The addresses are separated by three asterisks: ***
Dates of addresses by James Monroe in this eBook: December 12, 1817 November 16, 1818 December 7, 1819 November 14, 1820 December 3, 1821 December 3, 1822 December 2, 1823 December 7, 1824
State of the Union Address James Monroe December 12, 1817
Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives:
At no period of our political existence had we so much cause to felicitate ourselves at the prosperous and happy condition of our country. The abundant fruits of the earth have filled it with plenty. An extensive and profitable commerce has greatly augmented our revenue. The public credit has attained an extraordinary elevation. Our preparations for defense in case of future wars, from which, by the experience of all nations, we ought not to expect to be exempted, are advancing under a well-digested system with all the dispatch which so important a work will admit. Our free Government, founded on the interest and affections of the people, has gained and is daily gaining strength. Local jealousies are rapidly yielding to more generous, enlarged, and enlightened views of national policy. For advantages so numerous and highly important it is our duty to unite in grateful acknowledgements to that Omnipotent Being from whom they are derived, and in unceasing prayer that He will endow us with virtue and strength to maintain and hand them down in their utmost purity to our latest posterity.
I have the satisfaction to inform you that an arrangement which had been commenced by my predecessor with the British Government for the reduction of the naval force by Great Britain and the United States on the Lakes has been concluded, by which it is provided that neither party shall keep in service on Lake Champlain more than one vessel, on Lake Ontario more than one, and on Lake Erie and the upper lakes more than two, to be armed each with one cannon only, and that all the other armed vessels of both parties, of which an exact list is interchanged, shall be dismantled. It is also agreed that the force retained shall be restricted in its duty to the internal purposes of each party, and that the arrangement shall remain in force until six months shall have expired after notice given by one of the parties to the other of its desire that it should terminate. By this arrangement useless expense on both sides and, what is of still greater importance, the danger of collision between armed vessels in those inland waters, which was great, is prevented.
I have the satisfaction also to state that the commissioners under the fourth article of the treaty of Ghent, to whom it was referred to decide to which party the several islands in the bay of Passamaquoddy belonged under the treaty of 1783, have agreed in a report, by which all the islands in the possession of each party before the late war have been decreed to it. The commissioners acting under the other articles of the treaty of Ghent for the settlement of boundaries have also been engaged in the discharge of their respective duties, but have not yet completed them.
The difference which arose between the two Governments under that treaty respecting the right of the US to take and cure fish on the coast of the British provinces north of our limits, which had been secured by the treaty of 1783, is still in negotiation. The proposition made by this Government to extend to the colonies of Great Britain the principle of the convention of London, by which the commerce between the ports of the United States and British ports in Europe had been placed on a footing of equality, has been declined by the British Government. This subject having been thus amicably discussed between the two Governments, and it appearing that the British Government is unwilling to depart from its present regulations, it remains for Congress to decide whether they will make any other regulations in consequence thereof for the protection and improvement of our navigation.
The negotiation with Spain for spoliations on our commerce and the settlement of boundaries remains essentially in the state it held by the communications that were made to Congress by my predecessor. It has been evidently the policy of the Spanish Government to keep the negotiation suspended, and in this the United States have acquiesced, from an amicable disposition toward Spain and in the expectation that her Government would, from a sense of justice, finally accede to such an arrangement as would be equal between the parties. A disposition has been lately shown by the Spanish Government to move in the negotiation, which has been met by this Government, and should the conciliatory and friendly policy which has invariably guided our councils be reciprocated, a just and satisfactory arrangement may be expected. It is proper, however, to remark that no proposition has yet been made from which such a result can be presumed.
It was anticipated at an early stage that the contest between Spain and the colonies would become highly interesting to the United States. It was natural that our citizens should sympathize in events which affected their neighbors. It seemed probable also that the prosecution of the conflict along our coast and in contiguous countries would occasionally interrupt our commerce and otherwise affect the persons and property of our citizens. These anticipations have been realized. Such injuries have been received from persons acting under authority of both the parties, and for which redress has in most instances been withheld.
Through every stage of the conflict the United States have maintained an impartial neutrality, giving aid to neither of the parties in men, money, ships, or munitions of war. They have regarded the contest not in the light of an ordinary insurrection or rebellion, but as a civil war between parties nearly equal, having as to neutral powers equal rights. Our ports have been open to both, and every article the fruit of our soil or of the industry of our citizens which either was permitted to take has been equally free to the other. Should the colonies establish their independence, it is proper now to state that this Government neither seeks nor would accept from them any advantage in commerce or otherwise which will not be equally open to all other nations. The colonies will in that event become independent states, free from any obligation to or connection with us which it may not then be their interest to form on the basis of a fair reciprocity.
In the summer of the present year an expedition was set on foot against East Florida by persons claiming to act under the authority of some of the colonies, who took possession of Amelia Island, at the mouth of the St. Marys River, near the boundary of the State of Georgia. As this Province lies eastward of the Mississippi, and is bounded by the United States and the ocean on every side, and has been a subject of negotiation with the Government of Spain as an indemnity for losses by spoliation or in exchange for territory of equal value westward of the Mississippi, a fact well known to the world, it excited surprise that any countenance should be given to this measure by any of the colonies.
As it would be difficult to reconcile it with the friendly relations existing between the United States and the colonies, a doubt was entertained whether it had been authorized by them, or any of them. This doubt has gained strength by the circumstances which have unfolded themselves in the prosecution of the enterprise, which have marked it as a mere private, unauthorized adventure. Projected and commenced with an incompetent force, reliance seems to have been placed on what might be drawn, in defiance of our laws, from within our limits; and of late, as their resources have failed, it has assumed a more marked character of unfriendliness to us, the island being made a channel for the illicit introduction of slaves from Africa into the United States, an asylum for fugitive slaves from the neighboring States, and a port for smuggling of every kind.
A similar establishment was made at an earlier period by persons of the same description in the Gulf of Mexico at a place called Galvezton, within the limits of the United States, as we contend, under the cession of Louisiana. This enterprise has been marked in a more signal manner by all the objectionable circumstances which characterized the other, and more particularly by the equipment of privateers which have annoyed our commerce, and by smuggling. These establishments, if ever sanctioned by any authority whatever, which is not believed, have abused their trust and forfeited all claim to consideration. A just regard for the rights and interests of the United States required that they should be suppressed, and orders have been accordingly issued to that effect. The imperious considerations which produced this measure will be explained to the parties whom it may in any degree concern.
To obtain correct information on every subject in which the United States are interested; to inspire just sentiments in all persons in authority, on either side, of our friendly disposition so far as it may comport with an impartial neutrality, and to secure proper respect to our commerce in every port and from every flag, it has been thought proper to send a ship of war with three distinguished citizens along the southern coast with these purposes. With the existing authorities, with those in the possession of and exercising the sovereignty, must the communication be held; from them alone can redress for past injuries committed by persons acting under them be obtained; by them alone can the commission of the like in future be prevented.
Our relations with the other powers of Europe have experienced no essential change since the last session. In our intercourse with each due attention continues to be paid to the protection of our commerce, and to every other object in which the United States are interested. A strong hope is entertained that, by adhering to the maxims of a just, a candid, and friendly policy, we may long preserve amicable relations with all the powers of Europe on conditions advantageous and honorable to our country.
With the Barbary States and the Indian tribes our pacific relations have been preserved.
In calling your attention to the internal concerns of our country the view which they exhibit is peculiarly gratifying. The payments which have been made into the Treasury show the very productive state of the public revenue. After satisfying the appropriations made by law for the support of the civil Government and of the military and naval establishments, embracing suitable provision for fortifications and for the gradual increase of the Navy, paying the interest of the public debt, and extinguishing more than $18 millions of the principal, within the present year, it is estimated that a balance of more than $6 millions will remain in the Treasury on the first day of January applicable to the current service of the ensuing year.
The payments into the Treasury during the year 1818 on account of imposts and tonnage, resulting principally from duties which have accrued in the present year, may be fairly estimated at $20 millions; the internal revenues at $2.5 millions; the public lands at $1.5 millions; bank dividends and incidental receipts at $500,000; making in the whole $24.5 millions.
The annual permanent expenditure for the support of the civil Government and of the Army and Navy, as now established by law, amounts to $11.8 millions, and for the sinking fund to $10 millions, making in the whole $21.8 millions, leaving an annual excess of revenue beyond the expenditure of $2.7 millions, exclusive of the balance estimated to be in the Treasury on the first day of January, 1818.
In the present state of the Treasury the whole of the Louisiana debt may be redeemed in the year 1819, after which, if the public debt continues as it now is, above par, there will be annually about $5 millions of the sinking fund unexpended until the year 1825, when the loan of 1812 and the stock created by funding Treasury notes will be redeemable.
It is also estimated that the Mississippi stock will be discharged during the year 1819 from the proceeds of the public lands assigned to that object, after which the receipts from those lands will annually add to the public revenue the sum of $1.5 millions, making the permanent annual revenue amount to $26 millions, and leaving an annual excess of revenue after the year 1819 beyond the permanent authorized expenditure of more than $4 millions.
By the last returns to the Department of War the militia force of the several States may be estimated at 800,000 men—infantry, artillery, and cavalry. Great part of this force is armed, and measures are taken to arm the whole. An improvement in the organization and discipline of the militia is one of the great objects which claims the unremitted attention of Congress.
The regular force amounts nearly to the number required by law, and is stationed along the Atlantic and inland frontiers.
Of the naval force it has been necessary to maintain strong squadrons in the Mediterranean and in the Gulf of Mexico.
From several of the Indian tribes inhabiting the country bordering on Lake Erie purchases have been made of lands on conditions very favorable to the United States, and, as it is presumed, not less so to the tribes themselves.
By these purchases the Indian title, with moderate reservations, has been extinguished to the whole of the land within the limits of the State of Ohio, and to a part of that in the Michigan Territory and of the State of Indiana. From the Cherokee tribe a tract has been purchased in the State of Georgia and an arrangement made by which, in exchange for lands beyond the Mississippi, a great part, if not the whole, of the land belonging to that tribe eastward of that river in the States of North Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee, and in the Alabama Territory will soon be acquired. By these acquisitions, and others that may reasonably be expected soon to follow, we shall be enabled to extend our settlements from the inhabited parts of the State of Ohio along Lake Erie into the Michigan Territory, and to connect our settlements by degrees through the State of Indiana and the Illinois Territory to that of Missouri. A similar and equally advantageous effect will soon be produced to the south, through the whole extent of the States and territory which border on the waters emptying into the Mississippi and the Mobile.
In this progress, which the rights of nature demand and nothing can prevent, marking a growth rapid and gigantic, it is our duty to make new efforts for the preservation, improvement, and civilization of the native inhabitants. The hunter state can exist only in the vast uncultivated desert. It yields to the more dense and compact form and greater force of civilized population; and of right it ought to yield, for the earth was given to mankind to support the greatest number of which it is capable, and no tribe or people have a right to withhold from the wants of others more than is necessary for their own support and comfort.
It is gratifying to know that the reservations of land made by the treaties with the tribes on Lake Erie were made with a view to individual ownership among them and to the cultivation of the soil by all, and that an annual stipend has been pledged to supply their other wants. It will merit the consideration of Congress whether other provision not stipulated by treaty ought to be made for these tribes and for the advancement of the liberal and humane policy of the United States toward all the tribes within our limits, and more particularly for their improvement in the arts of civilized life.
Among the advantages incident to these purchases, and to those which have preceded, the security which may thereby be afforded to our inland frontiers is peculiarly important. With a strong barrier, consisting of our own people, thus planted on the Lakes, the Mississippi, and the Mobile, with the protection to be derived from the regular force, Indian hostilities, if they do not altogether cease, will henceforth lose their terror. Fortifications in those quarters to any extent will not be necessary, and the expense of attending them may be saved. A people accustomed to the use of firearms only, as the Indian tribes are, will shun even moderate works which are defended by cannon. Great fortifications will therefore be requisite only in future along the coast and at some points in the interior connected with it. On these will the safety of our towns and the commerce of our great rivers, from the Bay of Fundy to the Mississippi, depend. On these, therefore, should the utmost attention, skill, and labor be bestowed.
A considerable and rapid augmentation in the value of all the public lands, proceeding from these and other obvious cases, may henceforward be expected. The difficulties attending early emigrations will be dissipated even in the most remote parts. Several new States have been admitted into our Union to the west and south, and Territorial governments, happily organized, established over every other portion in which there is vacant land for sale. In terminating Indian hostilities, as must soon be done, in a formidable shape at least, the emigration, which has heretofore been great, will probably increase, and the demand for land and the augmentation in its value be in like proportion.
The great increase of our population throughout the Union will alone produce an important effect, and in no quarter will it be so sensibly felt as in those in contemplation. The public lands are a public stock, which ought to be disposed of to the best advantage for the nation. The nation should therefore derive the profit proceeding from the continual rise in their value. Every encouragement should be given to the emigrants consistent with a fair competition between them, but that competition should operate in the first sale to the advantage of the nation rather than of individuals.
Great capitalists will derive the benefit incident to their superior wealth under any mode of sale which may be adopted, but if, looking forward to the rise in the value of the public lands, they should have the opportunity of amassing at a low price vast bodies in their hands, the profit will accrue to them and not to the public. They would also have the power in that degree to control the emigration and settlement in such a manner as their opinion of their respective interests might dictate. I submit this subject to the consideration of Congress, that such further provision may be made in the sale of the public lands, with a view to the public interest, should any be deemed expedient, as in their judgment may be best adapted to the object.
When we consider the vast extent of territory within the United States, the great amount and value of its productions, the connection of its parts, and other circumstances on which their prosperity and happiness depend, we can not fail to entertain a high sense of the advantage to be derived from the facility which may be afforded in the intercourse between them by means of good roads and canals. Never did a country of such vast extent offer equal inducements to improvements of this kind, nor ever were consequences of such magnitude involved in them. As this subject was acted on by Congress at the last session, and there may be a disposition to revive it at the present, I have brought it into view for the purpose of communicating my sentiments on a very important circumstance connected with it with that freedom and candor which a regard for the public interest and a proper respect for Congress require.
A difference of opinion has existed from the first formation of our Constitution to the present time among our most enlightened and virtuous citizens respecting the right of Congress to establish such a system of improvement. Taking into view the trust with which I am now honored, it would be improper after what has passed that this discussion should be revived with an uncertainty of my opinion respecting the right. Disregarding early impressions I have bestowed on the subject all the deliberation which its great importance and a just sense of my duty required, and the result is a settled conviction in my mind that Congress do not possess the right. It is not contained in any of the specified powers granted to Congress, nor can I consider it incidental to or a necessary means, viewed on the most liberal scale, for carrying into effect any of the powers which are specifically granted.
In communicating this result I can not resist the obligation which I feel to suggest to Congress the propriety of recommending to the States the adoption of an amendment to the Constitution which shall give to Congress the right in question. In cases of doubtful construction, especially of such vital interest, it comports with the nature and origin of our institutions, and will contribute much to preserve them, to apply to our constituents for an explicit grant of the power. We may confidently rely that if it appears to their satisfaction that the power is necessary, it will always be granted.
In this case I am happy to observe that experience has afforded the most ample proof of its utility, and that the benign spirit of conciliation and harmony which now manifests itself throughout our Union promises to such a recommendation the most prompt and favorable result. I think proper to suggest also, in case this measure is adopted, that it be recommended to the States to include in the amendment sought a right in Congress to institute likewise seminaries of learning, for the all-important purpose of diffusing knowledge among our fellow-citizens throughout the United States.
Our manufactories will require the continued attention of Congress. The capital employed in them is considerable, and the knowledge acquired in the machinery and fabric of all the most useful manufactures is of great value. Their preservation, which depends on due encouragement, is connected with the high interests of the nation.
Although the progress of the public buildings has been as favorable as circumstances have permitted, it is to be regretted that the Capitol is not yet in a state to receive you. There is good cause to presume that the two wings, the only parts as yet commenced, will be prepared for that purpose at the next session. The time seems now to have arrived when this subject may be deemed worthy the attention of Congress on a scale adequate to national purposes. The completion of the middle building will be necessary to the convenient accommodation of Congress, of the committees, and various offices belonging to it.
It is evident that the other public buildings are altogether insufficient for the accommodation of the several Executive Departments, some of whom are much crowded and even subjected to the necessity of obtaining it in private buildings at some distance from the head of the Department, and with inconvenience to the management of the public business.
Most nations have taken an interest and a pride in the improvement and ornament of their metropolis, and none were more conspicuous in that respect than the ancient republics. The policy which dictated the establishment of a permanent residence for the National Government and the spirit in which it was commenced and has been prosecuted show that such improvement was thought worthy the attention of this nation. Its central position, between the northern and southern extremes of our Union, and its approach to the west at the head of a great navigable river which interlocks with the Western waters, prove the wisdom of the councils which established it.
Nothing appears to be more reasonable and proper than that convenient accommodation should be provided on a well-digested plan for the heads of the several Departments and for the Attorney-General, and it is believed that the public ground in the city applied to these objects will be found amply sufficient. I submit this subject to the consideration of Congress, that such further provision may be made in it as to them may seem proper.
In contemplating the happy situation of the United States, our attention is drawn with peculiar interest to the surviving officers and soldiers of our Revolutionary army, who so eminently contributed by their services to lay its foundation. Most of those very meritorious citizens have paid the debt of nature and gone to repose. It is believed that among the survivors there are some not provided for by existing laws, who are reduced to indigence and even to real distress. These men have a claim on the gratitude of their country, and it will do honor to their country to provide for them. The lapse of a few years more and the opportunity will be forever lost; indeed, so long already has been the interval that the number to be benefitted by any provision which may be made will not be great.
It appearing in a satisfactory manner that the revenue arising from imposts and tonnage and from the sale of the public lands will be fully adequate to the support of the civil Government, of the present military and naval establishments, including the annual augmentation of the latter to the extent provided for, to the payment of the interest of the public debt, and to the extinguishment of it at the times authorized, without the aid of the internal taxes, I consider it my duty to recommend to Congress their repeal.
To impose taxes when the public exigencies require them is an obligation of the most sacred character, especially with a free people. The faithful fulfillment of it is among the highest proofs of their value and capacity for self-government. To dispense with taxes when it may be done with perfect safety is equally the duty of their representatives.
In this instance we have the satisfaction to know that they were imposed when the demand was imperious, and have been sustained with exemplary fidelity. I have to add that however gratifying it may be to me regarding the prosperous and happy condition of our country to recommend the repeal of these taxes at this time, I shall nevertheless be attentive to events, and, should any future emergency occur, be not less prompt to suggest such measures and burdens as may then be requisite and proper.
State of the Union Address James Monroe November 16, 1818
Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives:
The auspicious circumstances under which you will commence the duties of the present session will lighten the burdens inseparable from the high trust committed to you. The fruits of the earth have been unusually abundant, commerce has flourished, the revenue has exceeded the most favorable anticipation, and peace and amity are preserved with foreign nations on conditions just and honorable to our country. For these inestimable blessings we can not but be grateful to that Providence which watches over the destiny of nations.
As the term limited for the operation of the commercial convention with Great Britain will expire early in the month of July next, and it was deemed important that there should be no interval during which that portion of our commerce which was provided for by that convention should not be regulated, either by arrangement between the two Governments or by the authority of Congress, the minister of the United States at London was instructed early in the last summer to invite the attention of the British Government to the subject, with a view to that object. He was instructed to propose also that the negotiation which it was wished to open might extend to the general commerce of the two countries, and to every other interest and unsettled difference between them in the hope that an arrangement might be made on principles of reciprocal advantage which might comprehend and provide in a satisfactory manner for all these high concerns.
I have the satisfaction to state that the proposal was received by the British Government in the spirit which prompted it, and that a negotiation has been opened at London embracing all these objects. On full consideration of the great extent and magnitude of the trust it was thought proper to commit it to not less than two of our distinguished citizens, and in consequence the envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary of the United States at Paris has been associated with our envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary at London, to both of whom corresponding instructions have been given, and they are now engaged in the discharge of its duties. It is proper to add that to prevent any inconvenience resulting from the delay incident to a negotiation on so many important subjects it was agreed before entering on it that the existing convention should be continued for a term not less than eight years.
Our relations with Spain remain nearly in the state in which they were at the close of the last session. The convention of 1802, providing for the adjustment of a certain portion of the claims of our citizens for injuries sustained by spoliation, and so long suspended by the Spanish Government, has at length been ratified by it, but no arrangement has yet been made for the payment of another portion of like claims, not less extensive or well founded, or for other classes of claims, or for the settlement of boundaries. These subjects have again been brought under consideration in both countries, but no agreement has been entered into respecting them.
In the mean time events have occurred which clearly prove the ill effect of the policy which that Government has so long pursued on the friendly relations of the two countries, which it is presumed is at least of as much importance to Spain as to the United States to maintain. A state of things has existed in the Floridas the tendency of which has been obvious to all who have paid the slightest attention to the progress of affairs in that quarter. Throughout the whole of those Provinces to which the Spanish title extends the Government of Spain has scarcely been felt. Its authority has been confined almost exclusively to the walls of Pensacola and St. Augustine, within which only small garrisons have been maintained. Adventurers from every country, fugitives from justice, and absconding slaves have found an asylum there. Several tribes of Indians, strong in the number of their warriors, remarkable for their ferocity, and whose settlements extend to our limits, inhabit those Provinces.
These different hordes of people, connected together, disregarding on the one side the authority of Spain, and protected on the other by an imaginary line which separates Florida from the United States, have violated our laws prohibiting the introduction of slaves, have practiced various frauds on our revenue, and committed every kind of outrage on our peaceable citizens which their proximity to us enabled them to perpetrate.
The invasion of Amelia Island last year by a small band of adventurers, not exceeding one hundred and fifty in number, who wrested it from the inconsiderable Spanish force stationed there, and held it several months, during which a single feeble effort only was made to recover it, which failed, clearly proves how completely extinct the Spanish authority had become, as the conduct of those adventurers while in possession of the island as distinctly shows the pernicious purposes for which their combination had been formed.
This country had, in fact, become the theater of every species of lawless adventure. With little population of its own, the Spanish authority almost extinct, and the colonial governments in a state of revolution, having no pretension to it, and sufficiently employed in their own concerns, it was in great measure derelict, and the object of cupidity to every adventurer. A system of buccaneering was rapidly organizing over it which menaced in its consequences the lawful commerce of every nation, and particularly the United States, while it presented a temptation to every people, on whose seduction its success principally depended.
In regard to the United States, the pernicious effect of this unlawful combination was not confined to the ocean; the Indian tribes have constituted the effective force in Florida. With these tribes these adventurers had formed at an early period a connection with a view to avail themselves of that force to promote their own projects of accumulation and aggrandizement. It is to the interference of some of these adventurers, in misrepresenting the claims and titles of the Indians to land and in practicing on their savage propensities, that the Seminole war is principally to be traced. Men who thus connect themselves with savage communities and stimulate them to war, which is always attended on their part with acts of barbarity the most shocking, deserve to be viewed in a worse light than the savages. They would certainly have no claim to an immunity from the punishment which, according to the rules of warfare practiced by the savages, might justly be inflicted on the savages themselves.
If the embarrassments of Spain prevented her from making an indemnity to our citizens for so long a time from her treasury for their losses by spoliation and otherwise, it was always in her power to have provided it by the cession of this territory. Of this her Government has been repeatedly apprised, and the cession was the more to have been anticipated as Spain must have known that in ceding it she would likewise relieve herself from the important obligation secured by the treaty of 1795 and all other compromitments respecting it. If the United States, from consideration of these embarrassments, declined pressing their claims in a spirit of hostility, the motive ought at least to have been duly appreciated by the Government of Spain. It is well known to her Government that other powers have made to the United States an indemnity for like losses sustained by their citizens at the same epoch.
There is nevertheless a limit beyond which this spirit of amity and forbearance can in no instance be justified. If it was proper to rely on amicable negotiation for an indemnity for losses, it would not have been so to have permitted the inability of Spain to fulfill her engagements and to sustain her authority in the Floridas to be perverted by foreign adventurers and savages to purposes so destructive to the lives of our fellow citizens and the highest interests of the United States.
The right of self defense never ceases. It is among the most sacred, and alike necessary to nations and to individuals, and whether the attack be made by Spain herself or by those who abuse her power, its obligation is not the less strong.
The invaders of Amelia Island had assumed a popular and respected title under which they might approach and wound us. As their object was distinctly seen, and the duty imposed on the Executive by an existing law was profoundly felt, that mask was not permitted to protect them. It was thought incumbent on the United States to suppress the establishment, and it was accordingly done. The combination in Florida for the unlawful purposes stated, the acts perpetrated by that combination, and, above all, the incitement of the Indians to massacre our fellow citizens of every age and of both sexes, merited a like treatment and received it.
In pursuing these savages to an imaginary line in the woods it would have been the height of folly to have suffered that line to protect them. Had that been done the war could never cease. Even if the territory had been exclusively that of Spain and her power complete over it, we had a right by the law of nations to follow the enemy on it and to subdue him there. But the territory belonged, in a certain sense at least, to the savage enemy who inhabited it; the power of Spain had ceased to exist over it, and protection was sought under her title by those who had committed on our citizens hostilities which she was bound by treaty to have prevented, but had not the power to prevent. To have stopped at that line would have given new encouragement to these savages and new vigor to the whole combination existing there in the prosecution of all its pernicious purposes.
In suppressing the establishment at Amelia Island no unfriendliness was manifested toward Spain, because the post was taken from a force which had wrested it from her. The measure, it is true, was not adopted in concert with the Spanish Government or those in authority under it, because in transactions connected with the war in which Spain and the colonies are engaged it was thought proper in doing justice to the United States to maintain a strict impartiality toward both the belligerent parties without consulting or acting in concert with either. It gives me pleasure to state that the Governments of Buenos Ayres and Venezuela, whose names were assumed, have explicitly disclaimed all participation in those measures, and even the knowledge of them until communicated by this Government, and have also expressed their satisfaction that a course of proceedings had been suppressed which if justly imputable to them would dishonor their cause.
In authorizing Major-General Jackson to enter Florida in pursuit of the Seminoles care was taken not to encroach on the rights of Spain. I regret to have to add that in executing this order facts were disclosed respecting the conduct of the officers of Spain in authority there in encouraging the war, furnishing munitions of war and other supplies to carry it on, and in other acts not less marked which evinced their participation in the hostile purposes of that combination and justified the confidence with which it inspired the savages that by those officers they would be protected.
A conduct so incompatible with the friendly relations existing between the two countries, particularly with the positive obligations of the 5th article of the treaty of 1795, by which Spain was bound to restrain, even by force, those savages from acts of hostility against the United States, could not fail to excite surprise. The commanding general was convinced that he should fail in his object, that he should in effect accomplish nothing, if he did not deprive those savages of the resource on which they had calculated and of the protection on which they had relied in making the war. As all the documents relating to this occurrence will be laid before Congress, it is not necessary to enter into further detail respecting it.
Although the reasons which induced Major-General Jackson to take these posts were duly appreciated, there was nevertheless no hesitation in deciding on the course which it became the Government to pursue. As there was reason to believe that the commanders of these posts had violated their instructions, there was no disposition to impute to their Government a conduct so unprovoked and hostile. An order was in consequence issued to the general in command there to deliver the posts—Pensacola unconditionally to any person duly authorized to receive it, and St. Marks, which is in the heart of the Indian country, on the arrival of a competent force to defend it against those savages and their associates.
In entering Florida to suppress this combination no idea was entertained of hostility to Spain, and however justifiable the commanding general was, in consequence of the misconduct of the Spanish officers, in entering St. Marks and Pensacola to terminate it by proving to the savages and their associates that they should not be protected even there, yet the amicable relations existing between the United States and Spain could not be altered by that act alone. By ordering the restitution of the posts those relations were preserved. To a change of them the power of the Executive is deemed incompetent; it is vested in Congress only.
By this measure, so promptly taken, due respect was shown to the Government of Spain. The misconduct of her officers has not been imputed to her. She was enabled to review with candor her relations with the United States and her own situation, particularly in respect to the territory in question, with the dangers inseparable from it, and regarding the losses we have sustained for which indemnity has been so long withheld, and the injuries we have suffered through that territory, and her means of redress, she was likewise enabled to take with honor the course best calculated to do justice to the United States and to promote her own welfare.
Copies of the instructions to the commanding general, of his correspondence with the Secretary of War, explaining his motives and justifying his conduct, with a copy of the proceedings of the courts-martial in the trial of Arbuthnot and Ambristie, and of the correspondence between the Secretary of State and the minister plenipotentiary of Spain near this Government, and of the minister plenipotentiary of the United States at Madrid with the Government of Spain, will be laid before Congress.
The civil war which has so long prevailed between Spain and the Provinces in South America still continues, without any prospect of its speedy termination. The information respecting the condition of those countries which has been collected by the commissioners recently returned from thence will be laid before Congress in copies of their reports, with such other information as has been received from other agents of the United States.
It appears from these communications that the Government at Buenos Ayres declared itself independent in July, 1816, having previously exercised the power of an independent Government, though in the name of the King of Spain, from the year 1810; that the Banda Oriental, Entre Rios, and Paraguay, with the city of Santa Fee, all of which are also independent, are unconnected with the present Government of Buenos Ayres; that Chili has declared itself independent and is closely connected with Buenos Ayres; that Venezuela has also declared itself independent, and now maintains the conflict with various success; and that the remaining parts of South America, except Monte Video and such other portions of the eastern bank of the La Plata as are held by Portugal, are still in the possession of Spain or in a certain degree under her influence.
By a circular note addressed by the ministers of Spain to the allied powers, with whom they are respectively accredited, it appears that the allies have undertaken to mediate between Spain and the South American Provinces, and that the manner and extent of their interposition would be settled by a congress which was to have met at Aix-la-Chapelle in September last. From the general policy and course of proceeding observed by the allied powers in regard to this contest it is inferred that they will confine their interposition to the expression of their sentiments, abstaining from the application of force. I state this impression that force will not be applied with the greater satisfaction because it is a course more consistent with justice and likewise authorizes a hope that the calamities of the war will be confined to the parties only, and will be of shorter duration.
From the view taken of this subject, founded on all the information that we have been able to obtain, there is good cause to be satisfied with the course heretofore pursued by the United States in regard to this contest, and to conclude that it is proper to adhere to it, especially in the present state of affairs.
I have great satisfaction in stating that our relations with France, Russia, and other powers continue on the most friendly basis.
In our domestic concerns we have ample cause of satisfaction. The receipts into the Treasury during the three first quarters of the year have exceeded $17 millions.
After satisfying all the demands which have been made under existing appropriations, including the final extinction of the old 6% stock and the redemption of a moiety of the Louisiana debt, it is estimated that there will remain in the Treasury on the 1st day of January next more than $2 millions.
It is ascertained that the gross revenue which has accrued from the customs during the same period amounts to $21 millions, and that the revenue of the whole year may be estimated at not less than $26 millions. The sale of the public lands during the year has also greatly exceeded, both in quantity and price, that of any former year, and there is just reason to expect a progressive improvement in that source of revenue.
It is gratifying to know that although the annual expenditure has been increased by the act of the last session of Congress providing for Revolutionary pensions to an amount about equal to the proceeds of the internal duties which were then repealed, the revenue for the ensuing year will be proportionally augmented, and that whilst the public expenditure will probably remain stationary, each successive year will add to the national resources by the ordinary increase of our population and by the gradual development of our latent sources of national prosperity.
The strict execution of the revenue laws, resulting principally from the salutary provisions of the act of the 20th of April last amending the several collection laws, has, it is presumed, secured to domestic manufactures all the relief that can be derived from the duties which have been imposed upon foreign merchandise for their protection. Under the influence of this relief several branches of this important national interest have assumed greater activity, and although it is hoped that others will gradually revive and ultimately triumph over every obstacle, yet the expediency of granting further protection is submitted to your consideration.
The measures of defense authorized by existing laws have been pursued with the zeal and activity due to so important an object, and with all the dispatch practicable in so extensive and great an undertaking. The survey of our maritime and inland frontiers has been continued, and at the points where it was decided to erect fortifications the work has been commenced, and in some instances considerable progress has been made. In compliance with resolutions of the last session, the Board of Commissioners were directed to examine in a particular manner the parts of the coast therein designated and to report their opinion of the most suitable sites for two naval depots. This work is in a train of execution. The opinion of the Board on this subject, with a plan of all the works necessary to a general system of defense so far as it has been formed, will be laid before Congress in a report from the proper department as soon as it can be prepared.
In conformity with the appropriations of the last session, treaties have been formed with the Quapaw tribe of Indians, inhabiting the country on the Arkansaw, and the Great and Little Osages north of the White River; with the tribes in the State of Indiana; with the several tribes within the State of Ohio and the Michigan Territory, and with the Chickasaws, by which very extensive cessions of territory have been made to the United States. Negotiations are now depending with the tribes in the Illinois Territory and with the Choctaws, by which it is expected that other extensive cessions will be made. I take great interest in stating that the cessions already made, which are considered so important to the United States, have been obtained on conditions very satisfactory to the Indians.
With a view to the security of our inland frontiers, it has been thought expedient to establish strong posts at the mouth of Yellow Stone River and at the Mandan village on the Missouri, and at the mouth of St. Peters on the Mississippi, at no great distance from our northern boundaries. It can hardly be presumed while such posts are maintained in the rear of the Indian tribes that they will venture to attack our peaceable inhabitants. A strong hope is entertained that this measure will likewise be productive of much good to the tribes themselves, especially in promoting the great object of their civilization.
Experience has clearly demonstrated that independent savage communities can not long exist within the limits of a civilized population. The progress of the latter has almost invariably terminated in the extinction of the former, especially of the tribes belonging to our portion of this hemisphere, among whom loftiness of sentiment and gallantry in action have been conspicuous. To civilize them, and even to prevent their extinction, it seems to be indispensable that their independence as communities should cease, and that the control of the United States over them should be complete and undisputed. The hunter state will then be more easily abandoned, and recourse will be had to the acquisition and culture of land and to other pursuits tending to dissolve the ties which connect them together as a savage community and to give a new character to every individual. I present this subject to the consideration of Congress on the presumption that it may be found expedient and practicable to adopt some benevolent provisions, having these objects in view, relative to the tribes within our settlements.
It has been necessary during the present year to maintain a strong naval force in the Mediterranean and in the Gulf of Mexico, and to send some public ships along the southern coast and to the Pacific Ocean. By these means amicable relations with the Barbary Powers have been preserved, our commerce has been protected, and our rights respected. The augmentation of our Navy is advancing with a steady progress toward the limit contemplated by law.
I communicate with great satisfaction the accession of another State (Illinois) to our Union, because I perceive from the proof afforded by the additions already made the regular progress and sure consummation of a policy of which history affords no example, and of which the good effect can not be too highly estimated. By extending our Government on the principles of our Constitution over the vast territory within our limits, on the Lakes and the Mississippi and its numerous streams, new life and vigor are infused into every part of our system. By increasing the number of the States the confidence of the State governments in their own security is increased and their jealousy of the National Government proportionally diminished.
The impracticability of one consolidated Government for this great and growing nation will be more apparent and will be universally admitted. Incapable of exercising local authority except for general purposes, the General Government will no longer be dreaded. In those cases of a local nature and for all the great purposes for which it was instituted its authority will be cherished. Each Government will acquire new force and a greater freedom of action within its proper sphere.
Other inestimable advantages will follow. Our produce will be augmented to an incalculable amount in articles of the greatest value for domestic use and foreign commerce. Our navigation will in like degree be increased, and as the shipping of the Atlantic States will be employed in the transportation of the vast produce of the Western country, even those parts of the United States which are most remote from each other will be further bound together by the strongest ties which mutual interest can create.
The situation of this District, it is thought, requires the attention of Congress. By the Constitution the power of legislation is exclusively vested in the Congress of the United States. In the exercise of this power, in which the people have no participation, Congress legislate in all cases directly on the local concerns of the District. As this is a departure, for a special purpose, from the general principles of our system, it may merit consideration whether an arrangement better adapted to the principles of our Government and to the particular interests of the people may not be devised which will neither infringe the Constitution nor affect the object which the provision in question was intended to secure. The growing population, already considerable, and the increasing business of the District, which it is believed already interferes with the deliberations of Congress on great national concerns, furnish additional motives for recommending this subject to your consideration.
When we view the great blessings with which our country has been favored, those which we now enjoy, and the means which we possess of handing them down unimpaired to our latest posterity, our attention is irresistibly drawn to the source from whence they flow. Let us, then, unite in offering our most grateful acknowledgments for these blessings to the Divine Author of All Good.
State of the Union Address James Monroe December 7, 1819
Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives:
The public buildings being advanced to a stage to afford accommodation for Congress, I offer you my sincere congratulations on the recommencement of your duties in the Capitol.
In bringing you to view the incidents most deserving attention which have occurred since your last session, I regret to have to state that several of our principal cities have suffered by sickness, that an unusual drought has prevailed in the Middle and Western States, and that a derangement has been felt in some of our moneyed institutions which has proportionably affected their credit. I am happy, however, to have it in my power to assure you that the health of our cities is now completely restored; that the produce of the year, though less abundant than usual, will not only be amply sufficient for home consumption, but afford a large surplus for the supply of the wants of other nations, and that the derangement in the circulating paper medium, by being left to those remedies which its obvious causes suggested and the good sense and virtue of our fellow citizens supplied, has diminished.
Having informed Congress, on the 27th of February last, that a treaty of amity, settlement, and limits had been concluded in this city between the United States and Spain, and ratified by the competent authorities of the former, full confidence was entertained that it would have been ratified by His Catholic Majesty with equal promptitude and a like earnest desire to terminate on the conditions of that treaty the differences which had so long existed between the two countries. Every view which the subject admitted of was thought to have justified this conclusion.
Great losses had been sustained by citizens of the United States from Spanish cruisers more than 20 years before, which had not been redressed. These losses had been acknowledged and provided for by a treaty as far back as the year 1802, which, although concluded at Madrid, was not then ratified by the Government of Spain, nor since, until the last year, when it was suspended by the late treaty, a more satisfactory provision to both parties, as was presumed, having been made for them. Other differences had arisen in this long interval, affecting their highest interests, which were likewise provided for by this last treaty.
The treaty itself was formed on great consideration and a thorough knowledge of all circumstances, the subject matter of every article having been for years under discussion and repeated references having been made by the minister of Spain to his Government on the points respecting which the greatest difference of opinion prevailed. It was formed by a minister duly authorized for the purpose, who had represented his Government in the United States and been employed in this long-protracted negotiation several years, and who, it is not denied, kept strictly within the letter of his instructions. The faith of Spain was therefore pledged, under circumstances of peculiar force and solemnity, for its ratification.
On the part of the United States this treaty was evidently acceded to in a spirit of conciliation and concession. The indemnity for injuries and losses so long before sustained, and now again acknowledged and provided for, was to be paid by them without becoming a charge on the treasury of Spain. For territory ceded by Spain other territory of great value, to which our claim was believed to be well founded, was ceded by the United States, and in a quarter more interesting to her. This cession was nevertheless received as the means of indemnifying our citizens in a considerable sum, the presumed amount of their losses.
Other considerations of great weight urged the cession of this territory by Spain. It was surrounded by the Territories of the United States on every side except on that of the ocean. Spain had lost her authority over it, and, falling into the hands of adventurers connected with the savages, it was made the means of unceasing annoyance and injury to our Union in many of its most essential interests. By this cession, then, Spain ceded a territory in reality of no value to her and obtained concessions of the highest importance by the settlement of long-standing differences with the United States affecting their respective claims and limits, and likewise relieved herself from the obligation of a treaty relating to it which she had failed to fulfill, and also from the responsibility incident to the most flagrant and pernicious abuses of her rights where she could not support her authority.
It being known that the treaty was formed under these circumstances, not a doubt was entertained that His Catholic Majesty would have ratified it without delay. I regret to have to state that this reasonable expectation has been disappointed; that the treaty was not ratified within the time stipulated and has not since been ratified. As it is important that the nature and character of this unexpected occurrence should be distinctly understood, I think it my duty to communicate to you all the facts and circumstances in my possession relating to it.
Anxious to prevent all future disagreement with Spain by giving the most prompt effect to the treaty which had been thus concluded, and particularly by the establishment of a Government in Florida which should preserve order there, the minister of the United States who had been recently appointed to His Catholic Majesty, and to whom the ratification by his Government had been committed to be exchanged for that of Spain, was instructed to transmit the latter to the Department of State as soon as obtained, by a public ship subjected to his order for the purpose.
Unexpected delay occurring in the ratification by Spain, he requested to be informed of the cause. It was stated in reply that the great importance of the subject, and a desire to obtain explanations on certain points which were not specified, had produced the delay, and that an envoy would be dispatched to the United States to obtain such explanations of this Government. The minister of the United States offered to give full explanation on any point on which it might be desired, which proposal was declined. Having communicated this result to the Department of State in August last, he was instructed, notwithstanding the disappointment and surprise which it produced, to inform the Government of Spain that if the treaty should be ratified and transmitted here at any time before the meeting of Congress it would be received and have the same effect as if it had been ratified in due time.
This order was executed, the authorized communication was made to the Government of Spain, and by its answer, which has just been received, we are officially made acquainted for the first time with the causes which have prevented the ratification of the treaty by His Catholic Majesty. It is alleged by the minister of Spain that his Government had attempted to alter one of the principal articles of the treaty by a declaration which the minister of the United States had been ordered to present when he should deliver the ratification by his Government in exchange for that of Spain, and of which he gave notice, explanatory of the sense in which that article was understood. It is further alleged that this Government had recently tolerated or protected an expedition from the United States against the Province of Texas. These two imputed acts are stated as the reasons which have induced His Catholic Majesty to withhold his ratification from the treaty, to obtain explanations respecting which it is repeated that an envoy would be forthwith dispatched to the United States. How far these allegations will justify the conduct of the Government of Spain will appear on a view of the following facts and the evidence which supports them:
It will be seen by the documents transmitted herewith that the declaration mentioned relates to a clause in the 8th article concerning certain grants of land recently made by His Catholic Majesty in Florida, which it was understood had conveyed all the lands which until then had been ungranted; it was the intention of the parties to annul these latter grants, and that clause was drawn for that express purpose and for none other. The date of these grants was unknown, but it was understood to be posterior to that inserted in the article; indeed, it must be obvious to all that if that provision in the treaty had not the effect of annulling these grants, it would be altogether nugatory. Immediately after the treaty was concluded and ratified by this Government an intimation was received that these grants were of anterior date to that fixed on by the treaty and that they would not, of course, be affected by it. The mere possibility of such a case, so inconsistent with the intention of the parties and the meaning of the article, induced this Government to demand an explanation on the subject, which was immediately granted, and which corresponds with this statement.
With regard to the other act alleged, that this Government had tolerated or protected an expedition against Texas, it is utterly without foundation. Every discountenance has invariably been given to any such attempt within the limits of the United States, as is fully evinced by the acts of the Government and the proceedings of the courts. There being cause, however, to apprehend, in the course of the last summer, that some adventurers entertained views of the kind suggested, the attention of the constituted authorities in that quarter was immediately drawn to them, and it is known that the project, whatever it might be, has utterly failed.
These facts will, it is presumed, satisfy every impartial mind that the Government of Spain had no justifiable cause for declining to ratify the treaty. A treaty concluded in conformity with instructions is obligatory, in good faith, in all its stipulations, according to the true intent and meaning of the parties. Each party is bound to ratify it. If either could set it aside without the consent of the other, there would be no longer any rules applicable to such transactions between nations.
By this proceeding the Government of Spain has rendered to the United States a new and very serious injury. It has been stated that a minister would be sent to ask certain explanations of this Government; but if such were desired, why were they not asked within the time limited for the ratification?
Is it contemplated to open a new negotiation respecting any of the articles or conditions of the treaty? If that were done, to what consequences might it not lead? At what time and in what manner would a new negotiation terminate? By this proceeding Spain has formed a relation between the two countries which will justify any measures on the part of the United States which a strong sense of injury and a proper regard for the rights and interests of the nation may dictate.
In the course to be pursued these objects should be constantly held in view and have their due weight. Our national honor must be maintained, and a new and a distinguished proof be afforded of that regard for justice and moderation which has invariably governed the councils of this free people. It must be obvious to all that if the United States had been desirous of making conquests, or had been even willing to aggrandize themselves in that way, they could have had no inducement to form this treaty. They would have much cause for gratulation at the course which has been pursued by Spain. An ample field for ambition is open before them, but such a career is not consistent with the principles of their Government nor the interests of the nation.
From a full view of all circumstances, it is submitted to the consideration of Congress whether it will not be proper for the United States to carry the conditions of the treaty into effect in the same manner as if it had been ratified by Spain, claiming on their part all its advantages and yielding to Spain those secured to her. By pursuing this course we shall rest on the sacred ground of right, sanctioned in the most solemn manner by Spain herself by a treaty which she was bound to ratify, for refusing to do which she must incur the censure of other nations, even those most friendly to her, while by confining ourselves within that limit we can not fail to obtain their well-merited approbation.
We must have peace on a frontier where we have been so long disturbed; our citizens must be indemnified for losses so long since sustained, and for which indemnity has been so unjustly withheld from them. Accomplishing these great objects, we obtain all that is desirable.
But His Catholic Majesty has twice declared his determination to send a minister to the United States to ask explanations on certain points and to give them respecting his delay to ratify the treaty. Shall we act by taking the ceded territory and proceeding to execute the other conditions of the treaty before this minister arrives and is heard?
This is a case which forms a strong appeal to the candor, the magnanimity, and the honor of this people. Much is due to courtesy between nations. By a short delay we shall lose nothing, for, resting on the ground of immutable truth and justice, we can not be diverted from our purpose.
It ought to be presumed that the explanations which may be given to the minister of Spain will be satisfactory, and produce the desired result. In any event, the delay for the purpose mentioned, being a further manifestation of the sincere desire to terminate in the most friendly manner all differences with Spain, can not fail to be duly appreciated by His Catholic Majesty as well as by other powers. It is submitted, therefore, whether it will not be proper to make the law proposed for carrying the conditions of the treaty into effect, should it be adopted, contingent; to suspend its operation, upon the responsibility of the Executive, in such manner as to afford an opportunity for such friendly explanations as may be desired during the present session of Congress.
I communicate to Congress a copy of the treaty and of the instructions to the minister of the United States at Madrid respecting it; of his correspondence with the minister of Spain, and of such other documents as may be necessary to give a full view of the subject.
In the course which the Spanish Government have on this occasion thought proper to pursue it is satisfactory to know that they have not been countenanced by any other European power. On the contrary, the opinion and wishes both of France and Great Britain have not been withheld either from the United States or from Spain, and have been unequivocal in favor of the ratification. There is also reason to believe that the sentiments of the Imperial Government of Russia have been the same, and that they have also been made known to the cabinet of Madrid.
In the civil war existing between Spain and the Spanish Provinces in this hemisphere the greatest care has been taken to enforce the laws intended to preserve an impartial neutrality. Our ports have continued to be equally open to both parties and on the same conditions, and our citizens have been equally restrained from interfering in favor of either to the prejudice of the other. The progress of the war, however has operated manifestly in favor of the colonies. Buenos Ayres still maintains unshaken the independence which it declared in 1816, and has enjoyed since 1810. Like success has also lately attended Chili and the Provinces north of the La Plata bordering on it, and likewise Venezuela.
This contest has from its commencement been very interesting to other powers, and to none more so than to the United States. A virtuous people may and will confine themselves within the limit of a strict neutrality; but it is not in their power to behold a conflict so vitally important to their neighbors without the sensibility and sympathy which naturally belong to such a case. It has been the steady purpose of this Government to prevent that feeling leading to excess, and it is very gratifying to have it in my power to state that so strong has been the sense throughout the whole community of what was due to the character and obligations of the nation that very few examples of a contrary kind have occurred.
The distance of the colonies from the parent country and the great extent of their population and resources gave them advantages which it was anticipated at a very early period would be difficult for Spain to surmount. The steadiness, consistency, and success with which they have pursued their object, as evinced more particularly by the undisturbed sovereignty which Buenos Ayres has so long enjoyed, evidently give them a strong claim to the favorable consideration of other nations. These sentiments on the part of the United States have not been withheld from other powers, with whom it is desirable to act in concert. Should it become manifest to the world that the efforts of Spain to subdue these Provinces will be fruitless, it may be presumed that the Spanish Government itself will give up the contest. In producing such a determination it can not be doubted that the opinion of friendly powers who have taken no part in the controversy will have their merited influence.
It is of the highest importance to our national character and indispensable to the morality of our citizens that all violations of our neutrality should be prevented. No door should be left open for the evasion of our laws, no opportunity afforded to any who may be disposed to take advantage of it to compromit the interest or the honor of the nation. It is submitted, therefore, to the consideration of Congress whether it may not be advisable to revise the laws with a view to this desirable result.
It is submitted also whether it may not be proper to designate by law the several ports or places along the coast at which only foreign ships of war and privateers may be admitted. The difficulty of sustaining the regulations of our commerce and of other important interests from abuse without such designation furnishes a strong motive for this measure.
At the time of the negotiation for the renewal of the commercial convention between the United States and Great Britain a hope had been entertained that an article might have been agreed upon mutually satisfactory to both countries, regulating upon principles of justice and reciprocity the commercial intercourse between the United States and the British possessions as well in the West Indies as upon the continent of North America. The plenipotentiaries of the two Governments not having been able to come to an agreement on this important interest, those of the United States reserved for the consideration of this Government the proposals which had been presented to them as the ultimate offer on the part of the British Government, and which they were not authorized to accept. On their transmission here they were examined with due deliberation, the result of which was a new effort to meet the views of the British Government. The minister of the United States was instructed to make a further proposal, which has not been accepted. It was, however, declined in an amicable manner. I recommend to the consideration of Congress whether further prohibitory provisions in the laws relating to this intercourse may not be expedient. It is seen with interest that although it has not been practicable as yet to agree in any arrangement of this important branch of their commerce, such is the disposition of the parties that each will view any regulations which the other may make respecting it in the most friendly light.
By the 5th article of the convention concluded on October 20th, 1818, it was stipulated that the differences which have arisen between the two Governments with respect to the true intent and meaning of the 5th article of the treaty of Ghent, in relation to the carrying away by British officers of slaves from the United States after the exchange of the ratifications of the treaty of peace, should be referred to the decision of some friendly sovereign or state to be named for that purpose. The minister of the United States has been instructed to name to the British Government a foreign sovereign, the common friend to both parties, for the decision of this question. The answer of that Government to the proposal when received will indicate the further measures to be pursued on the part of the United States.
Although the pecuniary embarrassments which affected various parts of the Union during the latter part of the preceding year have during the present been considerably augmented, and still continue to exist, the receipts into the Treasury to the 30th of September last have amounted to $19 millions. After defraying the current expenses of the Government, including the Interest and reimbursement of the public debt payable to that period, amounting to $18.2 millions, there remained in the Treasury on that day more than $2.5 millions, which, with the sums receivable during the remainder of the year, will exceed the current demands upon the Treasury for the same period.
The causes which have tended to diminish the public receipts could not fail to have a corresponding effect upon the revenue which has accrued upon imposts and tonnage during the three first quarters of the present year. It is, however, ascertained that the duties which have been secured during that period exceed $18 millions, and those of the whole year will probably amount to $23 millions.
For the probable receipts of the next year I refer you to the statements which will be transmitted from the Treasury, which will enable you to judge whether further provision be necessary.
The great reduction in the price of the principal articles of domestic growth which has occurred during the present year, and the consequent fall in the price of labor, apparently so favorable to the success of domestic manufactures, have not shielded them against other causes adverse to their prosperity. The pecuniary embarrassments which have so deeply affected the commercial interests of the nation have been no less adverse to our manufacturing establishments in several sections of the Union.
The great reduction of the currency which the banks have been constrained to make in order to continue specie payments, and the vitiated character of it where such reductions have not been attempted, instead of placing within the reach of these establishments the pecuniary aid necessary to avail themselves of the advantages resulting from the reduction in the prices of the raw materials and of labor, have compelled the banks to withdraw from them a portion of the capital heretofore advanced to them. That aid which has been refused by the banks has not been obtained from other sources, owing to the loss of individual confidence from the frequent failures which have recently occurred in some of our principal commercial cities.
An additional cause for the depression of these establishments may probably be found in the pecuniary embarrassments which have recently affected those countries with which our commerce has been principally prosecuted. Their manufactures, for the want of a ready or profitable market at home, have been shipped by the manufacturers to the United States, and in many instances sold at a price below their current value at the place of manufacture. Although this practice may from its nature be considered temporary or contingent, it is not on that account less injurious in its effects. Uniformity in the demand and price of an article is highly desirable to the domestic manufacturer.
It is deemed of great importance to give encouragement to our domestic manufacturers. In what manner the evils which have been adverted to may be remedied, and how far it may be practicable in other respects to afford to them further encouragement, paying due regard to the other great interests of the nation, is submitted to the wisdom of Congress.
The survey of the coast for the establishment of fortifications is now nearly completed, and considerable progress has been made in the collection of materials for the construction of fortifications in the Gulf of Mexico and in the Chesapeake Bay. The works on the eastern bank of the Potomac below Alexandria and on the Pea Patch, in the Delaware, are much advanced, and it is expected that the fortifications at the Narrows, in the harbor of New York, will be completed the present year. To derive all the advantages contemplated from these fortifications it was necessary that they should be judiciously posted, and constructed with a view to permanence. The progress hitherto has therefore been slow; but as the difficulties in parts heretofore the least explored and known are surmounted, it will in future be more rapid. As soon as the survey of the coast is completed, which it is expected will be done early in the next spring, the engineers employed in it will proceed to examine for like purposes the northern and northwestern frontiers.
The troops intended to occupy a station at the mouth of the St. Peters, on the Mississippi, have established themselves there, and those who were ordered to the mouth of the Yellow Stone, on the Missouri, have ascended that river to the Council Bluff, where they will remain until the next spring, when they will proceed to the place of their destination. I have the satisfaction to state that this measure has been executed in amity with the Indian tribes, and that it promises to produce, in regard to them, all the advantages which were contemplated by it.
Much progress has likewise been made in the construction of ships of war and in the collection of timber and other materials for ship building. It is not doubted that our Navy will soon be augmented to the number and placed in all respects on the footing provided for by law.
The Board, consisting of engineers and naval officers, have not yet made their final report of sites for two naval depots, as instructed according to the resolutions of March 18th, 1818 and April 20th, 1818, but they have examined the coast therein designated, and their report is expected in the next month.
For the protection of our commerce in the Mediterranean, along the southern Atlantic coast, in the Pacific and Indian oceans, it has been found necessary to maintain a strong naval force, which it seems proper for the present to continue. There is much reason to believe that if any portion of the squadron heretofore stationed in the Mediterranean should be withdrawn our intercourse with the powers bordering on that sea would be much interrupted, if not altogether destroyed. Such, too, has been the growth of a spirit of piracy in the other quarters mentioned, by adventurers from every country, in abuse of the friendly flags which they have assumed, that not to protect our commerce there would be to abandon it as a prey to their rapacity.
Due attention has likewise been paid to the suppression of the slave trade, in compliance with a law of the last session. Orders have been given to the commanders of all our public ships to seize all vessels navigated under our flag engaged in that trade, and to bring them in to be proceeded against in the manner prescribed by the law. It is hoped that these vigorous measures, supported by like acts by other nations, will soon terminate a commerce so disgraceful to the civilized world.
In the execution of the duty imposed by these acts, and of a high trust connected with it, it is with deep regret I have to state the loss which has been sustained by the death of Commodore Perry. His gallantry in a brilliant exploit in the late war added to the renown of his country. His death is deplored as a national misfortune.
State of the Union Address James Monroe November 14, 1820
Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives:
In communicating to you a just view of public affairs at the commencement of your present labors, I do it with great satisfaction, because, taking all circumstances into consideration which claim attention, I see much cause to rejoice in the felicity of our situation. In making this remark I do not wish to be understood to imply that an unvaried prosperity is to be seen in every interest of this great community. In the progress of a nation inhabiting a territory of such vast extent and great variety of climate, every portion of which is engaged in foreign commerce and liable to be affected in some degree by the changes which occur in the condition and regulations of foreign countries, it would be strange if the produce of our soil and the industry and enterprise of our fellow citizens received at all times and in every quarter an uniform and equal encouragement. This would be more than we would have a right to expect under circumstances the most favorable.
Pressures on certain interests, it is admitted, have been felt; but allowing to these their greatest extent, they detract but little from the force of the remarks already made. In forming a just estimate of our present situation it is proper to look at the whole in the outline as well as in the detail. A free, virtuous, and enlightened people know well the great principles and causes on which their happiness depends, and even those who suffer most occasionally in their transitory concerns find great relief under their sufferings from the blessings which they otherwise enjoy and in the consoling and animating hope which they administer.