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Letter of Instructions of James Buchanan, Secretary of State, to William
V. Voorhies, Esq. Oct. 7, 1848.
DEPARTMENT OF STATE,
Washington, October 7, 1848. Sir: Previous to your departure for California, the President has instructed me to make known, through your agency, to the citizens of the United States inhabiting that Territory, his views respecting their present condition and future prospects. He deems it proper to employ you for this purpose, because the Postmaster General has appointed you an agent, under the “ Act to establish certain post routes,” approved August 14, 1848, “ to make arrangements for the establishment of post offices, and for the transmission, receipt, and conveyance of letters in Oregon and California.”
The President congratulates the citizens of California on the annexation of their fine province to the United States. On the 30th of May, 1848, the day on which the ratifications of our late treaty with Mexico were exchanged, California finally became an integral portion of this great and glorious republic; and the act of Congress to which I have already referred, in express terms recognises it to be “ within the territory of the United States."
May this union be perpetual !
The people of California may feel the firmest conviction that the govern. ment and people of the United States will never abandon them or prove unmindful of their prosperity. Their fate and their fortunes are now indissolubly united with that of their brethren on this side of the Rocky mountains. How propitious this event both for them and for us! Whilst the other nations of the world are distracted by domestic dissensions, and are involved in a struggle between the privileges of the few and the rights of the many, Heaven has blessed our happy land with a government which secures equal rights to all our citizens, and has produced peace, happiness, and contentment throughout our borders. It has combined liberty with order, and all the sacred and indefeasible rights of the citizens with the strictest observance of law. Satisfied with the institutions under which we live, each individual is therefore left free to promote his own prosperity and happiness in the manner most in accordance with his own judgment.
Under such a constitution and such laws, the prospects of California are truly encouraging. Blessed with a mild and salubrious climate and a fertile soil, rich in mineral resources, and extending over nearly ten degrees of latitude along the coast of the Pacific, with some of the finest harbors in the world, the imagination can scarcely fix a limit to its future wealth and prog. perity.
We can behold in the not distant future one or more glorious States of this confederacy springing into existence in California, governed by institu. tions similar to our own, and extending the blessings of religion, liberty, and
law over that vast region. Their free and unrestricted commerce and intercourse with the other States of the Union will confer mutual benefits and blessings on all parties concerned, and will bind us all together by the strongest ties of reciprocal affection and interest. Their foreign trade with the west coast of America, with Asia, and the isles of the Pacific, will be protected by our common flag, and cannot fail to bear back to their shores the rich rewards of enterprise and industry.
After all, however, the speedy realization of these bright prospects depends much upon the wise and prudent conduct of the citizens of California in the present emergency. If they commence their career under proper auspices, their advance will be rapid and certain ; but should they become entangled in difficulties and dissensions at the start, their progress will be greatly retarded.
The President deeply regrets that Congress did not at their late session establish a territorial government for California. It would now be vain to enter into the reasons for this omission. Whatever these may have been, he is firmly convinced that Congress feel a deep interest in the welfare of California and its people, and will at an early period of the next session provide for them a territorial government suited to their wants. Our laws relating to trade and intercourse with the Indians will then be extended over them, custom-houses will be established for the collection of the revenue, and liberal grants of land will be made to those bold and patriotic citizens who amidst privations and dangers have emigrated or shall emigrate to that Territory from the States on this side of the Rocky mountains.
The President, in his annual message, at the commencement of the next session, will recommend all these great measures to Congress in the strongest terms, and will use every effort, consistently with his duty, to insure their accomplishment.
In the mean time, the condition of the people of California is anomalous, and will require, on their part, the exercise of great prudence and discretion. By the conclusion of the treaty of peace, the military government which was established over them under the laws of war, as recognised by the practice of all civilized nations, has ceased to derive its authority from this source of power. But is there, for this reason, no government in California ? Are life, liberty, and property under the protection of no existing authorities? This would be a singular phenomenon in the face of the world, and especially among American citizens, distinguished as they are above all other people for their law abiding character. Fortunately, they are not reduced to this sad condition. The termination of the war left an existing government, a government de facto, in full operation; and this will continue, with the presumed consent of the people, until Congress shall provide for them a territorial government. The great law of necessity justifies this conclusion. The consent of the people is irresistibly inferred from the fact that no civilized
community could possibly desire to abrogate an existing government, when the alternative presented would be to place themselves in a state of anarchy, beyond the protection of all laws, and reduce them to the unhappy necessity of submitting to the dominion of the strongest.
This government de facto will, of course, exercise no power inconsistent with the provisions of the constitution of the United States, which is the supreme law of the land. For this reason, no import duties can be levied in California on articles the growth, produce, or manufacture of the United States, as no such duties can be imposed in any other part of our Union on the productions of California. Nor can new duties be charged in California upon such foreign productions as have already paid duties in any of our ports of entry, for the obvious reason that California is within the territory of the United States. I shall not enlarge upon this subject, however, as the Secretary of the Treasury will perform the duty.
The President urgently advises the people of California to live peaceably and quietly under the existing government. He believes that this will promote their lasting and best interest. If it be not what they could desire and had a right to expect, they can console themselves with the reflection that it will endure but for a few months. Should they attempt to change or amend it during this brief period, they most probably could not accomplish their object before the government established by Congress would go into operation. In the mean time, the country would be agitated, the citizens would be withdrawn from their usual employments, and domestic strife might divide and exasperate the people against each other; and this all to establish a government which in no conceivable contingency could endure for a single year. During this brief period, it is better to bear the ills they have than to fly to others they know not of.
The permanent prosperity of any new country is identified with the perfect security of its land titles. The land system of the general government has been a theme of admiration throughout the world. The wisdom of man has never devised a plan so well calculated to prevent litigation and place the rights of owners of the soil beyond dispute. This system has been one great cause of the rapid settlement and progress of new States and Territories. Emigrants have been attracted there, because every man knew that when he had acquired land from the government, he could sit under his own vine and under his own fig tree, and there would be none to make him afraid. Indeed, there can be no greater drawback to the prosperity of a country, as several of the older States have experienced, than disputed land titles. Prudent men will be deterred from emigrating to a State or Territory where they cannot obtain indisputable title, and must consequently be exposed to the danger of strife and litigation in respect to the soil on which they dwell. An uncertainty respecting the security of land titles arrests all valuable improvement, because no prudent man will expend his
means for this purpose while there is danger that another may deprive him of the fruit of his labors. It is fortunate, therefore, that Congress alone, under the constitution, possesses “ the power to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property of the United States.” In the exercise of this power, the President is convinced that the emigrants will receive liberal donations of the public land.
Although Congress have not established a territorial government for the people of California, they have not been altogether unmindful of their interests. The benefit of our Post Office laws has been extended to them; and you will bear with your authority from the Postmaster General to provide for the conveyance of public information and private correspondence among themselves, and between them and the citizens of Oregon, and of our States east of the Rocky mountains. The monthly steamers on the line from Panama to Astoria have been required “ to stop and deliver and take mails at San Diego, San Francisco, and Monterey.” These steamers, connected by the isthmus of Panama with those on the Atlantic, between New York and Chagres, will keep up a regular communication with California, and afford facilities to all those who may desire to emigrate to that Territory.
The necessary appropriations have also been made by Congress to main. tain troops in California to protect its inhabitants against all attacks from a civilized or savage foe; and it will afford the President peculiar pleasure to perform this duty promptly and effectively.
But, above all, the constitution of the United States, the safeguard of all our civil rights, was extended over California on the 30th May, 1848, the day on which our late treaty with Mexico was finally consummated. From that day its inhabitants became entitled to all the blessings and benefits resulting from the best form of civil government ever established amongst men. That they will prove worthy of this inestimable boon, no doubt is entertained.
Whilst the population of California will be composed chiefly of our own kindred, of a people speaking our own language, and educated for self-government under our own institutions, a considerable portion of them were Mexican citizens before the late treaty of peace. These, our new citizens, ought to be, and, from the justice and generosity of the American character, the President is confident that they will be treated with respect and kindness, and thus be made to feel that by changing their allegiance they have become more prosperous and happy. Yours, very respectfully,
JAMES BUCHANAN. WILLIAM V. VORHIES, Esq.,
Letter of Instructions of Hon. John M. Clayton, to Thomas Butler King.
April 3, 1849.
DEPARTMENT OF STATE,
Washington, April 3, 1849. SIR : The President, reposing full confidence in your integrity, abilities, and prudence, has appointed you an agent for the purpose of conveying important instructions and despatches to our naval and military commanders in California. It is bis desire that you should lose no time in repairing thither, by the best and most expeditious route, in the prosecution of the duties devolved upon you, which I shall proceed to explain in the following instructions.
The situation of the people of California and New Mexico has already, at this early period of his administration, attracted his attention. By the late treaty with Mexico, provision was made for the future admission of these Territories into the Union as States; and, in the mean time, the government of the United States is bound to protect the inhabitants residing in them in the free and entire enjoyment of their lives, liberty, and property, and in the exercise of their civil and religious rights. Owing to causes with which you are fully acquainted, the Congress of the United States failed to assist the Executive by the passage of a law establishing a government in either of the new Territories. You are aware, however, that an act was passed, at the last session, to extend the revenue laws of the United States over the territory and waters of Upper California. This act creates a collection district in California. And you also know that, by another previous act, certain mail facilities have been extended to the same Territory. Whatever can be done, by the aid of the constitution of the United States, the treaty with Mexico, and the enactments of Congress, to afford to the people of the Territories the benefits of civil government and the protection that is due them, will be anxiously considered and attempted by the Executive.
You have been selected by the President to convey to them these assurances, and especiaily the assurance of his firm determination so far as his constitutional power extends, to omit nothing that may tend to promote and secure their peace and happiness. You are fully possessed of the President's views, and can, with propriety suggest to the people of California the adoption of measures best calculated to give them effect. These measures must, of course, originate solely with themselves. Assure them of the sincere desire of the Executive of the United States to protect and defend them in the formation of any government, republican in its character, hereafter to be submitted to Congress, which shall be the result of their own deliberate choice. But let it be, at the same time, distinctly understood by them that the plan of such a government must originate with themselves, and without the interference of the Executive.