A fresh effort has recently been made by the minister of the United States residing at Paris to obtain a consideration of the just claims of citizens of the United States to the reparation of wrongs long since committed, many of them frankly acknowledged and all of them entitled upon every principle of justice to a candid examination. The proposal last made to the French Government has been to refer the subject which has formed an obstacle to this consideration to the determination of a sovereign the common friend of both. To this offer no definitive answer has yet been received, but the gallant and honorable spirit which has at all times been the pride and glory of France will not ultimately permit the demands of innocent sufferers to be extinguished in the mere consciousness of the power to reject them.
A new treaty of amity, navigation, and commerce has been concluded with the Kingdom of Sweden, which will be submitted to the Senate for their advice with regard to its ratification. At a more recent date a minister plenipotentiary from the Hanseatic Republics of Hamburg, Lubeck, and Bremen has been received, charged with a special mission for the negotiation of a treaty of amity and commerce between that ancient and renowned league and the United States. This negotiation has accordingly been commenced, and is now in progress, the result of which will, if successful, be also submitted to the Senate for their consideration.
Since the accession of the Emperor Nicholas to the imperial throne of all the Russias the friendly dispositions toward the United States so constantly manifested by his predecessor have continued unabated, and have been recently testified by the appointment of a minister plenipotentiary to reside at this place. From the interest taken by this Sovereign in behalf of the suffering Greeks and from the spirit with which others of the great European powers are cooperating with him the friends of freedom and of humanity may indulge the hope that they will obtain relief from that most unequal of conflicts which they have so long and so gallantly sustained; that they will enjoy the blessing of self government, which by their sufferings in the cause of liberty they have richly earned, and that their independence will be secured by those liberal institutions of which their country furnished the earliest examples in the history of man-kind, and which have consecrated to immortal remembrance the very soil for which they are now again profusely pouring forth their blood. The sympathies which the people and Government of the United States have so warmly indulged with their cause have been acknowledged by their Government in a letter of thanks, which I have received from their illustrious President, a translation of which is now communicated to Congress, the representatives of that nation to whom this tribute of gratitude was intended to be paid, and to whom it was justly due.
In the American hemisphere the cause of freedom and independence has continued to prevail, and if signalized by none of those splendid triumphs which had crowned with glory some of the preceding years it has only been from the banishment of all external force against which the struggle had been maintained. The shout of victory has been superseded by the expulsion of the enemy over whom it could have been achieved.
Our friendly wishes and cordial good will, which have constantly followed the southern nations of America in all the vicissitudes of their war of independence, are succeeded by a solicitude equally ardent and cordial that by the wisdom and purity of their institutions they may secure to themselves the choicest blessings of social order and the best rewards of virtuous liberty. Disclaiming alike all right and all intention of interfering in those concerns which it is the prerogative of their independence to regulate as to them shall seem fit, we hail with joy every indication of their prosperity, of their harmony, of their persevering and inflexible homage to those principles of freedom and of equal rights which are alone suited to the genius and temper of the American nations.
It has been, therefore, with some concern that we have observed indications of intestine divisions in some of the Republics of the south, and appearances of less union with one another than we believe to be the interest of all. Among the results of this state of things has been that the treaties concluded at Panama do not appear to have been ratified by the contracting parties, and that the meeting of the congress at Tacubaya has been indefinitely postponed. In accepting the invitations to be represented at this congress, while a manifestation was intended on the part of the United States of the most friendly disposition toward the southern Republics by whom it had been proposed, it was hoped that it would furnish an opportunity for bringing all the nations of this hemisphere to the common acknowledgment and adoption of the principles in the regulation of their internal relations which would have secured a lasting peace and harmony between them and have promoted the cause of mutual benevolence throughout the globe. But as obstacles appear to have arisen to the reassembling of the congress, one of the two ministers commissioned on the part of the United States has returned to the bosom of his country, while the minister charged with the ordinary mission to Mexico remains authorized to attend the conferences of the congress when ever they may be resumed.
A hope was for a short time entertained that a treaty of peace actually signed between the Government of Buenos Ayres and of Brazil would supersede all further occasion for those collisions between belligerent pretensions and neutral rights which are so commonly the result of maritime war, and which have unfortunately disturbed the harmony of the relations between the United States and the Brazilian Governments. At their last session Congress were informed that some of the naval officers of that Empire had advanced and practiced upon principles in relation to blockades and to neutral navigation which we could not sanction, and which our commanders found it necessary to resist. It appears that they have not been sustained by the Government of Brazil itself. Some of the vessels captured under the assumed authority of these erroneous principles have been restored, and we trust that our just expectations will be realized that adequate indemnity will be made to all the citizens of the United States who have suffered by the unwarranted captures which the Brazilian tribunals themselves have pronounced unlawful.
In the diplomatic discussions at Rio de Janeiro of these wrongs sustained by citizens of the United States and of others which seemed as if emanating immediately from that Government itself the charge d'affaires of the United States, under an impression that his representations in behalf of the rights and interests of his country- men were totally disregarded and useless, deemed it his duty, without waiting for instructions, to terminate his official functions, to demand his pass-ports, and return to the United States. This movement, dictated by an honest zeal for the honor and interests of his country— motives which operated exclusively on the mind of the officer who resorted to it—has not been disapproved by me.
The Brazilian Government, however, complained of it as a measure for which no adequate intentional cause had been given by them, and upon an explicit assurance through their charge d'affaires residing here that a successor to the late representative of the United States near that Government, the appointment of whom they desired, should be received and treated with the respect due to his character, and that indemnity should be promptly made for all injuries inflicted on citizens of the United States or their property contrary to the laws of nations, a temporary commission as charge d'affaires to that country has been issued, which it is hopes will entirely restore the ordinary diplomatic intercourse between the two Governments and the friendly relations between their respective nations.
Turning from the momentous concerns of our Union in its intercourse with foreign nations to those of the deepest interest in the administration of our internal affairs, we find the revenues of the present year corresponding as nearly as might be expected with the anticipations of the last, and presenting an aspect still more favorable in the promise of the next.
The balance in the Treasury on January 1st, 1827 was $6,358,686.18. The receipts from that day to September 30th, 1827, as near as the returns of them yet received can show, amount to $16,886,581.32. The receipts of the present quarter, estimated at $4,515,000, added to the above form an aggregate of $21,400,000 of receipts.
The expenditures of the year may perhaps amount to $22,300,000 presenting a small excess over the receipts. But of these $22,000,000, upward of $6,000,000 have been applied to the discharge of the principal of the public debt, the whole amount of which, approaching $74,000,000 on January 1st, 1827, will on January 1st, 1828 fall short of $67,500,000. The balance in the Treasury on January 1st, 1828 it is expected will exceed $5,450,000, a sum exceeding that of January 1st, 1825, though falling short of that exhibited on January 1st, 1827.
It was foreseen that the revenue of the present year 1827 would not equal that of the last, which had itself been less than that of the next preceding year. But the hope has been realized which was entertained, that these deficiencies would in no wise interrupt the steady operation of the discharge of the public debt by the annual $10,000,000 devoted to that object by the act of March 3d, 1817.
The amount of duties secured on merchandise imported from the commencement of the year until September 30th, 1827 is $21,226,000, and the probably amount of that which will be secured during the remainder of the year is $5,774,000, forming a sum total of $27,000,000. With the allowances for draw-backs and contingent deficiencies which may occur, though not specifically foreseen, we may safely estimate the receipts of the ensuing year at $22,300,000—a revenue for the next equal to the expenditure of the present year.
The deep solicitude felt by our citizens of all classes throughout the Union for the total discharge of the public debt will apologize for the earnestness with which I deem it my duty to urge this topic upon the consideration of Congress—of recommending to them again the observance of the strictest economy in the application of the public funds. The depression upon the receipts of the revenue which had commenced with the year 1826 continued with increased severity during the two first quarters of the present year.
The returning tide began to flow with the third quarter, and, so far as we can judge from experience, may be expected to continue through the course of the ensuing year. In the mean time an alleviation from the burden of the public debt will in the three years have been effected to the amount of nearly $16,000,000, and the charge of annual interest will have been reduced upward of $1,000,000. But among the maxims of political economy which the stewards of the public moneys should never suffer without urgent necessity to be transcended is that of keeping the expenditures of the year within the limits of its receipts.
The appropriations of the two last years, including the yearly $10,000,000 of the sinking fund, have each equaled the promised revenue of the ensuing year. While we foresee with confidence that the public coffers will be replenished from the receipts as fast as they will be drained by the expenditures, equal in amount to those of the current year, it should not be forgotten that they could ill suffer the exhaustion of larger disbursements.
The condition of the Army and of all the branches of the public service under the superintendence of the Secretary of War will be seen by the report from that officer and the documents with which it is accompanied.
During the last summer a detachment of the Army has been usefully and successfully called to perform their appropriate duties. At the moment when the commissioners appointed for carrying into execution certain provisions of the treaty of August 19th, 1825, with various tribes of the North Western Indians were about to arrive at the appointed place of meeting the unprovoked murder of several citizens and other acts of unequivocal hostility committed by a party of the Winnebago tribe, one of those associated in the treaty, followed by indications of a menacing character among other tribes of the same region, rendered necessary an immediate display of the defensive and protective force of the Union in that quarter.
It was accordingly exhibited by the immediate and concerted movements of the governors of the State of Illinois and of the Territory of Michigan, and competent levies of militia, under their authority, with a corps of 700 men of United States troops, under the command of General Atkinson, who, at the call of Governor Cass, immediately repaired to the scene of danger from their station at St. Louis. Their presence dispelled the alarms of our fellow citizens on those disorders, and overawed the hostile purposes of the Indians. The perpetrators of the murders were surrendered to the authority and operation of our laws, and every appearance of purposed hostility from those Indian tribes has subsided.
Although the present organization of the Army and the administration of its various branches of service are, upon the whole, satisfactory, they are yet susceptible of much improvement in particulars, some of which have been heretofore submitted to the consideration of Congress, and others are now first presented in the report of the Secretary of War.
The expediency of providing for additional numbers of officers in the two corps of engineers will in some degree depend upon the number and extent of the objects of national importance upon which Congress may think it proper that surveys should be made conformably to the act of April 30th, 1824. Of the surveys which before the last session of Congress had been made under the authority of that act, reports were made—Of the Board of Internal Improvement, on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. On the continuation of the national road from Cumberland to the tide waters within the District of Columbia. On the continuation of the national road from Canton to Zanesville. On the location of the national road from Zanesville to Columbus. On the continuation of the same to the seat of government in Missouri. On a post road from Baltimore to Philadelphia. Of a survey of Kennebec River (in part). On a national road from Washington to Buffalo. On the survey of Saugatuck Harbor and River. On a canal from Lake Pont Chartrain to the Mississippi River. On surveys at Edgartown, Newburyport, and Hyannis Harbor. On survey of La Plaisance Bay, in the Territory of Michigan. And reports are now prepared and will be submitted to Congress—On surveys of the peninsula of Florida, to ascertain the practicability of a canal to connect the waters of the Atlantic with the Gulf of Mexico across that peninsula; and also of the country between the bays of Mobile and of Pensacola, with the view of connecting them together by a canal. On surveys of a route for a canal to connect the waters of James and Great Kenhawa rivers. On the survey of the Swash, in Pamlico Sound, and that of Cape Fear, below the town of Wilmington, in North Carolina. On the survey of the Muscle Shoals, in the Tennessee River, and for a route for a contemplated communication between the Hiwassee and Coosa rivers, in the State of Alabama. Other reports of surveys upon objects pointed out by the several acts of Congress of the last and preceding sessions are in the progress of preparation, and most of them may be completed before the close of this session. All the officers of both corps of engineers, with several other persons duly qualified, have been constantly employed upon these services from the passage of the act of April 30th, 1824, to this time.
Were no other advantage to accrue to the country from their labors than the fund of topographical knowledge which they have collected and communicated, that alone would have been a profit to the Union more than adequate to all the expenditures which have been devoted to the object; but the appropriations for the repair and continuation of the Cumberland road, for the construction of various other roads, for the removal of obstructions from the rivers and harbors, for the erection of light houses, beacons, piers, and buoys, and for the completion of canals undertaken by individual associations, but needing the assistance of means and resources more comprehensive than individual enterprise can command, may be considered rather as treasures laid up from the contributions of the present age for the benefit of posterity than as unrequited applications of the accruing revenues of the nation.
To such objects of permanent improvement to the condition of the country, of real addition to the wealth as well as to the comfort of the people by whose authority and resources they have been effected, from $3,000,000 to $4,000,000 of the annual income of the nation have, by laws enacted at the three most recent sessions of Congress, been applied, without intrenching upon the necessities of the Treasury, without adding a dollar to the taxes or debts of the community, without suspending even the steady and regular discharge of the debts contracted in former days, which within the same three years have been diminished by the amount of nearly $16,000,000.
The same observations are in a great degree applicable to the appropriations made for fortifications upon the coasts and harbors of the United States, for the maintenance of the Military Academy at West Point, and for the various objects under the superintendence of the Department of the Navy. The report from the Secretary of the Navy and those from the subordinate branches of both the military departments exhibit to Congress in minute detail the present condition of the public establishments dependent upon them, the execution of the acts of Congress relating to them, and the views of the officers engaged in the several branches of the service concerning the improvements which may tend to their perfection.
The fortification of the coasts and the gradual increase and improvement of the Navy are parts of a great system of national defense which has been upward of ten years in progress, and which for a series of years to come will continue to claim the constant and persevering protection and superintendence of the legislative authority. Among the measures which have emanated from these principles the act of the last session of Congress for the gradual improvement of the Navy holds a conspicuous place. The collection of timber for the future construction of vessels of war, the preservation and reproduction of the species of timber peculiarly adapted to that purpose, the construction of dry docks for the use of the Navy, the erection of a marine railway for the repair of the public ships, and the improvement of the navy yards for the preservation of the public property deposited in them have all received from the Executive the attention required by that act, and will continue to receive it, steadily proceeding toward the execution of all its purposes.
The establishment of a naval academy, furnishing the means of theoretic instruction to the youths who devote their lives to the service of their country upon the ocean, still solicits the sanction of the Legislature. Practical seamanship and the art of navigation may be acquired on the cruises of the squadrons which from time to time are dispatched to distant seas, but a competent knowledge even of the art of ship building, the higher mathematics, and astronomy; the literature which can place our officers on a level of polished education with the officers of other maritime nations; the knowledge of the laws, municipal and national, which in their intercourse with foreign states and their governments are continually called into operation, and, above all, that acquaintance with the principles of honor and justice, with the higher obligations of morals and of general laws, human and divine, which constitutes the great distinction between the warrior-patriot and the licensed robber and pirate—these can be systematically taught and eminently acquired only in a permanent school, stationed upon the shore and provided with the teachers, the instruments, and the books conversant with and adapted to the communication of the principles of these respective sciences to the youthful and inquiring mind.
The report from the Post Master General exhibits the condition of that Department as highly satisfactory for the present and still more promising for the future. Its receipts for the year ending July 1st, 1827 amounted to $1,473,551, and exceeded its expenditures by upward of $100,000. It can not be an over sanguine estimate to predict that in less than ten years, of which half have elapsed, the receipts will have been more than doubled.
In the mean time a reduced expenditure upon established routes has kept pace with increased facilities of public accommodation and additional services have been obtained at reduced rates of compensation. Within the last year the transportation of the mail in stages has been greatly augmented. The number of post offices has been increased to 7,000, and it may be anticipated that while the facilities of intercourse between fellow citizens in person or by correspondence will soon be carried to the door of every villager in the Union, a yearly surplus of revenue will accrue which may be applied as the wisdom of Congress under the exercise of their constitutional powers may devise for the further establishment and improvement of the public roads, or by adding still further to the facilities in the transportation of the mails. Of the indications of the prosperous condition of our country, none can be more pleasing than those presented by the multiplying relations of personal and intimate intercourse between the citizens of the Union dwelling at the remotest distances from each other.
Among the subjects which have heretofore occupied the earnest solicitude and attention of Congress is the management and disposal of that portion of the property of the nation which consists of the public lands. The acquisition of them, made at the expense of the whole Union, not only in treasury but in blood, marks a right of property in them equally extensive. By the report and statements from the General Land Office now communicated it appears that under the present Government of the United States a sum little short of $33,000,000 has been paid from the common Treasury for that portion of this property which has been purchased from France and Spain, and for the extinction of the aboriginal titles. The amount of lands acquired is near 260,000,000 acres, of which on January 1st, 1826, about 139,000,000 acres had been surveyed, and little more than 19,000,000 acres had been sold. The amount paid into the Treasury by the purchasers of the public lands sold is not yet equal to the sums paid for the whole, but leaves a small balance to be refunded. The proceeds of the sales of the lands have long been pledged to the creditors of the nation, a pledge from which we have reason to hope that they will in a very few years be redeemed.
The system upon which this great national interest has been managed was the result of long, anxious, and persevering deliberation. Matured and modified by the progress of our population and the lessons of experience, it has been hitherto eminently successful. More than nine tenths of the lands still remain the common property of the Union, the appropriation and disposal of which are sacred trusts in the hands of Congress.
Of the lands sold, a considerable part were conveyed under extended credits, which in the vicissitudes and fluctuations in the value of lands and of their produce became oppressively burdensome to the purchasers. It can never be the interest or the policy of the nation to wring from its own citizens the reasonable profits of their industry and enterprise by holding them to the rigorous import of disastrous engagements. In March, 1821, a debt of $22,000,000, due by purchasers of the public lands, had accumulated, which they were unable to pay. An act of Congress of March 2nd, 1821, came to their relief, and has been succeeded by others, the latest being the act of May 4th, 1826, the indulgent provisions of which expired on July 4th, 1827. The effect of these laws has been to reduce the debt from the purchasers to a remaining balance of about $4,300,000 due, more than three fifths of which are for lands within the State of Alabama. I recommend to Congress the revival and continuance for a further term of the beneficent accommodations to the public debtors of that statute, and submit to their consideration, in the same spirit of equity, the remission, under proper discriminations, of the forfeitures of partial payments on account of purchases of the public lands, so far as to allow of their application to other payments.
There are various other subjects of deep interest to the whole Union which have heretofore been recommended to the consideration of Congress, as well by my predecessors as, under the impression of the duties devolving upon me, by myself. Among these are the debt, rather of justice than gratitude, to the surviving warriors of the Revolutionary war; the extension of the judicial administration of the Federal Government to those extensive since the organization of the present judiciary establishment, now constitute at least one third of its territory, power, and population; the formation of a more effective and uniform system for the government of the militia, and the amelioration in some form or modification of the diversified and often oppressive codes relating to insolvency. Amidst the multiplicity of topics of great national concernment which may recommend themselves to the calm and patriotic deliberations of the Legislature, it may suffice to say that on these and all other measures which may receive their sanction my hearty cooperation will be given, conformably to the duties enjoined upon me and under the sense of all the obligations prescribed by the Constitution.
JOHN QUINCY ADAMS
State of the Union Address John Quincy Adams December 2, 1828
Fellow Citizens of the Senate and of the House of Representatives:
If the enjoyment in profusion of the bounties of Providence forms a suitable subject of mutual gratulation and grateful acknowledgment, we are admonished at this return of the season when the representatives of the nation are assembled to deliberate upon their concerns to offer up the tribute of fervent and grateful hearts for the never failing mercies of Him who ruleth over all. He has again favored us with healthful seasons and abundant harvests; He has sustained us in peace with foreign countries and in tranquillity within our borders; He has preserved us in the quiet and undisturbed possession of civil and religious liberty; He has crowned the year with His goodness, imposing on us no other condition than of improving for our own happiness the blessings bestowed by His hands, and, in the fruition of all His favors, of devoting his faculties with which we have been endowed by Him to His glory and to our own temporal and eternal welfare.
In the relations of our Federal Union with our brethren of the human race the changes which have occurred since the close of your last session have generally tended to the preservation of peace and to the cultivation of harmony. Before your last separation a war had unhappily been kindled between the Empire of Russia, one of those with which our intercourse has been no other than a constant exchange of good offices, and that of the Ottoman Porte, a nation from which geographical distance, religious opinions and maxims of government on their part little suited to the formation of those bonds of mutual benevolence which result from the benefits of commerce had department us in a state, perhaps too much prolonged, of coldness and alienation.
The extensive, fertile, and populous dominions of the Sultan belong rather to the Asiatic than the European division of the human family. They enter but partially into the system of Europe, nor have their wars with Russia and Austria, the European States upon which they border, for more than a century past disturbed the pacific relations of those States with the other great powers of Europe. Neither France nor Prussia nor Great Britain has ever taken part in them, nor is it to be expected that they will at this time. The declaration of war by Russia has received the approbation or acquiescence of her allies, and we may indulge the hope that its progress and termination will be signalized by the moderation and forbearance no less than by the energy of the Emperor Nicholas, and that it will afford the opportunity for such collateral agency in behalf of the suffering Greeks as will secure to them ultimately the triumph of humanity and of freedom.
The state of our particular relations with France has scarcely varied in the course of the present year. The commercial intercourse between the two countries has continued to increase for the mutual benefit of both. The claims of indemnity to numbers of our fellow citizens for depredations upon their property, heretofore committed during the revolutionary governments, remain unadjusted, and still form the subject of earnest representation and remonstrance. Recent advices from the minister of the United States at Paris encourage the expectation that the appeal to the justice of the French Government will ere long receive a favorable consideration.
The last friendly expedient has been resorted to for the decision of the controversy with Great Britain relating to the north-eastern boundary of the United States. By an agreement with the British Government, carrying into effect the provisions of the 5th article of the treaty of Ghent, and the convention of September 29th, 1827, His Majesty the King of the Netherlands has by common consent been selected as the umpire between the parties. The proposal to him to accept the designation for the performance of this friendly office will be made at an early day, and the United States, relying upon the justice of their cause, will cheerfully commit the arbitrament of it to a prince equally distinguished for the independence of his spirit, his indefatigable assiduity to the duties of his station, and his inflexible personal probity.
Our commercial relations with Great Britain will deserve the serious consideration of Congress and the exercise of a conciliatory and forbearing spirit in the policy of both Governments. The state of them has been materially changed by the act of Congress, passed at their last session, in alteration of several acts imposing duties on imports, and by acts of more recent date of the British Parliament. The effect of the interdiction of direct trade, commenced by Great Britain and reciprocated by the United States, has been, as was to be foreseen, only to substitute different channels for an exchange of commodities indispensable to the colonies and profitable to a numerous class of our fellow citizens. The exports, the revenue, the navigation of the United States have suffered no diminution by our exclusion from direct access to the British colonies. The colonies pay more dearly for the necessaries of life which their Government burdens with the charges of double voyages, freight, insurance, and commission, and the profits of our exports are somewhat impaired and more injuriously transferred from one portion of our citizens to another.
The resumption of this old and otherwise exploded system of colonial exclusion has not secured to the shipping interest of Great Britain the relief which, at the expense of the distant colonies and of the United States, it was expected to afford. Other measures have been resorted to more pointedly bearing upon the navigation of the United States, and more pointedly bearing upon the navigation of the United States, and which, unless modified by the construction given to the recent acts of Parliament, will be manifestly incompatible with the positive stipulations of the commercial convention existing between the two countries. That convention, however, may be terminated with 12 months' notice, at the option of either party.
A treaty of amity, navigation, and commerce between the United States and His Majesty the Emperor of Austria, King of Hungary and Bohemia, has been prepared for signature by the Secretary of State and by the Baron de Lederer, intrusted with full powers of the Austrian Government. Independently of the new and friendly relations which may be thus commenced with one of the most eminent and powerful nations of the earth, the occasion has been taken in it, as in other recent treaties concluded by the United States, to extend those principles of liberal intercourse and of fair reciprocity which intertwine with the exchanges of commerce the principles of justice and the feelings of mutual benevolence.
This system, first proclaimed to the world in the first commercial treaty ever concluded by the United States—that of February 6th, 1778, with France—has been invariably the cherished policy of our Union. It is by treaties of commerce alone that it can be made ultimately to prevail as the established system of all civilized nations. With this principle our fathers extended the hand of friendship to every nation of the globe, and to this policy our country has ever since adhered. What ever of regulation in our laws has ever been adopted unfavorable to the interest of any foreign nation has been essentially defensive and counteracting to similar regulations of theirs operating against us.
Immediately after the close of the War of Independence commissioners were appointed by the Congress of the Confederation authorized to conclude treaties with every nation of Europe disposed to adopt them. Before the wars of the French Revolution such treaties had been consummated with the United Netherlands, Sweden, and Prussia. During those wars treaties with Great Britain and Spain had been effected, and those with Prussia and France renewed. In all these some concessions to the liberal principles of intercourse proposed by the United States had been obtained; but as in all the negotiations they came occasionally in collision with previous internal regulations or exclusive and excluding compacts of monopoly with which the other parties had been trammeled, the advances made in them toward the freedom of trade were partial and imperfect. Colonial establishments, chartered companies, and ship building influence pervaded and encumbered the legislation of all the great commercial states; and the United States, in offering free trade and equal privilege to all, were compelled to acquiesce in many exceptions with each of the parties to their treaties, accommodated to their existing laws and anterior agreements.
The colonial system by which this whole hemisphere was bound has fallen into ruins, totally abolished by revolutions converting colonies into independent nations throughout the two American continents, excepting a portion of territory chiefly at the northern extremity of our own, and confined to the remnants of dominion retained by Great Britain over the insular archipelago, geographically the appendages of our part of the globe. With all the rest we have free trade, even with the insular colonies of all the European nations, except Great Britain. Her Government also had manifested approaches to the adoption of a free and liberal intercourse between her colonies and other nations, though by a sudden and scarcely explained revulsion the spirit of exclusion has been revived for operation upon the United States alone.
The conclusion of our last treaty of peace with Great Britain was shortly afterwards followed by a commercial convention, placing the direct intercourse between the two countries upon a footing of more equal reciprocity than had ever before been admitted. The same principle has since been much further extended by treaties with France, Sweden, Denmark, the Hanseatic cities, Prussia, in Europe, and with the Republics of Colombia and of Central America, in this hemisphere. The mutual abolition of discriminating duties and charges upon the navigation and commercial intercourse between the parties is the general maxim which characterizes them all. There is reason to expect that it will at no distant period be adopted by other nations, both of Europe and America, and to hope that by its universal prevalence one of the fruitful sources of wars of commercial competition will be extinguished.
Among the nations upon whose Governments many of our fellow citizens have had long-pending claims of indemnity for depredations upon their property during a period when the rights of neutral commerce were disregarded was that of Denmark. They were soon after the events occurred the subject of a special mission from the United States, at the close of which the assurance was given by His Danish Majesty that at a period of more tranquillity and of less distress they would be considered, examined, and decided upon in a spirit of determined purpose for the dispensation of justice. I have much pleasure in informing Congress that the fulfillment of this honorable promise is now in progress; that a small portion of the claims has already been settled to the satisfaction of the claimants, and that we have reason to hope that the remainder will shortly be placed in a train of equitable adjustment. This result has always been confidently expected, from the character of personal integrity and of benevolence which the Sovereign of the Danish dominions has through every vicissitude of fortune maintained.
The general aspect of the affairs of our neighboring American nations of the south has been rather of approaching than of settled tranquillity. Internal disturbances have been more frequent among them than their common friends would have desired. Our intercourse with all has continued to be that of friendship and of mutual good will. Treaties of commerce and of boundaries with the United Mexican States have been negotiated, but, from various successive obstacles, not yet brought to a final conclusion.
The civil war which unfortunately still prevails in the Republics of Central America has been unpropitious to the cultivation of our commercial relations with them; and the dissensions and revolutionary changes in the Republics of Colombia and of Peru have been seen with cordial regret by us, who would gladly contribute to the happiness of both. It is with great satisfaction, however, that we have witnessed the recent conclusion of a peace between the Governments of Buenos Ayres and of Brazil, and it is equally gratifying to observe that indemnity has been obtained for some of the injuries which our fellow citizens had sustained in the latter of those countries. The rest are in a train of negotiation, which we hope may terminate to mutual satisfaction, and that it may be succeeded by a treaty of commerce and navigation, upon liberal principles, propitious to a great and growing commerce, already important to the interests of our country.
The condition and prospects of the revenue are more favorable than our most sanguine expectations had anticipated. The balance in the Treasury on January 1st, 1828, exclusive of the moneys received under the convention of November 13th, 1826, with Great Britain, was $5,861,972.83. The receipts into the Treasury from January 1st, 1828 to September 30th, 1828, so far as they have been ascertained to form the basis of an estimate, amount to $18,633,580.27, which, with the receipts of the present quarter, estimated at $5,461,283.40, form an aggregate of receipts during the year of $24,094,863.67. The expenditures of the year may probably amount to $25,637,111.63, and leave in the Treasury on January 1st, 1829 the sum of $5,125,638.14.
The receipts of the present year have amounted to near $2,000,000 more than was anticipated at the commencement of the last session of Congress.
The amount of duties secured on importations from the first of January to the 30th of September was about $22,997,000, and that of the estimated accruing revenue is $5,000,000, forming an aggregate for the year of near $28,000,000. This is $1,000,000 more than the estimate last December for the accruing revenue of the present year, which, with allowances for draw-backs and contingent deficiencies, was expected to produce an actual revenue of $22,300,000. Had these only been realized the expenditures of the year would have been also proportionally reduced, for of these $24,000,000 received upward of $9,000,000 have been applied to the extinction of public debt, bearing an interest of 6% a year, and of course reducing the burden of interest annually payable in future by the amount of more than $500,000. The payments on account of interest during the current year exceed $3,000,000, presenting an aggregate of more than $12,000,000 applied during the year to the discharge of the public debt, the whole of which remaining due on January 1st, 1829 will amount only to $58,362,135.78.
That the revenue of the ensuing year will not fall short of that received in the one now expiring there are indications which can scarcely prove deceptive. In our country an uniform experience of 40 years has shown that what ever the tariff of duties upon articles imported from abroad has been, the amount of importations has always borne an average value nearly approaching to that of the exports, though occasionally differing in the balance, some times being more and some times less. It is, indeed, a general law of prosperous commerce that the real value of exports should by a small, and only a small, balance exceed that of imports, that balance being a permanent addition to the wealth of the nation.
The extent of the prosperous commerce of the nation must be regulated by the amount of its exports, and an important addition to the value of these will draw after it a corresponding increase of importations. It has happened in the vicissitudes of the seasons that the harvests of all Europe have in the late summer and autumn fallen short of their usual average. A relaxation of the interdict upon the importation of grain and flour from abroad has ensued, a propitious market has been opened to the granaries of our country, and a new prospect of reward presented to the labors of the husband-man, which for several years has been denied. This accession to the profits of agriculture in the middle and western portions of our Union is accidental and temporary. It may continue only for a single year. It may be, as has been often experienced in the revolutions of time, but the first of several scanty harvests in succession. We may consider it certain that for the approaching year it has added an item of large amount to the value of our exports and that it will produce a corresponding increase of importations. It may therefore confidently be foreseen that the revenue of 1829 will equal and probably exceed that of 1828, and will afford the means of extinguishing $10,000,000 more of the principal of the public debt.
This new element of prosperity to that part of our agricultural industry which is occupied in producing the first article of human subsistence is of the most cheering character to the feelings of patriotism. Proceeding from a cause which humanity will view with concern, the sufferings of scarcity in distant lands, it yields a consolatory reflection that this scarcity is in no respect attributable to us; that it comes from the dispensation of Him who ordains all in wisdom and goodness, and who permits evil itself only as an instrument of good; that, far from contributing to this scarcity, our agency will be applied only to the alleviation of its severity, and that in pouring forth from the abundance of our own garners the supplies which will partially restore plenty to those who are in need we shall ourselves reduce our stores and add to the price of our own bread, so as in some degree to participate in the wants which it will be the good fortune of our country to relieve.
The great interests of an agricultural, commercial, and manufacturing nation are so linked in union together that no permanent cause of prosperity to one of them can operate without extending its influence to the others. All these interests are alike under the protecting power of the legislative authority, and the duties of the representative bodies are to conciliate them in harmony together.
So far as the object of taxation is to raise a revenue for discharging the debts and defraying the expenses of the community, its operation should be adapted as much as possible to suit the burden with equal hand upon all in proportion with their ability of bearing it without oppression. But the legislation of one nation is some times intentionally made to bear heavily upon the interests of another. That legislation, adapted, as it is meant to be, to the special interests of its own people, will often press most unequally upon the several component interests of its neighbors.
Thus the legislation of Great Britain, when, as has recently been avowed, adapted to the depression of a rival nation, will naturally abound with regulations to interdict upon the productions of the soil or industry of the other which come in competition with its own, and will present encouragement, perhaps even bounty, to the raw material of the other State which it can not produce itself, and which is essential for the use of its manufactures, competitors in the markets of the world with those of its commercial rival.
Such is the state of commercial legislation of Great Britain as it bears upon our interests. It excludes with interdicting duties all importation (except in time of approaching famine) of the great staple of production of our Middle and Western States; it proscribes with equal rigor the bulkier lumber and live stock of the same portion and also of the Northern and Eastern part of our Union. It refuses even the rice of the South unless aggravated with a charge of duty upon the Northern carrier who brings it to them. But the cotton, indispensable for their looms, they will receive almost duty free to weave it into a fabric for our own wear, to the destruction of our own manufactures, which they are enabled thus to under-sell.
Is the self-protecting energy of this nation so helpless that there exists in the political institutions of our country no power to counter-act the bias of this foreign legislation; that the growers of grain must submit to this exclusion from the foreign markets of their produce; that the shippers must dismantle their ships, the trade of the North stagnate at the wharves, and the manufacturers starve at their looms, while the whole people shall pay tribute to foreign industry to be clad in a foreign garb; that the Congress of the Union are impotent to restore the balance in favor of native industry destroyed by the statutes of another realm?
More just and generous sentiments will, I trust, prevail. If the tariff adopted at the last session of Congress shall be found by experience to bear oppressively upon the interests of any one section of the Union, it ought to be, and I can not doubt will be, so modified as to alleviate its burden. To the voice of just complaint from any portion of their constituents the representatives of the States and of the people will never turn away their ears.
But so long as the duty of the foreign shall operate only as a bounty upon the domestic article; while the planter and the merchant and the shepherd and the husbandman shall be found thriving in their occupations under the duties imposed for the protection of domestic manufactures, they will not repine at the prosperity shared with themselves by their fellow citizens of other professions, nor denounce as violations of the Constitution the deliberate acts of Congress to shield from the wrongs of foreigns the native industry of the Union.
While the tariff of the last session of Congress was a subject of legislative deliberation it was foretold by some of its opposers that one of its necessary consequences would be to impair the revenue. It is yet too soon to pronounce with confidence that this prediction was erroneous. The obstruction of one avenue of trade not unfrequently opens an issue to another. The consequence of the tariff will be to increase the exportation and to diminish the importation of some specific articles; but by the general law of trade the increase of exportation of one article will be followed by an increased importation of others, the duties upon which will supply the deficiencies which the diminished importation would otherwise occasion. The effect of taxation upon revenue can seldom be foreseen with certainty. It must abide the test of experience.
As yet no symptoms of diminution are perceptible in the receipts of the Treasury. As yet little addition of cost has even been experienced upon the articles burdened with heavier duties by the last tariff. The domestic manufacturer supplies the same or a kindred article at a diminished price, and the consumer pays the same tribute to the labor of his own country-man which he must otherwise have paid to foreign industry and toil.
The tariff of the last session was in its details not acceptable to the great interests of any portion of the Union, not even to the interest which it was specially intended to subserve. Its object was to balance the burdens upon native industry imposed by the operation of foreign laws, but not to aggravate the burdens of one section of the Union by the relief afforded to another. To the great principle sanctioned by that act—one of those upon which the Constitution itself was formed—I hope and trust the authorities of the Union will adhere. But if any of the duties imposed by the act only relieve the manufacturer by aggravating the burden of the planter, let a careful revisal of its provisions, enlightened by the practical experience of its effects, be directed to retain those which impart protection to native industry and remove or supply the place of those which only alleviate one great national interest by the depression of another.
The United States of America and the people of every State of which they are composed are each of them sovereign powers. The legislative authority of the whole is exercised by Congress under authority granted them in the common Constitution. The legislative power of each State is exercised by assemblies deriving their authority from the constitution of the State. Each is sovereign within its own province. The distribution of power between them presupposes that these authorities will move in harmony with each other. The members of the State and General Governments are all under oath to support both, and allegiance is due to the one and to the other. The case of a conflict between these two powers has not been supposed, nor has any provision been made for it in our institutions; as a virtuous nation of ancient times existed more than five centuries without a law for the punishment of parricide.
More than once, however, in the progress of our history have the people and the legislatures of one or more States, in moments of excitement, been instigated to this conflict; and the means of effecting this impulse have been allegations that the acts of Congress to be resisted were unconstitutional. The people of no one State have ever delegated to their legislature the power of pronouncing an act of Congress unconstitutional, but they have delegated to them powers by the exercise of which the execution of the laws of Congress within the State may be resisted. If we suppose the case of such conflicting legislation sustained by the corresponding executive and judicial authorities, patriotism and philanthropy turn their eyes from the condition in which the parties would be placed, and from that of the people of both, which must be its victims.
The reports from the Secretary of War and the various subordinate offices of the resort of that Department present an exposition of the public administration of affairs connected with them through the course of the current year. The present state of the Army and the distribution of the force of which it is composed will be seen from the report of the Major General. Several alterations in the disposal of the troops have been found expedient in the course of the year, and the discipline of the Army, though not entirely free from exception, has been generally good.
The attention of Congress is particularly invited to that part of the report of the Secretary of War which concerns the existing system of our relations with the Indian tribes. At the establishment of the Federal Government under the present Constitution of the United States the principle was adopted of considering them as foreign and independent powers and also as proprietors of lands. They were, moreover, considered as savages, whom it was our policy and our duty to use our influence in converting to Christianity and in bringing within the pale of civilization.
As independent powers, we negotiated with them by treaties; as proprietors, we purchased of them all the lands which we could prevail upon them to sell; as brethren of the human race, rude and ignorant, we endeavored to bring them to the knowledge of religion and letters. The ultimate design was to incorporate in our own institutions that portion of them which could be converted to the state of civilization. In the practice of European States, before our Revolution, they had been considered as children to be governed; as tenants at discretion, to be dispossessed as occasion might require; as hunters to be indemnified by trifling concessions for removal from the grounds from which their game was extirpated. In changing the system it would seem as if a full contemplation of the consequences of the change had not been taken.
We have been far more successful in the acquisition of their lands than in imparting to them the principles or inspiring them with the spirit of civilization. But in appropriating to ourselves their hunting grounds we have brought upon ourselves the obligation of providing them with subsistence; and when we have had the rare good fortune of teaching them the arts of civilization and the doctrines of Christianity we have unexpectedly found them forming in the midst of ourselves communities claiming to be independent of ours and rivals of sovereignty within the territories of the members of our Union. This state of things requires that a remedy should be provided—a remedy which, while it shall do justice to those unfortunate children of nature, may secure to the members of our confederation their rights of sovereignty and of soil. As the outline of a project to that effect, the views presented in the report of the Secretary of War are recommended to the consideration of Congress.
The report from the Engineer Department presents a comprehensive view of the progress which has been made in the great systems promotive of the public interest, commenced and organized under authority of Congress, and the effects of which have already contributed to the security, as they will hereafter largely contribute to the honor and dignity, of the nation.
The first of these great systems is that of fortifications, commenced immediately after the close of our last war, under the salutary experience which the events of that war had impressed upon our country- men of its necessity. Introduced under the auspices of my immediate predecessor, it has been continued with the persevering and liberal encouragement of the Legislature, and, combined with corresponding exertions for the gradual increase and improvement of the Navy, prepares for our extensive country a condition of defense adapted to any critical emergency which the varying course of events may bring forth. Our advances in these concerted systems have for the last ten years been steady and progressive, and in a few years more will be so completed as to leave no cause for apprehension that our sea coast will ever again offer a theater of hostile invasion.
The next of these cardinal measures of policy is the preliminary to great and lasting works of public improvement in the surveys of roads, examination for the course of canals, and labors for the removal of the obstructions of rivers and harbors, first commenced by the act of Congress of April 30th, 1824.
The report exhibits in one table the funds appropriated at the last and preceding sessions of Congress for all these fortifications, surveys, and works of public improvement, the manner in which these funds have been applied, the amount expended upon the several works under construction, and the further sums which may be necessary to complete them; in a second, the works projected by the Board of Engineers which have not been commenced, and the estimate of their cost; in a third, the report of the annual Board of Visitors at the Military Academy at West Point.
For thirteen fortifications erecting on various points of our Atlantic coast, from Rhode Island to Louisiana, the aggregate expenditure of the year has fallen little short of $1,000,000. For the preparation of five additional reports of reconnoissances and surveys since the last session of Congress, for the civil construction upon 37 different public works commenced, eight others for which specific appropriations have been made by acts of Congress, and twenty other incipient surveys under the authority given by the act of April 30th, 1824, about $1,000,000 more has been drawn from the Treasury.
To these $2,000,000 is to be added the appropriation of $250,000 to commence the erection of a break-water near the mouth of the Delaware River, the subscriptions to the Delaware and Chesapeake, the Louisville and Portland, the Dismal Swamp, and the Chesapeake and Ohio canals, the large donations of lands to the States of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Alabama for objects of improvements within those States, and the sums appropriated for light-houses, buoys, and piers on the coast; and a full view will be taken of the munificence of the nation in the application of its resources to the improvement of its own condition.
Of these great national under-takings the Academy at West Point is among the most important in itself and the most comprehensive in its consequences. In that institution a part of the revenue of the nation is applied to defray the expense of educating a competent portion of her youth chiefly to the knowledge and the duties of military life. It is the living armory of the nation. While the other works of improvement enumerated in the reports now presented to the attention of Congress are destined to ameliorate the face of nature, to multiply the facilities of communication between the different parts of the Union, to assist the labors, increase the comforts, and enhance the enjoyments of individuals, the instruction acquired at West Point enlarges the dominion and expands the capacities of the mind. Its beneficial results are already experienced in the composition of the Army, and their influence is felt in the intellectual progress of society. The institution is susceptible still of great improvement from benefactions proposed by several successive Boards of Visitors, to whose earnest and repeated recommendations I cheerfully add my own.
With the usual annual reports from the Secretary of the Navy and the Board of Commissioners will be exhibited to the view of Congress the execution of the laws relating to that department of the public service. The repression of piracy in the West Indian and in the Grecian seas has been effectually maintained, with scarcely any exception. During the war between the Governments of Buenos Ayres and of Brazil frequent collisions between the belligerent acts of power and the rights of neutral commerce occurred. Licentious blockades, irregularly enlisted or impressed sea men, and the property of honest commerce seized with violence, and even plundered under legal pretenses, are disorders never separable from the conflicts of war upon the ocean.
With a portion of them the correspondence of our commanders on the eastern aspect of the South American coast and among the islands of Greece discover how far we have been involved. In these the honor of our country and the rights of our citizens have been asserted and vindicated. The appearance of new squadrons in the Mediterranean and the blockade of the Dardanelles indicate the danger of other obstacles to the freedom of commerce and the necessity of keeping our naval force in those seas. To the suggestions repeated in the report of the Secretary of the Navy, and tending to the permanent improvement of this institution, I invite the favorable consideration of Congress.
A resolution of the House of Representatives requesting that one of our small public vessels should be sent to the Pacific Ocean and South Sea to examine the coasts, islands, harbors, shoals, and reefs in those seas, and to ascertain their true situation and description, has been put in a train of execution. The vessel is nearly ready to depart. The successful accomplishment of the expedition may be greatly facilitated by suitable legislative provisions, and particularly by an appropriation to defray its necessary expense. The addition of a 2nd, and perhaps a 3rd, vessel, with a slight aggravation of the cost, would contribute much to the safety of the citizens embarked on this under- taking, the results of which may be of the deepest interest to our country.
With the report of the Secretary of the Navy will be submitted, in conformity to the act of Congress of March 3d, 1827, for the gradual improvement of the Navy of the United States, statements of the expenditures under that act and of the measures for carrying the same into effect. Every section of that statute contains a distinct provision looking to the great object of the whole—the gradual improvement of the Navy. Under its salutary sanction stores of ship timber have been procured and are in process of seasoning and preservation for the future uses of the Navy. Arrangements have been made for the preservation of the live oak timber growing on the lands of the United States, and for its reproduction, to supply at future and distant days the waste of that most valuable material for ship building by the great consumption of it yearly for the commercial as well as for the military marine of our country.
The construction of the two dry docks at Charlestown and at Norfolk is making satisfactory progress toward a durable establishment. The examinations and inquiries to ascertain the practicability and expediency of a marine railway at Pensacola, though not yet accomplished, have been postponed but to be more effectually made. The navy yards of the United States have been examined, and plans for their improvement and the preservation of the public property therein at Portsmouth, Charlestown, Philadelphia, Washington, and Gosport, and to which two others are to be added, have been prepared and received my sanction; and no other portion of my public duties has been performed with a more intimate conviction of its importance to the future welfare and security of the Union.
With the report from the Post Master General is exhibited a comparative view of the gradual increase of that establishment, from five to five years, since 1792 'til this time in the number of post offices, which has grown from less than 200 to nearly 8,000; in the revenue yielded by them, which from $67,000 has swollen to upward of $1,500,000, and in the number of miles of post roads, which from 5,642 have multiplied to 114,536. While in the same period of time the population of the Union has about thrice doubled, the rate of increase of these offices is nearly 40, and of the revenue and of traveled miles from 20 to 25 for one. The increase of revenue within the last five years has been nearly equal to the whole revenue of the Department in 1812.
The expenditures of the Department during the year which ended on July 1st, 1828 have exceeded the receipts by a sum of about $25,000. The excess has been occasioned by the increase of mail conveyances and facilities to the extent of near 800,000 miles. It has been supplied by collections from the post masters of the arrearages of preceding years. While the correct principle seems to be that the income levied by the Department should defray all its expenses, it has never been the policy of this Government to raise from this establishment any revenue to be applied to any other purposes. The suggestion of the Post Master General that the insurance of the safe transmission of moneys by the mail might be assumed by the Department for a moderate and competent remuneration will deserve the consideration of Congress.
A report from the commissioner of the public buildings in this city exhibits the expenditures upon them in the course of the current year. It will be seen that the humane and benevolent intentions of Congress in providing, by the act of May 20th, 1826, for the erection of a penitentiary in this District have been accomplished. The authority of further legislation is now required for the removal to this tenement of the offenders against the laws sentenced to atone by personal confinement for their crimes, and to provide a code for their employment and government while thus confined.
The commissioners appointed, conformably to the act of March 2d, 1827, to provide for the adjustment of claims of persons entitled to indemnification under the first article of the treaty of Ghent, and for the distribution among such claimants of the sum paid by the Government of Great Britain under the convention of November 13th, 1826, closed their labors on August 30th, 1828 last by awarding to the claimants the sum of $1,197,422.18, leaving a balance of $7,537.82, which was distributed ratably amongst all the claimants to whom awards had been made, according to the directions of the act.
The exhibits appended to the report from the Commissioner of the General Land Office present the actual condition of that common property of the Union. The amount paid into the Treasury from the proceeds of lands during the year 1827 and for the first half of 1828 falls little short of $2,000,000. The propriety of further extending the time for the extinguishment of the debt due to the United States by the purchasers of the public lands, limited by the act of March 21st, 1828 to July 4th, 1829, will claim the consideration of Congress, to whose vigilance and careful attention the regulation, disposal, and preservation of this great national inheritance has by the people of the United States been intrusted.
Among the important subjects to which the attention of the present Congress has already been invited, and which may occupy their further and deliberate discussion, will be the provision to be made for taking the 5th census of enumeration of the inhabitants of the United States. The Constitution of the United States requires that this enumeration should be made within every term of ten years, and the date from which the last enumeration commenced was the first Monday of August of the year 1820.
The laws under which the former enumerations were taken were enacted at the session of Congress immediately preceding the operation; but considerable inconveniences were experienced from the delay of legislation to so late a period. That law, like those of the preceding enumerations, directed that the census should be taken by the marshals of the several districts and Territories of the Union under instructions from the Secretary of State. The preparation and transmission to the marshals of those instructions required more time than was then allowed between the passage of the law and the day when the enumeration was to commence. The term of six months limited for the returns of the marshals was also found even then too short, and must be more so now, when an additional population of at least 3,000,000 must be presented upon the returns.
As they are to be made at the short session of Congress, it would, as well as from other considerations, be more convenient to commence the enumeration from an earlier period of the year than the first of August. The most favorable season would be the spring.
On a review of the former enumerations it will be found that the plan for taking every census has contained many improvements upon that of its predecessor. The last is still susceptible of much improvement. The 3rd Census was the first at which any account was taken of the manufactures of the country. It was repeated at the last enumeration, but the returns in both cases were necessarily very imperfect. They must always be so, resting, of course, only upon the communications voluntarily made by individuals interested in some of the manufacturing establishments. Yet they contained much valuable information, and may by some supplementary provision of the law be rendered more effective.
The columns of age, commencing from infancy, have hitherto been confined to a few periods, all under the number of 45 years. Important knowledge would be obtained by extending these columns, in intervals of ten years, to the utmost boundaries of human life. The labor of taking them would be a trifling addition to that already prescribed, and the result would exhibit comparative tables of longevity highly interesting to the country. I deem it my duty further to observe that much of the imperfections in the returns of the last and perhaps of preceding enumerations proceeded from the inadequateness of the compensations allowed to the marshals and their assistants in taking them.
In closing this communication it only remains for me to assure the Legislature of my continued earnest wish for the adoption of measures recommended by me heretofore and yet to be acted on by them, and of the cordial concurrence on my part in every constitutional provision which may receive their sanction during the session tending to the general welfare.
JOHN QUINCY ADAMS
State of the Union Address Andrew Jackson December 8, 1829
Fellow Citizens of the Senate and of the House of Representatives:
It affords me pleasure to tender my friendly greetings to you on the occasion of your assembling at the seat of Government to enter upon the important duties to which you have been called by the voice of our country-men. The task devolves on me, under a provision of the Constitution, to present to you, as the Federal Legislature of 24 sovereign States and 12,000,000 happy people, a view of our affairs, and to propose such measures as in the discharge of my official functions have suggested themselves as necessary to promote the objects of our Union.
In communicating with you for the first time it is to me a source of unfeigned satisfaction, calling for mutual gratulation and devout thanks to a benign Providence, that we are at peace with all man-kind, and that our country exhibits the most cheering evidence of general welfare and progressive improvement. Turning our eyes to other nations, our great desire is to see our brethren of the human race secured in the blessings enjoyed by ourselves, and advancing in knowledge, in freedom, and in social happiness.
Our foreign relations, although in their general character pacific and friendly, present subjects of difference between us and other powers of deep interest as well to the country at large as to many of our citizens. To effect an adjustment of these shall continue to be the object of my earnest endeavors, and not with standing the difficulties of the task, I do not allow myself to apprehend unfavorable results. Blessed as our country is with every thing which constitutes national strength, she is fully adequate to the maintenance of all her interests. In discharging the responsible trust confided to the Executive in this respect it is my settled purpose to ask nothing that is not clearly right and to submit to nothing that is wrong; and I flatter myself that, supported by the other branches of the Government and by the intelligence and patriotism of the people, we shall be able, under the protection of Providence, to cause all our just rights to be respected.
Of the unsettled matters between the United States and other powers, the most prominent are those which have for years been the subject of negotiation with England, France, and Spain. The late periods at which our ministers to those Governments left the United States render it impossible at this early day to inform you of what has been done on the subjects with which they have been respectively charged. Relying upon the justice of our views in relation to the points committed to negotiation and the reciprocal good feeling which characterizes our intercourse with those nations, we have the best reason to hope for a satisfactory adjustment of existing differences.
With Great Britain, alike distinguished in peace and war, we may look forward to years of peaceful, honorable, and elevated competition. Every thing in the condition and history of the two nations is calculated to inspire sentiments of mutual respect and to carry conviction to the minds of both that it is their policy to preserve the most cordial relations. Such are my own views, and it is not to be doubted that such are also the prevailing sentiments of our constituents. Although neither time nor opportunity has been afforded for a full development of the policy which the present cabinet of Great Britain designs to pursue toward this country, I indulge the hope that it will be of a just and pacific character; and if this anticipation be realized we may look with confidence to a speedy and acceptable adjustment of our affairs.
Under the convention for regulating the reference to arbitration of the disputed points of boundary under the 5th article of the treaty of Ghent, the proceedings have hitherto been conducted in that spirit of candor and liberality which ought ever to characterize the acts of sovereign States seeking to adjust by the most unexceptionable means important and delicate subjects of contention. The first sentiments of the parties have been exchanged, and the final replication on our part is in a course of preparation. This subject has received the attention demanded by its great and peculiar importance to a patriotic member of this Confederacy. The exposition of our rights already made is such as, from the high reputation of the commissioners by whom it has been prepared, we had a right to expect. Our interests at the Court of the Sovereign who has evinced his friendly disposition by assuming the delicate task of arbitration have been committed to a citizen of the State of Maine, whose character, talents, and intimate acquaintance with the subject eminently qualify him for so responsible a trust. With full confidence in the justice of our cause and in the probity, intelligence, and uncompromising independence of the illustrious arbitrator, we can have nothing to apprehend from the result.
From France, our ancient ally, we have a right to expect that justice which becomes the sovereign of a powerful, intelligent, and magnanimous people. The beneficial effects produced by the commercial convention of 1822, limited as are its provisions, are too obvious not to make a salutary impression upon the minds of those who are charged with the administration of her Government. Should this result induce a disposition to embrace to their full extent the wholesome principles which constitute our commercial policy, our minister to that Court will be found instructed to cherish such a disposition and to aid in conducting it to useful practical conclusions. The claims of our citizens for depredations upon their property, long since committed under the authority, and in many instances by the express direction, of the then existing Government of France, remain unsatisfied, and must therefore continue to furnish a subject of unpleasant discussion and possible collision between the two Governments. I cherish, however, a lively hope, founded as well on the validity of those claims and the established policy of all enlightened governments as on the known integrity of the French Monarch, that the injurious delays of the past will find redress in the equity of the future. Our minister has been instructed to press these demands on the French Government with all the earnestness which is called for by their importance and irrefutable justice, and in a spirit that will evince the respect which is due to the feelings of those from whom the satisfaction is required.
Our minister recently appointed to Spain has been authorized to assist in removing evils alike injurious to both countries, either by concluding a commercial convention upon liberal and reciprocal terms or by urging the acceptance in their full extent of the mutually beneficial provisions of our navigation acts. He has also been instructed to make a further appeal to the justice of Spain, in behalf of our citizens, for indemnity for spoliations upon our commerce committed under her authority—an appeal which the pacific and liberal course observed on our part and a due confidence in the honor of that Government authorize us to expect will not be made in vain.
With other European powers our intercourse is on the most friendly footing. In Russia, placed by her territorial limits, extensive population, and great power high in the rank of nations, the United States have always found a steadfast friend. Although her recent invasion of Turkey awakened a lively sympathy for those who were exposed to the desolation of war, we can not but anticipate that the result will prove favorable to the cause of civilization and to the progress of human happiness. The treaty of peace between these powers having been ratified, we can not be insensible to the great benefit to be derived by the commerce of the United States from unlocking the navigation of the Black Sea, a free passage into which is secured to all merchant vessels bound to ports of Russia under a flag at peace with the Porte. This advantage, enjoyed upon conditions by most of the powers of Europe, has hitherto been withheld from us. During the past summer an antecedent but unsuccessful attempt to obtain it was renewed under circumstances which promised the most favorable results. Although these results have fortunately been thus in part attained, further facilities to the enjoyment of this new field for the enterprise of our citizens are, in my opinion, sufficiently desirable to insure to them our most zealous attention.
Our trade with Austria, although of secondary importance, has been gradually increasing, and is now so extended as to deserve the fostering care of the Government. A negotiation, commenced and nearly completed with that power by the late Administration, has been consummated by a treaty of amity, navigation, and commerce, which will be laid before the Senate.
During the recess of Congress our diplomatic relations with Portugal have been resumed. The peculiar state of things in that country caused a suspension of the recognition of the representative who presented himself until an opportunity was had to obtain from our official organ there information regarding the actual and, as far as practicable, prospective condition of the authority by which the representative in question was appointed. This information being received, the application of the established rule of our Government in like cases was no longer withheld.
Considerable advances have been made during the present year in the adjustment of claims of our citizens upon Denmark for spoliations, but all that we have a right to demand from that Government in their behalf has not yet been conceded. From the liberal footing, however, upon which this subject has, with the approbation of the claimants, been placed by the Government, together with the uniformly just and friendly disposition which has been evinced by His Danish Majesty, there is a reasonable ground to hope that this single subject of difference will speedily be removed.
Our relations with the Barbary Powers continue, as they have long been, of the most favorable character. The policy of keeping an adequate force in the Mediterranean, as security for the continuance of this tranquillity, will be persevered in, as well as a similar one for the protection of our commerce and fisheries in the Pacific.
The southern Republics of our own hemisphere have not yet realized all the advantages for which they have been so long struggling. We trust, however, that the day is not distant when the restoration of peace and internal quiet, under permanent systems of government, securing the liberty and promoting the happiness of the citizens, will crown with complete success their long and arduous efforts in the cause of self-government, and enable us to salute them as friendly rivals in all that is truly great and glorious.
The recent invasion of Mexico, and the effect thereby produced upon her domestic policy, must have a controlling influence upon the great question of South American emancipation. We have seen the fell spirit of civil dissension rebuked, and perhaps for ever stifled, in that Republic by the love of independence. If it be true, as appearances strongly indicate, the spirit of independence is the master spirit, and if a corresponding sentiment prevails in the other States, this devotion to liberty can not be without a proper effect upon the counsels of the mother country. The adoption by Spain of a pacific policy toward her former colonies—an event consoling to humanity, and a blessing to the world, in which she herself can not fail largely to participate—may be most reasonably expected.
The claims of our citizens upon the South American Governments generally are in a train of settlement, while the principal part of those upon Brazil have been adjusted, and a decree in council ordering bonds to be issued by the minister of the treasury for their amount has received the sanction of His Imperial Majesty. This event, together with the exchange of the ratifications of the treaty negotiated and concluded in 1828, happily terminates all serious causes of difference with that power.
Measures have been taken to place our commercial relations with Peru upon a better footing than that upon which they have hitherto rested, and if met by a proper disposition on the part of that Government important benefits may be secured to both countries.
Deeply interested as we are in the prosperity of our sister Republics, and more particularly in that of our immediate neighbor, it would be most gratifying to me were I permitted to say that the treatment which we have received at her hands has been as universally friendly as the early and constant solicitude manifested by the United States for her success gave us a right to expect. But it becomes my duty to inform you that prejudices long indulged by a portion of the inhabitants of Mexico against the envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary of the United States have had an unfortunate influence upon the affairs of the two countries, and have diminished that usefulness to his own which was justly to be expected from his talents and zeal. To this cause, in a great degree, is to be imputed the failure of several measures equally interesting to both parties, but particularly that of the Mexican Government to ratify a treaty negotiated and concluded in its own capital and under its own eye. Under these circumstances it appeared expedient to give to Mr. Poinsett the option either to return or not, as in his judgment the interest of his country might require, and instructions to that end were prepared; but before they could be dispatched a communication was received from the Government of Mexico, through its charge d'affaires here, requesting the recall of our minister. This was promptly complied with, and a representative of a rank corresponding with that of the Mexican diplomatic agent near this Government was appointed. Our conduct toward that Republic has been uniformly of the most friendly character, and having thus removed the only alleged obstacle to harmonious intercourse, I can not but hope that an advantageous change will occur in our affairs.
In justice to Mr. Poinsett it is proper to say that my immediate compliance with the application for his recall and the appointment of a successor are not to be ascribed to any evidence that the imputation of an improper interference by him in the local politics of Mexico was well founded, nor to a want of confidence in his talents or integrity, and to add that the truth of the charges has never been affirmed by the federal Government of Mexico in its communications with us.
I consider it one of the most urgent of my duties to bring to your attention the propriety of amending that part of the Constitution which relates to the election of President and Vice-President. Our system of government was by its framers deemed an experiment, and they therefore consistently provided a mode of remedying its defects.
To the people belongs the right of electing their Chief Magistrate; it was never designed that their choice should in any case be defeated, either by the intervention of electoral colleges or by the agency confided, under certain contingencies, to the House of Representatives. Experience proves that in proportion as agents to execute the will of the people are multiplied there is danger of their wishes being frustrated. Some may be unfaithful; all are liable to err. So far, therefore, as the people can with convenience speak, it is safer for them to express their own will.
The number of aspirants to the Presidency and the diversity of the interests which may influence their claims leave little reason to expect a choice in the first instance, and in that event the election must devolve on the House of Representatives, where it is obvious the will of the people may not be always ascertained, or, if ascertained, may not be regarded. From the mode of voting by States the choice is to be made by 24 votes, and it may often occur that one of these will be controlled by an individual Representative. Honors and offices are at the disposal of the successful candidate. Repeated ballotings may make it apparent that a single individual holds the cast in his hand. May he not be tempted to name his reward?
But even without corruption, supposing the probity of the Representative to be proof against the powerful motives by which it may be assailed, the will of the people is still constantly liable to be misrepresented. One may err from ignorance of the wishes of his constituents; another from a conviction that it is his duty to be governed by his own judgment of the fitness of the candidates; finally, although all were inflexibly honest, all accurately informed of the wishes of their constituents, yet under the present mode of election a minority may often elect a President, and when this happens it may reasonably be expected that efforts will be made on the part of the majority to rectify this injurious operation of their institutions. But although no evil of this character should result from such a perversion of the first principle of our system—that the majority is to govern—it must be very certain that a President elected by a minority can not enjoy the confidence necessary to the successful discharge of his duties.
In this as in all other matters of public concern policy requires that as few impediments as possible should exist to the free operation of the public will. Let us, then, endeavor so to amend our system that the office of Chief Magistrate may not be conferred upon any citizen but in pursuance of a fair expression of the will of the majority.
I would therefore recommend such an amendment of the Constitution as may remove all intermediate agency in the election of the President and Vice-President. The mode may be so regulated as to preserve to each State its present relative weight in the election, and a failure in the first attempt may be provided for by confining the second to a choice between the two highest candidates. In connection with such an amendment it would seem advisable to limit the service of the Chief Magistrate to a single term of either four or six years. If, however, it should not be adopted, it is worthy of consideration whether a provision disqualifying for office the Representatives in Congress on whom such an election may have devolved would not be proper.
While members of Congress can be constitutionally appointed to offices of trust and profit it will be the practice, even under the most conscientious adherence to duty, to select them for such stations as they are believed to be better qualified to fill than other citizens; but the purity of our Government would doubtless be promoted by their exclusion from all appointments in the gift of the President, in whose election they may have been officially concerned. The nature of the judicial office and the necessity of securing in the Cabinet and in diplomatic stations of the highest rank the best talents and political experience should, perhaps, except these from the exclusion.
There are, perhaps, few men who can for any great length of time enjoy office and power without being more or less under the influence of feelings unfavorable to the faithful discharge of their public duties. Their integrity may be proof against improper considerations immediately addressed to themselves, but they are apt to acquire a habit of looking with indifference upon the public interests and of tolerating conduct from which an unpracticed man would revolt. Office is considered as a species of property, and government rather as a means of promoting individual interests than as an instrument created solely for the service of the people. Corruption in some and in others a perversion of correct feelings and principles divert government from its legitimate ends and make it an engine for the support of the few at the expense of the many. The duties of all public officers are, or at least admit of being made, so plain and simple that men of intelligence may readily qualify themselves for their performance; and I can not but believe that more is lost by the long continuance of men in office than is generally to be gained by their experience. I submit, therefore, to your consideration whether the efficiency of the Government would not be promoted and official industry and integrity better secured by a general extension of the law which limits appointments to four years.
In a country where offices are created solely for the benefit of the people no one man has any more intrinsic right to official station than another. Offices were not established to give support to particular men at the public expense. No individual wrong is, therefore, done by removal, since neither appointment to nor continuance in office is a matter of right. The incumbent became an officer with a view to public benefits, and when these require his removal they are not to be sacrificed to private interests. It is the people, and they alone, who have a right to complain when a bad officer is substituted for a good one. He who is removed has the same means of obtaining a living that are enjoyed by the millions who never held office. The proposed limitation would destroy the idea of property now so generally connected with official station, and although individual distress may be some times produced, it would, by promoting that rotation which constitutes a leading principle in the republican creed, give healthful action to the system.
No very considerable change has occurred during the recess of Congress in the condition of either our agriculture, commerce, or manufactures. The operation of the tariff has not proved so injurious to the two former or as beneficial to the latter as was anticipated. Importations of foreign goods have not been sensibly diminished, while domestic competition, under an illusive excitement, has increased the production much beyond the demand for home consumption. The consequences have been low prices, temporary embarrassment, and partial loss. That such of our manufacturing establishments as are based upon capital and are prudently managed will survive the shock and be ultimately profitable there is no good reason to doubt.
To regulate its conduct so as to promote equally the prosperity of these three cardinal interests is one of the most difficult tasks of Government; and it may be regretted that the complicated restrictions which now embarrass the intercourse of nations could not by common consent be abolished, and commerce allowed to flow in those channels to which individual enterprise, always its surest guide, might direct it. But we must ever expect selfish legislation in other nations, and are therefore compelled to adapt our own to their regulations in the manner best calculated to avoid serious injury and to harmonize the conflicting interests of our agriculture, our commerce, and our manufactures. Under these impressions I invite your attention to the existing tariff, believing that some of its provisions require modification.