‘‘Spot’’ Resolutions in the United States House of Representatives, 22 December 18471
Mr. LINCOLN moved the following preamble and resolutions, which were read and laid over under the rule:
Whereas the President of the United States, in his message of May 11, 1846, has declared that "the Mexican Government not only refused to receive him, (the envoy of the United States,) or listen to his propositions, but, after a long-continued series of menaces, have at last invaded our territory and shed the blood of our fellow-citizens on our own soil."2
And again, in his message of December 8, 1846, that "we had ample cause of war against Mexico long before the breaking out of hostilities; but even then we forbore to take redress into our own hands until Mexico herself became the aggressor, by invading our soil in hostile array and shedding the blood of our citizens."3
"And yet again, in his message of December 7, 1847, that "the Mexican Government refused even to hear the terms of adjustment which he (our minister of peace) was authorized to propose, and finally, under wholly unjustifiable pretexts, involved the two countries in war, by invading the territory of the State of Texas, striking the first blow, and shedding the blood of our citizens on our own soil."4
And whereas this House is desirous to obtain a full knowledge of all the facts which go to establish whether the particular spot on which the blood of our citizens was so shed was or was not at that time our own soil: Therefore,
Resolved by the House of Representatives, That the President of the United States be respectfully requested to inform this House—
1st. Whether the spot on which the blood of our citizens was shed, as in his messages declared, was or was not within the territory of Spain, at least after the treaty of 1819 until the Mexican revolution.5
2d. Whether that spot is or is not within the territory which was wrested from Spain by the revolutionary Government of Mexico.
3d. Whether that spot is or is not within a settlement of people, which settlement has existed ever since long before the Texas revolution, and until its inhabitants fled before the approach of the United States army.
4th. Whether that settlement is or is not isolated from any and all other settlements by the Gulf and the Rio Grande on the south and west, and by wide uninhabited regions on the north and east.
5th. Whether the people of that settlement, or a majority of them, or any of them, have ever submitted themselves to the government or laws of Texas or of the United States, by consent or by compulsion, either by accepting office, or voting at elections, or paying tax, or serving on juries, or having process served upon them, or in any other way.
6th. Whether the people of that settlement did or did not flee from the approach of the United States army, leaving unprotected their homes and their growing crops, before the blood was shed, as in the messages stated; and whether the first blood, so shed, was or was not shed within the enclosure of one of the people who had thus fled from it.
7th. Whether our citizens, whose blood was shed, as in his messages declared, were or were not, at that time, armed officers and soldiers, sent into that settlement by the military order of the President, through the Secretary of War.
1This printed version of Abraham Lincoln’s resolutions corresponds exactly with the version appearing in the Congressional Globe. Lincoln’s handwritten version differs from the text here and that printed in the Globe. Some of Lincoln’s words and phrases in his handwritten version were not included in the printed versions.
Cong. Globe, 30th Cong., 1st Sess., 64 (1847).
2James K. Polk to the Senate and House of Representatives, 11 May 1846, U.S. House Journal. 1846. 29th Cong., 1st sess., 784-89.
3James K. Polk to the Senate and House of Representatives, 8 December 1846, U.S. House Journal. 29th Cong., 2nd sess., 11-42.
4James K. Polk to the Senate and House of Representatives, 7 December 1847, U.S. House Journal. 1848. 30th Cong., 1st sess., 19-51.
5Mexico declared its independence from Spain on February 24, 1821.
Timothy J. Henderson, A Glorious Defeat: Mexico and Its War with the United States (New York: Hill and Wang, 2007), 21.
6The U.S. House of Representatives did not act on Lincoln’s resolutions.
Lincoln was only two weeks into his term as a member of the U.S. House. In a letter to William H. Herndon on December 13, Lincoln noted that Herndon and others wanted him to “distinguish” himself, so Lincoln decided to distinguish himself from his peers by wading into the dispute over President James K. Polk’s justification for the Mexican War. Lincoln followed up these “Spot Resolutions” with a speech on January 12, 1848, attacking Polk’s justification for the war.
Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:264-65.
Printed Document, 1 page(s), Abraham Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress (Washington, DC).