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an answer yet. Until I get it, my inference will be that those documents never were considered by the committee.
Sir, the time has been when I despaired to speak to this House on a great principle, when I despaired to speak to the People of this country on a great principle. I will not say that the time has passed when I despair to appeal to this House on a great national principle. I remember the report of the Committee of Elections in the Mississippi case. I remember the report of the Duelling Committee. I do not know but that it is desperate to make an appeal to this House when party crosses its path, but I do not despair to appeal to the People. To them I call to mark the principles assumed in this House by members of one of the most important committees of the House--a committee to whom the destiny of this nation is committed in a greater degree than to any other. I call them to note what is now passing here. The resolutions of the Legislatures of six or seven States of this Union, standing on the principles they respectively maintain, together with memorials, and petitions, and remonstrances, from thousands and hundreds of thousands of American citizens, have been referred to that committee to consider and report thereon. When a question is put, a member of that committee rises in his place and denies the right of the House, or of any member, to ask whether the committee ever did consider those resolutions and memorials. And another member of that same committee answers that he is willing to report on these papers without looking into any one of them. Now, I beg leave to say, in the face of the country, that I denounce both as utterly incorrect, and I hope the People of the United States will do themselves justice in this case, as the People of Mississippi have nobly done themselves justice in regard to another report to this House. Sir, we are in a process in which I hope we shall persevere
until such principles shall be forever swept away. Would to God they could be swept from the records of this House, as they will be from the practice of all future Congresses. I assert, as a great general principle, that when resolutions from the Legislatures of States, and the petitions of a vast multitude of our fellow-citizens on a subject of deep and vital importance to the country, are referred to a committee of this House, if that committee make up an opinion without looking into such resolutions and memorials, the committee betray their duty to their constituents and to this House. I give this out to the nation. I ask this nation to reflect on the proceedings of the committee and of the House on such principles. When the meanest petition of the lowest and poorest individual in the country (I will not say slave) is presented in this House and referred, I hold it the duty of the committee, to the House, to the country, and to the petitioners, to look into the petition before they make up their opinion. Here is a broad principle; if I am wrong, let the country put me down. It is affirmed that the report of a committee is to be made without even looking into the resolutions of Legislatures and the petitions of citizens referred to that committee for consideration. There I am willing the question shall rest. ..
I have said, and I repeat, that I wish every member of the committee to understand that it is not in reference to his own individual opinion or conduct that I have wished to put my question. His opinions I am willing to hear in this House, from himself, as he chooses to express them. What I want to hear is, the opinion of the committee, and it was on that principle I desired the recommitment. I wish the papers recommitted, that the committee may be required by this House to do their duty, as they now avow they did not, and deny the right of the House to call upon them for its performance.
There is one point in this matter of more importance than any other. The assumption of the gentleman from Virginia, and the gentleman from South Carolina, and, as far as I understand him, of the chairman of the committee, forms a part of that system of contempt for the right of petition to which, I am sorry to say, this House has given sanction. I say that this is part of that system. I have always maintained that when the petitions of the People of the United States, and, still more in point of importance, though not in point of principle, resolutions of Legislatures, on questions of the deepest importance, whether the opinions which they express be on the one side or on the other of those questions, are presented to this House, it is the duty of this House to consider them, either immediately or through its appropriate committees; and I insist that when such memorials are referred to a committee it is the duty of the committee to consider them before reporting in regard to them, and to report upon and after due consideration of their contents, and to form a judgment from their merits. This I take to be the true scope and meaning of the Constitution, when it declares that the right of petition shall not be abridged. And if it is our duty to hear and to consider the petition of a single individual, it is still more our duty to hear and consider the resolutions of a State Legislature.
But this committee have gone further in trampling upon the right of petition, of which the House has given an example. The House has not gone the length of refusing to receive petitions, but with a distinction, which I am ashamed to mention in the face of this nation, they have resolved, with great solemnity, to receive memorials and then not to consider them. That principle has been extended by this committee. Sir, if a Yankee was ever charged with manufacturing wooden nutmegs, that was the man to advance such a principle. [A laugh.] Is this principle the wooden nutmeg of this
House? It is that, or it is nothing. I say this for the benefit of such members of this House as are willing to take shelter from the indignation of their constituents under such a distinction.
The Chair here interposed, and reminded the gentleman from Massachusetts that it was not in order to speak disrespectfully of the action of the House.
Mr. Adams. I am much obliged to the Speaker for not having stopped me before. [A laugh.] I assume it as a principle that it is the duty of this House to receive the petitions of all the citizens of the United States, if couched in respectful language; and I further assert it as a principle, that it is our duty not only to receive, but to consider them; and I say that if we receive and refuse to consider, we shelter ourselves under a distinction unworthy of this House a distinction that would be unworthy of any man in private life, and much more of the highest legislative body in the country. ...
[The various kinds of petition that had been ignored were then discussed by Mr. Adams. On July 7th, having arrived at the question of the petitions relative to Mexico and Texas, he concluded as follows:
When the hour expired yesterday, I was adducing evidence to show that the conduct of the Executive Administration of this Government toward that of Mexico was marked by duplicity and hostility—by hostility to the extent of a deliberate design of plunging us into a war with that Power, for the purpose of dismembering her territories, and annexing a large portion of them to this Union. This projected war was avowed, openly, sixteen months ago, by the Executive, and was countenanced and supported by a report from the Committee on Foreign Affairs, but not by this House, at that time. The same hostility and the same duplicity have been continued to this day. I stated that, in consequence of the application by this Government for the
purchase of Texas, made through the gentleman now at the head of the Department of War-a gentleman of the highest respectability, but who is himself a citizen of one of the slaveholding States most interested in the perpetuation of the system of slavery—the Mexican Government became so dissatisfied with him, then our Minister there, that it had demanded his recall. In the annual message of the President, at the Congress of 1829-'30, it was stated that the recall had been made, and that a Chargé d'Affaires had been appointed to that legation in the place of the Minister thus recalled. I referred, among other things, to a very remarkable document, dated 25th August, 1829, drawn up by a gentleman, then Secretary of State, but who has since become the Chief Magistrate of the Union, in which the proposition for the purchase of Texas is renewed, and urged with extraordinary earnestness and very elaborate argument. But I neglected to notice the fact that this letter of instruction was prepared precisely at the time that a Spanish force from the island of Cuba was invading Mexico. I read from the letter a passage going to show that it was within the knowledge of this Government that Mexico was then in a distressed situation, and that it might be charged upon us that we took advantage of that state of things to press our application for the purchase of a part of her territory; but disavowing, in the strongest terms, every thing like such a design. I entreated members of the House to read that document, as containing demonstrative proof of the duplicity which I have charged upon that Administration.
It did so happen that this letter of instructions did not arrive in Mexico till after the Mexican Government had peremptorily demanded the recall of Mr. Poinsett, and after the total failure of the Spanish invasion, which two events occurred at nearly the same time. The messenger who took out the letter was appointed Chargé