12.28.2010

The Papers of Henry Clay, Pg. 507-516



December 28, 1810

Henry Clay addresses a speech on the occupation of West Florida to the President. West Florida is considered the region lying between the Mississippi and Rio Perdido. Clay traces the occupational history of this region and claims that the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 included the territory.

“By the act of the 24th of February, 1804, for laying duties on goods imported into the ceded territories, the President is empowered, whenever he deems it expedient, to erect the bay and river Mobile, &c. into a separate district, and to establish therein a port of entry and delivery. By this same act the Orleans territory is laid off, and its boundaries are so defined as to comprehend West Florida.”

Clay addresses the potential fear that occupying West Florida will incite a conflict with Spain by proposing that a conflict with Spain shies in comparison to the loss of the territory to another power and, consequently, the weakening of the Union.

“Whether this be the fact or not, it cannot be doubted, that if you neglect the present auspicious moment—if you reject the proffered boon, some other nation, profiting by your errors, will seize the occasion to get a fatal footing in your southern frontier. I have no hesitation in saying, that if a parent country will not or cannot maintain its authority in a colony adjacent to us, and there exists in it a state or misrule and disorder, menacing our peace, and if moreover such a colony, by passing into the hands of any other power, would become dangerous to the integrity of the Union…”

The Papers of Henry Clay, Pg. 507-516