RETURN TO THE SENATE.—THE SEVENTH OF MARCH SPEECH.
The principal events of Mr. Polk’s administration belong to or grow out of the slavery agitation, then beginning to assume most terrible proportions. So far as Mr. Webster is concerned, they form part of the history of his course on the slavery question, which culminated in the famous speech of March 7, 1850. Before approaching that subject, however, it will be necessary to touch very briefly on one or two points of importance in Mr. Webster’s career, which have no immediate bearing on the question of slavery, and no relation to the final and decisive stand which Mr. Webster took in regard to it.
The Ashburton treaty was open to one just criticism. It did not go far enough. It did not settle the northwestern as it did the northeastern boundary. Mr. Webster, as has been said, made an effort to deal with the former as well as the latter, but he met with no encouragement, and as he was then preparing to retire from office, the matter dropped. In regard to the northwestern boundary Mr. Webster agreed with the opinion of Mr. Monroe’s cabinet, that the forty-ninth parallel was a fair and proper line; but the British undertook to claim the line of the Columbia River, and this excited corresponding claims on our side. The Democracy for political purposes became especially warlike and patriotic. They declared in their platform that we must have the whole of Oregon and reoccupy it at once. Mr. Polk embodied this view in his message, together with the assertion that our rights extended to the line of 54 deg. 40’ north, and a shout of “fifty-four-forty or fight” went through the land from the enthusiastic Democracy.