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A Southern Senator Opposes the "All-Mexico" Plan

John C. Calhoun, Senator from South Carolina and future spokesman for southern secession, delivered the following speech to Congress on January 4, 1848.  At the time, U.S. and Mexican diplomats were in the midst of negotiating a peace treaty to determine how much of Mexico would be incorporated into the U.S. Calhoun argued for limiting territorial expansion in order to restrict the number of non-white people who would become U.S. citizens.

[We] have never dreamt of incorporating into our Union any but the Caucasian race the free white race.  To incorporate Mexico, would be the very first instance of the kind of incorporating an Indian race; for more than half of the Mexicans are Indians, and the other is composed chiefly of mixed tribes.  I protest against such a union as that!  Ours, sir, is the Government of a white race.  The great misfortunes of Spanish America are to be traced to the fatal error of placing these colored races on an equality with the white race….

Are we to associate with ourselves as equals, companions, and fellow-citizens, the Indians and mixed race of Mexico?  [Mr. President], I would consider such a thing fatal to our institutions….

We make a great mistake, sir, when we suppose that all people are capable of self-government.  We are anxious to force free government on all; and I see that it has been urged in a very respectable quarter, that it is the mission of this country to spread civil and religious liberty over all the world, and especially over this continent.  It is a great mistake.  None but people advanced to a very high state of moral and intellectual improvement are capable, in a civilized state, of maintaining free government.

Source | In Ernesto Chávez, ed., The U.S. War with Mexico: A Brief History with Documents (Bedford/St. Martin's 2008), 118-120.
Creator | John C. Calhoun
Item Type | Speech
Cite This document | John C. Calhoun, “A Southern Senator Opposes the "All-Mexico" Plan,” SHEC: Resources for Teachers, accessed May 28, 2023,

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