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their theoretical soundness might equal their subtilty, would be of the least avail here. To force seamen from the deck of a peaceful neutral vessel, pursuing a lawful commerce, and compel them to serve for an indefinite and hopeless period on board a foreign man-of-war, is an act of power and violence to which no nation will submit that is able to resist it. In the case of the United States and Great Britain, that community of language and resemblance in general appearance which may have been considered as palliating the most deplorable results of the exercise of this power, in reality constitute the strongest reason for its abandonment. The unquestionable danger that, with the best intentions, the boarding officer may mistake an American for an Englishman; the certainty that a reckless lieutenant, unmindful of consequences, but bent upon recruiting his ship on a remote foreign station, will pretend to believe that he is seizing the subjects of his own government, whatever may be the evidence to the contrary, are reasons of themselves for denying on the threshold the existence of a right exposed to such inevitable and intolerable abuse. These and other views of the subject are presented in Mr. Webster's letter to Lord Ashburton of the 8th of August, 1842, with a strength of reasoning and force of illustration not often equalled in a state paper. That letter was spoken of, in the hearing of the writer of this memoir, by one whose name, if it could be mentioned with propriety, would give the highest authority to the remark, as a composition not surpassed by any thing in the language. The principles laid down in 1t may be considered as incorporated into the public law of the United States, and will have their influence beyond our own territorial limits and beyond our own time. Some disappointment was probably felt, when the treaty of Washington was published, that a settlement of the Oregon question was not included among its provisions. It need not be said that a subject of such magnitude did not escape the attention of the negotiators. It was, however, speedily inferred by Mr. Webster, from the purport of his informal conferences with Lord Ashburton on this point, that an arrangement of this question was not then practicable, and that to attempt it would be to put the entire negotiation to great risk of failure. On the other hand, it was not less certain that, by closing up the other matters in controversy, the best preparation was made for bringing the Oregon dispute to an amicable issue, whenever circumstances should favor that undertaking. Considerable firmness was no doubt required to act upon this policy, and to forego the attempt, at least, to settle a question rapidly growing into the most formidable magnitude. It is unnecessary to say how completely the course adopted has been justified by the event.
We have in the preceding remarks confined ourselves to the topics connected with the treaty of Washington. But other subjects of great importance connected with the foreign affairs of the country engaged the attention of Mr. Webster as Secretary of State. The first of these pertained to our controversies with Mexico, and was treated in a letter to M. de Bocanegra, the Mexican Secretary of State and Foreign Relations. The great and unexpected changes which have taken place in that quarter since the date of this correspondence will not impair the interest with which it will be read. It throws important light on the earlier stages of our controversy with that ill-advised and infatuated government. Among the papers in this part of the volume are those which relate to the Santa Fé prisoners and Captain Jones's attack on Monterey. Under the head of “Relations with Spain” will be found a correspondence of great interest between the Chevalier d'Argaiz, the representative of that government, and Mr. Webster, on the subject of the “Amistad.” The pertinacity with which this matter was pursued by Spain, after its adjudication by the Supreme Court of the United States, furnishes an instructive commentary upon the sincerity of that government in its measures for the abolition of the slave-trade. The entire merits of this important and extraordinary case are condensed in Mr. Webster's letters of the 1st of September, 1841, and 21st of June, 1842. Of still greater interest are the institution of the mission to China, and the steps which led to the establishment of the independence of the Sandwich Islands. The sixth volume of this collection contains the instructions given to Mr. Cushing as commissioner to China, and the correspondence between Mr. Webster and Messrs. Richards and Haalilio on behalf of the Sandwich Islands. At any period less crowded with important events the opening of diplomatic relations with China, and the conclusion of a treaty of commerce with that power, would have been deemed occurrences of unusual importance. It certainly reflects great credit on the administration, that it acted with such promptitude and efficiency in seizing this opportunity of multiplying avenues of commercial intercourse. Nor is less praise due to the energy and skill of the negotiator," to whom this novel and important undertaking was confided, and who was able to embark from China, on his return homeward, in six months after his arrival, having in the mean time satisfactorily concluded the treaty. The application of the representatives of the Sandwich Islands to the government of the United States, and the countenance extended to them at Washington, exercised a most salutary and seasonable influence over the destiny of those islands. The British government was promptly made aware of the course pursued by the United States, and was no doubt led, in a considerable degree, by this circumstance, to promise the Hawaiian delegates, on the part of England, to respect the independent neutrality of their government. In the mean time, the British admiral on that station had taken provisional possession of them on behalf of his government, in anticipation of a similar movement which was expected on the part of France. If intelligence of this occurrence had been received in London before the promise above alluded to was given by Lord Aberdeen to Messrs. Richards and Haalilio, it is not impossible that Great Britain might have felt herself warranted in retaining the protectorate of the Hawaiian Islands as an offset for the occupation of Tahiti by the French. As it was, the temporary arrangement of the British admiral was disavowed, and the government restored to the native chief. Among the papers contained in the sixth volume will be found a correspondence between Mr. Webster and the Portuguese Minister, on the subject of duties on Portuguese wines, and a report of great importance on the Sound duties and the Zoll-Verein, topics to which the recent changes in the Germanic system will henceforward impart a greatly increased importance.
This brief enumeration will of itself sufficiently show the extensive range of the subjects to which the attention of Mr. Webster was called, during the two years for which he filled the Department of State.
The published correspondence probably forms but a small portion of the official labors of the Department of State for the period during which it was filled by Mr. Webster. They consti- . tute, nevertheless, the most important part of the documentary record of a period of official service, brief, indeed, but as beneficial to the country as any of which the memory is preserved in her anmals. The administration of General Harrison found the United States, in the spring of 1841, on the verge of a war, not with a feeble Spanish province, scarcely capable of a respectable resistance, but with the most powerful government on earth. The conduct of our foreign relations was intrusted to Mr. Webster, as Secretary of State, and in the two years during which he filled that office controversies of fifty years' standing were terminated, new causes of quarrel that sprung up like hydra's heads were settled, and peace was preserved upon honorable terms. The British government, fresh from the conquest of China, perhaps never felt itself stronger than in the year 1842, and a full share of credit is due to the spirit of conciliation which swayed its counsels. Much is due to the wise and amiable minister who was despatched from England on the holy errand of peace; much to the patriotism of the Senate of the United States, who confirmed the treaty of Washington by a larger majority than ever before sustained a measure of this kind which divided public opinion; but the first meed of praise is unquestionably due to the American negotiator. Let the just measure of that praise be estimated, by reflecting what would have been our condition during the last few years, if, instead of, or in addition to, the war with Mexico, we had been involved in a war with Great Britain.
Mr. Webster resigns his Place in Mr. Tyler's Cabinet. — Attempts to draw public Attention to the projected Annexation of Texas. – Supports Mr. Clay's Nomina. tion for the Presidency. — Causes of the Failure of that Nomination.— Mr. Webster returns to the Senate of the United States. – Admission of Texas to the Union. — The War with Mexico. — Mr. Webster's Course in Reference to the War. — Death of Major Webster in Mexico.— Mr. Webster's unfavorable Opinion of the Mexican Government. — Settlement of the Oregon Controversy.— Mr. Webster's Agency in effecting the Adjustment. — Revival of the Sub-Treasury System and Repeal of the Tariff Law of 1842. — Southern Tour. — Success of the Mexican War and Acquisition of the Mexican Provinces.— Efforts in Congress to organ ize a Territorial Government for these Provinces. – Great Exertions of Mr. Webster on the last Night of the Session.—Nomination of General Taylor, and Course of Mr. Webster in Reference to it. — A Constitution of State Government adopted by California prohibiting Slavery. — Increase of Antislavery Agitation. — Alarming State of Affairs. — Mr. Webster's Speech for the Union.—Circumstances under which it was made, and Motives by which he was influenced. — General Taylor's Death, and the Accession of Mr. Fillmore to the Presidency.— Mr. Webster called to the Department of State.
Mr. WEBstER remained in the Department of State but a little over two years. His last act was the preparation of the instructions of Mr. Cushing, who had been appointed Commissioner to China. Difficulties had occurred the summer before, between President Tyler and some of the members of his Cabinet, and all of those gentlemen, with the exception of Mr. Webster, tendered their resignations, which were accepted. Hard thoughts were entertained of Mr. Webster in some quarters for continuing to hold his seat after the resignation of his colleagues. President Tyler, however, had in no degree withdrawn his confidence from Mr. Webster in reference to the foreign affairs of the country, nor interfered with the administration of his department, and Mr. Webster conceived that the interests involved in his remaining at his post were far too important to be sacrificed to punctilio. His own sense of duty in this respect was confirmed by the unanimous counsel of the Massachusetts delegation in Congress, and by judicious friends in all parts of the country. In fact, it will be remembered that when difficulties sprung up between Mr. Tyler and the Whig party in Congress, in 1842, the Whig press generally throughout the country called upon the members of the Cabi