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folk, was a sergeant in Captain Hopkins's infantry, and for six months ate the public rations there, rendering no particular service, save aiding in the digging of several broad ditches.
In the spring of 1814, he went to St. Louis. A few years earlier, the surrounding region is described as a howling wilderness, inhabited only by wild beasts and merciless savages, and St. Louis, as a small town, its inhabitants consisting almost wholly of French and Spanish settlers, who were engaged in trafficking with the Indians the commodities of civilization, such as firewater, beads, blankets, arms, ammunition, &c., for peltry.*
When Bates arrived at St. Louis, it had about two thousand inhabitants, chiefly French, who discountenanced the settlement of Americans among them, as they considered it an invasion of their monopoly of the traffic with the Indians. The Indians, too, thinking themselves better dealt with by the French and Spanish, united with the latter in their hostility to the influx of the Americans.† From this period Mr. Bates has been identified with the growth of the great West.
He commenced the study of law in the office of Rufus Easton, the best-read lawyer at the bar, and a Delegate from Missouri Territory to Congress from 1814 to 1816. He applied himself with diligence, working fourteen hours a day for six days in the week, and in the winter of 1816–17 took out a license, and commenced the practice of the profession. Several
years of Mr. Bates's life were thus occupied, he also having attained, in the interim, various offices of trust under the Territorial Government. He was a member—the youngest but one —of the convention which formed the State Constitution, July 19, 1820, and successively Circuit (prosecuting) Attorney under the State Government, Attorney-General under the United States Government, and District Attorney for Missouri. Mr. Bates has likewise at different times served in both branches of the State Legislature, and for one term-from 1827 to 1829—represented the State in the United States House of Representatives in the
* Life and Adventures of James P. Beckwourth, Mountaineer, Scout, and Pioneer, &c. &c. Written from his own dictation, by T. D. Bonner. New York, 1856. Beckwourth.
Twentieth Congress. He was the friend of Henry Clay in the Presidential contest of 1824, and united with him in supporting the Administration and re-election of John Quincy Adams, and was elected to Congress as the friend of that Administration. He concurred also with Mr. Clay's general views on the subject of emancipation, and exemplified his principles by manumitting all his slaves and sending them to Liberia.
In May, 1829, he married Julia D., fifth daughter of David Coulter, formerly of Columbia, S.C., by whom he has had fifteen children, eight of whom survive.
In Congress he was opposed to the occupation of Oregon, considering, says De Bow's Review, that country essentially foreign, and the occupation of it by the United States the entering wedge to a system of foreign colonization, conquest, and domination. Then we had no railroads and telegraphs, which at this day have for many purposes annihilated both time and space. from beginning to end, against the Mexican War, and the acquisition of Mexican territory by either arms or money, and expressed his ideas on the subject in the St. Louis papers. The writer in “De Bow," January, 1852, acknowledges the receipt of a recent letter from Mr. Bates, in which he says,
“Were it not proved by constant experience that the currents of social life often drift men into courses quite opposite to those they attempt to steer, I should be astonished to find myself, in some sort, a public man, in spite of my efforts to the contrary. In youth I was ambitious, and sought distinction with some avidity. But the popular storm which blew General Jackson into the Presidency blew me out of the track of public life. In the canvass for a second term in Congress, I was so thoroughly beaten that I was content, as the Kentuckians
to stay whipped,' and never again to worry myself with the attempt to climb the slippery heights of politics. Thenceforth I looked only to professional labor for the means of supporting and educating a numerous family, and to the domestic circle for all my enjoyments. A practice of more than twenty years in this scheme of life has destroyed whatever of appetite I may once have had for public distinction; and now all I desire is, (I hope it is in my reach,) for my children the means of education, and a fair start in life, and for myself the quiet esteem of good men."
Mr. Bates had devoted himself so exclusively to his profession for the last thirty years that he was little known out of Missouri
when the Internal Improvement Convention met at Chicago, in 1847. That convention is now chiefly memorable from the opening speech made by Mr. Bates, as its presiding officer, in which, in striking contrast with the brief, non-committal letters of Mr. Cass and other political aspirants, he explained and enforced at
length his views of the duties imposed by the Constitution upon | the Federal Government to execute great national works for the
development of the country. The convention was large, and embraced persons of all shades of political opinion; but all were impressed with the wisdom, integrity, and patriotism of their president, and returned to their homes commending him for those high qualities, as well as for his eloquence and dignified
Efforts were then renewed to bring him again into political life; but he could not be induced to allow his name to be presented for political station in Missouri, and he declined a seat in the Cabinet at Washington, tendered him by Mr. Fillmore.
Mr. Bates has been an occasional writer for the public press, chiefly on political topics, and those, for the most part, such as concerned the interpretation of the Constitution.
In February of the present year, (1859,) the New York “General Whig Committee,” in conformity with a resolution of that body, addressed Mr. Bates on the inexpediency of agitating the Negro question, and the desirability of turning public attention to topics of general importance, such as foreign relations, territorial extension, building of railroads for national uses, harbor-improvements, river - navigation, the currency, the tariff, “and other means of developing our own internal resources” and fraternally binding together the sections of the Republic. The committee requested Mr. Bates's opinion on the subject, and his views on the signs of the times. He complied with the request; and his reply was deemed of great value, as the “interesting and dispassionate” view of one of the most conservative and prudent political counsellors in the country.
The able gentleman prefaces this “ definition of his position" by stating that his opinions, right or wrong, are his own, and do not belong to this or that party, ready to be abandoned or modified to suit a platform; they were deliberately formed in the
retirement of private life, free from the exigencies of official responsibility and from the perturbations of party policy.
He believes, as he has often declared, the Negro question to be a pestilent question, “the agitation of which has never done good to any party, section, or class, and never can do good.” He considered it a dangerous vortex, into which good men are drawn unawares; but when he beheld a Northern or Southern of mature age and some experience persisting in urging the question, after the sad experience of the last few years, he could attribute his conduct to no higher motive than personal ambition or sectional prejudice.
He did not, and would not, doubt the power and duty of Government to raise taxes when necessary for the protection of the country and the prosperity of the people. A Government that has not such a power is a weak, poor, impotent Government, and not at all such a Government as our fathers thought they had made when they produced the Constitution. “The people do not derive their right from the Government; but the Government derives its powers from the people; and those powers are granted for the main, if not the only, purpose of protecting the rights of the people. Protection, then, if not the sole, is the chief, end of Government."
As to foreign policy, Mr. Bates avows himself “not much of a progressive, being content to leave it where Washington placed it,—upon that wise, virtuous, safe maxim, Peace with all nations, entangling alliances with none.' He has little sympathy with the greedy and indiscriminate appetite for foreign acquisition which makes us covet our neighbor's lands and devise cunning schemes to get them. To him it appeared as a sort of political gluttony, as dangerous to the body politic as gluttony is to the natural man, producing disease certainly, hastening death probably. The case of Louisiana was different. “ Louisiana was indispensable to our full and safe enjoyment of an immense region which was already owned; and its acquisition gave us the unquestioned control of that noble system of Mississippi waters which Nature seems to have made one and indivisible.” He does not believe that the United States is not an independent and safe nation because Cuba is not a part of it. On the contrary, he thought we could defend ourselves if it belonged to
England, France, or Russia, much less to a feeble puwer like Spain. “In fact,” says Mr. Bates, “I cannot help doubting the honesty of the cowardly argument by which we are urged to rob poor old Spain of this last remnant of her Western empire, for fear that she might use it to rob us.”
Neither does Mr. Bates agree with Senator Slidell's projects attached to the Thirty-Million Bill, nor with Senator Houston's plan of a protectorate over Mexico. He stys,
“A leading Senator has lately declared (in debate on the Thirty-Million Bill) that we must not only have Cuba, but all the islands froin Cape Florida to the Spanish Main, so as to surround the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea, and make them our mare clausum,' like the Mediterranean in old times, when the Roman Emperor ruled both its shores, from the Pillars of Hercules to the Hellespont. This claim of mare nostrum implies, of course, that we must own the continent that bounds our sea on the west, as well as the string of islands that enclose it on the east,—that is, Mexico, Central America, and all South America, so far south, at least, as the Orinoco. In that wide compass of sea and land there are a good many native governments and provinces belonging to the strongest maritime Powers, and a narrow continental isthmus which we ourselves, as well as England and France, are wont to call the highway of nations.
To fulfil the grand conception and perfect our tropical empire, we must buy or conquer all these torrid countries and their mongrel populations. As to buying them, it strikes me we had better wait a while, at least, until the Government has ceased to borrow money to pay its current expenses. And as to conquering them, perhaps it would be prudent to pause and make some estimate of the costs and contingencies before we rush into war with all maritime Europe and half America.
Supposing that we possessed the whole country, continental and insular, from the Rio Grande to the Orinoco and from Trinidad to Cuba, he doubts whether we could govern it wisely. The attempt to govern Kansas and Utah has neither maintained the dignity of the nation nor secured the prosperity of the subject people. How, he asks, can we do better with the mixed races of those countries, some of which for fifty years have in vain sought to establish republican governments on our model ? He would grieve to see his country, like Rome, become a conquering and dominant nation; nor was he willing to inoculate our body politic with the hereditary diseases, social and political, of the mixed races alluded to.