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SPEECH BEFORE THE YOUNG MEN'S WHIG CLUB OF
BOSTON, ON THE ANNEXATION OF TEXAS.
DELIVERED IN THE TREMONT TEMPLE, AUGUST 19, 1844.
[The meeting having been called to order by Charles Francis Adams, President of the Club, Mr. Choate was introduced. He came forward and spoke as follows:] MR. PRESIDENT AND GENTLEMEN,
I REGARD the approaching election as one of more interest to the whole country, and to the States of the North in a preëminent degree, than any which has preceded it.
The peculiarity of this election is, that while it involves all the questions of mere policy, which are ever suspended on the choice of a president,
questions of the currency, of the lands, of internal improvements, of protection, of foreign policy, and all else ; while it involves in its broadest extent the question, how shall the nation be governed ? — it involves — the first presidential election that has done so — the further, more fundamental, and more startling question, what shall the nation be; who shall the nation be; where shall the nation be; who, what, and where, is, and is to be, our country itself ? Is it to be any longer the Union which we have kuown; which we have loved, to which we have been accustomed ? — or is it to be dissolved altogether? or is it to be a new one, enlarged by the annexation of a territory out of which forty States of the size of Massachusetts might be constructed; a territory not appended equally to the East, the West, the Centre, and the South ; not appended equally to the slave States and the free States; to the agricultural and the
planting; to the localities of free trade and the localities of protection; not so appended as to work an equal and impartial enlargement and assistance to each one of those various and heterogeneous elements of interest and sentiment and position out of whose struggle comes the peace, out of whose dissonance comes the harmony, of our system ; — not so, but appended in one vast accession to one side, one region, one interest, of the many which compose the State; so appended as to disturb the relations of the parts; to change the seat of the centre; to counteract the natural tendencies of things; to substitute a revolution of violent and morbid policy in place of the slow and safe action of nature, habit, and business, under a permanent law; so appended, in short, as not merely to make a small globe into a larger one, but to alter the whole figure of the body; to vary the shape and the range of its orbit; to launch it forth on a new highway of the heavens; to change its day and night, its seed-lime and harvest, its solar
the great cycle of its duration itself.
This it is that gives to this election an interest peculiar and transcendent. It is a question, not what the policy of the nation shall be, - but what, who, where, shall the nation be ! It is not a question of national politics, but of national identity. For even if the Union shall survive the annexation of Texas, and the discussions of annexation, it will be a new, a changed, another Union, -- not this. It will be changed, not by time, which changes all things, - man, monuments, states, the great globe itself; not by time, but by power ; not by imperceptible degrees, but in a day; not by a successive growth, unfolded and urged forward by an organic law, an implanted force, a noiseless and invisible nutrition from beneath and from without, of which eyery region, every State, takes the risk; but by the direct action of government-arbitrary, violent, and unjust-of which no part has ever agreed to take the risk. It is to this element in the present election, the annexation of Texas, that I wish to-night, passing over all the rest, to direct your attention.
I shall consume but little of the time of such an assembly as this, in attempting to prove that the success or failure of this enterprise of annexation is suspended - for the present — perhaps for our day on the result of the pending election. You, at least, have no doubt on this point. Is there one man
now before me, in the first place, who does not believe, or who does not greatly and rationally fear, that if Mr. Polk is the next president, Texas will come in —under the unostentatious, and not so very terrible form of a territory, of course, in the first instance - in twelve months, unless some great and extraordinary interposition of the people should prevent it? Does any one — if such an one may be supposed among you to-night — who, opposed to Texas, as you are, has yet a hankering for Mr. Polk, and means to vote for him, if he can obtain the consent of his conscience - who wants to vote for Mr. Polk, but shrinks from the idea of promoting annexation - does any such one say, Oh, it doesn't follow that if he is chosen, Texas will be annexed ? Be it so; but does it not increase the chances of annexation? Does it not tremendously enhance the difficulties of resistance? Does it not at least, expose you to the terrible hazard of being compelled, hereafter, to encounter, by memorial, by convention, by remonstrance, by extreme and extraordinary action, that which you can now, peaceably, innocently, seasonably anticipate and prevent at the polls ? Does not every stock-jobber, and landjobber, and flesh-jobber, who clamors for annexation, understand perfectly, that he aids his objects by choosing Mr. Polk? Are not those honest gentlemen all on his side, and do they not well know what they are about ? Does not Mr. Polk come in — if he comes - pledged to annex if he can, and determined to do it if he can? Does he not come in pledged and determined to put in requisition the whole vast power of the Executive — the whole vast power of the flushed party that elects him, and to effect annexation? Is any man foolish enough to deny, that Mr. Van Buren was cast overboard, and Mr. Polk nominated, expressly and solely that the candidate might be, as they exquisitely express it, " Texas to the backbone?” — And how can you suppose that, nominated for this very purpose, elected for this very purpose, he will do nothing to accomplish it? Why, if he should be disposed to do nothing, do you think that a party or a faction, strong enough to go into a National Convention, and there trample instructions under foot; strong enough to force upon the body an audacious, not very democratic rule of proceeding, which put it out of the power of a majority to nominate the choice of a major