A COMPILATION OF THE MESSAGES AND PAPERS OF THE PRESIDENTS,
VOLUME V, PART 1
BY JAMES D. RICHARDSON
A REPRESENTATIVE FROM THE STATE OF TENNESSEE
This volume, the fifth of the series, comprises a period of twelve years. It includes the four years' term of the Taylor-Fillmore Administration and the full terms of Presidents Pierce and Buchanan. This brings the history down to March 4, 1861, the beginning of the late war between the States. These twelve years form an important and eventful epoch in the affairs of our country, as they immediately precede the war and cover the official utterances of the Executives during this period. Some of the more important events and incidents of these twelve years are the Bulwer-Clayton treaty with Great Britain for a joint occupancy of the proposed ship canal through Central America; the compromise measures of 1850; the admission of California, Minnesota, Oregon, and Kansas as States; the Gadsden purchase, by which the United States acquired 45,535 square miles of territory, being portions of Arizona and New Mexico; the Kansas-Nebraska legislation; the famous Dred Scott decision; the John Brown insurrection, and the disruption of the Democratic party in the national campaign of 1860.
This volume contains several veto messages which are interesting. By President Pierce, vetoes of "An act making a grant of public lands to the several States for the benefit of indigent insane persons;" of six acts relating to internal improvements; of an act for a subsidy for ocean mails, and of an act for the ascertainment and allowance of French spoliation claims. By President Buchanan, vetoes of an act granting lands for agricultural purposes; of two acts relating to internal improvements, and of a homestead act.
Interesting reading is furnished in the protests of President Buchanan against the action of the House of Representatives in ordering the appointment of a committee to investigate the conduct of the President. The careful reader will find in this volume errors which the compiler could not correct. For instance, on page 410 certain figures are given from a report of the Postmaster-General, which when added do not produce the total given. The error may arise from the failure to make the proper addition, or it may be that the total is correct and that the figures first given are incorrect. The original message contains the same error. Similar errors occur elsewhere in the compilation. These matters are, however, trivial and perhaps need not have been mentioned.
JAMES D. RICHARDSON. JULY 4, 1897.
March 5, 1849, to July 9, 1850
Zachary Taylor was born in Orange County, Va., November 24, 1784. He was the third son of Richard Taylor, a colonel in the War of the Revolution, who was conspicuous for his zeal and courage. In 1785 his father removed to Kentucky, then a sparsely occupied county of Virginia, and made his home near the present city of Louisville, where he died. Zachary had but little opportunity for attending school in this new settlement, but was surrounded during all the years of his childhood and early manhood by conditions and circumstances well adapted to form the character illustrated by his eventful career. In 1808 he was appointed a Lieutenant in the Seventh Infantry, and in 1810 was promoted to the grade of captain in the same regiment. The same year was married to Miss Margaret Smith, of Maryland. For meritorious conduct in defending Fort Harrison, on the Wabash River, against the Indians received the brevet of major. In 1814 commanded in a campaign against hostile Indians and their British allies on Rock River. Was made lieutenant-colonel of the First Infantry in 1819, and in 1832 became full colonel of that regiment, with headquarters at Fort Crawford, Prairie du Chien. Was occupied with his regiment fighting the Indians in the Black Hawk and other campaigns until 1836, when he was transferred to Florida for service in the Seminole War. For gallant conduct there the next year received the brevet of brigadier-general, and in 1838 was appointed to the chief command in Florida. In 1840 was assigned to command the southern division of the western department of the Army. About this time he made his family home at Baton Rouge, La. In 1845 was ordered to the defense of Texas, which had been annexed to the United States. He went to Corpus Christi, and on March 8, 1846, advanced, and after some fighting, in which he routed and drove the enemy across the Rio Grande, on May 18 occupied Matamoras. He remained there for a short period, obtaining reenforcements. In September fought the enemy at Monterey and captured that town. The following February fought and won the battle of Buena Vista. In the meantime, besides engagements less important, he had won the victories of Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma, which created great enthusiasm throughout the Union. The terms of capitulation granted by him to the enemy at Monterey were not approved by the Government at Washington. Soon after the battles of Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma he received the rank of brevet major-general, and on June 27, 1846, was appointed major-general and was commander in chief of all the American forces in Mexico until Major-General Scott was ordered there in 1846. The latter part of November returned to his home in Louisiana. Upon his return to the United States he was received wherever he went with popular demonstrations. Was nominated for President by the national convention of the Whig party at Philadelphia on June 7, 1848, on the fourth ballot, defeating General Scott, Mr. Clay, and Mr. Webster. At the election on November 7 the Whig ticket (Taylor and Fillmore) was successful, receiving 163 electoral votes, while the Democratic candidates (Cass and Butler) each received 127 votes. He was inaugurated March 5, 1849, and died in Washington City July 9, 1850. Was buried in Cave Hill Cemetery, Louisville, Ky.
Elected by the American people to the highest office known to our laws, I appear here to take the oath prescribed by the Constitution, and, in compliance with a time-honored custom, to address those who are now assembled.
The confidence and respect shown by my countrymen in calling me to be the Chief Magistrate of a Republic holding a high rank among the nations of the earth have inspired me with feelings of the most profound gratitude; but when I reflect that the acceptance of the office which their partiality has bestowed imposes the discharge of the most arduous duties and involves the weightiest obligations, I am conscious that the position which I have been called to fill, though sufficient to satisfy the loftiest ambition, is surrounded by fearful responsibilities. Happily, however, in the performance of my new duties I shall not be without able cooperation. The legislative and judicial branches of the Government present prominent examples of distinguished civil attainments and matured experience, and it shall be my endeavor to call to my assistance in the Executive Departments individuals whose talents, integrity, and purity of character will furnish ample guaranties for the faithful and honorable performance of the trusts to be committed to their charge. With such aids and an honest purpose to do whatever is right, I hope to execute diligently, impartially, and for the best interests of the country the manifold duties devolved upon me.
In the discharge of these duties my guide will be the Constitution, which I this day swear to "preserve, protect, and defend." For the interpretation of that instrument I shall look to the decisions of the judicial tribunals established by its authority and to the practice of the Government under the earlier Presidents, who had so large a share in its formation. To the example of those illustrious patriots I shall always defer with reverence, and especially to his example who was by so many titles "the Father of his Country."
To command the Army and Navy of the United States; with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties and to appoint ambassadors and other officers; to give to Congress information of the state of the Union and recommend such measures as he shall judge to be necessary; and to take care that the laws shall be faithfully executed—these are the most important functions intrusted to the President by the Constitution, and it may be expected that I shall briefly indicate the principles which will control me in their execution.
Chosen by the body of the people under the assurance that my Administration would be devoted to the welfare of the whole country, and not to the support of any particular section or merely local interest, I this day renew the declarations I have heretofore made and proclaim my fixed determination to maintain to the extent of my ability the Government in its original purity and to adopt as the basis of my public policy those great republican doctrines which constitute the strength of our national existence.
In reference to the Army and Navy, lately employed with so much distinction on active service, care shall be taken to insure the highest condition of efficiency, and in furtherance of that object the military and naval schools, sustained by the liberality of Congress, shall receive the special attention of the Executive.
As American freemen we can not but sympathize in all efforts to extend the blessings of civil and political liberty, but at the same time we are warned by the admonitions of history and the voice of our own beloved Washington to abstain from entangling alliances with foreign nations. In all disputes between conflicting governments it is our interest not less than our duty to remain strictly neutral, while our geographical position, the genius of our institutions and our people, the advancing spirit of civilization, and, above all, the dictates of religion direct us to the cultivation of peaceful and friendly relations with all other powers. It is to be hoped that no international question can now arise which a government confident in its own strength and resolved to protect its own just rights may not settle by wise negotiation; and it eminently becomes a government like our own, founded on the morality and intelligence of its citizens and upheld by their affections, to exhaust every resort of honorable diplomacy before appealing to arms. In the conduct of our foreign relations I shall conform to these views, as I believe them essential to the best interests and the true honor of the country.
The appointing power vested in the President imposes delicate and onerous duties. So far as it is possible to be informed, I shall make honesty, capacity, and fidelity indispensable prerequisites to the bestowal of office, and the absence of either of these qualities shall be deemed sufficient cause for removal.
It shall be my study to recommend such constitutional measures to Congress as may be necessary and proper to secure encouragement and protection to the great interests of agriculture, commerce, and manufactures, to improve our rivers and harbors, to provide for the speedy extinguishment of the public debt, to enforce a strict accountability on the part of all officers of the Government and the utmost economy in all public expenditures; but it is for the wisdom of Congress itself, in which all legislative powers are vested by the Constitution, to regulate these and other matters of domestic policy. I shall look with confidence to the enlightened patriotism of that body to adopt such measures of conciliation as may harmonize conflicting interests and tend to perpetuate that Union which should be the paramount object of our hopes and affections. In any action calculated to promote an object so near the heart of everyone who truly loves his country I will zealously unite with the coordinate branches of the Government.
In conclusion I congratulate you, my fellow-citizens, upon the high state of prosperity to which the goodness of Divine Providence has conducted our common country. Let us invoke a continuance of the same protecting care which has led us from small beginnings to the eminence we this day occupy, and let us seek to deserve that continuance by prudence and moderation in our councils, by well-directed attempts to assuage the bitterness which too often marks unavoidable differences of opinion, by the promulgation and practice of just and liberal principles, and by an enlarged patriotism, which shall acknowledge no limits but those of our own widespread Republic.
MARCH 5, 1849.
WASHINGTON, March 13, 1849.
To the Senate of the United States:
I herewith communicate to the Senate, in confidence, a report and accompanying papers[1a] from the Secretary of State, in answer to its resolution of the 12th instant.
[Footnote 1a: Instructions to United States minister at London relative to further extension of reciprocity and equality in the laws of navigation, and contemplating the opening of the coasting trade of the United States to the vessels of other nations.]
WASHINGTON, March 20, 1849.
To the Senate of the United States:
In answer to the resolution of the Senate of yesterday, passed in executive session, requesting a communication of certain papers relative to the amendments made by the Senate to the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, I transmit a report from the Secretary of State and the documents by which it was accompanied. It is desirable that the latter should be returned to the Department of State.
WASHINGTON, March 22, 1849.
To the Senate of the United States:
In compliance with the request contained in the resolution of the Senate yesterday, adopted in executive session, calling for certain papers in relation to the amendments made by the Senate in the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, I transmit a report from the Secretary of State and the documents by which it was accompanied.
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.
There is reason to believe that an armed expedition is about to be fitted out in the United States with an intention to invade the island of Cuba or some of the Provinces of Mexico. The best information which the Executive has been able to obtain points to the island of Cuba as the object of this expedition. It is the duty of this Government to observe the faith of treaties and to prevent any aggression by our citizens upon the territories of friendly nations. I have therefore thought it necessary and proper to issue this my proclamation to warn all citizens of the United States who shall connect themselves with an enterprise so grossly in violation of our laws and our treaty obligations that they will thereby subject themselves to the heavy penalties denounced against them by our acts of Congress and will forfeit their claim to the protection of their country. No such persons must expect the interference of this Government in any form on their behalf, no matter to what extremities they may be reduced in consequence of their conduct. An enterprise to invade the territories of a friendly nation, set on foot and prosecuted within the limits of the United States, is in the highest degree criminal, as tending to endanger the peace and compromit the honor of this nation; and therefore I exhort all good citizens, as they regard our national reputation, as they respect their own laws and the laws of nations, as they value the blessings of peace and the welfare of their country, to discountenance and prevent by all lawful means any such enterprise; and I call upon every officer of this Government, civil or military, to use all efforts in his power to arrest for trial and punishment every such offender against the laws providing for the performance of our sacred obligations to friendly powers.
Given under my hand the 11th day of August, A.D. 1849, and the seventy-fourth of the Independence of the United States.
By the President: J.M. CLAYTON, Secretary of State.
GENERAL ORDERS, No. 34.
Washington, June 19, 1849.
I. The following orders of the President of the United States and Secretary of War communicate to the Army the death of the late ex-President, James K. Polk:
WASHINGTON, June 19, 1849.
The President with deep regret announces to the American people the death of James K. Polk, late President of the United States, which occurred at Nashville on the 15th instant.
A nation is suddenly called upon to mourn the loss of one the recollection of whose long services in its councils will be forever preserved on the tablets of history.
As a mark of respect to the memory of a citizen who has been distinguished by the highest honors which his country could bestow, it is ordered that the Executive Mansion and the several Departments at Washington be immediately placed in mourning and all business be suspended during to-morrow.
It is further ordered that the War and Navy Departments cause suitable military and naval honors to be paid on this occasion to the memory of the illustrious dead.
WAR DEPARTMENT, June 19, 1849.
The President of the United States with deep regret announces to the Army the death of James K. Polk, our distinguished and honored fellow-citizen.
He died at Nashville the 15th instant, having but recently left the theater of his high public duties at this capital and retired to his home amid the congratulations of his fellow-citizens. He died in the prime of life, after having received and enjoyed the highest honors of the Republic.
His Administration was eventful. No branch of the Government will be more intimately associated with it in history than the Army and its glorious achievements. Accordingly, the President orders that appropriate military honors shall be paid to his memory by the Army of the United States.
The Adjutant-General will give the necessary instructions for carrying into effect the foregoing orders.
Secretary of War.
II. On the day succeeding the arrival of this general order at each military post the troops will be paraded at 10 o'clock a.m. and the order read to them, after which all labors for the day will cease.
The national flag will be displayed at half-staff.
At dawn of day thirteen guns will be fired, and afterwards at intervals of thirty minutes between the rising and setting sun a single gun, and at the close of the day a national salute of thirty guns.
The officers of the Army will wear crape on the left arm and on their swords and the colors of the several regiments will be put in mourning for the period of six months.
FIRST ANNUAL MESSAGE.
WASHINGTON, December 4, 1849.
Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives:
Sixty years have elapsed since the establishment of this Government, and the Congress of the United States again assembles to legislate for an empire of freemen. The predictions of evil prophets, who formerly pretended to foretell the downfall of our institutions, are now remembered only to be derided, and the United States of America at this moment present to the world the most stable and permanent Government on earth.
Such is the result of the labors of those who have gone before us. Upon Congress will eminently depend the future maintenance of our system of free government and the transmission of it unimpaired to posterity.
We are at peace with all the other nations of the world, and seek to maintain our cherished relations of amity with them. During the past year we have been blessed by a kind Providence with an abundance of the fruits of the earth, and although the destroying angel for a time visited extensive portions of our territory with the ravages of a dreadful pestilence, yet the Almighty has at length deigned to stay his hand and to restore the inestimable blessing of general health to a people who have acknowledged His power, deprecated His wrath, and implored His merciful protection.
While enjoying the benefits of amicable intercourse with foreign nations, we have not been insensible to the distractions and wars which have prevailed in other quarters of the world. It is a proper theme of thanksgiving to Him who rules the destinies of nations that we have been able to maintain amidst all these contests an independent and neutral position toward all belligerent powers.
Our relations with Great Britain are of the most friendly character. In consequence of the recent alteration of the British navigation acts, British vessels, from British and other foreign ports, will under our existing laws, after the 1st day of January next, be admitted to entry in our ports with cargoes of the growth, manufacture, or production of any part of the world on the same terms as to duties, imposts, and charges as vessels of the United States with their cargoes, and our vessels will be admitted to the same advantages in British ports, entering therein on the same terms as British vessels. Should no order in council disturb this legislative arrangement, the late act of the British Parliament, by which Great Britain is brought within the terms proposed by the act of Congress of the 1st of March, 1817, it is hoped will be productive of benefit to both countries.
A slight interruption of diplomatic intercourse which occurred between this Government and France, I am happy to say, has been terminated, and our minister there has been received. It is therefore unnecessary to refer now to the circumstances which led to that interruption. I need not express to you the sincere satisfaction with which we shall welcome the arrival of another envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary from a sister Republic to which we have so long been, and still remain, bound by the strongest ties of amity.
Shortly after I had entered upon the discharge of the Executive duties I was apprised that a war steamer belonging to the German Empire was being fitted out in the harbor of New York with the aid of some of our naval officers, rendered under the permission of the late Secretary of the Navy. This permission was granted during an armistice between that Empire and the Kingdom of Denmark, which had been engaged in the Schleswig-Holstein war. Apprehensive that this act of intervention on our part might be viewed as a violation of our neutral obligations incurred by the treaty with Denmark and of the provisions of the act of Congress of the 20th of April, 1818, I directed that no further aid should be rendered by any agent or officer of the Navy; and I instructed the Secretary of State to apprise the minister of the German Empire accredited to this Government of my determination to execute the law of the United States and to maintain the faith of treaties with all nations. The correspondence which ensued between the Department of State and the minister of the German Empire is herewith laid before you. The execution of the law and the observance of the treaty were deemed by me to be due to the honor of the country, as well as to the sacred obligations of the Constitution. I shall not fail to pursue the same course should a similar case arise with any other nation. Having avowed the opinion on taking the oath of office that in disputes between conflicting foreign governments it is our interest not less than our duty to remain strictly neutral, I shall not abandon it. You will perceive from the correspondence submitted to you in connection with this subject that the course adopted in this case has been properly regarded by the belligerent powers interested in the matter.
Although a minister of the United States to the German Empire was appointed by my predecessor in August, 1848, and has for a long time been in attendance at Frankfort-on-the-Main, and although a minister appointed to represent that Empire was received and accredited here, yet no such government as that of the German Empire has been definitively constituted. Mr. Donelson, our representative at Frankfort, remained there several months in the expectation that a union of the German States under one constitution or form of government might at length be organized. It is believed by those well acquainted with the existing relations between Prussia and the States of Germany that no such union can be permanently established without her cooperation. In the event of the formation of such a union and the organization of a central power in Germany of which she should form a part, it would become necessary to withdraw our minister at Berlin; but while Prussia exists as an independent kingdom and diplomatic relations are maintained with her there can be no necessity for the continuance of the mission to Frankfort. I have therefore recalled Mr. Donelson and directed the archives of the legation at Frankfort to be transferred to the American legation at Berlin.
Having been apprised that a considerable number of adventurers were engaged in fitting out a military expedition within the United States against a foreign country, and believing from the best information I could obtain that it was destined to invade the island of Cuba, I deemed it due to the friendly relations existing between the United States and Spain, to the treaty between the two nations, to the laws of the United States, and, above all, to the American honor to exert the lawful authority of this Government in suppressing the expedition and preventing the invasion. To this end I issued a proclamation enjoining it upon the officers of the United States, civil and military, to use all lawful means within their power. A copy of that proclamation is herewith submitted. The expedition has been suppressed. So long as the act of Congress of the 20th of April, 1818, which owes its existence to the law of nations and to the policy of Washington himself, shall remain on our statute books, I hold it to be the duty of the Executive faithfully to obey its injunctions.
While this expedition was in progress I was informed that a foreigner who claimed our protection had been clandestinely and, as was supposed, forcibly carried off in a vessel from New Orleans to the island of Cuba. I immediately caused such steps to be taken as I thought necessary, in case the information I had received should prove correct, to vindicate the honor of the country and the right of every person seeking an asylum on our soil to the protection of our laws. The person alleged to have been abducted was promptly restored, and the circumstances of the case are now about to undergo investigation before a judicial tribunal. I would respectfully suggest that although the crime charged to have been committed in this case is held odious, as being in conflict with our opinions on the subject of national sovereignty and personal freedom, there is no prohibition of it or punishment for it provided in any act of Congress. The expediency of supplying this defect in our criminal code is therefore recommended to your consideration.
I have scrupulously avoided any interference in the wars and contentions which have recently distracted Europe. During the late conflict between Austria and Hungary there seemed to be a prospect that the latter might become an independent nation. However faint that prospect at the time appeared, I thought it my duty, in accordance with the general sentiment of the American people, who deeply sympathized with the Magyar patriots, to stand prepared, upon the contingency of the establishment by her of a permanent government, to be the first to welcome independent Hungary into the family of nations. For this purpose I invested an agent then in Europe with power to declare our willingness promptly to recognize her independence in the event of her ability to sustain it. The powerful intervention of Russia in the contest extinguished the hopes of the struggling Magyars. The United States did not at any time interfere in the contest, but the feelings of the nation were strongly enlisted in the cause, and by the sufferings of a brave people, who had made a gallant, though unsuccessful, effort to be free.
Our claims upon Portugal have been during the past year prosecuted with renewed vigor, and it has been my object to employ every effort of honorable diplomacy to procure their adjustment. Our late charge d'affaires at Lisbon, the Hon. George W. Hopkins, made able and energetic, but unsuccessful, efforts to settle these unpleasant matters of controversy and to obtain indemnity for the wrongs which were the subjects of complaint. Our present charge d'affaires at that Court will also bring to the prosecution of these claims ability and zeal. The revolutionary and distracted condition of Portugal in past times has been represented as one of the leading causes of her delay in indemnifying our suffering citizens.
But I must now say it is matter of profound regret that these claims have not yet been settled. The omission of Portugal to do justice to the American claimants has now assumed a character so grave and serious that I shall shortly make it the subject of a special message to Congress, with a view to such ultimate action as its wisdom and patriotism may suggest.
With Russia, Austria, Prussia, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, and the Italian States we still maintain our accustomed amicable relations.
During the recent revolutions in the Papal States our charge d'affaires at Rome has been unable to present his letter of credence, which, indeed, he was directed by my predecessor to withhold until he should receive further orders. Such was the unsettled condition of things in those States that it was not deemed expedient to give him any instructions on the subject of presenting his credential letter different from those with which he had been furnished by the late Administration until the 25th of June last, when, in consequence of the want of accurate information of the exact state of things at that distance from us, he was instructed to exercise his own discretion in presenting himself to the then existing Government if in his judgment sufficiently stable, or, if not, to await further events. Since that period Rome has undergone another revolution, and he abides the establishment of a government sufficiently permanent to justify him in opening diplomatic intercourse with it.
With the Republic of Mexico it is our true policy to cultivate the most friendly relations. Since the ratification of the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo nothing has occurred of a serious character to disturb them. A faithful observance of the treaty and a sincere respect for her rights can not fail to secure the lasting confidence and friendship of that Republic. The message of my predecessor to the House of Representatives of the 8th of February last, communicating, in compliance with a resolution of that body, a copy of a paper called a protocol, signed at Queretaro on the 30th of May, 1848, by the commissioners of the United States and the minister of foreign affairs of the Mexican Government, having been a subject of correspondence between the Department of State and the envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary of that Republic accredited to this Government, a transcript of that correspondence is herewith submitted.
The commissioner on the part of the United States for marking the boundary between the two Republics, though delayed in reaching San Diego by unforeseen obstacles, arrived at that place within a short period after the time required by the treaty, and was there joined by the commissioner on the part of Mexico. They entered upon their duties, and at the date of the latest intelligence from that quarter some progress had been made in the survey. The expenses incident to the organization of the commission and to its conveyance to the point where its operations were to begin have so much reduced the fund appropriated by Congress that a further sum, to cover the charges which must be incurred during the present fiscal year, will be necessary. The great length of frontier along which the boundary extends, the nature of the adjacent territory, and the difficulty of obtaining supplies except at or near the extremes of the line render it also indispensable that a liberal provision should be made to meet the necessary charges during the fiscal year ending on the 30th of June, 1851. I accordingly recommend this subject to your attention.
In the adjustment of the claims of American citizens on Mexico, provided for by the late treaty, the employment of counsel on the part of the Government may become important for the purpose of assisting the commissioners in protecting the interests of the United States. I recommend this subject to the early and favorable consideration of Congress.
Complaints have been made in regard to the inefficiency of the means provided by the Government of New Granada for transporting the United States mail across the Isthmus of Panama, pursuant to our postal convention with that Republic of the 6th of March, 1844. Our charge d'affaires at Bogota has been directed to make such representations to the Government of New Granada as will, it is hoped, lead to a prompt removal of this cause of complaint.
The sanguinary civil war with which the Republic of Venezuela has for some time past been ravaged has been brought to a close. In its progress the rights of some of our citizens resident or trading there have been violated. The restoration of order will afford the Venezuelan Government an opportunity to examine and redress these grievances and others of longer standing which our representatives at Caracas have hitherto ineffectually urged upon the attention of that Government.
The extension of the coast of the United States on the Pacific and the unexampled rapidity with which the inhabitants of California especially are increasing in numbers have imparted new consequence to our relations with the other countries whose territories border upon that ocean. It is probable that the intercourse between those countries and our possessions in that quarter, particularly with the Republic of Chili, will become extensive and mutually advantageous in proportion as California and Oregon shall increase in population and wealth. It is desirable, therefore, that this Government should do everything in its power to foster and strengthen its relations with those States, and that the spirit of amity between us should be mutual and cordial.
I recommend the observance of the same course toward all other American States. The United States stand as the great American power, to which, as their natural ally and friend, they will always be disposed first to look for mediation and assistance in the event of any collision between them and any European nation. As such we may often kindly mediate in their behalf without entangling ourselves in foreign wars or unnecessary controversies. Whenever the faith of our treaties with any of them shall require our interference, we must necessarily interpose.
A convention has been negotiated with Brazil providing for the satisfaction of American claims on that Government, and it will be submitted to the Senate. Since the last session of Congress we have received an envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary from that Empire, and our relations with it are founded upon the most amicable understanding.
Your attention is earnestly invited to an amendment of our existing laws relating to the African slave trade with a view to the effectual suppression of that barbarous traffic. It is not to be denied that this trade is still in part carried on by means of vessels built in the United States and owned or navigated by some of our citizens. The correspondence between the Department of State and the minister and consul of the United States at Rio de Janeiro, which has from time to time been laid before Congress, represents that it is a customary device to evade the penalties of our laws by means of sea letters. Vessels sold in Brazil, when provided with such papers by the consul, instead of returning to the United States for a new register proceed at once to the coast of Africa for the purpose of obtaining cargoes of slaves. Much additional information of the same character has recently been transmitted to the Department of State. It has not been considered the policy of our laws to subject an American citizen who in a foreign country purchases a vessel built in the United States to the inconvenience of sending her home for a new register before permitting her to proceed on a voyage. Any alteration of the laws which might have a tendency to impede the free transfer of property in vessels between our citizens, or the free navigation of those vessels between different parts of the world when employed in lawful commerce, should be well and cautiously considered; but I trust that your wisdom will devise a method by which our general policy in this respect may be preserved, and at the same time the abuse of our flag by means of sea letters, in the manner indicated, may be prevented.
Having ascertained that there is no prospect of the reunion of the five States of Central America which formerly composed the Republic of that name, we have separately negotiated with some of them treaties of amity and commerce, which will be laid before the Senate.
A contract having been concluded with the State of Nicaragua by a company composed of American citizens for the purpose of constructing a ship canal through the territory of that State to connect the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, I have directed the negotiation of a treaty with Nicaragua pledging both Governments to protect those who shall engage in and perfect the work. All other nations are invited by the State of Nicaragua to enter into the same treaty stipulations with her; and the benefit to be derived by each from such an arrangement will be the protection of this great interoceanic communication against any power which might seek to obstruct it or to monopolize its advantages. All States entering into such a treaty will enjoy the right of passage through the canal on payment of the same tolls. The work, if constructed under these guaranties, will become a bond of peace instead of a subject of contention and strife between the nations of the earth. Should the great maritime States of Europe consent to this arrangement (and we have no reason to suppose that a proposition so fair and honorable will be opposed by any), the energies of their people and ours will cooperate in promoting the success of the enterprise. I do not recommend any appropriation from the National Treasury for this purpose, nor do I believe that such an appropriation is necessary. Private enterprise, if properly protected, will complete the work should it prove to be feasible. The parties who have procured the charter from Nicaragua for its construction desire no assistance from this Government beyond its protection; and they profess that, having examined the proposed line of communication, they will be ready to commence the undertaking whenever that protection shall be extended to them. Should there appear to be reason, on examining the whole evidence, to entertain a serious doubt of the practicability of constructing such a canal, that doubt could be speedily solved by an actual exploration of the route.
Should such a work be constructed under the common protection of all nations, for equal benefits to all, it would be neither just nor expedient that any great maritime state should command the communication. The territory through which the canal may be opened ought to be freed from the claims of any foreign power. No such power should occupy a position that would enable it hereafter to exercise so controlling an influence over the commerce of the world or to obstruct a highway which ought to be dedicated to the common uses of mankind.
The routes across the Isthmus at Tehuantepec and Panama are also worthy of our serious consideration. They did not fail to engage the attention of my predecessor. The negotiator of the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was instructed to offer a very large sum of money for the right of transit across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. The Mexican Government did not accede to the proposition for the purchase of the right of way, probably because it had already contracted with private individuals for the construction of a passage from the Guasacualco River to Tehuantepec. I shall not renew any proposition to purchase for money a right which ought to be equally secured to all nations on payment of a reasonable toll to the owners of the improvement, who would doubtless be well contented with that compensation and the guaranties of the maritime states of the world in separate treaties negotiated with Mexico, binding her and them to protect those who should construct the work. Such guaranties would do more to secure the completion of the communication through the territory of Mexico than any other reasonable consideration that could be offered; and as Mexico herself would be the greatest gainer by the opening of this communication between the Gulf and the Pacific Ocean, it is presumed that she would not hesitate to yield her aid in the manner proposed to accomplish an improvement so important to her own best interests.
We have reason to hope that the proposed railroad across the Isthmus at Panama will be successfully constructed under the protection of the late treaty with New Granada, ratified and exchanged by my predecessor on the 10th day of June, 1848, which guarantees the perfect neutrality of the Isthmus and the rights of sovereignty and property of New Granada over that territory, "with a view that the free transit from ocean to ocean may not be interrupted or embarrassed" during the existence of the treaty. It is our policy to encourage every practicable route across the isthmus which connects North and South America, either by railroad or canal, which the energy and enterprise of our citizens may induce them to complete, and I consider it obligatory upon me to adopt that policy, especially in consequence of the absolute necessity of facilitating intercourse with our possessions on the Pacific.
The position of the Sandwich Islands with reference to the territory of the United States on the Pacific, the success of our persevering and benevolent citizens who have repaired to that remote quarter in Christianizing the natives and inducing them to adopt a system of government and laws suited to their capacity and wants, and the use made by our numerous whale ships of the harbors of the islands as places of resort for obtaining refreshments and repairs all combine to render their destiny peculiarly interesting to us. It is our duty to encourage the authorities of those islands in their efforts to improve and elevate the moral and political condition of the inhabitants, and we should make reasonable allowances for the difficulties inseparable from this task. We desire that the islands may maintain their independence and that other nations should concur with us in this sentiment. We could in no event be indifferent to their passing under the dominion of any other power. The principal commercial states have in this a common interest, and it is to be hoped that no one of them will attempt to interpose obstacles to the entire independence of the islands.
The receipts into the Treasury for the fiscal year ending on the 30th of June last were, in cash, $48,830,097.50, and in Treasury notes funded $10,833,000, making an aggregate of $59,663,097.50; and the expenditures for the same time were, in cash, $46,798,667.82, and in Treasury notes funded $10,833,000, making an aggregate of $57,631,667.82.
The accounts and estimates which will be submitted to Congress in the report of the Secretary of the Treasury show that there will probably be a deficit occasioned by the expenses of the Mexican War and treaty on the 1st day of July next of $5,828,121.66, and on the 1st day of July, 1851, of $10,547,092.73, making in the whole a probable deficit to be provided for of $16,375,214.39. The extraordinary expenses of the war with Mexico and the purchase of California and New Mexico exceed in amount this deficit, together with the loans heretofore made for those objects. I therefore recommend that authority be given to borrow whatever sum may be necessary to cover that deficit. I recommend the observance of strict economy in the appropriation and expenditure of public money.
I recommend a revision of the existing tariff and its adjustment on a basis which may augment the revenue. I do not doubt the right or duty of Congress to encourage domestic industry, which is the great source of national as well as individual wealth and prosperity. I look to the wisdom and patriotism of Congress for the adoption of a system which may place home labor at last on a sure and permanent footing and by due encouragement of manufactures give a new and increased stimulus to agriculture and promote the development of our vast resources and the extension of our commerce. Believing that to the attainment of these ends, as well as the necessary augmentation of the revenue and the prevention of frauds, a system of specific duties is best adapted, I strongly recommend to Congress the adoption of that system, fixing the duties at rates high enough to afford substantial and sufficient encouragement to our own industry and at the same time so adjusted as to insure stability.
The question of the continuance of the subtreasury system is respectfully submitted to the wisdom of Congress. If continued, important modifications of it appear to be indispensable.
For further details and views on the above and other matters connected with commerce, the finances, and revenue I refer to the report of the Secretary of the Treasury.
No direct aid has been given by the General Government to the improvement of agriculture except by the expenditure of small sums for the collection and publication of agricultural statistics and for some chemical analyses, which have been thus far paid for out of the patent fund. This aid is, in my opinion, wholly inadequate. To give to this leading branch of American industry the encouragement which it merits, I respectfully recommend the establishment of an agricultural bureau, to be connected with the Department of the Interior. To elevate the social condition of the agriculturist, to increase his prosperity, and to extend his means of usefulness to his country, by multiplying his sources of information, should be the study of every statesman and a primary object with every legislator.
No civil government having been provided by Congress for California, the people of that Territory, impelled by the necessities of their political condition, recently met in convention for the purpose of forming a constitution and State government, which the latest advices give me reason to suppose has been accomplished; and it is believed they will shortly apply for the admission of California into the Union as a sovereign State. Should such be the case, and should their constitution be conformable to the requisitions of the Constitution of the United States, I recommend their application to the favorable consideration of Congress.
The people of New Mexico will also, it is believed, at no very distant period present themselves for admission into the Union. Preparatory to the admission of California and New Mexico the people of each will have instituted for themselves a republican form of government, "laying its foundation in such principles and organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness." By awaiting their action all causes of uneasiness may be avoided and confidence and kind feeling preserved. With a view of maintaining the harmony and tranquillity so dear to all, we should abstain from the introduction of those exciting topics of a sectional character which have hitherto produced painful apprehensions in the public mind; and I repeat the solemn warning of the first and most illustrious of my predecessors against furnishing "any ground for characterizing parties by geographical discriminations."
A collector has been appointed at San Francisco under the act of Congress extending the revenue laws over California, and measures have been taken to organize the custom-houses at that and the other ports mentioned in that act at the earliest period practicable. The collector proceeded overland, and advices have not yet been received of his arrival at San Francisco. Meanwhile, it is understood that the customs have continued to be collected there by officers acting under the military authority, as they were during the Administration of my predecessor. It will, I think, be expedient to confirm the collections thus made, and direct the avails (after such allowances as Congress may think fit to authorize) to be expended within the Territory or to be paid into the Treasury for the purpose of meeting appropriations for the improvement of its rivers and harbors.
A party engaged on the coast survey was dispatched to Oregon in January last. According to the latest advices, they had not left California; and directions have been given to them, as soon as they shall have fixed on the sites of the two light-houses and the buoys authorized to be constructed and placed in Oregon, to proceed without delay to make reconnoissances of the most important points on the coast of California, and especially to examine and determine on sites for light-houses on that coast, the speedy erection of which is urgently demanded by our rapidly increasing commerce.
I have transferred the Indian agencies from upper Missouri and Council Bluffs to Santa Fe and Salt Lake, and have caused to be appointed sub-agents in the valleys of the Gila, the Sacramento, and the San Joaquin rivers. Still further legal provisions will be necessary for the effective and successful extension of our system of Indian intercourse over the new territories.
I recommend the establishment of a branch mint in California, as it will, in my opinion, afford important facilities to those engaged in mining, as well as to the Government in the disposition of the mineral lands.
I also recommend that commissions be organized by Congress to examine and decide upon the validity of the present subsisting land titles in California and New Mexico, and that provision be made for the establishment of offices of surveyor-general in New Mexico, California, and Oregon and for the surveying and bringing into market the public lands in those Territories. Those lands, remote in position and difficult of access, ought to be disposed of on terms liberal to all, but especially favorable to the early emigrants.
In order that the situation and character of the principal mineral deposits in California may be ascertained, I recommend that a geological and mineralogical exploration be connected with the linear surveys, and that the mineral lands be divided into small lots suitable for mining and be disposed of by sale or lease, so as to give our citizens an opportunity of procuring a permanent right of property in the soil. This would seem to be as important to the success of mining as of agricultural pursuits.
The great mineral wealth of California and the advantages which its ports and harbors and those of Oregon afford to commerce, especially with the islands of the Pacific and Indian oceans and the populous regions of eastern Asia, make it certain that there will arise in a few years large and prosperous communities on our western coast. It therefore becomes important that a line of communication, the best and most expeditious which the nature of the country will admit, should be opened within the territory of the United States from the navigable waters of the Atlantic or the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific. Opinion, as elicited and expressed by two large and respectable conventions lately assembled at St. Louis and Memphis, points to a railroad as that which, if practicable, will best meet the wishes and wants of the country. But while this, if in successful operation, would be a work of great national importance and of a value to the country which it would be difficult to estimate, it ought also to be regarded as an undertaking of vast magnitude and expense, and one which must, if it be indeed practicable, encounter many difficulties in its construction and use. Therefore, to avoid failure and disappointment; to enable Congress to judge whether in the condition of the country through which it must pass the work be feasible, and, if it be found so, whether it should be undertaken as a national improvement or left to individual enterprise, and in the latter alternative what aid, if any, ought to be extended to it by the Government, I recommend as a preliminary measure a careful reconnoissance of the several proposed routes by a scientific corps and a report as to the practicability of making such a road, with an estimate of the cost of its construction and support.
For further views on these and other matters connected with the duties of the home department I refer you to the report of the Secretary of the Interior.
I recommend early appropriations for continuing the river and harbor improvements which have been already begun, and also for the construction of those for which estimates have been made, as well as for examinations and estimates preparatory to the commencement of such others as the wants of the country, and especially the advance of our population over new districts and the extension of commerce, may render necessary. An estimate of the amount which can be advantageously expended within the next fiscal year under the direction of the Bureau of Topographical Engineers accompanies the report of the Secretary of War, to which I respectfully invite the attention of Congress.
The cession of territory made by the late treaty with Mexico has greatly extended our exposed frontier and rendered its defense more difficult. That treaty has also brought us under obligations to Mexico, to comply with which a military force is requisite. But our military establishment is not materially changed as to its efficiency from the condition in which it stood before the commencement of the Mexican War. Some addition to it will therefore be necessary, and I recommend to the favorable consideration of Congress an increase of the several corps of the Army at our distant Western posts, as proposed in the accompanying report of the Secretary of War.
Great embarrassment has resulted from the effect upon rank in the Army heretofore given to brevet and staff commissions. The views of the Secretary of War on this subject are deemed important, and if carried into effect will, it is believed, promote the harmony of the service. The plan proposed for retiring disabled officers and providing an asylum for such of the rank and file as from age, wounds, and other infirmities occasioned by service have become unfit to perform their respective duties is recommended as a means of increasing the efficiency of the Army and as an act of justice due from a grateful country to the faithful soldier.
The accompanying report of the Secretary of the Navy presents a full and satisfactory account of the condition and operations of the naval service during the past year. Our citizens engaged in the legitimate pursuits of commerce have enjoyed its benefits. Wherever our national vessels have gone they have been received with respect, our officers have been treated with kindness and courtesy, and they have on all occasions pursued a course of strict neutrality, in accordance with the policy of our Government.
The naval force at present in commission is as large as is admissible with the number of men authorized by Congress to be employed.
I invite your attention to the recommendation of the Secretary of the Navy on the subject of a reorganization of the Navy in its various grades of officers, and the establishing of a retired list for such of the officers as are disqualified for active and effective service. Should Congress adopt some such measure as is recommended, it will greatly increase the efficiency of the Navy and reduce its expenditures.
I also ask your attention to the views expressed by him in reference to the employment of war steamers and in regard to the contracts for the transportation of the United States mails and the operation of the system upon the prosperity of the Navy.
By an act of Congress passed August 14, 1848, provision was made for extending post-office and mail accommodations to California and Oregon. Exertions have been made to execute that law, but the limited provisions of the act, the inadequacy of the means it authorizes, the ill adaptation of our post-office laws to the situation of that country, and the measure of compensation for services allowed by those laws, compared with the prices of labor and rents in California, render those exertions in a great degree ineffectual. More particular and efficient provision by law is required on this subject.
The act of 1845 reducing postage has now, by its operation during four years, produced results fully showing that the income from such reduced postage is sufficient to sustain the whole expense of the service of the Post-Office Department, not including the cost of transportation in mail steamers on the lines from New York to Chagres and from Panama to Astoria, which have not been considered by Congress as properly belonging to the mail service.
It is submitted to the wisdom of Congress whether a further reduction of postage should not now be made, more particularly on the letter correspondence. This should be relieved from the unjust burden of transporting and delivering the franked matter of Congress, for which public service provision should be made from the Treasury. I confidently believe that a change may safely be made reducing all single-letter postage to the uniform rate of 5 cents, regardless of distance, without thereby imposing any greater tax on the Treasury than would constitute a very moderate compensation for this public service; and I therefore respectfully recommend such a reduction. Should Congress prefer to abolish the franking privilege entirely, it seems probable that no demand on the Treasury would result from the proposed reduction of postage. Whether any further diminution should now be made, or the result of the reduction to 5 cents, which I have recommended, should be first tested, is submitted to your decision.
Since the commencement of the last session of Congress a postal treaty with Great Britain has been received and ratified, and such relations have been formed by the post-office departments of the two countries in pursuance of that treaty as to carry its provisions into full operation. The attempt to extend this same arrangement through England to France has not been equally successful, but the purpose has not been abandoned.
For a particular statement of the condition of the Post-Office Department and other matters connected with that branch of the public service I refer you to the report of the Postmaster-General.
By the act of the 3d of March, 1849, a board was constituted to make arrangements for taking the Seventh Census, composed of the Secretary of State, the Attorney-General, and the Postmaster-General; and it was made the duty of this board "to prepare and cause to be printed such forms and schedules as might be necessary for the full enumeration of the inhabitants of the United States, and also proper forms and schedules for collecting in statistical tables, under proper heads, such information as to mines, agriculture, commerce, manufactures, education, and other topics as would exhibit a full view of the pursuits, industry, education, and resources of the country." The duties enjoined upon the census board thus established having been performed, it now rests with Congress to enact a law for carrying into effect the provision of the Constitution which requires an actual enumeration of the people of the United States within the ensuing year.
Among the duties assigned by the Constitution to the General Government is one of local and limited application, but not on that account the less obligatory. I allude to the trust committed to Congress as the exclusive legislator and sole guardian of the interests of the District of Columbia. I beg to commend these interests to your kind attention. As the national metropolis the city of Washington must be an object of general interest; and founded, as it was, under the auspices of him whose immortal name it bears, its claims to the fostering care of Congress present themselves with additional strength. Whatever can contribute to its prosperity must enlist the feelings of its constitutional guardians and command their favorable consideration.
Our Government is one of limited powers, and its successful administration eminently depends on the confinement of each of its coordinate branches within its own appropriate sphere. The first section of the Constitution ordains that—
All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.
The Executive has authority to recommend (not to dictate) measures to Congress. Having performed that duty, the executive department of the Government can not rightfully control the decision of Congress on any subject of legislation until that decision shall have been officially submitted to the President for approval. The check provided by the Constitution in the clause conferring the qualified veto will never be exercised by me except in the cases contemplated by the fathers of the Republic. I view it as an extreme measure, to be resorted to only in extraordinary cases, as where it may become necessary to defend the executive against the encroachments of the legislative power or to prevent hasty and inconsiderate or unconstitutional legislation. By cautiously confining this remedy within the sphere prescribed to it in the cotemporaneous expositions of the framers of the Constitution, the will of the people, legitimately expressed on all subjects of legislation through their constitutional organs, the Senators and Representatives of the United States, will have its full effect. As indispensable to the preservation of our system of self-government, the independence of the representatives of the States and the people is guaranteed by the Constitution, and they owe no responsibility to any human power but their constituents. By holding the representative responsible only to the people, and exempting him from all other influences, we elevate the character of the constituent and quicken his sense of responsibility to his country. It is under these circumstances only that the elector can feel that in the choice of the lawmaker he is himself truly a component part of the sovereign power of the nation. With equal care we should study to defend the rights of the executive and judicial departments. Our Government can only be preserved in its purity by the suppression and entire elimination of every claim or tendency of one coordinate branch to encroachment upon another. With the strict observance of this rule and the other injunctions of the Constitution, with a sedulous inculcation of that respect and love for the Union of the States which our fathers cherished and enjoined upon their children, and with the aid of that overruling Providence which has so long and so kindly guarded our liberties and institutions, we may reasonably expect to transmit them, with their innumerable blessings, to the remotest posterity.
But attachment to the Union of the States should be habitually fostered in every American heart. For more than half a century, during which kingdoms and empires have fallen, this Union has stood unshaken. The patriots who formed it have long since descended to the grave; yet still it remains, the proudest monument to their memory and the object of affection and admiration with everyone worthy to bear the American name. In my judgment its dissolution would be the greatest of calamities, and to avert that should be the study of every American. Upon its preservation must depend our own happiness and that of countless generations to come. Whatever dangers may threaten it, I shall stand by it and maintain it in its integrity to the full extent of the obligations imposed and the powers conferred upon me by the Constitution.
WASHINGTON, December 17, 1849.
To the Senate of the United States:
I transmit to the Senate, for its consideration with a view to ratification, a convention between the United States and His Majesty the Emperor of Brazil, signed at Rio de Janeiro on the 27th of January last, providing for the adjustment of claims of citizens of the United States on the Brazilian Government. A copy of a dispatch from Mr. Tod, the United States minister at Rio de Janeiro, relative to the convention is also herewith communicated. As it is understood that the Emperor's ratification is ready to be exchanged for that of the United States, and as the period limited for the exchange will expire on the 27th of next month, it is desirable that the decision of the Senate in regard to the instrument should be known as soon as may be convenient.
WASHINGTON, December 21, 1849.
To the Senate of the United States:
I transmit to the Senate, for its consideration with a view to ratification, a treaty between the United States and His Majesty the King of the Hawaiian Islands, yesterday concluded and signed in this city on the part of the respective Governments by the Secretary of State of the United States and by James Jackson Jarves, His Hawaiian Majesty's special commissioner.
WASHINGTON, December 27, 1849.
To the Senate and House of Representatives:
In consequence of the unexpected delay in proceeding to business, I deem it necessary to invite the immediate attention of Congress to so much of the report of the Secretary of the Treasury as relates to the appropriations required for the expenses of collecting the revenue for the second half of the current fiscal year.
WASHINGTON, January 4, 1850.
To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States:
I herewith submit to you copies of a correspondence with the lady of Sir John Franklin, relative to the well-known expedition under his command to the arctic regions for the discovery of a northwest passage. On the receipt of her first letter imploring the aid of the American Government in a search for the missing ships engaged in an enterprise which interested all civilized nations, I anxiously sought the means of affording that assistance, but was prevented from accomplishing the object I had in view in consequence of the want of vessels suitable to encounter the perils of a proper exploration, the lateness of the season, and the want of an appropriation by Congress to enable me to furnish and equip an efficient squadron for that object. All that I could do in compliance with a request which I was deeply anxious to gratify was to cause the advertisements of reward promulged by the British Government and the best information I could obtain as to the means of finding the vessels under the command of Sir John Franklin to be widely circulated among our whalers and seafaring men whose spirit of enterprise might lead them to the inhospitable regions where that heroic officer and his brave followers, who periled their lives in the cause of science and for the benefit of the world, were supposed to be imprisoned among the icebergs or wrecked upon a desert shore.
Congress being now in session, the propriety and expediency of an appropriation for fitting out an expedition to proceed in search of the missing ships, with their officers and crews, is respectfully submitted to your consideration.
EXECUTIVE OFFICE, January 14, 1850.
THE PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES.
SIR: I transmit herewith, to be laid before the Senate for its constitutional action thereon, a treaty concluded with the half-breeds of the Dacotah or Sioux Indians for lands reserved for them in the treaty of July 15, 1830, with the Sioux and other Indians, with accompanying papers.
WASHINGTON, January 14, 1850.
To the Senate of the United States:
I herewith transmit reports from the Secretary of State and the Secretary of the Navy, containing the information called for by the resolution of the Senate of the 7th instant, in relation to the abduction[2a] of Rey, alias Garcia, from New Orleans.
[Footnote 2a: By the Spanish consul at New Orleans.]
WASHINGTON, January 14, 1850.
To the Senate of the United States:
I transmit to the Senate, for their consideration, a copy of a correspondence between the Department of State and the charge d'affaires of Austria near this Government, on the subject of the convention for the extension of certain stipulations contained in the treaty of commerce and navigation of August 27, 1829, between the United States and Austria, concluded and signed on the 8th of May, 1848, and submitted to the Senate on the same day by my predecessor.
WASHINGTON, January 23, 1850.
To the Senate of the United States:
I transmit to the Senate, in answer to a resolution of that body passed on the 17th instant, the accompanying reports of heads of Departments, which contain all the official information in the possession of the Executive asked for by the resolution.
On coming into office I found the military commandant of the Department of California exercising the functions of civil governor in that Territory, and left, as I was, to act under the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, without the aid of any legislative provision establishing a government in that Territory, I thought it best not to disturb that arrangement, made under my predecessor, until Congress should take some action on that subject. I therefore did not interfere with the powers of the military commandant, who continued to exercise the functions of civil governor as before; but I made no such appointment, conferred no such authority, and have allowed no increased compensation to the commandant for his services.
With a view to the faithful execution of the treaty so far as lay in the power of the Executive, and to enable Congress to act at the present session with as full knowledge and as little difficulty as possible on all matters of interest in these Territories, I sent the Hon. Thomas Butler King as bearer of dispatches to California, and certain officers to California and New Mexico, whose duties are particularly defined in the accompanying letters of instruction addressed to them severally by the proper Departments.
I did not hesitate to express to the people of those Territories my desire that each Territory should, if prepared to comply with the requisitions of the Constitution of the United States, form a plan of a State constitution and submit the same to Congress with a prayer for admission into the Union as a State, but I did not anticipate, suggest, or authorize the establishment of any such government without the assent of Congress, nor did I authorize any Government agent or officer to interfere with or exercise any influence or control over the election of delegates or over any convention in making or modifying their domestic institutions or any of the provisions of their proposed constitution. On the contrary, the instructions given by my orders were that all measures of domestic policy adopted by the people of California must originate solely with themselves; that while the Executive of the United States was desirous to protect them in the formation of any government republican in its character, to be at the proper time submitted to Congress, yet it was to be distinctly understood that the plan of such a government must at the same time be the result of their own deliberate choice and originate with themselves, without the interference of the Executive.
I am unable to give any information as to laws passed by any supposed government in California or of any census taken in either of the Territories mentioned in the resolution, as I have no information on those subjects.
As already stated, I have not disturbed the arrangements which I found had existed under my predecessor.
In advising an early application by the people of these Territories for admission as States I was actuated principally by an earnest desire to afford to the wisdom and patriotism of Congress the opportunity of avoiding occasions of bitter and angry dissensions among the people of the United States.
Under the Constitution every State has the right of establishing and from time to time altering its municipal laws and domestic institutions independently of every other State and of the General Government, subject only to the prohibitions and guaranties expressly set forth in the Constitution of the United States. The subjects thus left exclusively to the respective States were not designed or expected to become topics of national agitation. Still, as under the Constitution Congress has power to make all needful rules and regulations respecting the Territories of the United States, every new acquisition of territory has led to discussions on the question whether the system of involuntary servitude which prevails in many of the States should or should not be prohibited in that territory. The periods of excitement from this cause which have heretofore occurred have been safely passed, but during the interval, of whatever length, which may elapse before the admission of the Territories ceded by Mexico as States it appears probable that similar excitement will prevail to an undue extent.
Under these circumstances I thought, and still think, that it was my duty to endeavor to put it in the power of Congress, by the admission of California and New Mexico as States, to remove all occasion for the unnecessary agitation of the public mind.
It is understood that the people of the western part of California have formed a plan of a State constitution and will soon submit the same to the judgment of Congress and apply for admission as a State. This course on their part, though in accordance with, was not adopted exclusively in consequence of, any expression of my wishes, inasmuch as measures tending to this end had been promoted by the officers sent there by my predecessor, and were already in active progress of execution before any communication from me reached California. If the proposed constitution shall, when submitted to Congress, be found to be in compliance with the requisitions of the Constitution of the United States, I earnestly recommend that it may receive the sanction of Congress.
The part of California not included in the proposed State of that name is believed to be uninhabited, except in a settlement of our countrymen in the vicinity of Salt Lake.
A claim has been advanced by the State of Texas to a very large portion of the most populous district of the Territory commonly designated by the name of New Mexico. If the people of New Mexico had formed a plan of a State government for that Territory as ceded by the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, and had been admitted by Congress as a State, our Constitution would have afforded the means of obtaining an adjustment of the question of boundary with Texas by a judicial decision. At present, however, no judicial tribunal has the power of deciding that question, and it remains for Congress to devise some mode for its adjustment. Meanwhile I submit to Congress the question whether it would be expedient before such adjustment to establish a Territorial government, which by including the district so claimed would practically decide the question adversely to the State of Texas, or by excluding it would decide it in her favor. In my opinion such a course would not be expedient, especially as the people of this Territory still enjoy the benefit and protection of their municipal laws originally derived from Mexico and have a military force stationed there to protect them against the Indians. It is undoubtedly true that the property, lives, liberties, and religion of the people of New Mexico are better protected than they ever were before the treaty of cession.
Should Congress, when California shall present herself for incorporation into the Union, annex a condition to her admission as a State affecting her domestic institutions contrary to the wishes of her people, and even compel her temporarily to comply with it, yet the State could change her constitution at any time after admission when to her it should seem expedient. Any attempt to deny to the people of the State the right of self-government in a matter which peculiarly affects themselves will infallibly be regarded by them as an invasion of their rights, and, upon the principles laid down in our own Declaration of Independence, they will certainly be sustained by the great mass of the American people. To assert that they are a conquered people and must as a State submit to the will of their conquerors in this regard will meet with no cordial response among American freemen. Great numbers of them are native citizens of the United States, not inferior to the rest of our countrymen in intelligence and patriotism, and no language of menace to restrain them in the exercise of an undoubted right, substantially guaranteed to them by the treaty of cession itself, shall ever be uttered by me or encouraged and sustained by persons acting under my authority. It is to be expected that in the residue of the territory ceded to us by Mexico the people residing there will at the time of their incorporation into the Union as a State settle all questions of domestic policy to suit themselves.
No material inconvenience will result from the want for a short period of a government established by Congress over that part of the territory which lies eastward of the new State of California; and the reasons for my opinion that New Mexico will at no very distant period ask for admission into the Union are founded on unofficial information which, I suppose, is common to all who have cared to make inquiries on that subject.
Seeing, then, that the question which now excites such painful sensations in the country will in the end certainly be settled by the silent effect of causes independent of the action of Congress, I again submit to your wisdom the policy recommended in my annual message of awaiting the salutary operation of those causes, believing that we shall thus avoid the creation of geographical parties and secure the harmony of feeling so necessary to the beneficial action of our political system. Connected, as the Union is, with the remembrance of past happiness, the sense of present blessings, and the hope of future peace and prosperity, every dictate of wisdom, every feeling of duty, and every emotion of patriotism tend to inspire fidelity and devotion to it and admonish us cautiously to avoid any unnecessary controversy which can either endanger it or impair its strength, the chief element of which is to be found in the regard and affection of the people for each other.
[A similar message, dated January 21, 1850, was sent to the House of Representatives, in answer to a resolution of that body.]
WASHINGTON, January 23, 1850.
To the Senate of the United States:
I transmit to the Senate a copy of the convention between the United States and His Majesty the Emperor of Brazil, providing for the satisfaction of claims of citizens of the United States against the Brazilian Government, signed at Rio de Janeiro on the 27th of January last, and the ratifications of which were exchanged in this city on the 18th instant. It is desirable that Congress should prescribe the mode in which the claims referred to are to be adjusted and the money stipulated to be paid by Brazil shall be distributed amongst the claimants. Extracts from dispatches of the minister of the United States at Rio de Janeiro and a copy of a letter from an agent of claimants there are also herewith communicated, to which your attention is invited. I have authorized our minister to demand, receive, and give acquittances for the amount payable by Brazil, and have caused him to be instructed to remit the same to the Treasury of the United States.
[The same message was sent to the House of Representatives.]
WASHINGTON, January 30, 1850 .
To the Senate of the United States:
In reply to the resolution of the Senate of the 7th instant, requesting of me all the official correspondence since the 4th of March last between this Government and its military authorities at Santa Fe or with the authorities of the State of Texas relating to the boundary or occupation of Texas, and the reasons why the judicial authority of Texas has not been recognized by the military authority at Santa Fe, I herewith submit the accompanying reports, which contain the information called for by the resolution.
I have not been informed of any acts of interference by the military forces stationed at Santa Fe with the judicial authority of Texas established or sought to be established there. I have received no communication from the governor of Texas on any of the matters referred to in the resolution. And I concur in the opinion expressed by my predecessor in the letter addressed by the late Secretary of State to the governor of Texas on the 12th day of February, 1847, that the boundary between the State of Texas and the Territory of New Mexico "is a subject which more properly belongs to the legislative than to the executive branch of the Government."
WASHINGTON, February 6, 1850.
To the Senate of the United States:
In reply to the resolution of the Senate of the 28th ultimo, I have to state that the resolution of the Senate of the 2d of March, 1849, respecting James W. Schaumburg, was in April of that year submitted for the opinion of the Attorney-General upon questions arising in the case. No opinion had been given by him when it became necessary, prior to the meeting of the Senate, to prepare the nominations for promotions in the Army. The nomination of Lieutenant Ewell was then decided upon, after due consideration was given to the resolution of the Senate of the 2d of March, 1849.
I herewith submit a report from the Secretary of War, showing the grounds upon which the decision above referred to was made.
WASHINGTON, February 13, 1850.
To the Senate of the United States:
I have received a resolution of the Senate of the 28th ultimo, requesting the President of the United States "to cause to be laid before the Senate, in open session if in his opinion consistent with the public interest, otherwise in executive session, copies of all instructions and communications of the late Secretary of State to our late charge d'affaires to Guatemala and all dispatches and communications from said charge d'affaires to the Department of State, including any conventions or treaties he may have concluded with either of the States composing the late Republic of Central America; and also all correspondence between our said charge d'affaires and the Government or representatives of either of said States; and also all instructions and communications from the present Secretary of State to our late charge d'affaires or our present charge d'affaires to either of said States and all dispatches or communications from our charge d'affaires to the Department of State, including any conventions or treaties he may have concluded with either of said States; and also all correspondence between the Department of State and either of said charges d'affaires touching the so-called Kingdom of the Mosquitos and the right of way from the Atlantic to the Pacific through Lake Nicaragua."
The information called for by this resolution will be cheerfully communicated to the Senate as soon as it shall be found to be compatible with the public interest.
WASHINGTON, February 13, 1850.
To the House of Representatives of the United States:
I have received a resolution of the House of Representatives of the 24th ultimo, requesting the President of the United States "to communicate to that body (provided the publication thereof be not prejudicial to the public interest) all such information as may be within the knowledge of the executive department relative to the alleged extraordinary proceedings of the English Government in the forcible seizure and occupation of the island of Tigre, in the State of Nicaragua, Central America; also all facts, circumstances, or communications within the knowledge of the Executive relative to any seizure, occupation, or attempted seizure or occupation, by the English Government of any port, river, town, territory, or island belonging to or claimed by any of the States of Central America; also that he be requested to communicate to this House, if not incompatible with the public interest, all treaties not heretofore published which may have been negotiated with any of the States of Central America by any person acting by authority from the late Administration or under the auspices of the present Executive." The information called for by this resolution will be cheerfully communicated to the House as soon as it shall be found compatible with the public interest.
WASHINGTON, February 13, 1850.
To the House of Representatives of the United States:
I transmit herewith to the House of Representatives, for the information of that body, an authenticated copy of the constitution of the State of California, received by me from General Riley.
WASHINGTON, February 13, 1850.
To the Senate of the United States:
I transmit herewith to the Senate, for the information of that body, an authenticated copy of the constitution of California, received by me from the Hon. William M. Gwyn.
WASHINGTON, March 1, 1850.
To the Senate of the United States:
In reply to the resolution of the Senate of the 12th ultimo, requesting the President of the United States "to inform the Senate of the amount of prize money paid into the Treasury in conformity with the eighteenth section of the act of March 3, 1849," etc., I transmit herewith a report from the Secretary of the Navy, with accompanying documents.
WASHINGTON, March 4, 1850.
To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States:
I herewith transmit to Congress copies of a recent correspondence between the Department of State and the British minister at Washington, relating to subjects[3a] which seem to require the consideration of the legislative rather than the executive branch of the Government.
[Footnote 3a: Navigation laws and tariff on British productions.]
WASHINGTON, March 6, 1850.
To the Senate of the United States:
In answer to the inquiries contained in the resolution of the Senate of the 4th instant, in relation to the appointment of postmasters by the Postmaster-General, I send to the Senate herewith the letter of the Postmaster-General furnishing the desired information.
MARCH 8, 1850.
To the Senate of the United States:
The Postmaster-General has this day communicated to me the letter herewith transmitted, in addition to his communication by me sent to the Senate on the 6th instant, in relation to the inquiries contained in the resolution of the Senate as to the appointment of postmasters.
WASHINGTON, March 19, 1850.
To the Senate of the United States:
I transmit herewith, for the consideration and constitutional action of the Senate, a communication from the Secretary of the Interior, covering two treaties with Indians of New Mexico, one negotiated with the Navajo tribe on the 9th of September last by Colonel John Washington, of the Army, and J.S. Calhoun, United States Indian agent at Santa Fe, and the other with the Utah tribe, negotiated by J.S. Calhoun on the 13th of December last.
WASHINGTON, March 19, 1850.
To the Senate of the United States:
I herewith transmit to the Senate, for their advice in regard to its ratification, "a general treaty of amity, navigation, and commerce" between the United States of America and the State of Nicaragua, concluded at Leon by E. George Squier, charge d'affaires of the United States, on their part, and Senor Zepeda, on the part of the Republic of Nicaragua.
I also transmit, for the advice of the Senate in regard to its ratification, "a general treaty of amity, navigation, and commerce" negotiated by Mr. Squier with the Republic of San Salvador.
I also transmit to the Senate a copy of the instructions to and correspondence with the said charge d'affaires relating to those treaties.
I also transmit, for the advice of the Senate in regard to its ratification, "a general treaty of peace, amity, commerce, and navigation" negotiated by Elijah Hise, our late charge d'affaires, with the State of Guatemala.
I also transmit, for the information of the Senate, a copy of a treaty negotiated by Mr. Hise with the Government of Nicaragua on the 21st of June last, accompanied by copies of his instructions from and correspondence with the Department of State.
On the 12th day of November, 1847, Senor Buetrago, secretary of state and of the affairs of war and foreign relations and domestic administration of the Supreme Government of the State of Nicaragua, addressed a letter from the Government House at Leon to Mr. Buchanan, then Secretary of State of the United States, asking the friendly offices of this Government to prevent an attack upon the town of San Juan de Nicaragua, then contemplated by the British authorities as the allies of the Mosquito King. That letter, a translation of which is herewith sent, distinctly charges that—
The object of the British in taking this key of the continent is not to protect the small tribe of the Mosquitos, but to establish their own empire over the Atlantic extremity of the line, by which a canal connecting the two oceans is most practicable, insuring to them the preponderance on the American continent, as well as their direct relations with Asia, the East Indies, and other important countries in the world.
No answer appears to have been returned to this letter.
A communication was received by my predecessor from Don Jose Guerrero, President and Supreme Director of the State of Nicaragua, dated the 15th day of December, 1847, expressing his desire to establish relations of amity and commerce with the United States, a translation of which is herewith inclosed. In this the President of Nicaragua says:
My desire was carried to the utmost on seeing in your message at the opening of the Twenty-ninth Congress of your Republic a sincere profession of political faith in all respects conformable with the principles professed by these States, determined, as they are, to sustain with firmness the continental cause, the rights of Americans in general, and the noninterference of European powers in their concerns.
This letter announces the critical situation in which Nicaragua was placed and charges upon the Court of St. James a "well-known design to establish colonies on the coast of Nicaragua and to render itself master of the interoceanic canal, for which so many facilities are presented by the isthmus in that State." No reply was made to this letter.
The British ships of war Alarm and Vixen arrived at San Juan de Nicaragua on the 8th day of February, 1848, and on the 12th of that month the British forces, consisting of 260 officers and men, attacked and captured the post of Serapaqui, garrisoned, according to the British statements, by about 200 soldiers, after a sharp action of one hour and forty minutes.
On the 7th day of March, 1848, articles of agreement were concluded by Captain Locke, on the part of Great Britain, with the commissioners of the State of Nicaragua in the island of Cuba, in the Lake of Nicaragua, a copy of which will be found in the correspondence relating to the Mosquito Territory presented to and published by the House of Commons of Great Britain on the 3d day of July, 1848, herewith submitted. A copy of the same document will also be found accompanying the note of the minister for foreign affairs of Nicaragua to the Secretary of State of the United States under date the 17th March, 1848.
By the third article of the agreement it is provided that Nicaragua "shall not disturb the inhabitants of San Juan, understanding that any such act will be considered by Great Britain as a declaration of open hostilities." By the sixth article it is provided that these articles of agreement will not "hinder Nicaragua from soliciting by means of a commissioner to Her Britannic Majesty a final arrangement of these affairs."
The communication from Senor Sebastian Salinas, the secretary of foreign affairs of the State of Nicaragua, to Mr. Buchanan, the Secretary of State of the United States, dated 17th March, 1848, a translation of which is herewith submitted, recites the aggressions of Great Britain and the seizure of a part of the Nicaraguan territory in the name of the Mosquito King. No answer appears to have been given to this letter.
On the 28th day of October, 1847, Joseph W. Livingston was appointed by this Government consul of the United States for the port of San Juan de Nicaragua. On the 16th day of December, 1847, after having received his exequatur from the Nicaraguan Government, he addressed a letter to Mr. Buchanan, Secretary of State, a copy of which is herewith submitted, representing that he had been informed that the English Government would take possession of San Juan de Nicaragua in January, 1848.
In another letter, dated the 8th of April, 1848, Mr. Livingston states that "at the request of the minister for foreign affairs of Nicaragua he transmits a package of papers containing the correspondence relative to the occupation of the port of San Juan by British forces in the name of the Mosquito nation."
On the 3d day of June, 1848, Elijah Hise, being appointed charge d'affaires of the United States to Guatemala, received his instructions, a copy of which is herewith submitted. In these instructions the following passages occur:
The independence as well as the interests of the nations on this continent require that they should maintain the American system of policy entirely distinct from that which prevails in Europe. To suffer any interference on the part of the European Governments with the domestic concerns of the American Republics and to permit them to establish new colonies upon this continent would be to jeopard their independence and to ruin their interests. These truths ought everywhere throughout this continent to be impressed on the public mind. But what can the United States do to resist such European interference whilst the Spanish American Republics continue to weaken themselves by division and civil war and deprive themselves of the ability of doing anything for their own protection?
This last significant inquiry seems plainly to intimate that the United States could do nothing to arrest British aggression while the Spanish American Republics continue to weaken themselves by division and civil war and deprive themselves of the ability of doing anything for their protection.
These instructions, which also state the dissolution of the Central American Republic, formerly composed of the five States of Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Honduras, San Salvador, and Guatemala, and their continued separation, authorize Mr. Hise to conclude treaties of commerce with the Republics of Guatemala and San Salvador, but conclude with saying that it was not deemed advisable to empower Mr. Hise to conclude a treaty with either Nicaragua, Honduras, or Costa Rica until more full and statistical information should have been communicated by him to the Department in regard to those States than that which it possesses.
The States of Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Honduras are the only Central American States whose consent or cooperation would in any event be necessary for the construction of the ship canal contemplated between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans by the way of Lake Nicaragua.
In pursuance of the sixth article of the agreement of the 7th of March, 1848, between the forces of Great Britain and the authorities of Nicaragua, Senor Francisco Castillon was appointed commissioner from Nicaragua to Great Britain, and on the 5th day of November, 1848, while at Washington on his way to London, addressed a letter to the Secretary of State, a translation of which is herewith submitted, asking this Government to instruct its minister plenipotentiary residing in London to sustain the right of Nicaragua to her territory claimed by Mosquito, and especially to the port of San Juan, expressing the hope of Nicaragua "that the Government of the Union, firmly adhering to its principle of resisting all foreign intervention in America, would not hesitate to order such steps to be taken as might be effective before things reached a point in which the intervention of the United States would prove of no avail."
To this letter also no answer appears to have been returned, and no instructions were given to our minister in London in pursuance of the request contained in it.
On the 3d day of March, 1847, Christopher Hempstead was appointed consul at Belize, and an application was then made for his exequatur through our minister in London, Mr. Bancroft. Lord Palmerston referred Mr. Bancroft's application for an exequatur for Mr. Hempstead to the colonial office. The exequatur was granted, and Mr. Hempstead, in a letter to the Department of State bearing date the 12th day of February, 1848, a copy of which is herewith submitted, acknowledged the receipt of his exequatur from Her Britannic Majesty, by virtue of which he has discharged his consular functions. Thus far this Government has recognized the existence of a British colony at Belize, within the territory of Honduras. I have recalled the consul, and have appointed no one to supply his place.