While originating in the “Senate of the National Legislature,” a resolution of California’s Senate relating to European colonization highlights an interesting piece of history. The language itself is fascinating, reflecting as it does the realities of the period including the recency of Russian settlements in northern California as well as the significant prescient reference to the importance of the control of Cuba.
I quote the resolution: Whereas, Resolutions have been offered in the Senate of the National Legislature, That the United States do hereby declare that the American Continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintained, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future Colonization by any European Power; and while existing rights should be respected and will be by the United States, they owe it to their own safety and interests, to announce, as they now do, that no future European Colony or dominion, shall with their consent, be planted or established on any part of the American Continent; and should the attempt be made they thus deliberately declare, that it will be viewed as an act originating in motives regardless of their interests and safety, and which will leave them free to adopt such measures as an independent nation may justly adopt in defense of its rights and powers. That while the United States disclaim any designs upon the Island of Cuba, inconsistent with the laws of both nations, and with their duties to Spain, they consider it due to the vast importance of the subject, to make known in solemn manner that they should view all efforts on the part of any other power to procure possession, whether peaceably or forcibly of that Island, which, as a naval or Military position, must under circumstances easily to be foreseen, become dangerous to their Southern Coast, to the Gulf of Mexico, and to the mouth of the Mississippi, as unfriendly acts directed against them and to be resisted by all the means in their power: Therefore be it Resolved, By the Senate, (the Assembly concurring,) that we fully and cordially approve the sentiments therein expressed and that we hereby pledge the hearty co-operation of the State of California in maintaining them. Passed, May 17, 1853.
We clearly have a tendency in our day to underestimate the fluidity and unsettled nature of that period in world, as well as United States, history. We tend to focus upon wagon trains and the travails of waves of settlers beset by the hardships of the west and those peculiarly hostile Indians who didn’t understand that we had already purchased their land from their easterly relatives in exchange for beads—and treaties later broken.
I quote a piece from Wikipedia that gives a tiny bit of flavor of that fluidity: “Fort Ross is a landmark in the history of European imperialism. The Spanish Expansion went west across the Atlantic Ocean and the Russian expansion went east across Siberia and the Pacific Ocean. In the early nineteenth century, the two waves of expansion met on the opposite side of the world along the Pacific Coast of California with Russia arriving from the north and Spain from the south. The United States of America arrived in 1846 from the east.”
To many, there would be a certain puzzlement about that bizarre last sentence. What in the world can Wiki be referring to? “The United States of America arrived from the east”?! To these, what could be more clear than that we were already here!