Page:The American Review Volume 02.djvu/566

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The Whig Party

Annexation—unless frustrated by the failure of Texas herself to comply with the conditions presented by our government, and the objections that may yet be raised on the ground of the inadmissibility into our confederation of the constitution she may adopt—is now practically accomplished. The forms indeed in which it was invited, were in derogation of the Constitution—setting at nought both its letter and its spirit; but with the plastic alacrity of popular sentiment in this country in adapting itself to the status quo, opinion is already reconciled to, or acquiescent in, an outrage at once irrevocable and remediless, unless through the contingencies intimated, the possible results from which we shall presently consider. The body of the nation, little understanding, at present, the exact condition of things, is bent upon improving its new possession.

The Tariff of '42—including as it does in its provisions the principle of Protection—must also be said to have triumphed with Mr. Polk, whose ambiguous letter, during the canvass, to Mr. Kane of Pennsylvania, alone enabled him to carry that State and thereby to secure his election. But the struggle for its preservation is yet to come; for, now, firmly seated in the Presidential chair, Mr. Polk has gone back to his original anti-Tariff doctrines, and is to use all the influence of an office obtained under false pretences, to overthrow that principle of which he was claimed as the fast friend.

Other very grave and important questions, of newer and fresher gloss than either Texas or the Tariff—and upon which the sentiment of the country is as yet unascertained, or at least has never been authentically pronounced—and upon the wise and final solution of which, the action of the Whig party must be very influential—will occupy the attention of the nation. We refer to Oregon, and to the claim—recently for the first time distinctly shadowed forth, in a speech in the Chamber of Deputies by M. Guizot, the prime minister of France—of a European right to interpose in the affairs of this Continent, in order to the maintenance of some fanciful balance of power among the nations to which it belongs.

Over and above these large and general questions, there remains for the consideration and action of the Whig party those conservative principles, greatly menaced in the actual condition of the country, which may be characterized as distinctive of that party. We refer especially to its steady and habitual submission to law—its deference for vested rights—and abhorrence of all violent and disorderly attempts to alter or overthrow existing institutions. We propose to examine somewhat at length the obligations in regard to all these topics, imposed upon the Whig party by the circumstances in which they find themselves.

Annexation is in one sense an accomplished fact. Yet there is still to be a recurrence to Congress before the question is finally disposed of; and this will, to a certain extent, re-open the whole subject for discussion. We use the expression "to a certain extent," deliberately—for on some points we hold that the action of Congress cannot be reviewed nor called in question. In so far as the pledge has been given, that, upon acquiescence in the conditions prescribed, Texas should be admitted into the Union, this nation is irrevocably bound, nor is it now competent for any one to inquire into the circumstances under which this pledge was given. In all the forms and guaranties of national action on our part, the resolution of Annexation was adopted. In reliance upon it, Texas has acted, and—dissolving her own nationality and relinquishing her existence as a separate and independent State—has consented to become one of the States of this Union. However, therefore, the mode in which this resolution was adopted be open to censure—and however questionable the right, as questionable it undoubtedly is, either of the Executive or Legislative Department of the Federal Government to invite and admit a foreign independent State into this limited partnership of States—the invitation having been given and accepted, cannot be recalled.

But it is the right, and it will, in our judgment, be the duty of the Whigs in Congress to look narrowly to the conditions prescribed; for thereon hangs all the obligation on our side.

One point of special interest is the nature and spirit of the constitution adopted by Texas. It is not enough that it should be republican in form, if it be not so in essence; and most assuredly the provision which it contains respecting the institution of slavery must appear to every reasoning, liberal and patriotic person, whether in the North or the South, whether possessing slaves or having no interest in such property, open to the most insurmountable objections. We