Sunday, August 02, 2009

"You may call it annexation, but it is a forced annexation"

In the last post concerning John C. Calhoun’s speech on January 4, 1848 arguing against continuation of the war against Mexico, the South Carolina Senator explained why, in his view holding Mexico as a subjugated province would result in anarchy and despotism in the United States.

Calhoun turned next to the alternate possibility: that the United States could “incorporat[e] her into our Union.” On the face of it, this would be easy enough: divide Mexico into territories, perhaps using her existing provinces, and establish territorial governments:
I come now to the proposition of incorporating her [Mexico] into our Union. Well, as far as law is concerned, that is easy. You can establish a Territorial Government for every State in Mexico, and there are some twenty of them. You can appoint governors, judges, and magistrates. You can give the people a subordinate government, allowing them to legislate for themselves, whilst you defray the cost. So far as law goes, the thing is done.

But this, Calhoun argued, placed form over substance and assumed a false “analogy between this and our Territorial Governments.” Territories had been formed in the United States because the residents had been eager for them, and eager eventually to form states out of them. Their residents were either citizens of the United States who had moved there, or at least “foreigners from the same regions from which we came.”

Territorial governments in Mexico, in contrast, would have to be imposed on a hostile populace that had (as we might say today) no tradition of democratic values. The creation of territories would, as a result, amount merely to “forced annexation,” accompanied by all the evils Calhoun had previously described:
It is entirely different with Mexico. You have no need of armies to keep your Territories in subjection. But when you incorporate Mexico, you must have powerful armies to keep them in subjection. You may call it annexation, but it is a forced annexation, which is a contradiction in terms, according to my conception. You will be involved, in one word, in all the evils which I attribute to holding Mexico as a province. In fact, it will be but a Provincial Government, under the name of a Territorial Government.

How long will that last? How long will it be before Mexico will be capable of incorporation into our union? Why, if we judge from the examples before us, it will be a very long time. Ireland has been held in subjection by the England for seven or eight hundred years, and yet still remains hostile, although her people are of kindred race with the conquerors.

As the last quoted paragraph suggests, Calhoun’s evaluation of the ability of other peoples to accept democratic values contained a racial component. If it took the Irish hundreds of years to incorporate with England, stubborn Mexicans would never accept the concept:
[N]ever will the time come, in my opinion, Mr. President, that these Mexicans will be heartily reconciled to your authority. They have Castilian blood in their veins – the old Gothic, quite equal to the Anglo-Saxon in many respects – in some respects superior. Of all nations of the earth they are the most pertinacious –have the highest sense of nationality – hold out longest, and often even with the least prospect of the effecting their object.

Finally, of course, none of this, Calhoun noted, solved the problem that incorporation, even if feasible, would result in the admission into the body politic of millions of people of “mixed blood” and “impure races”:
But, Mr. President, suppose all these difficulties removed; suppose these people attached to our Union, and desirous of incorporating with us, ought we to bring them in? Are they fit to be connected with us? Are they fit for self-government and for governing you? Are you, any of you, willing that your States should be governed by these twenty-odd Mexican States, with a population of about only one million of your blood, and two or three millions of mixed blood, better informed, all the rest pure Indians, a mixed blood equally ignorant and unfit for liberty, impure races, but not as good as the Cherokee or Choctaws?

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