I do not doubt that those who come after us will be as much alive as we are to the obligation upon all the trustees of political power to exempt those for whom they act from all unnecessary burthens, and as sensible of the great truth that the resources of the nation beyond those required for immediate and necessary purposes of Government can no where be so well deposited as in the pockets of the people.
It may some times happen that the interests of particular States would not be deemed to coincide with the general interest in relation to improvements within such States. But if the danger to be apprehended from this source is sufficient to require it, a discretion might be reserved to Congress to direct to such improvements of a general character as the States concerned might not be disposed to unite in, the application of the quotas of those States, under the restriction of confining to each State the expenditure of its appropriate quota. It may, however, be assumed as a safe general rule that such improvements as serve to increase the prosperity of the respective States in which they are made, by giving new facilities to trade, and thereby augmenting the wealth and comfort of their inhabitants, constitute the surest mode of conferring permanent and substantial advantages upon the whole. The strength as well as the true glory of the Confederacy is founded on the prosperity and power of the several independent sovereignties of which it is composed and the certainty with which they can be brought into successful active cooperation through the agency of the Federal Government.
It is, more over, within the knowledge of such as are at all conversant with public affairs that schemes of internal improvement have from time to time been proposed which, from their extent and seeming magnificence, were readily regarded as of national concernment, but which upon fuller consideration and further experience would now be rejected with great unanimity.
That the plan under consideration would derive important advantages from its certainty, and that the moneys set apart for these purposes would be more judiciously applied and economically expended under the direction of the State legislatures, in which every part of each State is immediately represented, can not, I think, be doubted. In the new States particularly, where a comparatively small population is scattered over an extensive surface, and the representation in Congress consequently very limited, it is natural to expect that the appropriations made by the Federal Government would be more likely to be expended in the vicinity of those numbers through whose immediate agency they were obtained than if the funds were placed under the control of the legislature, in which every county of the State has its own representative. This supposition does not necessarily impugn the motives of such Congressional representatives, nor is it so intended. We are all sensible of the bias to which the strongest minds and purest hearts are, under such circumstances, liable. In respect to the last objection—its probable effect upon the dignity and independence of State governments—it appears to me only necessary to state the case as it is, and as it would be if the measure proposed were adopted, to show that the operation is most likely to be the very reverse of that which the objection supposes.
In the one case the State would receive its quota of the national revenue for domestic use upon a fixed principle as a matter of right, and from a fund to the creation of which it had itself contributed its fair proportion. Surely there could be nothing derogatory in that. As matters now stand the States themselves, in their sovereign character, are not unfrequently petitioners at the bar of the Federal Legislature for such allowances out of the National Treasury as it may comport with their pleasure or sense of duty to bestow upon them. It can not require argument to prove which of the two courses is most compatible with the efficiency or respectability of the State governments.
But all these are matters for discussion and dispassionate consideration. That the desired adjustment would be attended with difficulty affords no reason why it should not be attempted. The effective operation of such motives would have prevented the adoption of the Constitution under which we have so long lived and under the benign influence of which our beloved country has so signally prospered. The framers of that sacred instrument had greater difficulties to overcome, and they did overcome them. The patriotism of the people, directed by a deep conviction of the importance of the Union, produced mutual concession and reciprocal forbearance. Strict right was merged in a spirit of compromise, and the result has consecrated their disinterested devotion to the general weal. Unless the American people have degenerated, the same result can be again effected when ever experience points out the necessity of a resort to the same means to uphold the fabric which their fathers have reared.
It is beyond the power of man to make a system of government like ours or any other operate with precise equality upon States situated like those which compose this Confederacy; nor is inequality always injustice. Every State can not expect to shape the measures of the General Government to suit its own particular interests. The causes which prevent it are seated in the nature of things, and can not be entirely counteracted by human means. Mutual forbearance becomes, therefore, a duty obligatory upon all, and we may, I am confident, count upon a cheerful compliance with this high injunction on the part of our constituents. It is not to be supposed that they will object to make such comparatively inconsiderable sacrifices for the preservation of rights and privileges which other less favored portions of the world have in vain waded through seas of blood to acquire.
Our course is a safe one if it be but faithfully adhered to. Acquiescence in the constitutionally expressed will of the majority, and the exercise of that will in a spirit of moderation, justice, and brotherly kindness, will constitute a cement which would for ever preserve our Union. Those who cherish and inculcate sentiments like these render a most essential service to their country, while those who seek to weaken their influence are, how ever conscientious and praise worthy their intentions, in effect its worst enemies.
If the intelligence and influence of the country, instead of laboring to foment sectional prejudices, to be made subservient to party warfare, were in good faith applied to the eradication of causes of local discontent, by the improvement of our institutions and by facilitating their adaptation to the condition of the times, this task would prove one of less difficulty. May we not hope that the obvious interests of our common country and the dictates of an enlightened patriotism will in the end lead the public mind in that direction?
After all, the nature of the subject does not admit of a plan wholly free from objection. That which has for some time been in operation is, perhaps, the worst that could exist, and every advance that can be made in its improvement is a matter eminently worthy of your most deliberate attention.
It is very possible that one better calculated to effect the objects in view may yet be devised. If so, it is to be hoped that those who disapprove the past and dissent from what is proposed for the future will feel it their duty to direct their attention to it, as they must be sensible that unless some fixed rule for the action of the Federal Government in this respect is established the course now attempted to be arrested will be again resorted to. Any mode which is calculated to give the greatest degree of effect and harmony to our legislation upon the subject, which shall best serve to keep the movements of the Federal Government within the sphere intended by those who modeled and those who adopted it, which shall lead to the extinguishment of the national debt in the shortest period and impose the lightest burthens upon our constituents, shall receive from me a cordial and firm support.
Among the objects of great national concern I can not omit to press again upon your attention that part of the Constitution which regulates the election of President and Vice-President. The necessity for its amendment is made so clear to my mind by observation of its evils and by the many able discussions which they have elicited on the floor of Congress and elsewhere that I should be wanting to my duty were I to withhold another expression of my deep solicitude on the subject. Our system fortunately contemplates a recurrence to first principles, differing in this respect from all that have preceded it, and securing it, I trust, equally against the decay and the commotions which have marked the progress of other governments.
Our fellow citizens, too, who in proportion to their love of liberty keep a steady eye upon the means of sustaining it, do not require to be reminded of the duty they owe to themselves to remedy all essential defects in so vital a part of their system. While they are sensible that every evil attendant upon its operation is not necessarily indicative of a bad organization, but may proceed from temporary causes, yet the habitual presence, or even a single instance, of evils which can be clearly traced to an organic defect will not, I trust, be over-looked through a too scrupulous veneration for the work of their ancestors.
The Constitution was an experiment committed to the virtue and intelligence of the great mass of our country-men, in whose ranks the framers of it themselves were to perform the part of patriotic observation and scrutiny, and if they have passed from the stage of existence with an increased confidence in its general adaptation to our condition we should learn from authority so high the duty of fortifying the points in it which time proves to be exposed rather than be deterred from approaching them by the suggestions of fear or the dictates of misplaced reverence.
A provision which does not secure to the people a direct choice of their Chief Magistrate, but has a tendency to defeat their will, presented to my mind such an inconsistence with the general spirit of our institutions that I was indeed to suggest for your consideration the substitute which appeared to me at the same time the most likely to correct the evil and to meet the views of our constituents. The most mature reflection since has added strength to the belief that the best interests of our country require the speedy adoption of some plan calculated to effect this end. A contingency which some times places it in the power of a single member of the House of Representatives to decide an election of so high and solemn a character is unjust to the people, and becomes when it occurs a source of embarrassment to the individuals thus brought into power and a cause of distrust of the representative body.
Liable as the Confederacy is, from its great extent, to parties founded upon sectional interests, and to a corresponding multiplication of candidates for the Presidency, the tendency of the constitutional reference to the House of Representatives is to devolve the election upon that body in almost every instance, and, what ever choice may then be made among the candidates thus presented to them, to swell the influence of particular interests to a degree inconsistent with the general good. The consequences of this feature of the Constitution appear far more threatening to the peace and integrity of the Union than any which I can conceive as likely to result from the simple legislative action of the Federal Government.
It was a leading object with the framers of the Constitution to keep as separate as possible the action of the legislative and executive branches of the Government. To secure this object nothing is more essential than to preserve the former from all temptations of private interest, and therefore so to direct the patronage of the latter as not to permit such temptations to be offered. Experience abundantly demonstrates that every precaution in this respect is a valuable safe-guard of liberty, and one which my reflections upon the tendencies of our system incline me to think should be made still stronger.
It was for this reason that, in connection with an amendment of the Constitution removing all intermediate agency in the choice of the President, I recommended some restrictions upon the re-eligibility of that officer and upon the tenure of offices generally. The reason still exists, and I renew the recommendation with an increased confidence that its adoption will strengthen those checks by which the Constitution designed to secure the independence of each department of the Government and promote the healthful and equitable administration of all the trusts which it has created.
The agent most likely to contravene this design of the Constitution is the Chief Magistrate. In order, particularly, that his appointment may as far as possible be placed beyond the reach of any improper influences; in order that he may approach the solemn responsibilities of the highest office in the gift of a free people uncommitted to any other course than the strict line of constitutional duty, and that the securities for this independence may be rendered as strong as the nature of power and the weakness of its possessor will admit, I can not too earnestly invite your attention to the propriety of promoting such an amendment of the Constitution as will render him ineligible after one term of service.
It gives me pleasure to announce to Congress that the benevolent policy of the Government, steadily pursued for nearly 30 years, in relation to the removal of the Indians beyond the white settlements is approaching to a happy consummation. Two important tribes have accepted the provision made for their removal at the last session of Congress, and it is believed that their example will induce the remaining tribes also to seek the same obvious advantages.
The consequences of a speedy removal will be important to the United States, to individual States, and to the Indians themselves. The pecuniary advantages which it promises to the Government are the least of its recommendations. It puts an end to all possible danger of collision between the authorities of the General and State Governments on account of the Indians. It will place a dense and civilized population in large tracts of country now occupied by a few savage hunters. By opening the whole territory between Tennessee on the north and Louisiana on the south to the settlement of the whites it will incalculably strengthen the south west frontier and render the adjacent States strong enough to repel future invasions without remote aid. It will relieve the whole State of Mississippi and the western part of Alabama of Indian occupancy, and enable those States to advance rapidly in population, wealth, and power. It will separate the Indians from immediate contact with settlements of whites; free them from the power of the States; enable them to pursue happiness in their own way and under their own rude institutions; will retard the progress of decay, which is lessening their numbers, and perhaps cause them gradually, under the protection of the Government and through the influence of good counsels, to cast off their savage habits and become an interesting, civilized, and Christian community. These consequences, some of them so certain and the rest so probable, make the complete execution of the plan sanctioned by Congress at their last session an object of much solicitude.
Toward the aborigines of the country no one can indulge a more friendly feeling than myself, or would go further in attempting to reclaim them from their wandering habits and make them a happy, prosperous people. I have endeavored to impress upon them my own solemn convictions of the duties and powers of the General Government in relation to the State authorities. For the justice of the laws passed by the States within the scope of their reserved powers they are not responsible to this Government. As individuals we may entertain and express our opinions of their acts, but as a Government we have as little right to control them as we have to prescribe laws for other nations.
With a full understanding of the subject, the Choctaw and the Chickasaw tribes have with great unanimity determined to avail themselves of the liberal offers presented by the act of Congress, and have agreed to remove beyond the Mississippi River. Treaties have been made with them, which in due season will be submitted for consideration. In negotiating these treaties they were made to understand their true condition, and they have preferred maintaining their independence in the Western forests to submitting to the laws of the States in which they now reside. These treaties, being probably the last which will ever be made with them, are characterized by great liberality on the part of the Government. They give the Indians a liberal sum in consideration of their removal, and comfortable subsistence on their arrival at their new homes. If it be their real interest to maintain a separate existence, they will there be at liberty to do so without the inconveniences and vexations to which they would unavoidably have been subject in Alabama and Mississippi.
Humanity has often wept over the fate of the aborigines of this country, and Philanthropy has been long busily employed in devising means to avert it, but its progress has never for a moment been arrested, and one by one have many powerful tribes disappeared from the earth. To follow to the tomb the last of his race and to tread on the graves of extinct nations excite melancholy reflections. But true philanthropy reconciles the mind to these vicissitudes as it does to the extinction of one generation to make room for another. In the monuments and fortifications of an unknown people, spread over the extensive regions of the West, we behold the memorials of a once powerful race, which was exterminated of has disappeared to make room for the existing savage tribes. Nor is there any thing in this which, upon a comprehensive view of the general interests of the human race, is to be regretted. Philanthropy could not wish to see this continent restored to the condition in which it was found by our forefathers. What good man would prefer a country covered with forests and ranged by a few thousand savages to our extensive Republic, studded with cities, towns, and prosperous farms, embellished with all the improvements which art can devise or industry execute, occupied by more than 12,000,000 happy people, and filled with all the blessings of liberty, civilization, and religion?
The present policy of the Government is but a continuation of the same progressive change by a milder process. The tribes which occupied the countries now constituting the Eastern States were annihilated or have melted away to make room for the whites. The waves of population and civilization are rolling to the westward, and we now propose to acquire the countries occupied by the red men of the South and West by a fair exchange, and, at the expense of the United States, to send them to a land where their existence may be prolonged and perhaps made perpetual.
Doubtless it will be painful to leave the graves of their fathers; but what do they more than our ancestors did or than our children are now doing? To better their condition in an unknown land our forefathers left all that was dear in earthly objects. Our children by thousands yearly leave the land of their birth to seek new homes in distant regions. Does Humanity weep at these painful separations from every thing, animate and inanimate, with which the young heart has become entwined? Far from it. It is rather a source of joy that our country affords scope where our young population may range unconstrained in body or in mind, developing the power and faculties of man in their highest perfection.
These remove hundreds and almost thousands of miles at their own expense, purchase the lands they occupy, and support themselves at their new homes from the moment of their arrival. Can it be cruel in this Government when, by events which it can not control, the Indian is made discontented in his ancient home to purchase his lands, to give him a new and extensive territory, to pay the expense of his removal, and support him a year in his new abode? How many thousands of our own people would gladly embrace the opportunity of removing to the West on such conditions! If the offers made to the Indians were extended to them, they would be hailed with gratitude and joy.
And is it supposed that the wandering savage has a stronger attachment to his home than the settled, civilized Christian? Is it more afflicting to him to leave the graves of his fathers than it is to our brothers and children? Rightly considered, the policy of the General Government toward the red man is not only liberal, but generous. He is unwilling to submit to the laws of the States and mingle with their population. To save him from this alternative, or perhaps utter annihilation, the General Government kindly offers him a new home, and proposes to pay the whole expense of his removal and settlement.
In the consummation of a policy originating at an early period, and steadily pursued by every Administration within the present century—so just to the States and so generous to the Indians—the Executive feels it has a right to expect the cooperation of Congress and of all good and disinterested men. The States, moreover, have a right to demand it. It was substantially a part of the compact which made them members of our Confederacy. With Georgia there is an express contract; with the new States an implied one of equal obligation. Why, in authorizing Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Mississippi, and Alabama to form constitutions and become separate States, did Congress include within their limits extensive tracts of Indian lands, and, in some instances, powerful Indian tribes? Was it not understood by both parties that the power of the States was to be coextensive with their limits, and that with all convenient dispatch the General Government should extinguish the Indian title and remove every obstruction to the complete jurisdiction of the State governments over the soil? Probably not one of those States would have accepted a separate existence—certainly it would never have been granted by Congress—had it been understood that they were to be confined for ever to those small portions of their nominal territory the Indian title to which had at the time been extinguished.
It is, therefore, a duty which this Government owes to the new States to extinguish as soon as possible the Indian title to all lands which Congress themselves have included within their limits. When this is done the duties of the General Government in relation to the States and the Indians within their limits are at an end. The Indians may leave the State or not, as they choose. The purchase of their lands does not alter in the least their personal relations with the State government. No act of the General Government has ever been deemed necessary to give the States jurisdiction over the persons of the Indians. That they possess by virtue of their sovereign power within their own limits in as full a manner before as after the purchase of the Indian lands; nor can this Government add to or diminish it.
May we not hope, therefore, that all good citizens, and none more zealously than those who think the Indians oppressed by subjection to the laws of the States, will unite in attempting to open the eyes of those children of the forest to their true condition, and by a speedy removal to relieve them from all the evils, real or imaginary, present or prospective, with which they may be supposed to be threatened.
Among the numerous causes of congratulation the condition of our impost revenue deserves special mention, in as much as it promises the means of extinguishing the public debt sooner than was anticipated, and furnishes a strong illustration of the practical effects of the present tariff upon our commercial interests.
The object of the tariff is objected to by some as unconstitutional, and it is considered by almost all as defective in many of its parts.
The power to impose duties on imports originally belonged to the several States. The right to adjust those duties with a view to the encouragement of domestic branches of industry is so completely incidental to that power that it is difficult to suppose the existence of the one without the other. The States have delegated their whole authority over imports to the General Government without limitation or restriction, saving the very inconsiderable reservation relating to their inspection laws. This authority having thus entirely passed from the States, the right to exercise it for the purpose of protection does not exist in them, and consequently if it be not possessed by the General Government it must be extinct. Our political system would thus present the anomaly of a people stripped of the right to foster their own industry and to counteract the most selfish and destructive policy which might be adopted by foreign nations. This sure can not be the case. This indispensable power thus surrendered by the States must be within the scope of the authority on the subject expressly delegated to Congress.
In this conclusion I am confirmed as well by the opinions of Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe, who have each repeatedly recommended the exercise of this right under the Constitution, as by the uniform practice of Congress, the continued acquiescence of the States, and the general understanding of the people.
The difficulties of a more expedient adjustment of the present tariff, although great, are far from being insurmountable. Some are unwilling to improve any of its parts because they would destroy the whole; others fear to touch the objectionable parts lest those they approve should be jeoparded. I am persuaded that the advocates of these conflicting views do injustice to the American people and to their representatives. The general interest is the interest of each, and my confidence is entire that to insure the adoption of such modifications of the tariff as the general interest requires it is only necessary that that interest should be understood.
It is an infirmity of our nature to mingle our interests and prejudices with the operation of our reasoning powers, and attribute to the objects of our likes and dislikes qualities they do not possess and effects they can not produce. The effects of the present tariff are doubtless over-rated, both in its evils and in its advantages. By one class of reasoners the reduced price of cotton and other agricultural products is ascribed wholly to its influence, and by another the reduced price of manufactured articles.
The probability is that neither opinion approaches the truth, and that both are induced by that influence of interests and prejudices to which I have referred. The decrease of prices extends throughout the commercial world, embracing not only the raw material and the manufactured article, but provisions and lands. The cause must therefore be deeper and more pervading than the tariff of the United States. It may in a measure be attributable to the increased value of the precious metals, produced by a diminution of the supply and an increase in the demand, while commerce has rapidly extended itself and population has augmented. The supply of gold and silver, the general medium of exchange, has been greatly interrupted by civil convulsions in the countries from which they are principally drawn. A part of the effect, too, is doubtless owing to an increase of operatives and improvements in machinery. But on the whole it is questionable whether the reduction in the price of lands, produce, and manufactures has been greater than the appreciation of the standard of value.
While the chief object of duties should be revenue, they may be so adjusted as to encourage manufactures. In this adjustment, however, it is the duty of the Government to be guided by the general good. Objects of national importance alone ought to be protected. Of these the productions of our soil, our mines, and our work shops, essential to national defense, occupy the first rank. What ever other species of domestic industry, having the importance to which I have referred, may be expected, after temporary protection, to compete with foreign labor on equal terms merit the same attention in a subordinate degree.
The present tariff taxes some of the comforts of life unnecessarily high; it undertakes to protect interests too local and minute to justify a general exaction, and it also attempts to force some kinds of manufactures for which the country is not ripe. Much relief will be derived in some of these respects from the measures of your last session.
The best as well as fairest mode of determining whether from any just considerations a particular interest ought to receive protection would be to submit the question singly for deliberation. If after due examination of its merits, unconnected with extraneous considerations—such as a desire to sustain a general system or to purchase support for a different interest—it should enlist in its favor a majority of the representatives of the people, there can be little danger of wrong or injury in adjusting the tariff with reference to its protective effect. If this obviously just principle were honestly adhered to, the branches of industry which deserve protection would be saved from the prejudice excited against them when that protection forms part of a system by which portions of the country feel or conceive themselves to be oppressed. What is incalculably more important, the vital principle of our system—that principle which requires acquiescence in the will of the majority—would be secure from the discredit and danger to which it is exposed by the acts of majorities founded not on identity of conviction, but on combinations of small minorities entered into for the purpose of mutual assistance in measures which, resting solely on their own merits, could never be carried.
I am well aware that this is a subject of so much delicacy, on account of the extended interests in involves, as to require that it should be touched with the utmost caution, and that while an abandonment of the policy in which it originated—a policy coeval with our Government, and pursued through successive Administrations—is neither to be expected or desired, the people have a right to demand, and have demanded, that it be so modified as to correct abuses and obviate injustice.
That our deliberations on this interesting subject should be uninfluenced by those partisan conflicts that are incident to free institutions is the fervent wish of my heart. To make this great question, which unhappily so much divides and excites the public mind, subservient to the short-sighted views of faction, must destroy all hope of settling it satisfactorily to the great body of the people and for the general interest. I can not, therefore, in taking leave of the subject, too earnestly for my own feelings or the common good warn you against the blighting consequences of such a course.
According to the estimates at the Treasury Department, the receipts in the Treasury during the present year will amount to $24,161,018, which will exceed by about $300,000 the estimate presented in the last annual report of the Secretary of the Treasury. The total expenditure during the year, exclusive of public debt, is estimated at $13,742,311, and the payment on account of public debt for the same period will have been $11,354,630, leaving a balance in the Treasury on January 1st, 1831 of $4,819,781.
In connection with the condition of our finances, it affords me pleasure to remark that judicious and efficient arrangements have been made by the Treasury Department for securing the pecuniary responsibility of the public officers and the more punctual payment of the public dues. The Revenue Cutter Service has been organized and placed on a good footing, and aided by an increase of inspectors at exposed points, and regulations adopted under the act of May, 1830, for the inspection and appraisement of merchandise, has produced much improvement in the execution of the laws and more security against the commission of frauds upon the revenue. Abuses in the allowances for fishing bounties have also been corrected, and a material saving in that branch of the service thereby effected. In addition to these improvements the system of expenditure for sick sea men belonging to the merchant service has been revised, and being rendered uniform and economical the benefits of the fund applicable to this object have been usefully extended.
The prosperity of our country is also further evinced by the increased revenue arising from the sale of public lands, as will appear from the report of the Commissioner of the General Land Office and the documents accompanying it, which are herewith transmitted. I beg leave to draw your attention to this report, and to the propriety of making early appropriations for the objects which it specifies.
Your attention is again invited to the subjects connected with that portion of the public interests intrusted to the War Department. Some of them were referred to in my former message, and they are presented in detail in the report of the Secretary of War herewith submitted. I refer you also to the report of that officer for a knowledge of the state of the Army, fortifications, arsenals, and Indian affairs, all of which it will be perceived have been guarded with zealous attention and care. It is worthy of your consideration whether the armaments necessary for the fortifications on our maritime frontier which are now or shortly will be completed should not be in readiness sooner than the customary appropriations will enable the Department to provide them. This precaution seems to be due to the general system of fortification which has been sanctioned by Congress, and is recommended by that maxim of wisdom which tells us in peace to prepare for war.
I refer you to the report of the Secretary of the Navy for a highly satisfactory account of the manner in which the concerns of that Department have been conducted during the present year. Our position in relation to the most powerful nations of the earth, and the present condition of Europe, admonish us to cherish this arm of our national defense with peculiar care. Separated by wide seas from all those Governments whose power we might have reason to dread, we have nothing to apprehend from attempts at conquest. It is chiefly attacks upon our commerce and harrassing in-roads upon our coast against which we have to guard. A naval force adequate to the protection of our commerce, always afloat, with an accumulation of the means to give it a rapid extension in case of need, furnishes the power by which all such aggressions may be prevented or repelled. The attention of the Government has therefore been recently directed more to preserving the public vessels already built and providing materials to be placed in depot for future use than to increasing their number. With the aid of Congress, in a few years the Government will be prepared in case of emergency to put afloat a powerful navy of new ships almost as soon as old ones could be repaired.
The modifications in this part of the service suggested in my last annual message, which are noticed more in detail in the report of the Secretary of the Navy, are again recommended to your serious attention.
The report of the Post Master General in like manner exhibits a satisfactory view of the important branch of the Government under his charge. In addition to the benefits already secured by the operations of the Post Office Department, considerable improvements within the present year have been made by an increase in the accommodation afforded by stage coaches, and in the frequency and celerity of the mail between some of the most important points of the Union.
Under the late contracts improvements have been provided for the southern section of the country, and at the same time an annual saving made of upward of $72,000. Not with standing the excess of expenditure beyond the current receipts for a few years past, necessarily incurred in the fulfillment of existing contracts and in the additional expenses between the periods of contracting to meet the demands created by the rapid growth and extension of our flourishing country, yet the satisfactory assurance is given that the future revenue of the Department will be sufficient to meets its extensive engagements. The system recently introduced that subjects its receipts and disbursements to strict regulation has entirely fulfilled its designs. It gives full assurance of the punctual transmission, as well as the security of the funds of the Department. The efficiency and industry of its officers and the ability and energy of contractors justify an increased confidence in its continued prosperity.
The attention of Congress was called on a former occasion to the necessity of such a modification in the office of Attorney General of the United States as would render it more adequate to the wants of the public service. This resulted in the establishment of the office of Solicitor of the Treasury, and the earliest measures were taken to give effect to the provisions of the law which authorized the appointment of that officer and defined his duties. But it is not believed that this provision, however useful in itself, is calculated to supersede the necessity of extending the duties and powers of the Attorney General's Office. On the contrary, I am convinced that the public interest would be greatly promoted by giving to that officer the general superintendence of the various law agents of the Government, and of all law proceedings, whether civil or criminal, in which the United States may be interested, allowing him at the same time such compensation as would enable him to devote his undivided attention to the public business. I think such a provision is alike due to the public and to the officer.
Occasions of reference from the different Executive Departments to the Attorney General are of frequent occurrence, and the prompt decision of the questions so referred tends much to facilitate the dispatch of business in those Departments. The report of the Secretary of the Treasury hereto appended shows also a branch of the public service not specifically intrusted to any officer which might be advantageously committed to the Attorney General. But independently of those considerations this office is now one of daily duty. It was originally organized and its compensation fixed with a view to occasional service, leaving to the incumbent time for the exercise of his profession in private practice. The state of things which warranted such an organization no longer exists. The frequent claims upon the services of this officer would render his absence from the seat of Government in professional attendance upon the courts injurious to the public service, and the interests of the Government could not fail to be promoted by charging him with the general superintendence of all its legal concerns.
Under a strong conviction of the justness of these suggestions, I recommend it to Congress to make the necessary provisions for giving effect to them, and to place the Attorney General in regard to compensation on the same footing with the heads of the several Executive Departments. To this officer might also be intrusted a cognizance of the cases of insolvency in public debtors, especially if the views which I submitted on this subject last year should meet the approbation of Congress—to which I again solicit your attention.
Your attention is respectfully invited to the situation of the District of Columbia. Placed by the Constitution under the exclusive jurisdiction and control of Congress, this District is certainly entitled to a much greater share of its consideration than it has yet received. There is a want of uniformity in its laws, particularly in those of a penal character, which increases the expense of their administration and subjects the people to all the inconveniences which result from the operation of different codes in so small a territory. On different sides of the Potomac the same offense is punishable in unequal degrees, and the peculiarities of many of the early laws of Maryland and Virginia remain in force, not with standing their repugnance in some cases to the improvements which have superseded them in those States.
Besides a remedy for these evils, which is loudly called for, it is respectfully submitted whether a provision authorizing the election of a delegate to represent the wants of the citizens of this District on the floor of Congress is not due to them and to the character of our Government. No principles of freedom, and there is none more important than that which cultivates a proper relation between the governors and the governed. Imperfect as this must be in this case, yet it is believed that it would be greatly improved by a representation in Congress with the same privileges that are allowed to the other Territories of the United States.
The penitentiary is ready for the reception of convicts, and only awaits the necessary legislation to put it into operation, as one object of which I beg leave to recall your attention to the propriety of providing suitable compensation for the officers charged with its inspection.
The importance of the principles involved in the inquiry whether it will be proper to recharter the Bank of the United States requires that I should again call the attention of Congress to the subject. Nothing has occurred to lessen in any degree the dangers which many of our citizens apprehend from that institution as at present organized. In the spirit of improvement and compromise which distinguishes our country and its institutions it becomes us to inquire whether it be not possible to secure the advantages afforded by the present bank through the agency of a Bank of the United States so modified in its principles and structures as to obviate constitutional and other objections.
It is thought practicable to organize such a bank with the necessary officers as a branch of the Treasury Department, based on the public and individual deposits, without power to make loans or purchase property, which shall remit the funds of the Government, and the expense of which may be paid, if thought advisable, by allowing its officers to sell bills of exchange to private individuals at a moderate premium. Not being a corporate body, having no stock holders, debtors, or property, and but few officers, it would not be obnoxious to the constitutional objections which are urged against the present bank; and having no means to operate on the hopes, fears, or interests of large masses of the community, it would be shorn of the influence which makes that bank formidable. The States would be strengthened by having in their hands the means of furnishing the local paper currency through their own banks, while the Bank of the United States, though issuing no paper, would check the issues of the State banks by taking their notes in deposit and for exchange only so long as they continue to be redeemed with specie. In times of public emergency the capacities of such an institution might be enlarged by legislative provisions.
These suggestions are made not so much as a recommendation as with a view of calling the attention of Congress to the possible modifications of a system which can not continue to exist in its present form without occasional collisions with the local authorities and perpetual apprehensions and discontent on the part of the States and the people.
In conclusion, fellow citizens, allow me to invoke in behalf of your deliberations that spirit of conciliation and disinterestedness which is the gift of patriotism. Under an over-ruling and merciful Providence the agency of this spirit has thus far been signalized in the prosperity and glory of our beloved country. May its influence be eternal.
State of the Union Address Andrew Jackson December 6, 1831
Fellow Citizens of the Senate and of the House of Representatives:
The representation of the people has been renewed for the 22nd time since the Constitution they formed has been in force. For near half a century the Chief Magistrates who have been successively chosen have made their annual communications of the state of the nation to its representatives. Generally these communications have been of the most gratifying nature, testifying an advance in all the improvements of social and all the securities of political life. But frequently and justly as you have been called on to be grateful for the bounties of Providence, at few periods have they been more abundantly or extensively bestowed than at the present; rarely, if ever, have we had greater reason to congratulate each other on the continued and increasing prosperity of our beloved country.
Agriculture, the first and most important occupation of man, has compensated the labors of the husband-man with plentiful crops of all the varied products of our extensive country. Manufactures have been established in which the funds of the capitalist find a profitable investment, and which give employment and subsistence to a numerous and increasing body of industrious and dexterous mechanics. The laborer is rewarded by high wages in the construction of works of internal improvement, which are extending with unprecedented rapidity. Science is steadily penetrating the recesses of nature and disclosing her secrets, while the ingenuity of free minds is subjecting the elements to the power of man and making each new conquest auxiliary to his comfort. By our mails, whose speed is regularly increased and whose routes are every year extended, the communication of public intelligence and private business is rendered frequent and safe; the intercourse between distant cities, which it formerly required weeks to accomplish, is now effected in a few days; and in the construction of rail roads and the application of steam power we have a reasonable prospect that the extreme parts of our country will be so much approximated and those most isolated by the obstacles of nature rendered so accessible as to remove an apprehension some times entertained that the great extent of the Union would endanger its permanent existence.
If from the satisfactory view of our agriculture, manufactures, and internal improvements we turn to the state of our navigation and trade with foreign nations and between the States, we shall scarcely find less cause for gratulation. A beneficent Providence has provided for their exercise and encouragement an extensive coast, indented by capacious bays, noble rivers, inland seas; with a country productive of every material for ship building and every commodity for gainful commerce, and filled with a population active, intelligent, well-informed, and fearless of danger. These advantages are not neglected, and an impulse has lately been given to commercial enterprise, which fills our ship yards with new constructions, encourages all the arts and branches of industry connected with them, crowds the wharves of our cities with vessels, and covers the most distant seas with our canvas.
Let us be grateful for these blessings to the beneficent Being who has conferred them, and who suffers us to indulge a reasonable hope of their continuance and extension, while we neglect not the means by which they may be preserved. If we may dare to judge of His future designs by the manner in which His past favors have been bestowed, He has made our national prosperity to depend on the preservation of our liberties, our national force on our Federal Union, and our individual happiness on the maintenance of our State rights and wise institutions. If we are prosperous at home and respected abroad, it is because we are free, united, industrious, and obedient to the laws. While we continue so we shall by the blessing of Heaven go on in the happy career we have begun, and which has brought us in the short period of our political existence from a population of 3,000,000 to 13,000,000; from 13 separate colonies to 24 united States; from weakness to strength; from a rank scarcely marked in the scale of nations to a high place in their respect.
This last advantage is one that has resulted in a great degree from the principles which have guided our intercourse with foreign powers since we have assumed an equal station among them, and hence the annual account which the Executive renders to the country of the manner in which that branch of his duties has been fulfilled proves instructive and salutary.
The pacific and wise policy of our Government kept us in a state of neutrality during the wars that have at different periods since our political existence been carried on by other powers; but this policy, while it gave activity and extent to our commerce, exposed it in the same proportion to injuries from the belligerent nations. Hence have arisen claims of indemnity for those injuries. England, France, Spain, Holland, Sweden, Denmark, Naples, and lately Portugal had all in a greater or less degree infringed our neutral rights. Demands for reparation were made upon all. They have had in all, and continue to have in some, cases a leading influence on the nature of our relations with the powers on whom they were made.
Of the claims upon England it is unnecessary to speak further than to say that the state of things to which their prosecution and denial gave rise has been succeeded by arrangements productive of mutual good feeling and amicable relations between the two countries, which it is hoped will not be interrupted. One of these arrangements is that relating to the colonial trade which was communicated to Congress at the last session; and although the short period during which it has been in force will not enable me to form an accurate judgment of its operation, there is every reason to believe that it will prove highly beneficial. The trade thereby authorized has employed to September 30th, 1831 upward of 30 thousand tons of American and 15 thousand tons of foreign shipping in the outward voyages, and in the inward nearly an equal amount of American and 20 thousand only of foreign tonnage. Advantages, too, have resulted to our agricultural interests from the state of the trade between Canada and our Territories and States bordering or the St. Lawrence and the Lakes which may prove more than equivalent to the loss sustained by the discrimination made to favor the trade of the northern colonies with the West Indies.
After our transition from the state of colonies to that of an independent nation many points were found necessary to be settled between us and Great Britain. Among them was the demarcation of boundaries not described with sufficient precision in the treaty of peace. Some of the lines that divide the States and Territories of the United States from the British Provinces have been definitively fixed.
That, however, which separates us from the Provinces of Canada and New Brunswick to the North and the East was still in dispute when I came into office, but I found arrangements made for its settlement over which I had no control. The commissioners who had been appointed under the provisions of the treaty of Ghent having been unable to agree, a convention was made with Great Britain by my immediate predecessor in office, with the advice and consent of the Senate, by which it was agreed "that the points of difference which have arisen in the settlement of the boundary line between the American and British dominions, as described in the 5th article of the treaty of Ghent, shall be referred, as therein provided, to some friendly sovereign or State, who shall be invited to investigate and make a decision upon such points of difference"; and the King of the Netherlands having by the late President and His Britannic Majesty been designated as such friendly sovereign, it became my duty to carry with good faith the agreement so made into full effect. To this end I caused all the measures to be taken which were necessary to a full exposition of our case to the sovereign arbiter, and nominated as minister plenipotentiary to his Court a distinguished citizen of the State most interested in the question, and who had been one of the agents previously employed for settling the controversy.
On January 10th, 1831 His Majesty the King of the Netherlands delivered to the plenipotentiaries of the United States and of Great Britain his written opinion on the case referred to him. The papers in relation to the subject will be communicated by a special message to the proper branch of the Government with the perfect confidence that its wisdom will adopt such measures as will secure an amicable settlement of the controversy without infringing any constitutional right of the States immediately interested.
It affords me satisfaction to inform you that suggestions made by my direction to the charge d'affaires of His Britannic Majesty to this Government have had their desired effect in producing the release of certain American citizens who were imprisoned for setting up the authority of the State of Maine at a place in the disputed territory under the actual jurisdiction of His Britannic Majesty. From this and the assurances I have received of the desire of the local authorities to avoid any cause of collision I have the best hopes that a good understanding will be kept up until it is confirmed by the final disposition of the subject.
The amicable relations which now subsist between the United States and Great Britain, the increasing intercourse between their citizens, and the rapid obliteration of unfriendly prejudices to which former events naturally gave rise concurred to present this as a fit period for renewing our endeavors to provide against the recurrence of causes of irritation which in the event of war between Great Britain and any other power would inevitably endanger our peace. Animated by the sincerest desire to avoid such a state of things, and peacefully to secure under all possible circumstances the rights and honor of the country, I have given such instructions to the minister lately sent to the Court of London as will evince that desire, and if met by a correspondent disposition, which we can not doubt, will put an end to causes of collision which, without advantage to either, tend to estrange from each other two nations who have every motive to preserve not only peace, but an intercourse of the most amicable nature.
In my message at the opening of the last session of Congress I expressed a confident hope that the justice of our claims upon France, urged as they were with perseverance and signal ability by our minister there, would finally be acknowledged. This hope has been realized. A treaty has been signed which will immediately be laid before the Senate for its approbation, and which, containing stipulations that require legislative acts, must have the concurrence of both houses before it can be carried into effect.
By it the French Government engage to pay a sum which, if not quite equal to that which may be found due to our citizens, will yet, it is believed, under all circumstances, be deemed satisfactory by those interested. The offer of a gross sum instead of the satisfaction of each individual claim was accepted because the only alternatives were a rigorous exaction of the whole amount stated to be due on each claim, which might in some instances be exaggerated by design, in other over-rated through error, and which, therefore, it would have been both ungracious and unjust to have insisted on; or a settlement by a mixed commission, to which the French negotiators were very averse, and which experience in other cases had shewn to be dilatory and often wholly inadequate to the end.
A comparatively small sum is stipulated on our part to go to the extinction of all claims by French citizens on our Government, and a reduction of duties on our cotton and their wines has been agreed on as a consideration for the renunciation of an important claim for commercial privileges under the construction they gave to the treaty for the cession of Louisiana.
Should this treaty receive the proper sanction, a source of irritation will be stopped that has for so many years in some degree alienated from each other two nations who, from interest as well as the remembrance of early associations, ought to cherish the most friendly relations; an encouragement will be given for perseverance in the demands of justice by this new proof that if steadily pursued they will be listened to, and admonition will be offered to those powers, if any, which may be inclined to evade them that they will never be abandoned; above all, a just confidence will be inspired in our fellow citizens that their Government will exert all the powers with which they have invested it in support of their just claims upon foreign nations; at the same time that the frank acknowledgment and provision for the payment of those which were addressed to our equity, although unsupported by legal proof, affords a practical illustration of our submission to the divine rule of doing to others what we desire they should do unto us.
Sweden and Denmark having made compensation for the irregularities committed by their vessels or in their ports to the perfect satisfaction of the parties concerned, and having renewed the treaties of commerce entered into with them, our political and commercial relations with those powers continue to be on the most friendly footing.
With Spain our differences up to February 22d, 1819 were settled by the treaty of Washington of that date, but at a subsequent period our commerce with the States formerly colonies of Spain on the continent of America was annoyed and frequently interrupted by her public and private armed ships. They captured many of our vessels prosecuting a lawful commerce and sold them and their cargoes, and at one time to our demands for restoration and indemnity opposed the allegation that they were taken in the violation of a blockade of all the ports of those States. This blockade was declaratory only, and the inadequacy of the force to maintain it was so manifest that this allegation was varied to a charge of trade in contraband of war. This, in its turn, was also found untenable, and the minister whom I sent with instructions to press for the reparation that was due to our injured fellow citizens has transmitted an answer to his demand by which the captures are declared to have been legal, and are justified because the independence of the States of America never having been acknowledged by Spain she had a right to prohibit trade with them under her old colonial laws. This ground of defense was contradictory, not only to those which had been formerly alleged, but to the uniform practice and established laws of nations, and had been abandoned by Spain herself in the convention which granted indemnity to British subjects for captures made at the same time, under the same circumstances, and for the same allegations with those of which we complain.
I, however, indulge the hope that further reflection will lead to other views, and feel confident that when His Catholic Majesty shall be convinced of the justice of the claims his desire to preserve friendly relations between the two countries, which it is my earnest endeavor to maintain, will induce him to accede to our demand. I have therefore dispatched a special messenger with instructions to our minister to bring the case once more to his consideration, to the end that if (which I can not bring myself to believe) the same decision (that can not but be deemed an unfriendly denial of justice) should be persisted in the matter may before your adjournment be laid before you, the constitutional judges of what is proper to be done when negotiation for redress of injury fails.
The conclusion of a treaty for indemnity with France seemed to present a favorable opportunity to renew our claims of a similar nature on other powers, and particularly in the case of those upon Naples, more especially as in the course of former negotiations with that power our failure to induce France to render us justice was used as an argument against us. The desires of the merchants, who were the principal sufferers, have therefore been acceded to, and a mission has been instituted for the special purpose of obtaining for them a reparation already too long delayed. This measure having been resolved on, it was put in execution without waiting for the meeting of Congress, because the state of Europe created an apprehension of events that might have rendered our application ineffectual.
Our demands upon the Government of the two Sicilies are of a peculiar nature. The injuries on which they are founded are not denied, nor are the atrocity and perfidy under which those injuries were perpetrated attempted to be extenuated. The sole ground on which indemnity has been refused is the alleged illegality of the tenure by which the monarch who made the seizures held his crown. This defense, always unfounded in any principle of the law of nations, now universally abandoned, even by those powers upon whom the responsibility for the acts of past rulers bore the most heavily, will unquestionably be given up by His Sicilian Majesty, whose counsels will receive an impulse from that high sense of honor and regard to justice which are said to characterize him; and I feel the fullest confidence that the talents of the citizen commissioned for that purpose will place before him the just claims of our injured citizens in such as light as will enable me before your adjournment to announce that they have been adjusted and secured. Precise instructions to the effect of bringing the negotiation to a speedy issue have been given, and will be obeyed.
In the late blockade of Terceira some of the Portuguese fleet captured several of our vessels and committed other excesses, for which reparation was demanded, and I was on the point of dispatching an armed force to prevent any recurrence of a similar violence and protect our citizens in the prosecution of their lawful commerce when official assurances, on which I relied, made the sailing of the ships unnecessary. Since that period frequent promises have been made that full indemnity shall be given for the injuries inflicted and the losses sustained. In the performance there has been some, perhaps unavoidable, delay; but I have the fullest confidence that my earnest desire that this business may at once be closed, which our minister has been instructed strongly to express, will very soon be gratified. I have the better ground for this hope from the evidence of a friendly disposition which that Government has shown an actual reduction in the duty on rice the produce of our Southern States, authorizing the anticipation that this important article of our export will soon be admitted on the same footing with that produced by the most favored nation.
With the other powers of Europe we have fortunately had no cause of discussions for the redress of injuries. With the Empire of the Russias our political connection is of the most friendly and our commercial of the most liberal kind. We enjoy the advantages of navigation and trade given to the most favored nation, but it has not yet suited their policy, or perhaps has not been found convenient from other considerations, to give stability and reciprocity to those privileges by a commercial treaty. The ill health of the minister last year charged with making a proposition for that arrangement did not permit him to remain at St. Petersburg, and the attention of that Government during the whole of the period since his departure having been occupied by the war in which it was engaged, we have been assured that nothing could have been effected by his presence. A minister will soon be nominated, as well to effect this important object as to keep up the relations of amity and good understanding of which we have received so many assurances and proofs from His Imperial Majesty and the Emperor his predecessor.
The treaty with Austria is opening to us an important trade with the hereditary dominions of the Emperor, the value of which has been hitherto little known, and of course not sufficiently appreciated. While our commerce finds an entrance into the south of Germany by means of this treaty, those we have formed with the Hanseatic towns and Prussia and others now in negotiation will open that vast country to the enterprising spirit of our merchants on the north—a country abounding in all the materials for a mutually beneficial commerce, filled with enlightened and industrious inhabitants, holding an important place in the politics of Europe, and to which we owe so many valuable citizens. The ratification of the treaty with the Porte was sent to be exchanged by the gentleman appointed our charge d'affaires to that Court. Some difficulties occurred on his arrival, but at the date of his last official dispatch he supposed they had been obviated and that there was every prospect of the exchange being speedily effected.
This finishes the connected view I have thought it proper to give of our political and commercial relations in Europe. Every effort in my power will be continued to strengthen and extend them by treaties founded on principles of the most perfect reciprocity of interest, neither asking nor conceding any exclusive advantage, but liberating as far as it lies in my power the activity and industry of our fellow citizens from the shackles which foreign restrictions may impose.
To China and the East Indies our commerce continues in its usual extent, and with increased facilities which the credit and capital of our merchants afford by substituting bills for payments in specie. A daring outrage having been committed in those seas by the plunder of one of our merchant-men engaged in the pepper trade at a port in Sumatra, and the piratical perpetrators belonging to tribes in such a state of society that the usual course of proceedings between civilized nations could not be pursued, I forthwith dispatched a frigate with orders to require immediate satisfaction for the injury and indemnity to the sufferers.
Few changes have taken place in our connections with the independent States of America since my last communication to Congress. The ratification of a commercial treaty with the United Republics of Mexico has been for some time under deliberation in their Congress, but was still undecided at the date of our last dispatches. The unhappy civil commotions that have prevailed there were undoubtedly the cause of the delay, but as the Government is now said to be tranquillized we may hope soon to receive the ratification of the treaty and an arrangement for the demarcation of the boundaries between us. In the mean time, an important trade has been opened with mutual benefit from St. Louis, in the State of Missouri, by caravans to the interior Provinces of Mexico. This commerce is protected in its progress through the Indian countries by the troops of the United States, which have been permitted to escort the caravans beyond our boundaries to the settled part of the Mexican territory.
From Central America I have received assurances of the most friendly kind and a gratifying application for our good offices to remove a supposed indisposition toward that Government in a neighboring State. This application was immediately and successfully complied with. They gave us also the pleasing intelligence that differences which had prevailed in their internal affairs had been peaceably adjusted. Our treaty with this Republic continues to be faithfully observed, and promises a great and beneficial commerce between the two countries—a commerce of the greatest importance if the magnificent project of a ship canal through the dominions of that State from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, now in serious contemplation, shall be executed.
I have great satisfaction in communicating the success which has attended the exertions of our minister in Colombia to procure a very considerable reduction in the duties on our flour in that Republic. Indemnity also has been stipulated for injuries received by our merchants from illegal seizures, and renewed assurances are given that the treaty between the two countries shall be faithfully observed.
Chili and Peru seem to be still threatened with civil commotions, and until they shall be settled disorders may naturally be apprehended, requiring the constant presence of a naval force in the Pacific Ocean to protect our fisheries and guard our commerce.
The disturbances that took place in the Empire of Brazil previously to and immediately consequent upon the abdication of the late Emperor necessarily suspended any effectual application for the redress of some past injuries suffered by our citizens from that Government, while they have been the cause of others, in which all foreigners seem to have participated. Instructions have been given to our minister there to press for indemnity due for losses occasioned by these irregularities, and to take care of our fellow citizens shall enjoy all the privileges stipulated in their favor by the treaty lately made between the two powers, all which the good intelligence that prevails between our minister at Rio Janeiro and the Regency gives us the best reason to expect.
I should have placed Buenos Ayres in the list of South American powers in respect to which nothing of importance affecting us was to be communicated but for occurrences which have lately taken place at the Falkland Islands, in which the name of that Republic has been used to cover with a show of authority acts injurious to our commerce and to the property and liberty of our fellow citizens. In the course of the present year one of our vessels, engaged in the pursuit of a trade which we have always enjoyed without molestation, has been captured by a band acting, as they pretend, under the authority of the Government of Buenos Ayres. I have therefore given orders for the dispatch of an armed vessel to join our squadron in those seas and aid in affording all lawful protection to our trade which shall be necessary, and shall without delay send a minister to inquire into the nature of the circumstances and also of the claim, if any, that is set up by that Government to those islands. In the mean time, I submit the case to the consideration of Congress, to the end that they may clothe the Executive with such authority and means as they may deem necessary for providing a force adequate to the complete protection of our fellow citizens fishing and trading in those seas.
This rapid sketch of our foreign relations, it is hoped, fellow citizens, may be of some use in so much of your legislation as may bear on that important subject, while it affords to the country at large a source of high gratification in the contemplation of our political and commercial connection with the rest of the world. At peace with all; having subjects of future difference with few, and those susceptible of easy adjustment; extending our commerce gradually on all sides and on none by any but the most liberal and mutually beneficial means, we may, by the blessing of Providence, hope for all that national prosperity which can be derived from an intercourse with foreign nations, guided by those eternal principles of justice and reciprocal good will which are binding as well upon States as the individuals of whom they are composed.
I have great satisfaction in making this statement of our affairs, because the course of our national policy enables me to do it without any indiscreet exposure of what in other governments is usually concealed from the people. Having none but a straight-forward, open course to pursue, guided by a single principle that will bear the strongest light, we have happily no political combinations to form, no alliances to entangle us, no complicated interests to consult, and in subjecting all we have done to the consideration of our citizens and to the inspection of the world we give no advantage to other nations and lay ourselves open to no injury.
It may not be improper to add that to preserve this state of things and give confidence to the world in the integrity of our designs all our consular and diplomatic agents are strictly enjoined to examine well every cause of complaint preferred by our citizens, and while they urge with proper earnestness those that are well founded, to countenance none that are unreasonable or unjust, and to enjoin on our merchants and navigators the strictest obedience to the laws of the countries to which they resort, and a course of conduct in their dealings that may support the character of our nation and render us respected abroad.
Connected with this subject, I must recommend a revisal of our consular laws. Defects and omissions have been discovered in their operation that ought to be remedied and supplied. For your further information on this subject I have directed a report to be made by the Secretary of State, which I shall hereafter submit to your consideration.
The internal peace and security of our confederated States is the next principal object of the General Government. Time and experience have proved that the abode of the native Indian within their limits is dangerous to their peace and injurious to himself. In accordance with my recommendation at a former session of Congress, an appropriation of $500 thousand was made to aid the voluntary removal of the various tribes beyond the limits of the States. At the last session I had the happiness to announce that the Chickasaws and Choctaws had accepted the generous offer of the Government and agreed to remove beyond the Mississippi River, by which the whole of the State of Mississippi and the western part of Alabama will be freed from Indian occupancy and opened to a civilized population. The treaties with these tribes are in a course of execution, and their removal, it is hoped, will be completed in the course of 1832.
At the request of the authorities of Georgia the registration of Cherokee Indians for emigration has been resumed, and it is confidently expected that half, if not two-third, of that tribe will follow the wise example of their more westerly brethren. Those who prefer remaining at their present homes will hereafter be governed by the laws of Georgia, as all her citizens are, and cease to be the objects of peculiar care on the part of the General Government.
During the present year the attention of the Government has been particularly directed to those tribes in the powerful and growing State of Ohio, where considerable tracts of the finest lands were still occupied by the aboriginal proprietors. Treaties, either absolute or conditional, have been made extinguishing the whole Indian title to the reservations in that State, and the time is not distant, it is hoped, when Ohio will be no longer embarrassed with the Indian population. The same measures will be extended to Indiana as soon as there is reason to anticipate success. It is confidently believed that perseverance for a few years in the present policy of the Government will extinguish the Indian title to all lands lying within the States composing our Federal Union, and remove beyond their limits every Indian who is not willing to submit to their laws.
Thus will all conflicting claims to jurisdiction between the States and the Indian tribes be put to rest. It is pleasing to reflect that results so beneficial, not only to the States immediately concerned, but to the harmony of the Union, will have been accomplished by measures equally advantageous to the Indians. What the native savages become when surrounded by a dense population and by mixing with the whites may be seen in the miserable remnants of a few Eastern tribes, deprived of political and civil rights, forbidden to make contracts, and subjected to guardians, dragging out a wretched existence, without excitement, without hope, and almost without thought.
But the removal of the Indians beyond the limits and jurisdiction of the States does not place them beyond the reach of philanthropic aid and Christian instruction. On the contrary, those whom philanthropy or religion may induce to live among them in their new abode will be more free in the exercise of their benevolent functions than if they had remained within the limits of the States, embarrassed by their internal regulations. Now subject to no control but the superintending agency of the General Government, exercised with the sole view of preserving peace, they may proceed unmolested in the interesting experiment of gradually advancing a community of American Indians from barbarism to the habits and enjoyments of civilized life.
Among the happiest effects of the improved relations of our Republic has been an increase of trade, producing a corresponding increase of revenue beyond the most sanguine anticipations of the Treasury Department.
The state of the public finances will be fully shown by the Secretary of the Treasury in the report which he will presently lay before you. I will here, however, congratulate you upon their prosperous condition. The revenue received in the present year will not fall short of $27,700,000, and the expenditures for all objects other than the public debt will not exceed $14,700,000. The payment on account of the principal and interest of the debt during the year will exceed $16,500,000, a greater sum than has been applied to that object out of the revenue in any year since the enlargement of the sinking fund except the two years following immediately there after. The amount which will have been applied to the public debt from March 4th, 1829 to January 1st, 1832, which is less than three years since the Administration has been placed in my hands, will exceed $40,000,000.
From the large importations of the present year it may be safely estimated that the revenue which will be received into the Treasury from that source during the next year, with the aid of that received from the public lands, will considerably exceed the amount of the receipts of the present year; and it is believed that with the means which the Government will have at its disposal from various sources, which will be fully stated by the proper Department, the whole of the public debt may be extinguished, either by redemption or purchase, within the four years of my Administration. We shall then exhibit the rare example of a great nation, abounding in all the means of happiness and security, altogether free from debt.
The confidence with which the extinguishment of the public debt may be anticipated presents an opportunity for carrying into effect more fully the policy in relation to import duties which has been recommended in my former messages. A modification of the tariff which shall produce a reduction of our revenue to the wants of the Government and an adjustment of the duties on imports with a view to equal justice in relation to all our national interests and to the counteraction of foreign policy so far as it may be injurious to those interests, is deemed to be one of the principal objects which demand the consideration of the present Congress. Justice to the interests of the merchant as well as the manufacturer requires that material reductions in the import duties be prospective; and unless the present Congress shall dispose of the subject the proposed reductions can not properly be made to take effect at the period when the necessity for the revenue arising from present rates shall cease. It is therefore desirable that arrangements be adopted at your present session to relieve the people from unnecessary taxation after the extinguishment of the public debt. In the exercise of that spirit of concession and conciliation which has distinguished the friends of our Union in all great emergencies, it is believed that this object may be effected without injury to any national interest.
In my annual message of December, 1829, I had the honor to recommend the adoption of a more liberal policy than that which then prevailed toward unfortunate debtors to the Government, and I deem it my duty again to invite your attention to this subject.
Actuated by similar views, Congress at their last session passed an act for the relief of certain insolvent debtors of the United States, but the provisions of that law have not been deemed such as were adequate to that relief to this unfortunate class of our fellow citizens which may be safely extended to them. The points in which the law appears to be defective will be particularly communicated by the Secretary of the Treasury, and I take pleasure in recommending such an extension of its provisions as will unfetter the enterprise of a valuable portion of our citizens and restore to them the means of usefulness to themselves and the community. While deliberating on this subject I would also recommend to your consideration the propriety of so modifying the laws for enforcing the payment of debts due either to the public or to individuals suing in the courts of the United States as to restrict the imprisonment of the person to cases of fraudulent concealment of property. The personal liberty of the citizen seems too sacred to be held, as in many cases it now is, at the will of a creditor to whom he is willing to surrender all the means he has of discharging his debt.
The reports from the Secretaries of the War and Navy Departments and from the Post Master General, which accompany this message, present satisfactory views of the operations of the Departments respectively under their charge, and suggest improvements which are worthy of and to which I invite the serious attention of Congress. Certain defects and omissions having been discovered in the operation of the laws respecting patents, they are pointed out in the accompanying report from the Secretary of State.
I have heretofore recommended amendments of the Federal Constitution giving the election of President and Vice-President to the people and limiting the service of the former to a single term. So important do I consider these changes in our fundamental law that I can not, in accordance with my sense of duty, omit to press them upon the consideration of a new Congress. For my views more at large, as well in relation to these points as to the disqualification of members of Congress to receive an office from a President in whose election they have had an official agency, which I proposed as a substitute, I refer you to my former messages.
Our system of public accounts is extremely complicated, and it is believed may be much improved. Much of the present machinery and a considerable portion of the expenditure of public money may be dispensed with, while greater facilities can be afforded to the liquidation of claims upon the Government and an examination into their justice and legality quite as efficient as the present secured. With a view to a general reform in the system, I recommend the subject to the attention of Congress.
I deem it my duty again to call your attention to the condition of the District of Columbia. It was doubtless wise in the framers of our Constitution to place the people of this District under the jurisdiction of the General Government, but to accomplish the objects they had in view it is not necessary that this people should be deprived of all the privileges of self-government. Independently of the difficulty of inducing the representatives of distant States to turn their attention to projects of laws which are not of the highest interest to their constituents, they are not individually, nor in Congress collectively, well qualified to legislate over the local concerns of this District. Consequently its interests are much neglected, and the people are almost afraid to present their grievances, lest a body in which they are not represented and which feels little sympathy in their local relations should in its attempt to make laws for them do more harm than good.
Governed by the laws of the States whence they were severed, the two shores of the Potomac within the ten miles square have different penal codes—not the present codes of Virginia and Maryland, but such as existed in those States at the time of the cession to the United States. As Congress will not form a new code, and as the people of the District can not make one for themselves, they are virtually under two governments. Is it not just to allow them at least a Delegate in Congress, if not a local legislature, to make laws for the District, subject to the approval or rejection of Congress? I earnestly recommend the extension to them of every political right which their interests require and which may be compatible with the Constitution.
The extension of the judiciary system of the United States is deemed to be one of the duties of the Government. One-fourth of the States in the Union do not participate in the benefits of a circuit court. To the States of Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, admitted into the Union since the present judicial system was organized, only a district court has been allowed. If this be sufficient, then the circuit courts already existing in 18 States ought to be abolished; if it be not sufficient, the defect ought to be remedied, and these States placed on the same footing with the other members of the Union. It was on this condition and on this footing that they entered the Union, and they may demand circuit courts as a matter not of concession, but of right. I trust that Congress will not adjourn leaving this anomaly in our system.
Entertaining the opinions heretofore expressed in relation to the Bank of the United States as at present organized, I felt it my duty in my former messages frankly to disclose them, in order that the attention of the Legislature and the people should be seasonably directed to that important subject, and that it might be considered and finally disposed of in a manner best calculated to promote the ends of the Constitution and subserve the public interests. Having thus conscientiously discharged a constitutional duty, I deem it proper on this occasion, without a more particular reference to the views of the subject then expressed to leave it for the present to the investigation of an enlightened people and their representatives.
In conclusion permit me to invoke that Power which superintends all governments to infuse into your deliberations at this important crisis of our history a spirit of mutual forbearance and conciliation. In that spirit was our Union formed, and in that spirit must it be preserved.
State of the Union Address Andrew Jackson December 4, 1832
Fellow Citizens of the Senate and of the House of Representatives:
It gives me pleasure to congratulate you upon your return to the seat of Government for the purpose of discharging your duties to the people of the United States. Although the pestilence which had traversed the Old World has entered our limits and extended its ravages over much of our land, it has pleased Almighty God to mitigate its severity and lessen the number of its victims compared with those who have fallen in most other countries over which it has spread its terrors. Not with standing this visitation, our country presents on every side marks of prosperity and happiness unequaled, perhaps, in any other portion of the world. If we fully appreciate our comparative condition, existing causes of discontent will appear unworthy of attention, and, with hearts of thankfulness to that divine Being who has filled our cup of prosperity, we shall feel our resolution strengthened to preserve and hand down to our posterity that liberty and that union which we have received from our fathers, and which constitute the sources and the shield of all our blessings.
The relations of our country continue to present the same picture of amicable intercourse that I had the satisfaction to hold up to your view at the opening of your last session. The same friendly professions, the same desire to participate in our flourishing commerce, the same dispositions, evinced by all nations with whom we have any intercourse. This desirable state of things may be mainly ascribed to our undeviating practice of the rule which has long guided our national policy, to require no exclusive privileges in commerce and to grant none. It is daily producing its beneficial effect in the respect shown to our flag, the protection of our citizens and their property abroad, and in the increase of our navigation and the extension of our mercantile operations. The returns which have been made out since we last met will show an increase during the last preceding year of more than 80 thousand tons in our shipping and of near $40,000,000 in the aggregate of our imports and exports.
Nor have we less reason to felicitate ourselves on the position of our political than of our commercial concerns. They remain in the state in which they were when I last addressed you—a state of prosperity and peace, the effect of a wise attention to the parting advice of the revered Father of his Country on this subject, condensed into a maxim for the use of posterity by one of his most distinguished successors—to cultivate free commerce and honest friendship with all nations, but to make entangling alliances with none. A strict adherence to this policy has kept us aloof from the perplexing questions that now agitate the European world and have more than once deluged those countries with blood. Should those scenes unfortunately recur, the parties to the contest may count on a faithful performance of the duties incumbent on us as a neutral nation, and our own citizens may equally rely on the firm assertion of their neutral rights.
With the nation that was our earliest friend and ally in the infancy of our political existence the most friendly relations have subsisted through the late revolutions of its Government, and, from the events of the last, promise a permanent duration. It has made an approximation in some of its political institutions to our own, and raised a monarch to the throne who preserves, it is said, a friendly recollection of the period during which he acquired among our citizens the high consideration that could then have been produced by his personal qualifications alone.
Our commerce with that nation is gradually assuming a mutually beneficial character, and the adjustment of the claims of our citizens has removed the only obstacle there was to an intercourse not only lucrative, but productive of literary and scientific improvement.
From Great Britain I have the satisfaction to inform you that I continue to receive assurances of the most amicable disposition, which have on my part on all proper occasions been promptly and sincerely reciprocated. The attention of that Government has latterly been so much engrossed by matters of a deeply interesting domestic character that we could not press upon it the renewal of negotiations which had been unfortunately broken off by the unexpected recall of our minister, who had commenced them with some hopes of success. My great object was the settlement of questions which, though now dormant, might here-after be revived under circumstances that would endanger the good understanding which it is the interest of both parties to preserve inviolate, cemented as it is by a community of language, manners, and social habits, and by the high obligations we owe to our British ancestors for many of our most valuable institutions and for that system of representative government which has enabled us to preserve and improve them. The question of our North-East boundary still remains unsettled. In my last annual message I explained to you the situation in which I found that business on my coming into office, and the measures I thought it my duty to pursue for asserting the rights of the United States before the sovereign who had been chosen by my predecessor to determine the question, and also the manner in which he had disposed of it. A special message to the Senate in their executive capacity afterwards brought before them to the question whether they would advise a submission to the opinion of the sovereign arbiter. That body having considered the award as not obligatory and advised me to open a further negotiation, the proposition was immediately made to the British Government, but the circumstances to which I have alluded have hitherto prevented any answer being given to the overture. Early attention, however, has been promised to the subject, and every effort on my part will be made for a satisfactory settlement of this question, interesting to the Union generally, and particularly so to one of its members.