By john g. Nioolay and john hay

Download 4.94 Mb.
Size4.94 Mb.
1   ...   22   23   24   25   26   27   28   29   ...   45

This map gives the boundary be­tween Mexico and the United States as defined by the treaty of 1828; the westerly bant of the Sabine River from its mouth to the 32d degree of latitude; thence due north to the Red River, following the course of that stream to the 100th degree of longitude west from Greenwich; thence due north to the Arkansas River, and running along its south bank to its source in the Rocky Moun­tains, near the place where Leadville now stands; thence due north to the 42d parallel of latitude, which it fol­lows to the Pacific Ocean.

On the west will be seen the bound­aries claimed by Mexico and the United States after the annexation of Texas. The Mexican authorities considered the western boundary of

Texas to be the Nueces River, from mouth to source; thence by an in­definite line to the Rio Pecos, and through the elevated and barren Llano Estacado to the source of the main branch of the Red River, and along that river to the 100th meridian. The United States adopted the Texan claim of the Rio Grande del Norte as their western limit. By the treaty of peace of 1848, the Mexicans relin­quished to the United States the territory between the Nueces and the Rio Grande del Norte; also the territory lying between the last-named river and the Pacific Ocean, and north of the Gila River and the southern boundary of New Mexico, which was a short distance above the town of El Paso.




and appealed for votes on the sole ground that he chap, xiv, was a poor man and wanted the place for the mile­age. Brown, either recognizing the force of this plea, or smitten with a sudden disgust for a service in which such pleas were possible, withdrew from the canvass, and Henry got his election and his mileage.

vol. I.—17



chap. xv. r IiHE Thirtieth Congress organized on the 6th of J_ December, 1847. Its roll contained the names of many eminent men, few of whom were less known than his which was destined to a fame more wide and enduring than all the rest together. It was Mr. Lincoln's sole distinction that he was the only Whig member from Illinois. He entered upon the larger field of work which now lay before him without any special diffidence, but equally without elation. Writing to his friend Speed soon after his election he said: " Being elected to Congress, though I am very grateful to our friends for having done it, has not pleased me as much as I ex­pected,"— an experience not unknown to most public men, but probably intensified in Lincoln's case by his constitutional melancholy. He went about his work with little gladness, but with a dogged sincerity and an inflexible conscience.

It soon became apparent that the Whigs were to derive at least a temporary advantage from the war which the Democrats had brought upon the country, although it was destined in its later con­sequences to sweep the former party out of exist­ence and exile the other from power for many



years; The House was so closely divided that chap. xv. Lincoln, writing on the 5th, expressed some doubt whether the Whigs could elect all their caucus nominees, and Mr. Robert C. Winthrop was chosen Speaker the next day by a majority of one vote. The President showed in his message that he was, doubtful of the verdict of Congress and the country upon the year's operations, and he argued with more solicitude than force in defense of the proceedings of the Administration in regard to the war with Mexico. His anxiety was at once shown to be well founded. The first attempt made by his friends to indorse the conduct of the Govern­ment was met by a stern rebuke from the House of Representatives, which passed an amendment proposed by George Ashmun that "the war had been unnecessarily and unconstitutionally com­menced by the President." This severe declara­tion was provoked and justified by the persistent and disingenuous assertions of the President that the preceding Congress had "with virtual una­nimity" declared that " war existed by the act of Mexico" —the truth being that a strong minority had voted to strike out those words from the pre­amble of the supply bill, but being outvoted in this, they were compelled either to vote for pre­amble and bill together, or else refuse supplies to the army.

It was not surprising that the Whigs and other opponents of the war should take the first oppor­tunity to give the President their opinion of such a misrepresentation. The standing of the opposi­tion had been greatly strengthened by the very victories upon which Mr. Polk had confidently


chap. xv. relied for his vindication. Both our armies in Mexico were under the .command of Whig generals, and among the subordinate officers who had dis­tinguished themselves in the field, a full share were Whigs, who, to an extent unusual in wars of political significance, retained their attitude of hos­tility to the Administration under whose orders they were serving. Some of them had returned to their places on the floor of Congress brandishing their laurels with great effect in the faces of their opponents who had talked while they fought.1 When we number the names which leaped into sudden fame in that short but sanguinary war, it is surprising to find how few of them sympathized with the party who brought it on, or with the purposes for which it was waged. The earnest opposition of Taylor to the scheme of the annexa-tionists did not hamper his movements or paralyze

1 The following extract from a in the vote that you seem dis-
letter of Lincoln to his partner, satisfied with. The latter, the
Mr. Herndon, who had criticized history of whose capture with
his anti-war votes, gives the Cassius Clay you well know, had
names of some of the Whig sol- not arrived here when that vote
diers who persisted in their faith was given; but, as I understand,
throughout the war: il
As to the he stands ready to give just such
Whig men who have participated a vote whenever an occasion
in the war, so far as they have shall present. Baker, too, who
spoken to my hearing, they do is now here, says the truth is
not hesitate to denounce as un- undoubtedly that way j and when-
just the President's conduct in ever he shall speak out, he will
the beginning of the war. They say so. Colonel Doniphan, too,
do not suppose that such denun- the favorite Whig of Missouri,
ciation is directed by undying and who overran all northern
hatred to them, as * the Eegis- Mexico, on his return home, in a
ter? would have it believed, public speech at St. Louis, con-
There are two such Whigs demned the Administration in
on this floor (Colonel Haskell relation to the war, if I remem-
and Major James). The former ber. G. T. M. Davis, who has
fought as a colonel by the side of been through almost the whole
, Colonel Baker, at Cerro Grordo, war, declares in favor of Mr.
and stands side by side with me Clay j " etc.


Ms arm, when with his little band of regulars he ch^p. xv. beat the army of Arista on the plain of Palo Alto, and again in the precipitous Eesaca de la Palma ; took by storm the fortified city of Monterey, defended by a greatly superior force ; and finally, with a few regiments of raw levies, posted among the rocky spurs and gorges about the farm of Buena Vista, met and defeated the best-led and the best-fought army the Mexicans ever brought into the field, outnumbering him more than four to one. It was only natural that the Whigs should profit by the glory gained by Whig valor, no matter in what cause. The attitude of the opposi­tion — sure of their advantage and exulting in it — was never perhaps more clearly and strongly set forth than in a speech made by Mr. Lincoln near the close of this session. He said :

As General Taylor is par excellence the hero of the Mexican war, and as you Democrats say we Whigs have always opposed the war, you think it must he very awk­ward and embarrassing for us to go for General Taylor. The declaration that we have always opposed the war is true or false accordingly as one may understand the term " opposing the war." If to say " the war was un­necessarily and unconstitutionally commenced by the President" he opposing the war, then the Whigs have very generally opposed it. Whenever they have spoken at all they have said this ; and they have said it on what has appeared good reason to them ; the marching of an army into the midst of a peaceful Mexican settlement, frightening the inhabitants away, leaving their growing crops and other property to destruction, to you may appear a perfectly amiable, peaceful, unprovoking pro­cedure j hut it does not appear so to us. So to call such an act, to us appears no other than a naked, impudent absurdity, and we speak of It accordingly. But if when the war had begun, and had "become the cause of the


chap. xv. country, the giving of our money and our blood, in com­mon with yours, was support of the war, then it is not true that we have always opposed the war. "With few individual exceptions, you have constantly had our votes here for all the necessary supplies. And, more than this, you have had the services, the blood, and the lives of our political brethren in every trial, and on every field. The beardless boy and the mature man, the humble and the distinguished,^ you have had them. Through suffering and death, by disease and in battle, they have endured and fought and fallen with you. Clay and Webster each gave a son, never to be returned. From the State of my own residence, besides other worthy but less-known "Whig names, we sent Marshall, Morrison, Baker, and Hardin 5 they all fought, and one fell, and in the fall of that one we lost our best Whig man. Nor were the Whigs few in number or laggard in the day of danger. In that fearful, bloody, breathless struggle at Buena Vista, where each man's hard task was to beat back five foes or die himself, of the five high officers who perished, four were Whigs.

There was no refuge for the Democrats after the Whigs had adopted Taylor as their especial hero, since Scott was also a Whig and an original op­ponent of the war. His victories, on account of the apparent ease with which they were gained, nave never received the credit justly due them. The student of military history will rarely meet with narratives of battles in any age where the actual operations coincide so exactly with the orders issued upon the eve of conflict, as in the official reports of the wonderfully energetic and successful campaign in which General Scott with a handful of men renewed the memory of the conquest of Cortes, in his triumphant march from Vera Cruz to the capital. The plan of the battle of Cerro Grordo was so fully carried out in action that the official report


is hardly more than the general orders translated chap. xv. from the future tense to the past. The story of Chapultepec has the same element of the marvelous in it. On one day the general commanded appar­ent impossibilities in the closest detail, and the next day reported that they had been accom­plished. These successes were not cheaply attained. The Mexicans, though deficient in science and in military intelligence, fought with bravery and sometimes with desperation. The enormous per­centage of loss in his army proves that Scott was engaged in no light work. He marched from Pueblo with about 10,000 men, and his losses in the basin of Mexico were 2703, of whom 383 were officers. But neither he nor Taylor was a favorite of the Administration, and their brilliant success brought no gain of popularity to Mr. Polk and his Cabinet.

During the early part of the session little was talked about except the Mexican war, its causes, its prosecution, and its probable results. In these wordy engagements the Whigs, partly for the reasons we have mentioned, partly through their unquestionable superiority in debate, and partly by virtue of their stronger cause, usually had the advantage. There was no distinct line of demarcation, however, between the two parties. There was hardly a vote, after the election of Mr. Winthrop as Speaker, where the two sides divided according to their partisan nomencla­ture. The question of slavery, even where its presence was not avowed, had its secret influence upon every trial of strength in Congress, and Southern Whigs were continually found sustaining


chap. xv. the President, and New England Democrats voting against his most cherished plans. Not even all the Democrats of the South could be relied on by the Administration. The most powerful leader of them all denounced with bitter earnestness the conduct of the war, for which he was greatly responsible. Mr. Calhoun, in an attack upon the President's policy, January 4, 1848, said: " I opposed the war, not only because it might have been easily avoided; not only because the President had no authority to order a part of the disputed territory in possession of the Mexicans to be occupied by our troops; not only because I believed the allegations upon which Congress sanctioned the war untrue, but from high considerations of policy; because I believed it would lead to many and serious evils to the country and greatly endanger its free institutions." It was probably not so much the free institutions of the country that the South Carolina Senator was disturbed about as some others. He perhaps felt that the friends of slavery had set in motion a train of events whose result was beyond their ken. Mr. Palfrey, of Massachusetts, a few days later said with as much sagacity as wit that " Mr. Calhoun thought that he could set fire to a barrel of gun­powder and extinguish it when half consumed." In his anxiety that the war should be brought to an end, Calhoun proposed that the United States army should evacuate the Mexican capital, establish a defensive line, and hold it as the only indemnity possible to us. He had no confidence in treaties, and believed that no Mexican government was capable of carrying one into effect. A few days

January is, ja^erj jn a runnjng debate, Mr. Calhoun made an

Share with your friends:
1   ...   22   23   24   25   26   27   28   29   ...   45

The database is protected by copyright © 2020
send message

    Main page