Portland Daily Advertiser, January 29, 1861
The Governor of Mississippi has caused batteries to be erected near Vicksburg, to command the passage of the Mississippi River, and every boat from north of Mason and Dixon's line is compelled to stop and submit to an examination.—Several steamboats have already been intercepted. There is great excitement in the West and North-West in consequence of these outrages, and prompt measures are likely to be taken to redress them.
The above extract from the New York Tribune containing only a mere statement of facts, forces upon our attention questions of the most vital importance.
When President Jefferson purchased the Louisiana Territory from the French Government in the time of the Consulate, he and his supporters acknowledged that they went beyond the limits of the Constitution, and could only justify themselves upon the ground that the purchase would be manifestly for the best interests of the nation. The great West was slowly filling up with an agricultural population, and the farseeing Statesmen of that day, anticipated a time like the present, when the great prairies would be alive with productive industry and greet the autumn sunrise with yellow, glowing acres of wheat and corn.
Through the midst of this region, blessed by nature as no other land is blessed, swept the mighty Mississippi, the natural avenue of commerce, the natural means of communication with the ocean and with the markets of the world.—The whole scheme of securing the outlets of the Mississippi Valley and the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, was one worthy the attention of patriotic statesmen. They moulded the Constitution to their will, or rather they extended its meaning and practical application as new complications arose, which were not anticipated by its framers. The country acceded to the purchase of Louisiana and Florida, and vast treasures were expended originally, and afterward, for the forcible expulsion and peaceable removal of Indian tribes, and for the protection and government of the new Territories. The country claims the shores of the Gulf and the mouths of the Mississippi, and shows for its title the original purchase and the continued exercise of Territorial jurisdiction.
The attempt to prove that the North-West, and through that section, that the whole North is entitled to all the advantages arising from the possession of the Mississippi Delta and the shores of the Gulf, would seem to be a mere waste of logic. The mere statement proves itself; and we cannot argue with men who assert that Louisiana or Mississippi has a shadow of right to deny the free navigation of the river to the commerce of the West.
We are at present reaping but a portion of the advantages to be derived from the free navigation of the Mississippi. The prairies of the North-West do not at present produce one-tenth part of the food they are capable of producing. The Missouri, rising among the Black Hills, flows through nearly three thousand miles of Territory, most of which is known only to the Indian and the trapper; steamboats yearly stem the turbid current of the Yellow Stone, where their approach frightens the buffalo, the deer and the beaver.—But the time will come, and must, in the natural progress of events, when the population of the prairies will have doubled many times, when wheat and corn will be counted by millions of bushels where it is now counted by tens of thousands, when, in shipping, hundreds of tons will have been multiplied into thousands: a time will come when all along the course of the swift running Missouri—the forests will have made way for plantations, and villages and busy cities shall occupy the haunts of wild beasts and savage Indians; hundreds of keels will cut the waters, and millions of civilized people will first see the light and find their graves, where solitude now reigns the monarch of the land.
The outlet of all this vast region, capable of so much, destined to accomplish so much, lies between Mississippi and Louisiana, and the former of these States has set up a claim of exclusive sovereignty. We regret this act, and regard it with the deepest solicitude. It is perfectly clear that the West will never submit to this high-handed measure, and we cannot find it in our conscience to say that she ought to submit, even for a moment and for the sake of peace.
If the State of Mississippi perseveres in her present policy, the NorthWest, in the full consciousness of right, will precipitate a conflict between the sections, and we regard the proceedings of that State as far more likely to cause confusion and bloodshed, than the precipitate and uncertain movements of the mob of Charleston, or the mob of Pensacola. The proposition that a single State has a right to control the navigation of the Mississippi is simply absurd, and; if boats are actually stopped on their way to the Balize, the country will rise in arms to open the navigation of the river. We sincerely hope that the State will pause, and moved by considerations of simple right and justice, will suspend all action which will have a tendency to precipitate a conflict; of one thing she may be certain, the country will never submit to the closing of the Mississippi.