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when a civilized nation pauses in its career of productive exertions, and, turning its art, its science, its strength of hand and head, its natural activity, from their creative work, seeks to destroy the property of its sister State, to burn her towns, to butcher her men, and with the soldier's invading foot pollute her soil — it is a serious and a dreadful thing. Sober men look for the cause of such madness. The physical evil is monstrous - the waste of property, the havoc of life. But this is the smallest part of the mischief. The savage spirit excited in the soldier, which he carries home to his village; the hunger after booty, the thirst of blood, which successful war wakens in the conqueror's throat; the desire of revenge which defeat kindles in the heart of the discomfited, -these long retard the progress of mankind. Take the foremost of civilized nations: the mass of men have not yet forgotten the savage; the thin garment of civilization is easily torn asunder and stripped off; you break the skin of the gentleman and behold a cannibal; the peasant of England or France becomes the fierce Saxon, or the savage Gaul, whose deeds you shudder to think of.
Every war in this age retards the progress of mankind. The United States, having outgrown their mother, refused her burthens, resisted her stripes, and at last separated from her, after a long and hearty quarrel. The effects of that quarrel still survive, and centuries of peace will hardly remove the jealousy and hatred felt by the most ignorant men of both nations, as well as by their political leaders. If two countries are united by a war, as Poland and Russia, the spirit of intense and national hatred remains yet longer, and is still more violent.
It is a great wrong for a powerful and civilized people to attack a nation that is barbarous and feeble. The indignation of honest statesmen is justly aroused against France for her conduct towards Algiers. Doubtless she had her provocations, but between the Weak and the Strong every body knows where the provocation commonly begins. The old fable of the wolf and the lamb is not likely to be forgotten. The conduct of England towards the various nations in India, towards China, towards Ireland — fills the world with indignation. The history of her achievements in Asia is the history of her shame. Honest men in England know it as well as we. Austria is powerful and Rome is weak; the emperor is of the middle ages, while the new pope is a son of the nineteenth century, and of course a reformer. He loves his church, loves his people, loves mankind; founds institutions which the Austrian despot cannot relish, or even tolerate ; which endanger the “ peculiar institutions” of that despotic monarch. The middle ages and the nineteenth century are mutually hostile. Institutions which ought to be separated by hundreds of years quarrel at first touch. If Ferdinand should therefore invade the States of the Church, attempting to re-annex the March of Ancona to his possessions in Lombardy — the advance from Ferrara to Bologna would raise a cry of shame in every country of Europe, and find a manly echo even in America. Justice takes sides with the party most in the right; Humanity against the strong oppressor.
The present war against Mexico is entitled to a serious examination. The Mexicans are few, poor, weak, half-civilized ; they lack the elements which give a people strength. They have no national unity of action. Imitating the example of the United States, they separated from the mother country, and tried the experiment of a liberal constitution. They have been in a quarrel among themselves ever since, and have perhaps shown themselves unfit for a republican government. The people cannot go alone ; they are weak, distracted, inefficient, but possessed of a wide and rich territory, valuable and attractive. The Americans are numerous, patriotic, enterprising, hardy, united, and of course powerful, — the most energetic and executive nation ever developed on the earth. Besides this, they have established a form of government which harmoniously balances individual freedom with national unity of action; a government which of all others is the best fitted to develop energy, hardihood, and enterprise ; one most powerful of all to direct and animate a conquering army. We know this is not the common opinion, but the military man who is also a statesman, and familiar with the history of States — if such a military man can be found amongst us will see the truth of this judgment.
The strong nation is at war with the weak. America has the example of France and England to sustain her, and other examples not quite so reputable, but which shall presently be cited. No doubt the English nation — we mean the portion thereof who trade in politics, on the one extreme, and, on the other, the brute portion of the people — would justify the American invasion of Mexico ; would think more highly of
us for the undertaking, and the success of it. It is plainly following the example of England herself - a copy of her treatment of the Irishman and the East Indian. Here, too, the men who trade in politics and the brute portion of the people like the war. It matters not which party they belong to ; they call it patriotic ; they go for the country however bounded, and the country right or wrong. Before such men we lay our finger on our lips, and say nothing. Let Time teach them.
But there is another body of men in all lands, and powerful in this -- Philosophers, Economists, Philanthropists, who are not satisfied with a war merely because they are engaged in it; who think it no better because waged against a miserable opponent, or because it is fought by their own country ; who know that successful wrong is no better than when defeated. To such men it is necessary to offer a reason for disturbing the peace of the continent. The President of the United States, in his message at the opening of the second session of the last Congress, has himself undertaken to justify the
In his statement there is a certain doubleness of purpose quite apparent. He makes a special plea, with a com
. pound issue, thus : — The Mexicans began the war, and we acted only on the defensive ; but then there were a great many reasons why we might ourselves have begun the war, without waiting for the Mexicans to take the initiative. Thus is he doubly armed. If the major weapon of argument fail and it is shown that the Mexicans did not commence the war
- then he holds fast by the minor, that we had a just reason for beginning it ourselves. But let us examine this matter more nicely. We extract from Mr. Polk's message of Dec. 8th, 1846.
The italics are our own.
“ Such has been our scrupulous adherence to the dictates of justice, in all our foreign intercourse, that we have given no just cause of complaint to any nation, and have enjoyed the blessings
for more than thirty years. From a policy so sacred to humanity we should never be induced voluntarily to depart.” But “ Mexico commenced hostilities, and forced the war upon us.” — p. 3.
But even if it were not so, “ long before the advance of our army to the left bank of the Rio Grande, we had ample cause of war against Mexico.” But some, he adds, have represented the war “ as unjust and unnecessary, and as one of aggression on our part upon a weak and injured enemy. Such erroneous views,
though entertained by but few, have been widely and extensively circulated, not only at home, but have been spread throughout Mexico and the whole world. A more effectual means could not have been devised to encourage the enemy and protract the war, than to advocate and adhere to their cause, and thus give them aid and comfort."" - p. 4.
This reminds us of what George III. said to the lord mayor of London, in 1775. “It is with the utmost astonishment that I find any of my subjects capable of encouraging the rebellious disposition that unhappily exists in some of my col. onies in North America." Some of the subjects, however, did continue to advocate and adhere to the cause of the rebels, affording them aid and comfort. The king thought it was moral treason, a protracting of the war. They had truth and justice on their side, and against them - King George
, the third.
Mr. Polk proceeds to state the case of America against Mexico. The Americans had suffered many grievances from the Mexicans. “The wrongs we have suffered from Mexico, almost ever since she became an independent power, and the patient endurance with which we have borne them, are without a parallel in the history of modern civilized nations.' Soon after her independence, she commenced " a system of insult and spoliation ;" our citizens employed in lawful commerce were imprisoned, their vessels seized, our flag insulted in her ports." Change of rulers brought no change in this system, continues the President ; the American government made repeated reclamations, which were followed only by new outrages ; promises of redress were postponed or evaded. The commercial treaty of 1831 produced no change. In 1837, General Jackson declared that such conduct " would justify in all nations immediate war.” Yet he thought we should give Mexico one more opportunity to atone for the past before we resorted to war. Accordingly, negotiations were entered into in 1837, and the Mexican government promised to do all which reason or justice required. This was in July, but in December the promise had not been fulfilled. Mr. Polk distinctly declares, “ had the United States at that time adopted compulsory measures and taken redress into their own hands, all our difficulties with Mexico would probably have been long since adjusted, and the existing war have been avoided." - p. 7.
This is a plain statement. But if the Mexicans began the war in 1846, because the Americans annexed Texas, we cannot see how any one act of the Americans in 1837 could have prevented it, unless indeed Mexico had been so weakened as to be unable to wage a war ! But the President does not see that he is tacitly admitting that the Mexicans did not begin this war, all of whose causes we are to seek previous to 1837. A compound issue is a difficult one to plead. We beg the reader to notice that the President admits that the causes of the Mexican war - the seizure of American property and men, insults to our flag - are all anterior to the year 1837, and might have been disposed of then, if we had then sought redress in the usual way — by war. Of course all that has occurred since can be but accessory after the fact !
But a new negotiation was begun ; the convention of April 12th, 1839, took place --- this was the first convention. In August, 1810, a Board of Commissioners, with powers limited to eighteen months, was organized to adjust the claims of American citizens against Mexico. An umpire, appointed by the king of Prussia, came to assist in the work. The Board allowed American claims to the amount of $2,026,139. 68; the American commissioners allowed also $928,627.88, which the Mexican commissioners had not time to examine. Thus there was a total of 82,954,767.56, which the American commissioners demanded of Mexico. Other claims, amounting to $3,336,837.05, were also presented, which the American commissioners had not decided upon when their period of service came to an end. Mexico acknowledged her obligation to pay the $2,026,139.68, but, unable to pay immediately, asked for more time.
A second convention took place January 30th, 1843, and in agreement was made that the interest due on the acknowledged claims should be paid on the 30th of the next April, and the residue of principal and interest in twenty instalments, one payable each three months. The interest was paid and three of the instalments, as they severally became due, though we are told, such was the poverty of the Mexican government, that some of the money could only be raised by forced loans.
On the 20th of November, 1843, a third convention was concluded upon by the Mexican government, for the purpose of ascertaining and settling all other claims not previously
* The character of these claims and the gross imposture of many of the claimants were well exposed by Mr. J. S. Pendleton, a member from Virginia, in a speech, Feb. 22, 1847.