BC Historical Books

BC Historical Books

BC Historical Books

Oregon. The cost, and the consequences Disciple of the Washington School 1846

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&C. &C.
An unjustifiable impression exists throughout Europe, in Great
Britain especially, that the extraordinary desire displayed by the
people of the United States for the extension of the national domain, is demonstrative of a cupidity for land, as selfish as insatiable.
It is undeniable, that a majority of our citizens, consisting in no
small proportion of naturalized Europeans, appear to be desirous
of every possible acquisition of territory; although, in proportion
to number, there is more land accessible here to enterprising industry, than ever before was at the command of a civilized nation.
Nevertheless, nothing is farther from the truth than the inference,
that the people of this Union covet territory to an extent far beyond that which they can themselves profitably employ, in order
to prevent the settlement of it by foreigners.
Let any European who questions this allegation, give attention
to this glaring fact, that whatever territory may be acquired by
his brethren on this side of the Atlantic, is no more for the benefit
of them and their posterity, than for him and his posterity.
Never were the words of Virgil "sic vos non vobis" (thus you
not for yourselves), as exemplified in the nest-buiJding fowl, the
honey-making bee, the wool-bearing sheep, or plough-drawing
oxen, more completely carried out, than in the exertions, sufferings, and sacrifices, which the present inhabitants of the United
States are disposed to make for territorial aggrandizement. The
acquisitions thus sought, are held less for their own benefit than for
that of settlers who may come from any part of the globe. But,
in particular, let any native of the British Isles keep in mind, that
although all men from all corners of the earth are invited to parti-
•I cipate freely in our territorial affluence, none can have facilities so
great, as those who speak the language of the people among whom
a new abode is sought, and whose education and habits are the
least of a nature to keep up the idea that they are foreigners.
Evidently the present population of the United States proper
can have no motive for acquiring more land; since, whatever may
he nominally acquired, will be for the benefit of all the rest of
Christendom, no less than for themselves. We should fight for
possessions for the posterity of the English, Scotch, and Irish, of
which the British armies consist; nay, even for the soldiers composing those armies, who, like many of the Hessians brought here
during the Revolutionary war, might find a home in the country
which they would cross the Atlantic to subdue, preferable to that
afforded by their native soil.
The author neither joins with his countrymen in their avidity for land, nor in the philanthropy which would make our
acquisitions as beneficial to our adversaries as ourselves. He
cannot help considering it as extremely unreasonable that the
American people should pour out their blood and treasure for
territory to be held in trust for the benefit of mankind in general, themselves and the aborigines, the only rightful owners, excepted.
Having shown that the expansion of the domain of this confederacy is less for the benefit of the actual population which it
comprises, than for that of their adversary, let us, in the next
place, consider how far this territorial enlargement is consistent
with the endurance of the present much approved form of the national government.
The ruling party is mainly indebted for its ascendancy to its
professions of superior zeal for a republican representative government, acting as immediately as possible in obedience to instructions from constituents. Under these circumstances, does it not
become them to consider how far the gigantic dimensions to which
it is proposed to swell this republic, will comport with a competent, representation of the voice of the people; when in the course
of a century, or a century and an half, the population of the vast
territory which it is now contemplated to bring under the national
dominion, shall be augmented agreeably to the geometric ratio
which it obeys agreeably to experience.
It has been ascertained, that the population in the United States
doubles every twenty-three years.    Nothing but a diminution of m*.
the supply of the necessaries of life can cause this rate of increase
to decline; and of course, should there be no such diminution, it
will not be long before the territory in question will become as
replete with inhabitants as the more populous countries of the old
Supposing the population, within the boundaries contemplated,
to reach twenty millions in the year 1850, and that the period
requisite to its duplication will be twenty-five years, it would follow, that in the year 1875, the population will be forty millions;
in 1900, eighty millions; in 1925, one hundred and sixty millions;
in 1950, three hundred and twenty millions; in 1975, six hundred
and forty millions; and in 2000, a little more than one hundred
and fifty years hence, twelve hundred and eighty millions.
But even at the close of the present century, eighty millions,
the number of inhabitants which will then exist, would be too
large for adequate representation, since the ratio of the voters to
the representatives must be five times as great as at present, in
order to have a commensurate efficiency. If, at present, there
can be only one to fifty thousand, there could then only be one to
two hundred and fifty thousand voters. At the close of the second
century, it would be at least sixty-four times as great as at present,
or twelve hundred thousand. Is it conceivable that such a population can all be well represented, and controlled by one great congressional legislature ? The difficulty, as respects the Executive
or judiciary, would not be less.
It has been admitted, that the increase of population on which
these inferences are founded, would require the means of subsistence to augment proportionally with the people. But should the
supposition that food will become so scarce as to check the multiplication of souls, be deemed more reasonable, it should be considered whether there will not proportionally be a greater impediment to the competency of republican government, arising from
the greater temptation to crime consequent upon greater need;
and whether the number capable of paying for the advantages of
education becoming comparatively less, there will not be a larger
number incapable of judging for themselves, and liable to be deceived by demagogues.
To allege that it is not our duty to consider the consequences
of our measures to those who may succeed us, is to concede the
impolicy of any effort to get more land than is now necessary to
our welfare, in order that it may be enjoyed by posterity.
It has been said, that nobody looks to the consequences of their 6
measures so long ahead. But how ignoble would the policy of
any statesman appear in the historical page, who should prefer a
nominal territorial aggrandizement, to the endurance of the nation
and the democratic institutions confided to their management: of
whom the ambition as respects space, should be boundless, and
yet so narrow as respects futurity? Within a term less than that
which has elapsed since the Pilgrims stept upon the Plymouth
rock, or Penn made his treaty at Kensington, shall the sovereign
members of our present confederacy, including, of course, the
"old thirteen/' play a subordinate part in a great, unwieldy multitude of several hundred millions of souls?
It will be perceived, that in the dispute respecting Oregon, each
government has taken a course in opposition to the true interest
of the people over which it presides. On the one hand, the American government is endeavouring to promote the transfer of labour, of which the United States are deficient, to a region more
remote than Europe, and at great sacrifices to open an asylum for
an excess of British population, which can neither be well fed nor
well managed at home. On the other hand, the government of
Great Britain rejects the proffered service, preferring to extend
her North American colonial possessions, already a source of bur-
thensome expense.
Meanwhile, neither party seems sufficiently aware, that this
enormous republic, like a huge serpent gorged by taking in more
than is consistent with vigour, may become less formidable to
other nations, instead of deranging the balance of power, as some
European writers have suggested, by a dangerous preponderancy.
By our statesmen it appears to be overlooked, that like all other
articles, the comparative value of land in the market must lessen
in proportion as the supply is more abundant. The clamour in
favour of the tariff', shows that this law is fully appreciated as respects manufactures and produce, yet, most unaccountably, it is
not perceived to be equally in force as respects land.
The comparative lowness of wages, and the rate of interest on
loans in Great Britain, arises from the greater scarcity of land in
proportion to capital and labour. An opposite state of things exists on this side of the Atlantic. Here there is a superabundance
of land, while labour and capital are comparatively scarce: hence
the extreme cheapness of our wild lands, which are constantly
drawing off from those which are cultivated, the labour and capital
which are indispensable to their productiveness. It is, therefore,
in direct opposition to the interest of those who own cultivated farms and plantations, or arable land, in their vicinity, that we
should make further additions to the unsettled territory of this republic.
National strength, financial economy, education, and religious
instruction, are proportionally more attainable in a dense population, than in one which is scattered and straggling.
Admitting, however, that to our' commerce, on the Pacific
Ocean, the possession of some ports in Oregon may be desirable;
admitting that the enormous region on this side of the Rocky
Mountains, will not furnish a sufficiency of land to permit the
growth of our American population, to an extent too numerous
and unwieldy for the endurance of the Union, or the existence of
free government; admitting that it were desirable that our domain,
bounded on the east by the Atlantic, shall on the west be extended
to the disputed shores of the Pacific, are there not many things
which nations, no less than individuals, must forego, when the attainment will "cost more than it will come to?" Our last war
with Great Britain cost at the rate at least of forty millions of
dollars a year, besides losses, public and private, to an enormous
amount. Yet there is much reason to infer that the annual expense of another war with that power, would be far greater. We
came out of the war of 1812, exulting that we had sustained no
territorial losses. Our gains were all negative, with the exception
of the glory of some military and naval success. Yet our victories were accomplished under circumstances which cannot again
exist. WThen the war commenced, the navy and the armies of
Great Britain were fully occupied in fighting for independence
against Napoleon, aided by a great part of Europe, more or less
subjected to his despotism. Subsequently to his fall, before she
could direct her whole force towards the United States, the other
powers, who had become allied with her in dethroning that despot,
insisted upon a general peace.
Were it a question, whether or not to abandon an indubitable
right, such as that which a Creek or Cherokee had to the soil on
which his race had existed from time immemorial, a brave and
virtuous native American would rather die than, in obedience to
the dictation of an invader, meanly live to carry his bones to be
deposited, a few years later, on some spot in a distant region.
But the actual object of contention is the inverse of rightful. The
question is, which of the parties is best entitled to carry out, in
Oregon, a system by which the aborigines of North America have 8
for the most part been extirpated, in derogation of strict justice
and humanity.
Consistently with the allegation, "he thatknoweth his Master's
will, yet doeth it not, shall be beaten with many stripes," while
those who neglect that will, ignorantly, are to be beaten comparatively with few, would not the Pagan savage have a better prospect in a future state, than Christians who go to war, not to defend property which God has given them, but for a precedence in
taking that which he has given to others, as their only home in
this world ?
It has been justly observed, that in consequence of the extreme
remoteness of the disputed territory, the conquest and defence of
it by an army would be immensely expensive, and without naval
superiority could not be successful. If this great republic is to
indulge in such vast projects of aggrandizement, should it not begin by building a navy competent to cope with that of Great Britain? Unless this be done, will not the threats of our political
leaders be viewed by all the world as an effort to deter Great Britain from insisting on claims which we have not the means to resist? Evidently we have no hold upon that power, beyond her
unwillingness to bear her share in a war productive of impoverishment and misery to both countries, and which would cause an additional and extremely distressing burthen upon her finances. But
if the plunge be made, however unwillingly, we are certain to
incur losses and expenses at least equal to those of our last war,
and probably extending to treble their amount. Thus, while several members of the confederacy plead inability to raise by taxation
enough money to pay the interest due upon their debt, we are, for
the sake of a territory some thousands of miles distant, and separated from us by barren and mountainous deserts, to expend a sum
far greater than that of the public debt due by all the States. This
expenditure is to ensue without our having the smallest reason to
think that we shall, in consequence of it, be any nearer to the acquisition of Oregon, than if it had not been incurred.
Let it be supposed, nevertheless, that we shall succeed in getting possession of the much coveted territory, what benefit will
the people on this side of the Rocky Mountains gain by their association with the people on the other side? So long as the inhabitants of Oregon shall be too poor and too weak to govern and
protect themselves, we shall have the honour of being at the expense and inconvenience of protecting them; but whenever they
shall become sufficiently powerful and wealthy to form an inde-
V 1
pendent nation, can it be expected that their representatives will
cross barren mountains and deserts, thousands of miles, in order
to have their laws made with the aid of strangers?
The grandeur of a monarch may become greater in proportion
as his dominions are extended. The more sheep he may have to
shear, the more abundant will be his crop of wool. But in a truly
democratic confederacy, each of the confederated States must, to a
certain extent, be self-governed; while, to the national revenue,
the contribution from some member's may be much less than that
which may be expended for their benefit. It is notorious, that on
some counties in the State of Pennsylvania, more money has been
bestowed from the School Fund, than the whole sum raised within
them by State taxation. Thus there is a resemblance between reciprocal consequences of annexation or acquisition of territory by
a republican confederacy, and the taking in a new member in the
case of a copartnership, which must be rendered stronger or weaker
accordingly as the member introduced has more or less capital, or
more or less ability than those previously composing the firm. If
a partner be taken into a concern who is in debt, in a state of hostility with his neighbour, and wanting in capacity to take care of
his own affairs, evidently it must be disadvantageous to his new
As soon as the immense regions between the Rocky Mountains
and the Mississippi shall be well peopled, if judiciously governed,
it will not be within the power of Great Britain to prevent them
from confederating with the people of Oregon.
How is our government to obtain the enormous funds requisite
to carry on a war? They will have credit neither at home nor
abroad. While the United States have within them powerful and
uncompromising factions, which hold up to the world the prospect of disunion and consequent anarchy, can it be expected that
our government will have credit to carry on a war extremely unpopular with the great mass of our more wealthy and intelligent
It should be remembered that monied men, for the most part,
think very unfavourably of belligerent measures for the acquisition of Oregon, and would not deem it prudent to invest money
in any government stock issued for the purpose of asserting a
claim to a worse than useless territory on the coast of the Pacific.
Would it not, in truth, be preferable to lend money to a gambler
to engage in the game of hazard, upon the condition of repayment
only if the borrower were to win?    Would not a war for Oregon
■nan 10
be a game where immense sacrifices would be inevitable, while
success would afford no means of indemnification?
The people of these States are too little used to direct taxation,
to justify much reliance on that resource. Those who are sufficiently old, may remember the fruitlessness of the attempts to get
any adequate resources in that way, towards the close of the last
war. During peace, and while agriculture, manufactures and commerce, were all prosperous, Pennsylvania, one of the most wealthy
of the confederated States, has been unable to raise, by direct taxation, the means necessary to prevent a delay in the performance
of her pecuniary obligations, which has reduced many to indigence who relied upon her faith. Under these circumstances, will
her citizens, in preference to their just debts, consent to pay taxes
in order to obtain lands in Oregon, tending to withdraw from the
older States the labour of which they are in want, and to relieve
Great Britain of that which it is beneficial to her to relinquish?
Among the most serious objections to a war for Oregon, are the
horrible consequences to which it would subject the scattered population now residing in that region. It would be impossible for
the settlers to remain neutral, and should they take part with the
United States, they would become victims of the barbarous and
murderous predatory banditti, composed of the savages and half
savage whites, or half-breeds, which is more or less under the influence of the Hudson's Bay Company. When such men take
up the hatchet or scalping-knife, experience has shown, that in the
use of these weapons, their own customs are much more influential
than the creed of their more civilized employers. Against such
Scythian forays, how will the settlers unite so as to make head?
Is it not evident that a greater blow to the prosperity of Oregon
could not be devised than a war with Great Britain?
Mr. Monroe's edict forbidding Europeans to establish colonies
on this continent, can have no weight while unsupported either
by military or naval power adequate to its enforcement, and unsanctioned by the parties which it affects.
So far as North America has been colonized by fraud or by
superior force, the wrong done to the aborigines by the colonization of the portion which we inhabit, is greater than any which
can be done to us, the possessors under that wrong; even were
the territory which we actually occupy the object of a new colonization, such as those made by the Danes, Saxons, and Normans in
Great Britain. Our own course of conduct, as respects the rightful
owners of the American soil, furnishes an apology for invasion by ^1
any nation which, having sufficient incentives, may have also the
requisite military strength. I trust that there is no nation sufficiently powerful to make a Norman-like conquest on the territory of the United States proper; but if Great Britain or France
had a sufficient motive for the effort, evidently it would not be in
the power of the United States to prevent either from colonizing
the territory between the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific. For
the defence of that region a naval superiority would be necessary,
for which our people neither can nor will furnish the means.
During peace, the disposition to support a large navy would be
wanting; during war, the ability would not exist, even if the disposition were to be excited.
If, in consequence of a preference for the republican form of
government, the population of the United States is prone to confine itself to their acknowledged domain, it is better for us that a
large portion of the Continent should so remain, as not to enter
into a competition with us for settlers; and it were preferable to
have on our frontiers, a population kept in check by a strong government having a great interest in being at peace with us.
Were the whole Continent to come under our republican flag,
it would soon, as above shown, have a population too vast to be
ruled as one great republic; and were the enormous territory in
question, to be apportioned between different republican nations,
the liability to strife would be greater than if the portions not
under the sway of the United States were ruled by the British.
Is it not vastly more important that the Union should be preserved, the national constitution respected, and the free municipal
institutions derived from the wise and virtuous Britons who colonized our country, retained in their full force, than that the national domain shall be extended?
It is to those institutions, to the "Libert6 Communale,"* on
which De Tocqueville has laid so much stress, as being the
safeguard of our national freedom, that we are indebted for our
superiority over the colonists of other countries. Will not a
portion of the reverential gratitude with which every enlightened
American regards those British sages, to whose virtue and wisdom
we owe our national existence, be extended to the soil which gave
them birth and education? And will not the interest with which
the modern Briton beholds results springing from the excellence
* It was for this liberty of the communes, under another name, that the states
rights party contended until they surrendered to king caucus.
I f ^u%;
of British institutions, and the peculiar aptitude of his race for
self-government, be associated with the country which has afforded a magnificent field for the development of such results?
Let every Briton, moreover, keep in mind the fact insisted
upon in commencing these suggestions, that whatever territory
may be acquired by his Anglo-Saxon brethren, on this Continent,
is no more for the benefit of them and their posterity, than for
him and his. A Briton can reach Oregon in as little time, nearly,
as a citizen of the United States, and on arriving, would have
every essential advantage which the latter could claim.
To conclude, should any two men who were transacting business with each other to an enormous amount, differ in opinion respecting their respective titles to a tract of wild land, of vastly
less importance to the wealth and happiness of either, than the
preservation of their amicable relations, would it not be wise in
them to leave the question to arbitrators, with a determination to
abide their award whatever that award might be ? Where peace
is far more important than the object in dispute, is not this the
only honourable way of settling the question without a collision,
immensely more injurious than the worst possible award ? Even
if some injustice should accrue, no dishonour could arise from
such a course of procedure.


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