The American Whigs: An Anthology

By Daniel Walker Howe | Go to book overview

3
AN UNJUST WAR

Thomas Corwin


THE MEXICAN WAR

The Mexican War was waged by a Democratic administration under President Polk. Whigs generally regarded it as an unjust war of aggression provoked by our side. Antiwar feeling ran especially strong in the northern states. In Congress, the Whigs had resisted the initial involvement but were faced with a troublesome dilemma once fighting began. Should they oppose appropriations to finance the war, or would it be unpatriotic to withhold support from American soldiers in the field? Most Whig congressmen voted reluctantly for military appropriations. One who did not explains his position here.

Thomas Corwin ( 1794-1865), born in a poor Kentucky family, educated himself to be a lawyer and became active in Ohio politics at an early age. He moved naturally from supporting the Adams-Clay faction of the 1820s into the Whig party. At various times he served as state legislator, congressman, governor of Ohio, and secretary of the treasury. Only reluctantly did he leave the moribund Whig party in 1858 to become a Republican. Lincoln gave him the important, and appropriate, post of minister to Mexico. At the time he delivered this speech Corwin was United States senator from Ohio.

Anxious as I know all are to act, rather than debate, I am compelled ...to solicit the attention of the Senate. I do this chiefly that I may discharge the humble duty of giving to the Senate, and through this medium to my constituents, the motives and reasons which have impelled me to occupy a position always undesirable, but, in times like the present, painfully embarrassing.

I have been compelled, from convictions of duty which I could not disregard, to differ not merely with those on the other side of the chamber, with whom I seldom agree, but also to separate, on one or

____________________

SOURCE. Thomas Corwin, "On the Mexican War. In the Senate of the United States, February 11th, 1847," Life and Speeches of Thomas Corwin, ed. Josiah Morrow ( Cincinnati, 1896), pp. 277-314.

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