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view that these transactions possess the greatest interest and importance, and that the sagacity, promptitude, and decision of our youthful commander in California, at the time the disturbances broke out, have given him the strongest claims on his countrymen. Any faltering on his part — any hesitancy in acting and in acting promptly — might have cost us millions of dollars and thousands of lives; and it might also have cost us a contest of which the end is not readily foreseen.
THE YUCATAN BILL.
A Bill to take temporary military possession of Yucatan was introduced into the Senate, in pursuance of a recommendation of the President that our naval forces in the Gulf of Mexico should be employed to afford relief to the white population, who were in danger of extermination by the Indians, and to prevent that province from becoming a colony to a European power. The provisions of the bill went far beyond the suggestions of the President. Mr. Dix, in his speech, which was delivered on the 17th May, 1848, opposed the military occupation of Yucatan as provided for by the bill, but advocated the President's recommendations.
Mr. President: I said yesterday, when I offered the amendment which you have just announced as the question first to be decided by the Senate, I should be quite willing that the vote should be taken upon it without discussion; but that if the debate proceeded, I should have something to say in support of my motion. I find the whole subject is to be further discussed; and so many inquiries have been addressed to me, by members of this body, in relation to the particular object of the amendment, that I feel myself called on to explain it. I shall, at the same time, avail myself of the opportunity to make some remarks upon the general question. In doing so, I feel that I shall labor under some disadvantage, as I was not present during the first week of the discussion, and have not had time since to read the printed report; so that it is possible I may, in the remarks I shall make, cover ground which has already been better occupied by others.
The question presented to us by the bill we are considering is not in itself a very simple one; and it appears to me that it has been converted, perhaps not unnecessarily, into one of still greater complexity. I shall endeavor, in what I have to say, to divest it of some, at least, of its complications.
The State of Yucatan is distracted by an internal conflict between the different classes of which her population consists. She has applied to us and to other nations for aid; and she tenders her political sovereignty to any power which will take her under its protection. Sir, there can be no higher evidence of the hopelessness of the condition to which she is reduced, and I recollect no other instance, in modern times at least, in which a State has offered to surrender its nationality to a foreign power, for the purpose of being protected against itself. The President has called our attention to the subject in a special message; and I think he would have been indefensible if he had not done so. He submits no proposition to us, but leaves it to the judgment of Congress to determine what measures shall be adopted to prevent Yucatan from becoming the colony of a European power, and to rescue the white race from extermination or expulsion. The Committee on Foreign Relations, in pursuance of the suggestion of the President, has reported a bill authorizing him to take temporary possession or occupation of the country, and providing arms, munitions of war, ordnance, and troops for that purpose.
The first suggestion which occurs to us is, that this is an internal dispute in which, under ordinary circumstances, we could not properly take part. We insist on the principle of non-intervention in the affairs of other independent States. We hold every violation of this principle to be an offence against the common order and the common tranquillity of civilized society. We insist upon its observance by other nations. Our first duty, then, is to observe it ourselves.
Is there anything in the peculiar relations of Yucatan to the United States and to Mexico which would authorize us to interpose and perform a high duty of humanity, without violating the rule I have stated \ Upon the solution of this question, the propriety of our interference mainly depends. In my judgment, from the examination which I have been able to give to the subject, the circumstances do warrant our interference in some efficient mode; and I shall be happy if I can succeed in making this conviction as apparent to the mind of the Senate as it is to my own. In attempting to do so, it will be necessary to examine the relhtions, past and present, of Yucatan to Mexico, and .the existing relations of both to us.
Yucatan, I believe, was never comprehended in the viceroyalty of Mexico, under the old Spanish dominion — at all events, excepting for purposes of revenue. She was under a separate government, or captain-generalcy, and communicated directly with the court of Madrid. In 1821, she succeeded in establishing her independence without the aid of Mexico; and when the empire was formed under Iturbide, she became united to it under certain conditions. On the fall of Iturbide, and the dissolution of the empire, she again became independent. When the constitution of 1824 was adopted by the United Mexican States, she became a member of the Confederation, with the distinct declaration that her connection with it should continue only so long as that constitution was preserved inviolate. In 1834, when the constitution of 1824 was subverted by Santa Ana, she became independent a third time. But an army was sent against her by Santa Ana, I believe under the command of his brother-in-law; Merida, the capital, was taken; her militia disbanded; some of her principal citizens banished; and she was, in fact, reduced to the condition of a military despotism under the authority of the central government of Mexico. The same attempt was made on Texas, who was happily more successful than her southern sister in repelling it.
This state of things continued until 1840, when Yucatan threw off her subjection, proclaimed her constitution, and was on the point of declaring her independence, when a negotiation was entered into with Mexico, which resulted, in 1841, in a treaty, leaving her a part of Mexico, but with certain separate powers in respect to her constitution and laws, and, I believe, especially in regard to her revenue, which was left independent of the general revenue system of the republic. This treaty, though executed by commissioners on both sides, and agreed to by Yucatan, was never ratified by Mexico; and in 1842 another army was sent into Yucatan: Merida was again invested, Campeachy was bombarded for several months; but, in the following year, the Mexican forces were defeated or withdrawn; and, at the close of 1843, she became again united to Mexico, with some reservations of sovereignty beyond those possessed by the other Mexican states. In consequence of the bad faith of the Mexican government, and the differences that were constantly springing up between them, she declared, on the first of January, 1846, the connection dissolved; and in March of that year, when war between the United States and Mexico was considered imminent, she refused to furnish men and money on the requisition of the Central government. In August, 1846, about two months after the commencement of the war, an extraordinary congress was convoked in Yucatan, chiefly through the influence of the friends of Santa Ana, who was then in Cuba, and by a majority of one vote he was declared to be the President of Mexico, This decree, however, was soon after annulled, and the declaration of the first of January, 1846, was revived and ratified with the popular sanction. From the commencement of the war, therefore, except for the very brief period I have mentioned, Yucatan has maintained an attitude of strict neutrality.