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ADMINISTRATION OF JAMES K. POLK, 1845-1849.
PRESIDENT POLK was inaugurated March 4, 1845, with the forms and ceremonies customary on such occasions.
The inaugural address set forth at length the views of the President. He discountenanced interference with certain domestic institutions” as an
attempt to disturb or destroy the compromises of the Constitution;" the consequences thereof must be “most ruinous and disastrous.” He deeply regretted that “in some sections of our country, misguided persons have occasionally indulged in schemes and agitations, whose object is the destruction of domestic institutions existing in other sections,” but it gave him satisfaction to believe “ that there existed among
great mass of our people a devotion to the Union of the States, which would protect it against the moral treason of any who would contemplate its destruction.”
He regarded the relations of the United States and Texas a matter of adjustment exclusively by the two governments. Other governments had no right to interfere or to take exceptions thereto.
Our title to the country of the Oregon “is clear and unquestionable;” and he pledged himself “ to maintain
by all constitutional means, the rights of the United States to that territory.” Our laws should be extended for the protection of our emigrants to that country. .
6. National banks and other extraneous institutions to control or strengthen the government” were disapproved by the President. The object of a tariff should be to provide a revenue.
Mr. Polk selected as his cabinet officers, James Buchanan, of Pa., Secretary of State ; Robert J. Walker, of Miss., Secretary of the Treasury; William L. Marcy, of N. Y., Secretary of War; George Bancroft, of Mass., Secretary of the Navy; Cave Johnson, of Tenn., Postmaster-General; and John Y. Mason, of Va., AttorneyGeneral. Mr. Everett was recalled from England, and Louis McLane, of Md., appointed Minister to that country.
THE MEXICAN WAR.
The Mexican Minister, in a letter to the Secretary of State, dated March 6, 1845—only six days after the action of Congress-protested in the name of his government, “ against the resolutions of Congress dismembering Mexico of her just territory and annexing it to the American Union.” Declaring that Mexico would maintain her rights, he demanded his passport.
The Texan Congress met on the 16th of June, when the overtures of Mexico were considered and rejected, and a resolution passed accepting the terms of annexation to the United States.
The act of annexation by Congress, was regarded by Mexico as a declaration of war, which she declared it her intention to resent. At the instance of Texas, the President ordered an army into that territory.
Attempts were now made to effect an adjustment of
difficulties through negotiations. These failed; a revolution in the government of Mexico transpired. President Herrera was deposed, and Gen. Paredes was elevated to power.
Texas completed the act of annexation, July 4, 1845, in accepting the terms proposed by the American Congress. Knowing this would be regarded by Mexico as a declaration of war, Gen. Taylor was ordered by the President to assume such a position on the Gulf of Mexico, as would enable him to defend the western border of Texas. He was directed not to disturb the Mexican posts and forces “ so long as the relations of
between Mexico and the United States continued." His duty would be the protection of the people of Texas. In January, 1846, Gen. Taylor was ordered to the left bank of the Rio Grande. At his approach he was met by a deputation from Gen. Mejia, a Mexican commander, protesting against the invasion. On the 28th,
took up its position opposite Matamoras.
Hostilities soon commenced.
President Polk announced to Congress, May 11th, that, “after a long-continued series of menaces, the Mexican forces had at last invaded our territory, and shed the blood of our fellow-citizens on our own soil." He called upon Congress to provide means by which the Executive might be enabled to defend the country.
Congress responded in the passage of an act providing men and money-$10,000,000; in the House, by a vote of 142 to 13, and in the Senate 40 to 2. The bill was immediately signed, and the proclamation of war issued.
The preamble of this act declared the war to exist by the act of the republic of Mexico. Strong exceptions were taken to this assertion. A large portion of the Whig members in Congress were opposed to the war. They regarded it as having been initiated by the Execu
tive. The Constitution had been violated, as the power to declare war was vested in Congress, and the act of ordering troops into the territory of Mexico was tantamount to a declaration of war. It was urged, that if war did exist, it was not by act of Mexico. All such subterfuge should be scouted.
An attempt was made in the Senate to strike out the preamble. It failed, 18 to 28. The large majority, however, recognizing the existence of the war, supported provisions for its prosecution without regard to the causes which had brought it into being. They voted supplies rather than, in their opinion, compromit the credit and honor of the country. Senators Thomas Clayton and John Davis voted against the bill, and Messrs. Dayton, J. M. Clayton, and Mangum voted for it, but demanded that their protest against the preamble be entered upon the journal,
The members of the House who voted in the negative, were Messrs. Adams, Ashmun, Grinnell, Hudson, and King, of Mass.; Cranston, of R. I.; Severance, of Maine ; Culver, of N. Y.; Strohm, of Pa.; Giddings, Root, Tilden, and Vance, of Ohio.
Under a request to be excused from voting, Mr. Garritt Davis, of Ky., said, that no Whig had been permitted to speak on the bill. There was no occasion for such haste. The preamble set forth a falsehood. To assert that Mexico commenced the war, was utterly untrue. The intent of the preamble was to coerce the Whigs to vote against the Administration, or to make an indorsement of the false charge against Mexico. It was our own President who began this war.
He had been carrying it on for months, in a series of acts. Congress, which was vested with the sole power to make war, he had not deigned to consult, or to ask for authority.
THE WILMOT PROVISO.
In response to a message from the President, August, 1846, a bill was introduced into the House, appropriating two millions for the prosecution of negotiations, in which the Executive had engaged. During the deliberations on this measure, Mr. Wilmot, of Pennsylvania, after brief consultations with Northern Democratic friends, moved a proviso which prohibited slavery from all the territory that might be acquired from Mexico. The amendment was carried. The bill thus amended, passed the House by a majority of six. This was the origin of that subsequently known as the “ Wilmot proviso.” Its provisions were similar to those of the ordinance of 1787. The bill was sent to the Senate, where it was taken up on the last day of the session. Before final action was had, the House adjourned, and the bill failed to pass.
In his message, at the opening of the second session of the twenty-ninth Congress, the President reiterated his former charges against Mexico, and asserted the peaceful disposition of our government. A bill was passed, authorizing the issue of treasury notes, and the negotiation of loans to the amount of $28,000,000. A bill was also introduced for the appropriation of $3,000,000, to which Mr. Hamlin, of Maine, moved an amendment--the Wilmot proviso. Mr. Douglas moved to amend this amendment, in prohibiting slavery from acquired territory north of 36° 30'-lost. The original amendment was adopted, 110 to 89. And the bill passed, 115 to 110. The proviso was rejected in the Senate, 21 to 31– when the bill passed, 29 to 24. The Senate bill was amended in the Committee of the Whole of the House, on motion of Mr. Wilmot, by the attachment of the proviso; the House disagreed, 97 to 102, and the bill passed without the proviso, ayes 115, nays 81.
The discussion of the appropriation bill in the Senate,