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I said that the bill would justify a revolution and would produce it; I spoke of its principle and its practical consequences. To this principle and those consequences, I would call the attention of this House and nation. If it be about to introduce a condition of things, absolutely insupportable, it becomes wise and honest men, to anticipate the evil; and to warn and prepare the people against the event. I have no hesitation on the subject. The extension of this principle to the states, contemplated beyond the Mississippi, cannot, will not, and ought not to be borne. And the sooner the people contemplate the unavoidable result, the better; the more likely that convulsions may be prevented; the more hope that the evils may be palliated or removed.
Mr. Speaker, what is this liberty of which so much is said? Is it to walk about this earth, to breathe this air, and to partake the common blessings of God's providence? The beasts of the field and the birds of the air unite, with us, in such privileges as these. But man boasts a purer and more ethereal temperature. His mind grasps in its view the past and future, as well as the present. We live not for ourselves alone. That, which we call liberty, is that principle, on which the essential security of our political condition depends. It results from the limitations of our political system, prescribed in the constitution. These limitations, so long as they are faithfully observed, maintain order, peace and safety. When they are violated, in essential particulars, all the concurrent spheres of authority rush against each other; and disorder, derangement and convulsion are, sooner or later, the necessary consequences.
With respect to this love of our union, concerning which so much sensibility is expressed, I have no fear about analyzing its nature. There is in it nothing of mystery. It depends upon the qualities of that union, and it results from its effects upon our, and our country's happiness. It is valued for “ that sober certainty
of waking bliss,” which it enables us to realize. It grows out of the affections; and has not, and cannot be made to have, any thing universal in its nature. Sir, I confess it, the first public love of my heart is the commonwealth of Massachusetts. There is my fireside; there are the tombs of my ancestors
“ Low lies that land, yet blest with fruitful stores,
The love of this union grows out of this attachment to my
native soil, and is rooted in it. I cherish it, because it affords the best external hope of her peace, her prosperity, her independence. I oppose this bill from no animosity to the people of New Orleans; but from the deep conviction that it contains a principle, incompatible with the liberties and safety of my country. I have no concealment of my opinion. The bill, if it passes, is a death-blow to the constitution. It may, afterwards, linger; but lingering, its fate will, at no very distant period, be consummated.
SPEECH OF GEORGE POINDEXTER,
DELIVERED IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE
UNITED STATES, JANUARY 14, 1811,
On the passage of the bill to enable the people of the territory of
Orleans, to form a constitution and state government; and for the admission of such state into the union.
MR. SPEAKER, It is with extreme reluctance that I claim the indulgence of the House, to participate in the discussion of the subject now under consideration. I should deem it, not only useless, but inexcusable to trespass on your time, and delay the final question on the passage of the bill before you, but for the novel and extraordinary aspect which has been given to the debate by an honorable gentleman from Massachusetts, (Mr. Quincy.) The tendency of the remarks, made by that gentleman, is manifestly hostile to the best interests of the nation, and calculated to excite, so far as their influence extends, a spirit of revolt among the people of the United States. I cannot, therefore, forbear to enter my protest, in the only form* constitutionally provided for the peculiar situation which I occupy on this floor, against the establishment of principles fraught with such disastrous consequences. But, sir, as various objections have been made to the passage of the bill, and as I profess to be friendly to its general objects, I shall endeavor to give some of these objections a concise examination, before I proceed to notice the observations of the gentleman from Massachusetts.
* Mr. Poindexter was a delegate, and consequently could net vote, although he could participate in the debate.--COMPILER.
[Mr. Poindexter here replied to numerous arguments which had been urged against the passage of the bill; after which, he proceeded as follows.]
Permit me, now, sir, to call the attention of the House to the argument of the gentleman from Massachusetts. We are told by that gentleman, that the provisions of this bill are in direct hostility to the constitution, and materially affect the rights and liberties of the whole people of the United States. That the creation of new states or “ political sovereignties” without the original limits of the United States, is a usurpation of power not warranted by a sound construction of the constitution. In the consideration of this subject, two questions arise; first, whether the United States can acquire foreign territory, and by what means; and whether the territory so acquired can be admitted into the union as an independent state? By the fourth article of the constitution, Congress are authorized, “ to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory of the United States.” This provision contains an express recognition of the right, not only to possess territory, but to dispose of and regulate it in any manner which Congress may think consistent with the general good. If, then, the power to hold territory, and to regulate it without limitation, is expressly given to the general government, the right to acquire it follows as an indispensable attribute of sovereignty. And this opinion is supported by the enumeration of powers given to Congress in the constitution. A nation can extend its territorial limits either by conquest or treaty. If in the prosecution of a just and legitimate war, or by a fair and bona fide contract, one nation acquires the possession of territory which originally belonged to another, it becomes incorporated with the domain of the power to whom it is thus transferred, and cannot be distinguished from any other portion of territory over which the sovereign authority of the nation extends.
By the eighth section of the first article of the con
stitution, the power is given to Congress "to declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water;" and by the second section of the second article, the President, by and with the advice and consent of the senate, is vested with power “ to make treaties, provided two thirds of the senators present concur.” From these grants of power in the constitution, it is manifest that the United States can, without a violation of that instrument, acquire and hold foreign territory. The authority to dispose of and the means of acquiring territory, being exclusively confided to the general government, and prohibited to the states, it would require clear and distinct negative expressions to confine that power within any particular geographical limits. The constitution contains no prohibition of the right to acquire territory, either by war or compact, but the latter alternative has been adopted by this government, whose policy is founded in justice, and whose object is peace.
Having shown that the United States possess, constitutionally, the power and the means of obtaining foreign territory, the only point which remains to be discussed is, whether new states may be created without the ancient limits of the United States. In the investigation of this part of the subject, it will be proper to take a cursory view of the treaty-making power, and of the convention between the United States and France, of the 30th of April, 1803 It is a universal principle in all governments, whether their form be despotic or free, to vest the chief executive magistrate, in some shape or other, with the sole power of entering in. to pacts, treaties and conventions with foreign nations; and although the concurrence of co-ordinate departments of the government may be necessary to give validity to the act of the executive, in no instance can a treaty be formed without his assent. The national security against the abuse of this power, consists in the solicitude which each feels to make the best bar