1832 State of the Union Address
December 4, 1832
Fellow Citizens of the Senate and of the House of Representatives:
It gives me pleasure to congratulate you upon your return to the seat of Government
for the purpose of discharging your duties to the people of the United States.
Although the pestilence which had traversed the Old World has entered our limits
and extended its ravages over much of our land, it has pleased Almighty God
to mitigate its severity and lessen the number of its victims compared with
those who have fallen in most other countries over which it has spread its terrors.
Not with standing this visitation, our country presents on every side marks
of prosperity and happiness unequaled, perhaps, in any other portion of the
world. If we fully appreciate our comparative condition, existing causes of
discontent will appear unworthy of attention, and, with hearts of thankfulness
to that divine Being who has filled our cup of prosperity, we shall feel our
resolution strengthened to preserve and hand down to our posterity that liberty
and that union which we have received from our fathers, and which constitute
the sources and the shield of all our blessings.
The relations of our country continue to present the same picture of amicable
intercourse that I had the satisfaction to hold up to your view at the opening
of your last session. The same friendly professions, the same desire to participate
in our flourishing commerce, the same dispositions, evinced by all nations with
whom we have any intercourse. This desirable state of things may be mainly ascribed
to our undeviating practice of the rule which has long guided our national policy,
to require no exclusive privileges in commerce and to grant none. It is daily
producing its beneficial effect in the respect shown to our flag, the protection
of our citizens and their property abroad, and in the increase of our navigation
and the extension of our mercantile operations. The returns which have been
made out since we last met will show an increase during the last preceding year
of more than 80K tons in our shipping and of near $40,000,000 in the aggregate
of our imports and exports.
Nor have we less reason to felicitate ourselves on the position of our political
than of our commercial concerns. They remain in the state in which they were
when I last addressed you -- a state of prosperity and peace, the effect of
a wise attention to the parting advice of the revered Father of his Country
on this subject, condensed into a maxim for the use of posterity by one of his
most distinguished successors -- to cultivate free commerce and honest friendship
with all nations, but to make entangling alliances with none. A strict adherence
to this policy has kept us aloof from the perplexing questions that now agitate
the European world and have more than once deluged those countries with blood.
Should those scenes unfortunately recur, the parties to the contest may count
on a faithful performance of the duties incumbent on us as a neutral nation,
and our own citizens may equally rely on the firm assertion of their neutral
With the nation that was our earliest friend and ally in the infancy of our
political existence the most friendly relations have subsisted through the late
revolutions of its Government, and, from the events of the last, promise a permanent
duration. It has made an approximation in some of its political institutions
to our own, and raised a monarch to the throne who preserves, it is said, a
friendly recollection of the period during which he acquired among our citizens
the high consideration that could then have been produced by his personal qualifications
Our commerce with that nation is gradually assuming a mutually beneficial character,
and the adjustment of the claims of our citizens has removed the only obstacle
there was to an intercourse not only lucrative, but productive of literary and
From Great Britain I have the satisfaction to inform you that I continue to
receive assurances of the most amicable disposition, which have on my part on
all proper occasions been promptly and sincerely reciprocated. The attention
of that Government has latterly been so much engrossed by matters of a deeply
interesting domestic character that we could not press upon it the renewal of
negotiations which had been unfortunately broken off by the unexpected recall
of our minister, who had commenced them with some hopes of success. My great
object was the settlement of questions which, though now dormant, might here-after
be revived under circumstances that would endanger the good understanding which
it is the interest of both parties to preserve inviolate, cemented as it is
by a community of language, manners, and social habits, and by the high obligations
we owe to our British ancestors for many of our most valuable institutions and
for that system of representative government which has enabled us to preserve
and improve them.
The question of our North-East boundary still remains unsettled. In my last
annual message I explained to you the situation in which I found that business
on my coming into office, and the measures I thought it my duty to pursue for
asserting the rights of the United States before the sovereign who had been
chosen by my predecessor to determine the question, and also the manner in which
he had disposed of it. A special message to the Senate in their executive capacity
afterwards brought before them to the question whether they would advise a submission
to the opinion of the sovereign arbiter. That body having considered the award
as not obligatory and advised me to open a further negotiation, the proposition
was immediately made to the British Government, but the circumstances to which
I have alluded have hitherto prevented any answer being given to the overture.
Early attention, however, has been promised to the subject, and every effort
on my part will be made for a satisfactory settlement of this question, interesting
to the Union generally, and particularly so to one of its members.
The claims of our citizens on Spain are not yet acknowledged. On a closer investigation
of them than appears to have heretofore taken place it was discovered that some
of these demands, however strong they might be upon the equity of that Government,
were not such as could be made the subject of national interference; and faithful
to the principle of asking nothing but what was clearly right, additional instructions
have been sent to modify our demands so as to embrace those only on which, according
to the laws of nations, we had a strict right to insist. An inevitable delay
in procuring the documents necessary for this review of the merits of these
claims retarded this operation until an unfortunate malady which has afflicted
His Catholic Majesty prevented an examination of them. Being now for the first
time presented in an unexceptionable form, it is confidently hoped that the
application will be successful.
I have the satisfaction to inform you that the application I directed to be
made for the delivery of a part of the archives of Florida, which had been carried
to The Havannah, has produced a royal order for their delivery, and that measures
have been taken to procure its execution.
By the report of the Secretary of State communicated to you on [1832-06-25]
you were informed of the conditional reduction obtained by the minister of the
United States at Madrid of the duties on tonnage levied on American shipping
in the ports of Spain. The condition of that reduction having been complied
with on our part by the act passed [1832-07-13], I have the satisfaction to
inform you that our ships now pay no higher nor other duties in the continental
ports of Spain than are levied on their national vessels.
The demands against Portugal for illegal captures in the blockade of Terceira
have been allowed to the full amount of the accounts presented by the claimants,
and payment was promised to be made in three installments. The first of these
has been paid; the second, although due, had not at the date of our last advices
been received, owing, it was alleged, to embarrassments in the finances consequent
on the civil war in which that nation is engaged.
The payments stipulated by the convention with Denmark have been punctually
made, and the amount is ready for distribution among the claimants as soon as
the board, now sitting, shall have performed their functions.
I regret that by the last advices from our chargé d'affaires at Naples
that Government had still delayed the satisfaction due to our citizens, but
at that date the effect of the last instructions was not known. Dispatches from
thence are hourly expected, and the result will be communicated to you without
With the rest of Europe our relations, political and commercial, remain unchanged.
Negotiations are going on to put on a permanent basis the liberal system of
commerce now carried on between us and the Empire of Russia. The treaty concluded
with Austria is executed by His Imperial Majesty with the most perfect good
faith, and as we have no diplomatic agent at his Court he personally inquired
into and corrected a proceeding of some of his subaltern officers to the injury
of our consul in one of his ports.
Our treaty with the Sublime Porte is producing its expected effects on our
commerce. New markets are opening for our commodities and a more extensive range
for the employment of our ships. A slight augmentation of the duties on our
commerce, inconsistent with the spirit of the treaty, had been imposed, but
on the representation of our chargé d'affaires it has been promptly withdrawn,
and we now enjoy the trade and navigation of the Black Sea and of all the ports
belonging to the Turkish Empire and Asia on the most perfect equality with all
I wish earnestly that in announcing to you the continuance of friendship and
the increase of a profitable commercial intercourse with Mexico, with Central
America, and the States of the South I could accompany it with the assurance
that they all are blessed with that internal tranquillity and foreign peace
which their heroic devotion to the cause of their independence merits. In Mexico
a sanguinary struggle is now carried on, which has caused some embarrassment
to our commerce, but both parties profess the most friendly disposition toward
us. To the termination of this contest we look for the establishment of that
secure intercourse so necessary to nations whose territories are contiguous.
How important it will be to us we may calculate from the fact that even in this
unfavorable state of things our maritime commerce has increased, and an internal
trade by caravans from St. Louis to Santa Fe, under the protection of escorts
furnished by the Government, is carried on to great advantage and is daily increasing.
The agents provided for by the treaty, with this power to designate the boundaries
which it established, have been named on our part, but one of the evils of the
civil war now raging there has been that the appointment of those with whom
they were to cooperate has not yet been announced to us.
The Government of Central America has expelled from its territory the party
which some time since disturbed its peace. Desirous of fostering a favorable
disposition toward us, which has on more than one occasion been evinced by this
interesting country, I made a second attempt in this year to establish a diplomatic
intercourse with them; but the death of the distinguished citizen whom I had
appointed for that purpose has retarded the execution of measures from which
I hoped much advantage to our commerce. The union of the three States which
formed the Republic of Colombia has been dissolved, but they all, it is believed,
consider themselves as separately bound by the treaty which was made in their
federal capacity. The minister accredited to the federation continues in that
character near the Government of New Grenada, and hopes were entertained that
a new union would be formed between the separate States, at least for the purposes
of foreign intercourse. Our minister has been instructed to use his good offices,
when ever they shall be desired, to produce the reunion so much to be wished
for, the domestic tranquillity of the parties, and the security and facility
of foreign commerce.
Some agitations naturally attendant on an infant reign have prevailed in the
Empire of Brazil, which have had the usual effect upon commercial operations,
and while they suspended the consideration of claims created on similar occasions,
they have given rise to new complaints on the part of our citizens. A proper
consideration for calamities and difficulties of this nature has made us less
urgent and peremptory in our demands for justice than duty to our fellow citizens
would under other circumstances have required. But their claims are not neglected,
and will on all proper occasions be urged, and it is hoped with effect.
I refrain from making any communication on the subject of our affairs with
Buenos Ayres, because the negotiation communicated to you in my last annual
message was at the date of our last advices still pending and in a state that
would render a publication of the details inexpedient.
A treaty of amity and commerce has been formed with the Republic of Chili,
which, if approved by the Senate, will be laid before you. That Government seems
to be established, and at peace with its neighbors; and its ports being the
resorts of our ships which are employed in the highly important trade of the
fisheries, this commercial convention can not but be of great advantage to our
fellow citizens engaged in that perilous but profitable business.
Our commerce with the neighboring State of Peru, owing to the onerous duties
levied on our principal articles of export, has been on the decline, and all
endeavors to procure an alteration have hitherto proved fruitless. With Bolivia
we have yet no diplomatic intercourse, and the continual contests carried on
between it and Peru have made me defer until a more favorable period the appointment
of any agent for that purpose.
An act of atrocious piracy having been committed on one of our trading ships
by the inhabitants of a settlement on the west coast of Sumatra, a frigate was
dispatched with orders to demand satisfaction for the injury if those who committed
it should be found to be members of a regular government, capable of maintaining
the usual relations with foreign nations; but if, as it was supposed and as
they proved to be, they were a band of lawless pirates, to inflict such a chastisement
as would deter them and others from like aggressions. This last was done, and
the effect has been an increased respect for our flag in those distant seas
and additional security for our commerce.
In the view I have given of our connection with foreign powers allusions have
been made to their domestic disturbances or foreign wars, to their revolutions
or dissensions. It may be proper to observe that this is done solely in cases
where those events affect our political relations with them, or to show their
operation on our commerce. Further than this it is neither our policy nor our
right to interfere. Our best wishes on all occasions, our good offices when
required, will be afforded to promote the domestic tranquillity and foreign
peace of all nations with whom we have any intercourse. Any intervention in
their affairs further than this, even by the expression of an official opinion,
is contrary to our principles of international policy, and will always be avoided.
The report which the Secretary of the Treasury will in due time lay before
you will exhibit the national finances in a highly prosperous state. Owing to
the continued success of our commercial enterprise, which has enabled the merchants
to fulfill their engagements with the Government, the receipts from customs
during the year will exceed the estimate presented at the last session, and
with the other means of the Treasury will prove fully adequate not only to meet
the increased expenditures resulting from the large appropriations made by Congress,
but to provide for the payment of all the public debt which is at present redeemable.
It is now estimated that the customs will yield to the Treasury during the
present year upward of $28,000,000. The public lands, however, have proved less
productive than was anticipated, and according to present information will not
much exceed $2,000,000. The expenditures for all objects other than the public
debt are estimated to amount during the year to about $16,500,000, while a still
larger sum, viz, $18,000,000, will have been applied to the principal and interest
of the public debt.
It is expected, however, that in consequence of the reduced rates of duty which
will take effect after [1833-03-03] there will be a considerable falling off
in the revenue from customs in the year 1833. It will never the less be amply
sufficient to provide for all the wants of the public service, estimated even
upon a liberal scale, and for the redemption and purchase of the remainder of
the public debt. On [1833-01-01] the entire public debt of the United States,
funded and unfunded, will be reduced to within a fraction of $7,000,000, of
which $2,227,363 are not of right redeemable until [1834-01-01] and $4,735,296
not until [1835-01-02]. The commissioners of the sinking funds, however, being
invested with full authority to purchase the debt at the market price, and the
means of the Treasury being ample, it may be hoped that the whole will be extinguished
within the year 1833.
I can not too cordially congratulate Congress and my fellow citizens on the
near approach of that memorable and happy event -- the extinction of the public
debt of this great and free nation.
Faithful to the wise and patriotic policy marked out by the legislation of
the country for this object, the present Administration has devoted to it all
the means which a flourishing commerce has supplied and a prudent economy preserved
for the public Treasury. Within the four years for which the people have confided
the Executive power to my charge $58,000,000 will have been applied to the payment
of the public debt. That this has been accomplished without stinting the expenditures
for all other proper objects will be seen by referring to the liberal provision
made during the same period for the support and increase of our means of maritime
and military defense, for internal improvements of a national character, for
the removal and preservation of the Indians, and, lastly, for the gallant veterans
of the Revolution.
The final removal of this great burthen from our resources affords the means
of further provision for all the objects of general welfare and public defense
which the Constitution authorizes, and presents the occasion for such further
reductions in the revenue as may not be required for them. From the report of
the Secretary of the Treasury it will be seen that after the present year such
a reduction may be made to a considerable extent, and the subject is earnestly
recommended to the consideration of Congress in the hope that the combined wisdom
of the representatives of the people will devise such means of effecting that
salutary object as may remove those burthens which shall be found to fall unequally
upon any and as may promote all the great interests of the community.
Long and patient reflection has strengthened the opinions I have heretofore
expressed to Congress on this subject, and I deem it my duty on the present
occasion again to urge them upon the attention of the Legislature. The soundest
maxims of public policy and the principals upon which our republican institutions
are founded recommend a proper adaptation of the revenue to the expenditure,
and they also require that the expenditure shall be limited to what, by an economical
administration, shall be consistent with the simplicity of the Government and
necessary to an efficient public service.
In effecting this adjustment it is due, in justice to the interests of the
different States, and even to the preservation of the Union itself, that the
protection afforded by existing laws to any branches of the national industry
should not exceed what may be necessary to counteract the regulations of foreign
nations and to secure a supply of those articles of manufacture essential to
the national independence and safety in time of war. If upon investigation it
shall be found, as it is believed it will be, that the legislative protection
granted to any particular interest is greater than is indispensably requisite
for these objects, I recommend that it be gradually diminished, and that as
far as may be consistent with these objects the whole scheme of duties be reduced
to the revenue standard as soon as a just regard to the faith of the Government
and to the preservation of the large capital invested in establishments of domestic
industry will permit.
That manufactures adequate to the supply of our domestic consumption would
in the abstract be beneficial to our country there is no reason to doubt, and
to effect their establishment there is perhaps no American citizen who would
not for a while be willing to pay a higher price for them. But for this purpose
it is presumed that a tariff of high duties, designed for perpetual protection,
which they maintain has the effect to reduce the price by domestic competition
below that of the foreign article. Experience, however, our best guide on this
as on other subjects, makes it doubtful whether the advantages of this system
are not counter-balanced by many evils, and whether it does not tend to beget
in the minds of a large portion of our country-men a spirit of discontent and
jealousy dangerous to the stability of the Union.
What, then, shall be done? Large interests have grown up under the implied
pledge of our national legislation, which it would seem a violation of public
faith suddenly to abandon. Nothing could justify it but the public safety, which
is the supreme law. But those who have vested their capital in manufacturing
establishments can not expect that the people will continue permanently to pay
high taxes for their benefit, when the money is not required for any legitimate
purpose in the administration of the Government. Is it not enough that the high
duties have been paid as long as the money arising from them could be applied
to the common benefit in the extinguishment of the public debt?
Those who take an enlarged view of the condition of our country must be satisfied
that the policy of protection must be ultimately limited to those articles of
domestic manufacture which are indispensable to our safety in time of war. Within
this scope, on a reasonable scale, it is recommended by every consideration
of patriotism and duty, which will doubtless always secure to it a liberal and
efficient support. But beyond this object we have already seen the operation
of the system productive of discontent. In some sections of the Republic its
influence is deprecated as tending to concentrate wealth into a few hands, and
as creating those germs of dependence and vice which in other countries have
characterized the existence of monopolies and proved so destructive of liberty
and the general good. A large portion of the people in one section of the Republic
declares it not only inexpedient on these grounds, but as disturbing the equal
relations of property by legislation, and therefore unconstitutional and unjust.
Doubtless these effects are in a great degree exaggerated, and may be ascribed
to a mistaken view of the considerations which led to the adoption of the tariff
system; but they are never the less important in enabling us to review the subject
with a more thorough knowledge of all its bearings upon the great interests
of the Republic, and with a determination to dispose of it so that none can
with justice complain.
It is my painful duty to state that in one quarter of the United States opposition
to the revenue laws has arisen to a height which threatens to thwart their execution,
if not to endanger the integrity of the Union. What ever obstructions may be
thrown in the way of the judicial authorities of the General Government, it
is hoped they will be able peaceably to overcome them by the prudence of their
own officers and the patriotism of the people. But should this reasonable reliance
on the moderation and good sense of all portions of our fellow citizens be disappointed,
it is believed that the laws themselves are fully adequate to the suppression
of such attempts as may be immediately made. Should the exigency arise rendering
the execution of the existing laws impracticable from any cause what ever, prompt
notice of it will be given to Congress, with a suggestion of such views and
measures as may be deemed necessary to meet it.
In conformity with principles heretofore explained, and with the hope of reducing
the General Government to that simple machine which the Constitution created
and of withdrawing from the States all other influence than that of its universal
beneficence in preserving peace, affording an uniform currency, maintaining
the inviolability of contracts, diffusing intelligence, and discharging unfelt
its other super-intending functions, I recommend that provision be made to dispose
of all stocks now held by it in corporations, whether created by the General
or State Governments, and placing the proceeds in the Treasury. As a source
of profit these stocks are of little or no value; as a means of influence among
the States they are adverse to the purity of our institutions. The whole principle
on which they are based is deemed by many unconstitutional, and to persist in
the policy which they indicate is considered wholly inexpedient.
It is my duty to acquaint you with an arrangement made by the Bank of the United
States with a portion of the holders of the 3% stock, by which the Government
will be deprived of the use of the public funds longer than was anticipated.
By this arrangement, which will be particularly explained by the Secretary of
the Treasury, a surrender of the certificates of this stock may be postponed
until [1833 October], and thus may be continued by the failure of the bank to
perform its duties.
Such measures as are within the reach of the Secretary of the Treasury have
been taken to enable him to judge whether the public deposits in that institution
may be regarded as entirely safe; but as his limited power may prove inadequate
to this object, I recommend the subject to the attention of Congress, under
the firm belief that it is worthy of their serious investigation. An inquiry
into the transactions of the institution, embracing the branches as well as
the principal bank, seems called for by the credit which is given throughout
the country to many serious charges impeaching its character, and which if true
may justly excite the apprehension that it is no longer a safe depository of
the money of the people.
Among the interests which merit the consideration of Congress after the payment
of the public debt, one of the most important, in my view, is that of the public
lands. Previous to the formation of our present Constitution it was recommended
by Congress that a portion of the waste lands owned by the States should be
ceded to the United States for the purposes of general harmony and as a fund
to meet the expenses of the war. The recommendation was adopted, and at different
periods of time the States of Massachusetts, New York, Virginia, North and South
Carolina, and Georgia granted their vacant soil for the uses for which they
had been asked. As the lands may now be considered as relieved from this pledge,
it is in the discretion of Congress to dispose of them in such way as best to
conduce to the quiet, harmony, and general interest of the American people.
In examining this question all local and sectional feelings should be discarded
and the whole United States regarded as one people, interested alike in the
prosperity of their common country.
It can not be doubted that the speedy settlement of these lands constitutes
the true interest of the Republic. The wealth and strength of a country are
its population, and the best part of that population are cultivators of the
soil. Independent farmers are every where the basis of society and true friends
In addition to these considerations questions have already arisen, and may
be expected hereafter to grow out of the public lands, which involve the rights
of the new States and the powers of the General Government, and unless a liberal
policy be now adopted there is danger that these questions may speedily assume
an importance not now generally anticipated. The influence of a great sectional
interest, when brought into full action, will be found more dangerous to the
harmony and union of the States than any other cause of discontent, and it is
the part of wisdom and sound policy to foresee its approaches and endeavor if
possible to counteract them.
Of the various schemes which have been hitherto proposed in regard to the disposal
of the public lands, none has yet received the entire approbation of the National
Legislature. Deeply impressed with the importance of a speedy and satisfactory
arrangement of the subject, I deem it my duty on this occasion to urge it upon
your consideration, and to the propositions which have been heretofore suggested
by others to contribute those reflections which have occurred to me, in the
hope that they may assist you in your future deliberations.
It seems to me to be our policy that the public lands shall cease as soon as
practicable to be a source of revenue, and that they be sold to settlers in
limited parcels at a price barely sufficient to reimburse to the United States
the expense of the present system and the cost arising under our Indian compacts.
The advantages of accurate surveys and undoubted titles now secured to purchasers
seem to forbid the abolition of the present system, because none can be substituted
which will more perfectly accomplish these important ends. It is desirable,
however, that in convenient time this machinery be withdrawn from the States,
and that the right of soil and the future disposition of it be surrendered to
the States respectively in which it lies.
The adventurous and hardy population of the West, besides contributing their
equal share of taxation under our impost system, have in the progress of our
Government, for the lands they occupy, paid into the Treasury a large proportion
of $40,000,000, and of the revenue received therefrom but a small part has been
expended among them. When to the disadvantage of their situation in this respect
we add the consideration that it is their labor alone which gives real value
to the lands, and that the proceeds arising from their sale are distributed
chiefly among States which had not originally any claim to them, and which have
enjoyed the undivided emolument arising from the sale of their own lands, it
can not be expected that the new States will remain longer contented with the
present policy after the payment of the public debt. To avert the consequences
which may be apprehended from this cause, to pub an end for ever to all partial
and interested legislation on the subject, and to afford to every American citizen
of enterprise the opportunity of securing an independent freehold, it seems
to me, therefore, best to abandon the idea of raising a future revenue out of
the public lands.
In former messages I have expressed my conviction that the Constitution does
not warrant the application of the funds of the General Government to objects
of internal improvement which are not national in their character, and, both
as a means of doing justice to all interests and putting an end to a course
of legislation calculated to destroy the purity of the Government, have urged
the necessity of reducing the whole subject to some fixed and certain rule.
As there never will occur a period, perhaps, more propitious than the present
to the accomplishment of this object, I beg leave to press the subject again
upon your attention.
Without some general and well-defined principles ascertaining those objects
of internal improvement to which the means of the nation may be constitutionally
applied, it is obvious that the exercise of the power can never be satisfactory.
Besides the danger to which it exposes Congress of making hasty appropriations
to works of the character of which they may be frequently ignorant, it promotes
a mischievous and corrupting influence upon elections by holding out to the
people the fallacious hope that the success of a certain candidate will make
navigable their neighboring creek or river, bring commerce to their doors, and
increase the value of their property. It thus favors combinations to squander
the treasure of the country upon a multitude of local objects, as fatal to just
legislation as to the purity of public men.
If a system compatible with the Constitution can not be devised which is free
from such tendencies, we should recollect that that instrument provides within
itself the mode of its amendment, and that there is, therefore, no excuse for
the assumption of doubtful powers by the General Government. If those which
are clearly granted shall be found incompetent to the ends of its creation,
it can at any time apply for their enlargement; and there is no probability
that such an application, if founded on the public interest, will ever be refused.
If the propriety of the proposed grant be not sufficiently apparent to command
the assent of 3/4 of the States, the best possible reason why the power should
not be assumed on doubtful authority is afforded; for if more than one quarter
of the States are unwilling to make the grant its exercise will be productive
of discontents which will far over-balance any advantages that could be derived
from it. All must admit that there is nothing so worthy of the constant solicitude
of this Government as the harmony and union of the people.
Being solemnly impressed with the conviction that the extension of the power
to make internal improvements beyond the limit I have suggested, even if it
be deemed constitutional, is subversive of the best interests of our country,
I earnestly recommend to Congress to refrain from its exercise in doubtful cases,
except in relation to improvements already begun, unless they shall first procure
from the States such an amendment of the Constitution as will define its character
and prescribe its bounds. If the States feel themselves competent to these objects,
why should this Government wish to assume the power? If they do not, then they
will not hesitate to make the grant. Both Governments are the Governments of
the people; improvements must be made with the money of the people, and if the
money can be collected and applied by those more simple and economical political
machines, the State governments, it will unquestionably be safer and better
for the people than to add to the splendor, the patronage, and the power of
the General Government. But if the people of the several States think otherwise
they will amend the Constitution, and in their decision all ought cheerfully
For a detailed and highly satisfactory view of the operations of the War Department
I refer you to the accompanying report of the Secretary of War.
The hostile incursions of the Sac and Fox Indians necessarily led to the interposition
of the Government. A portion of the troops, under Generals Scott and Atkinson,
and of the militia of the State of Illinois were called into the field. After
a harassing warfare, prolonged by the nature of the country and by the difficulty
of procuring subsistence, the Indians were entirely defeated, and the disaffected
band dispersed or destroyed. The result has been creditable to the troops engaged
in the service. Severe as is the lesson to the Indians, it was rendered necessary
by their unprovoked aggressions, and it is to be hoped that its impression will
be permanent and salutary.
This campaign has evinced the efficient organization of the Army and its capacity
for prompt and active service. Its several departments have performed their
functions with energy and dispatch, and the general movement was satisfactory.
Our fellow citizens upon the frontiers were ready, as they always are, in the
tender of their services in the hour of danger. But a more efficient organization
of our militia system is essential to that security which is one of the principal
objects of all governments. Neither our situation nor our institutions require
or permit the maintenance of a large regular force. History offers too many
lessons of the fatal result of such a measure not to warn us against its adoption
here. The expense which attends it, the obvious tendency to employ it because
it exists and thus to engage in unnecessary wars, and its ultimate danger to
public liberty will lead us, I trust, to place our principal dependence for
protection upon the great body of the citizens of the Republic. If in asserting
rights or in repelling wrongs war should come upon us, our regular force should
be increased to an extent proportional to the emergency, and our present small
Army is a nucleus around which such force could be formed and embodied. But
for the purposes of defense under ordinary circumstances we must rely upon the
electors of the country. Those by whom and for whom the Government was instituted
and is supported will constitute its protection in the hour of danger as they
do its check in the hour of safety.
But it is obvious that the militia system is imperfect. Much time is lost,
much unnecessary expense incurred, and much public property wasted under the
present arrangement. Little useful knowledge is gained by the musters and drills
as now established, and the whole subject evidently requires a thorough examination.
Whether a plan of classification remedying these defects and providing for a
system of instruction might not be adopted is submitted to the consideration
of Congress. The Constitution has vested in the General Government an independent
authority upon the subject of the militia which renders its action essential
to the establishment or improvement of the system, and I recommend the matter
to your consideration in the conviction that the state of this important arm
of the public defense requires your attention.
I am happy to inform you that the wise and humane policy of transferring from
the eastern to the western side of the Mississippi the remnants of our aboriginal
tribes, with their own consent and upon just terms, has been steadily pursued,
and is approaching, I trust, its consummation. By reference to the report of
the Secretary of War and to the documents submitted with it you will see the
progress which has been made since your last session in the arrangement of the
various matters connected with our Indian relations. With one exception every
subject involving any question of conflicting jurisdiction or of peculiar difficulty
has been happily disposed of, and the conviction evidently gains ground among
the Indians that their removal to the country assigned by the United States
for their permanent residence furnishes the only hope of their ultimate prosperity.
With that portion of the Cherokees, however, living within the State of Georgia
it has been found impracticable as yet to make a satisfactory adjustment. Such
was my anxiety to remove all the grounds of complaint and to bring to a termination
the difficulties in which they are involved that I directed the very liberal
propositions to be made to them which accompany the documents herewith submitted.
They can not but have seen in these offers the evidence of the strongest disposition
on the part of the Government to deal justly and liberally with them. An ample
indemnity was offered for their present possessions, a liberal provision for
their future support and improvement, and full security for their private and
political rights. What ever difference of opinion may have prevailed respecting
the just claims of these people, there will probably be none respecting the
liberality of the propositions, and very little respecting the expediency of
their immediate acceptance. They were, however, rejected, and thus the position
of these Indians remains unchanged, as do the views communicated in my message
to the Senate of [1831-02-22].
I refer you to the annual report of the Secretary of the Navy, which accompanies
this message, for a detail of the operations of that branch of the service during
the present year.
Besides the general remarks on some of the transactions of our Navy presented
in the view which has been taken of our foreign relations, I seize this occasion
to invite to your notice the increased protection which it has afforded to our
commerce and citizens on distant seas without any augmentation of the force
in commission. In the gradual improvement of its pecuniary concerns, in the
constant progress in the collection of materials suitable for use during future
emergencies, and in the construction of vessels and the buildings necessary
to their preservation and repair, the present state of this branch of the service
exhibits the fruits of that vigilance and care which are so indispensable to
its efficiency. Various new suggestions, contained in the annexed report, as
well as others heretofore to Congress, are worthy of your attention, but none
more so than that urging the renewal for another term of 6 years of the general
appropriation for the gradual improvement of the Navy.
From the accompanying report of the PostMaster General you will also perceive
that that Department continues to extend its usefulness without impairing its
resources or lessening the accommodations which it affords in the secure and
rapid transportation of the mail.
I beg leave to call the attention of Congress to the views heretofore expressed
in relation to the mode of choosing the President and Vice- President of the
United States, and to those respecting the tenure of office generally. Still
impressed with the justness of those views and with the belief that the modifications
suggested on those subjects if adopted will contribute to the prosperity and
harmony of the country, I earnestly recommend them to your consideration at
I have heretofore pointed out defects in the law for punishing official frauds,
especially within the District of Columbia. It has been found almost impossible
to bring notorious culprits to punishment, and, according to a decision of the
court for this District, a prosecution is barred by a lapse of two years after
the fraud has been committed. It may happen again, as it has already happened,
that during the whole 2 years all the evidences of the fraud may be in the possession
of the culprit himself. However proper the limitation may be in relation to
private citizens, it would seem that it ought not to commence running in favor
of public officers until they go out of office.
The judiciary system of the United States remains imperfect. Of the 9 Western
and South Western States, three only enjoy the benefits of a circuit court.
Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee are embraced in the general system, but Indiana,
Illinois, Missouri, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisian have only district courts.
If the existing system be a good one, why should it not be extended? If it be
a bad one, why is it suffered to exist? The new States were promised equal rights
and privileges when they came into the Union, and such are the guaranties of
the Constitution. Nothing can be more obvious than the obligation of the General
Government to place all the States on the same footing in relation to the administration
of justice, and I trust this duty will be neglected no longer.
On many of the subjects to which your attention is invited in this communication
it is a source of gratification to reflect that the steps to be now adopted
are uninfluenced by the embarrassments entailed upon the country by the wars
through which it has passed. In regard to most of our great interests we may
consider ourselves as just starting in our career, and after a salutary experience
about to fix upon a permanent basis the policy best calculated to promote the
happiness of the people and facilitate their progress toward the most complete
enjoyment of civil liberty. On an occasion so interesting and important in our
history, and of such anxious concern to the friends of freedom throughout the
world, it is our imperious duty to lay aside all selfish and local considerations
and be guided by a lofty spirit of devotion to the great principles on which
our institutions are founded.
That this Government may be so administered as to preserve its efficiency in
promoting and securing these general objects should be the only aim of our ambition,
and we can not, therefore, too carefully examine its structure, in order that
we may not mistake its powers or assume those which the people have reserved
to themselves or have preferred to assign to other agents. We should bear constantly
in mind the fact that the considerations which induced the framers of the Constitution
to withhold from the General Government the power to regulate the great mass
of the business and concerns of the people have been fully justified by experience,
and that it can not now be doubted that the genius of all our institutions prescribes
simplicity and economy as the characteristics of the reform which is yet to
be effected in the present and future execution of the functions bestowed upon
us by the Constitution.
Limited to a general superintending power to maintain peace at home and abroad,
and to prescribe laws on a few subjects of general interest not calculated to
restrict human liberty, but to enforce human rights, this Government will find
its strength and its glory in the faithful discharge of these plain and simple
duties. Relieved by its protecting shield from the fear of war and the apprehension
of oppression, the free enterprise of our citizens, aided by the State sovereignties,
will work out improvements and ameliorations which can not fail to demonstrate
that the great truth that the people can govern themselves is not only realized
in our example, but that it is done by a machinery in government so simple and
economical as scarcely to be felt. That the Almighty Ruler of the Universe may
so direct our deliberations and over-rule our acts as to make us instrumental
in securing a result so dear to mankind is my most earnest and sincere prayer.