1830 State of the Union Address
December 6, 1830
Fellow Citizens of the Senate and of the House of Representatives:
The pleasure I have in congratulating you upon your return to your constitutional
duties is much heightened by the satisfaction which the condition of our beloved
country at this period justly inspires. The beneficent Author of All Good has
granted to us during the present year health, peace, and plenty, and numerous
causes for joy in the wonderful success which attends the progress of our free
With a population unparalleled in its increase, and possessing a character
which combines the hardihood of enterprise with the considerateness of wisdom,
we see in every section of our happy country a steady improvement in the means
of social intercourse, and correspondent effects upon the genius and laws of
our extended Republic.
The apparent exceptions to the harmony of the prospect are to be referred rather
to inevitable diversities in the various interests which enter into the composition
of so extensive a whole than any want of attachment to the Union -- interests
whose collisions serve only in the end to foster the spirit of conciliation
and patriotism so essential to the preservation of that Union which I most devoutly
hope is destined to prove imperishable.
In the midst of these blessings we have recently witnessed changes in the conditions
of other nations which may in their consequences call for the utmost vigilance,
wisdom, and unanimity in our councils, and the exercise of all the moderation
and patriotism of our people.
The important modifications of their Government, effected with so much courage
and wisdom by the people of France, afford a happy presage of their future course,
and have naturally elicited from the kindred feelings of this nation that spontaneous
and universal burst of applause in which you have participated. In congratulating
you, my fellow citizens, upon an event so auspicious to the dearest interests
of man- kind I do no more than respond to the voice of my country, without transcending
in the slightest degree that salutary maxim of the illustrious Washington which
enjoins an abstinence from all interference with the internal affairs of other
nations. From a people exercising in the most unlimited degree the right of
self-government, and enjoying, as derived from this proud characteristic, under
the favor of Heaven, much of the happiness with which they are blessed; a people
who can point in triumph to their free institutions and challenge comparison
with the fruits they bear, as well as with the moderation, intelligence, and
energy with which they are administered -- from such a people the deepest sympathy
was to be expected in a struggle for the sacred principles of liberty, conducted
in a spirit every way worthy of the cause, and crowned by a heroic moderation
which has disarmed revolution of its terrors. Not withstanding the strong assurances
which the man whom we so sincerely love and justly admire has given to the world
of the high character of the present King of the French, and which if sustained
to the end will secure to him the proud appellation of Patriot King, it is not
in his success, but in that of the great principle which has borne him to the
throne -- the paramount authority of the public will -- that the American people
I am happy to inform you that the anticipations which were indulged at the
date of my last communication on the subject of our foreign affairs have been
fully realized in several important particulars.
An arrangement has been effected with Great Britain in relation to the trade
between the United States and her West India and North American colonies which
has settled a question that has for years afforded matter for contention and
almost uninterrupted discussion, and has been the subject of no less than six
negotiations, in a manner which promises results highly favorable to the parties.
The abstract right of Great Britain to monopolize the trade with her colonies
or to exclude us from a participation therein has never been denied by the United
States. But we have contended, and with reason, that if at any time Great Britain
may desire the productions of this country as necessary to her colonies they
must be received upon principles of just reciprocity, and, further, that it
is making an invidious and unfriendly distinction to open her colonial ports
to the vessels of other nations and close them against those of the United States.
Antecedently to 1794 a portion of our productions was admitted into the colonial
islands of Great Britain by particular concessions, limited to the term of one
year, but renewed from year to year. In the transportation of these productions,
however, our vessels were not allowed to engage, this being a privilege reserved
to British shipping, by which alone our produce could be taken to the islands
and theirs brought to us in return. From Newfoundland and her continental possessions
all our productions, as well as our vessels, were excluded, with occasional
relaxations, by which, in seasons of distress, the former were admitted in British
By the treaty of 1794 she offered to concede to us for a limited time the right
of carrying to her West India possessions in our vessels not exceeding 70 tons
burthen, and upon the same terms as British vessels, any productions of the
United States which British vessels might import therefrom. But this privilege
was coupled with conditions which are supposed to have led to its rejection
by the Senate; that is, that American vessels should land their return cargoes
in the United States only, and, moreover, that they should during the continuance
of the privilege be precluded from carrying molasses, sugar, coffee, cocoa,
or cotton either from those islands or from the United States to any other part
of the world. Great Britain readily consented to expunge this article from the
treaty, and subsequent attempts to arrange the terms of the trade either by
treaty stipulations or concerted legislation have failed, it has been successively
suspended and allowed according to the varying legislation of the parties.
The following are the prominent points which have in later years separated
the two Governments: Besides a restriction whereby all importations into her
colonies in American vessels are confined to our own products carried hence,
a restriction to which it does not appear that we have ever objected, a leading
object on the part of Great Britain has been to prevent us from becoming the
carriers of British West India commodities to any other country than our own.
On the part of the United States it has been contended, first, that the subject
should be regulated by treaty stipulation in preference to separate legislation;
second, that our productions, when imported into the colonies in question, should
not be subject to higher duties than the productions of the mother country or
of her other colonial possessions, and, 3rd, that our vessels should be allowed
to participate in the circuitous trade between the United States and different
parts of the British dominions.
The first point, after having been for a long time strenuously insisted upon
by Great Britain, was given up by the act of Parliament of [1825- 07], all vessels
suffered to trade with the colonies being permitted to clear from thence with
any articles which British vessels might export and proceed to any part of the
world, Great Britain and her dependencies alone excepted. On our part each of
the above points had in succession been explicitly abandoned in negotiations
preceding that of which the result is now announced.
This arrangement secures to the United States every advantage asked by them,
and which the state of the negotiation allowed us to insist upon. The trade
will be placed upon a footing decidedly more favorable to this country than
any on which it ever stood, and our commerce and navigation will enjoy in the
colonial ports of Great Britain every privilege allowed to other nations.
That the prosperity of the country so far as it depends on this trade will
be greatly promoted by the new arrangement there can be no doubt. Independently
of the more obvious advantages of an open and direct intercourse, its establishment
will be attended with other consequences of a higher value. That which has been
carried on since the mutual interdict under all the expense and inconvenience
unavoidably incident to it would have been insupportably onerous had it not
been in a great degree lightened by concerted evasions in the mode of making
the transshipments at what are called the neutral ports. These indirections
are inconsistent with the dignity of nations that have so many motives not only
to cherish feelings of mutual friendship, but to maintain such relations as
will stimulate their respective citizens and subjects to efforts of direct,
open, and honorable competition only, and preserve them from the influence of
seductive and vitiating circumstances.
When your preliminary interposition was asked at the close of the last session,
a copy of the instructions under which Mr. McLane has acted, together with the
communications which had at that time passed between him and the British Government,
was laid before you. Although there has not been any thing in the acts of the
two Governments which requires secrecy, it was thought most proper in the then
state of the negotiation to make that communication a confidential one. So soon,
however, as the evidence of execution on the part of Great Britain is received
the whole matter shall be laid before you, when it will be seen that the apprehension
which appears to have suggested one of the provisions of the act passed at your
last session, that the restoration of the trade in question might be connected
with other subjects and was sought to be obtained at the sacrifice of the public
interest in other particulars, was wholly unfounded, and that the change which
has taken place in the views of the British Government has been induced by considerations
as honorable to both parties as I trust the result will prove beneficial.
This desirable result was, it will be seen, greatly promoted by the liberal
and confiding provisions of the act of Congress of the last session, by which
our ports were upon the reception and annunciation by the President of the required
assurance on the part of Great Britain forthwith opened to her vessels before
the arrangement could be carried into effect on her part, pursuing in this act
of prospective legislation a similar course to that adopted by Great Britain
in abolishing, by her act of Parliament in 1825, a restriction then existing
and permitting our vessels to clear from the colonies on their return voyages
for any foreign country whatever before British vessels had been relieved from
the restriction imposed by our law of returning directly from the United States
to the colonies, a restriction which she required and expected that we should
abolish. Upon each occasion a limited and temporary advantage has been given
to the opposite party, but an advantage of no importance in comparison with
the restoration of mutual confidence and good feeling, and the ultimate establishment
of the trade upon fair principles.
It gives me unfeigned pleasure to assure you that this negotiation has been
throughout characterized by the most frank and friendly spirit on the part of
Great Britain, and concluded in a manner strongly indicative of a sincere desire
to cultivate the best relations with the United States. To reciprocate this
disposition to the fullest extent of my ability is a duty which I shall deem
it a privilege to discharge.
Although the result is itself the best commentary on the services rendered
to his country by our minister at the Court of St. James, it would be doing
violence to my feelings were I to dismiss the subject without expressing the
very high sense I entertain of the talent and exertion which have been displayed
by him on the occasion.
The injury to the commerce of the United States resulting from the exclusion
of our vessels from the Black Sea and the previous footing of mere sufferance
upon which even the limited trade enjoyed by us with Turkey has hitherto been
placed have for a long time been a source of much solicitude to this Government,
and several endeavors have been made to obtain a better state of things. Sensible
of the importance of the object, I felt it my duty to leave no proper means
unemployed to acquire for our flag the same privileges that are enjoyed by the
principal powers of Europe. Commissioners were consequently appointed to open
a negotiation with the Sublime Porte. Not long after the member of the commission
who went directly from the United States had sailed, the account of the treaty
of Adrianople, by which one of the objects in view was supposed to be secured,
reached this country. The Black Sea was understood to be opened to us. Under
the supposition that this was the case, the additional facilities to be derived
from the establishment of commercial regulations with the Porte were deemed
of sufficient importance to require a prosecution of the negotiation as originally
contemplated. It was therefore persevered in, and resulted in a treaty, which
will be forthwith laid before the Senate.
By its provisions a free passage is secured, without limitations of time, to
the vessels of the United States to and from the Black Sea, including the navigation
thereof, and our trade with Turkey is placed on the footing of the most favored
nation. The latter is an arrangement wholly independent of the treaty of Adrianople,
and the former derives much value, not only from the increased security which
under any circumstances it would give to the right in question, but from the
fact, ascertained in the course of the negotiation, that by the construction
put upon that treaty by Turkey the article relating to the passage of the Bosphorus
is confined to nations having treaties with the Porte. The most friendly feelings
appear to be entertained by the Sultan, and an enlightened disposition is evinced
by him to foster the intercourse between the two countries by the most liberal
arrangements. This disposition it will be our duty and interest to cherish.
Our relations with Russia are of the most stable character. Respect for that
Empire and confidence in its friendship toward the United States have been so
long entertained on our part and so carefully cherished by the present Emperor
and his illustrious predecessor as to have become incorporated with the public
sentiment of the United States. No means will be left unemployed on my part
to promote these salutary feelings and those improvements of which the commercial
intercourse between the two countries is susceptible, and which have derived
increased importance from our treaty with the Sublime Porte.
I sincerely regret to inform you that our minister lately commissioned to that
Court, on whose distinguished talents and great experience in public affairs
I place great reliance, has been compelled by extreme indisposition to exercise
a privilege which, in consideration of the extent to which his constitution
had been impaired in the public service, was committed to his discretion --
of leaving temporarily his post for the advantage of a more genial climate.
If, as it is to be hoped, the improvement of his health should be such as to
justify him in doing so, he will repair to St. Petersburg and resume the discharge
of his official duties. I have received the most satisfactory assurances that
in the mean time the public interest in that quarter will be preserved from
prejudice by the intercourse which he will continue through the secretary of
legation with the Russian cabinet.
You are apprised, although the fact has not yet been officially announced to
the House of Representatives, that a treaty was in the month of March last concluded
between the United States, and Denmark, by which $650K are secured to our citizens
as an indemnity for spoliations upon their commerce in the years 1808, 1809,
1810, and 1811. This treaty was sanctioned by the Senate at the close of its
last session, and it now becomes the duty of Congress to pass the necessary
laws for the organization of the board of commissioners to distribute the indemnity
among the claimants. It is an agreeable circumstance in this adjustment that
the terms are in conformity with the previously ascertained views of the claimants
themselves, thus removing all pretense for a future agitation of the subject
in any form.
The negotiations in regard to such points in our foreign relations as remain
to be adjusted have been actively prosecuted during the recess. Material advances
have been made, which are of a character to promise favorable results. Our country,
by the blessing of God, is not in a situation to invite aggression, and it will
be our fault if she ever becomes so. Sincerely desirous to cultivate the most
liberal and friendly relations with all; ever ready to fulfill our engagements
with scrupulous fidelity; limiting our demands upon others to mere justice;
holding ourselves ever ready to do unto them as we would wish to be done by,
and avoiding even the appearance of undue partiality to any nation, it appears
to me impossible that a simple and sincere application of our principles to
our foreign relations can fail to place them ultimately upon the footing on
which it is our wish they should rest.
Of the points referred to, the most prominent are our claims upon France for
spoliations upon our commerce; similar claims upon Spain, together with embarrassments
in the commercial intercourse between the two countries which ought to be removed;
the conclusion of the treaty of commerce and navigation with Mexico, which has
been so long in suspense, as well as the final settlement of limits between
ourselves and that Republic, and, finally, the arbitrament of the question between
the United States and Great Britain in regard to the north-eastern boundary.
The negotiation with France has been conducted by our minister with zeal and
ability, and in all respects to my entire satisfaction. Although the prospect
of a favorable termination was occasionally dimmed by counter pretensions to
which the United States could not assent, he yet had strong hopes of being able
to arrive at a satisfactory settlement with the late Government. The negotiation
has been renewed with the present authorities, and, sensible of the general
and lively confidence of our citizens in the justice and magnanimity of regenerated
France, I regret the more not to have it in my power yet to announce the result
so confidently anticipated. No ground, however, inconsistent with this expectation
has yet been taken, and I do not allow myself to doubt that justice will soon
be done us. The amount of the claims, the length of time they have remained
unsatisfied, and their incontrovertible justice make an earnest prosecution
of them by this Government an urgent duty. The illegality of the seizures and
confiscations out of which they have arisen is not disputed, and what ever distinctions
may have heretofore been set up in regard to the liability of the existing Government
it is quite clear that such considerations can not now be interposed.
The commercial intercourse between the two countries is susceptible of highly
advantageous improvements, but the sense of this injury has had, and must continue
to have, a very unfavorable influence upon them. From its satisfactory adjustment
not only a firm and cordial friendship, but a progressive development of all
their relations, may be expected. It is, therefore, my earnest hope that this
old and vexatious subject of difference may be speedily removed.
I feel that my confidence in our appeal to the motives which should govern
a just and magnanimous nation is alike warranted by the character of the French
people and by the high voucher we possess for the enlarged views and pure integrity
of the Monarch who now presides over their councils, and nothing shall be wanting
on my part to meet any manifestation of the spirit we anticipate in one of corresponding
frankness and liberality.
The subjects of difference with Spain have been brought to the view of that
Government by our minister there with much force and propriety, and the strongest
assurances have been received of their early and favorable consideration.
The steps which remained to place the matter in controversy between Great Britain
and the United States fairly before the arbitrator have all been taken in the
same liberal and friendly spirit which characterized those before announced.
Recent events have doubtless served to delay the decision, but our minister
at the Court of the distinguished arbitrator has been assured that it will be
made within the time contemplated by the treaty.
I am particularly gratified in being able to state that a decidedly favorable,
and, as I hope, lasting, change has been effected in our relations with the
neighboring Republic of Mexico. The unfortunate and unfounded suspicions in
regard to our disposition which it became my painful duty to advert to on a
former occasion have been, I believe, entirely removed, and the Government of
Mexico has been made to understand the real character of the wishes and views
of this in regard to that country. The consequences is the establishment of
friendship and mutual confidence. Such are the assurances I have received, and
I see no cause to doubt their sincerity.
I had reason to expect the conclusion of a commercial treaty with Mexico in
season for communication on the present occasion. Circumstances which are not
explained, but which I am persuaded are not the result of an indisposition on
her part to enter into it, have produced the delay.
There was reason to fear in the course of the last summer that the harmony
of our relations might be disturbed by the acts of certain claimants, under
Mexican grants, of territory which had hitherto been under our jurisdiction.
The cooperation of the representative of Mexico near this Government was asked
on the occasion and was readily afforded. Instructions and advice have been
given to the governor of Arkansas and the officers in command in the adjoining
Mexican State by which it is hoped the quiet of that frontier will be preserved
until a final settlement of the dividing line shall have removed all ground
The exchange of ratifications of the treaty concluded last year with Austria
has not yet taken place. The delay has been occasioned by the non-arrival of
the ratification of that Government within the time prescribed by the treaty.
Renewed authority has been asked for by the representative of Austria, and in
the mean time the rapidly increasing trade and navigation between the two countries
have been placed upon the most liberal footing of our navigation acts.
Several alleged depredations have been recently committed on our commerce by
the national vessels of Portugal. They have been made the subject of immediate
remonstrance and reclamation. I am not yet possessed of sufficient information
to express a definitive opinion of their character, but expect soon to receive
it. No proper means shall be omitted to obtain for our citizens all the redress
to which they may appear to be entitled.
Almost at the moment of the adjournment of your last session two bills -- the
one entitled "An act for making appropriations for building light houses, light
boats, beacons, and monuments, placing buoys, and for improving harbors and
directing surveys", and the other "An act to authorize a subscription for stock
in the Louisville and Portland Canal Company" -- were submitted for my approval.
It was not possible within the time allowed for me before the close of the session
to give to these bills the consideration which was due to their character and
importance, and I was compelled to retain them for that purpose. I now avail
myself of this early opportunity to return them to the Houses in which they
respectively originated with the reasons which, after mature deliberation, compel
me to withhold my approval.
The practice of defraying out of the Treasury of the United States the expenses
incurred by the establishment and support of light houses, beacons, buoys, and
public piers within the bays, inlets, harbors, and ports of the United States,
to render the navigation thereof safe and easy, is coeval with the adoption
of the Constitution, and has been continued without interruption or dispute.
As our foreign commerce increased and was extended into the interior of the
country by the establishment of ports of entry and delivery upon our navigable
rivers the sphere of those expenditures received a corresponding enlargement.
Light houses, beacons, buoys, public piers, and the removal of sand bars, sawyers,
and other partial or temporary impediments in the navigable rivers and harbors
which were embraced in the revenue districts from time to time established by
law were authorized upon the same principle and the expense defrayed in the
same manner. That these expenses have at times been extravagant and disproportionate
is very probable. The circumstances under which they are incurred are well calculated
to lead to such a result unless their application is subjected to the closest
scrutiny. The local advantages arising from the disbursement of public money
too frequently, it is to be feared, invite appropriations for objects of this
character that are neither necessary nor useful.
The number of light house keepers is already very large, and the bill before
me proposes to add to it 51 more of various descriptions. From representations
upon the subject which are understood to be entitled to respect I am induced
to believe that there has not only been great improvidence in the past expenditures
of the Government upon these objects, but that the security of navigation has
in some instances been diminished by the multiplication of light houses and
consequent change of lights upon the coast. It is in this as in other respects
our duty to avoid all unnecessary expense, as well as every increase of patronage
not called for by the public service.
But in the discharge of that duty in this particular it must not be forgotten
that in relation to our foreign commerce the burden and benefit of protecting
and accommodating it necessarily go together, and must do so as long as the
public revenue is drawn from the people through the custom house. It is indisputable
that whatever gives facility and security to navigation cheapens imports and
all who consume them are alike interested in what ever produces this effect.
If they consume, they ought, as they now do, to pay; otherwise they do not pay.
The consumer in the most inland State derives the same advantage from every
necessary and prudent expenditure for the facility and security of our foreign
commerce and navigation that he does who resides in a maritime State. Local
expenditures have not of themselves a corresponding operation.
From a bill making *direct* appropriations for such objects I should not have
withheld my assent. The one now returned does so in several particulars, but
it also contains appropriations for surveys of local character, which I can
not approve. It gives me satisfaction to find that no serious inconvenience
has arisen from withholding my approval from this bill; nor will it, I trust,
be cause of regret that an opportunity will be thereby afforded for Congress
to review its provisions under circumstances better calculated for full investigation
than those under which it was passed.
In speaking of direct appropriations I mean not to include a practice which
has obtained to some extent, and to which I have in one instance, in a different
capacity, given my assent -- that of subscribing to the stock of private associations.
Positive experience and a more thorough consideration of the subject have convinced
me of the impropriety as well as inexpediency of such investments. All improvements
effected by the funds of the nation for general use should be open to the enjoyment
of all our fellow citizens, exempt from the payment of tolls or any imposition
of that character. The practice of thus mingling the concerns of the Government
with those of the States or of individuals is inconsistent with the object of
its institution and highly impolite. The successful operation of the federal
system can only be preserved by confining it to the few and simple, but yet
important, objects for which it was designed.
A different practice, if allowed to progress, would ultimately change the character
of this Government by consolidating into one the General and State Governments,
which were intended to be kept for ever distinct. I can not perceive how bills
authorizing such subscriptions can be otherwise regarded than as bills for revenue,
and consequently subject to the rule in that respect prescribed by the Constitution.
If the interest of the Government in private companies is subordinate to that
of individuals, the management and control of a portion of the public funds
is delegated to an authority unknown to the Constitution and beyond the supervision
of our constituents; if superior, its officers and agents will be constantly
exposed to imputations of favoritism and oppression. Direct prejudice the public
interest or an alienation of the affections and respect of portions of the people
may, therefore, in addition to the general dis-credit resulting to the Government
from embarking with its constituents in pecuniary stipulations, be looked for
as the probable fruit of such associations. It is no answer to this objection
to say that the extent of consequences like these can not be great from a limited
and small number of investments, because experience in other matters teaches
us -- and we are not at liberty to disregard its admonitions -- that unless
an entire stop be put to them it will soon be impossible to prevent their accumulation
until they are spread over the whole country and made to embrace many of the
private and appropriate concerns of individuals.
The power which the General Government would acquire within the several States
by becoming the principal stock-holder in corporations, controlling every canal
and each 60 or 100 miles of every important road, and giving a proportionate
vote in all their elections, is almost inconceivable, and in my view dangerous
to the liberties of the people.
This mode of aiding such works is also in its nature deceptive, and in many
cases conducive to improvidence in the administration of the national funds.
Appropriations will be obtained with much greater facility and granted with
less security to the public interest when the measure is thus disguised than
when definite and direct expenditures of money are asked for. The interests
of the nation would doubtless be better served by avoiding all such indirect
modes of aiding particular objects. In a government like ours more especially
should all public acts be, as far as practicable, simple, undisguised, and intelligible,
that they may become fit subjects for the approbation to animadversion of the
The bill authorizing a subscription to the Louisville and Portland Canal affords
a striking illustration of the difficulty of withholding additional appropriations
for the same object when the first erroneous step has been taken by instituting
a partnership between the Government and private companies. It proposes a third
subscription on the part of the United States, when each preceding one was at
the time regarded as the extent of the aid which Government was to render to
that work; and the accompanying bill for light houses, etc., contains an appropriation
for a survey of the bed of the river, with a view to its improvement by removing
the obstruction which the canal is designed to avoid. This improvement, if successful,
would afford a free passage of the river and render the canal entirely useless.
To such improvidence is the course of legislation subject in relation to internal
improvements on local matters, even with the best intentions on the part of
Although the motives which have influenced me in this matter may be already
sufficiently stated, I am, never the less, induced by its importance to add
a few observations of a general character.
In my objections to the bills authorizing subscriptions to the Maysville and
Rockville road companies I expressed my views fully in regard to the power of
Congress to construct roads and canals within a State of to appropriate money
for improvements of a local character. I at the same time intimated me belief
that the right to make appropriations for such as were of a national character
had been so generally acted upon and so long acquiesced in by the Federal and
State Governments and the constituents of each as to justify its exercise on
the ground of continued and uninterrupted usage, but that it was, never the
less, highly expedient that appropriations even of that character should, with
the exception made at the time, be deferred until the national debt is paid,
and that in the mean while some general rule for the action of the Government
in that respect ought to be established.
These suggestions were not necessary to the decision of the question then before
me, and were, I readily admit, intended to awake the attention and draw forth
the opinion and observations of our constituents upon a subject of the highest
importance to their interests, and 1 destined to exert a powerful influence
upon the future operations of our political system. I know of no tribunal to
which a public man in this country, in a case of doubt and difficulty, can appeal
with greater advantage or more propriety than the judgment of the people; and
although I must necessarily in the discharge of my official duties be governed
by the dictates of my own judgment, I have no desire to conceal my anxious wish
to conform as far as I can to the views of those for whom I act.
All irregular expressions of public opinion are of necessity attended with
some doubt as to their accuracy, but making full allowances on that account
I can not, I think, deceive myself in believing that the acts referred to, as
well as the suggestions which I allowed myself to make in relation to their
bearing upon the future operations of the Government, have been approved by
the great body of the people. That those whose immediate pecuniary interests
are to be affected by proposed expenditures should shrink from the application
of a rule which prefers their more general and remote interests to those which
are personal and immediate is to be expected. But even such objections must
from the nature of our population be but temporary in their duration, and if
it were otherwise our course should be the same, for the time is yet, I hope,
far distant when those intrusted with power to be exercised for the good of
the whole will consider it either honest or wise to purchase local favors at
the sacrifice of principle and general good.
So understanding public sentiment, and thoroughly satisfied that the best interests
of our common country imperiously require that the course which I have recommended
in this regard should be adopted, I have, upon the most mature consideration,
determined to pursue it.
It is due to candor, as well as to my own feelings, that I should express the
reluctance and anxiety which I must at all times experience in exercising the
undoubted right of the Executive to withhold his assent from bills on other
grounds than their constitutionality. That this right should not be exercised
on slight occasions all will admit. It is only in matters of deep interest,
when the principle involved may be justly regarded as next in importance to
infractions of the Constitution itself, that such a step can be expected to
meet with the approbation of the people. Such an occasion do I conscientiously
believe the present to be.
In the discharge of this delicate and highly responsible duty I am sustained
by the reflection that the exercise of this power has been deemed consistent
with the obligation of official duty by several of my predecessors, and by the
persuasion, too, that what ever liberal institutions may have to fear from the
encroachments of Executive power, which has been every where the cause of so
much strife and bloody contention, but little danger is to be apprehended from
a precedent by which that authority denies to itself the exercise of powers
that bring in their train influence and patronage of great extent, and thus
excludes the operation of personal interests, every where the bane of official
I derive, too, no small degree of satisfaction from the reflection that if
I have mistaken the interests and wishes of the people the Constitution affords
the means of soon redressing the error by selecting for the place their favor
has bestowed upon me a citizen whose opinions may accord with their own. I trust,
in the mean time, the interests of the nation will be saved from prejudice by
a rigid application of that portion of the public funds which might otherwise
be applied to different objects to that highest of all our obligations, the
payment of the public debt, and an opportunity be afforded for the adoption
of some better rule for the operations of the Government in this matter than
any which has hitherto been acted upon.
Profoundly impressed with the importance of the subject, not merely as relates
to the general prosperity of the country, but to the safety of the federal system,
I can not avoid repeating my earnest hope that all good citizens who take a
proper interest in the success and harmony of our admirable political institutions,
and who are incapable of desiring to convert an opposite state of things into
means for the gratification of personal ambition, will, laying aside minor considerations
and discarding local prejudices, unite their honest exertions to establish some
fixed general principle which shall be calculated to effect the greatest extent
of public good in regard to the subject of internal improvement, and afford
the least ground for sectional discontent.
The general grounds of my objection to local appropriations have been heretofore
expressed, and I shall endeavor to avoid a repetition of what has been already
urged -- the importance of sustaining the State sovereignties as far as is consistent
with the rightful action of the Federal Government, and of preserving the greatest
attainable harmony between them. I will now only add an expression of my conviction
-- a conviction which every day's experience serves to confirm -- that the political
creed which inculcates the pursuit of those great objects as a paramount duty
is the true faith, and one to which we are mainly indebted for the present success
of the entire system, and to which we must alone look for its future stability.
That there are diversities in the interests of the different States which compose
this extensive Confederacy must be admitted. Those diversities arising from
situation, climate, population, and pursuits are doubtless, as it is natural
they should be, greatly exaggerated by jealousies and that spirit of rivalry
so inseparable from neighboring communities. These circumstances make it the
duty of those who are intrusted with the management of its affairs to neutralize
their effects as far as practicable by making the beneficial operation of the
Federal Government as equal and equitable among the several States as can be
done consistently with the great ends of its institution.
It is only necessary to refer to undoubted facts to see how far the past acts
of the Government upon the subject under consideration have fallen short of
this object. The expenditures heretofore made for internal improvements amount
to upward of $5M, and have been distributed in very unequal proportions amongst
the States. The estimated expense of works of which surveys have been made,
together with that of others projected and partially surveyed, amounts to more
That such improvements, on account of particular circumstances, may be more
advantageously and beneficially made in some States than in others is doubtless
true, but that they are of a character which should prevent an equitable distribution
of the funds amongst the several States is not to be conceded. The want of this
equitable distribution can not fail to prove a prolific source of irritation
among the States.
We have it constantly before our eyes that professions of superior zeal in
the cause of internal improvement and a disposition to lavish the public funds
upon objects of this character are daily and earnestly put forth by aspirants
to power as constituting the highest claims to the confidence of the people.
Would it be strange, under such circumstances, and in times of great excitement,
that grants of this description should find their motives in objects which may
not accord with the public good? Those who have not had occasion to see and
regret the indication of a sinister influence in these matters in past times
have been more fortunate than myself in their observation of the course of public
affairs. If to these evils be added the combinations and angry contentions to
which such a course of things gives rise, with their baleful influences upon
the legislation of Congress touching the leading and appropriate duties of the
Federal Government, it was but doing justice to the character of our people
to expect the severe condemnation of the past which the recent exhibitions of
public sentiment has evinced.
Nothing short of a radical change in the action of the Government upon the
subject can, in my opinion, remedy the evil. If, as it would be natural to expect,
the States which have been least favored in past appropriations should insist
on being redressed in those here after to be made, at the expense of the States
which have so largely and disproportionately participated, we have, as matters
now stand, but little security that the attempt would do more than change the
inequality from one quarter to another.
Thus viewing the subject, I have heretofore felt it my duty to recommend the
adoption of some plan for the distribution of the surplus funds, which may at
any time remain in the Treasury after the national debt shall have been paid,
among the States, in proportion to the number of their Representatives, to be
applied by them to objects of internal improvement.
Although this plan has met with favor in some portions of the Union, it has
also elicited objections which merit deliberate consideration. A brief notice
of these objections here will not, therefore, I trust, be regarded as out of
They rest, as far as they have come to my knowledge, on the following grounds:
first, an objection to the ration of distribution; second, an apprehension that
the existence of such a regulation would produce improvident and oppressive
taxation to raise the funds for distribution; 3rd, that the mode proposed would
lead to the construction of works of a local nature, to the exclusion of such
as are general and as would consequently be of a more useful character; and,
last, that it would create a discreditable and injurious dependence on the part
of the State governments upon the Federal power.
Of those who object to the ration of representatives as the basis of distribution,
some insist that the importations of the respective States would constitute
one that would be more equitable; and others again, that the extent of their
respective territories would furnish a standard which would be more expedient
and sufficiently equitable. The ration of representation presented itself to
my mind, and it still does, as one of obvious equity, because of its being the
ratio of contribution, whether the funds to be distributed be derived from the
customs or from direct taxation. It does not follow, however, that its adoption
is indispensable to the establishment of the system proposed. There may be considerations
appertaining to the subject which would render a departure, to some extent,
from the rule of contribution proper. Nor is it absolutely necessary that the
basis of distribution be confined to 1 ground. It may, if in the judgment of
those whose right it is to fix it it be deemed politic and just to give it that
character, have regard to several.
In my first message I stated it to be my opinion that "it is not probably that
any adjustment of the tariff upon principles satisfactory to the people of the
Union will until a remote period, if ever, leave the Government without a considerable
surplus in the Treasury beyond what may be required for its current surplus".
I have had no cause to change that opinion, but much to confirm it. Should these
expectations be realized, a suitable fund would thus be produced for the plan
under consideration to operate upon, and if there be no such fund its adoption
will, in my opinion, work no injury to any interest; for I can not assent to
the justness of the apprehension that the establishment of the proposed system
would tend to the encouragement of improvident legislation of the character
supposed. What ever the proper authority in the exercise of constitutional power
shall at any time here after decide to be for the general good will in that
as in other respects deserve and receive the acquiescence and support of the
whole country, and we have ample security that every abuse of power in that
regard by agents of the people will receive a speedy and effectual corrective
at their hands. The views which I take of the future, founded on the obvious
and increasing improvement of all classes of our fellow citizens in intelligence
and in public and private virtue, leave me without much apprehension on that
I do not doubt that those who come after us will be as much alive as we are
to the obligation upon all the trustees of political power to exempt those for
whom they act from all unnecessary burthens, and as sensible of the great truth
that the resources of the nation beyond those required for immediate and necessary
purposes of Government can no where be so well deposited as in the pockets of
It may some times happen that the interests of particular States would not
be deemed to coincide with the general interest in relation to improvements
within such States. But if the danger to be apprehended from this source is
sufficient to require it, a discretion might be reserved to Congress to direct
to such improvements of a general character as the States concerned might not
be disposed to unite in, the application of the quotas of those States, under
the restriction of confining to each State the expenditure of its appropriate
quota. It may, however, be assumed as a safe general rule that such improvements
as serve to increase the prosperity of the respective States in which they are
made, by giving new facilities to trade, and thereby augmenting the wealth and
comfort of their inhabitants, constitute the surest mode of conferring permanent
and substantial advantages upon the whole. The strength as well as the true
glory of the Confederacy is founded on the prosperity and power of the several
independent sovereignties of which it is composed and the certainty with which
they can be brought into successful active cooperation through the agency of
the Federal Government.
It is, more over, within the knowledge of such as are at all conversant with
public affairs that schemes of internal improvement have from time to time been
proposed which, from their extent and seeming magnificence, were readily regarded
as of national concernment, but which upon fuller consideration and further
experience would now be rejected with great unanimity.
That the plan under consideration would derive important advantages from its
certainty, and that the moneys set apart for these purposes would be more judiciously
applied and economically expended under the direction of the State legislatures,
in which every part of each State is immediately represented, can not, I think,
be doubted. In the new States particularly, where a comparatively small population
is scattered over an extensive surface, and the representation in Congress consequently
very limited, it is natural to expect that the appropriations made by the Federal
Government would be more likely to be expended in the vicinity of those numbers
through whose immediate agency they were obtained than if the funds were placed
under the control of the legislature, in which every county of the State has
its own representative. This supposition does not necessarily impugn the motives
of such Congressional representatives, nor is it so intended. We are all sensible
of the bias to which the strongest minds and purest hearts are, under such circumstances,
liable. In respect to the last objection -- its probable effect upon the dignity
and independence of State governments -- it appears to me only necessary to
state the case as it is, and as it would be if the measure proposed were adopted,
to show that the operation is most likely to be the very reverse of that which
the objection supposes.
In the one case the State would receive its quota of the national revenue for
domestic use upon a fixed principle as a matter of right, and from a fund to
the creation of which it had itself contributed its fair proportion. Surely
there could be nothing derogatory in that. As matters now stand the States themselves,
in their sovereign character, are not unfrequently petitioners at the bar of
the Federal Legislature for such allowances out of the National Treasury as
it may comport with their pleasure or sense of duty to bestow upon them. It
can not require argument to prove which of the two courses is most compatible
with the efficiency or respectability of the State governments.
But all these are matters for discussion and dispassionate consideration. That
the desired adjustment would be attended with difficulty affords no reason why
it should not be attempted. The effective operation of such motives would have
prevented the adoption of the Constitution under which we have so long lived
and under the benign influence of which our beloved country has so signally
prospered. The framers of that sacred instrument had greater difficulties to
overcome, and they did overcome them. The patriotism of the people, directed
by a deep conviction of the importance of the Union, produced mutual concession
and reciprocal forbearance. Strict right was merged in a spirit of compromise,
and the result has consecrated their disinterested devotion to the general weal.
Unless the American people have degenerated, the same result can be again effected
when ever experience points out the necessity of a resort to the same means
to uphold the fabric which their fathers have reared.
It is beyond the power of man to make a system of government like ours or any
other operate with precise equality upon States situated like those which compose
this Confederacy; nor is inequality always injustice. Every State can not expect
to shape the measures of the General Government to suit its own particular interests.
The causes which prevent it are seated in the nature of things, and can not
be entirely counteracted by human means. Mutual forbearance becomes, therefore,
a duty obligatory upon all, and we may, I am confident, count upon a cheerful
compliance with this high injunction on the part of our constituents. It is
not to be supposed that they will object to make such comparatively inconsiderable
sacrifices for the preservation of rights and privileges which other less favored
portions of the world have in vain waded through seas of blood to acquire.
Our course is a safe one if it be but faithfully adhered to. Acquiescence in
the constitutionally expressed will of the majority, and the exercise of that
will in a spirit of moderation, justice, and brotherly kindness, will constitute
a cement which would for ever preserve our Union. Those who cherish and inculcate
sentiments like these render a most essential service to their country, while
those who seek to weaken their influence are, how ever conscientious and praise
worthy their intentions, in effect its worst enemies.
If the intelligence and influence of the country, instead of laboring to foment
sectional prejudices, to be made subservient to party warfare, were in good
faith applied to the eradication of causes of local discontent, by the improvement
of our institutions and by facilitating their adaptation to the condition of
the times, this task would prove 1 of less difficulty. May we not hope that
the obvious interests of our common country and the dictates of an enlightened
patriotism will in the end lead the public mind in that direction?
After all, the nature of the subject does not admit of a plan wholly free from
objection. That which has for some time been in operation is, perhaps, the worst
that could exist, and every advance that can be made in its improvement is a
matter eminently worthy of your most deliberate attention.
It is very possible that one better calculated to effect the objects in view
may yet be devised. If so, it is to be hoped that those who disapprove the past
and dissent from what is proposed for the future will feel it their duty to
direct their attention to it, as they must be sensible that unless some fixed
rule for the action of the Federal Government in this respect is established
the course now attempted to be arrested will be again resorted to. Any mode
which is calculated to give the greatest degree of effect and harmony to our
legislation upon the subject, which shall best serve to keep the movements of
the Federal Government within the sphere intended by those who modeled and those
who adopted it, which shall lead to the extinguishment of the national debt
in the shortest period and impose the lightest burthens upon our constituents,
shall receive from me a cordial and firm support.
Among the objects of great national concern I can not omit to press again upon
your attention that part of the Constitution which regulates the election of
President and Vice-President. The necessity for its amendment is made so clear
to my mind by observation of its evils and by the many able discussions which
they have elicited on the floor of Congress and elsewhere that I should be wanting
to my duty were I to withhold another expression of my deep solicitude on the
subject. Our system fortunately contemplates a recurrence to first principles,
differing in this respect from all that have preceded it, and securing it, I
trust, equally against the decay and the commotions which have marked the progress
of other governments.
Our fellow citizens, too, who in proportion to their love of liberty keep a
steady eye upon the means of sustaining it, do not require to be reminded of
the duty they owe to themselves to remedy all essential defects in so vital
a part of their system. While they are sensible that every evil attendant upon
its operation is not necessarily indicative of a bad organization, but may proceed
from temporary causes, yet the habitual presence, or even a single instance,
of evils which can be clearly traced to an organic defect will not, I trust,
be over-looked through a too scrupulous veneration for the work of their ancestors.
The Constitution was an experiment committed to the virtue and intelligence
of the great mass of our country-men, in whose ranks the framers of it themselves
were to perform the part of patriotic observation and scrutiny, and if they
have passed from the stage of existence with an increased confidence in its
general adaptation to our condition we should learn from authority so high the
duty of fortifying the points in it which time proves to be exposed rather than
be deterred from approaching them by the suggestions of fear or the dictates
of misplaced reverence.
A provision which does not secure to the people a direct choice of their Chief
Magistrate, but has a tendency to defeat their will, presented to my mind such
an inconsistence with the general spirit of our institutions that I was indeed
to suggest for your consideration the substitute which appeared to me at the
same time the most likely to correct the evil and to meet the views of our constituents.
The most mature reflection since has added strength to the belief that the best
interests of our country require the speedy adoption of some plan calculated
to effect this end. A contingency which some times places it in the power of
a single member of the House of Representatives to decide an election of so
high and solemn a character is unjust to the people, and becomes when it occurs
a source of embarrassment to the individuals thus brought into power and a cause
of distrust of the representative body.
Liable as the Confederacy is, from its great extent, to parties founded upon
sectional interests, and to a corresponding multiplication of candidates for
the Presidency, the tendency of the constitutional reference to the House of
Representatives is to devolve the election upon that body in almost every instance,
and, what ever choice may then be made among the candidates thus presented to
them, to swell the influence of particular interests to a degree inconsistent
with the general good. The consequences of this feature of the Constitution
appear far more threatening to the peace and integrity of the Union than any
which I can conceive as likely to result from the simple legislative action
of the Federal Government.
It was a leading object with the framers of the Constitution to keep as separate
as possible the action of the legislative and executive branches of the Government.
To secure this object nothing is more essential than to preserve the former
from all temptations of private interest, and therefore so to direct the patronage
of the latter as not to permit such temptations to be offered. Experience abundantly
demonstrates that every precaution in this respect is a valuable safe-guard
of liberty, and 1 which my reflections upon the tendencies of our system incline
me to think should be made still stronger.
It was for this reason that, in connection with an amendment of the Constitution
removing all intermediate agency in the choice of the President, I recommended
some restrictions upon the re-eligibility of that officer and upon the tenure
of offices generally. The reason still exists, and I renew the recommendation
with an increased confidence that its adoption will strengthen those checks
by which the Constitution designed to secure the independence of each department
of the Government and promote the healthful and equitable administration of
all the trusts which it has created.
The agent most likely to contravene this design of the Constitution is the
Chief Magistrate. In order, particularly, that his appointment may as far as
possible be placed beyond the reach of any improper influences; in order that
he may approach the solemn responsibilities of the highest office in the gift
of a free people uncommitted to any other course than the strict line of constitutional
duty, and that the securities for this independence may be rendered as strong
as the nature of power and the weakness of its possessor will admit, I can not
too earnestly invite your attention to the propriety of promoting such an amendment
of the Constitution as will render him ineligible after 1 term of service.
It gives me pleasure to announce to Congress that the benevolent policy of
the Government, steadily pursued for nearly 30 years, in relation to the removal
of the Indians beyond the white settlements is approaching to a happy consummation.
Two important tribes have accepted the provision made for their removal at the
last session of Congress, and it is believed that their example will induce
the remaining tribes also to seek the same obvious advantages.
The consequences of a speedy removal will be important to the United States,
to individual States, and to the Indians themselves. The pecuniary advantages
which it promises to the Government are the least of its recommendations. It
puts an end to all possible danger of collision between the authorities of the
General and State Governments on account of the Indians. It will place a dense
and civilized population in large tracts of country now occupied by a few savage
hunters. By opening the whole territory between Tennessee on the north and Louisiana
on the south to the settlement of the whites it will incalculably strengthen
the SW frontier and render the adjacent States strong enough to repel future
invasions without remote aid. It will relieve the whole State of Mississippi
and the western part of Alabama of Indian occupancy, and enable those States
to advance rapidly in population, wealth, and power. It will separate the Indians
from immediate contact with settlements of whites; free them from the power
of the States; enable them to pursue happiness in their own way and under their
own rude institutions; will retard the progress of decay, which is lessening
their numbers, and perhaps cause them gradually, under the protection of the
Government and through the influence of good counsels, to cast off their savage
habits and become an interesting, civilized, and Christian community. These
consequences, some of them so certain and the rest so probable, make the complete
execution of the plan sanctioned by Congress at their last session an object
of much solicitude.
Toward the aborigines of the country no one can indulge a more friendly feeling
than myself, or would go further in attempting to reclaim them from their wandering
habits and make them a happy, prosperous people. I have endeavored to impress
upon them my own solemn convictions of the duties and powers of the General
Government in relation to the State authorities. For the justice of the laws
passed by the States within the scope of their reserved powers they are not
responsible to this Government. As individuals we may entertain and express
our opinions of their acts, but as a Government we have as little right to control
them as we have to prescribe laws for other nations.
With a full understanding of the subject, the Choctaw and the Chickasaw tribes
have with great unanimity determined to avail themselves of the liberal offers
presented by the act of Congress, and have agreed to remove beyond the Mississippi
River. Treaties have been made with them, which in due season will be submitted
for consideration. In negotiating these treaties they were made to understand
their true condition, and they have preferred maintaining their independence
in the Western forests to submitting to the laws of the States in which they
now reside. These treaties, being probably the last which will ever be made
with them, are characterized by great liberality on the part of the Government.
They give the Indians a liberal sum in consideration of their removal, and comfortable
subsistence on their arrival at their new homes. If it be their real interest
to maintain a separate existence, they will there be at liberty to do so without
the inconveniences and vexations to which they would unavoidably have been subject
in Alabama and Mississippi.
Humanity has often wept over the fate of the aborigines of this country, and
Philanthropy has been long busily employed in devising means to avert it, but
its progress has never for a moment been arrested, and one by one have many
powerful tribes disappeared from the earth. To follow to the tomb the last of
his race and to tread on the graves of extinct nations excite melancholy reflections.
But true philanthropy reconciles the mind to these vicissitudes as it does to
the extinction of one generation to make room for another. In the monuments
and fortifications of an unknown people, spread over the extensive regions of
the West, we behold the memorials of a once powerful race, which was exterminated
of has disappeared to make room for the existing savage tribes. Nor is there
any thing in this which, upon a comprehensive view of the general interests
of the human race, is to be regretted. Philanthropy could not wish to see this
continent restored to the condition in which it was found by our forefathers.
What good man would prefer a country covered with forests and ranged by a few
thousand savages to our extensive Republic, studded with cities, towns, and
prosperous farms, embellished with all the improvements which art can devise
or industry execute, occupied by more than 12,000,000 happy people, and filled
with all the blessings of liberty, civilization, and religion?
The present policy of the Government is but a continuation of the same progressive
change by a milder process. The tribes which occupied the countries now constituting
the Eastern States were annihilated or have melted away to make room for the
whites. The waves of population and civilization are rolling to the westward,
and we now propose to acquire the countries occupied by the red men of the South
and West by a fair exchange, and, at the expense of the United States, to send
them to a land where their existence may be prolonged and perhaps made perpetual.
Doubtless it will be painful to leave the graves of their fathers; but what
do they more than our ancestors did or than our children are now doing? To better
their condition in an unknown land our forefathers left all that was dear in
earthly objects. Our children by thousands yearly leave the land of their birth
to seek new homes in distant regions. Does Humanity weep at these painful separations
from every thing, animate and inanimate, with which the young heart has become
entwined? Far from it. It is rather a source of joy that our country affords
scope where our young population may range unconstrained in body or in mind,
developing the power and faculties of man in their highest perfection.
These remove hundreds and almost thousands of miles at their own expense, purchase
the lands they occupy, and support themselves at their new homes from the moment
of their arrival. Can it be cruel in this Government when, by events which it
can not control, the Indian is made discontented in his ancient home to purchase
his lands, to give him a new and extensive territory, to pay the expense of
his removal, and support him a year in his new abode? How many thousands of
our own people would gladly embrace the opportunity of removing to the West
on such conditions! If the offers made to the Indians were extended to them,
they would be hailed with gratitude and joy.
And is it supposed that the wandering savage has a stronger attachment to his
home than the settled, civilized Christian? Is it more afflicting to him to
leave the graves of his fathers than it is to our brothers and children? Rightly
considered, the policy of the General Government toward the red man is not only
liberal, but generous. He is unwilling to submit to the laws of the States and
mingle with their population. To save him from this alternative, or perhaps
utter annihilation, the General Government kindly offers him a new home, and
proposes to pay the whole expense of his removal and settlement.
In the consummation of a policy originating at an early period, and steadily
pursued by every Administration within the present century -- so just to the
States and so generous to the Indians -- the Executive feels it has a right
to expect the cooperation of Congress and of all good and disinterested men.
The States, moreover, have a right to demand it. It was substantially a part
of the compact which made them members of our Confederacy. With Georgia there
is an express contract; with the new States an implied one of equal obligation.
Why, in authorizing Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Mississippi, and Alabama
to form constitutions and become separate States, did Congress include within
their limits extensive tracts of Indian lands, and, in some instances, powerful
Indian tribes? Was it not understood by both parties that the power of the States
was to be coextensive with their limits, and that with all convenient dispatch
the General Government should extinguish the Indian title and remove every obstruction
to the complete jurisdiction of the State governments over the soil? Probably
not one of those States would have accepted a separate existence -- certainly
it would never have been granted by Congress -- had it been understood that
they were to be confined for ever to those small portions of their nominal territory
the Indian title to which had at the time been extinguished.
It is, therefore, a duty which this Government owes to the new States to extinguish
as soon as possible the Indian title to all lands which Congress themselves
have included within their limits. When this is done the duties of the General
Government in relation to the States and the Indians within their limits are
at an end. The Indians may leave the State or not, as they choose. The purchase
of their lands does not alter in the least their personal relations with the
State government. No act of the General Government has ever been deemed necessary
to give the States jurisdiction over the persons of the Indians. That they possess
by virtue of their sovereign power within their own limits in as full a manner
before as after the purchase of the Indian lands; nor can this Government add
to or diminish it.
May we not hope, therefore, that all good citizens, and none more zealously
than those who think the Indians oppressed by subjection to the laws of the
States, will unite in attempting to open the eyes of those children of the forest
to their true condition, and by a speedy removal to relieve them from all the
evils, real or imaginary, present or prospective, with which they may be supposed
to be threatened.
Among the numerous causes of congratulation the condition of our impost revenue
deserves special mention, in as much as it promises the means of extinguishing
the public debt sooner than was anticipated, and furnishes a strong illustration
of the practical effects of the present tariff upon our commercial interests.
The object of the tariff is objected to by some as unconstitutional, and it
is considered by almost all as defective in many of its parts.
The power to impose duties on imports originally belonged to the several States.
The right to adjust those duties with a view to the encouragement of domestic
branches of industry is so completely incidental to that power that it is difficult
to suppose the existence of the one without the other. The States have delegated
their whole authority over imports to the General Government without limitation
or restriction, saving the very inconsiderable reservation relating to their
inspection laws. This authority having thus entirely passed from the States,
the right to exercise it for the purpose of protection does not exist in them,
and consequently if it be not possessed by the General Government it must be
extinct. Our political system would thus present the anomaly of a people stripped
of the right to foster their own industry and to counteract the most selfish
and destructive policy which might be adopted by foreign nations. This sure
can not be the case. This indispensable power thus surrendered by the States
must be within the scope of the authority on the subject expressly delegated
In this conclusion I am confirmed as well by the opinions of Presidents Washington,
Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe, who have each repeatedly recommended the exercise
of this right under the Constitution, as by the uniform practice of Congress,
the continued acquiescence of the States, and the general understanding of the
The difficulties of a more expedient adjustment of the present tariff, although
great, are far from being insurmountable. Some are unwilling to improve any
of its parts because they would destroy the whole; others fear to touch the
objectionable parts lest those they approve should be jeoparded. I am persuaded
that the advocates of these conflicting views do injustice to the American people
and to their representatives. The general interest is the interest of each,
and my confidence is entire that to insure the adoption of such modifications
of the tariff as the general interest requires it is only necessary that that
interest should be understood.
It is an infirmity of our nature to mingle our interests and prejudices with
the operation of our reasoning powers, and attribute to the objects of our likes
and dislikes qualities they do not possess and effects they can not produce.
The effects of the present tariff are doubtless over-rated, both in its evils
and in its advantages. By one class of reasoners the reduced price of cotton
and other agricultural products is ascribed wholly to its influence, and by
another the reduced price of manufactured articles.
The probability is that neither opinion approaches the truth, and that both
are induced by that influence of interests and prejudices to which I have referred.
The decrease of prices extends throughout the commercial world, embracing not
only the raw material and the manufactured article, but provisions and lands.
The cause must therefore be deeper and more pervading than the tariff of the
United States. It may in a measure be attributable to the increased value of
the precious metals, produced by a diminution of the supply and an increase
in the demand, while commerce has rapidly extended itself and population has
augmented. The supply of gold and silver, the general medium of exchange, has
been greatly interrupted by civil convulsions in the countries from which they
are principally drawn. A part of the effect, too, is doubtless owing to an increase
of operatives and improvements in machinery. But on the whole it is questionable
whether the reduction in the price of lands, produce, and manufactures has been
greater than the appreciation of the standard of value.
While the chief object of duties should be revenue, they may be so adjusted
as to encourage manufactures. In this adjustment, however, it is the duty of
the Government to be guided by the general good. Objects of national importance
alone ought to be protected. Of these the productions of our soil, our mines,
and our work shops, essential to national defense, occupy the first rank. What
ever other species of domestic industry, having the importance to which I have
referred, may be expected, after temporary protection, to compete with foreign
labor on equal terms merit the same attention in a subordinate degree.
The present tariff taxes some of the comforts of life unnecessarily high; it
undertakes to protect interests too local and minute to justify a general exaction,
and it also attempts to force some kinds of manufactures for which the country
is not ripe. Much relief will be derived in some of these respects from the
measures of your last session.
The best as well as fairest mode of determining whether from any just considerations
a particular interest ought to receive protection would be to submit the question
singly for deliberation. If after due examination of its merits, unconnected
with extraneous considerations -- such as a desire to sustain a general system
or to purchase support for a different interest -- it should enlist in its favor
a majority of the representatives of the people, there can be little danger
of wrong or injury in adjusting the tariff with reference to its protective
effect. If this obviously just principle were honestly adhered to, the branches
of industry which deserve protection would be saved from the prejudice excited
against them when that protection forms part of a system by which portions of
the country feel or conceive themselves to be oppressed. What is incalculably
more important, the vital principle of our system -- that principle which requires
acquiescence in the will of the majority -- would be secure from the discredit
and danger to which it is exposed by the acts of majorities founded not on identity
of conviction, but on combinations of small minorities entered into for the
purpose of mutual assistance in measures which, resting solely on their own
merits, could never be carried.
I am well aware that this is a subject of so much delicacy, on account of the
extended interests in involves, as to require that it should be touched with
the utmost caution, and that while an abandonment of the policy in which it
originated -- a policy coeval with our Government, and pursued through successive
Administrations -- is neither to be expected or desired, the people have a right
to demand, and have demanded, that it be so modified as to correct abuses and
That our deliberations on this interesting subject should be uninfluenced by
those partisan conflicts that are incident to free institutions is the fervent
wish of my heart. To make this great question, which unhappily so much divides
and excites the public mind, subservient to the short-sighted views of faction,
must destroy all hope of settling it satisfactorily to the great body of the
people and for the general interest. I can not, therefore, in taking leave of
the subject, too earnestly for my own feelings or the common good warn you against
the blighting consequences of such a course.
According to the estimates at the Treasury Department, the receipts in the
Treasury during the present year will amount to $24,161,018, which will exceed
by about $300K the estimate presented in the last annual report of the Secretary
of the Treasury. The total expenditure during the year, exclusive of public
debt, is estimated at $13,742,311, and the payment on account of public debt
for the same period will have been $11,354,630, leaving a balance in the Treasury
on [1831-01-01] of $4,819,781.
In connection with the condition of our finances, it affords me pleasure to
remark that judicious and efficient arrangements have been made by the Treasury
Department for securing the pecuniary responsibility of the public officers
and the more punctual payment of the public dues. The Revenue Cutter Service
has been organized and placed on a good footing, and aided by an increase of
inspectors at exposed points, and regulations adopted under the act of [1830-05],
for the inspection and appraisement of merchandise, has produced much improvement
in the execution of the laws and more security against the commission of frauds
upon the revenue. Abuses in the allowances for fishing bounties have also been
corrected, and a material saving in that branch of the service thereby effected.
In addition to these improvements the system of expenditure for sick sea men
belonging to the merchant service has been revised, and being rendered uniform
and economical the benefits of the fund applicable to this object have been
The prosperity of our country is also further evinced by the increased revenue
arising from the sale of public lands, as will appear from the report of the
Commissioner of the General Land Office and the documents accompanying it, which
are herewith transmitted. I beg leave to draw your attention to this report,
and to the propriety of making early appropriations for the objects which it
Your attention is again invited to the subjects connected with that portion
of the public interests intrusted to the War Department. Some of them were referred
to in my former message, and they are presented in detail in the report of the
Secretary of War herewith submitted. I refer you also to the report of that
officer for a knowledge of the state of the Army, fortifications, arsenals,
and Indian affairs, all of which it will be perceived have been guarded with
zealous attention and care. It is worthy of your consideration whether the armaments
necessary for the fortifications on our maritime frontier which are now or shortly
will be completed should not be in readiness sooner than the customary appropriations
will enable the Department to provide them. This precaution seems to be due
to the general system of fortification which has been sanctioned by Congress,
and is recommended by that maxim of wisdom which tells us in peace to prepare
I refer you to the report of the Secretary of the Navy for a highly satisfactory
account of the manner in which the concerns of that Department have been conducted
during the present year. Our position in relation to the most powerful nations
of the earth, and the present condition of Europe, admonish us to cherish this
arm of our national defense with peculiar care. Separated by wide seas from
all those Governments whose power we might have reason to dread, we have nothing
to apprehend from attempts at conquest. It is chiefly attacks upon our commerce
and harrassing in-roads upon our coast against which we have to guard. A naval
force adequate to the protection of our commerce, always afloat, with an accumulation
of the means to give it a rapid extension in case of need, furnishes the power
by which all such aggressions may be prevented or repelled. The attention of
the Government has therefore been recently directed more to preserving the public
vessels already built and providing materials to be placed in depot for future
use than to increasing their number. With the aid of Congress, in a few years
the Government will be prepared in case of emergency to put afloat a powerful
navy of new ships almost as soon as old ones could be repaired.
The modifications in this part of the service suggested in my last annual message,
which are noticed more in detail in the report of the Secretary of the Navy,
are again recommended to your serious attention.
The report of the PostMaster General in like manner exhibits a satisfactory
view of the important branch of the Government under his charge. In addition
to the benefits already secured by the operations of the Post Office Department,
considerable improvements within the present year have been made by an increase
in the accommodation afforded by stage coaches, and in the frequency and celerity
of the mail between some of the most important points of the Union.
Under the late contracts improvements have been provided for the southern section
of the country, and at the same time an annual saving made of upward of $72K.
Not with standing the excess of expenditure beyond the current receipts for
a few years past, necessarily incurred in the fulfillment of existing contracts
and in the additional expenses between the periods of contracting to meet the
demands created by the rapid growth and extension of our flourishing country,
yet the satisfactory assurance is given that the future revenue of the Department
will be sufficient to meets its extensive engagements. The system recently introduced
that subjects its receipts and disbursements to strict regulation has entirely
fulfilled its designs. It gives full assurance of the punctual transmission,
as well as the security of the funds of the Department. The efficiency and industry
of its officers and the ability and energy of contractors justify an increased
confidence in its continued prosperity.
The attention of Congress was called on a former occasion to the necessity
of such a modification in the office of Attorney General of the United States
as would render it more adequate to the wants of the public service. This resulted
in the establishment of the office of Solicitor of the Treasury, and the earliest
measures were taken to give effect to the provisions of the law which authorized
the appointment of that officer and defined his duties. But it is not believed
that this provision, however useful in itself, is calculated to supersede the
necessity of extending the duties and powers of the Attorney General's Office.
On the contrary, I am convinced that the public interest would be greatly promoted
by giving to that officer the general superintendence of the various law agents
of the Government, and of all law proceedings, whether civil or criminal, in
which the United States may be interested, allowing him at the same time such
compensation as would enable him to devote his undivided attention to the public
business. I think such a provision is alike due to the public and to the officer.
Occasions of reference from the different Executive Departments to the Attorney
General are of frequent occurrence, and the prompt decision of the questions
so referred tends much to facilitate the dispatch of business in those Departments.
The report of the Secretary of the Treasury hereto appended shows also a branch
of the public service not specifically intrusted to any officer which might
be advantageously committed to the Attorney General. But independently of those
considerations this office is now one of daily duty. It was originally organized
and its compensation fixed with a view to occasional service, leaving to the
incumbent time for the exercise of his profession in private practice. The state
of things which warranted such an organization no longer exists. The frequent
claims upon the services of this officer would render his absence from the seat
of Government in professional attendance upon the courts injurious to the public
service, and the interests of the Government could not fail to be promoted by
charging him with the general superintendence of all its legal concerns.
Under a strong conviction of the justness of these suggestions, I recommend
it to Congress to make the necessary provisions for giving effect to them, and
to place the Attorney General in regard to compensation on the same footing
with the heads of the several Executive Departments. To this officer might also
be intrusted a cognizance of the cases of insolvency in public debtors, especially
if the views which I submitted on this subject last year should meet the approbation
of Congress -- to which I again solicit your attention.
Your attention is respectfully invited to the situation of the District of
Columbia. Placed by the Constitution under the exclusive jurisdiction and control
of Congress, this District is certainly entitled to a much greater share of
its consideration than it has yet received. There is a want of uniformity in
its laws, particularly in those of a penal character, which increases the expense
of their administration and subjects the people to all the inconveniences which
result from the operation of different codes in so small a territory. On different
sides of the Potomac the same offense is punishable in unequal degrees, and
the peculiarities of many of the early laws of MD and VA remain in force, not
with standing their repugnance in some cases to the improvements which have
superseded them in those States.
Besides a remedy for these evils, which is loudly called for, it is respectfully
submitted whether a provision authorizing the election of a delegate to represent
the wants of the citizens of this District on the floor of Congress is not due
to them and to the character of our Government. No principles of freedom, and
there is none more important than that which cultivates a proper relation between
the governors and the governed. Imperfect as this must be in this case, yet
it is believed that it would be greatly improved by a representation in Congress
with the same privileges that are allowed to the other Territories of the United
The penitentiary is ready for the reception of convicts, and only awaits the
necessary legislation to put it into operation, as one object of which I beg
leave to recall your attention to the propriety of providing suitable compensation
for the officers charged with its inspection.
The importance of the principles involved in the inquiry whether it will be
proper to recharter the Bank of the United States requires that I should again
call the attention of Congress to the subject. Nothing has occurred to lessen
in any degree the dangers which many of our citizens apprehend from that institution
as at present organized. In the spirit of improvement and compromise which distinguishes
our country and its institutions it becomes us to inquire whether it be not
possible to secure the advantages afforded by the present bank through the agency
of a Bank of the United States so modified in its principles and structures
as to obviate constitutional and other objections.
It is thought practicable to organize such a bank with the necessary officers
as a branch of the Treasury Department, based on the public and individual deposits,
without power to make loans or purchase property, which shall remit the funds
of the Government, and the expense of which may be paid, if thought advisable,
by allowing its officers to sell bills of exchange to private individuals at
a moderate premium. Not being a corporate body, having no stock holders, debtors,
or property, and but few officers, it would not be obnoxious to the constitutional
objections which are urged against the present bank; and having no means to
operate on the hopes, fears, or interests of large masses of the community,
it would be shorn of the influence which makes that bank formidable. The States
would be strengthened by having in their hands the means of furnishing the local
paper currency through their own banks, while the Bank of the United States,
though issuing no paper, would check the issues of the State banks by taking
their notes in deposit and for exchange only so long as they continue to be
redeemed with specie. In times of public emergency the capacities of such an
institution might be enlarged by legislative provisions.
These suggestions are made not so much as a recommendation as with a view of
calling the attention of Congress to the possible modifications of a system
which can not continue to exist in its present form without occasional collisions
with the local authorities and perpetual apprehensions and discontent on the
part of the States and the people.
In conclusion, fellow citizens, allow me to invoke in behalf of your deliberations
that spirit of conciliation and disinterestedness which is the gift of patriotism.
Under an over-ruling and merciful Providence the agency of this spirit has thus
far been signalized in the prosperity and glory of our beloved country. May
its influence be eternal.