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THE QUESTIONS OF SEARCH AND IMPRESSMENT.
jects unexpectedly came up for discussion. One was the CHAP.
L. right assumed by British cruisers to visit, and if necessary search, merchant vessels belonging to other nations. In a 1842. letter to the American minister at London, and designed for the English secretary of Foreign Affairs, Webster denied the “right," and sustained his opinions against its exercise by arguments that have not yet been invalidated.
The other subject was the impressment of seamen by British cruisers from American merchant vessels. letter to Lord Ashburton the Secretary of State assumed that it did not comport with the self-respect of the United States to enter into stipulations in relation to the right of impressment ; as if for a moment the existence of such a right could be admitted. On the contrary-that the exercise of impressment should be deemed an aggression and repelled as such. In an able and conciliatory discussion he pointed out the inconsistency of such a right with the laws of nations. Yet in the happiest language expressed the desire that for the welfare of both countries, all occasions of irritation should be removed. He announced as the basis of the policy of the United States : “Every merchant-vessel on the high seas is rightfully considered as a part of the territory of the country to which it belongs ;” that "in every regularly documented American merchant-vessel the crew who navigate it will find their protection in the flag which is over them," and that "the American Government, then, is prepared to say that the practice of impressing seamen from American vessels cannot hereafter be allowed to take place.” In the same just and conciliatory spirit was the reply of Lord Ashburton.
An apology was impliedly given for the invasion of the territory of the United States in the "affair of the Caroline.” The negotiators conferred informally upon the subject of the northern boundary of Oregon, but for the
CHAP. present agreed to postpone its settlement. The treaty of
Washington marks an important era in our history :—the 1812. time when the United States took that position among
the nations, to which they were entitled by their power and influence. Four years after, Webster said on the floor of the Senate :-“I am willing to appeal to the public men of the age, whether, in 1842, and in the city of Washington, something was not done for the suppression of crime, for the true exposition of public law, for the freedom and security of commerce on the ocean, and for the peace of the world ? ”
The government had not been forgetful of the ad
vancement of science. It sent out an exploring expedi1838. tion, under Lieutenant Charles Wilkes of the United
States navy, accompanied by a corps of scientific men, to make discoveries in the Antarctic and Pacific oceans.
After four years it returned bringing the results of inves1842. tigations in Natural History, not valuable to our own
country alone, but to the world. It sailed ninety thousand miles, seventeen hundred of which were along the coast of a great Antarctic Continent never seen before by civilized man.
The four years of this administration was a period fruitful in measures, destined, in their remote consequences, to have a varied and almost unlimited influence upon the nation. A more important question never came before the Houses of Congress, than when the young Republic of Texas presented herself at their doors, and asked to be annexed to the Union. She came offering a fertile territory almost sufficient in extent to make five such States as Pennsylvania or New York. The “annexation,” led to the Mexican war, and that in turn to the acquisition of California.
The region known as Texas had been claimed, but on doubtful grounds, as a part of the already purchased ter
MOSES AUSTIN-IMMIGRATION TO TEXAS.
ritory of Louisiana. This claim was, however, waived, and CHAP. when Florida was obtained Texas was tacitly admitted to belong to Spain, and when Mexico revolted from the 1842. mother country, she became one of the confederated States which formed the Mexican republic.
The American who originated the plan of colonizing Texas, was Moses Austin, a native of Durham, Connecticut. He was engaged in working the lead mines in upper Louisiana, when, in his explorations, he became acquainted with the fertile soil and delightful climate of Texas. The Spanish Government encouraged immigration to that part of the Mexican territory, and it gave Austin large grants of land, on condition that he would 1813. introduce as colonists three hundred Catholic families from Louisiana. Within a month after these arrangements were completed, Austin himself died, but appointed his son Stephen F. Austin to superintend the planting of the colony according to the agreement with the Spanish government. To his energy and perseverance may be attributed the success of the enterprise.
Little was known at Mexico of what was in progress in that remote region. The Americans, attracted by the liberal grants of land and the fine climate, were pouring in. In a few years they numbered twenty thousand, very 1830. few of whom were Catholics, nor did they all come from Louisiana, but from the other Southern and Western States.
Meantime in Mexico other great changes were in progress. First came the revolution by which she declared 1821. herself no longer under the jurisdiction of Spain. This was succeeded by a confederation of States. In that unhappy country one revolution succeeded another in rapid succession, till finally, Santa Anna, overthrowing the existing republic, made himself dictator and tyrant of the people. During this time the Texans did not revolt, nor
CHAP. did they acquiesce. They formed a constitution, and
sent Austin to Mexico to ask admission into the con1835. federacy of the republic as a State. This request was de
nied, and their messenger thrown into prison. Still Texas retained her State officers, and asked that her rights might be respected ; when an armed Mexican vessel appeared off the coast, and proclaimed that her ports were blockaded ; near the same time a Mexican army appeared on her western borders, with the intention of arresting her State officers, and disarming the inhabitants.
much easier to demand the Texan rifles than to get them. Sept. The attempt was made at a place named Gonzales, where
the Mexicans met with a severe repulse. The Texans, though few in number, flew to arms throughout the entire country, and in a few months drove the invaders from their soil, and captured and garrisoned the strong forts of the Goliad and the mission house of Alamo. Thus they manfully resisted the designs of Santa Anna to make them submit to his usurped authority, and the struggle commenced for their rights, their liberties and their lives.
There were no bonds of sympathy between the Texans and Mexicans : neither in religion nor in customs, nor in form of government. The Texan despised the Mexican,
and the Mexican hated and feared the Texan. 1836. Six months after these reverses Santa Anna invaded
Texas with a numerous army. The character of the war he intended to wage may be inferred from his cruel orders to shoot every prisoner taken. The Alamo was invested by Santa Anna himself. The garrison numbered only one hundred and eighty men, while their enemies were as sixteen to their one. When summoned to surrender, they, knowing the treacherous character of the Mexican Chief, refused. The latter immediately raised the blood-red flag, to indicate that he would give no quarter. After repulsing
the besiegers several times, the Texans, worn out with Mar. 6. watchings and labors, were overcome, and when calling for
DAVY CROCKET-PRISONERS MURDERED.
quarter the survivors-only seven-were mercilessly CHAP. butchered.
Here, surrounded by the bodies of Mexicans who had 1836. fallen by his hand, perished the eccentric Davy Crocket. Born on the frontiers of Tennessee, his only education was that received during two months in a common school. Though singular in his mental characteristics, his strong common sense and undaunted spirit, won him the respect of his fellow-citizens, and they sent him several times to represent them in Congress. When he heard of the struggle in which the people of Texas were engaged, he hastened to their aid, and with untiring energy devoted himself to their cause.
At Goliad the little garrison defended themselves with unexampled bravery ; not until their resources failed, their ammunition exhausted, and famine was staring them in the face, did they accept the terms offered by the Mexican in command, and surrendered. Their lives were to be spared, and they aided to leave the country. Other small parties of Texans in different places had been surprised and taken prisoners. The following night a courier arrived from Santa Anna, bringing orders to put the prisoners to death the next morning.
They were marched in little companies outside the town, and there shot; those attempting to escape were cut down by the cavalry. The wounded prisoners were then murdered in the same cruel manner; among the wounded who thus suffered, was Colonel Fanning, their commander. Thus perished three hundred and thirty men, the last words of some of whom were cheers for the liberty of Texas.
ATexan physician, Dr. Grant, was among the prisoners, but his life was spared on condition that he would attend the wounded Mexican soldiers. also promised that he should have a passport to leave the country as soon as they needed his services no more. He