« PreviousContinue »
on the American side of the Niagara river by M’Leod and others in the British service, and the avowal of Mr. Fox that it “was an act of force by the British authorities,” says: “The government of the United States entertain no doubt that after this avowal of the transaction, a public transaction, authorized and undertaken by the British authorities, individuals concerned in it ought not, by the principles of public law and the general usage of civilized states, to be holden personally responsible, in the ordinary tribunals of law, for their participation in it.” Such acts are national, and redress must be sought by the nation deeming itself injured of the nation by whose authority the acts were done. No private action, cvil or criminal, ought, upon general principles, to lie for any act of any person invading the rights of a foreign nation by authority of his own sovereign. Such wrongs must be redressed by the nation doing them by its citizens or subjects on demand of the injured state.
SECTION FOURTH. OF PURCHASE OF TERRITORY.
A nation may increase its population or territory by purchase fairly made, and by this mode Louisiana and Florida were added to our Republic and the right of self-government and of representation in our National Legislature, the Congress of the United States, immediately devolved upon the people of the newly acquired countries as component parts of the Union. These acquisitions which under our Constitution should have been sanctioned by amendments of that instrument, gave to the United States a convenient boundary, removed the dangers of war with foreign powers, and conferred freedom and self-government with American citizenship on a people deprived of these inalienable rights.
SECTION FIFTH. OF THE UNION OF STATES.
As the right of self-government is inherent and inalienable in the people of every country, the citizens of any two or more nations may by their own solemn act agree to unite their governments in a new one agreed upon and substituted by the people themselves. This is a natural mode of adding territory and population sanctioned by right reason. But the existing governments of any two nations have no such power, as the authority of each is to govern the citizens of each nation according to its laws. Mr. Jefferson's opinion on this point was clearly expressed in the annexed extract of a letter written to Mr. Breckenridge, dated August 12, 1803, when the treaty for the cession of Louisiana was under consideration.
“This treaty must of course be laid before both Houses, because both have important functions to exercise respecting it. They, I presume, will see their duty in ratifying and paying for it, so as to secure a good which would otherwise probably be never again in their power. But I suppose they must then appeal to the nation for an additional article to the constitution, approving and confirming an act which the nation had not previously authorized. The constitution has made no provision for our holding foreign territory, still less for incorporating foreign nations in our Union. The executive in seizing the fugitive occurrence which so much advances the good of their country, has done an act beyond the constitution.”
In a letter to Levi Lincoln, dated August 30th, 1803, when speaking of the ratification of the treaty of cession, he says: “the less that is said about any constitutional difficulty, the better: and that it will be desirable for Congress to do what is necessary, in silence.”
And, in a letter to Wilson C. Nichols, dated September 7, 1803, he says: “Whatever Congress shall think it necessary to do, should be done with as little debate as possible, and particularly as far as respects the constitutional difficulty. I am aware of the force of the observations you make on the power given by the constitution to Con
gress, to admit new states into the Union, without restraining the subject to the territory then constituting the United States. But when I consider that the limits of the United States are precisely fixed by the treaty of 1783, that the constitution expressly declares itself to be made for the United States, I cannot help believing the intention was not to permit Congress to admit into the Union new States, which should be formed out of the territory for which and under whose authority alone they were then acting. I do not believe it was meant that they might receive England, Ireland, Holland, &c. into it.” For a full exposition of the opinion of President Jefferson, in accordance with our own on this subject, we refer to Jefferson's writings, vol. 3d, p. 512, and vol. 4th, p. 2d and 3d. See Vattel above cited. The Republic of Texas upon general principles cannot be admitted into our Union according to her petition, unless the people of the United States themselves in the mode pointed out by their constitution assent thereto, nor unless the people of Texas shall cede to our Republic their sovereignty. A cession of a nation's sovereignty must be by the nation. The application of Texas to merge her sovereignty in that of our Republic, proposes the construction of a new nation and the people of the two countries, and they alone can authorize it. A cession of a nation's sovereignty by the executive or the treaty-making power would be void for want of authority. All nations possess the inherent power and right of altering or modifying their governments or abolishing them, and hence the faculty of uniting one or more nations under a new political organization to be agreed on by the people themselves of the uniting nations, belongs to all and may be rightfully exercised. No other nation has a right by the moral law of nations to oppose such union made by agreement or purchase, any more than my neighbor has to prevent me from buying a farm or increasing my possession by gift from or contract with adjacent proprietors. (See Vatiel 3d B. Ch. 3, S. 42.) Our distinguished civilian. Wheaton, in his Elements of International Law, thus affirms a nation’s right to augment its territory, population and wealth by peaceful and just acquisition: “The right of every independent nation to increase its national domains, wealth, population and power by all innocent and lawful means, such as the pacific acquisition of new territory, the discovery and settlement of new countries, the extension of its navigation and fisheries, &c., is an incontrovertible right of sovereignty generally recognized by the opinion and usage of nations, it