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of our ambition and desires. Since his day the public mind in this country has greatly outrun his anticipations of our progress. It looks to the extension of our Constitution and laws over regions, which were formerly considered beyond our reach as integral portions of the same system of government. Modern improvements have given great strength to this prevailing sentiment. It is possible by steam-power, if we can succeed in making the proper application of it over so broad a surface, to reach the Pacific Ocean from Lake Michigan, or the Mississippi, in eight or nine days, — a period of time less than that which was required to travel from Boston to Philadelphia, when the Congress of the American colonies first assembled in the latter city. Under these circumstances, the extension of our political boundary so as to embrace all territory we may justly call our own, seems no longer to be considered a questionable policy. If other districts, not now within the territories of the Union, shall found independent governments, and shall desire to unite themselves to us on terms mutually acceptable, it is * a question which concerns only them and us, and in which no stranger can be permitted to intrude. When the time comes for the settlement of any such questions, they will doubtless be considered with all the solemnity which belongs to propositions involving the public welfare. To those with whom the decision belongs let us leave them, with the assurance that the wisdom which has governed and guided us so long, will still point out to us the path of liberty, tranquillity, and safety
One position we have assumed, and I trust it will be maintained with inflexible firmness, — that nations beyond this continent cannot be permitted to interfere with our progress, so long as there is on our part no violation of their rights. I would resist, at the outset, as matter of the gravest offence, all indications of such interference. If the abstract right could be asserted on grounds of international law, there has been nothing in the nature of our extension,
or the means by which it has been accomplished, to warrant its application to us.
From the formation of our government, for nearly three quarters of a century, military power - brute force — has had no agency in the conquests we have achieved. We have overrun no provinces or countries abounding in wealth. Our capital has witnessed no triumphal entries of returning armies, bearing with them the spoils and trophies of conquest. Our ships have not been seen returning from subjugated districts, freighted with the tributes of an extended commerce.
In the extension of our commercial intercourse we have not, like our Anglo-Saxon mother, been seen hewing down with the sword, with unrelenting and remorseless determination, every obstacle which opposed itself to her progress.
Our career thus far has been stained by no such companionship with evil. Our conquests have been the peaceful achievements of enterprise and industry, - - the one leading the way into the wilderness, the other following and completing the acquisition by the formal symbols of occupancy and possession. They have looked to no objects beyond the conversion of uninhabited wilds into abodes of civilization and freedom. Their only arms were the axe and the ploughshare. The accumulations of wealth they have brought were all extracted from the bosom of the earth by the unoffending hand of labor.
If, in the progress of our people westward, they shall occupy territories not our own, but to become ours by amicable arrangements with the governments to which they belong, which of the nations of the earth shall venture to stand forth, in the face of the civilized world, and call on us to pause in this great work of human improvement ? It is as much the interest of Europe as it is ours, that we should be permitted to follow undisturbed the path which, in the allotment of national fortunes, we seem appointed to tread. Our country has long been a refuge for those who desire a larger liberty than they enjoy under their own rulers. It is an outlet for the political disaffection of the Old World, — for social elements which might there have become sources of agitation, but which are here silently and tranquilly incorporated into our system, ceasing to be principles of disturbance as they attain the greater freedom, which was the object of their separation from less congenial combinations in other quarters of the globe. Nay, more; it is into the vast reservoir of the western wilderness, teeming with fruitfulness and fertility, that Europe is constantly pouring, under our protection, her human surpluses, unable to draw from her own bosom the elements of their support and reproduction. She is literally going along with us in our march to prosperity and power, to share with us its triumphs and its fruits. Happily, this continent is not a legitimate theatre for the political arrangements of the sovereigns of the eastern hemisphere. Their armies may range, undisturbed by us, over the plains of Europe, Asia, and Africa, dethroning monarchs, partitioning kingdoms, and subverting republics, as interest or caprice may dictate. But political justice demands that in one quarter of the globe self-government, freedom, the arts of peace, shall be permitted to work out, unmolested, the great purposes of human civilization.
Mr. President, I trust there will be nothing in the final adjustment of our difficulties with Mexico to impair, in any degree, the moral of our example in the past. heretofore, has been one of perpetual exertion to bring about an amicable arrangement with her. I trust we shall persevere in the same course of conduct, whatever unwillingness she may exhibit to come to terms. Entertaining the opinions which I have expressed, I naturally feel a deep solicitude, as an American citizen, that our public conduct should comport with the dignity of the part we seem destined to perform in the great drama of international politics. I desire to see our good name unsullied, and the character we have gained for moderation, justice, and scrupulousness in the discharge of our national obligations, maintained unimpaired. In these, let us be assured, our great strength consists : for
Our course, it is these which make us strong in the opinion of mankind.
In what I have said concerning the progress of our people over the unpopulated regions west of us, and in respect to our responsibilities as a nation, I trust I shall have incurred no imputation of inconsistency. On the contrary, I trust I shall be considered consistent in all I have said. I regard our extension, as I have endeavored to foreshadow it, to be the inevitable result of causes, the operation of which it is not in our power to arrest. At the same time, I hold it to be our sacred duty to see that it is not encouraged or promoted by improper means.
While I should consider it the part of weakness to shrink from extension, under the apprehension that it might bring with it the elements of discord and disunion, as our political boundaries are enlarged, I should hold it to be the part of folly and dishonor to attempt to accelerate it by agencies incompatible with our obligations to other nations. It is the dictate of wisdom and of duty to submit ourselves to the operation of the great causes which are at work, and which will work on in spite of us, in carrying civilization and freedom across the American continent.
In advocating a continued occupation of the cities and territory we have acquired in Mexico until she shall assent to reasonable terms of peace, I trust also that I shall be deemed consistent with myself. Deprecating war as the greatest of calamities, especially for us, I desire to see this war brought to a close at the earliest practicable day. I am in favor of whatever measures are most likely to accomplish this desirable end. I am opposed to an abandonment of our position,
1st. Because I believe it would open a field of domestic dissension in Mexico, which might be fatal to her existence as an independent state, or make her take refuge in the arms of despotism;
2d. Because it might lead to external interference in her affairs of the most dangerous tendency both to her and
3d. Because I fear that we should only gain a temporary suspension of hostilities, to be renewed under great disadvantages to us, and with every prospect of a longer and more sanguinary contest.
Mr. President, it is this last consideration which weighs most heavily upon my own mind. I hold it to be indispensable to the public welfare, under all its aspects, that we should have, at the termination of this contest, a solid and stable peace. Unpromising as the condition of things seems at the present moment, my hope still is, that firmness tempered with prudence will give us, not a mere outward pacification with secret irritation rankling within, but substantial concord and friendship, which shall leave no wound unhealed. And, sir, we should be satisfied with nothing short of an accommodation of differences which will enable the country with confidence to lay aside its armor, and to resume the peaceful pursuits to which, by the inexorable law of our condition, we must look for prosperity and safety. My advice, then, (if I may presume to advsie,) is, to
I stand firm, holding ourselves ready at all times to make peace, and carrying into our negotiations for that purpose a determination to cement a future good understanding with our adversary, by an adjustment of our differences on terms of justice, moderation, and magnanimity.