“The Hudson Bay Company have deceived England splendidly enough. Doctor McLaughlin, good man that he is, has not suited the Hudson Bay Company. His removal means less courtesy to our settlers in Oregon. Granted a less tactful leader than himself, there will be friction with our high-strung frontiersmen in that country. No man can tell when the thing will come to an issue. For my own part, I would agree with Polk that we ought to own that country to fifty-four forty—but what we ought to do and what we can do are two separate matters. Should we force the issue now and lose, we would lose for a hundred years. Should we advance firmly and hold firmly what we gain, in perhaps less than one hundred years we may win all of that country, as I just said to Mr. Polk, to the River Saskatchewan—I know not where! In my own soul, I believe no man may set a limit to the growth of the idea of an honest government by the people. And this continent is meant for that honest government!”
“We have already a Monroe Doctrine, Mr. Calhoun,” said I. “What you enunciate now is yet more startling. Shall we call it the Calhoun Doctrine?”
He made no answer, but arose and paced up and down, stroking the thin fringe of beard under his chin. Still he seemed to talk with himself.
“We are not rich,” he went on. “Our canals and railways are young. The trail across our country is of monstrous difficulty. Give us but a few years more and Oregon, ripe as a plum, would drop in our lap. To hinder that is a crime. What Polk proposes is insincerity, and all insincerity must fail. There is but one result when pretense is pitted against preparedness. Ah, if ever we needed wisdom and self-restraint, we need them now! Yet look at what we face! Look at what we may lose! And that through party—through platform—through politics!”
He sighed as he paused in his walk and turned to me. “But now, as I said, we have at least time for Texas. And in regard to Texas we need another woman.”
I stared at him.
“You come now to me with proof that my lady baroness traffics with Mexico as well as England,” he resumed. “That is to say, Yturrio meets my lady baroness. What is the inference? At least, jealousy on the part of Yturrio’s wife, whether or not she cares for him! Now, jealousy between the sexes is a deadly weapon if well handled. Repugnant as it is, we must handle it.”
I experienced no great enthusiasm at the trend of events, and Mr. Calhoun smiled at me cynically as he went on. “I see you don’t care for this sort of commission. At least, this is no midnight interview. You shall call in broad daylight on the Senora Yturrio. If you and my daughter will take my coach and four to-morrow, I think she will gladly receive your cards. Perhaps also she will consent to take the air of Washington with you. In that case, she might drop in here for an ice. In such case, to conclude, I may perhaps be favored with an interview with that lady. I must have Van Zandt’s signature to this treaty which you see here!”