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[188] acquisition of hitherto Mexican territory beyond that river, might be secured. He accordingly (August 8) sent a Special Message to Congress, asking that a considerable sum be placed at his disposal for these purposes. A bill was immediately reported and considered in Committee of the Whole, making appropriations of $30,000 for expenses of negotiations, and $2,000,000, to be used at the discretion of the President, in making such a treaty. This bill seemed on the point of passing through all its stages without serious opposition.

But what should be the Social or Labor system of the territories about to be acquired? This question could be no longer postponed nor evaded. Hitherto, Slavery had entered upon each succeeding struggle for a new territory with the great advantage of prior possession. Virginia, which claimed the ownership of most of the territory North-west of the Ohio, and between that river and the Mississippi, was a Slave State, and her outlying territories, it might fairly be argued, inherited her domestic institutions; Alabama and Mississippi were, in like manner, constructively slaveholding at the outset, by virtue of the laws of North Carolina and Georgia, from which States they were cut off. Louisiana (including Missouri) had come to us slaveholding from France; so had Florida from Spain; while Texas had been colonized and revolutionized mainly by Southerners, who imprinted on her their darling “institution” before we had any voice in the matter. In the case of each, it had been plausibly and successfully contended that their Slavery was no concern of ours — that it was established and legalized before we were empowered to speak in the matter, and must be upheld until those more immediately interested should see fit to abolish it. This consideration had prevailed even in the recent instance of Texas, where all partition had been refused, all real compromise scouted, on the assumption that Slavery was already in possession, and did not care to divide what was wholly its own.

The case was now decidedly altered. Mexico had utterly abolished Slavery some twenty years before; and every acre that she should cede to us beyond the Rio Grande would come to us free soil. Should it so remain, or be surrendered to the domination and uses of Slavery? It was well known that Mr. Calhoun had elaborated a new dogma adapted to the exigency, whereby the Federal Constitution was held to carry Slavery into every rood of Federal territory whence it was not excluded by positive law. In other words, every citizen of any State had a constitutional right to migrate into any territory of the Union, carrying with him whatever the law of his own State recognized as property; and this must, therefore, be guarded and defended as his property by the Federal authorities of and within said territory. Should this view not be precluded by some decided protest, some positive action, it was morally certain that President Polk, with every successor of like faith, would adopt it, and that the vast and, as yet. nearly unpeopled regions about to be acquired from Mexico would thus be added to the already spacious dominions of the Slave Power.

There was a hasty consultation, in

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James K. Polk (1)
John C. Calhoun (1)
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