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vanishes quite away. It is then only necessary to inquire by what system of appointments the performance of official duties will be best secured; the offices being established for the public benefit, and not for the convenience of office-loving citizens.
The president and cabinet, on coming into power, besides the subject. of appointments to office, found many other matters claiming their prompt and earnest attention. The foreign relations of the United States were generally in a favorable position, but there were some diplomatic arrangements which are referred to in the first annual message of General Taylor, that received the consideration of the new administration, and such action as, in the judgment of the executive, was demanded by the various exigencies of the occasion. Congress having failed at the previous session to provide territorial governments for California and New Mexico, the president was left to act under the treaty with Mexico, by which those territories had been ceded to the United States, and both remaining under a military government placed in power by the late administration.
It was decided by the president not to disturb the arrangement made under his predecessor, Mr. Polk, and therefore he did not interfere with the powers of the military commandant in California, who continued to exercise the functions of civil governor as before. The president also sent the honorable Thomas Butler King, of Georgia, as bearer of despatches to California, and certain officers to California and New Mexico, whose duties were defined in letters of instruction from the executive, who also expressed his desire that each territory, if prepared to comply with the requisitions of the constitution of the United States, form a plan of a state constitution, and submit the same to Congress, with an application for admission into the Union as a state. A claim had been advanced by the state of Texas to a very large portion of the territory commonly designated by the name of New Mexico. The question of the boundary between these two sections of the country gradually assumed a serious aspect, as Texas insisted upon her right to extend her jurisdiction over a considerable portion of New Mexico, the inhabitants of which were unwilling to be separated from the territory to which they had always considered themselves as belonging. Nothing satisfactory, however, could be done. by the national executive, but a military force was maintained in New Mexico, to preserve tranquillity until the boundary question could be settled by the action of Congress.
The new territory of Oregon was organized according to the act of Congress under the administration of Mr. Polk. A new governor and other officers, including Indian agencies, were appointed for that territory, by President Taylor, and measures were taken to complete the coast survey of Oregon and California, and the construction of lighthouses authorized by Congress on the former coast was commenced.
The great mineral wealth of California, particularly the abundance of
gold found on the streams which water that territory, attracted to the shores of the Pacific large bodies of adventurers. The commercial importance of San Francisco and other ports of California soon became apparent, and imposed new duties on the government. The mines discovered being principally on the public lands belonging to the United States, geological and mineralogical surveys were made by the officers attached to the corps of engineers, and plans were devised by the government agents for the protection of persons engaged in mining, but it was evident that nothing effectual could be done in that way until a regular government was organized in the territory. A large proportion of the emigrants to California passed thither from the Atlantic states by sea around Cape Horn, or by the isthmus of Panama, or through Mexico, but large numbers of settlers from the western states, migrating to Oregon and California, made the journey over land, across the Rocky mountains. The latter required protection from the hostile Indians always to be found traversing the immense wilds of North America between the waters of the Mississippi valley and those flowing into the Pacific. To protect these emigrants and the greatly-extended frontier of the United States, required the constant attention of the government, and imposed new duties on the military department. Intense application to important business, therefore, was imposed upon the executive and his new cabinet, which was only interrupted on the part of the president by a visit during the summer of 1849, to the interior of Pennsylvania and New York. After a few weeks he returned, in feeble health, to his duties at Washington.
The first session of the 31st Congress commenced on Monday, the 3d of December, 1849, and continued until the 30th of September, 1850, a period of 302 days, or about ten months, being the longest and most exciting session which had been held since the organization of the governThe opposition to the administration had a decided majority in the senate as well as in the house of representatives, but in the latter body a part of the opposition consisted of "free-soil" men, principally democrats, who had been elected by that portion of the people who considered the restriction of slavery in the new territories as a paramount question. The free-soilers were few in number, but sufficient to hold the balance of power between the whigs and democrats in the house of representatives.
Precisely at the hour of twelve, meridian, the house was called to order by Thomas J. Campbell, clerk of the house of representatives of the 30th Congress. The roll having been called, it appeared that 223 members had answered to their names-the whole number of the house when full being 231. The published lists of the members elect divided them thus whigs 105; democrats 112; free-soilers 13; and one vacancy in Massachusetts. The clerk having announced that a quorum was present, Mr. Boyd, of Kentucky, moved that the house do now proceed to the
election of a speaker viva voce. No objection being made, and tellers being appointed by the clerk, the house proceeded to vote for speaker. The roll having been called in alphabetical order, the following was declared to be the result :
Howell Cobb, of Georgia (democrat), 103; Robert C. Winthrop, of Massachusetts (whig), 96; David Wilmot, of Pennsylvania (free-soil democrat), 8; Meredith P. Gentry, of Tennessee (whig), 6; Horace Mann, of Massachusetts (free-soil whig), 2; Mr. Cleveland, of Connecticut (democrat), 1; Mr. Seddon, of Virginia (democrat), 1; Mr. Orr, of South Carolina (democrat), 1; Mr. Disney, of Ohio (democrat), 1; Mr. Root, of Ohio (free soil), 1; James Thompson, of Pennsylvania (democrat), 1: total number of votes 221-of which 111 were necessary to a choice. Mr. Cobb, opposition candidate, therefore fell short 8 votes, and the administration candidate, Mr. Winthrop, was 15 votes short, of an election There were 5 democrats, it will be perceived, who declined voting for the former, and 6 southern and 2 northern whigs who refused to vote for Mr. Winthrop, exclusive of the regular vote of the free-soilers. The 6 southern whigs refused to vote with their party for speaker without a distinct committal against the Wilmot proviso restricting slavery in the territories acquired from Mexico. This could not be conceded by the whigs, and Mr. Winthrop was steadily voted against by a few southern whigs on one side, and anti-slavery men elected by whig votes on the other, while the democrats were unable to concentrate the entire vote of their party on Mr. Cobb. Four unsuccessful attempts to elect a speaker took place the first day, when the house adjourned until the following day. A protracted contest then took place, parties continuing to vote nearly the same, as to candidates, for some days, when Mr. Cobb's name was withdrawn, and other candidates tried by the democrats without success; but finally, on the 11th of December, showing a disposition on the 39th vote to unite on Mr. William J. Brown, of Indiana. Mr. Brown having received 109 votes and Mr. Winthrop 101 (and there being 16 scattering votes), the latter gentleman thanked his friends cordially for their support, and withdrew his name as a candidate for speaker. On the following day, a coalition having been nearly completed between the democrats and free-soilers, Mr. Brown received on the fortieth vote 112 votes against 114 for other candidates, of whom no one received over 26 votes.
Mr. Stanly (whig), of North Carolina, then offered a resolution, that three democrats and three whigs be appointed to confer as to the choice of proper officers of the house. He made a few remarks on the subject, which were replied to by Mr. Bayly (democrat), who, among other remarks, observed, that "the bitter fruit which we are tasting is the legitimate fruit of the tree which the gentleman's party has planted and fostered." This he attributed to the doubtful position which the president elected by the whigs occupied in reference to an absorbing and exciting VOL. II.-37
question of public policy, overriding all others, and sectional in its character-alluding to the subject of slavery, and the restrictions proposed to be imposed upon its extension into the new territories. The democratic party, Mr. Bayly said, certainly were not responsible for the result. In reply to an insinuation by Mr. Stanly, that something improper had taken place between the democratic party and the free-soilers, Mr. Bayly said: "I am rejoiced that the gentleman has made the remarks he did. It enables us to brand the rumor, in the outset, as it deserves. It is hardly necessary for me to say that it has no foundation in truth."
Mr. Ashmun (whig), of Massachusetts, then asked Mr. Bayly if a correspondence had not taken place between the member from Indiana (Mr. Brown) and some member of the free-soil party, in which he had pledged himself to constitute the committees in a manner satisfactory to them. Mr. Bayly said he knew of no such correspondence; and turning to Mr. Brown, he said, "Has any such correspondence taken place?" Mr. Brown shook his head, and Mr. Bayly said: "I am authorized to say that no such correspondence has taken place. The house is in a condition in which it is impossible for it to be organized unless the free-soilers vote with one of the great parties composing it. Suppose they had offered to vote with the gentleman, would he have spurned their support? Or would he have considered it would have been quite right in us, in such a contingency, to have imputed an improper combination to them? We must be judged of by the character of the great body of our party, and not of those who are accidentallly thrown with us."
Mr. Bayly subsequently said, that since he was last up he had held a conversation with Mr, Brown. "I was mistaken in saying that no correspondence had taken place between him and the free-soilers. A correspondence has taken place; but in that he assures me that he had refused to pledge himself; and had said no more than that, in forming the committees he would place the members of that party in such positions as their standing in the house and country would seem to him to make proper. But the correspondence will be produced, and it will speak for itself." Mr. Brown, of Indiana, being called upon, made an explanation to the house of his course and position. Among other matters, he stated that all the free-soilers had asked was that the committees on the District of Columbia, on the judiciary, and on the territories, should be so constituted as that every section of the Union might be fairly represented the Wilmot proviso men and the anti-Wilmot proviso men. He had stated to these gentlemen that he would so constitute these committees as that all sections of the Union should be represented. This much he had stated, and by that position he would abide now.
Mr. Wilmot, of Pennsylvania, the leader of the free-soilers, addressed the house, stating the substance of his conversation with Mr. Brown. He had also addressed a note to that gentleman, asking him whether, if elected
speaker, he would so organize the committees as to be satisfactory to himself and friends. From the verbal conversations which he had held with Mr. Brown, Mr. Wilmot said, he had reason to believe that a majority of these committees would be composed of fair northern men.
After some conversational remarks between various members, Mr. Brown read to the house a copy of his letter to Mr. Wilmot, in the following words:
"WASHINGTON, December 10, 1819.
"DEAR SIR: In answer to yours of this date, I will state, that should I be elected speaker of the house of representatives, I will constitute the committees on the District of Columbia, on territories, and on the judiciary, in such manner as shall be satisfactory to yourself and your friends. I am a representative from a free state, and have always been opposed to the extension of slavery, and believe that the federal government should be relieved from the responsibility of slavery, where they have the constitutional power to abolish it. I am yours truly, "W. J. BROWN.
The letter of Mr. Wilmot to which the foregoing was a reply, is as follows:
"December 10, 1849.
"DEAR SIR: In the conversation which I had with you this evening, you were free to say, that if elected speaker of the house of representatives, you would constitute the committees on territories, on the judiciary, and the District of Columbia, in a manner that should be satisfactory to myself and the friends with whom I have had the honor to act. I have communicated this to my friends; and if, in reply to this note, you can give them the same assurance, they will give you a cheerful and cordial support. Respectfully yours, "D. WILMOT."
Mr. Brown further explained to the house, and said that "he was no sectional man; and, as God was his judge, if he had been chosen speaker of this house, he would have constituted the committees in such a manner as to give satisfaction to both the north and the south. He would have upon these committees the ablest men, from both the north and the south." Tendering his earnest and sincere thanks to his friends for the manner in which he had been sustained, he withdrew his name as a candidate. He said, further, that he would scorn to occupy the chair under circumstances in which his action was liable to misrepresentation. "I have always," said Mr. Brown, "opposed the agitation of this question. I look upon slavery as one of the compromises of the constitution. I will stand by that institution, and sustain it as guarantied by the constitution of the United States. And I am gratified that I have it in my power to say, that I represent, in part, a state which will do the same thing."
Mr. Bayly, of Virginia, said: "Had I known of the existence and character of the correspondence which has just been read, and of the in