and Mexico, and the action of Great Britain and France subsequently taken showed that from his point of view such a policy was a wise one. Previous to Calhoun's taking charge of the State Department, the Texan minister had asked, as a condi- tion of signing a treaty of annexation, that the United

1 H. Ex. Doc. No. 40, 25th Cong. 1st Sess. p. 9. a S. Doc. No. 1, 28th Cong. 1st Sess. vol. 1, p. 26.


FROM JACKSON TO POLK. 299

States would, pending the ratification of the treaty, use its naval and military force to protect Texas from Mexican invasion. Nelson, Attorney-General and ad interim Secretary of State, had answered that such use would be unconstitutional, but he gave the Texan to understand that the forces could be so posted as to effect the desired end.

Meantime the Texan government, playing a double game, came to an agreement with Great Britain, whereby, in return for the latter's action in securing the recog- nition of its independence by Mexico, Texas pledged itself not to be annexed to any other country. This agreement had been approved by Mexico, and was awaiting the final action of Texas when Calhoun be- came secretary. This event hastened negotiations on his part. He entered office March 6, and on April 12 a treaty of annexation was signed. 1 It was preceded by a declaration from Calhoun that " during the pend- ency of the treaty of annexation the President would deem it his duty to use all the 'means placed within his power by the Constitution to protect Texas from for- eign invasion." 2 This language, carefully chosen by Calhoun, was accepted by the Texans as a sufficient guarantee of protection from the Mexican government, and by the signature of the treaty they abandoned the British scheme of an independent existence.

The treaty was not sent to the Senate till Calhoun could answer a note of the British minister, which had

1 For copy of President's Message and treaty, S, Doc. 341, 28th Cong. 1st Sess. vol. 5, pp. 5, 10.

2 5 Calhoun's Works, 363.


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been received February 26, containing a statement from Lord Aberdeen, Minister for Foreign Affairs, that Great Britain desired to see slavery abolished in Texas eventually, as elsewhere, but disclaimed any intention to exercise undue influence to that end. This note was answered by Secretary Calhoun April 18, in which he stated that the avowal of Lord Aberdeen on this sub- ject made it " the imperious duty of the federal gov- ernment " to conclude, " in self-defense," a treaty of annexation with Texas. 1 As to this transaction, the historian Von Hoist, in his biography of Calhoun, says : " It may not be correct to apply, without modification, the code of private ethics to politics; but however flexible political morality may be, a lie is a lie, and Calhoun knew there was not a particle of truth in these assertions." 2

This is strong language, but it seems to be justified by the facts. Calhoun's attitude had been declared eight years before; it was well known that President Tyler had been using every influence to bring about annexation; negotiations to that end were on foot before the British minister's note was received; and if it had never been written the action of the Executive Department of the United States would have been ex- actly the same. Aside from Lord Aberdeen's dispatch, it was well known that British and French influences were at work to prevent, if possible, the absorption of Texas into the Union. The Texan debt was largely owed in England, and it was the policy of that country

1 For correspondence, S. Doc. 341, pp. 48-53; 36-67. 3 Von Hoist's Calhoun, 233.


FROM JACKSON TO POLK. 301

to encourage an independent nation. 1 Besides, a strong belief existed among the Southerners that unless an- nexation was successful, Texas would, under European influence, soon abolish slavery. The Aberdeen dispatch only served to confirm the preconceived opinions and resolutions of the administration.

The treaty was held back in the Senate till the De- mocratic National Convention of 1844 had declared for "the re-annexation of Texas," in the hope that this declaration would aid in securing its ratification. On June 8, 1844, the treaty was rejected by a vote of thirty-five to sixteen. 2

Not discouraged by this failure, President Tyler sent a message two days afterwards to the House of Kepre- sentatives transmitting documents, and stating that Congress was "fully competent, in some other form of proceeding, to accomplish everything that a formal rati- fication of the treaty could have accomplished; 3 but no action was taken upon this suggestion before the adjournment, and the subject was postponed till after the presidential campaign. The election resulted in the choice of Polk, the champion of annexation. En- couraged by this result, President Tyler, in his last annual message in December, 1844, recurred to his pre- vious suggestion that Congress might bring about the desired end by another method than a treaty, and recommended annexation by joint resolution. 4 A joint

1 For British action and as to abolition of slavery in Texas, S. Doc. 341, pp. 18-42.

2 2 Benton's View, 619. 8 4 Richardson's Messages, 323. 4 4 Richardson's Messages, 345.


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resolution to this effect was passed March 1, 1845, after a long and animated debate. 1 The vote in the House was 128 to 98, and 27 to 25 in the Senate. 2 This pre- cedent of Congress was followed in the recent admis- sion by joint resolution of the Hawaiian republic; the action, however, in the latter case was taken upon a two thirds majority in both houses. The resolution was accepted by Texas July 4, 1845. On March 6, the Mexican minister demanded his passports and left the United States, and in May the United States minis- ter likewise left Mexico. 3 It was apparent that this action would lead to war with Mexico, and both gov- ernments took measures to prepare for the coming conflict.

The serious state of our foreign relations on the south made it necessary that some adjustment should be reached of the territorial dispute with Great Britain as to the Pacific coast, which had existed for a gener- ation, and which had been greatly intensified because of domestic partisan measures. The Oregon boundary question had received the attention of Mr. Calhoun while Secretary of State, but little progress was made by him towards a settlement, he holding that time was steadily working in favor of American interests through increased immigration. Besides, the annex- ation of Texas was nearest to his heart, and he did not consider it good policy at that time to push England

i 5 Stat. at Large, 797. a 2 Benton's View, chap. 148.

8 Other official documents not above cited : S. Doc. 1, 24th Cong. 2d Sess. pp. 27-105; S. Doc. 160; H. Doc. 40, 25th Cong. 1st. Sess.; H. Ex. Doc. 266, 27th Cong. 2d Sess.



THE OREGON TERRITORY IN DISPUTE


FROM JACKSON TO POLK. 303

too strongly in the Oregon negotiations. He would have been willing to continue in the department under Mr. Polk, but his independent and somewhat change- able career did not commend him favorably to that partisan chief.

James Buchanan, who succeeded Calhoun in March, 1845, was a man of large experience in public affairs. His fame is clouded by vacillating and unstatesmanlike conduct at a great crisis in our history, but in the di- rection of foreign affairs during the important period of Mr. Folk's administration, he displayed marked ability and prudence. He was well equipped for the duties of his post by long service in both Houses of Congress and by several years' residence abroad as minister to Russia. Later, under President Pierce, he served as minister in London, and returned home to be elected President in 1856.

In view of the impending war with Mexico, Mr. Buchanan, as Secretary of State, early addressed him- self to the settlement of our long-standing dispute with Great Britain over the Oregon boundary. Four nations had advanced conflicting claims on the Pacific coast, based on early discoveries, Russia, Great Britain, the United States, and Spain.

Great Britain and Spain first came into conflict on the northwest coast, because of settlement on Vancou- ver Island, and through the Nootka Convention of 1790 their respective claims were adjusted upon the basis of actual occupation. The Spaniards, as early as 1543, had made explorations as high as the fifty-fourth degree of latitude, but their settlements were much lower on the


304 .

coast. The Columbia River had been discovered by Captain Gray, of Boston, in 1792, and Vancouver, upon whose voyages the British largely founded their early claims, did not enter the river until the next year, when he reports that he found Captain Gray there. The Hudson's Bay Company reached the Pacific coast about 1793, but north of the forty-ninth degree. The United States had no well-founded claim to this coast through the Louisiana purchase, but that based on the discovery of the Columbia by Gray was strengthened by the exploring expedition of Lewis and Clarke in 1804-6, and by the permanent establishment at the mouth of that river of Astor's fur-trading post. The Florida treaty of 1819 transferred to the United States whatever rights Spain possessed on that coast north of latitude 42. In 1818, by treaty with Great Britain, our northern boundary was fixed west of the Lake of the Woods on the parallel of the forty-ninth degree as far as the "Stony [Rocky] Mountains," and it was agreed that there should be a joint occupation of the territory " claimed by either party " beyond the moun- tains for ten years; and this agreement was renewed for another period in 1827.

When the Russian Emperor issued his ukase in 1821, we have seen that the United States and Great Britain protested against the claims of one hundred miles exclusive ocean jurisdiction and of territory on the northwest coast of America to the fifty-first degree of latitude. This protest was followed by instructions to the American and British ministers at St. Petersburg to unite their negotiations at the Russian court, with a


FROM JACKSON TO POLK. 305

view to a joint or concurrent settlement of the ques- tions; but when it became apparent that the United States would set up claim to territory on the coast north of the fifty-first degree, the British minister was di- rected by his government to withdraw from the tripar- tite negotiations, and thenceforth each government proceeded separately with Russia. 1 The treaty with the United States fixed the limits of the respective terri- torial claims at the latitude of 54 40', and the same line was agreed upon in the Anglo-Russian treaty of 1825. These adjustments left the territory on the northwest coast below 54 40' undetermined as between the United States and Great Britain. 2

An attempt was made in London, while the St. Petersburg negotiations were in progress, to reach a settlement, and Mr. Rush proposed the line of the forty- ninth parallel, but the British government put forth the claim of the line of the Columbia River from the point where it crosses the forty-ninth degree to its mouth, and no agreement was reached. Another at- tempt was made by Mr. Gallatin, our minister in Lon- don, in 1826; the same offer was made and met by the counter proposal of the line of the Columbia River.

While Mr. Webster was negotiating with Lord Ash- burton as to the boundaries in 1842, news reached the

1 4 Fur Seal Arbitration Papers (1893), 415.

2 An interesting report by a special committee, submitted to the House in 1821, was one of the earliest discussions of our claim to the northwest coast of America, in which it was contended that the United States possessed " the undisputed sovereignty of that coast, from the sixtieth degree of north latitude down to thirty-six." H. Rep. 45, 16th Cong. 2d Sess.


306 .

American settlers in Oregon that the territory was likely to be gained by Great Britain, and Dr. Marcus Whitman, a pioneer missionary of Oregon, made a win- ter journey across the mountains and the continent, to lay before the government the far-reaching impor- tance to our country of insuring this foothold on the Pacific. When Dr. Whitman reached Washington, the treaty, without any provision as to Oregon, had been signed and ratified, but he strongly impressed upon Mr. Webster and President Tyler the value to the Union of this Pacific possession; and his visit had a decided influence on the future attitude of the government. 1 It had not been possible to secure any provision as to this territory in the treaty of 1842, but Webster, immedi- ately after its celebration, took steps to obtain a set- tlement on the line of the forty-ninth degree, but no progress had been made in the negotiations at the date of his resignation.

The subject remained in this state when the annexa- tion of Texas was pressed forward into prominence by Tyler and Calhoun. This annexation was so manifestly in the interest of slavery extension that the partisans of the administration sought to allay opposition by joining with it a demand for the recognition of our claim to Oregon in its largest extent. To this end the Demo- cratic National Convention in 1844, which nominated Mr. Polk, passed a resolution declaring for the " re- occupation " of Oregon and the " re-annexation " of Texas, implying that we should take possession of that portion of the northwest coast now held by Great

1 For narrative of Whitman's journey, Barrows' s Oregon, chap. 18.


FROM JACKSON TO POLK. 307

Britain, and bring again into the Union the country west of the Sabine River, as a part of the Louisiana territory improperly conceded to Spain in the Florida treaty of 1819. With these as among the party cries in the campaign, Mr. Polk came to the presidency and delivered his inaugural address, in which he advocated the Oregon claim in its entirety. 1

Mr. Buchanan, desirous of adjusting our differences with England before we entered upon the conflict with Mexico, early after assuming the duties of his depart- ment, opened negotiations with the British minister, and, regardless of the President's declaration in his inaugural, proposed as a compromise the forty-ninth parallel as the boundary. The British minister, doubt- less nettled by the party cry and the President's decla- ration, rather tartly rejected the proposition, and argued for the line of the Columbia; whereupon Mr. Buchanan withdrew the proposition and set up our claim to the whole territory in dispute.

When Congress assembled in December, 1845, the President laid the correspondence before it, stated in his message that we had gone far enough in the spirit of concession, and asked Congress to consider what measures were necessary to protect our just title to the territory. 2 His partisans at once took up the cry of "Fifty-four Forty or Fight," and a resolution was passed by Congress authorizing the President, in his discretion, to give notice, in accordance with the terms of the treaty, of the termination of the arrangement

1 4 Richardson's Messages, 381.

2 Ib. 392-398.


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tance of the Louisiana purchase, regarded it as ex- tremely doubtful whether it would be possible to main- tain one government over so great an extent of coun- try, and spoke rather cheerfully of the contingency of an Atlantic and a Mississippi republic in friendly rivalry. As to Oregon, he was quite clear that it would be im- practicable to extend our government over it. In a letter dated in 1812 to John Jacob Astor, who had given him a narrative of the difficulties he had en- countered in establishing his fur-trading colony at Astoria, he writes encouragingly, and says he looks forward to the time when the descendants of the pre- sent settlers would have spread themselves through the whole length of the coast of Western America, as " free and independent Americans, unconnected with us but by the ties of blood and interest, and employing like us the rights of self-government." l

Albert Gallatin, one of the most sagacious of our public men, writing at the time of the Oregon boundary controversy, referring to the words just quoted, said : " Viewed as an abstract proposition, Mr. Jefferson's opinion appears correct, that it will be best for both the Atlantic and Pacific nations, whilst entertaining the most friendly relations, to remain independent, rather than to be united under the same government." But he added, it was a question which posterity would have to settle. 2

The most ardent champion of Western interests dur- ing the second quarter of the present century was Sen- ator Benton of Missouri; but even he failed to realize

1 9 Writings of Jefferson, 351. 2 3 Writings of Gallatin, 533.


FROM JACKSON TO POLK. 311"

at the beginning of his career the great destiny which awaited his country beyond the Rocky Mountains. In discussing a bill before the Senate in 1825 for the occupation of the Columbia River, which he favored because it would be the nucleus of a new American republic on the Pacific and result in the frustration of the hostile schemes of Great Britain, he said : " This republic should have limits. The present occasion does not require me to say where these limits should be found on the north and south; but . . . westward we can speak without reserve, and the ridges of the Rocky Mountains may be named without offense, as present- ing a convenient, natural, and everlasting boundary. Along the back of this ridge, the western limit of this republic should be drawn, and the statue of the fabled god, Terminus, should be raised upon its highest peak, never to be thrown down." 1 Benton, however, lived to change his views on the subject, and in his compila- tion of the debates of Congress his speech of 1825 is revised and this portion omitted. 2

Daniel Webster, in discussing the annexation of Texas in 1845, expressed the opinion that the govern- ment was likely to be endangered by a further enlarge- ment of territory, already so vast, and said : " Perhaps the time was not far distant when there would be estab- lished beyond the Rocky Mountains, and on the shores of the western sea, a great Pacific republic, of which San Francisco would be the capital." 3 Robert C. Win-

1 1 Debates in Congress (Gales and Seaton), 711.

2 8 Benton's Debates of Congress, 197.

3 5 Webster's Works, 387.


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throp, Speaker of the House of Kepresentatives, in 1844 read the extract just given from Benton's speech and fully indorsed his views. During the debate on the Oregon question similar opinions were frequently expressed by members from various parts of the coun- try. Senator McDuffie of South Carolina pictured the difficulty of building a railroad, requiring tunneling through mountains five or six hundred miles in extent, and exclaimed: " The wealth of the Indies would be insufficient;" and as for agricultural purposes, "I would not give a pinch of snuff for the whole territory."

These great men and wise statesmen could not in their times anticipate the influence of two physical factors which have since changed the whole aspect of the question of territorial expansion steam and electricity. General Lane, the first territorial governor of Oregon, left his home in Indiana, August 27, and, desiring to reach his destination as soon as possible, traveling overland to San Francisco and thence by ship, reached his post on the 1st of March following the journey occupying six months. 1 At the time our treaty of peace and independence was signed in 1783, two stage- coaches were sufficient for all the passengers and nearly all the freight between New York and Boston.^ When Jefferson wrote his letter to Astor he could not make the journey from Monticello to Philadelphia as soon as the representative from Oregon can now reach Wash- ington. While it then required weeks to receive intel-

1 Hermann's Louisiana Purchase, 80. ' Fiske's Critical Period, 61.


FROM JACKSON TO POLK. 313

ligence from the authorities of the new territory of Louisiana, now the events which transpire in our new possessions on the other side of the globe are flashed almost instantaneously to the federal capital.

The establishment of our territorial rights in Oregon was of the utmost importance. The domain acquired was in itself of imperial extent, more than two and one third times that of Great Britain and Ireland; more than a third larger than either France, the German or Austrian empires; and more than two and a half times larger than New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland combined. But its greater importance was that it secured to our nation a foothold on the shores of the Pacific Ocean, now enlarged to a great area, embracing a teeming population and a thriving commerce, confronting the hundreds of millions of Asia and the islands of the sea.