Our liberties remain unimpaired; the bondmen have been freed from slavery; we have become possessed of the respect, if not the friendship, of all civilized nations. Our progress has been great in all the arts—in science, agriculture, commerce, navigation, mining, mechanics, law, medicine, etc.; and in general education the progress is likewise encouraging. Our thirteen States have become thirty-eight, including Colorado (which has taken the initiatory steps to become a State), and eight Territories, including the Indian Territory and Alaska, and excluding Colorado, making a territory extending from the Atlantic to the Pacific. On the south we have extended to the Gulf of Mexico, and in the west from the Mississippi to the Pacific.
One hundred years ago the cotton gin, the steamship, the railroad, the telegraph, the reaping, sewing, and modern printing machines, and numerous other inventions of scarcely less value to our business and happiness were entirely unknown.
In 1776 manufactories scarcely existed even in name in all this vast territory. In 1870 more than 2,000,000 persons were employed in manufactories, producing more than $2,100,000,000 of products in amount annually, nearly equal to our national debt. From nearly the whole of the population of 1776 being engaged in the one occupation of agriculture, in 1870 so numerous and diversified had become the occupation of our people that less than 6,000,000 out of more than 40,000,000 were so engaged. The extraordinary effect produced in our country by a resort to diversified occupations has built a market for the products of fertile lands distant from the seaboard and the markets of the world.
The American system of locating various and extensive manufactories next to the plow and the pasture, and adding connecting railroads and steamboats, has produced in our distant interior country a result noticeable by the intelligent portions of all commercial nations. The ingenuity and skill of American mechanics have been demonstrated at home and abroad in a manner most flattering to their pride. But for the extraordinary genius and ability of our mechanics, the achievements of our agriculturists, manufacturers, and transporters throughout the country would have been impossible of attainment.
The progress of the miner has also been great. Of coal our production has small; now many millions of tons are mined annually. So with iron, which formed scarcely an appreciable part of our products half a century ago, we now produce more than the world consumed at the beginning of our national existence. Lead, zinc, and copper, from being articles of import, we may expect to be large exporters of in the near future. The development of gold and silver mines in the United States and Territories has not only been remarkable, but has had a large influence upon the business of all commercial nations. Our merchants in the last hundred years have had a success and have established a reputation for enterprise, sagacity, progress, and integrity unsurpassed by peoples of older nationalities. This "good name" is not confined to their homes, but goes out upon every sea and into every port where commerce enters. With equal pride we can point to our progress in all of the learned professions.
As we are now about to enter upon our second centennial—commenting our manhood as a nation—it is well to look back upon the past and study what will be best to preserve and advance our future greatness From the fall of Adam for his transgression to the present day no nation has ever been free from threatened danger to its prosperity and happiness. We should look to the dangers threatening us, and remedy them so far as lies in our power. We are a republic whereof one man is as good as another before the law. Under such a form of government it is of the greatest importance that all should be possessed of education and intelligence enough to cast a vote with a right understanding of its meaning. A large association of ignorant men can not for any considerable period oppose a successful resistance to tyranny and oppression from the educated few, but will inevitably sink into acquiescence to the will of intelligence, whether directed by the demagogue or by priestcraft. Hence the education of the masses becomes of the first necessity for the preservation of our institutions. They are worth preserving, because they have secured the greatest good to the greatest proportion of the population of any form of government yet devised. All other forms of government approach it just in proportion to the general diffusion of education and independence of thought and action. As the primary step, therefore, to our advancement in all that has marked our progress in the past century, I suggest for your earnest consideration, and most earnestly recommend it, that a constitutional amendment be submitted to the legislatures of the several States for ratification, making it the duty of each of the several States to establish and forever maintain free public schools adequate to the education of all the children in the rudimentary branches within their respective limits, irrespective of sex, color, birthplace, or religions; forbidding the teaching in said schools of religious, atheistic, or pagan tenets; and prohibiting the granting of any school funds or school taxes, or any part thereof, either by legislative, municipal, or other authority, for the benefit or in aid, directly or indirectly, of any religious sect or denomination, or in aid or for the benefit of any other object of any nature or kind whatever.
In connection with this important question I would also call your attention to the importance of correcting an evil that, if permitted to continue, will probably lead to great trouble in our land before the close of the nineteenth century. It is the accumulation of vast amounts of untaxed church property.
In 1850, I believe, the church property of the United States which paid no tax, municipal or State, amounted to about $83,000,000. In 1860 the amount had doubled; in 1875 it is about $1,000,000,000. By 1900, without check, it is safe to say this property will reach a sum exceeding $3,000,000,000. So vast a sum, receiving all the protection and benefits of Government without bearing its proportion of the burdens and expenses of the same, will not be looked upon acquiescently by those who have to pay the taxes. In a growing country, where real estate enhances so rapidly with time as in the United States, there is scarcely a limit to the wealth that may be acquired by corporations, religious or otherwise, if allowed to retain real estate without taxation. The contemplation of so vast a property as here alluded to, without taxation, may lead to sequestration without constitutional authority and through blood.
I would suggest the taxation of all property equally, whether church or corporation, exempting only the last resting place of the dead and possibly, with proper restrictions, church edifices.
Our relations with most of the foreign powers continue on a satisfactory and friendly footing.
Increased intercourse, the extension of commerce, and the cultivation of mutual interests have steadily improved our relations with the large majority of the powers of the world, rendering practicable the peaceful solution of questions which from time to time necessarily arise, leaving few which demand extended or particular notice.
The correspondence of the Department of State with our diplomatic representatives abroad is transmitted herewith.
I am happy to announce the passage of an act by the General Cortes of Portugal, proclaimed since the adjournment of Congress, for the abolition of servitude in the Portuguese colonies. It is to be hoped that such legislation may be another step toward the great consummation to be reached, when no man shall be permitted, directly or indirectly, under any guise, excuse, or form of law, to hold his fellow-man in bondage. I am of opinion also that it is the duty of the United States, as contributing toward that end, and required by the spirit of the age in which we live, to provide by suitable legislation that no citizen of the United States shall hold slaves as property in any other country or be interested therein.
Chile has made reparation in the case of the whale ship Good Return, seized without sufficient cause upward of forty years ago. Though she had hitherto denied her accountability, the denial was never acquiesced in by this Government, and the justice of the claim has been so earnestly contended for that it has been gratifying that she should have at last acknowledged it.
The arbitrator in the case of the United States steamer Montijo, for the seizure and detention of which the Government of the United States of Colombia was held accountable, has decided in favor of the claim. This decision has settled a question which had been pending for several years, and which, while it continued open, might more or less disturb the good understanding which it is desirable should be maintained between the two Republics.
A reciprocity treaty with the King of the Hawaiian Islands was concluded some months since. As it contains a stipulation that it shall not take effect until Congress shall enact the proper legislation for that purpose, copies of the instrument are herewith submitted, in order that, if such should be the pleasure of Congress, the necessary legislation upon the subject may be adopted.
In March last an arrangement was made, through Mr. Cushing, our minister in Madrid, with the Spanish Government for the payment by the latter to the United States of the sum of $80,000 in coin, for the purpose of the relief of the families or persons of the ship's company and certain passengers of the Virginius. This sum was to have been paid in three installments at two months each. It is due to the Spanish Government that I should state that the payments were fully and spontaneously anticipated by that Government, and that the whole amount was paid within but a few days more than two months from the date of the agreement, a copy of which is herewith transmitted. In pursuance of the terms of the adjustment, I have directed the distribution of the amount among the parties entitled thereto, including the ship's company and such of the passengers as were American citizens. Payments are made accordingly, on the application by the parties entitled thereto.
The past year has furnished no evidence of an approaching termination of the ruinous conflict which has been raging for seven years in the neighboring island of Cuba. The same disregard of the laws of civilized warfare and of the just demands of humanity which has heretofore called forth expressions of condemnation from the nations of Christendom has continued to blacken the sad scene. Desolation, ruin, and pillage are pervading the rich fields of one of the most fertile and productive regions of the earth, and the incendiary's torch, firing plantations and valuable factories and buildings, is the agent marking the alternate advance or retreat of contending parties.
The protracted continuance of this strife seriously affects the interests of all commercial nations, but those of the United States more than others, by reason of close proximity, its larger trade and intercourse with Cuba, and the frequent and intimate personal and social relations which have grown up between its citizens and those of the island. Moreover, the property of our citizens in Cuba is large, and is rendered insecure and depreciated in value and in capacity of production by the continuance of the strife and the unnatural mode of its conduct. The same is true, differing only in degree, with respect to the interests and people of other nations; and the absence of any reasonable assurance of a near termination of the conflict must of necessity soon compel the States thus suffering to consider what the interests of their own people and their duty toward themselves may demand.
I have hoped that Spain would be enabled to establish peace in her colony, to afford security to the property and the interests of our citizens, and allow legitimate scope to trade and commerce and the natural productions of the island. Because of this hope, and from an extreme reluctance to interfere in the most remote manner in the affairs of another and a friendly nation, especially of one whose sympathy and friendship in the struggling infancy of our own existence must ever be remembered with gratitude, I have patiently and anxiously waited the progress of events. Our own civil conflict is too recent for us not to consider the difficulties which surround a government distracted by a dynastic rebellion at home at the same time that it has to cope with a separate insurrection in a distant colony. But whatever causes may have produced the situation which so grievously affects our interests, it exists, with all its attendant evils operating directly upon this country and its people. Thus far all the efforts of Spain have proved abortive, and time has marked no improvement in the situation. The armed bands of either side now occupy nearly the same ground as in the past, with the difference, from time to time, of more lives sacrificed, more property destroyed, and wider extents of fertile and productive fields and more and more of valuable property constantly wantonly sacrificed to the incendiary's torch.
In contests of this nature, where a considerable body of people who have attempted to free themselves of the control of the superior government have reached such point in occupation of territory, in power, and in general organization as to constitute in fact a body politic; having a government in substance as well as in name; possessed of the elements of stability and equipped with the machinery for the administration of internal policy and the execution of its laws; prepared and able to administer justice at home, as well as in its dealings with other powers, it is within the province of those other powers to recognize its existence as a new and independent nation. In such cases other nations simply deal with an actually existing condition of things, and recognize as one of the powers of the earth that body politic which, possessing the necessary elements, has in fact become a new power. In a word, the creation of a new state is a fact.
To establish the condition of things essential to the recognition of this fact there must be a people occupying a known territory, united under some known and defined form of government, acknowledged by those subject thereto, in which the functions of government are administered by usual methods, competent to mete out justice to citizens and strangers, to afford remedies for public and for private wrongs, and able to assume the correlative international obligations and capable of performing the corresponding international duties resulting from its acquisition of the rights of sovereignty. A power should exist complete in its organization, ready to take and able to maintain its place among the nations of the earth.
While conscious that the insurrection in Cuba has shown a strength and endurance which make it at least doubtful whether it be in the power of Spain to subdue it, it seems unquestionable that no such civil organization exists which may be recognized as an independent government capable of performing its international obligations and entitled to be treated as one of the powers of the earth. A recognition under such circumstances would be inconsistent with the facts, and would compel the power granting it soon to support by force the government to which it had really given its only claim of existence. In my judgment the United States should adhere to the policy and the principles which have heretofore been its sure and safe guides in like contests between revolted colonies and their mother country, and, acting only upon the clearest evidence, should avoid any possibility of suspicion or of imputation.
A recognition of the independence of Cuba being, in my opinion, impracticable and indefensible, the question which next presents itself is that of the recognition of belligerent rights in the parties to the contest.
In a former message to Congress I had occasion to consider this question, and reached the conclusion that the conflict in Cuba, dreadful and devastating as were its incidents, did not rise to the fearful dignity of war. Regarding it now, after this lapse of time, I am unable to see that any notable success or any marked or real advance on the part of the insurgents has essentially changed the character of the contest. It has acquired greater age, but not greater or more formidable proportions. It is possible that the acts of foreign powers, and even acts of Spain herself, of this very nature, might be pointed to in defense of such recognition. But now, as in its past history, the United States should carefully avoid the false lights which might lead it into the mazes of doubtful law and of questionable propriety, and adhere rigidly and sternly to the rule, which has been its guide, of doing only that which is right and honest and of good report. The question of according or of withholding rights of belligerency must be judged in every case in view of the particular attending facts. Unless justified by necessity, it is always, and justly, regarded as an unfriendly act and a gratuitous demonstration of moral support to the rebellion. It is necessary, and it is required, when the interests and rights of another government or of its people are so far affected by a pending civil conflict as to require a definition of its relations to the parties thereto. But this conflict must be one which will be recognized in the sense of international law as war. Belligerence, too, is a fact. The mere existence of contending armed bodies and their occasional conflicts do not constitute war in the sense referred to. Applying to the existing condition of affairs in Cuba the tests recognized by publicists and writers on international law, and which have been observed by nations of dignity, honesty, and power when free from sensitive or selfish and unworthy motives, I fail to find in the insurrection the existence of such a substantial political organization, real, palpable, and manifest to the world, having the forms and capable of the ordinary functions of government toward its own people and to other states, with courts for the administration of justice, with a local habitation, possessing such organization of force, such material, such occupation of territory, as to take the contest out of the category of a mere rebellious insurrection or occasional skirmishes and place it on the terrible footing of war, to which a recognition of belligerency would aim to elevate it. The contest, moreover, is solely on land; the insurrection has not possessed itself of a single seaport whence it may send forth its flag, nor has it any means of communication with foreign powers except through the military lines of its adversaries. No apprehension of any of those sudden and difficult complications which a war upon the ocean is apt to precipitate upon the vessels, both commercial and national, and upon the consular officers of other powers calls for the definition of their relations to the parties to the contest. Considered as a question of expediency, I regard the accordance of belligerent rights still to be as unwise and premature as I regard it to be, at present, indefensible as a measure of right. Such recognition entails upon the country according the rights which flow from it difficult and complicated duties, and requires the exaction from the contending parties of the strict observance of their rights and obligations; it confers the right of search upon the high seas by vessels of both parties; it would subject the carrying of arms and munitions of war, which now may be transported freely and without interruption in the vessels of the United States, to detention and to possible seizure; it would give rise to countless vexatious questions, would release the parent Government from responsibility for acts done by the insurgents, and would invest Spain with the right to exercise the supervision recognized by our treaty of 1795 over our commerce on the high seas, a very large part of which, in its traffic between the Atlantic and the Gulf States and between all of them and the States on the Pacific, passes through the waters which wash the shores of Cuba. The exercise of this supervision could scarce fail to lead, if not to abuses, certainly to collisions perilous to the peaceful relations of the two States. There can be little doubt to what result such supervision would before long draw this nation. It would be unworthy of the United States to inaugurate the possibilities of such result by measures of questionable right or expediency or by any indirection. Apart from any question of theoretical right, I am satisfied that while the accordance of belligerent rights to the insurgents in Cuba might give them a hope and an inducement to protract the struggle, it would be but a delusive hope, and would not remove the evils which this Government and its people are experiencing, but would draw the United States into complications which it has waited long and already suffered much to avoid. The recognition of independence or of belligerency being thus, in my judgment, equally inadmissible, it remains to consider what course shall be adopted should the conflict not soon be brought to an end by acts of the parties themselves, and should the evils which result therefrom, affecting all nations, and particularly the United States, continue. In such event I am of opinion that other nations will be compelled to assume the responsibility which devolves upon them, and to seriously consider the only remaining measures possible—mediation and intervention, Owing, perhaps, to the large expanse of water separating the island from the peninsula, the want of harmony and of personal sympathy between the inhabitants of the colony and those sent thither to rule them, and want of adaptation of the ancient colonial system of Europe to the present times and to the ideas which the events of the past century have developed, the contending parties appear to have within themselves no depository of common confidence to suggest wisdom when passion and excitement have their sway and to assume the part of peacemaker. In this view in the earlier days of the contest the good offices of the United States as a mediator were tendered in good faith, without any selfish purpose, in the interest of humanity and in sincere friendship for both parties, but were at the time declined by Spain, with the declaration, nevertheless, that at a future time they would be indispensable. No intimation has been received that in the opinion of Spain that time has been reached. And yet the strife continues, with all its dread horrors and all its injuries to the interests of the United States and of other nations. Each party seems quite capable of working great injury and damage to the other, as well as to all the relations and interests dependent on the existence of peace in the island; but they seem incapable of reaching any adjustment, and both have thus far failed of achieving any success whereby one party shall possess and control the island to the exclusion of the other. Under these circumstances the agency of others, either by mediation or by intervention, seems to be the only alternative which must, sooner or later, be invoked for the termination of the strife. At the same time, while thus impressed I do not at this time recommend the adoption of any measure of intervention. I shall be ready at all times, and as the equal friend of both parties, to respond to a suggestion that the good offices of the United States will be acceptable to aid in bringing about a peace honorable to both. It is due to Spain, so far as this Government is concerned, that the agency of a third power, to which I have adverted, shall be adopted only as a last expedient. Had it been the desire of the United States to interfere in the affairs of Cuba, repeated opportunities for so doing have been presented within the last few years; but we have remained passive, and have performed our whole duty and all international obligations to Spain with friendship, fairness, and fidelity, and with a spirit of patience and forbearance which negatives every possible suggestion of desire to interfere or to add to the difficulties with which she has been surrounded.
The Government of Spain has recently submitted to our minister at Madrid certain proposals which it is hoped may be found to be the basis, if not the actual submission, of terms to meet the requirements of the particular griefs of which this Government has felt itself entitled to complain. These proposals have not yet reached me in their full text. On their arrival they will be taken into careful examination, and may, I hope, lead to a satisfactory adjustment of the questions to which they refer and remove the possibility of future occurrences such as have given rise to our just complaints.
It is understood also that renewed efforts are being made to introduce reforms in the internal administration of the island. Persuaded, however, that a proper regard for the interests of the United States and of its citizens entitles it to relief from the strain to which it has been subjected by the difficulties of the questions and the wrongs and losses which arise from the contest in Cuba, and that the interests of humanity itself demand the cessation of the strife before the whole island shall be laid waste and larger sacrifices of life be made, I shall feel it my duty, should my hopes of a satisfactory adjustment and of the early restoration of peace and the removal of future causes of complaint be, unhappily, disappointed, to make a further communication to Congress at some period not far remote, and during the present session, recommending what may then seem to me to be necessary.
The free zone, so called, several years since established by the Mexican Government in certain of the States of that Republic adjacent to our frontier, remains in full operation. It has always been materially injurious to honest traffic, for it operates as an incentive to traders in Mexico to supply without customs charges the wants of inhabitants on this side of the line, and prevents the same wants from being supplied by merchants of the United States, thereby to a considerable extent defrauding our revenue and checking honest commercial enterprise.
Depredations by armed bands from Mexico on the people of Texas near the frontier continue. Though the main object of these incursions is robbery, they frequently result in the murder of unarmed and peaceably disposed persons, and in some instances even the United States post-offices and mail communications have been attacked. Renewed remonstrances upon this subject have been addressed to the Mexican Government, but without much apparent effect. The military force of this Government disposable for service in that quarter is quite inadequate to effectually guard the line, even at those points where the incursions are usually made. An experiment of an armed vessel on the Rio Grande for that purpose is on trial, and it is hoped that, if not thwarted by the shallowness of the river and other natural obstacles, it may materially contribute to the protection of the herdsmen of Texas.
The proceedings of the joint commission under the convention between the United States and Mexico of the 4th of July, 1868, on the subject of claims, will soon be brought to a close. The result of those proceedings will then be communicated to Congress.
I am happy to announce that the Government of Venezuela has, upon further consideration, practically abandoned its objection to pay to the United States that share of its revenue which some years since it allotted toward the extinguishment of the claims of foreigners generally. In thus reconsidering its determination that Government has shown a just sense of self-respect which can not fail to reflect credit upon it in the eyes of all disinterested persons elsewhere. It is to be regretted, however, that its payments on account of claims of citizens of the United States are still so meager in amount, and that the stipulations of the treaty in regard to the sums to be paid and the periods when those payments were to take place should have been so signally disregarded.
Since my last annual message the exchange has been made of the ratification of a treaty of commerce and navigation with Belgium, and of conventions with the Mexican Republic for the further extension of the joint commission respecting claims; with the Hawaiian Islands for commercial reciprocity, and with the Ottoman Empire for extradition; all of which have been duly proclaimed.
The Court of Commissioners of Alabama Claims has prosecuted its important duties very assiduously and very satisfactorily. It convened and was organized on the 22d day of July, 1874, and by the terms of the act under which it was created was to exist for one year from that date. The act provided, however, that should it be found impracticable to complete the work of the court before the expiration of the year the President might by proclamation extend the time of its duration to a period not more than six months beyond the expiration of the one year.
Having received satisfactory evidence that it would be impracticable to complete the work within the time originally fixed, I issued a proclamation (a copy of which is presented herewith) extending the time of duration of the court for a period of six months from and after the 22d day of July last.
A report made through the clerk of the court (communicated herewith) shows the condition of the calendar on the 1st of November last and the large amount of work which has been accomplished. One thousand three hundred and eighty-two claims have been presented, of which 682 had been disposed of at the date of the report. I am informed that 170 cases were decided during the month of November. Arguments are being made and decisions given in the remaining cases with all the dispatch consistent with the proper consideration of the questions submitted. Many of these claims are in behalf of mariners, or depend on the evidence of mariners, whose absence has delayed the taking or the return of the necessary evidence.
It is represented to me that it will be impracticable for the court to finally dispose of all the cases before it within the present limit of its duration. Justice to the parties claimant, who have been at large expense in preparing their claims and obtaining the evidence in their support, suggests a short extension, to enable the court to dispose of all of the claims which have been presented.
I recommend the legislation which may be deemed proper to enable the court to complete the work before it.
I recommend that some suitable provision be made, by the creation of a special court or by conferring the necessary jurisdiction upon some appropriate tribunal, for the consideration and determination of the claims of aliens against the Government of the United States which have arisen within some reasonable limitation of time, or which may hereafter arise, excluding all claims barred by treaty provisions or otherwise. It has been found impossible to give proper consideration to these claims by the Executive Departments of the Government. Such a tribunal would afford an opportunity to aliens other than British subjects to present their claims on account of acts committed against their persons or property during the rebellion, as also to those subjects of Great Britain whose claims, having arisen subsequent to the 9th day of April, 1865, could not be presented to the late commission organized pursuant to the provisions of the treaty of Washington.
The electric telegraph has become an essential and indispensable agent in the transmission of business and social messages. Its operation on land, and within the limit of particular states, is necessarily under the control of the jurisdiction within which it operates. The lines on the high seas, however, are not subject to the particular control of any one government.
In 1869 a concession was granted by the French Government to a company which proposed to lay a cable from the shores of France to the United States. At that time there was a telegraphic connection between the United States and the continent of Europe (through the possessions of Great Britain at either end of the line), under the control of an association which had, at large outlay of capital and at great risk, demonstrated the practicability of maintaining such means of communication. The cost of correspondence by this agency was great, possibly not too large at the time for a proper remuneration for so hazardous and so costly an enterprise. It was, however, a heavy charge upon a means of communication which the progress in the social and commercial intercourse of the world found to be a necessity, and the obtaining of this French concession showed that other capital than that already invested was ready to enter into competition, with assurance of adequate return for their outlay. Impressed with the conviction that the interests, not only of the people of the United States, but of the world at large, demanded, or would demand, the multiplication of such means of communication between separated continents, I was desirous that the proposed connection should be made; but certain provisions of this concession were deemed by me to be objectionable, particularly one which gave for a long term of years the exclusive right of telegraphic communication by submarine cable between the shores of France and the United States. I could not concede that any power should claim the right to land a cable on the shores of the United States and at the same time deny to the United States, or to its citizens or grantees, an equal fight to land a cable on its shores. The right to control the conditions for the laying of a cable within the jurisdictional waters of the United States, to connect our shores with those of any foreign state, pertains exclusively to the Government of the United States, under such limitations and conditions as Congress may impose. In the absence of legislation by Congress I was unwilling, on the one hand, to yield to a foreign state the right to say that its grantees might land on our shores while it denied a similar right to our people to land on its shores, and, on the other hand, I was reluctant to deny to the great interests of the world and of civilization the facilities of such communication as were proposed. I therefore withheld any resistance to the landing of the cable on condition that the offensive monopoly feature of the concession be abandoned, and that the right of any cable which may be established by authority of this Government to land upon French territory and to connect with French land lines and enjoy all the necessary facilities or privileges incident to the use thereof upon as favorable terms as any other company be conceded. As the result thereof the company in question renounced the exclusive privilege, and the representative of France was informed that, understanding this relinquishment to be construed as granting the entire reciprocity and equal facilities which had been demanded, the opposition to the landing of the cable was withdrawn. The cable, under this French concession, was landed in the month of July, 1869, and has been an efficient and valuable agent of communication between this country and the other continent. It soon passed under the control, however, of those who had the management of the cable connecting Great Britain with this continent, and thus whatever benefit to the public might have ensued from competition between the two lines was lost, leaving only the greater facilities of an additional line and the additional security in case of accident to one of them. But these increased facilities and this additional security, together with the control of the combined capital of the two companies, gave also greater power to prevent the future construction of other lines and to limit the control of telegraphic communication between the two continents to those possessing the lines already laid. Within a few months past a cable has been laid, known as the United States Direct Cable Company, connecting the United States directly with Great Britain. As soon as this cable was reported to be laid and in working order the rates of the then existing consolidated companies were greatly reduced. Soon, however, a break was announced in this new cable, and immediately the rates of the other line, which had been reduced, were again raised. This cable being now repaired, the rates appear not to be reduced by either line from those formerly charged by the consolidated companies.
There is reason to believe that large amounts of capital, both at home and abroad, are ready to seek profitable investment in the advancement of this useful and most civilizing means of intercourse and correspondence. They await, however, the assurance of the means and conditions on which they may safely be made tributary to the general good.
As these cable telegraph lines connect separate states, there are questions as to their organization and control which probably can be best, if not solely, settled by conventions between the respective states. In the absence, however, of international conventions on the subject, municipal legislation may secure many points which appear to me important, if not indispensable for the protection of the public against the extortions which may result from a monopoly of the right of operating cable telegrams or from a combination between several lines:
I. No line should be allowed to land on the shores of the United States under the concession from another power which does not admit the right of any other line or lines, formed in the United States, to land and freely connect with and operate through its land lines.
II. No line should be allowed to land on the shores of the United States which is not, by treaty stipulation with the government from whose shores it proceeds, or by prohibition in its charter, or otherwise to the satisfaction of this Government, prohibited from consolidating or amalgamating with any other cable telegraph line, or combining therewith for the purpose of regulating and maintaining the cost of telegraphing.
III. All lines should be bound to give precedence in the transmission of the official messages of the governments of the two countries between which it may be laid.
IV. A power should be reserved to the two governments, either conjointly or to each, as regards the messages dispatched from its shores, to fix a limit to the charges to be demanded for the transmission of messages.
I present this subject to the earnest consideration of Congress.
In the meantime, and unless Congress otherwise direct, I shall not oppose the landing of any telegraphic cable which complies with and assents to the points above enumerated, but will feel it my duty to prevent the landing of any which does not conform to the first and second points as stated, and which will not stipulate to concede to this Government the precedence in the transmission of its official messages and will not enter into a satisfactory arrangement with regard to its charges.
Among the pressing and important subjects to which, in my opinion, the attention of Congress should be directed are those relating to fraudulent naturalization and expatriation.
The United States, with great liberality, offers its citizenship to all who in good faith comply with the requirements of law. These requirements are as simple and upon as favorable terms to the emigrant as the high privilege to which he is admitted can or should permit. I do not propose any additional requirements to those which the law now demands; but the very simplicity and the want of unnecessary formality in our law have made fraudulent naturalization not infrequent, to the discredit and injury of all honest citizens, whether native or naturalized. Cases of this character are continually being brought to the notice of the Government by our representatives abroad, and also those of persons resident in other countries, most frequently those who, if they have remained in this country long enough to entitle them to become naturalized, have generally not much overpassed that period, and have returned to the country of their origin, where they reside, avoiding all duties to the United States by their absence, and claiming to be exempt from all duties to the country of their nativity and of their residence by reason of their alleged naturalization. It is due to this Government itself and to the great mass of the naturalized citizens who entirely, both in name and in fact, become citizens of the United States that the high privilege of citizenship of the United States should not be held by fraud or in derogation of the laws and of the good name of every honest citizen. On many occasions it has been brought to the knowledge of the Government that certificates of naturalization are held and protection or interference claimed by parties who admit that not only they were not within the United States at the time of the pretended naturalization, but that they have never resided in the United States; in others the certificate and record of the court show on their face that the person claiming to be naturalized had not resided the required time in the United States; in others it is admitted upon examination that the requirements of law have not been complied with; in some cases, even, such certificates have been matter of purchase. These are not isolated cases, arising at rare intervals, but of common occurrence, and which are reported from all quarters of the globe. Such occurrences can not, and do not, fail to reflect upon the Government and injure all honest citizens. Such a fraud being discovered, however, there is no practicable means within the control of the Government by which the record of naturalization can be vacated; and should the certificate be taken up, as it usually is, by the diplomatic and consular representatives of the Government to whom it may have been presented, there is nothing to prevent the person claiming to have been naturalized from obtaining a new certificate from the court in place of that which has been taken from him.
The evil has become so great and of such frequent occurrence that I can not too earnestly recommend that some effective measures be adopted to provide a proper remedy and means for the vacating of any record thus fraudulently made, and of punishing the guilty parties to the transaction.
In this connection I refer also to the question of expatriation and the election of nationality.
The United States was foremost in upholding the right of expatriation, and was principally instrumental in overthrowing the doctrine of perpetual allegiance. Congress has declared the right of expatriation to be a natural and inherent right of all people; but while many other nations have enacted laws providing what formalities shall be necessary to work a change of allegiance, the United States has enacted no provisions of law and has in no respect marked out how and when expatriation may be accomplished by its citizens. Instances are brought to the attention of the Government where citizens of the United States, either naturalized or native born, have formally become citizens or subjects of foreign powers, but who, nevertheless, in the absence of any provisions of legislation on this question, when involved in difficulties or when it seems to be their interest, claim to be citizens of the United States and demand the intervention of a Government which they have long since abandoned and to which for years they have rendered no service nor held themselves in any way amenable.
In other cases naturalized citizens, immediately after naturalization, have returned to their native country; have become engaged in business; have accepted offices or pursuits inconsistent with American citizenship, and evidence no intent to return to the United States until called upon to discharge some duty to the country where they are residing, when at once they assert their citizenship and call upon the representatives of the Government to aid them in their unjust pretensions. It is but justice to all bona fide citizens that no doubt should exist on such questions, and that Congress should determine by enactment of law how expatriation may be accomplished and change of citizenship be established.
I also invite your attention to the necessity of regulating by law the status of American women who may marry foreigners, and of defining more fully that of children born in a foreign country of American parents who may reside abroad; and also of some further provision regulating or giving legal effect to marriages of American citizens contracted in foreign countries. The correspondence submitted herewith shows a few of the constantly occurring questions on these points presented to the consideration of the Government. There are few subjects to engage the attention of Congress on which more delicate relations or more important interests are dependent.
In the month of July last the building erected for the Department of State was taken possession of and occupied by that Department. I am happy to announce that the archives and valuable papers of the Government in the custody of that Department are now safely deposited and properly cared for.
The report of the Secretary of the Treasury shows the receipts from customs for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1874, to have been $163,103,833.69, and for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1875, to have been $157,267,722.35, a decrease for the last fiscal year of $5,936,111.34. Receipts from internal revenue for the year ending the 30th of June, 1874, were $102,409,784.90, and for the year ending June 30, 1875, $110,007,493.58; increase, $7,597,708.68.
The report also shows a complete history of the workings of the Department for the last year, and contains recommendations for reforms and for legislation which I concur in, but can not comment on so fully as I should like to do if space would permit, but will confine myself to a few suggestions which I look upon as vital to the best interests of the whole people—coming within the purview of "Treasury;" I mean specie resumption. Too much stress can not be laid upon this question, and I hope Congress may be induced, at the earliest day practicable, to insure the consummation of the act of the last Congress, at its last session, to bring about specie resumption "on and after the 1st of January, 1879," at furthest. It would be a great blessing if this could be consummated even at an earlier day.
Nothing seems to me more certain than that a full, healthy, and permanent reaction can not take place in favor of the industries and financial welfare of the country until we return to a measure of values recognized throughout the civilized world. While we use a currency not equivalent to this standard the world's recognized standard, specie, becomes a commodity like the products of the soil, the surplus seeking a market wherever there is a demand for it.
Under our present system we should want none, nor would we have any, were it not that customs dues must be paid in coin and because of the pledge to pay interest on the public debt in coin. The yield of precious metals would flow out for the purchase of foreign productions and the United States "hewers of wood and drawers of water," because of wiser legislation on the subject of finance by the nations with whom we have dealings. I am not prepared to say that I can suggest the best legislation to secure the end most heartily recommended. It will be a source of great gratification to me to be able to approve any measure of Congress looking effectively toward securing "resumption."
Unlimited inflation would probably bring about specie payments more speedily than any legislation looking to redemption of the legal-tenders in coin; but it would be at the expense of honor. The legal-tenders would have no value beyond settling present liabilities, or, properly speaking, repudiating them. They would buy nothing after debts were all settled.
There are a few measures which seem to me important in this connection and which I commend to your earnest consideration:
A repeal of so much of the legal-tender act as makes these notes receivable for debts contracted after a date to be fixed in the act itself, say not later than the 1st of January, 1877. We should then have quotations at real values, not fictitious ones. Gold would no longer be at a premium, but currency at a discount. A healthy reaction would set in at once, and with it a desire to make the currency equal to what it purports to be. The merchants, manufacturers, and tradesmen of every calling could do business on a fair margin of profit, the money to be received having an unvarying value. Laborers and all classes who work for stipulated pay or salary would receive more for their income, because extra profits would no longer be charged by the capitalists to compensate for the risk of a downward fluctuation in the value of the currency.
Second. That the Secretary of the Treasury be authorized to redeem, say, not to exceed $2,000,000 monthly of legal-tender notes, by issuing in their stead a long bond, bearing interest at the rate of 3.65 per cent per annum, of denominations ranging from $50 up to $1,000 each. This would in time reduce the legal-tender notes to a volume that could be kept afloat without demanding redemption in large sums suddenly.
Third. That additional power be given to the Secretary of the Treasury to accumulate gold for final redemption, either by increasing revenue, curtailing expenses, or both (it is preferable to do both); and I recommend that reduction of expenditures be made wherever it can be done without impairing Government obligations or crippling the due execution thereof. One measure for increasing the revenue—and the only one I think of—is the restoration of the duty on tea and coffee. These duties would add probably $18,000,000 to the present amount received from imports, and would in no way increase the prices paid for those articles by the consumers.
These articles are the products of countries collecting revenue from exports, and as we, the largest consumers, reduce the duties they proportionately increase them. With this addition to the revenue, many duties now collected, and which give but an insignificant return for the cost of collection, might be remitted, and to the direct advantage of consumers at home.
I would mention those articles which enter into manufactures of all sorts. All duty paid upon such articles goes directly to the cost of the article when manufactured here, and must be paid for by the consumers. These duties not only come from the consumers at home, but act as a protection to foreign manufacturers of the same completed articles in our own and distant markets.
I will suggest or mention another subject bearing upon the problem of "how to enable the Secretary of the Treasury to accumulate balances." It is to devise some better method of verifying claims against the Government than at present exists through the Court of Claims, especially those claims growing out of the late war. Nothing is more certain than that a very large percentage of the amounts passed and paid are either wholly fraudulent or are far in excess of the real losses sustained. The large amount of losses proven—on good testimony according to existing laws, by affidavits of fictitious or unscrupulous persons—to have been sustained on small farms and plantations are not only far beyond the possible yield of those places for any one year, but, as everyone knows who has had experience in tilling the soil and who has visited the scenes of these spoliations, are in many instances more than the individual claimants were ever worth, including their personal and real estate.
The report of the Attorney-General, which will be submitted to Congress at an early day, will contain a detailed history of awards made and of claim pending of the class here referred to.
The report of the Secretary of War, accompanying this message, gives a detailed account of Army operations for the year just passed, expenses for maintenance, etc., with recommendations for legislation to which I respectfully invite your attention. To some of these I invite special attention:
First. The necessity of making $300,000 of the appropriation for the Subsistence Department available before the beginning of the next fiscal year. Without this provision troops at points distant from supply production must either go without food or existing laws must be violated. It is not attended with cost to the Treasury.
Second. His recommendation for the enactment of a system of annuities for the families of deceased officers by voluntary deductions from the monthly pay of officers. This again is not attended with burden upon the Treasury, and would for the future relieve much distress which every old army officer has witnessed in the past—of officers dying suddenly or being killed, leaving families without even the means of reaching their friends, if fortunate enough to have friends to aid them.
Third. The repeal of the law abolishing mileage, and a return to the old system.
Fourth. The trial with torpedoes under the Corps of Engineers, and appropriation for the same. Should war ever occur between the United States and any maritime power, torpedoes will be among if not the most effective and cheapest auxiliary for the defense of harbors, and also in aggressive operations, that we can have. Hence it is advisable to learn by experiment their best construction and application, as well as effect.
Fifth. A permanent organization for the Signal-Service Corps. This service has now become a necessity of peace as well as war, under the advancement made by the present able management.
Sixth. A renewal of the appropriation for compiling the official records of the war, etc.
The condition of our Navy at this time is a subject of satisfaction. It does not contain, it is true, any of the powerful cruising ironclads which make so much of the maritime strength of some other nations, but neither our continental situation nor our foreign policy requires that we should have a large number of ships of this character, while this situation and the nature of our ports combine to make those of other nations little dangerous to us under any circumstances.
Our Navy does contain, however, a considerable number of ironclads of the monitor class, which, though not properly cruisers, are powerful and effective for harbor defense and for operations near our own shores. Of these all the single-turreted ones, fifteen in number, have been substantially rebuilt, their rotten wooden beams replaced with iron, their hulls strengthened, and their engines and machinery thoroughly repaired, so that they are now in the most efficient condition and ready for sea as soon as they can be manned and put in commission.
The five double-turreted ironclads belonging to our Navy, by far the most powerful of our ships for fighting purposes, are also in hand undergoing complete repairs, and could be ready for sea in periods varying from four to six months. With these completed according to the present design and our two iron torpedo boats now ready, our ironclad fleet will be, for the purposes of defense at home, equal to any force that can readily be brought against it.
Of our wooden navy also cruisers of various sizes, to the number of about forty, including those now in commission, are in the Atlantic, and could be ready for duty as fast as men could be enlisted for those not already in commission. Of these, one-third are in effect new ships, and though some of the remainder need considerable repairs to their boilers and machinery, they all are, or can readily be made, effective.
This constitutes a fleet of more than fifty war ships, of which fifteen are ironclad, now in hand on the Atlantic coast. The Navy has been brought to this condition by a judicious and practical application of what could be spared from the current appropriations of the last few years and from that made to meet the possible emergency of two years ago. It has been done quietly, without proclamation or display, and though it has necessarily straitened the Department in its ordinary expenditure, and, as far as the ironclads are concerned, has added nothing to the cruising force of the Navy, yet the result is not the less satisfactory because it is to be found in a great increase of real rather than apparent force. The expenses incurred in the maintenance of an effective naval force in all its branches are necessarily large, but such force is essential to our position, relations, and character, and affects seriously the weight of our principles and policy throughout the whole sphere of national responsibilities.
The estimates for the regular support of this branch of the service for the next year amount to a little less in the aggregate than those made for the current year; but some additional appropriations are asked for objects not included in the ordinary maintenance of the Navy, but believed to be of pressing importance at this time. It would, in my opinion, be wise at once to afford sufficient means for the immediate completion of the five double-turreted monitors now undergoing repairs, which must otherwise advance slowly, and only as money can be spared from current expenses. Supplemented by these, our Navy, armed with the destructive weapons of modern warfare, manned by our seamen, and in charge of our instructed officers, will present a force powerful for the home purposes of a responsible though peaceful nation.
The report of the Postmaster-General herewith transmitted gives a full history of the workings of the Department for the year just past. It will be observed that the deficiency to be supplied from the General Treasury is increased over the amount required for the preceding year. In a country so vast in area as the United States, with large portions sparsely settled, it must be expected that this important service will be more or less a burden upon the Treasury for many years to come. But there is no branch of the public service which interests the whole people more than that of cheap and rapid transmission of the mails to every inhabited part of our territory. Next to the free school, the post-office is the great educator of the people, and it may well receive the support of the General Government.
The subsidy of $150,000 per annum given to vessels of the United States for carrying the mails between New York and Rio de Janeiro having ceased on the 30th day of September last, we are without direct mail facilities with the South American States. This is greatly to be regretted, and I do not hesitate to recommend the authorization of a renewal of that contract, and also that the service may be increased from monthly to semi-monthly trips. The commercial advantages to be gained by a direct line of American steamers to the South American States will far outweigh the expense of the service.
By act of Congress approved March 3, 1875, almost all matter, whether properly mail matter or not, may be sent any distance through the mails, in packages not exceeding 4 pounds in weight, for the sum of 16 cents per pound. So far as the transmission of real mail matter goes, this would seem entirely proper; but I suggest that the law be so amended as to exclude from the mails merchandise of all descriptions, and limit this transportation to articles enumerated, and which may be classed as mail matter proper.
The discovery of gold in the Black Hills, a portion of the Sioux Reservation, has had the effect to induce a large emigration of miners to that point. Thus far the effort to protect the treaty rights of the Indians to that section has been successful, but the next year will certainly witness a large increase of such emigration. The negotiations for the relinquishment of the gold fields having failed, it will be necessary for Congress to adopt some measures to relieve the embarrassment growing out of the causes named. The Secretary of the Interior suggests that the supplies now appropriated for the sustenance of that people, being no longer obligatory under the treaty of 1868, but simply a gratuity, may be issued or withheld at his discretion.
The condition of the Indian Territory, to which I have referred in several of my former annual messages, remains practically unchanged. The Secretary of the Interior has taken measures to obtain a full report of the condition of that Territory, and will make it the subject of a special report at an early day. It may then be necessary to make some further recommendation in regard to legislation for the government of that Territory.
The steady growth and increase of the business of the Patent Office indicates in some measure the progress of the industrial activity of the country. The receipts of the office are in excess of its expenditures, and the office generally is in a prosperous and satisfactory condition.
The report of the General Land Office shows that there were 2,459,601 acres less disposed of during this than during the last year. More than one-half of this decrease was in lands disposed of under the homestead and timber-culture laws. The cause of this decrease is supposed to be found in the grasshopper scourge and the droughts which prevailed so extensively in some of the frontier States and Territories during that time as to discourage and deter entries by actual settlers. The cash receipts were less by $690,322.23 than during the preceding year.
The entire surveyed area of the public domain is 680,253,094 acres, of which 26,077,531 acres were surveyed during the past year, leaving 1,154,471,762 acres still unsurveyed.
The report of the Commissioner presents many interesting suggestions in regard to the management and disposition of the public domain and the modification of existing laws, the apparent importance of which should insure for them the careful consideration of Congress.
The number of pensioners still continues to decrease, the highest number having been reached during the year ending June 30, 1873. During the last year 11,557 names were added to the rolls, and 12,977 were dropped therefrom, showing a net decrease of 1,420. But while the number of pensioners has decreased, the annual amount due on the pension rolls has increased $44,733.13. This is caused by the greatly increased average rate of pensions, which, by the liberal legislation of Congress, has increased from $90.26 in 1872 to $103.91 in 1875 to each invalid pensioner, an increase in the average rate of 15 per cent in the three years. During the year ending June 30, 1875, there was paid on account of pensions, including the expenses of disbursement, $29,683,116, being $910,632 less than was paid the preceding year. This reduction in amount of expenditures was produced by the decrease in the amount of arrearages due on allowed claims and on pensions the rate of which was increased by the legislation of the preceding session of Congress. At the close of the last fiscal year there were on the pension rolls 234,821 persons, of whom 210,363 were army pensioners, 105,478 being invalids and 104,885 widows and dependent relatives; 3,420 were navy pensioners, of whom 1,636 were invalids and 1,784 widows and dependent relatives; 21,038 were pensioners of the War of 1812, 15,875 of whom were survivors and 5,163 were widows.
It is estimated that $29,535,000 will be required for the payment of pensions for the next fiscal year, an amount $965,000 less than the estimate for the present year.
The geological explorations have been prosecuted with energy during the year, covering an area of about 40,000 square miles in the Territories of Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico, developing the agricultural and mineral resources and furnishing interesting scientific and topographical details of that region.
The method for the treatment of the Indians adopted at the beginning of my first term has been steadily pursued, and with satisfactory and encouraging results. It has been productive of evident improvement in the condition of that race, and will be continued, with only such modifications as further experience may indicate to be necessary.
The board heretofore appointed to take charge of the articles and materials pertaining to the War, the Navy, the Treasury, the Interior, and the Post-Office Departments, and the Department of Agriculture, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Commission of Food Fishes, to be contributed, under the legislation of last session, to the international exhibition to be held at Philadelphia during the centennial year 1876, has been diligent in the discharge of the duties which have devolved upon it; and the preparations so far made with the means at command give assurance that the governmental contribution will be made one of the marked characteristics of the exhibition. The board has observed commendable economy in the matter of the erection of a building for the governmental exhibit, the expense of which it is estimated will not exceed, say, $80,000. This amount has been withdrawn, under the law, from the appropriations of five of the principal Departments, which leaves some of those Departments without sufficient means to render their respective practical exhibits complete and satisfactory. The exhibition being an international one, and the Government being a voluntary contributor, it is my opinion that its contribution should be of a character, in quality and extent, to sustain the dignity and credit of so distinguished a contributor. The advantages to the country of a creditable display are, in an international point of view, of the first importance, while an indifferent or uncreditable participation by the Government would be humiliating to the patriotic feelings of our people themselves. I commend the estimates of the board for the necessary additional appropriations to the favorable consideration of Congress.
The powers of Europe almost without exception, many of the South American States, and even the more distant Eastern powers have manifested their friendly sentiments toward the United States and the interest of the world in our progress by taking steps to join with us in celebrating the centennial of the nation, and I strongly recommend that a more national importance be given to this exhibition by such legislation and by such appropriation as will insure its success. Its value in bringing to our shores innumerable useful works of art and skill, the commingling of the citizens of foreign countries and our own, and the interchange of ideas and manufactures will far exceed any pecuniary outlay we may make.
I transmit herewith the report of the Commissioner of Agriculture, together with the reports of the Commissioners, the board of audit, and the board of health of the District of Columbia, to all of which I invite your attention.
The Bureau of Agriculture has accomplished much in disseminating useful knowledge to the agriculturist, and also in introducing new and useful productions adapted to our soil and climate, and is worthy of the continued encouragement of the Government.
The report of the Commissioner of Education, which accompanies the report of the Secretary of the Interior, shows a gratifying progress in educational matters.
In nearly every annual message that I have had the honor of transmitting to Congress I have called attention to the anomalous, not to say scandalous, condition of affairs existing in the Territory of Utah, and have asked for definite legislation to correct it. That polygamy should exist in a free, enlightened, and Christian country, without the power to punish so flagrant a crime against decency and morality, seems preposterous. True, there is no law to sustain this unnatural vice; but what is needed is a law to punish it as a crime, and at the same time to fix the status of the innocent children, the offspring of this system, and of the possibly innocent plural wives. But as an institution polygamy should be banished from the land.
While this is being done I invite the attention of Congress to another, though perhaps no less an evil—the importation of Chinese women, but few of whom are brought to our shores to pursue honorable or useful occupations.
Observations while visiting the Territories of Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado during the past autumn convinced me that existing laws regulating the disposition of public lands, timber, etc., and probably the mining laws themselves, are very defective and should be carefully amended, and at an early day. Territory where cultivation of the soil can only be followed by irrigation, and where irrigation is not practicable the lands can only be used as pasturage, and this only where stock can reach water (to quench its thirst), can not be governed by the same laws as to entries as lands every acre of which is an independent estate by itself.
Land must be held in larger quantities to justify the expense of conducting water upon it to make it fruitful, or to justify utilizing it as pasturage. The timber in most of the Territories is principally confined to the mountain regions, which are held for entry in small quantities only, and as mineral lands. The timber is the property of the United States, for the disposal of which there is now no adequate law. The settler must become a consumer of this timber, whether he lives upon the plain or engages in working the mines. Hence every man becomes either a trespasser himself or knowingly a patron of trespassers.
My opportunities for observation were not sufficient to justify me in recommending specific legislation on these subjects, but I do recommend that a joint committee of the two Houses of Congress, sufficiently large to be divided into subcommittees, be organized to visit all the mining States and Territories during the coming summer, and that the committee shall report to Congress at the next session such laws or amendments to laws as it may deem necessary to secure the best interests of the Government and the people of these Territories, who are doing so much for their development.
I am sure the citizens occupying the territory described do not wish to be trespassers, nor will they be if legal ways are provided for them to become owners of these actual necessities of their position.
As this will be the last annual message which I shall have the honor of transmitting to Congress before my successor is chosen, I will repeat or recapitulate the questions which I deem of vital importance which may be legislated upon and settled at this session:
First. That the States shall be required to afford the opportunity of a good common-school education to every child within their limits.
Second. No sectarian tenets shall ever be taught in any school supported in whole or in part by the State, nation, or by the proceeds of any tax levied upon any community. Make education compulsory so far as to deprive all persons who can not read and write from becoming voters after the year 1890, disfranchising none, however, on grounds of illiteracy who may be voters at the time this amendment takes effect.
Third. Declare church and state forever separate and distinct, but each free within their proper spheres; and that all church property shall bear its own proportion of taxation.
Fourth. Drive out licensed immorality, such as polygamy and the importation of women for illegitimate purposes. To recur again to the centennial year, it would seem as though now, as we are about to begin the second century of our national existence, would be a most fitting time for these reforms.
Fifth. Enact such laws as will insure a speedy return to a sound currency, such as will command the respect of the world.
Believing that these views will commend themselves to the great majority of the right-thinking and patriotic citizens of the United States, I submit the rest to Congress.
U. S. GRANT
State of the Union Address Ulysses S. Grant December 5, 1876
To the Senate and House of Representatives:
In submitting my eighth and last annual message to Congress it seems proper that I should refer to and in some degree recapitulate the events and official acts of the past eight years.
It was my fortune, or misfortune, to be called to the office of Chief Executive without any previous political training. From the age of 17 I had never even witnessed the excitement attending a Presidential campaign but twice antecedent to my own candidacy, and at but one of them was I eligible as a voter.
Under such circumstances it is but reasonable to suppose that errors of judgment must have occurred. Even had they not, differences of opinion between the Executive, bound by an oath to the strict performance of his duties, and writers and debaters must have arisen. It is not necessarily evidence of blunder on the part of the Executive because there are these differences of views. Mistakes have been made, as all can see and I admit, but it seems to me oftener in the selections made of the assistants appointed to aid in carrying out the various duties of administering the Government—in nearly every case selected without a personal acquaintance with the appointee, but upon recommendations of the representatives chosen directly by the people. It is impossible, where so many trusts are to be allotted, that the right parties should be chosen in every instance. History shows that no Administration from the time of Washington to the present has been free from these mistakes. But I leave comparisons to history, claiming only that I have acted in every instance from a conscientious desire to do what was right, constitutional, within the law, and for the very best interests of the whole people. Failures have been errors of judgment, not of intent.
My civil career commenced, too, at a most critical and difficult time. Less than four years before, the country had emerged from a conflict such as no other nation had ever survived. Nearly one-half of the States had revolted against the Government, and of those remaining faithful to the Union a large percentage of the population sympathized with the rebellion and made an "enemy in the rear" almost as dangerous as the more honorable enemy in the front. The latter committed errors of judgment, but they maintained them openly and courageously; the former received the protection of the Government they would see destroyed, and reaped all the pecuniary advantage to be gained out of the then existing state of affairs, many of them by obtaining contracts and by swindling the Government in the delivery of their goods.
Immediately on the cessation of hostilities the then noble President, who had carried the country so far through its perils, fell a martyr to his patriotism at the hands of an assassin.
The intervening time to my first inauguration was filled up with wranglings between Congress and the new Executive as to the best mode of "reconstruction," or, to speak plainly, as to whether the control of the Government should be thrown immediately into the hands of those who had so recently and persistently tried to destroy it, or whether the victors should continue to have an equal voice with them in this control. Reconstruction, as finally agreed upon, means this and only this, except that the late slave was enfranchised, giving an increase, as was supposed, to the Union-loving and Union-supporting votes. If free in the full sense of the word, they would not disappoint this expectation. Hence at the beginning of my first Administration the work of reconstruction, much embarrassed by the long delay, virtually commenced. It was the work of the legislative branch of the Government. My province was wholly in approving their acts, which I did most heartily, urging the legislatures of States that had not yet done so to ratify the fifteenth amendment to the Constitution. The country was laboring under an enormous debt, contracted in the suppression of rebellion, and taxation was so oppressive as to discourage production. Another danger also threatened us—a foreign war. The last difficulty had to be adjusted and was adjusted without a war and in a manner highly honorable to all parties concerned. Taxes have been reduced within the last seven years nearly $300,000,000, and the national debt has been reduced in the same time over $435,000,000. By refunding the 6 per cent bonded debt for bonds bearing 5 and 4 1/2 per cent interest, respectively, the annual interest has been reduced from over $130,000,000 in 1869 to but little over $100,000,000 in 1876. The balance of trade has been changed from over $130,000,000 against the United States in 1869 to more than $120,000,000 in our favor in 1876.
It is confidently believed that the balance of trade in favor of the United States will increase, not diminish, and that the pledge of Congress to resume specie payments in 1879 will be easily accomplished, even in the absence of much-desired further legislation on the subject.
A policy has been adopted toward the Indian tribes inhabiting a large portion of the territory of the United States which has been humane and has substantially ended Indian hostilities in the whole land except in a portion of Nebraska, and Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana Territories—the Black Hills region and approaches thereto. Hostilities there have grown out of the avarice of the white man, who has violated our treaty stipulations in his search for gold. The question might be asked why the Government has not enforced obedience to the terms of the treaty prohibiting the occupation of the Black Hills region by whites. The answer is simple: The first immigrants to the Black Hills were removed by troops, but rumors of rich discoveries of gold took into that region increased numbers. Gold has actually been found in paying quantity, and an effort to remove the miners would only result in the desertion of the bulk of the troops that might be sent there to remove them. All difficulty in this matter has, however, been removed—subject to the approval of Congress—by a treaty ceding the Black Hills and approaches to settlement by citizens.
The subject of Indian policy and treatment is so fully set forth by the Secretary of the Interior and the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, and my views so fully expressed therein, that I refer to their reports and recommendations as my own.
The relations of the United States with foreign powers continue on a friendly footing.
Questions have arisen from time to time in the foreign relations of the Government, but the United States have been happily free during the past year from the complications and embarrassments which have surrounded some of the foreign powers.
The diplomatic correspondence submitted herewith contains information as to certain of the matters which have occupied the Government.
The cordiality which attends our relations with the powers of the earth has been plainly shown by the general participation of foreign nations in the exhibition which has just closed and by the exertions made by distant powers to show their interest in and friendly feelings toward the United States in the commemoration of the centennial of the nation. The Government and people of the United States have not only fully appreciated this exhibition of kindly feeling, but it may be justly and fairly expected that no small benefits will result both to ourselves and other nations from a better acquaintance, and a better appreciation of our mutual advantages and mutual wants.
Congress at its last session saw fit to reduce the amount usually appropriated for foreign intercourse by withholding appropriations for representatives of the United States in certain foreign countries and for certain consular officers, and by reducing the amounts usually appropriated for certain other diplomatic posts, and thus necessitating a change in the grade of the representatives. For these reasons, immediately upon the passage of the bill making appropriations for the diplomatic and consular service for the present fiscal year, instructions were issued to the representatives of the United States at Bolivia, Ecuador, and Colombia, and to the consular officers for whom no appropriation had been made, to close their respective legations and consulates and cease from the performance of their duties; and in like manner steps were immediately taken to substitute charge's d'affaires for ministers resident in Portugal, Denmark, Greece, Switzerland, and Paraguay.
While thoroughly impressed with the wisdom of sound economy in the foreign service, as in other branches of the Government, I can not escape the conclusion that in some instances the withholding of appropriations will prove an expensive economy, and that the small retrenchment secured by a change of grade in certain diplomatic posts is not an adequate consideration for the loss of influence and importance which will attend our foreign representatives under this reduction. I am of the opinion that a reexamination of the subject will cause a change in some instances in the conclusions reached on these subjects at the last session of Congress.
The Court of Commissioners of Alabama Claims, whose functions were continued by an act of the last session of Congress until the 1st day of January, 1877, has carried on its labors with diligence and general satisfaction. By a report from the clerk of the court, transmitted herewith, bearing date November 14, 1876, it appears that within the time now allowed by law the court will have disposed of all the claims presented for adjudication. This report also contains a statement of the general results of the labors of the court to the date thereof. It is a cause of satisfaction that the method adopted for the satisfaction of the classes of claims submitted to the court, which are of long standing and justly entitled to early consideration, should have proved successful and acceptable.
It is with satisfaction that I am enabled to state that the work of the joint commission for determining the boundary line between the United States and British possessions from the northwest angle of the Lake of the Woods to the Rocky Mountains, commenced in 1872, has been completed. The final agreements of the commissioners, with the maps, have been duly signed, and the work of the commission is complete.
The fixing of the boundary upon the Pacific coast by the protocol of March 10, 1873, pursuant to the award of the Emperor of Germany by Article XXXIV of the treaty of Washington, with the termination of the work of this commission, adjusts and fixes the entire boundary between the United States and the British possessions, except as to the portion of territory ceded by Russia to the United States under the treaty of 1867. The work intrusted to the commissioner and the officers of the Army attached to the commission has been well and satisfactorily performed. The original of the final agreement of the commissioners, signed upon the 29th of May, 1876, with the original official "lists of astronomical stations observed," the original official "list of monuments marking the international boundary line," and the maps, records, and general reports relating to the commission, have been deposited in the Department of State. The official report of the commissioner on the part of the United States, with the report of the chief astronomer of the United States, will be submitted to Congress within a short time.
I reserve for a separate communication to Congress a statement of the condition of the questions which lately arose with Great Britain respecting the surrender of fugitive criminals under the treaty of 1842.
The Ottoman Government gave notice, under date of January 15, 1874, of its desire to terminate the treaty of 1862, concerning commerce and navigation, pursuant to the provisions of the twenty-second article thereof. Under this notice the treaty terminated upon the 5th day of June, 1876. That Government has invited negotiations toward the conclusion of a new treaty.
By the act of Congress of March 23, 1874, the President was authorized, when he should receive satisfactory information that the Ottoman Government or that of Egypt had organized new tribunals likely to secure to citizens of the United States the same impartial justice enjoyed under the exercise of judicial functions by diplomatic and consular officers of the United States, to suspend the operation of the act of June 22, 1860, and to accept for citizens of the United States the jurisdiction of the new tribunals. Satisfactory information having been received of the organization of such new tribunals in Egypt, I caused a proclamation to be issued upon the 27th of March last, suspending the operation of the act of June 22, 1860, in Egypt, according to the provisions of the act. A copy of the proclamation accompanies this message. The United States has united with the other powers in the organization of these courts. It is hoped that the jurisdictional questions which have arisen may be readily adjusted, and that this advance in judicial reform may be hindered by no obstacles.
The necessary legislation to carry into effect the convention respecting commercial reciprocity concluded with the Hawaiian Islands in 1875 having been had, the proclamation to carry into effect the convention, as provided by the act approved August 15, 1876, was duly issued upon the 9th day of September last. A copy thereof accompanies this message.
The commotions which have been prevalent in Mexico for some time past, and which, unhappily, seem to be not yet wholly quieted, have led to complaints of citizens of the United States of injuries by persons in authority. It is hoped, however, that these will ultimately be adjusted to the satisfaction of both Governments. The frontier of the United States in that quarter has not been exempt from acts of violence by citizens of one Republic on those of the other. The frequency of these is supposed to be increased and their adjustment made more difficult by the considerable changes in the course of the lower part of the Rio Grande River, which river is a part of the boundary between the two countries. These changes have placed on either side of that river portions of land which by existing conventions belong to the jurisdiction of the Government on the opposite side of the river. The subject of adjustment of this cause of difficulty is under consideration between the two Republics.
The Government of the United States of Colombia has paid the award in the case of the steamer Montijo, seized by authorities of that Government some years since, and the amount has been transferred to the claimants.
It is with satisfaction that I am able to announce that the joint commission for the adjustment of claims between the United States and Mexico under the convention of 1868, the duration of which has been several times extended, has brought its labors to a close. From the report of the agent of the United States, which accompanies the papers transmitted herewith, it will be seen that within the time limited by the commission 1,017 claims on the part of citizens of the United States against Mexico were referred to the commission. Of these claims 831 were dismissed or disallowed, and in 186 cases awards were made in favor of the claimants against the Mexican Republic, amounting in the aggregate to $4,125,622.20. Within the same period 998 claims on the part of citizens of the Mexican Republic against the United States were referred to the commission. Of these claims 831 were dismissed or disallowed, and in 167 cases awards were made in favor of the claimants against the United States, amounting in the aggregate to $150,498.41.
By the terms of the convention the amount of these awards is to be deducted from the amount awarded in favor of our citizens against Mexico, and the balance only to be paid by Mexico to the United States, leaving the United States to make provision for this proportion of the awards in favor of its Own citizens.
I invite your attention to the legislation which will be necessary to provide for the payment.
In this connection I am pleased to be able to express the acknowledgments due to Sir Edward Thornton, the umpire of the commission, who has given to the consideration of the large number of claims submitted to him much time, unwearied patience, and that firmness and intelligence which are well known to belong to the accomplished representative of Great Britain, and which are likewise recognized by the representative in this country of the Republic of Mexico.
Monthly payments of a very small part of the amount due by the Government of Venezuela to citizens of the United States on account of claims of the latter against that Government continue to be made with reasonable punctuality. That Government has proposed to change the system which it has hitherto pursued in this respect by issuing bonds for part of the amount of the several claims. The proposition, however, could not, it is supposed, properly be accepted, at least without the consent of the holders of certificates of the indebtedness of Venezuela. These are so much dispersed that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to ascertain their disposition on the subject.
In former messages I have called the attention of Congress to the necessity of legislation with regard to fraudulent naturalization and to the subject of expatriation and the election of nationality.
The numbers of persons of foreign birth seeking a home in the United States, the ease and facility with which the honest emigrant may, after the lapse of a reasonable time, become possessed of all the privileges of citizenship of the United States, and the frequent occasions which induce such adopted citizens to return to the country of their birth render the subject of naturalization and the safeguards which experience has proved necessary for the protection of the honest naturalized citizen of paramount importance. The very simplicity in the requirements of law on this question affords opportunity for fraud, and the want of uniformity in the proceedings and records of the various courts and in the forms of the certificates of naturalization issued affords a constant source of difficulty.