Argument For the Acquisition Of The Floridas
December 25, I800

Dec. 25, I800

Question. Would it be advantageous to the United States to extend their territories?

It might be supposed that a Republic, whose territorial jurisdiction encircles a more extensive portion of the earth's surface, than falls to the share of almost any sovereignty in Europe, would never exert her energies for her Dominion. It is true, on general maxims, that our country is sufficiently large for a Republican government, but if, by an inconsiderable extension of our limits, we can avail ourselves of great, natural advantages, otherwise unattainable, does not sound policy dictate the measure. We reduce the question to a single point; would not the acquisition of the Floridas be advantageous to the United States? Here let it be remembered, that that part of the territory of our government, which lies North of Florida, and West of the Allegany mountains, including the NorthWestern territory, Tennessee, Kentucky, and a part of Georgia, is, by far, the most fertile part of the Union. No where does the soil produce in such exuberance, no where is the climate so mild and agreeable. The agricultural productions of this quarter, must then, in a few years, become immense, far exceeding those of all the Atlantic States. The next inquiry is, how shall this super abundance be disposed of? how shall the lumber, wheat and cotton of this country be conveyed to a West India or European market? The only practicable method of transportation is down the Mississippi, and the other rivers, that run into the Mexic gulf; and we have here to reflect, that these rivers all run thro' a country, owned by the king of Spain; a monarch, capricious as a child, and versatile as the wind, and who has it in his power, whenever interest, ambition, or the whims of his fancy dictate, to do us incalculable injuries, by prohibiting our Western brethren from prosecuting commerce thro' his dominions. Suppose the Spanish sovereign should, this day, give orders to the fortress of New Orleans, to suflfer no American vessel to pass up or down the river. This would be an affliction, not to be born by those citizens, who live along the banks of the Mississippi, but what steps should our government take in the affair? Must they sit still, and fold their hands, while such an intolerable embargo presses our commerce? This would be an ill expedient; we might as well give Spain our whole Western territory, as suffer her to control the commerce of it. The only way we could turn ourselves, in this case, would be to declare war against Spain, and vindicate our claims to free navigation by force of arms. Here then we are under necessity of extending our territories, by possessing ourselves of all the country adjacent those rivers, necessary for our commerce; or of giving up the idea of ever seeing Western America a flourishing country. Therefore, since we are liable, every day, to be reduced to the necessity of seizing on Florida in a hostile manner, or of surrendering the rights of commerce, it is respectfully submitted, whether it would not be proper for our government, to enter into some convention with the king of Spain, by which the Floridas should be ceded to the United States.

D. Webster.

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